Terror In Quebec

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On Sunday evening a mosque in Quebec, Canada was attacked by a gunman which killed 6 people and injured more. The attack comes amidst a period when prejudice towards Muslims is alarmingly high with anti-Muslim extremists like Donald Trump and Marine Le Pen doing well politically.

Initially there was some confusion about the motive of the attack because the Quebec authorities detained the witness who actually alerted them of the massacre. The name of the witness was released and the media reported on it and his Moroccan nationality; the name of the witness and suspect should have never been released until it was ascertained exactly what the role of the two individuals were. The suspect who has now been charged with 6 counts of murder was named as Alexandre Bissonnette a French-Canadian who was a white nationalist with some appalling political views which included support of political extremists Donald Trump and Marine Le Pen; Le Pen’s visit to Quebec City in March 2016 is alleged to have inspired Bissonnette to become more overt in his extreme politics. He was a college student who has been described by classmates as pro-Trump and a vigorous supporter of the Israeli military who also had an antipathy towards immigrants and refugees.

The response from the far right was predictably noxious and only reinforced the fact that their political views are driven by hatred. The instant reaction from them was not one of compassion or concern for the injured but immediate opportunism, trying desperately to create a narrative that this was Muslims killing each other in an attempt to absolve themselves of guilt about what their kind of prejudices can lead to. When it was revealed it was of their own who had committed the act of wanton slaughter they were conspicuously silent. This was compounded by the fact that the press secretary of the Trump administration exploited the murder of Muslims to justify the deplorable travel ban targeted at Muslims.

Some have claimed the gunman’s support of Trump is irrelevant and that’s irresponsible to connect Trump to the killing. If Trump was just some random politician who never had a history of making contemptible remarks about Muslims you could understand that line of reasoning but Trump is a demagogue who has made inexcusable remarks about Muslims in the past. He’s also rewarded racism by appointing the former head of Breitbart (one of the most fervently anti-Muslim sites in the US), Steve Bannon as his chief strategist who is also part of his National Security Council. Michael Flynn his national security advisor has said fear of Muslims is rational. And how could we disregard Trump’s travel ban which is motivated by anti-Muslim prejudice and which has coincided with this brutal attack. The prejudice stoked by Trump and his chumps is inextricably linked to crimes like this because it contributes to a political atmosphere where Muslims are stigmatised and increases the risk of extremists targeting a group of Muslims.

The attack just underscores how vital it is confront prejudice towards Muslims. It’s not simply innocuous and without consequences, this is an outcome that sadly could be foreseen by many considering the degree of prejudice against Muslims in Western society. We’ve seen arson attacks against Muslims, attempts to police the clothing of Muslim women, attacks against Muslim women and aims to intimidate Muslim people; this is not simply an unforeseen, isolated event but the natural consequence of vicious prejudice which plagues Western society. We must of course confront Jihadist violence, and show no tolerance for it but decent people know that all of Islam and Muslims are not responsible for every act of Jihadist murder. To generalise or treat average Muslims as if they bear some responsibility for the acts of murderous criminals is inexcusable and creates a toxic political atmosphere where people feel like they can justify targeting Muslims.

Credit must go to Justin Trudeau, Canada’s PM for his strong statements following the attack. He immediately denounced it as a terrorist attack and expressed his support for the Canadian Muslim community. An attack like this, in a place of worship is not just an attack on the Muslims of that Mosque but all Canadian Muslims and is designed to terrorise and spread fear in the Muslim community. A passionate and firm denunciation of the attack from the head of the country is important for a community reeling from such a horrific attack against them.

In these testing times, we can again take solace from the love people have shown in the aftermath of the attack but also be aware of the threat we face. This killer is not a loner, his vicious ideology is shared by an increasingly alarming number of people in society, many radicalised online, hellbent on dragging Western society backwards. They feel emboldened by the political events of the last year, and interpret this as a sign that we’re edging closer to their sinister version of what society should be like. We must make damn sure that isn’t allowed to happen.