There is nothing quite as effective as a developing story regarding a terrorist incident to smoke out people’s true political agendas.
On Sunday night, six people were killed at the Quebec Islamic Cultural Centre by a lone gunman. Or was it two gunmen? In the immediate aftermath, there were conflicting reports on the matter, although as of Monday afternoon, it appears that the Quebec City authorities have finally concluded that indeed only one man was the perpetrator.
In any case, as of Sunday night, regardless of the fact that no concrete facts had yet been established about this horrendous incident, the usual suspects on both the right and the left were out in full force pushing their own theories and agendas.
“Islamophobia! White supremacy! Trump!” shouted the left.
In a New York Times article from Sunday evening, the paper was quick to mention that this same mosque had been the victim of Islamophobic bigotry in June 2016, when a pig’s head was left on its doorstep. In an article from today, the same paper noted that other minor Islamophobic incidents had been committed in Canada in recent months.
The aim, clearly, was to immediately establish a link between the Mosque shootings and Islamophobia, before any firm facts had been established.
Also on Sunday evening (again, before any facts had been established), Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was quick to put forth similar theories, stating that, “this was a group of innocents targeted for practicing their faith… Make no mistake: this was a terrorist attack.” Was this statement meant to nudge us into assuming that the killer(s) was an anti-Islam bigot? I shall let you decide for yourself.
New York City mayor Bill de Blasio went on a Twitter offensive on Sunday evening with similarly non-neutral insinuations about the causes of the Quebec mosque attack:
Moving to the right, the assumptions and battle cries were no less fatuous. “Jihad! Muslim-on-Muslim barbarity! Sectarian violence!” they reflexively shouted.
These sentiments were fueled by emerging reports on Monday morning that one of the “two” gunmen was a Moroccan national by the name of Mohamed el Khadir. This turned out to be false- el Khadir was merely a witness. Adding to the right’s excitement were alleged claims by some eyewitnesses that the gunman had shouted “Allahu Akbar” during the massacre.
Predictably, the anti-Islam brigade was hailing this as a vindication of their suspicions that Jihad, rather than Islamophobia, was responsible for this attack.
Firstly, what is most troubling about this entire spectacle is that it has revealed a penchant for people on both sides of the political spectrum to engage in what I call the “reverse scientific method.” That is to say, there is a tendency for seemingly-informed people to draw certain conclusions first and only then to scrape together pieces of evidence in support of this conclusion after the fact.
This flies in the face of what we were all taught as 13-year-olds in science class: collect the evidence first (and, if need be, patiently wait until it emerges), and only then start to draw conclusions based on this evidence.
Secondly, this incident has revealed a deeply troubling erosion of the ostensibly nuanced political center in dictating the narrative on such issues. The Left (of which the New York Times, Trudeau, and de Blasio are all a part), will reflexively see Islamophobia as the primary problem plaguing our societies. The right (Geller, Robinson, and Fox News) will deem radical Islam to be the primary problem.
Now, as of Monday afternoon, it turns out that the prime suspect in this shooting is a Canadian national by the name of Alexandre Bissonnette. It appears, based on his social media activity, that he is a supporter of Donald Trump and Marine Le Pen. He was known to troll various refugee-supporting Facebook groups as well as Feminist organizations.
Hence, as it turns out, the left will probably end up being correct about this particular incident. Expect days of declarations about how there is now “definitive proof” that Islamophobia is a far larger threat than is Islamism.
Of course, this would totally ignore the fact that terrorist attacks on Muslims are most frequently committed by… fellow Muslims. The recent attack on a Shia market in Pakistan, and the attack on a Shia mosque in Kabul are but two examples of this phenomenon. Closer to home, in March of 2016, an Ahmadi Muslim by the name of Asad Shah was stabbed to death in his Glasgow shop by a Sunni extremist.
This is not to say that the right was correct to assume that this particular incident was conducted by Islamists or Jihadists. And yes, far-right Islamophobic hate crime is certainly a problem we face today. However, Islamism and Jihad are also very real problems. So let us not yield to the extremists on both sides of the debate who only acknowledge one side of the problem.