Quebec media, politicians express regret over Islam rhetoric in wake of mosque attack

Hopefully, a lasting lesson, not just an immediate one:

Across the province, political operators and media stars offered a range of regrets and conciliatory statements for their failure to take into account the weight carried by their constant analysis of the faith, practices and extremist fringes of Islam dating back more than 10 years.

Journal de Montréal columnist Lise Ravary wrote she has come to realize many citizens fail to catch the nuance between extremism and simple religious devotion in her writing as she has argued for a more secular state.

Parti Québécois Leader Jean-François Lisée admitted he has gone too far sometimes. His party long pushed for legislation that would limit religious accommodation in the province and restrict religious symbols and clothing in interactions with the state. Mr. Lisée once warned the burka – a head-to-toe covering some Muslim women wear – is a security risk because it could conceal firearms for a terrorist attacker.

“It wasn’t a good idea to bring that idea into the Quebec debate,” Mr. Lisée told reporters Tuesday. “It’s not easy to be Muslim in the 21st century. We could turn down our language while still debating our values.”

The Bloc Québécois federal party quietly took down an ad from the 2015 election that depicted a niqab – an all-covering black Muslim veil – transforming into a puddle of oil.

As for “radio poubelle” or “trash radio” as critics call it, Quebec City Mayor Régis Labeaume said the province must “reject … those who enrich themselves with hatred.”

One emotional talk radio host in the city admitted Tuesday to an airwave obsession with radical Islam and expressed his shame that his address book was empty when he needed to talk to local Muslim citizens. “I don’t think a week passes that I don’t talk about their religion, about radical Islam. When I wanted to talk to our own [Muslim] people, I figured out we don’t know any. We didn’t have a number,” said Sylvain Bouchard, morning host on FM93. Mr. Bouchard is far from the meanest host on Quebec City airwaves, and several of his competitors angrily denied going too far.

Muslims in Quebec City and across the province were buoyed by large public rallies of support in recent days but they wonder how much the public debate can change.

“Trash radio constantly wants to talk about Islam and it does us immense harm. We are a small community here and huge numbers of people listen to that radio. They see us, they don’t talk to us, they think we’re monsters,” said Yassin Boulnemour, a friend and co-worker of Abdelkrim Hassane, a 41-year-old father of two who was killed in the attack. “If you want to show us your solidarity, stop listening to the radio.”

Majdi Dridi, an organizer with the Quebec arm of the Muslim Association of Canada, said he hopes authorities will take more seriously routine acts of hate and Islamophobia the community encounters. “It’s time now to fine our points of commonality instead of talking about differences and how to accommodate them.”

Not all of the political and media actors are ready to forget about their agenda for limiting the place of Islam in the public sphere. Bernard Drainville, the former PQ member cabinet minister who in 2013 drafted the failed charter of values that would have limited religious dress in the public service among other measures, took to his current TV and radio commenting gigs to say the debate must go on – after a respectful pause.

Source: Quebec media, politicians express regret over Islam rhetoric in wake of mosque attack – The Globe and Mail

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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