Many ‘political Islam’ movements share our values, say UK MPs

The government should narrow its definition of ‘political Islam’ and recognise that many Islamic political movements share the same values as Britain, according to a report by an influential committee of MPs.

The report criticises the Foreign Office for using the term to describe both groups that embrace “democratic principles and liberal values” and others that instead hold “intolerant, extremist views.”

Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Crispin Blunt, said: “We absolutely agree with the FCO on the need for a nuanced approach to the broad phenomenon of ‘political Islam’. We only regret that this approach does not appear to have been applied to the Muslim Brotherhood Review, which failed to mention some of what we saw as the most elementary factors that determine the group’s current behaviour.”

The committee said the FCO had “hindered” its inquiries by refusing to give it a full, or redacted copy of the review, or allow Sir John Jenkins to give oral evidence.

The watchdog criticised the Government’s handling of the Review as there was a delay of 18 months between its completion and the release of its main findings last December on the last day the Commons sat before the Christmas recess.

The committee warned the handling of the Muslim Brotherhood review threw up wider concerns about the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s (FCO) attitude to what constitutes “political Islam”.

The body found the “political Islam” tag used by the FCO was too “vague” as the Government uses it to describe groups that embrace democratic principles and liberal values and groups that hold intolerant, extremist views.

Mr Blunt said: “Through its counter-extremism and counter-terrorism strategies, it is clear what values the UK opposes.”

“But the UK’s standing in the world also depends on it clearly articulating, through the FCO, the values that this country supports and therefore the groups with which we will engage.”

‘Political Islam’, and the Muslim Brotherhood UK Review

House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee Report:

We found that:

• Some political Islamists have embraced elections. Electoral processes that prevent these groups from taking part cannot be called ‘free’. But democracy in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA)—where we focused our inquiry— must not be reduced to ‘winners’ and ‘losers’, and the FCO must encourage both political Islamists and their opponents to accept broader cultures of democracy.

• The Muslim Brotherhood is a secretive group, with an ambiguous international structure. But this is understandable given the repression it now experiences. • Some communications, particularly from the Brotherhood, have given contradictory messages in Arabic and English. And some of the responses that the group offered to our questions gave the impression of reluctance to offer a straight answer. The FCO is right to judge political Islamists by both their words and their actions.

• Some political Islamists have been very pragmatic in power. Others have been more dogmatic. But fears over the introduction of a restrictive interpretation of ‘Islamic law’ by the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) in Egypt were partly based on speculation rather than experience.

• The UK has not designated the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organisation. We agree with this stance. Some political-Islamist groups have broadly been a firewall against extremism and violence.

Defining the meaning of conservatism: German Muslims seek to organise in the CDU

Recently, German authorities commissioned an estimate of the country’s Muslim population. Unsurprisingly, the number of both Muslim residents and citizens has been growing over the past few years. The question of ‘integration’ has thus unsurprisingly remained a staple in public discussions.

Yet these debates have been led above all in culturalistic terms, focusing for instance on whether immigrants from Muslim backgrounds have to to accept a German ‘leading culture’ (Leitkultur). Little thought was given to immigrants’ integration into the country’s political life and its party system.

The voting behaviour of immigrants and their descendants

A recent study noted that “visible minorities” tend to vote left in Germany. Indeed, among the Turkish-German population, nearly 70 per cent of respondents expressed support for the Social Democratic Party (SPD).(( http://www.tagesspiegel.de/politik/migranten-und-politik-diese-parteien-waehlen-einwanderer/14851994.html ))

At the same time, these tendencies no longer appear to be set in stone. The scandal surrounding the racial theses of Thilo Sarrazin, an SPD member, apparently caused some German Turks to turn away from the Social Democrats while the CDU gradually seemed to open itself to immigrant voters.(( http://www.taz.de/!5061177/ ))

Moreover, the socioeconomic position of immigrants and their descendants has evolved: they have been credited with creating millions of jobs in diverse sectors of the economy.(( http://www.dw.com/en/study-migrant-entrepreneurs-provide-millions-of-jobs-in-germany/a-19465413 )) The Economist noted that recent – predominantly Muslim – immigrants were “bringing entrepreneurial flair to Germany”.(( http://www.economist.com/news/europe/21716053-while-native-germans-are-growing-less-eager-start-businesses-new-arrivals-are-ever-more )) The traditional pro-SPD vote of the Muslim guest worker toiling in one of the country’s factories can no longer be taken for granted.

