A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature
Among the latest ungodly alternative facts issuing like toxic fumes from the White House is their brazenly skewed (and woefully misspelled) list of terror attacks the media allegedly failed to cover – though, in fact, many were reported, dissected and analyzed ad nauseam for weeks. As critics have noted, the list omits or skirts over a multitude of vital, real-life facts: None of the attacks on the terror list would have been prevented by Trump’s travel ban on seven Muslim-majority countries; the odds of an American being killed by a refugee terrorist remain at 1 in 3.64 billion; the list manages to leave out white perpetrators and Muslim victims who in fact make up the majority – abroad, up to 95% – of victims.
Closest to home, the list unforgivably fails to mention the January 29 massacre at a mosque in Québec City where a gunman opened fire during evening prayers, killing six men – the fathers of 17 children – and wounding 19. The alleged shooter, 27-year-old Alexandre Bissonnette, is a white, right-wing, anti-immigrant Trump supporter; he faces six counts of first-degree murder and at least five counts of attempted murder. While it’s “impossible and perhaps unwise to look for a straight line” from the Muslim travel ban to the Quebec City killings, notes one writer, “We should not be surprised that fear can be stoked, that anger can migrate, that vulnerability and innocence can be exploited in a world going mad…We North Americans have never had any trouble finding people to hate.”
The killings of so many struck down in prayer – among them, a grocer, pharmacist, professor and computer programmer – prompted vigils across Canada. The first funeral for three victims drew thousands of mourners, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Québec’s premier, and Montreal and Québec City’s mayors, all of whom wept. The poignant eulogy was delivered by Imam Hassan Guillet, 64, a retired aerospace engineer originally from Lebanon and a spokesman for the province’s Council of Imams known to many Quebec Muslims for a nearby orchard where he grows apples and other fruit, and hosts picnics and Ramadan events. His impromptu remarks later spread widely, he suggested, because, “People could see that the man standing in front of them is an honest man (and) a sad man (who) is talking his pain.”
“We are here to celebrate Khaled, Aboubaker, Abdelkrim, Azzedine, Mamadou, Ibrahima,” Guillet began. “We are going to have a prayer for those who could not finish their prayers.” He went on to pointedly include the shooter himself – “None of us want to talk about him” – as one of the victims of hate: “Before planting his bullets in the heads of his victims, somebody planted ideas more dangerous than the bullets in his head…Day after day, (some) politicians and media were poisoning our atmosphere. We did not want to see it…and it happened.” Sounding a common note of hope and peace for the future, he stressed the victims had chosen the community where they wanted to live, and now the community must rise to the challenge: “The society that could not protect them still has a chance. The hands that didn’t shake the hands of Khaled or Aboubaker or Abdelkrim or Azzedine or Mamadou or Ibrahima, that society can shake the hands of their kids.”
First published in TruthDig February 6, 2017.
Canadians mourn the victims (Photo by Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)
The victims. Clockwise from left: Azzedine Soufiane, Mamadou Tanou Barry, Khaled Belkacemi, Aboubaker Thabti, Ibrahima Barry and Abdelkrim Hassane (Photo by CBC)