Does fighting radicalization actually make us safer?

As the most recent incident in London reminded us, terror attacks are not always committed by those claiming to act on behalf of Islam. So why do we so often still focus anti-terror measures on preventing the radicalization of Muslim youth? Author and activist Monia Mazigh joins us to talk about what Canada should be doing to fight domestic terror.
People take part in a vigil at Finsbury Park in north London, where a vehicle struck pedestrians in north London Monday, June 19, 2017. A vehicle struck pedestrians near a mosque in north London early Monday morning. (Frank Augstein/Associated Press)

Given recent attacks in Manchester, London and Michigan and subsequent terror investigations, we've been hearing a lot about whether the perpetrators became radicalized.

This has renewed conversations about how to combat potential radicalization.

This week, Minister of Public Safety, Ralph Goodale announced changes to Canada's terror laws and soon it's expected the government will open an office focussing specifically on counter-radicalization. The Office of the Community Outreach and Counter- Radicalization Coordinator was announced in the 2016 federal budget with 35-million dollars of funding.

Mazigh would like to see Canada focus on educating citizens rather than out efforts into a counter-radicalization plan. (Provided)

But Monia Mazigh wants Canada to reconsider how they use that money.

She fears Canada is following a similar strategy as the UK, one that has been criticized for racial profiling and one that she says, has the potential to contribute to radicalization.

"Those young men feel that they are, or their religion or what they feel they belong to is unfairly, unduly targeted, and their communities are unduly targeted as well. So I think by creating and pumping 35-million dollars...we are going to add to this atmosphere of scrutiny. Why do we think that radicalization affects only one group?"

Mazigh says that before creating this office, the federal government should consider its purpose.

"I think what we really need is a discussion. What are the threats that are facing Canada, Canadians? And we have to know how many. Is this really statistically significant, does it require setting up a program? If yes, why do we have to copy other programs that are basically being labelled as failure?"

And she says, given that Statistics Canada reported an increase in hate crimes against Muslims in 2015, perhaps it'd be better to teach people about cultural differences. 

"Those numbers tell us the importance of education."

Men pray after a vehicle collided with pedestrians near a mosque in the Finsbury Park neighbourhood of North London. (Neil Hall/Reuters)

​"How about talking to the kids from kindergarten and really making them aware of the differences, but also accepting those differences like it has been done with other issues like homophobia, like what we are doing today with transphobia."

As for concerns around whether education is enough to make Canadians feel safe, Mazigh says we need to think critically about what safety means. 

Do we want an illusion of safety or do we want real security? And if we want an illusion of security or feeling safe, those centres are going to be the perfect answer… but education, maybe it will take a little longer because those programs will have an impact in five [or] ten years from now, but they will have an impact.- Monia Mazigh

Mazigh also feels that the media and politicians have to change the way they talk about terror and radicalization.

"This Montreal man going to Michigan and trying to stab a policeman, personally if someone come to me and without mentioning the religion of this guy and telling me this is an incident that happened, the first reaction I would have, I mean there must be something wrong with this person.

Mazigh would like to see investigations looking into the underlying causes of why someone commits violence and more resources towards mental health supports.

"When we have similar cases happening, like the one in Finsbury...this man who attacked the mosque, one of the first questions that the media ask in those cases – because he is not Muslim– is that he is on welfare, he is a father of four kids, he struggles. So we should give everyone this opportunity...We have to examine our conscious as a society, what did we fail these men?"


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