The Alternate Universe of Doug Saunders

A debate was held last night in Ottawa between Doug Saunders, of the Globe and Mail, and author of Myth of the Muslim Tide, and Salim Mansur, Associate Professor of Political Science at Western University, on the topic “Resolved: Muslim Immigration is No Threat To Canada Or The West.” The MacDonald-Laurier Institute was the sponsor, and the War Museum provided the space.

Doug Saunders spoke first. His argument, as I recall it, went like this:

  • Controls on Muslim immigration would not have prevented most of the major Islamic terrorist attacks in Christendom – a word he never would have allowed to pass his lips (9/11; London subways)
  • Muslim birth rates are crashing abroad and are falling rapidly in their host countries;
  • accordingly there is no way for the demographic pressure of Islam to have significant political impact;
  • It is not Muslim immigrants who commit atrocities, it is Muslim converts and second generation Muslim immigrants.
  • If we have so little faith in the power of our civilization to repel political Islam, we are in trouble indeed.
  • fears of Islamic terrorist tendencies are similar to those that attended mass Catholic immigration from Southern Europe in the 19th century
  • the overwhelming proportion of Muslim immigrants who come here want to integrate to this civilization.

Doug’s observation on the catastrophic decline of Muslim birth rates all around the world is a true and under-appreciated fact. Overall his presentation was smooth, WASPy, plausible (until one thought about it), fact-based, kept within his time limits and yet inspired many to ask: “what planet is he from?”. There was an overwhelming sense conveyed by his arguments that there was “nothing to look at here, move on.” Islamic fanaticism was part and parcel of all fundamentalist religious beliefs, no different in kind from Christian or Jewish fundamentalisms. He clearly saw the source of terrorism in the unvarnished statements of the  Abrahamic religions per se, and not in anything specifically Muslim.

By way of opposition, Mansur insisted that Islam has been taken over by a pernicious doctrine of Salafism, that Salfism is wrecking the former pluralism of Islamic world, and that we ought to be on guard against significant Muslim immigration. He said he had fled one such Islamic civil-religious war and was shocked to see that it had caught up with him in Canada decades later. Mansur insisted that Islam had once been pluralist, but that Saudi money had infected Islam with what he called “Bedouin barbarism”.

Mansur insisted that numbers were a driver even if they were small; that elections are matters of going for the marginal voter, not the middle of the road majority, and that if 3%, 5% or 7% of the Canadian population were Muslim, as it is expected to become, that fact would have dramatic effects on freedom of speech and resistance to Sharia.

Mansur observed that former immigrant waves had come from the same Christian civilization, whether Catholic or Russian Orthodox, and that there was a qualitatively different aspect to modern Islamic immigration, as it came from a different civilization. He cited Samuel Huntington’s Clash of Civilizations with approval.

As the threats from fundamentalisms, Mansur observed that the Reformation   had happened 500 years ago in Christianity, and [I add] had occurred for Jews later in the Enlightenment period. Islam was unreformed.

At the question period, a Muslim woman in a hijab, in a perfect Canadian accent, suggested to Saunders that there was a felt pressure on young Muslim women to adopt the hijab involuntarily, and another Muslim woman , sans hijab, said the same in a foreign-born accent. This was all contrary to what Saunder’s Muslim researchers were telling him, said Saunders.

Saunders argued strictly to the proposition being debated, which was about Muslim immigration rather than Islam itself. But a moment’s reflection reveals the falsity of his narrowly construed argument. If the second generation of Muslim immigrants born here, and Muslim converts, are the source of domestic terrorism, then why is this not related directly to the presence of Muslim proselytizers and Muslim families already here?

The MacDonald-Laurier debates usually end with an audience vote. Brian Lee Crowley, the Institute’s head, thanked the debaters without calling for a vote. Presumably the sensitivity of such a vote at a debate sponsored by his Institute would have made fund-raising more difficult. I could think of no better argument for Mansur’s proposition that the MacDonald-Laurier Instutute thought better of having the proposition put to the audience. Like most instances of discussion about things Islamic, the vague but real menace that you will be boycotted, bombed, sued, threatened, or even killed for disputing Islam, or allowing a forum in which it could be disputed,  suggests that, in fact, Muslim immigration should be very carefully controlled for explicit political and cultural reasons.

As for Doug Saunders, all his reasoning did not amount to a persuasive case: he dwells in some alternate universe. The tone, the implicit condescension, the avoidance of obvious large and unpleasant facts, makes him a perfect fit for the  Globe and Mail.