Sunday, October 22, 2006

How "the left, shamefully, swapped secular universalism for ethnic particularism"

October 2005

Born in Bradford

I witnessed the birth of political multiculturalism in Britain. It was in Bradford in the late 1980s when the left, shamefully, swapped secular universalism for ethnic particularism.

Kenan Malik
Prospect Magazine, London

It was February 1988. I was in Bradford, a few weeks after the demonstration on which a copy of Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses had been burned. I was there to interview Sher Azam, president of the Bradford Council of Mosques, and the man who had torched the book. Waiting in the drab building that housed the Bradford Council of Mosques, I heard a familiar voice.

"Hello Kenan, what are you doing here?"

It was Hassan, a friend from London, whom I had not seen for a couple of years. "Good to see you Hassan. I'm doing some interviews about Rushdie," I said. "What are you doing in this godforsaken place?"

"Trying to make it less godforsaken," said Hassan. "I've been up here a few months, helping in the campaign to silence the blasphemer."

"You what?"

"No need to look so shocked. I've had it with the white left. I'd lost my sense of who I was and where I came from. So I came back to Bradford to rediscover it. We need to defend our dignity as Muslims, to defend our values and beliefs, and not allow anyone-racist or Rushdie-to trample over them."

I was astonished. The Hassan I knew in London had been a member of the Socialist Workers party (as had I for a while). Apart from Trotskyism, his indulgences were sex, Southern Comfort and watching Arsenal. We had marched together, chucked bricks at the National Front together, been arrested together. I had never detected a religious bone in his body. But here he was in Bradford, an errand boy to the mullahs, inspired by book-burners.

Today, "radical" in an Islamic context means someone who espouses a fundamentalist theology. Twenty years ago it meant a secularist who challenged the power of the mosques. The expunging of that radical secularist tradition has played an important part in the rise of Islamic militancy in this country. Hassan embodied this mutation from left-wing activist to Islamic militant. He was not alone. A large number of

anti-Rushdie demonstrators were young. Many were not religious, only a handful could recite the Koran, and most flouted traditional Muslim taboos on sex and drink.

They felt resentful about the treatment of Muslims, disenchanted by left-wing politics and were looking for new ways of expressing their disaffection. They formed the pool of discontents into which radical Islamic organisations dipped. It was in the late 1980s and early 1990s that militant Islamic groups like Hizb ut-Tahrir began organising in Britain, particularly on campuses. Like Hassan, many recruits came from the ranks of former left-wing activists.

The Rushdie affair was a turning point in the relationship between British society and its Muslim communities. It was also the moment that Britain realised that it was facing a new kind of conflict. From the Grunwick dispute in 1976 to Broadwater Farm in 1985, black and Asian people had often been involved in bitter conflicts with authority. But these were political or law and order issues. The Rushdie affair was the first major cultural conflict, one that seemed to question the very possibility of social integration.

The Rushdie affair made me question my own relationship to the left. For the transformation of Hassan mirrored a wider political shift. It was a conversion from a belief in secular universalism to the defence of ethnic particularism and group rights. At one time, the left had been a champion of Enlightenment rationalism, of a common humanity and universal rights.

Over the past 20 years, however, many key figures and organisations on the British left have promoted the idea of multiculturalism. "You have to treat people differently to treat them equally," Lee Jasper, race adviser to Ken Livingstone, says. Or as Labour MP Keith Vaz put it, "Britishness cannot be imposed on people of different races, cultures and religions." After Rushdie, I came to realise that tackling this "politics of difference" was as important as challenging racism. Fifteen years later, as we debate how British Muslims could turn into savage terrorists, understanding that retreat from secular universalism is as important as ever.

The roots of the politics of difference can be found in the new forms of radicalism that emerged in the 1960s. Radicalism came to mean the rejection of all that is "western" in the name of marginality or difference.

Traditionally even those hostile to capitalism saw themselves as standing in the western intellectual tradition. "I denounce European colonialism," CLR James once wrote. "But I respect the learning and... discoveries of western civilisation." James was one the great radicals of the 20th century, a historian of black struggles. Over the past 30 years, though, many on the left would have dismissed his defence of "western civilisation" as insufferably Eurocentric.

The postwar left was shaped by the experience of Nazism, the failures of old-style class politics and the emergence of new struggles such as the civil rights movement and feminism. People asked why it was that Germany, with its deep roots in the Enlightenment, should succumb to Nazism. The answer seemed to be that it was the logic of Enlightenment rationalism itself that gave rise to such barbarism. As Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer, founders of the Frankfurt school, put it in their seminal work, Dialectic of Enlightenment: "Enlightenment is totalitarian."

Or as Herbert Marcuse, one of the Marxist gurus of the 1960s student revolt, explained:
"Concentration camps, mass exterminations, world wars and atom bombs are no 'relapse into barbarism' but the unrepressed implementation of the chievements of modern science, technology and domination."

Where the "old left" of the communist parties and trade unions still looked to the working class as the agency of change, the "new left" found surrogate proletariats in the "new social movements"-third world liberation movements, feminist groups, campaigns for gay rights, and so on.

Where the old left talked of class and sought to raise class consciousness, the new left talked of culture and sought to strengthen cultural identity. Culture was the defining feature of groups and the means by which one group differentiated itself from others. Every group, whether Cuban peasants, black Americans or women, had a specific culture, rooted in its history and experiences. That culture gave shape to an individual's identity. For an individual identity to be authentic, collective identity must be too. That required the group to be true to its own culture, to pursue the traditions that mark out that culture as unique and rebuff the advances of modernity and of other cultures.