Representing the ‘conservative majority’

Seeking to capitalise on this trend of an increasingly unmoored Muslim electorate, around 30 young Muslim members of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), the party of Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel, have joined forces to build a platform for the CDU’s Muslim partisans. Their project is dubbed “Members in the [Christian Democratcic] Union”, shortened to MidU.

According to its founding statement, MidU conceives of itself as the representative of the “conservative” majority of German Muslims, whose views are not taken into account by any other existing political platform. It vows to enrich the political debate by bringing to bear the distinctive viewpoint of these men and women on current issues.(( http://www.muslimeinderunion.de/ ))

‘A positive counter-public’

MidU founder and spokesman Cihan Sügür described this initiative as an attempt to create “a positive counter-public” that is no longer completely dominated by emotional debates surrounding ‘hot’ topics of cultural integration or jihadist radicalisation.(( http://www.rp-online.de/politik/deutschland/interview-muslime-in-der-union-aid-1.6061461 ))

Admittedly, though, it has most often been the CDU itself (with the exception of the far-right AfD party) that has engaged most stubbornly in these debates. Only in December 2016, the CDU party conference shifted to the right on a whole range of issues touching Muslims and immigrants. They include a project particularly dear to Sügür and MidU, namely dual citizenship.

Another policy area where MidU appears far removed from the conservative mainstream is the admissibility of the hijab in public functions. While Sügür defended the right of a Muslim woman to war the headscarf when working e.g. in court of justice as a self-evident right,(( http://www.rp-online.de/politik/deutschland/interview-muslime-in-der-union-aid-1.6061461 )) to the delight of many conservatives, the reality in Germany is still considerably more complex than that.

A potential gain for the CDU

Nevertheless, the Muslim vote does hold out considerable promise for the CDU: with now more than four million men, women, and children of Islamic faith living in the country, Sügür points out that they can be a decisive factor at the ballot box.(( http://www.rp-online.de/politik/deutschland/interview-muslime-in-der-union-aid-1.6061461. It is worth noting, however, that of course by 2008 only 1.8 million Muslims held Germany citizenship, thus reducing the pool of those eligible to vote.))

Conversely, many of Germany’s Muslims could indeed be attracted to a more ‘conservative’ stance on a range of questions related to social morality. Some even joined the rising Alternative for Germany from 2012 onwards, thinking that the party would stand up for traditional family values.(( http://www.rp-online.de/politik/deutschland/migranten-in-der-afd-abgestempelt-als-tuerkischer-nazi-aid-1.4607002 ))

Against this backdrop, the CDU’s Secretary General, Peter Tauber – widely seen as a core figure behind his party’s attempts to attract a younger and more female membership – welcomed the formation of MidU by sending a note of greeting to the club’s first gathering.

MidU and the large Muslim associations

Yet as soon as MidU stepped into the open with this first meeting, political headwinds started to build up. Notably, MidU received critical scrutiny for its supposed closeness to the four large German Muslim associations (the predominantly Turkish DİTİB, IGMG, and VIKZ associations, as well as the more mixed ZMD).

To some observers, the self-consciously conservative MidU appeared as an initiative to consolidate the – somewhat tenuous – grip of these four conservative Islamic associations on the political representation of Muslims. And for many of Sügür’s fellow CDU members, the conservatism of these four associations is deeply unappealing. (( http://www.faz.net/aktuell/politik/inland/muslime-in-der-union-polarisieren-14873404.html?printPagedArticle=true#pageIndex_2 ))

The implicit supposition that the four associations would work together and use MidU as a shared platform to influence the CDU and government policy is somewhat far-fetched: the different Islamic associations are notoriously disunited and have never managed to overcome these differences even when there were considerable political incentives in favour of doing so.

