Acceptance and the Quebec Mosque Shooting

On Jan. 29, six men were killed while praying in a mosque in Quebec City. The men killed were “parents, civil servants, academics.” The man who killed them was called a “criminal extremist” by an RCMP commissioner.

When I heard about the shooting, I was crushed. As Canadians, we see all of these terrible things happening across the border, and we thank our lucky stars that we live in Canada. However, as I have written previously, we are not immune to terrorist attacks, to shootings, to hate; and Canada is not the utopian human rights refuge we may like to imagine. We are a nation built that was through colonization, and sometimes even injustices like genocide. And Canada still faces some serious, unacceptable inequalities.

I tweeted about the shooting at the mosque, and there were a few things I wanted to get across in those 140 characters: That I felt physically pained by the news of the attack. That I was thinking of the families of the victims, and of Muslims across Canada and across the world. That this hate-filled action is not reflective of a country trying to reconcile its past and move forward to be an accepting nation (a similar message to my post from last January about the hate crime against Syrian refugees in Vancouver: “This is not Canada”).

I thought my message was clear. I stand with Muslims, in Canada and worldwide. But I guess some people who are looking for a certain message will find it even where it was not intended. Because I noticed today, a month after tweeting what I believed to be a message of solidarity, that someone had responded with a racist remark.

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My tweet from Jan. 29, and, above, a reply.

When I saw this tweet, I felt as sick as I did when I heard the news of the shooting. It’s not that this person misinterpreted my message, per se; it’s that this a reminder of what some people truly believe. Unfortunately, this Twitter user represents the views of too many people, including the president of the United States.

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Justin Trudeau greets Syrian refugees at a Canadian airport. (Image credits: The Globe and Mail)

We can tout Justin Trudeau’s acceptance of over 25,000 Syrian refugees as proof that Canada is a welcoming nation. We are, sometimes. However, there is a fine line between tolerance and acceptance, and the latter is not a hate-filled shooting, and it is not a hate-filled tweet.

I will end with a quote from Nelson Mandela: “People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love.” I may disagree with people who are racist, but I think they can learn to love. It is my hope that people like that Twitter user can learn to accept people who are different than them and stop advocating for violence against them, or for them to “go home.” Canada is all of our homes—and we all have a role to play to ensure it is an accepting place for everyone.


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