Matthews: Who had the right response to the Boston Marathon attack, Justin Trudeau or Stephen Harper?

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22 April, 2013
By: Kyle Matthews
Executive director, Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies

I refrained from participating in this rapid response question partly because the police had yet to identify the suspects wanted in connection to the bombing of the Boston marathon.

With news outlets reporting two individuals originating from Chechnya, I changed my mind. As a young diplomat with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, I spent two years working to assist Chechen refugees in the Republic of Georgia’s infamous Pankisi Valley from 2003-2005. Fleeing their homeland, most Chechen refugees I talked too were furious at the Russian Federation and depicted the conflict as one of national liberation, no anti-American attitudes were ever made public to me.

It was also common knowledge that many foreigners were entering the valley to move onwards into Chechnya to fight the Russians. Holy war (jihad) was taking place in the background. Saudi Arabia began funding the construction of numerous mosques that taught Wahhabism, while international NGOs and the UN provided life saving assistance. The Government of Georgia quickly suspended Saudi Arabia’s aid program, fearing it would lead to the radicalization of the refugees and host community.

Both Stephen Harper and Justin Trudeau made important points at a time when the full facts of the crimes committed in Boston were not clear. However, while it has become fashionable to discuss the roots causes (exclusion, socioeconomic conditions, foreign policy) that lead individuals to commit acts of terrorism, we should also focus our attention on extremist ideologies.

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