These ideas echo the late 18th-century Romantic backlash against the Enlightenment. Whereas Enlightenment philosophes saw progress as civilisation overcoming the resistance of traditional cultures, for the Romantics, the steamroller of progress was what they feared. For Johann Gottfried Herder, the 18th-century German philosopher who best articulated the romantic idea of culture, each people or Volk was unique, and this uniqueness was expressed through its Volksgeist-the unchanging spirit of a people refined through history.

Rejecting the Enlightenment belief that the same institutions and forms of governance would promote human flourishing in all societies, Herder held that the values of different cultures were incommensurate but equally valid. Every culture was authentic in its own terms, each adapted to its local environment.

The romantic idea of culture flowered in the 1960s through the idea of self-organisation, a concept that emerged from the struggle for black rights in the US. Many activists accused the left of indifference and argued that black people must take matters into their own hands. They ceded from integrated civil rights organisations and set up separate black groups.
Black self-organisation soon gave way to the idea of black identity. Black people had to organise separately not as a strategy but as a cultural necessity. "In Africa they speak of Negritude," wrote black power activist Julius Lester. "It is the recognition of those things uniquely ours which separate ourselves from the white man."

Soon, not just black people but everyone had an identity that was uniquely theirs and that separated them not just from the white man, but from every other kind of man and from men in general. "The demand is not for inclusion within the fold of 'universal humankind' on the basis of shared human attributes; nor is it for respect 'in spite of one's differences,'" wrote feminist and sociologist Sonia Kruks. "Rather, what is demanded is respect for oneself as different."

Social and political developments over the next two decades further entrenched such ideas. The weakening of both social democratic and Stalinist parties, the demise of third world liberation movements, the transformation of many third world countries into tyrannies and, finally, the end of the cold war all added to the belief that radical social transformation was a chimera. The new social movements themselves had largely disintegrated by the 1990s.

All that was left was the sense of difference. "Stripped of a radical idiom," the American critic Russell Jacoby writes, "robbed of a utopian hope, liberals and leftists retreat in the name of progress to celebrate diversity. With few ideas on how a future should be shaped, they celebrate all ideas." Multiculturalism, Jacoby concludes, "has become... the ideology of an era without ideology." What began in the 1960s as a way of organising against oppression had ended up by the 1990s as a way of rationalising the left's impotence.

It is against this background that we must understand the transformation of someone like Hassan from left-wing activist to Islamist. In Britain, the black and Asian population is smaller than in the US, and its political and economic clout less significant. The attempts at self-organisation have been much weaker, while the authority of both the moderate and radical left in Britain has been far greater. As a result, until the 1980s, the influence of identity politics remained weak.

Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, three issues had dominated the struggle for political equality: discriminatory immigration controls, racist attacks and police brutality. These struggles radicalised a new generation of activists and came to a climax in the inner city riots of the late 1970s and early 1980s.

In April 1976, 24 people were arrested in pitched battles in the Manningham area of Bradford, as Asian youths confronted a National Front march. It was seen as the blooding of a new movement. The following year the Asian Youth Movement was born. Built on the model of self-organisation, the AYM was nevertheless outward-looking, working closely with other anti-racist and radical organisations.

AYM activists did not distinguish themselves as Muslim, Hindu or Sikh; indeed many did not even see themselves as specifically Asian, preferring to call themselves "black" which they viewed as an all-inclusive term for non-white immigrants. They challenged not only
racism but also many traditional values too, particularly within the Muslim community.

The next few years brought further conflict between Asian youth and the police, culminating in the trial of the Bradford 12 in 1982. Twelve young Asians faced conspiracy charges for making petrol bombs to use against racists. They argued that they were acting in self-defence-and won.

Faced with this growing militancy, Labour-controlled Bradford council drew up a new anti-racist strategy, based on a template pioneered by the Greater London Council under Ken Livingstone. It established race relations units, drew up equal opportunities policies and dispensed millions of pounds in grants to black and Asian community organisations. Bradford's 12-point race relations plan declared that every section of the "multiracial, multicultural city" had "an equal right to maintain its own identity, culture, language, religion and customs." At the heart of this multicultural strategy was a redefinition of racism built on the insights of identity politics.

Racism now meant not simply the denial of equal rights but the denial of the right to be different. Black and Asian people, many argued, should not be forced to accept British values, or to adopt a British identity.

Multiculturalism transformed the character of anti-racism. By the late-1980s the focus of anti-racist protest in Bradford had shifted from political issues, such as policing and immigration, to religious and cultural issues: a demand for Muslim schools and for separate education for girls, a campaign for halal meat in school, and the confrontation over The Satanic Verses. As different groups began asserting their identities ever more fiercely, so the shift from the political to the cultural arena helped to create a more tribal city.
Secular Muslims were regarded as betraying their culture.

This process was strengthened by a new relationship between the local council and the local mosques. In 1981, the council helped to set up and fund the Bradford Council of Mosques and looked to it as a voice of the community. This marginalised secular radicals-the AYM eventually broke up-and allowed religious leaders to reassert their power.

Multiculturalism did not create militant Islam, but it created a space for it within British Muslim communities that had not existed before. It fostered a more tribal nation, undermined progressive trends within the Muslim communities and strengthened the hand of conservative religious leaders. It is true that since 9/11 and particularly since 7/7 there has been growing questioning of the consequences of multiculturalism. From David Blunkett to CRE chief Trevor Phillips, many have talked of the need to reassert common values. Yet the fundamental tenets of the politics of difference remain largely unquestioned.