The role of DİTİB

Yet even the suspicion of being too close to these associations risks hampering MidU’s acceptability among the conservative mainstream. Especially DİTİB, for a long time the state’s preferred cooperation partner, has fallen out of favour with the authorities over recent months and years.

It has become a pastime among CDU politicians to criticise DİTİB clerics, sent by Ankara. Slightly derogatorily referred to as “imported Imams” (Importimame), they are blamed for inhibiting the integration of German Muslims. By contrast, MidU spokesman Sügür offered a defence of the workings of this system.(( http://www.rp-online.de/politik/deutschland/interview-muslime-in-der-union-aid-1.6061461 )) The fact that a (small) number of DİTİB’s Imams is now accused of spying on suspected Gülenists in Germany will not help Sügür’s position.

MidU, Erdoğan, and the political fault-lines among ‘conservative’ Muslims

The larger issue looming behind the present debate on DİTİB and its trustworthiness is its relationship with the Turkish state led by President Erdoğan, bête noire of many CDU politicians. Some of them promptly accused the MidU founder of seeking to organise the infiltration of the CDU by Erdoğan supporters.(( http://www.tagesspiegel.de/politik/muslime-in-der-cdu-uns-verbindet-nicht-erdogan-sondern-der-islam/14012648.html ))

Sügür was quick to deny this. Yet MidU’s critics saw their suspicions as confirmed by the exclusion of all those from the MidU platform who had supported the government’s resolution classifying the massacres of Armenians in 1915 as a genocide. This included the perhaps most high-profile Muslim member of the CDU, Cemile Giousouf.((http://www.faz.net/aktuell/politik/inland/muslime-in-der-union-polarisieren-14873404.html?printPagedArticle=true#pageIndex_2))

MidU subsequently pledged greater openness. Yet this episode demonstrates that the political issues haunting and also dividing the Muslim and Turkish communities in Germany resurface even among the small group of self-defined ‘conservatives’ who have decided to join the CDU.

Surveys allow new insights into Europeans’ rejection of Muslim immigration

Official condemnation of the ban

In the aftermath of President Trump’s executive order temporarily halting immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries, the liberal media has often looked for European moral leadership in an age of Trumpism.

Many of the continent’s politicians struck a similar tone, arguing for the need to uphold European values in the face of xenophobia and racism. EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, as well as the leaders of the largest factions in the European Parliament, emphasised the EU’s willingness to stand up for “European legal culture and fundamental values”.(( http://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/en/news-room/20170131IPR60380/meps-firmly-condemn-us-travel-ban-in-debate-with-federica-mogherini ))

Similarly, the Bloc’s national leaders seemed to develop a common position against the Trump administration and its ‘Muslim ban’. At the gathering of the Union’s 28 heads of government in Malta earlier this month, UK Prime Minister Theresa May was rebuffed for what the continent’s leaders deemed her too concessionary stance vis-à-vis the incoming US administration.(( http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/eu-malta-summit-european-leaders-rebuff-theresa-may-bridge-donald-trump-us-angela-merkel-francois-a7561106.html ))

Sobering survey results

Against this backdrop, the results of a survey commissioned by Chatham House are sobering. Carried out between December 12, 2016, and January 11, 2017, the survey interviewed 10,195 participants from 10 EU countries, asking them about their preferences regarding Muslim immigration.

Across the continent, an absolute majority of 54.6 per cent agreed to the statement that “All further migration from mainly Muslim countries should be stopped”. The strongest rejection of Muslim migration came from Poland (71 per cent), as well as Austria, Hungary, Belgium, and France (all above 60 per cent).

Only in Spain and the United Kingdom does the share of those supporting drastic immigration restrictions fall below the 50 per cent threshold. And in no country does the proportion of those actively disagreeing with the statement that “All further migration from mainly Muslim countries should be stopped” rise above 32 per cent.

