Sometimes I believe we are living in an Alice in Wonderland world. Earlier this summer, the small Quebec town of St-Apollinaire rejected a proposal from a small Muslim community to establish their own cemetery outside of town. According to the Globe and Mail, the decision “rested in the hands of only 49 eligible voters, and in the end, only 36 turned out to cast ballots.”
A little more than half the eligible voters rejected the cemetery. Thus it became clear that, even in the aftermath of a terrorist attack against a mosque six months earlier – the only faith-based mass murder in Canadian history – the good people of St-Apollinaire could not abide even dead Muslims.
Imagine, if you will, the reaction, had the village communities of St-Sauveur or Ste-Agathe-des-Monts, each less than a 1.5-hour drive from Montreal, rejected a similar proposal for a Jewish cemetery. I honestly believe you would have seen all levels of provincial and federal politicians speaking out firmly in chastising the town’s decision. I imagine, as well, that other faith communities would come together as one, surrounding the small and vulnerable Jewish community with love and support. There would have been a justifiable hue and cry. Yet in the case of the thwarted Muslim cemetery in St-Apollinaire, we hear only an Islamophobic silence.
Perhaps by the time this column is published people will have come to their senses. Perhaps press conferences will be heard in which faith and political leaders of Quebec demand, in a single voice, a cemetery for Muslim Quebecers. Perhaps.
Meanwhile, in Toronto, a group of hateful, bullying parents demonstrated in front of a local GTA high school that had the audacity to grant its Muslim students a prayer room to recite their mandatory daily supplications.
As I wrote earlier for Now magazine, “Protesters wore T-shirts proclaiming Stop Islam; Save Humanity, and engaged in Islamophobic vitriol claiming Islam was engaged in ‘pedophilia, rape culture, violence and barbarity.’”
‘I cannot imagine the uproar had a group of anti-Semitic parents picketed a public school in Toronto because Jewish children were saying daily prayers’
Peel Police were present and did nothing. To her credit, Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie spoke out forcefully. The rest of us went about our business in Wonderland. Again, I cannot imagine the uproar had a group of anti-Semitic parents picketed in front of a public school in Toronto because Jewish children were saying daily prayers.
Life in Wonderland resumes unabated. A short time ago, The CJN reported that Jewish Defence League Canada had made an alliance with a group called the Soldiers of Odin. The Southern Poverty Law Center, a well-respected anti-racist organization in the United States, has identified the Soldiers of Odin as one of a number of extremist hate groups in the United States. The Anti-Defamation League, probably the most respected Jewish anti-racism organization in the world, has said “The Soldiers of Odin represent the most significant alliance between white supremacists and anti-government extremists in the United States in decades.”
‘Hating Muslims, it seems, unites deadly enemies’
And yet, the leader of JDL Canada, Meir Weinstein, collaborated with these white supremacists to provide “security” at a recent anti-Muslim event. Never in my wildest dreams could I have fantasized such a nightmare as Jews and neo-Nazis making common cause! Hating Muslims, it seems, unites deadly enemies.
And astonishingly, that is not the end! Only a couple weeks ago, neo-Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan and other white supremacists basically rioted in Charlottesville, Va., though their stated “mission” was to stop the removal of a statue of racist Confederate general Robert E. Lee. Amidst the upheaval, a neo-Nazi drove his car into a crowd of counter-demonstrators, killing one and injuring many more. In any other world this woud be called domestic terrorism, just not in U.S. President Donald Trump’s world.
And why not? Trump embraces white supremacist thinkers like Steven Bannon and others. Indeed, KKK icon David Duke praised and saluted Trump in the wake of his statement that refused to denounce white supremacists in Charlottesville.
The world is so upside down right now that not even Lewis Carroll could ever have conceived of such a Wonderland.