The idea that society consists of a variety of distinct cultures, that all these cultures should be respected and preserved and that society should be organised to meet the distinct needs of different cultures-these continue to be regarded as the hallmarks of a progressive, anti-racist outlook.

The lesson of the past two decades, however, is this: a left that espouses multiculturalism makes itself redundant. Back in the 1980s, my old friend Hassan may well have taken to militant Islam because of his disenchantment with the left. But it was the disenchantment of the left with its own secular, universalist traditions that eased his path to the mosque-and the path of many others since.

The Khadrs: Canada's 'First Family of Terror'


If ever you had a desire to understand the workings of an Islamist family, who hate everything about Canada except its passport and free healthcare, you now have an opportunity to get a rare peek.

The August 4, 2006 issue of Maclean's Magazine has a cover story about the Khadr family of Canada. Dysfunctional, hypocritcal and dangerous are just three words that come to mind.

Read and reflect.

August 04, 2006

The house of Khadr

Canada's 'first family of terror' is caught between two worlds -- hoops and holy war, infidels and the Internet, movie scripts and martyrdom

Maclean's Magazine, Canada

Kareem Khadr is kneeling on the living room carpet, a short crawl from his wheelchair. He is barefoot, dressed in a bright yellow soccer T-shirt -- BRAZIL -- and a pair of beige shorts that expose his limp, crippled legs. His mother and sister are sitting nearby, talking to one another as he flips, page by page, through a pile of old photo albums. Every so often, he interrupts their conversation to point and smile at a specific snapshot from the past. His father. His brothers. Afghanistan.

Years ago, long before 9/11, the Khadr family lived briefly with Osama bin Laden. Today, home is the second floor of a low-rise apartment complex in east end Toronto. Inside the main room, a light brown couch, second-hand, sits near the balcony window, right beside a matching chair and small flat screen television. Most of the walls are lined with colour posters, each of a different mosque.

Near the front door, on the opposite side of the kitchenette, a narrow hallway leads to three tiny bedrooms and a bathroom. Depending on the day, up to six people sleep here. "We look like sardines," says Zaynab, Kareem's 26-year-old sister.

At 17, Kareem is the youngest of the four Khadr boys, the obedient son who -- at age 14 -- was famously caught in the crossfire when Pakistani troops killed his terrorist dad, Ahmed Said Khadr. Paralyzed from the waist down, Kareem said goodbye to jihad and headed home to Canada, flashing the peace sign to photographers when he landed at Toronto's Pearson Airport on April 9, 2004.

And that was the last anyone saw of him. His notorious family was never far from the headlines: his sister under RCMP investigation. A brother in a Toronto jail cell. Another brother locked up at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. But for two years, Kareem managed to avoid the spotlight -- until a few weeks ago, when he showed up at a court hearing for the so-called "Toronto 17," Canada's alleged homegrown terror cell rounded up by police in June.

His black hair long and curly, Kareem sat in the front row, waving at some of his shackled friends while brushing aside reporters. He was dressed like a typical 17-year-old: brown sandals, blue pants and a T-shirt emblazoned with a gun-toting Stewie, the cartoon baby from The Family Guy. "VICTORY WILL BE MINE!" the shirt proclaimed.

Two weeks later, Kareem is kneeling on his apartment floor, finished with the photo albums. Until now, he has never spoken publicly about that morning in October 2003, when Pakistani soldiers and Cobra helicopters demolished the rural compound where he and his father were living. One bullet hit his arm; another pierced his lower back and came out the other side. When he tried to stand up and run, his legs wouldn't listen. "There were no muscles anymore," he tells Maclean's.

At an age when most teenagers are learning to drive, Kareem cannot venture too far from home without a catheter. He tries to walk, using leg braces and a pair of crutches, but progress has been slow at best. Yet he insists he holds no grudge against his beloved father, a man who could have raised his kids in Canada but chose holy war instead. "I never blamed him," Kareem says. "I'm proud of him. I know I had to be in that spot because there is a reason for it. Almost everything happens for a reason. And I'm still pretty happy that I didn't get paralyzed from a car accident or a gang shooting or something. You know, at least I was there helping my father. I had a cause to be there."

A senior RCMP investigator once wrote, in a sworn affidavit, that Ahmed Khadr "created his own 'terrorist cell' and indoctrinated his children from an early age in the values and beliefs of criminal extremists, specifically al-Qaeda." Three years after his death, those children (most of them, at least) remain the apple of his radical eye, railing against the evils of the same Western world that signs their welfare cheques.

Despite all the public backlash and all the police investigations, the family is as outspoken and unapologetic as ever -- proclaiming their innocence in one breath and warning of an attack on the innocent in the next. Few Canadians were shocked to learn that some of the Toronto 17 counted the Khadrs among their closest friends.

Still, not everything in the Khadr household revolves around jihad. When they aren't blaming the infidels or influencing the next batch of aspiring extremists, the family struggles with the same day-to-day battles as most Canadians. Car payments. Exams. Disobedient children. Sibling rivalry. Their hypocrisy is almost humorous. Zaynab -- divorced with a six-year-old daughter -- muses about martyrdom, then discusses her plans to go to university.

Her mother, Maha, complains almost as much about U.S. foreign policy as the fact that Kareem was cut from a wheelchair basketball team. And then there is Abdurahman, the self-proclaimed "cancer" of the clan, the black sheep brother who turned on his father and worked as a spy for the United States. The others can barely stand him, yet, in a typical Khadr twist, he continues to live in the family's crowded apartment. He smokes. He gambles. And he sleeps until noon. Next year, his life story is scheduled to hit movie theatres.

