The killing in cold blood of Canadians who belong to the Muslim faith on January 30 signals a turning point in our history as Canadians. This is the first time in recent memory, if ever, that worshippers on a Canadian soil were targeted indiscriminately simply because of their faith and particularly because they were Muslim. The lives of six men were taken in a matter of seconds for no reason but their belief in one God, in Prophet Muhammad and in the Prophets of the Christians and Jews. A total of seventeen orphans were left behind in a matter of seconds because of a radical “lone wolf” that was made possible by elements of our society, elements of its media and some politicians. Alexander Bissonnette was a home grown terrorist. Let us not mince words in characterising the tragedy. Full candor is the only way to pay our last respects to the six murdered fellow citizens. We should honor them by saying and doing the right thing.
When an act of terrorism is committed by a non-Muslim such as the massacre of 77 people in Norway in 2011 at the hands of Anders Breivik or the killing of 9 African-American Christians during Church worship in Charleston in 2015 at the hands of Dylann Roof, the perpetrators were designated immediately as “lone wolfs”. However, Omar Mateen, the perpetrator of the Orlando nightclub shooting that took the lives of 50 people, despite being reclusive, not communicating with many, not getting along with wives, and almost estranged from his own family, was not a lone wolf but part of a grand and global Muslim radicalization cabal. When the killer is a Muslim, the mainstream media immediately concludes that even if found not associated with any terror group, he could have been inspired by al-Qaeda, ISIS or similar. Notice that the “inspiration” here is very expansive and cannot be defined in any structured way. But the language of “inspired” or “influenced” by radicals is conspicuously absent when the perpetrator is a Christian or a non-Muslim. Cursory look at media reports and the fact that Bissonnette worked for Hema-Quebec, a non-profit group responsible for managing Quebec’s blood supply, and that “he was known to many” certainly does not make this terrorist, as the Canadian Prime Minister rightly called him, a lone wolf. But then why shouldn’t a lone wolf escape the terrorism designation if he orphaned seventeen children?
If the terrorist was a Muslim, then anti-Muslim media and organizations start “connecting the dots” and making new dots between Afghanistan and North America going through every direct or indirect e-mail or website the terrorist came across, or going through any direct, indirect or remote association with people directly or remotely associated with radicalism. If the Muslim were a perpetrator, legislation would be introduced to curb the swamps of radicalization and to prevent our society from “Barbaric Cultures”. One wonders if Bissonnette acts were barbaric enough for the champions of anti-Muslim legislation.
Despite Mr. Trudeau labeling the savagery in Quebec City terrorism, the likes of CNN and NY Times kept putting his designation within quotes. Major media outlets refused to categorize what happened in Quebec City as terrorism. Why?
Now, and with a heavy heart, we need to realize that elements within the Canadian society contributed to the making of Bissoneette. Hate for Muslims now, and possibly for others later, helped to create the Bissonette monster. It is time to reflect deeply on everything we do and say. Hate is not just an ugly four-letter word, but a malignant tumor that can destroy society. The Quebec City tragedy has the same hallmarks as the suicide bombing in a Shia mosque in Kuwait in 2015 that left 27 worshippers dead. The Kuwaiti victims were Muslims killed indiscriminately at the hands of another Muslim. History is replete with examples of Christians killing Christians in the name of Christ, and Muslims killing Muslims in the name of Islam. All of these killings were in the name of hate not religion.
Let us not think that terrorism can be prevented by spying and reporting on each other. Governments should be careful of using terrorism hotlines as instruments to prevent terrorism since its abuse is very likely, but more importantly, it can erode the fabric and glue of society: respect and trust. Let us not fall into the hate trap of Stephen Bannon, the Trump Chief Strategist who sinisterly advocates for a war between Islam and the “Judeo-Christian west”. Many politicians and pundits alike champion divisions and classification purely to enhance their power. Notice the common use of terms like American-Muslims, Muslim-Americans, and Muslim-Canadians but not Christian-Canadians or Mennonite-Canadians. This dangerous rhetoric percolated into the Canadian society to create the impression that Muslims are aliens in Canada. This is demonstrated by the innocent and seemingly benign comment of a Quebecois who, in showing sympathy for the Canadians of the Muslim faith in Quebec City said in reference to he Muslim community “they are welcome here”. Such statement that was aired repeatedly by major news outlets indicates an impression that the one million Muslims (not refugees, but citizens) of Canada are not part of Canada in the first place! You never say to the citizen you are welcome in your home!
Hate is an attitude that is independent of who is being hated at the moment. Hate is a way of life based on deeply held beliefs of superiority irrespective of whether the hater is a Christian, Muslim, Jew, Hindu, Buddhist, agnostic or atheist. Love is not the answer to hate as long as the illusion of superiority is not eradicated from every member and every group in our society.
Let us not be divided and hyphenated. Nations and people need to repudiate the culture and language of hate especially in these most precarious and very dangerous times as we see autocracy in the making in the US. Healthy society based on healthy democratic principles need constant care and safeguards against disease. The language of division and hate must stop and we should hold the advocates of hate language accountable for its consequences.