The Sunday Magazine

Connecting the dots between the Quebec City murders and the Muslim travel ban — Michael's essay

"What happened last week in Quebec City and in the power offices of Washington, was man-made. Human beings were targeted by men, in one case literally in the gun sight of a weapon, in the other attacked for their faith with the flourish of a presidential pen."
The casket of one of the victims is carried in past Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard, during a ceremony for three of the six victims of the Quebec City mosque shooting. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press)

The dead don't hear the rhetoric.

They are indifferent to the words. The words can be comforting, they can be angry. It doesn't matter. The dead are beyond their reach.

As the six murdered Muslims are mourned in Quebec City, and across the country, this weekend politicians and ordinary people look to language to give form to their pain.

In the aftermath of violence and hatred and death, we want to believe that words of sympathy and distress can help to cauterize the terrible wound.

To the south, more words, more rhetoric, directed this time against a group of people who share the same religious faith as the Quebec City dead. 

Muslims were told that if they lived in seven Muslim majority countries named in a presidential order, they were banned from travelling to the United States.

A protester hold a sign during a protest of President Donald Trump's executive order banning travel to the U.S. by citizens of Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia or Yemen, at the Philadelphia International Airport in Philadelphia. (Corey Perrine/AP)

More than 100,000 visas were revoked.

In the ensuing chaos, parents, husbands, wives, children were separated from each other.

But chaos is the wrong word. In Greek mythology, Chaos was the goddess of emptiness and confusion who gave birth to the universe.

What happened last week in Quebec City and in the power offices of Washington, was man-made.

Human beings were targeted by men, in one case literally in the gun sight of a weapon, in the other attacked for their faith with the flourish of a presidential pen.

It is impossible and perhaps unwise to look for a straight line from the ban on Muslim travel to the US and the massacre at the Quebec City mosque.

But we should not be surprised that fear can be stoked, that anger can migrate, that vulnerability and innocence can be exploited in a world going mad.

We North Americans have never had any trouble finding people to hate.

In the United States, hatred toward blacks, immigrants, religious minorities, women, gays, anyone or any group we look upon as different, has always been an ingredient in the melting pot stew.

In Canada, we have found time to hate the Chinese, the Irish, the Italians, Aboriginals, the Jews, the French Canadians, again anyone whom we perceive as different.

Each Dec. 6th, we mark the anniversary of the Ecole Polytechnique massacre in 1989.

A man named Marc Lepine killed 14 women because he felt they were feminists and therefore some kind of a threat.

Bigotry and xenophobia are as Canadian as tourtiere and butter tarts.

Since the attacks of 9/11, the focus of our enmity has been Muslims. Muslim men, women and children have been subjected to varying degrees of abuse.

Anti-Muslim incidents, crimes really, have more than doubled in three years. Schools and mosques have been daubed with anti-Muslim graffiti. There have been incidents of abuse directed at visible Muslim women.

Since 9/11 some of us, including politicians in Quebec, have been obsessed by what certain Muslim women choose to wear. Fashion meets bigotry. Why anybody who is not Muslim cares is beyond my grasp. 

During the 2015 federal election, Conservatives proposed the insane idea of a snitch line where people could report barbaric cultural practices. Again an insult obviously aimed at Muslims.

Remember, we are talking about a group of men women and children who represent only 3.7 per cent of the Canadian population. 

To its everlasting credit, Quebec has taken in more Muslim immigrants than any other province.Quebecers are a generous people, Canadians are, and they will continue to offer refuge to those who seek it, never minding their religion.

A large crowd take part in a rally in St. John's, after the shooting at a Mosque in Quebec City earlier this week. (Paul Daly/The Canadian Press)

Meanwhile we must mourn, we have to talk about these things, we must give voice to the hope that the horrors might cease, and in the doing make a kind of covenant with the dead.

Most importantly, we must look into the deepest recesses of our hearts and listen to that voice which, in the end, is the most telling voice of all.

Click the button above to hear Michael's essay. 


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