Zaynab Khadr answers the door. It is just after 10:30 a.m., a scorching summer morning in Toronto. She is dressed in black, in a head-to-toe burka that reveals only her hands and her dark brown eyes. Her mother, Maha, smiles from the kitchen. She is wearing white, with a matching hijab that, unlike her daughter, reveals her face. The Khadr women don't shake hands with men. But they are courteous and welcoming, as is Kareem, waiting on the carpet in his World Cup shirt.

Canadians first met the Khadr family more than a decade ago, when Ahmed Khadr, an Egyptian-born Ottawa engineer, was arrested by Pakistani police in connection with the 1995 bombing of the Egyptian embassy in Islamabad. Authorities accused him of financing the operation, funnelling the cash through a Canadian charity. He denied the allegations, embarking on a high-profile hunger strike that made such ripples back home that Jean Chrétien, then the prime minister, lobbied on his behalf during a state visit to Pakistan. He was released three months later.

Next stop for the family was Afghanistan, where all four of his Canadian sons underwent weapons and explosives training. After Sept. 11, authorities froze Khadr's assets, declaring him an al-Qaeda money man and a wanted fugitive. According to the FBI, bin Laden himself personally tasked his Canadian associate with organizing local militia south of Kabul in anticipation of the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan.

Of course, his family denies all this. He was a charity worker, they say, a man so dedicated to the orphans and widows of war that he stayed in Afghanistan to help, bombs be damned. "If you run away, what's the point of being an NGO?" Zaynab asks.

Seven years ago, bin Laden was a guest at her wedding. Today, back in Toronto, she and her six-year-old daughter live with the rest of her family. During the week, she attends high school classes, hoping to one day go to university. "If we are different, it does not mean we have to be enemies," she says. "You don't have to fear me."

Eighteen months ago, the Mounties searched Zaynab's belongings, seizing thousands of computer files, CDs and audio cassettes, some containing "graphic images of an extreme nature." Ironically enough, the RCMP had used Zaynab's own words -- broadcast in a CBC documentary -- to convince a judge to sign the search warrant. On suicide bombers: "I don't have the guts to do that yet." On accusations that her brother, Omar, killed a U.S. army medic before being shipped to Gitmo: "Big deal."

On martyrdom: "I'd love to die like that." She remains under investigation "for participation and facilitation of terrorist activities," yet she is fearless, taunting detectives, ever so subtly, from the comfort of her home. "If carrying my father's beliefs -- and I believe that my father had great beliefs and he did not do anything wrong -- is supposed to be poison, then maybe all of us need to have poisoned heads," she says now, sitting cross-legged on the floor. "I am proud of who I am. I don't regret anything that my family or anybody that I knew did. And I am proud that I will stand up for my belief regardless of what anybody else thinks."

There was a time, Zaynab says, when her family had nothing against Canada. The Americans were the enemy, the aggressors "muddling in everybody's business." It was the United States who built bases in Saudi Arabia, who invaded Afghanistan and Iraq. Who bomb Muslim children and torture Muslim prisoners. Who unequivocally support Israel.

"If anybody ever said something about Canada, we'd all say: 'You know what, we've lived there. People are very nice and the government stays out of things it is not included in and it does not interfere in people's business,'" Zaynab says. "But then all of a sudden, when they started acting the same, what are you supposed to say? They are not the same? But they are killing us."

Zaynab is certainly not the only Canadian who disagrees with the country's mission in Kandahar, where hundreds of troops are hunting and killing Taliban insurgents. But she takes the debate to an uncomfortable level, suggesting that Canada, like its U.S. ally, is now deserving of a terror attack.

"Everybody reaps what they plant," she says. "If you follow in the steps of the Americans, you will reap what they did." Not that she would ever do something herself. Of course not. But someone might, she says, and Canadians should consider themselves warned. "Violence is not justified, but it should be expected, is what I am trying to say," she explains. "No one likes it, but it happens.

And should the Canadians expect it with the strategy that's being taken? They should expect it. Would it be justified or would it be good or would it be nice?

No. Would I justify the person doing it? I wouldn't justify the means, but I could justify his reasons."

"Get the troops of out of Afghanistan," her mother adds. "Don't declare war in Afghanistan."

"Just go back to who you were 10 years ago," Zaynab says. "Withdraw the troops. Stop being America's shadow. Start being yourself."

Kareem, now lying on his stomach, joins the conversation. Killing civilians, he says, is not the answer. "They didn't do nothing to us. They didn't harm us."

"But they are harming people that are our families and are our friends," Zaynab says. "I might be able to hold more pressure than someone else, but someone else might snap."

When asked how she would react tomorrow if someone planted a bomb at, say, a large public building, her answer is hardly encouraging. "I would need to know why first," she says. "Even if I told them it was not the right thing to do, I would understand why they did it."

Zaynab is not naive. She knows that most Canadians cringe at her every word. How, after all, can someone so thoroughly enjoy the spoils of life in this country -- free money, free health care, free schools -- while implying that the very same country is a prime target for terrorism? "All I want from the Canadians is to get me out of here," she answers. (The RCMP seized her passport in the raid, so she is technically stuck here.) "Hopefully, I see myself out of here as soon as I can, because I don't fit here. I don't fit here, not even with the Muslims. I walk around and I don't feel that anybody understands me or that I can blend with anybody or fit with anybody."

