IMG_2818 by Amine GHRABI https://flic.kr/p/rz4DLC CC BY-NC 2.0

IMG_2818 by Amine GHRABI https://flic.kr/p/rz4DLC CC BY-NC 2.0

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Government’s Choice for Chief of Human Rights Commission Cited Terrorism as a Rational Strategy With High Rates of Success

The government’s choice for chief of the Canadian Human Rights Commission has been mired in controversy this week given his failure to disclose a record of posts and appearances that call into question the ability for Jewish or Zionist Canadians to get a fair, impartial hearing at the Commission. Birju Dattani, who formerly was known as Mujahid Dattani, is now the subject of an independent investigation by the Ministry of Justice as the calls for his resignation or replacement from stakeholder groups continue to mount, former Justice Minister David Lametti questions his suitability for the position, and MPs express non-confidence in him.

In addition to the previous revelations that sparked the controversy, the Globe and Mail is now reporting that in early 2015, Dattani delivered a presentation titled “Terrorism and the Targeting of Civilians under International Law.” The description of the presentation includes the following on terrorism as a strategy:

Contrary to conventional wisdom (which is far more convention than it is wisdom), terror is not an irrational strategy pursued solely by fundamentalists with politically and psychologically warped visions of a new political, religious or ideological order. It is in fact, it is a rational and well calculated strategy that is pursued with surprisingly high success rates.

The effectiveness of terrorism and counter-terrorism efforts is certainly within the scope of academic study. However, citing terrorism as a rational, successful strategy surely raises alarm bells for someone who wants to lead the Canadian Human Rights Commission. Indeed, it is hard to see how an advocate for human rights can reference the use of terrorism against civilians without engaging in the human rights violations that directly arise from those terror activities.

In fact, the fuller description even questions the value of the use of the term “terrorism”, stating:

The first part will look at the value of the concept of ‘terrorism’. The term is, more often than not politically loaded which has rendered int’l consensus impossible for the purposes of definition. I will attempt to navigate through some of the hazards that recent scholarship has pointed out.

The full paper is not available online, but scholars say that definitional issues can revolve around efforts to justify terrorism noting that the “situation is also complicated by the failure to draw a line between actual terrorists and those persons that try to justify their actions by claiming to be freedom fighters.” From a Canadian perspective, a 2009 study for the Department of Justice examined the issue, clarifying that “legal definitions continue to serve as the primary and formally recognized definitions utilized by many governments and people.”

No matter the views on academic study of terrorism, the question for the government is whether Dattani’s undisclosed scholarship and advocacy further undermines public confidence in him, the Commission, and Bill C-63.  Two political parties have already called for his resignation or dismissal and those calls are only likely to grow as there seems to be little to hope that trust can be restored.

5 Comments

  1. I don’t think this quote is as heinous as implied.

    A strategy can be rational and have a high probability of success yet remain evil and unacceptable. Arguably, a strategy can only be evil if the person pursuing it has a rational mind.

    Whether terrorists have rational motives (i.e., driven by politics as opposed to religion) and whether terrorism has a historical track record of success are empirical matter. Those claims are either true or untrue regardless of how offensive we find them.

    Surely, empirical questions like that have to be safe to raise. If you want to stop terrorism, you need to know what actually drives terrorists.

    And raising those questions is not the same thing as advocating for terrorism. As I said, it is not inconsistent to believe that terrorists are rational actors who are likely to be successful while also believing that terrorists are evil.

  2. This is the same government that paid a company to design an “anti-racist media strategy” for the country – a company headed by (wait for it) AN ACTUAL RACIST.
    When will these idiots just go home for the last time?

  3. t’s concerning that the head of the Canadian Human Rights Commission is under scrutiny for past statements that challenge impartiality, especially regarding Jewish and Zionist Canadians. The discussion around terrorism as a rational strategy is troubling and raises legitimate questions about his suitability for such a critical role. Public confidence in the Commission is paramount, and it’s clear that Dattani’s past statements need thorough investigation to determine if he can fairly uphold the values of the position. The calls for resignation reflect a serious trust issue that must be addressed.

  4. Postmodernist “ethics”. It depends what the meaning of “is” is. How can we ever say something is terrorism? Gosh, I don’t know!

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