The Quebec City Attack: Some Context

2017-02-05, last modified 2017-02-06

Some context and background about the attack on a mosque in Quebec City on Sunday, January 29th 2017.

Sommaire en français
Quelques informations pertinentes pour contextualiser l’attentat contre une mosquée de la ville de Québec, le dimanche 29 janvier 2017.

As you know, on January 29th 2017, a gunman went on a rampage in a Quebec City mosque, killing six and wounding several others. Here are a few details about this horrific attack and events before and after, gleaned from a variety of sources, details which may have gotten lost in the current highly charged political atmosphere.

  • The police initially reported that there were two shooters, one North-African, the other a Caucasian with an obvious Québécois accent. They then determined that the former was a witness who was fleeing for his life — in fact he was cleaning snow from the mosque steps when the shootings began. The police publicly corrected their error the day after the shootings, but apparently some media, particularly in the US, took their time. During the short period of confusion, before the correction was announced, some speculated about a conflict between rival Muslim sects, but I found that scenario to be implausible. In Iraq or Egypt, maybe, but not in Quebec City.
  • The perpetrator, Alexandre Bissonnette, was apparently not a Quebec nationalist. According to blogger André Gagnon, his Facebook presence (no longer available) was almost entirely in English, whereas Quebec City is almost entirely French-speaking. His political profile is closer to the extreme-right wing of the Canadian Conservative Party (the party of former Prime Minister Stephen Harper), the party of WASP racism and Orangism. (Although the Conservative Party is rather weak in the province of Quebec in general, it paradoxically has stronger support in the Quebec City region.)
  • According to police, their interrogation of Bissonette showed he was influenced, at least to some degree, by the anti-Muslim climate which currently reigns in the USA.
  • Police will probably not recommend terrorism charges, as such charges are more difficult to prove in court, while the perpetrator is already facing 6 counts of premeditated murder and 5 counts of attempted murder, enough to put him away for 25 years with no possibility of parole. But I would call it terrorism.
  • In June of 2016, the severed head of a pig was left on the doorstep of the Quebec City mosque. I wrote about it in a previous blog, Of Pigs and Prayer.
  • The perpretrator gave himself up to police willingly. This is atypical of such attacks.
  • All those killed in the attack were male. This is the result of gender segregation in the mosque. Only men are allowed in the main area of the mosque on the ground floor. Women and children are relegated to other levels.
  • A funeral for three of the dead was held on February 2nd in a major venue, the Maurice-Richard Arena, in Montreal:
    • The funeral was attended by dignitaries including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard and the mayors of both Montreal and Quebec City. It was practically a state occasion, broadcast on television.
    • The main level, where the caskets were located, was reserved for men, except for female dignitaries and wives of dignitaries. Other women were excluded from the main level because of gender segregration.
    • During his speech, Premier Couillard repeated the words “Allahou Akbar,” claiming that they are incorrectly associated with violence.
    • Although two of the three deceased are from the Kabyle people of Algeria, their relatives were offended that Arabic and not the Kabyle language was used in the ceremony.
  • Other recent attacks involving Québécois:
    • On January 15th 2016, six Québécois were killed, along with 24 other persons, in an Islamist terror attack on a hotel and restaurant in Ouagadougou, capital of Burkina Faso. Four of the six were from the Quebec City area. Prime Minister Trudeau made a declaration condemning the attack, but took no other action. Two days later he visited an Ontario mosque which had been vandalized after the terrorist attacks in Paris on 2015-11-13.
    • The most recent terrorist attack in Quebec was in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu on October 20th 2014, by an Islamist radical, causing two deaths: a soldier and the perpetrator.
    • The preceding was an attack by Richard Bain on an event in Montreal, celebrating the victory of the Parti Québécois on the evening of the September 4th 2012 provincial election. Bain’s apparent goal was to assassinate as many separatists as possible, especially party leader and newly elected premier of Quebec, Pauline Marois. He failed, but unfortunately one person, a stage technician, was killed. Bain made anti-French comments during the attack. I would call this incident Anglo terrorism. Hatred directed against French-speaking Québécois and especially against independantists is a major problem in Canada but rarely reaches such extremes.

The Future Looks Very Bleak

The underlying problem is the confusion between an ideology, Islamism (a subset of Islam), and human beings of Muslim culture. Those who refuse to allow full criticism of the former by claiming that it offends the latter are contributing to the very confusion which they claim to oppose.

There is an old proverb which states that to understand is to forgive. This may apply to minor faults, but it certainly does not apply here. We may try to understand the motives of the killer, to explain his behaviour; however, no explanation, no motivation, whether political or other, can possibly justify or excuse this horrific act of mass murder. If Bissonnette thought that he was scoring a victory against Islamism, then in addition to being a contemptible mass-murderer he is also extremely stupid, because, by gunning down innocent Muslims, he has given Islamists a major propaganda victory, something they can exploit for their own ends, just as Donald Trump’s draconian U.S. travel ban on Muslims from some countries also played into the Islamists’ hands.

The lone perpetrator is to blame for this massacre; he alone has blood on his hands. However, there are others to whom lesser blame must be assigned, others who are responsible for creating an atmosphere which made such an attack more likely to occur, which facilitated such an atrocity. And there are others who are completely innocent but have been unfairly targeted.

It took a very short time for the unscrupulous to begin exploiting this tragedy for political ends. Slanderous and hateful comments have been made, condemning secularists and the Québécois in general. The antisecular regressive left (i.e. false left) and cultural relativists were already overbearingly arrogant; this tragedy has only emboldened them, making matters even worse. The underlying problem is the confusion between an ideology, Islamism (a subset of Islam), and human beings of Muslim culture. Those who refuse to allow full criticism of the former by claiming that it offends the latter are contributing to the very confusion which they claim to oppose.

By failing to take aim at the tremendous harm which religions cause, the fake left betrays human rights and drives more and more people towards the far right of the political spectrum where such criticism is contaminated with bigotry and anything but rigorous.

Now, more than ever, rigorous criticism of religion, including Islam, is crucial. By failing to take aim at the tremendous harm which religions cause, the fake left betrays human rights and drives more and more people towards the far right of the political spectrum where such criticism is contaminated with bigotry and anything but rigorous.

It does not take telepathic powers to recognize that this massacre was a form of revenge for Islamist terrorist events. By falsely blaming Québécois in general and by remaining complacent with respect to Islamism, our incompetent political leaders have virtually guaranteed that the cycle will continue unbroken. Islamists are now emboldened and will seek revenge, then another anti-Muslim fanatic will seek revenge for that, and so on, and so on. The future looks very bleak indeed.

I will be exploring some of these issues in future blogs. Unfortunately, I have a lot of material at hand.

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Next blog: Charles Taylor est-il compromis avec le Prix Templeton ?

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