A McDonald's restaurant sits across the street from the Khadrs' building, the golden arches visible from the front lobby. Seven months ago -- Saturday, Dec. 17 -- an RCMP detective phoned the apartment and asked if Abdullah, the eldest of the family's four sons, would mind meeting him at the fast food joint for a few minutes. By then, the 25-year-old had been in Canada for all of two weeks, a free man after spending more than a year in a Pakistani prison and many years before that on the run. He was thrilled to be back, telling reporters that fellow citizens have nothing to fear. "I just want everybody to know that I have nothing to do with anything," he said, sitting in his lawyer's office, wearing a green shirt he borrowed from his cousin. "I am not an al-Qaeda suspect. I was never in al-Qaeda, and I do not support some of their doings."

A week later, Abdullah crossed the road and walked into McDonald's, accompanied by his mother and his younger brother, Abdurahman. He had no idea that a judge in Boston had already signed a warrant for his arrest. According to the FBI, Abdullah admitted during his imprisonment that he was an al-Qaeda weapons broker who supplied front-line fighters with thousands of dollars worth of guns, grenades, rockets and explosive material. Authorities say he also confessed to his role in a plot to assassinate Pakistan's prime minister. Mounties arrested him on the spot; when his mother tried to intervene, officers pinned her to the floor.

"After they arrested Abdullah, I felt so deceived," Maha says now. "How do you expect me to love or respect or care or even feel anything toward a government that is deceiving me? Why should I care?"

"It becomes very difficult for us to deal with," Zaynab adds. "You would say: 'Would that give you the right to do anything?' Eventually, I'm not going to care anymore. Eventually, you are so hurt that you just don't care."

As she speaks, Abdurahman wakes up and walks into the living room, unprepared for what he sees: his brother, sister and mother sitting on the carpet, talking to a reporter. He says hello, but then berates the others for being so blind. He is not your friend, he says. He is a journalist. Then he walks outside for a cigarette, slamming the door behind him.

"It's okay," Zaynab says. "It's regular."

"We can't get him out," her mother adds. "I have to go to court to get him out, and I don't want to do that because I don't like the courts. I don't like the officers."

Abdurahman was always the outsider. In 2004, when the CBC aired its explosive documentary about the Khadrs, he was the one who admitted that his was "an al-Qaeda family." To the outrage of the others, he told the world about his father's close relationship with bin Laden, and how his dad repeatedly urged him to become a suicide bomber. He also confessed to working as a mole for the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency -- a claim that caught the attention of a Hollywood production company. In January 2005, he sold the film rights for a reported US$500,000.

Unlike the rest of his family, Abdurahman is media savvy, a 23-year-old who knows full well how to exploit the press for his own benefit. Last year, when the federal government denied him a passport, he took Ottawa to court -- and invited reporters to come. The day the judge ruled in his favour, he held his umpteenth news conference. "I'll prove that [I'm] the perfect citizen," he said. One journalist asked where he planned to travel with his new passport. Barbados, he answered.

Maclean's had other questions for him. Questions about his family. About his future. About rumours that he gambled away a huge chunk of his money. But Abdurahman declined to be interviewed. Not yet, at least. Not until his movie -- Son of Al Qaeda -- reaches the big screen.

After reading the script, you can't blame him for keeping his mouth shut. Written by Keir Pearson, the man behind Hotel Rwanda, the screenplay portrays Abdurahman as nothing less than a Hollywood hero, an intelligent, compassionate young man who rejects radical Islam and happily helps the Americans track down the bad guys. He drives fast, drinks vodka and takes his new colleagues on a "five-star tour" of al-Qaeda safe houses across Afghanistan. His CIA handlers nickname him Ricky, rewarding each fresh tip with cigarettes and other perks. "My father believed one thing," his character says in one scene. "I believe another."

The film begins in the days after 9/11, with the Khadrs fleeing their Afghan home just before American troops arrive. Defiant as ever, Abdurahman refuses to jump in the pickup truck with the rest of his family.

"Leave him!" his father yells to the others (the script is still being revised, but Maclean's has obtained a draft version). As the movie unfolds, Abdurahman is captured in Kabul, transported to a prison in Bagram, and interrogated by a CIA agent named Michael Gray. After days of sleep deprivation, he finally admits who he really is: the son of Ahmed Khadr, al-Qaeda's "Secretary of State."

Abdurahman eventually joins forces with his father's "sworn enemy," working undercover in Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay and Bosnia. "We caught one of bin Laden's personal guards," Gray, the CIA agent, tells him at one point. "We're going to put you in a cell with him. After a while, chat him up. Get him to tell you where Osama's hiding."

"What makes you think he'll tell me?" Abdurahman asks.

"You're Ahmed Khadr's son," the agent answers. "It has its benefits."

The script includes more than one flashback to Abdurahman's younger days, including a pivotal memory of his father pleading with him to become a martyr. "So what's it going to be?" his dad asks in one dramatic scene.

"Don't ask me this," Abdurahman answers. "I'd never betray you."

"That's not the question," dad barks back.

"It's the only way to redeem your family name," says another al-Qaeda elder, sitting in the room.

"I don't care," Abdurahman pleads. "I'm not going to strap a bomb to myself and blow up a bunch of innocent people."

"Shaheeds bring honour to all," his father says. "It's sacrificing the one for the many.

It's Allah's will."

"It's insanity."

"I'm your father, damn it! And I command you to do it!"

What is most compelling about the script is Abdurahman's attempts to have it both ways. He is the disloyal son, more than willing to tattle on his father's old friends to save his own skin. Yet all the while, he repeatedly -- and conveniently -- insists that he never sold out his old man. In fact, when his character first agrees to help the CIA, he demands a concession: "My family is off limits," he says. Later, after his father is killed and his brother is paralyzed, the agents assure him it was not his fault. "Nothing you told us resulted in your father's death, Abdurahman," Gray says. "We had multiple tips."

