Comparisons with the Taliban
by: John Tyrrell
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For those making a blood sport of the current Canadian election campaign, one of the more popular tactics is digging into what candidates have written on the Internet some time in the past and exposing it to public view. Several candidates for Parliament have been forced to withdraw from the race because of intemperate posts, even if they were youthful indiscretions and the individual has clearly changed his or her mind.
The latest to be forced to withdraw by his party is Stefan Jonasson who was running for the New Democratic Party (NDP) in a Winnipeg constituency. Jonasson, a Unitarian Universalist minister, was accused of comparing Jews to the Taliban. The NDP with long ties to the progressive Jewish community was quick to dump Jonasson - apparently without any serious investigation.
The accusation was made by True North Times which on its About Us page clearly states "We deal in Canadian political satire designed to engage the demographics that have a huge potential impact but are plagued by apathy." That in itself should tell people to question everything on their website before blindly believing a word.
Their accusation that Jonasson had claimed Jews are much like the Taliban was based on him writing the much less controversial "Much like the Taliban and other extremists, the Haredim offer a toxic caricature of faith, at odds with the spirit of the religious tradition they profess to respect." His comment was attached to a news item about clashes between different strains of Judaism within Israel.
Essentially, Jonasson's statement is something a high proportion of the progressive (or left wing) Jews who support the NDP would agree with. It's a statement I quite agree with too. If I have not already written something very like it on this site, I'd be surprised.
What Jonasson wrote could be applied to a lot of of other religious people engaging in the public sphere. It could easily and validly be amended to "Much like the Taliban and other extremists, most of the US Republican candidates for President offer a toxic caricature of faith, at odds with the spirit of the religious tradition they profess to respect." In many ways, it is just a generic claim which can be made about almost any strain of religious fundamentalism.
The only lesson that I learn from this is that comparisons to the Taliban have perhaps become so over-worn that they might be turning into a new iteration of Godwin's Law. I may have to avoid using the comparison in future.
As for the NDP leadership - they showed themselves gutless on this issue, acting based on an item on a satire site. Jonasson's comments were completely defensible if they had the courage to try. I question their competence to form a government.
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