The response of Canada in general and Quebec in particular to the murder of five men and the wounding of many more in a Quebec City mosque has been deeply gratifying, and it defines the difference between this country and the United States. The violence of a self-professed white supremecitst neo-Nazi, along with his guns, is clearly very alien here – and so it should be – shocking the entire nation merely by its appearance, which is a quotidian affair down south. For the first time, Prime Minister Trudeau Le Petit proved he is not the invertebrate he has seemed to be over the past year, delivering a number of impassioned speeches – remarkably free of his usual neurotic gasps and ahs – that hit precisely the right note of unification within diversity, of a common identity despite trivial differences, of neighbourliness, mutual assistance in troubled times, and a common understanding that overrides all the hateful actions of a miniscule minority. This may well be Trudeau’s Winston-Churchill-Moment, his Finest Hour, his Blitz. Despite snide comments from the useless Opposition Party leaders, he has continued to walk the fine line between Canada’s vital trade with the US and the need to uphold and protect our values as an open and welcoming nation for refugees and immigrants, no matter where they come from or what faith they profess. Given the recent and interminable provocations from the White House, this is no easy thing for someone of such avowedly liberal inclinations. As leader of the not-always-so-liberal Liberal Party, it is a balancing-act requiring enormously deft skill. If Trudeau emerges unbloodied from his soon-to-be meeting with the new American President, and if our trading relationship is still intact — $ 2 billion crosses that border daily – then his stature will be increased manifold, the once-concealed titanium backbone visible for all to see. After the gamboling and shilly-shallying of this past year, it is remarkable to find that Le Petit has a much deeper and stronger core in him, and can at times seem to understand truly what he talks about – or maybe it is just a matter of truly caring about that of which he talks?
It is fortunate that the Quebec City shooter proved to be a lone wolf. Early reports had stated that there were two assailants, one with a Muslim name – a claim that Fox News was still posting three days later, 72 hours after it had been disavowed by the police here. More kudos to Trudeau for a letter from his office accusing Fox of “playing identity politics” and demanding that the post come down — which it duly did, complete with a rare apology. Trudeau termed the mosque murders “a terrorist attack”, which was true enough, but it may have made the more feeble-minded media fixate upon the usual terrorist act, which to them is so-called Islamist agents mowing down us infidels wherever we gather. It is more complicated than this, of course, but terrorism is also US drone attacks that “inadvertently” slaughter hundreds of innocent civilians. It is the invasion of sovereign states too, and the CIA financing or fomenting of rebellions against democratically-elected governments all over the globe. Since September 11th 2001, there have been less than 50 citizens killed in the US by identifiable terrorists working on behalf of an “Islamist” organization – and those few killers were all US-born American citizens, who only imagined they were Muslims. Worldwide, the death-toll of innocents as a direct result of US covert operations is unknown – the Pentagon openly states that “we don’t do body-counts” – but it is believed to number, over the past decade, in the high six figures. So the balance of terror is well in Washington’s favour, or to its shame – and this is what principally motivates those we view, rightly or wrongly, as the Enemy. What happened in Quebec City does not therefore easily compute in the minds of all too many journalists, who are now focussing like hungry vultures on all the grief and heartbreak, as well as, with immense satisfaction, on all the national peace and love, all the weeping vigils, the flowers and gift-baskets. The term “lone wolf” equals “homicidal psychopath” – nearly impossible to predict or prevent – which means his motives are not worth seeking out, because insanity is its own impermeable motivation.
I cannot help thinking, however, how different the reactions of Canadians would be had the victims in Quebec been us, the white majority, and the murderers self-alleged Muslims. People forget that western Islamic communities are also much in need of support, comfort and sheer neighbourliness after such events as the Paris attacks or the Brussels bombings, when they feel most unsafe and fearful. What they most fear and feel unsafe about is what just happened in a Quebec mosque. It is good that we are finally hearing this from the lips of Canadian Muslims, many of whom now tell of more minor hate-crimes they’ve experienced, or the random hostility of strangers that makes wives, daughters and mothers afraid to walk the streets in daylight. But we must remember all of this when next we hear of Islamist terror attacks.
