Thursday, October 22, 2009

The RCMP's guide to Radicalization

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police have this helpful internet guide to identifying and understanding 'radicalization' and how it contributes to domestic terrorism. Let's take a look!

Radicalization, they explain, is

the process by which individuals — usually young people — are introduced to an overtly ideological message and belief system that encourages movement from moderate, mainstream beliefs towards extreme views.

They do, thankfully, also explain that this is not necessarily "bad" thing - Martin Luther King and Jesus are listed as two examples of benevolent radicals. But the list of "good" exceptions is super-short. And they continue:

The English word “radical” comes from the Latin radis, or “root.” Its connotation (as in the word “radish”) is of being buried in the ground, rooted, fundamental. So a radical is a person who wishes to effect fundamental political, economic or social change, or change from the ground up.

"Buried" and "fundamental" - spooky! But the buried bit is also worth drawing out a bit more, because the site is actually concerned with discern which otherwise normal (that is, "normal", but more on that in a minute) people are terrorists in disguise.

The assumption that domestically radicalized terrorists are somehow “different” is belied by the “Toronto 18” trial. The media repeatedly draw attention to the “ordinariness” of the defendants. This is borne out by the wiretap recordings being played in court, in which defendants communicate in a sort of “hoser-gangsta” patois, talk about how much they love Tim Horton’s doughnuts, and exclaim over the wintertime beauty of rural Ontario.

“Ordinariness” is a key factor in the domestic radicalization phenomenon. [...] There is no reason that Canadian born terrorists would not like Tim Horton’s doughnuts. It would be more surprising if they did not.

Evidently, the RCMP loves to put things in "quotes". And check out the words that they single out in this way, especially "different" and "ordinariness". (Twice given this treatment in the few sentences above.) The words assume an undeniably suspicious and malevolently ironic character: the suggestion is that these radicals are different, just not different in the way one would expect (that is, we would expect that they should not like Tim Horton's doughnuts); that they are playing at being "ordinary" because they have learned the art of "ordinariness".

Many ethnic, cultural and religious constituencies in Canada remain deeply concerned about “homeland” issues. Indeed, continued identification with communities and countries of origin remains a component of the Canadian approach to multiculturalism. The Islamist “single narrative” — propagated by Islamist ideologues of every stripe, from Osama Bin Laden to street corner preachers — is fundamentally different however. Not only does it lie at the heart of the Islamist extremist worldview, it also identifies Canada as part of the problem.

"Real" Canadians, of course, have no "homeland", much less a nefarious "single narrative". Unless, of course, you count the narrative of Western progress and the mythology of middle-power Canada and its benevolent peacekeeper identity. But I suppose it could be argued that these are two narratives. (Not that I would buy that argument.)

There is a tendency in the media to portray conversion to Islam as a sort of “fast track” to terrorist action. However [...] [m]ost converts to Islam are simply that — average people who have found that Islam speaks to them as a faith.

Note that "average" isn't placed in quotation marks. No need to qualify something as self-evident as the averageness of the white Canadian, right? They don't practice "ordinariness", after all - they simply are ordinary, even if they're Muslim. So to be clear: brown Muslims pretend to be "ordinary"; white Muslims are average.

Women are also lending their voices to the Islamist ideological message, often employing a strange inversion of the language of struggle and emancipation. In 2005, Shabina Begum, a British teenager [...] observed that [...] “young Muslims, like me, have turned back to their faith after years of being taught that we needed to be liberated from it.”

A "strange inversion" because, clearly, emancipation can only operate in one direction - from white folks to brown folks. But I suppose it makes sense that the RCMP, a body with the sole purpose of providing Canadians with protection, would be unable to make sense of people who want to be protected from "average" Canadians.

But seriously, I have no idea how this document is supposed to help anyone identify radical terrorists. Look for "ordinary" people who aren't actually ordinary, I guess.

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