Stay up to date with notifications from The Independent

Notifications can be managed in browser preferences.

We must not forget to mourn the victims of the Quebec mosque attack in the midst of Trump's travel ban furore

Bearing in mind the passions on both sides of the debate, it is no surprise that a terrorist incident in neighbouring Canada should be closely examined for what it might tell us about President Trump’s novel approach to America’s highest office

Will Gore
Monday 30 January 2017 19:35 GMT
Comments
Quebec Provincial and municipal police officers are seen behind a cordoned off area after two gunmen reportedly opened fire at the Quebec Islamic Cultural Centre in Quebec City
Quebec Provincial and municipal police officers are seen behind a cordoned off area after two gunmen reportedly opened fire at the Quebec Islamic Cultural Centre in Quebec City (EPA)

With protests against President Trump’s immigration ban in full swing, the news of an apparent terror attack in Quebec City seemed impossible. A tweet from @realDonaldTrump would surely follow, pouncing on validation for his bombastic “anti-terrorism” measures. Yet before the President was able to tap out 140 characters it became clear that the attack had taken place at a mosque, targeting Muslims. Was it, in fact, an extremist attack inspired by alt-right ideals?

The media’s relationship with America’s new leader is complicated to say the least. Journalists have spent the past 10 days working out how on earth to engage with a man who appears to have little regard for the traditional mechanisms of government, let alone the customs that oversee the relationship between President and press pool. One feature of the saturation coverage of Trump’s early days in office is that it has become hard to disentangle news stories that relate directly to his administration from those that don’t. Every news event is suddenly viewed through a Trump-shaped lens. The question is: does this lens grant a clearer picture, or does it distort?

In the case of the murders at a mosque in Quebec City it was perhaps inevitable that a possible link would be made to the President’s decision to ban immigration from seven majority-Muslim countries. The measure, decreed by executive order, was undertaken with the specified intention of making America safe from would-be terrorists. Supporters of the policy contend that it will keep out extremist Islamists, posing as refugees, intent on entering the US with the aim of killing American citizens. Trump has argued in particular that Christians need to be protected, furthering by his rhetoric the flawed notion of a world crassly divided between Christians and Muslims.

Opponents of the scheme, meanwhile, not only point to its discriminatory character and its blunt nature, but also question whether it will be effective. The Islamist-inspired immigrants who have carried out attacks in the US were all from countries not on Trump’s banned list. And the huge majority of immigrants from the Middle East appear to have integrated into American life rather well. By pushing ahead with such a symbolic policy, Trump may increase tension between Muslims and non-Muslims in the US, and he may help the propaganda efforts of Isis et al – but those are presumably not his core aims.

Bearing in mind the passions on both sides of the debate then, it is no surprise that a terrorist incident in neighbouring Canada should be closely examined for what it might tell us about President Trump’s novel approach to America’s highest office. The danger, however, is not only that the real motives of those responsible are over-simplified, but that we dehumanise the victims, who become only collateral in a game of political cat and mouse.

Six killed at mosque shooting in Quebec

One eye witness in Quebec is reported to have heard a shooter shout “Allahu akbar” as the attack was carried out. Another described suspects speaking with a “Quebecois accent”. Two suspects were initially identified, then Canadian police indicated that only one suspect was under arrest - said to be a local student. But as yet we don’t know what motivated this foul deed.

As for the victims of the massacre, we know that six were killed – aged it is said between 35 and 65 – and a similar number of others remain in a critical condition. Yet amidst all the speculation about the incident, we have yet to hear the stories of those who were gunned down. We can assume perhaps that they had families who loved them and who will miss them; that they had jobs, or worked to contribute to their communities; that they were faithful people who did not expect their devotions to be interrupted, permanently, by violence.

In due time, the authorities must do all they can to determine the motives of the person or persons who became killers in Quebec; and we should consider whether President Trump’s policy towards Middle Eastern immigrants played any role whatsoever. But let’s not forget the individual lives of those who died; nor allow ourselves to be overly distracted by anything the Donald happens to tweet about this tragedy.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in