(Moderate) cleavages according to gender, age, and rural/urban divide

The survey results highlight that men are slightly more likely than women to favour shutting the door to Muslim immigrants (57 to 52 per cent). Among the 18 to 29 year-olds, the share of those supportive of a restrictive policy is lowest (at 44 per cent), while it is highest among senior citizens above the age of 60 (63 per cent).

Higher education levels correlate with decreased anxiety about Muslims: 59 per cent of respondents with only secondary education or less supported preventing further Muslim immigration, compared to 48 per cent of respondents holding a university degree. Finally, the rural population is slightly more critical of Muslim immigration than its urban counterpart.

While these factors are of interest, they nevertheless do little to change the overall picture. Across all groups and cleavages, there are solid majorities favouring a restrictive attitude to the immigration of Muslims, with only few categories falling below the 50 per cent threshold.

Comparison with the US

At first sight, these figures strongly mirror the opinions of the American public. In a Reuters/Ipsos survey conducted on 30 and 31 of January – i.e. shortly after the executive order was signed – 48 per cent of Americans asserted that they ‘agreed’ with the Executive order blocking refugees and banning people from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the US.(( https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/feb/02/polls-widespread-backing-trump-travel-ban ))

It is worth noting, however, that the Chatham House poll was conducted prior to President Trump’s inauguration and thus did not explicitly reference a ‘Muslim ban’. Rather, it spoke of curbing Muslim immigration in more general terms.

European support for the Muslim ban?

These differences in timing and in the question asked might have important repercussions for the interpretation of the survey data. Most notably, a position generally supportive of curbs on Muslim immigration does not necessarily translate into support for the US administration’s Muslim ban.

In Germany, for instance, 53 per cent of respondents expressed desire for a stop to the arrival of Muslims when questioned for the Chatham House survey. In an Ipsos poll conducted in early February, 2017, however, only 26.2 per cent of German respondents supported strict rules governing Muslim immigration on the model of President Trump’s executive order.(( http://www.wiwo.de/politik/deutschland/umfrage-deutsche-wuenschen-sich-mehr-trump-politik-in-berlin/19239790.html ))

This striking discrepancy might point to the fact that it is easier for some respondents to advocate for a blanket restriction on Muslim immigration as long as this remains a somewhat abstract policy. The concretisation of such restrictions in the form of the presidential executive order might drive home the starkness and injustice involved in such a ban. The recent events in the United States also provided powerful images of demonstrators and of families torn apart at American airports that might have swayed German public opinion.

Outsourcing the dirty work

Does this mean that the claim to moral superiority voiced by European leaders criticising the new American administration is justified, after all? Are Europeans and their governments true to their self-styled image of the upholders of ‘Western values’? – Arguably not.

Instead of stopping immigration at European airports – and thereby creating a media stir comparable to the aftermath of the US President’s executive order – the EU has relied upon agreements that outsource the ‘dirty work’ to third states removed from European shores and out of the sight of European citizens.

This is the substance of the EU-Turkey deal that closed the Balkans route; an approach that the EU now seeks to replicate with a second agreement involving Libya. Although the officially recognised government controls only a small sliver of the Republic of Libya, it has been identified as a suitable partner by the Europeans.

Nor have European leaders been deterred by the conditions reigning in the migrant camps in Libya, which a leaked report by German diplomats described as comparable to “concentration camps” in which daily executions are used “to make room for new arrivals”.(( http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/eu-malta-summit-leaders-warn-strand-thousands-refugees-libya-deal-concentration-camps-crisis-a7560956.html )) The European anti-immigration policies might be less eye-catching than Donald Trump’s showmanship; yet this does not make them any less deadly.

The hijab in German public schools: New court case lets old questions resurface

The protracted German debate on Muslim teachers’ right to wear the hijab when working in the public sector has received its newest episode. The State Labour Court (Landesarbeitsgericht) of Berlin and Brandenburg decided in favour of a Muslim teacher who had sued the state of Berlin for barring her from exercising her profession because of her hijab.

