Exploiting Mass Murder for Political Gain

2017-02-17

I recently learned that I am the target of defamatory remarks published on a Canadian web site. I am accused of a certain degree of complicity in the Quebec City murders. This is my response.

Sommaire en français
Je viens d’apprendre que je suis la cible de propos diffamatoires publiés sur un site web canadien. On m’accuse d’un certain degré de complicité dans la récente tuerie à Québec. Voici ma réponse.

In a recent blog The Quebec City Attack: Some Context, I wrote:

It took a very short time for the unscrupulous to begin exploiting this tragedy for political ends. Slanderous and hateful comments have been made, …

When I wrote the above, I did not yet realize how appallingly true it would turn out to be. It has recently come to my attention that I have been accused, on a certain Canadian web site, of a certain degree of complicity in the Quebec City massacre, although it is a little vague (perhaps deliberately so) what that degree is. What was the nature of my complicity in this atrocity? According to my accuser, my criticism of the word “islamophobia” in a recent blog Fools Against “Islamophobia” implies a total—and, in my accuser’s apparent estimation, near-criminal—disregard for anti-Muslim prejudice.

In that blog I criticized gay activists in Ontario and in the U.K. for their inappropriate response to the Orlando shooting in which about 50 were massacred in a gay bar. Instead of concentrating their energies on denouncing religious homophobia, in this case Islamic homophobia, they foolishly chose to demonstrate against “Islamophobia” as if “the possibility of antipathy towards those who practice Islam is worse than murdering gays in the name of Islam.” Furthermore, they chose incorrect language to do so: if they were concerned about the danger of an anti-Muslim backlash, i.e. attacks against real people, they could have denounced anti-Muslim prejudice.

But instead, these gay activists used the term “Islamophobia” which implies a (possibly irrational) fear of the ideology Islam. This is wrong for at least two reasons: (1) there is nothing irrational about fearing Islam; and (2) criticizing an ideology is very different from hatred of real human beings. By confusing the two issues, these activists stigmatized criticism of Islam and its cousin Islamism, thus playing into the hands of Islamist propagandists. Those who control language also control minds. The words we choose are important. Clarity is essential.

…the Quebec City killing of six Muslims was far, far worse than mere “Islamophobia.” It was not an attack on a religion or an idea. On the contrary, it was murderous violence against living, breathing human beings.

What is ironic here is that the Quebec City killing of six Muslims was far, far worse than mere “Islamophobia.” It was not an attack on a religion or an idea. On the contrary, it was murderous violence against living, breathing human beings. It was anti-Muslim terrorism, it was an anti-Muslim massacre. (Some people reject the term “terrorism” in this case. I tend to disagree.) We all have a duty, especially atheists and secularists, to distinguish between ideas and people, i.e. between beliefs and believers. To confuse the two categories only increases the danger of misunderstandings and possibly retribution for past acts of violence.

I also know why my accuser hates me (although we do not even know each other). Based on previous writings, it is clear that my criticism of communitarianism, a.k.a. multiculturalism, and my concomitant support for republican secularism burn his or her butt.

It is not clear whether my accuser is literally insane, or merely a horrific jerk. Maybe both? Fortunately, unlike Donald Trump, my accuser is not the head of a powerful nation with massive nuclear capability, so there is a limit to how much damage the lout can do. Unfortunately he or she is far from alone in this venal practice of exploiting a bloody tragedy for partisan political purposes.

Yesterday I slipped on some ice, fell and hurt my knee. Who or what is to blame? I blame Islamophobia and the Quebec “Charter of Values.” … OK, just kidding.

It has been said (I am unable to locate the source) that the only vice is conformism. Since the Quebec City attack on January 29th, we have seen a lot of vicious conformism. There has been a chorus of unscrupulous individuals claiming that the debate, in 2013-2014, around the Charter of Secularism proposed by the previous Quebec government, was a major cause of the massacre. This is accompanied by lamenting the prevalence of “identity politics” or “nationalisme identitaire” etc., etc. when in reality the Charter would have imposed neutrality on public institutions so that individuals would be prevented from promoting their particular, partisan religious or political identity while being paid from public funds. The Charter would have attenuated identity politics.

One very high profile example of this is the recent media splash by Charles Taylor who was co-president of the Bouchard-Taylor Commission, about a decade ago. The Commission was mandated to study the issue of so-called “reasonable accommodation” which to be precise should be called religious accommodation. One of its principal recommendations was that public servants in positions of coercive authority—police, judges, etc.—should not be allowed to wear religious symbols while on duty. I think such symbols should be banned for all public servants while on duty, but the Commission’s recommendation was at least a step in the right direction.

Taylor has exploited the Quebec City massacre as an excuse to repudiate, in a very public fashion, one of the rare constructive positions he has taken in the past.

Very recently, Taylor repudiated his previous position; he now thinks that no such ban should be imposed. His reason? The Quebec City event has changed the situation and, according to Taylor, the debate over the Quebec Charter “stigmatized” some groups. In reality, as ex-MNA Fatima Houda-Pepin has revealed, Taylor has discreetly held his current opinion for years, since long before the recent event. In other words, Taylor has exploited the Quebec City massacre as an excuse to repudiate, in a very public fashion, one of the rare constructive positions he had taken in the past.

But the prize for the most excessive and most egregious behaviour exploiting the Quebec City tragedy goes to Member of Parliament Iqra Khalid who is promoting her motion M-103 condemning “Islamophobia.” According to a CBC news report, she defines that term as “the irrational hate of Muslims that leads to discrimination.” Once again, we see a deliberate confusion of terms in order to justify a dangerous threat to freedom of expression. And once again, both the political centre and the so-called left have completely abandoned all rationality, so that only some members of the Conservative Party oppose the motion, thus allowing its promoters to accuse anyone who disagrees with them of being right-wingers.

My accuser is a petty member of that rogue’s gallery of unprincipled conformists.

You are allowed to disagree with me. But you are not allowed to accuse me of complicity in murder.

Further reading:


Next blog: Islam and Islamism

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