The Islam of 99.999 percent of Muslims is a religion of peace, compassion and fraternity — period. And Muslims are, after all is said and done, only 0.3 of Canada’s population. If we took in a million more refugees – which we could do and should do – they would only amount to 0.6 of the population. Nothing.
Just as the Torah, Tanakh and the Gospels contain passages of an horrendously bloodthirty or hateful nature, so, unfortunately, does the Holy Koran. But these texts were all written by and for a nomadic and clannishly warlike peoples many hundreds of years ago – yet all orthodox believers contend that they are the words of God, and thus cannot be edited or revised. The Kabbalists, just like the Sufis and Christian mystics, have found an interpretive way around this dilemma, and it is to be hoped that the mainstream of all three monotheisms will eventually follow suit. The Koran (which means “recited verses”) is, as its name suggests, meant to be chanted aloud, not read in silence. The classical Arabic in which it was written makes a good third of the text impossible to understand with any certainty, because, at its earliest stage, the written language more closely resembles a mnemonic device to aid those chanting the suras from memory – as the faithful are urged to do, because the words are, if often opaque in meaning, surpassingly beautiful to hear. This linguistic difficulty also means that all translations are necessarily interpretations, just as all interpretations are not necessarily accurate transmissions of meaning. Any devout Muslim scanning a terrorist website – many of which are funded by the fabulously wealthy and heretical Saudi Arabian Wahhabite sect – will instantly recognize quotations taken out of context, or drawn from writings other than the Koran and posted without any ascription. But the untutored youthful rebel looking for a cause will not know this. We must now remember that the radicalized Muslim kid is no different than Alexandre Bissonette, the 27-year-old Quebec neo-Nazi shooter – except you don’t really have to sift through or take out of context anything in the rantings of Adolf Hitler to find something suitably repulsive, hateful and violent for a causus belli.
The Province of Quebec, where I live, seems to be embarrassed or shamed by this horrible act, and she protesteth too much methinks. Such a strong showing of many thousandsturning out in support of the Muslim community, and many politicians, both provincial and federal – including the Prime Minister – joining them, belies the fact that Quebec has a darker and uglier side. You know this is true when the Premier denies it is true – not to mention the revelation that French radio shock-jocks in the province often broadcast racist rants. I don’t listen to French radio, but obviously someone does – and not a few someones, either, if advertising incomes are to be profitable enough to warrant keeping the shouters on air. Mordechai Richler recalled seeing hotel signs in the fifties reading No Jews or Dogs, and we still often hear of defiled mosques, synagogues, religious community centres, and of desecrated Jewish cemetaries. There are no Muslim cenetaries here – yet. The simple truth is that hate-crime stats in Quebec are far higher than those for the rest of this country. As Jean-Paul Sartre observed, the Jew exists only in the mind of the anti-semite – and it follows that the Muslim only exists in the mind of the Islamophobe. This glimpse of real Quebec Muslims that we are now getting, curtesy of their immense tragedy, ought to dispel the fantasy-images based on fear and ignorance. As Premier Cuillard wishfully stated, perhaps this is a turning-point in Quebec history. But, if it is merely hinged upon the nature of another terrorist attack, perhaps it is not.