Landmark decision by the Constitutional Court

In German public schools, pupils are free to wear the Muslim headcovering; yet the situation with respect to teachers is more complex. This is partly linked to the country’s federalised geography: educational matters are generally not governed from Berlin but handled by the capitals of the country’s 16 federal states, leading to often strongly differing educational practices.

As Euro-Islam reported, Germany’s top Constitutional Court had overturned North-Rhine Westphalia’s blanket ban on teachers wearing the Muslim headscarf in 2015; yet the practices of state governments have been slow to adapt. Moreover, the precise implications of the Court’s verdict itself have remained unclear.

While the judges rejected a generalised ban of the hijab, it did not unconditionally allow its wearing, either. In fact, based on the verdict, school authorities retain the right to prohibit individual teachers from wearing the hijab if they demonstrate that the teacher’s clothing constitutes “a sufficiently concrete threat or disruption of school peace”.(( http://www.bundesverfassungsgericht.de/SharedDocs/Entscheidungen/DE/2015/01/rs20150127_1bvr047110.html ))

Current court cases

Perhaps also because of this considerable degree of equivocation in the Court’s judgements, a number of states have not changed their discriminatory practices. Instead, state governments have preferred to wait until Muslim women take to the courts, attempting to enforce their right to wear a hijab.

Subsequently, lower-instance courts have issued a number of verdicts that appear favourable to Muslim women’s demands. Yet upon further inspection, the judges have often dodged the real issues at stake.

In 2016, a Munich Administrative Court, for instance, ostentatiously ruled in favour of a junior lawyer whom the State of Bavaria had banned from wearing a headscarf while working at court. Yet in its reasoning, the court based itself on purely formal grounds, thus refraining from commenting on the overall legality of prohibiting women from wearing the hijab while fulfilling public functions.

The situation in Berlin

In Berlin, the local government did not amend its legal provisions after the Constitutional Court’s landmark verdict on the hijab. It seems that the state authorities deemed themselves immune from legal challenges because Berlin’s “neutrality law” (Neutralitätsgesetz) does not explicitly discriminate against the hijab: in fact, it prohibits the wearing of any and all religious symbols in public service.(( http://gesetze.berlin.de/jportal/portal/t/iaf/page/bsbeprod.psml?pid=Dokumentanzeige&showdoccase=1&js_peid=Trefferliste&fromdoctodoc=yes&doc.id=jlr-VerfArt29GBE2005pP2&doc.part=X&doc.price=0.0&doc.hl=0 ))

In the present case, the court of first instance had dismissed the teacher’s lawsuit. In its verdict, it based itself on the non-discriminatory nature of Berlin’s neutrality law, arguing that the educational board had the right to refuse an applicant with a hijab.(( http://www.zeit.de/gesellschaft/zeitgeschehen/2016-04/kopftuchverbot-berlin-urteil-arbeitsgericht-lehrerinnen ))

This judgement has now been overturned in the second instance by the State Labour Court. Now, the judge argued that the State of Berlin did in fact discriminate against the prospective teacher by refusing to employ her because of her headscarf. Consequently, the State was condemned to pay the woman close to 9,000 Euros in salaries.(( http://www.zeit.de/gesellschaft/zeitgeschehen/2017-02/berlin-lehrerin-kopftuch-gericht-berufungsverfahren-entschaedigung ))

Caveats persist

However, like in the case of the Munich junior lawyer, the court’s verdict comes with a caveat: the State Labour Court did not object to the neutrality law itself. For the judge, the neutrality law itself is fully constitutional.

Instead, the court objected to the fact that state educational authorities had not sufficiently justified their decision to deny employment to the plaintiff: the state had failed to demonstrate that the “school peace” would be threatened or disrupted by the presence of a headscarf-wearing woman.(( http://www.spiegel.de/karriere/berlin-abgelehnt-wegen-kopftuch-lehrerin-bekommt-schadensersatz-a-1133806.html ))

Walking a tightrope

This showcases how the court sought to bridge the divide between Berlin’s neutrality law on the one hand and the verdict of the Constitutional Court on the other hand – an exercise that resembles walking on a tightrope.

