Monday, April 25, 2016

Jonathan Kay's Response to "Moderate" Harpoon Siddiqui's Aga Khan Museum Lecture--and My Rebuttal to the Both of 'Em

Jonathan Kay's piece--Don't blame the media for Islamophobia--has been up on the NatPo site for several days, but showed up in the paper version only today. Kay's anti-blame advisory is aimed at none other than Harpoon Siddiqui, who has vacated his bully pulpit at the Toronto Star only to mount it in other places, most recently at Toronto's Aga Khan Museum. Kay, who appeared at the same event, thinks Harpoon is "quite moderate on most issues" (ha!), although he does take issue with, oh, let's call it Harpoon's mediaphobic spin:
Yes, the media are fascinated with terrorism — because our readers are fascinated by terrorism. Just as they are fascinated with all forms of horrifying violence — including the kind caused by street gangs, natural disasters and Karla Homolka. It’s human nature.  
We pay attention when things go bang and boom and all bloody-like. 
We also pay attention to questions of motive. And since Islamist terrorists from Islamic state of Iraq and the Levant, Boko Haram, al-Shabab and al-Qaida insistently, repeatedly and explicitly tell us that they are committing their slaughter in the name of Islam, we report that, too. When terrorists in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia stop praising Allah as they self-detonate — or, better yet, stop self-detonating altogether — we media types will be the first to report on that phenomenon, as well. 
This part--wherein Kay, who co-ghosted Justin Trudeau's "memoirs," sticks it to Stephen Harper and pats himself furiously on the back (for his own supposedly much more highly refined sensibilities re "Islamophobia") is a bit rich:
Moreover, it would be nice if Siddiqui might acknowledge that in the last two years, not one but two Canadian governments — Stephen Harper’s Tories and Pauline Marois’ Parti Québécois — have been booted out of office in large part because media commentators were disgusted by their Islamophobic fearmongering on the niqab issue. I myself was working at the National Post during the 2014 Quebec election campaign, and personally authored several articles denouncing the xenophobic messaging from PQ hardliners. In both cases, it wasn’t media Islamophobia that held sway at the polls, it was media anti-Islamophobia.  
Canadians should be proud that they live in a tolerant country where both anti-Semitism and Islamophobia are marginalized and discredited sentiments. Haroon Siddiqui is correct to advocate vigilance against these forms of hatred, but he greatly exaggerates the scope of the problem.
Kay's piece pussyfoots around the real issue, as I point out in this letter:
There's a problem--a big one--with the way both Haroon Siddiqui and Jonathan Kay conflate anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, wrapping them up in one neat package. And the problem is this: a great deal of today's Jew-hate/Israel-hate is being fomented and perpetrated by Muslims. In fact, one could argue that the reason the Siddiquis of the world are so intent on playing the Islamophobia card--or is it a canard?-- is to divert attention away from Islam's longstanding "Jewish problem," which is part and parcel of its longstanding "infidel problem," both of which are playing out locally and globally.
Haroon Siddiqui engages in such a conflation because he knows that in our multicultural Trudeaupia, victimhood is venerated, and that Canadians, who are probably the least hateful but most masochistic people on the planet, will, if given the chance, happily wallow in their own purported awfulness.

As for why Jonathan Kay would bookend the two hatreds: he's a secular Jew who, though highly intelligent and the author of a book about nutty true believers, has demonstrated again and again that he does not--and, I venture, he may never--"get" religious belief, neither the depth of feeling it engenders nor the role it plays, for both good and ill, in shaping identity.

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