We Need To Do More To Deal With Messages Of Hate In Light Of Quebec Mosque Killings


By Harinder Mahil

Every few months we see a mass shooting in the US and pride ourselves for being different than Americans. We pat ourselves on the back and say that such mass shootings cannot happen in Canada because we have strict gun laws, a better education system and do not allow hate groups to run rampant. We take pride for being kinder and gentler to one another than Americans.

Despite the hate graffiti on the walls of Muslim schools in Quebec for years and Pauline Marois’ charter I never considered the possibility of a terrorist attack against Muslims to take place in Canada or Quebec.

The senseless and shocking killing of six innocent people in a Quebec City mosque, who were simply praying, teaches us that we need to do more. We need to continue to promote acceptance of one another and different communities. And we need to do more to deal with those who spread messages of hate towards immigrants and people of colour.

These killings remind us that terror can erupt anywhere, at any time and anyone of us can be a victim.

Members of the mosque, where the shooting occurred, had for some time been dealing with hateful messages written on their building’s walls in the form of swastikas. In June 2016, during Ramadan, they had found a gift-wrapped parcel containing a pig’s head with a note that read, “bon appétit.” For Muslims, ingesting pork is a sin, and pig’s blood is considered unholy.

Shorty afterwards, a pamphlet was circulated in the neighbourhood that alleged the mosque was linked to terrorism.

This attack on innocent worshippers is a consequence of racism, Islamophobia and xenophobia fomented by hateful and anti-Muslim sentiments expressed by certain commentators and political leaders in Quebec as well as messages coming from south of our border.

Over the last few years there has been a resurgence of right-wing extremism and terrorism throughout the western world and there is no reason Canada would be immune to this phenomenon.

Quebec, over the last few years, has seen a growth in anti-Muslim bigotry. Some politicians there have stoked fear of Muslims or failed to condemn it when it reared its head.

It appears that Canadian right-wing extremists have been emboldened by the anti-immigrant rhetoric coming from the US and Europe over the last few months.

It was good to hear Prime Minister Trudeau and Quebec Premier Couillard express their solidarity with our Muslim brothers and sisters and speak out strongly against those who spread hatred. However, Quebec political leaders and commentators need to take a firm stand. They should take this attack as a dire warning. They should realize that using issues like the wearing of niqab to score cheap points with voters can result in serious consequences.

Prime Minster Trudeau called this incident as  “… an attack on our most intrinsic and cherished values as Canadians, values of openness diversity and freedom of religion.” It is indeed an attack on Canadian values of diversity and freedom of religion.

Muslims have been demonized for decades and negatively portrayed by the media and by politicians. Many politicians have paid lip service in talking about protection of minorities but never took a stand against those who demonized Muslims.

And now, we see the result. It is not only the shooter who is to blame. The blame falls on the media and the politicians as well who fuelled the flames of fear, hatred and anger to make political gains.

Let us make sure this never happens again in Quebec or anywhere else in Canada.

Harinder Mahil is a human rights activist and is a board member of the Dr. Hari Sharma Foundation.