Back in the real world, Abdurahman returns to the apartment, finished his morning cigarette. Moments later, his cellphone rings. He takes the call on the balcony.

"He has very different views," Zaynab says.

"Very different," Kareem adds.

"It's human nature," his mother says. "He always had different beliefs since he was very young."

Abdurahman was at McDonald's the night police handcuffed Abdullah and held their mother on the floor. He watched, snapping photos with his camera phone. "He's a coward," Zaynab says.

"Why couldn't he tell them: 'Don't touch my mother. You can't do this to her,' " Maha says. "I mean, she's your mother!"

The Khadrs have saved all of Omar's handwritten letters from prison, each one asking for their prayers and their love. Some are signed with hearts. Earlier this month, he wrote home to tell his family that he fired his American lawyers. "Please dear mom don't be mad," he wrote. "Allah is our defender and helper."

At age 15, Omar Khadr allegedly tossed a grenade that killed a U.S. army medic in Afghanistan. Now 19, he has spent the past four years locked in a cell at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, charged with murder and aiding the enemy. Omar "is a thoroughly 'screwed up' young man," wrote one Foreign Affairs official, who visited him at the seaside prison in 2003. "All those persons who have been in positions of authority over him have abused him and his trust, for their own purposes."

Omar's lawyers, including the ones he just fired, claim he has endured bouts of systematic torture: beaten. Drugged. Short-shackled to the floor for hours at a time. Used as a "human mop" to clean up his own urine. The abuse allegations have -- despite his actions and his infamous kin -- transformed Omar into a cause célèbre, Exhibit A of all that is wrong with the war on terror. Not even daddy could have imagined such a public relations coup.

But then the Khadrs showed up at the Brampton courthouse, proclaiming their support for the Toronto 17. "Everybody was angry with us again," Maha says. Zaynab has been to every hearing so far, sitting with the wives and children of some of the accused. New to the public spotlight, the others seem to look to her for advice. "These people are Muslims," Zaynab says. "They are my friends. I believe in their innocence, and just like I would love to have someone stand with me when I was in a time of need, I will stand with those people when they are in a time of need. And I will support them. Until they prove them guilty, they are innocent -- by law and by religion."

The Khadrs first met some of the accused two years ago, when Kareem returned home. Cheryfa MacAulay Jamal saw the news reports on television and looked up Maha's number in the telephone book, offering any help she could. Her husband, Qayyum Abdul Jamal, is now among the accused, one of the six suspects who allegedly planned to use truck bombs to destroy buildings in downtown Toronto. Two of the group's alleged ringleaders -- Fahim Ahmad, 21, and Zakaria Amara, 20 -- were also friends of the family. Before the arrests, their wives had helped organize fundraisers for the Khadrs.

The Globe and Mail has also reported that some of the women were regular contributors to a virulently anti-Western online chat room, where they spoke of holy war and their hatred for Canada. "If he ever refuses a clear opportunity to leave for jihad, then I want the chance of divorce," wrote Amara's wife, Nada Farooq. Earlier this month, Farooq posted a jailhouse letter from her husband. "I beg you," Amara wrote. "DO NOT FEEL SORRY FOR ME. I'm Allah's slave and he does whatever he wishes with me."

"They were very nice, friendly people," Zaynab says. "Very, very nice people." She insists she had no indication that her friends were planning an attack. If anything, they only spoke of how difficult it is to be a committed Muslim in Canada, where the distractions of modern life often clash with Islam. "In school, they have to go through a lot of peer pressure just to be a Muslim and be proud of who they are," she says. "They wished that one day they would be able to go through life with their families somewhere where it would be easier for them to practice their religion."

As for the charges, Zaynab says the whole thing is "ridiculous." Paintball guns. Ammonium nitrate. Beheading the Prime Minister. "It is just unbelievable," she says.
"I don't believe it," Kareem adds.

"They are making a fool out of RCMP, CSIS and all the intelligence," Maha says. "If there is somebody planning something, he is out there doing something, and they are capturing all these very naive, young boys."

"Yeah," Kareem says. "And whoever is actually doing something is going to do it."
"With these guys, now that they're arrested, I'm pretty sure it goes through their mind that they wish they'd done something," Zaynab says, a few minutes later.
"To justify all the suffering," her mother adds.

"In their minds," Zaynab continues, "maybe it would have been worthwhile that we'd done something, so at least then we'd be punished for something we did, instead of being punished for something we didn't do."

Like his three older brothers, Kareem spent time in Afghanistan's training camps, washing clothes and firing Kalashnikovs. "A lot of our friends used to go there, so we were like: 'Dad, I want to go there because of my friends,'" he says. "There is nothing else to do there, right, and those camps were the best way to get out of trouble." Today, Kareem attends a Toronto high school, two years away from his diploma.

He spends hours on the computer, follows the NBA (he's a Miami Heat fan) and plays competitive wheelchair basketball. "I'm good," he says, smiling. Recently, he tried out for an all-star rep team, but the coach cut him. He has no proof, though he is pretty sure his last name had a lot to do with it. "They didn't say that," he says, "but there were players that I played better than."

"I have been to many games, and he is good," Zaynab adds. "But he's never picked."
The West has certainly rubbed off on Kareem. His clothes. His cellphone. Shaquille O'Neal. Like all mothers, Maha worries about her teenage boy, about how much time he spends on the Internet and what he watches on TV. She wishes, too, that he would practise his walking exercises a little more often.

But her worries go beyond the typical angst of most Canadian mothers. She dreads, every day, that the Mounties will kick down her door. That Omar will never leave Guantánamo. That Abdullah will be extradited to the U.S. That Zaynab will be arrested. "Every time I'm late, she's calling me, making sure I'm okay," Zaynab says.