French Canadiens imagine they have a long history of grievances against the English – whom they also imagine dominate federal government and are imposing multiculturalism on them – when in fact the British, after their 1759 consquest, could hardly have treated them more equitably. They kept their language, their legal system and the Catholic faith, when the norms of conquest dictated that English language and law should be imposed. No one in Britain at the time was allowed to practice Catholicism, so the Quebecois were in effect treated more liberally than British citizens. But a conquered people are never allowed to be content – it’s human nature. They complain endlessly, just as the Israelites in the Wilderness complained to Moses about everything. A largely imaginary grudge has now festered here for something short of 300 years, and it views anything deemed alien as an imposition by the despised English, who are believed to run everything with malign intentions – even though no government can be elected without the vast Quebecois vote. Despite the fact that Canada declares itself to be a multicultural country in the Charter of Rights, Quebec, which is even recognized by Ottawa as a “nation”, officially announces that it is proudly not multicultural. Everyone just shrugs: c’est les Francais. Many hardliners here, always seeking referenda to separate from Canada and be a litral sovereign nation, view such things as Indigeneous reservations and rights, as well as the current high immigration stats to be malignant impositions by the English-speaking majority, and designed to undermine or erode Quebecois values. Hardly anyone in the whole country denies their right to speak French, more or less, or pursue a unique and somewhat French-like culture, more or less. I for one find it an oasis of charm and politesse in the North American desert. But the Internet and social media are slowly eroding this from within, and young Quebecois are becoming increasingly bilingual, cognizant of their place in a still largely Anglo continent. This is bound to suffer blowback – and so it is. Just as the advent of Donald Trump is really all about a yearning for simpler, greater, whiter times, so the rise of Quebecois racism is really all about Francophile xenophobia and the pipe-dream of sovereignty – which is rapidly fading in the harsh light of a new day. But much of Quebec remains a backwater of startlingly primitive and ignorant communities, sheltered from North American realities by a media of stunningly narrow and parochial concerns. It is not unlike conditions in rural areas of the southern US states, fed on Fox Opinions and the intemperate tirades of Trump, along with the mad barrage of right-wing radio and fundamentalist Christian televangelists. Education is of course the only answer to this woeful condition, and education in Quebec – as it is in much of the US – has deteriorated into a muddle of confusion and nonsense, depriving first to sixth-graders of the bilingualism they most need and which could be most easily taught as conversation to kids of that age. Not a few here believe that this failure in the school system is designed to prevent the Quebecois from exploring the Big World, and thus retaining their Anglophobia, which will enslave them to atavistic sovereignist values and concerns. It will not and cannot work, for human beings are inevitably drawn to a critical mass – and what happened in that mosque does seem to be forming a new mass-opinion of some considerable size.
It is also trashing the vain hopes of Canada’s Francophobic wannabe Trump, Kevin O’Leary – who actually seems to live mostly in America. True to the idiotically insensitive form of his role-model, Kev – wealthy entrepreneur of dubious ethics, and abusive reality-TV co-host – posted online a video of himself laughing maniacally as he fired off a machine-gun in a Florida shooting range. You might say this was somewhat lacking in empathy after the Quebec slaughter – and many did say it. So many indeed that one of his lackies apologetically took down the offending video. But Kev had to lie, saying he took it down “out of respect” for the slain. Well, it was what Trump would have done, wasn’t it? What Trump wouldn’t have done, however, is run for the leadership of a party three years away from any general election. Perhaps Kev miscalculated this? In the unlikely event that he wins, he will have to spend over two years as Opposition Leader in the terminally boring House of Parliament – and show up nearly every day for even more terminally boring and stultifyingly trivial or petty debates. The media will be watching. He can’t return to his Big American Life, can he? Worse still, he can’t be sure of winning the 2019 eklection either – especially if sunny-boy Le Petit retains his backbone. Worse than that is the gambit of modelling himself after Trump, and thus being tied to the Trump fortunes – which even the most flamboyant bookmakers are currently not giving good odds on. The Puritanical dinosaur, Mike Pence, is by far the favourite in this race to avoid a common doom. No, Kev has not thought this through at all. At what point will he say it’s all rigged? In fact it is rigged in my opinion – rigged to end in preposterous confusion whatever happens. Like the US system, ours is broken beyond repair. It’s an 18th-century relic that belongs in a museum of governance. But you cannot replace it by running as a candidate who will dismantle government, can you? The only question worth asking is: can it be done peacefully, and then what will replace it? I suggest a look at the Vedic texts on this subject, and a study of the Torah’s social laws. Wise men always knew how best to organize and govern any society. It has been unwise men who’ve fouled the nest.
Paul William Roberts