Gatineau Islamic Centre attacks and Harper’s coded language

Despite Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s statement describing the profanation of the Centre islamique de l’Outaouais in Gatineau, Québec, a Muslim house of worship, as “heinous” and “deplorable,” Mr. Harper has much to answer for, and should be further pressed to do so.
For the outrages committed in Gatineau are the direct and predictable results of the Prime Minister’s remark, to a complicit Peter Mansbridge on September 7 2011, that “Islamicism” (sic) represents the “biggest threat to Canada.”

What is truly “heinous” and “deplorable,” however, is Mr. Harper’s sly use of coded language (“Islamicism”) to point the finger of opprobrium at Muslims and their religion, practiced by more than one quarter of humanity. In fact, viewed in the light of last week’s repeated acts of vandalism, the Canadian Prime Minister should properly be regarded as the biggest threat to the peace and security of Canadian citizens.

Until he fully and publicly revokes his characterization of “Islamicism” as threat, Mr. Harper’s words, and those of Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, must be regarded as hollow.
But caution must be exercised in interpreting the obscene graffiti inscribed on the mosque’s doors and walls. The ostensibly Jewish identity of the Gatineau vandal, as expressed in the symbols used, should deceive no one.

Though Zionist extremists such as the Jewish Defense League make common cause with extreme right-wing political groups, and welcomed Dutch race hater Geert Wilders to Canada last year, the crude and clumsy nature of the Gatineau incidents point in another direction. The aim of the perpetrator(s) is to incite Muslims against Jews.

Such a tactic dovetails perfectly with Mr. Harper’s unyielding support of Israel, and his own government’s provocative posture on protecting religious minorities.

These tactics, in turn, feed into the Harper government’s broad policy shift that seeks to transform Canada into a “warrior nation,” an implicitly Judeo-Christian, neo-imperialist one at that.

Having labeled “Islamicism” a threat to Canada, Mr. Harper has now declared Iran the major threat to world peace. All the elements of an aggressive domestic and foreign “warrior” policy are in place, including the implicit designation of Muslims as an enemy within.

It should come as no surprise that marginal elements or agents provocateurs choose, or are designated, to act out such a policy at the local level. In fact, more such outrages can be expected, along with wider damage to property and possibly physical injury.

Reaction among Muslim advocacy groups has been thus far cautious. They have called upon local police forces to step up protection and surveillance, and bring the culprits to justice. CAIR-CAN, a measured voice of advocacy for Canadian Muslims thanked Mr. Harper for his “reassuring condemnation.”

In normal times and circumstances, such measures would be sufficient.
But these are no longer normal times and circumstances.

Muslim advocacy groups, and ad-hoc coalitions of Imams such as those who recently united to condemn unequivocally abuse against women, should now consider discussing the wider context that has seen increasing attacks on Canada’s (and Québec’s) Muslim citizens.

Stephen Harper must not be allowed to get away with apologizing for the results of policies consciously adopted by his government and actively promoted by the ministers closest to him. It may well be time for Canada’s (and Québec’s) Muslim citizens, along with their supporters among the broader society, to consider organizing themselves into self-defense groups that would step forward where police forces are unable or unwilling to do their job.
Such a step would help focus attention on the true instigators of vandalism of houses of worship, the propagators of Islamophobia, and the master planners of armed intervention and war in the Middle East: the Harper government.

*Fred A. Reed is a journalist, literary translator and author. He received the Governer General award for his English translation of Le temps aboli : l’Occident et ses grands récits by Thierry Hentsch (Les Éditions du Boréal / Les Presses de l’Université de Montréal).