A few months ago, Maha accompanied her granddaughter on a school field trip to the Ontario Science Centre. At the end of the day, the class went to the closet to retrieve their coats. "Only my jacket was gone!" Maha says. "There were 30 kids with their teachers, and only my jacket was gone!" Must have been the infidels.

"We can't even talk at home without knowing that everything we say or do is being watched and monitored," Zaynab says.

"The phone is bugged," Maha adds. "You feel so helpless."

"Can you imagine," Zaynab continues, "that if you ever wanted to say something that you think they don't need to know, that you would have to go outside to say it? It's ridiculous. And we're supposed to be living in a free country."

"Sometimes," Maha says, "when I am very, very angry, I say: 'May God punish them severe. Whoever caused Omar and Abdullah this pain, may God punish them so severe.' I'm a mother -- I don't care, you can write this or say it -- I'm really hurt in my heart for my children. And when I see Abdul-Kareem crawling at this age, or having to catheterize and all this mess, I really pray really hard that God punishes them. And when they captured Abdullah that day, I prayed really hard, really loud: 'May God burn your heart!' I prayed so hard, so loud, that I wanted to make sure they hear that. I know many of them don't believe in God or anything. But I do."

It is, for the most part, a lonely life for the Khadrs. Years ago, when the kids returned home for a visit, fellow Muslims were envious, impressed that they were willing to leave Canada to help the poor. "All of a sudden now, everybody stays away from the places you go, doesn't want to talk to you, doesn't want to know you," Zaynab says. "Even people who know you pretend they don't." Old friends from Ottawa stopped calling. At the mosque, some worshippers look the other way when they see the Khadrs coming. "I go to school, he goes to school," Zaynab says, pointing at her brother. "We talk to people at the school. But do we have friends? No."

"We had friends," Kareem says.

"We had," Zaynab agrees. "Now they put them in jail. Whatever friends we had are gone."

The Khadrs like to portray themselves as the victims of an Islamophobic conspiracy, one that stretches from the courts of law to the basketball court. They honestly cannot fathom why the RCMP watches them so closely. "I'm one of those persons that if you don't cross my line, I don't cross yours," Zaynab says. "But if people hurt me, if you really cross my line, I probably would." When asked if fellow Canadians should consider her a threat, she laughs. "I wish," she says, quickly correcting herself. "No, I'm not."

The Radical Links of UK's 'Moderate' Muslim Group

The Muslim Council of Britain has been courted by the (British) government and lauded by the Foreign Office but critics tell a different and more disturbing story. Martin Bright reports Sunday

August 14, 2005
The Observer, London

The Muslim Council of Britain is officially the moderate face of Islam. Its pronouncements condemning the London bombings have been welcomed by the government as a model response for mainstream Muslims. The MCB's secretary general, Iqbal Sacranie, has recently been knighted and senior figures within the organisation have the ear of ministers.

But an Observer investigation can reveal that, far from being moderate, the Muslim Council of Britain has its origins in the extreme orthodox politics in Pakistan. And as its influence increases through Whitehall, many within the Muslim community are growing concerned that this self-appointed organisation is crowding out other, genuinely moderate, voices of Muslim Britain.

Far from representing the more progressive or spiritual traditions within Islam, the leadership of the Muslim Council of Britain and some of its affiliates sympathise with and have links to conservative Islamist movements in the Muslim world and in particular Pakistan's Jamaat-i-Islami, a radical party committed to the establishment of an Islamic state in Pakistan ruled by sharia law.

One of the MCB's affiliate organisations, Leicester's Islamic Foundation, was founded by Khurshid Ahmad, a senior figure in Jamaat-i-Islami.

Another is Birmingham-based Jamiat Ahl-e-Hadith, an extremist sect whose website says: 'The disbelievers are misguided and their ways based on sick or deviant views concerning their societies, their universe and their very existence.' It urges its adherents not to wear Western hats, walk dogs, watch sport or soap operas and forbids 'mingling and shaking hands between men and women'.

Jamaat-i-Islami activists in Pakistan have been involved in protests against images of women on adverts in public places. The organisation's founder, Maulana Maududi, was a fierce opponent of feminism who believed that women should be kept in purdah - seclusion from male company. Although the MCB's leadership distances itself from some of these teachings, it has been criticised for having no women prominently involved in the organisation.

Last week, Salman Rushdie warned in an article in the Times that Sacranie had been a prominent critic during the Satanic Verses affair and advised that the MCB leader should not be viewed as a moderate. In 1989, Sacranie said 'death was perhaps too easy' for the writer. Rushdie also criticised Sacranie for boycotting January's Holocaust Memorial Day ceremony. 'If Sir Iqbal Sacranie is the best Mr Blair can offer in the way of a good Muslim, we have a problem,' said Rushdie. A Panorama documentary to be screened next Sunday will also be highly critical.

The MCB has now written to the BBC's director general, Mark Thompson, to complain about the programme in which reporter John Ware will challenge Sacranie to justify his boycott of Holocaust Memorial Day and clarify the MCB's position on Palestinian suicide bombers. In the letter, Inayat Bunglawala, the MCB's media spokesman says: 'It appears that the Panorama team is more interested in furthering a pro-Israeli agenda than assessing the work of Muslim organisations in the UK.'

The origins of the Muslim Council of Britain can be traced to the storm around the publication of the Satanic Verses in 1988. India was the first country to ban the book and many Muslim countries followed suit. Opposition to the book in Britain united people committed to a traditionalist view of Islam, of which the founders of the Muslim Council of Britain was a part.

