October 29, 2004

Get 'em up against the wall!

I really need to follow the news more faithfully.

Last week, Mohamed Elmasry, a professor of engineering at my alma mater, the University of Waterloo, and the president of the Canadian Islamic Congress - and therefore a major "official" spokesman for the Religion of PeaceTM - remarked on television that any Israeli above the age of 18 is a legitimate target for Palestinian terrorism.

On the October 19th program of the Michael Coren Show, Elmasry made the following remarks:

Michael Coren: Anyone over the age of 18 in Israel is a valid target.

Mohamed Elmasry: Anybody above 18 is a part of the Israeli army . . .

Coren: So everyone in Israel and anyone and everyone in Israel, irrespective of gender, over the age of 18 is a valid target?

Elmasry: Yes, I would say.

[Full story]

The CIC, in response, issued a press release calling his remarks "regrettable." Their attempt at damage control contains the following weasel section:

Within the context of discussion on the show, Dr. Elmasry was presenting not his own views -- but those of a significant segment of Palestinians under occupation."I sincerely regret that my comments were misunderstood and, as a result, caused offense," he said today.

[Full Statement]

Of course there's nothing in context that suggests that he was presenting anyone's views but his own. Nor is the true problem misunderstanding on the part of the audience: both Coren and another guest, a Muslim lawyer, gave Elmasry ample opportunity to clarify his statements, and he simply reiterated what he had said before: any Israeli over 18, male or female, enlisted or not, is fair game for Palestinian attacks.

Elmasry's own apology, issued two days ago and accepted by the CIC (though they did not accept his offered resignation), contains its own weaselling:

"I sincerely apologize for the way I expressed myself last week on The Michael Coren Show and I offer my resignation," Dr. Elmasry said in his statement to the CIC Board. "I also offer my apology for the distress I caused to my family, to the University of Waterloo, to the CIC Board, members and friends. I apologize for any public remarks I made which offended Canada's Muslim, Jewish, Palestinian, and Arab communities and Canadians at large."

"It has always been a core belief of mine that killing civilians -- any civilians, for any cause -- is an immoral act of the worst kind and I will never change in this conviction. Failing to articulate my beliefs clearly, completely, and forcefully on that occasion, was the biggest mistake in my 30 years of public life."

[Full Statement]

Weasel #1: "I sincerely apologize for the way I expressed myself." Why don't you apologize for the hate speech you expressed, Dr. Elmasry?

Weasel #2: "I apologize for any public remarks I made which offended Canada's Muslim, Jewish, Palestinian, and Arab communities and Canadians at large." Should you not also apologize to Israelis, whom you have just declared valid targets, Dr. Elmasry?

Weasel #3: "It has always been a core belief of mine that killing civilians -- any civilians, for any cause -- is an immoral act of the worst kind and I will never change in this conviction." But isn't the whole point of this controversy that you declared all Israelis above 18 to be military targets, therefore not civilians, Dr. Elmasry?

Weasel #4: "Failing to articulate my beliefs" is not your problem, Dr. Elmasry. No one has wondered what it was you were saying.

Maybe I'm being uncharitable in my interpretation, but I doubt it. Since official apologies of this kind are generally what is termed "carefully worded," I find it unlikely that at least four rhetorical blunders would be left in by accident.

Had the situation been reversed, and a Jew (or a Christian) uttered hate speech declaring Palestinian adults legitimate targets, the CIC would be all over them like white on rice, and rightly so. But the situation wasn't reversed, and so Elmasry gets a pass because of his "exemplary" "track record for the past 30 years."

Elmasry's tirade stands opposed to the values of Canada and all civilized society. If the Canadian Islamic Congress is truly the voice of moderation it claims to be (and not just running in CYA mode), then it needs to prove it by showing its former president the door by way of a boot up the rear. Silence is assent.

Update: According to UW's student newspaper, the Imprint, Elmasry is now under investigation by the University, as well as the Halton Regional Police, to determine whether his remarks constitute criminal hate propaganda.

Other campus news:

Also pay attention to the Iron Warrior, the newspaper of the UW Engineering Society (EngSoc). At the time of writing the Web page still displays the Oct. 15 issue, too early to report on the controversy.