The MCB was officially founded in November 1997, shortly after Tony Blair came to power, and has had a close relationship with the Labour government ever since. Its detractors claim it was the creature of Jack Straw, but his predecessor as Home Secretary, Michael Howard, also played a role in its establishment as a semi-official channel of communication with British Muslims. It remains particularly influential within the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, which has a little-known outreach department which works with Britain's Muslims. The FCO pamphlet Muslims in Britain is essentially an MCB publication and the official ministerial celebration of the Muslim festival of Eid is organised jointly with the MCB.

The Observer has learnt that the MCB used its influence in Whitehall to gain a place on the board of trustees of the Festival of Muslim Cultures, planned for next year. This extravaganza is designed to demonstrate the diversity and vibrancy of Muslim culture. The festival is funded by the British Council and has Prince Charles as its patron, but it has been told that it will need to be compliant with Islamic 'sharia law' in order to gain the MCB's full support.

The organisers are now concerned that the festival will lose political backing if they invite performers who are seen to be 'un-Islamic'.

Festival organisers already hope to invite the Uzbek singer, Sevara Nezarkhan, who does not wear the headscarf or 'hijab' and has worked with Jewish 'klezmer' musicians. It also intends to exhibit the 14th-century world history of Rashid al-Din, which represents the human form and the prophet Mohammed himself, thought by some strict Muslims to be forbidden. Other performers could include the Senegalese musician Youssou N'Dour and the Bangladeshi-British dancer Akram Khan.

The Observer understands that the Foreign Office insisted that the festival organisers involved the MCB before they would give them their full backing. As a result, an MCB nominee has been taken on to the festival's board of trustees. One source close to the festival organisers said: 'We constantly found our efforts were being blocked and it kept coming back to the MCB and its sympathisers within Whitehall.'

The chairman of the festival's trustees, Raficq Abdulla, said: 'We will welcome the MCB's trustee and hope his contribution will prove valuable. But we insist that the festival is not dominated by any ideology. The aim is to capture the values of Muslim cultures and bring them into the British mainstream. We are not here to be the mouthpiece of any Muslim organisation.'

The strain of Islamic ideology favoured by the MCB leadership and many of its affiliate organisations is inspired by Maulana Maududi, a 20th-century Islamic scholar little known in the West but hugely significant as a thinker across the Muslim world. His writings, which call for a global Islamic revival, influenced Sayyid Qutb, usually credited as the founding father of modern Islamic radicalism and one of the inspirations for al-Qaeda.

In Maududi's worldview all humanity was split into believers (practising Muslims) and non-believers, whom he describes as 'barbarians'. He was deeply critical of notions such as nationalism and feminism and called on Muslims to purge themselves of Western influence.

In 1941 he formed Jamaat-i-Islami and remained its leader until 1972. His writings do not advocate terrorism. But the language of Jihad in Islam, written in 1930, may seem violent to a Western reader: 'The objective of Islamic "jihad" is to eliminate the rule of an un-Islamic system and establish in its stead an Islamic system of state rule. Islam does not intend to confine this revolution to a single state or a few countries; the aim of Islam is to bring about a universal revolution.'

Abdul-Rehman Malik, contributing editor of Muslim magazine Q-News, said: 'Maududi saw the world in the same way that Sayyid Qutb saw the world: they both divided humanity into true believers or those in a state of ignorance. Many of the affiliates of The Muslim Council of Britain are inspired by Maududi's ideology.'

Malik said that its leaders needed to be clearer about its position on suicide bombers. 'You cannot be equivocal about innocent people. An innocent person in Tel Aviv is the same as an innocent person in Baghdad or London. The MCB has never clarified any of the critical issues and now the chickens are coming home to roost.'

The MCB's Inayat Bunglawala said he had a deep respect for Maududi and defended the MCB's affiliation to Khurshid Ahmad's Islamic Foundation. He said: 'Maududi is a very important Muslim thinker. The book that brought me to practise Islam was Now Let Us Be Muslims by Maududi. As for Jamaat-i-Islami, it is a perfectly legal body in Pakistan. There is no suggestion that the Islamic Foundation has done anything wrong. They have done fantastic work in publishing literature on Islam, including works for children.'

A spokesman for the Islamic Foundation confirmed that Khurshid Ahmad was chairman of its board of trustees. 'The Islamic Foundation does not have links with the Jamaat-i-Islami. We promote assimilation, integration and encourage community cohesion. We do publish books by Maududi, but we feel these are books of merit to British Muslims.'

Sacranie said he believed that recent attacks on the Muslim Council of Britain were inspired by a pro-Israeli lobby in the British media. 'The MCB carries out its activities through its affiliates. There are more than 400 organisations involved, representing 56 nationalities. Yes there is a following for Maududi in the UK. I am not a scholar, but in many areas I am inspired by what he has to say and in others I am not.'

There is no suggestion that Sacranie and other prominent figures in the Muslim Council of Britain are anything but genuine in their condemnation of the terrorist bombings of the 7 July. But their claims to represent a moderate or progressive tendency in Islam are becoming increasingly difficult to sustain.

The biggest test for the MCB will be its reaction to the more challenging aspects of the Festival of Muslim cultures. On this Sacranie was clear: 'If any activities are seen to contradict the teachings of Islam, then we will oppose them. If you organise a festival in the name of Islam then it must be Islamic. We will advise them accordingly.'

There are those in Britain struggling to transform the austere image Islam has in this country, including the organisers of the Festival of Muslim Cultures, who will not find his words reassuring.