The neutrality law itself incorporates in its Article 3 a provision that allows educational authorities to exempt individual teachers from the requirement of absolute religious neutrality, provided that this measure does not endanger the “ideological-religious neutrality” of the school in question and does not threaten “school peace”.(( http://gesetze.berlin.de/jportal/portal/t/iaf/page/bsbeprod.psml?pid=Dokumentanzeige&showdoccase=1&js_peid=Trefferliste&fromdoctodoc=yes&doc.id=jlr-VerfArt29GBE2005pP2&doc.part=X&doc.price=0.0&doc.hl=0 ))

This might appear to allow a reconciliation of the neutrality law with the Constitutional Court’s verdict. Yet it is noteworthy that the Berlin law flips on its head the default position that underlies constitutionally acceptable restrictions on the wearing of the hijab.

The Constitutional Court argues that it is per se legal for teachers to wear the hijab, unless it be proven that the headscarf upsets the orderly working of the school. Conversely, the State of Berlin starts from the position that it is per se illegal for teachers to wear the hijab, unless it be shown that the religious symbol in question does not undermine school peace.

A question of equality

As noted above, the Constitutional Court passed its landmark ruling in 2015 in response to a case from North-Rhine Westphalia (NRW). In contrast to Berlin, the NRW state government had banned only the hijab from public schools, while continuing to allow kippah or Christian habits. Consequently, the main thrust of the Court’s verdict is directed against this unequal treatment of religious symbols.

In its verdict, the Court also briefly and somewhat hurriedly accepts as constitutional bans on religious symbols that do not discriminate between the faiths and instead prohibit all religious symbols from public institutions.((See esp. Section III, Art. 1 c) for the Court’s positioning on that matter: http://www.bundesverfassungsgericht.de/SharedDocs/Entscheidungen/DE/2015/01/rs20150127_1bvr047110.html ))

Different versions of secularism

While this would seem to legitimise Berlin’s neutrality law, this somewhat underdeveloped aspect of the Constitutional Court’s verdict remains problematic. Most notably, the Court’s recognition of a non-discriminatory policy of neutrality departs from the German tradition of Church-State relations, anchored in Article 140 of the German Basic Law.

In contrast to the French practice of laicité on the other side of the Rhine, the post-WWII German state has defined its position vis-à-vis institutionalised religion as one of fostering and support. There are extensive cooperation agreements between state and religious bodies, for instance in various domains of social or charitable work. This cooperative framework of Church-State relations also forms the basis of the extensive confessional education offered to children in public schools.

Against this tradition of cooperation, neutrality laws introduce a more categorical separation into the German framework. It remains to be seen whether the recognition of this practice by the Constitutional Court signals the onset of a full-fledged transformation of the German system.

Political reactions

In Berlin itself, where the struggle between these two different visions of secularism will take place over the coming months and years, the reactions to the decision in the teacher’s favour have been mixed.

In its official response, the ruling coalition of Social Democratic, Green, and Left parties asserted that it would uphold the state’s neutrality law. However, the junior partners in the coalition, the Green and Left parties, criticised the law.

The city’s Justice Senator Dirk Behrendt asserted that the neutrality provision had become untenable. In his interpretation, the court’s verdict did in fact reveal the law’s irreconcilability with the Constitutional Court’s position, i.e. its unconstitutionality.(( http://www.rbb-online.de/politik/beitrag/2017/02/berlin-kopftuchurteil-senat-neutralitaetgesetz-wird-nicht-ueberprueft.html )) The political debate over the place of the hijab in public institutions is thus far from over.

Student known for far-right sympathies charged in Quebec City mosque attack

Canadian authorities on Monday charged, Alexandre Bissonnette, a 27-year-old university student known for his far-right sympathies with six counts of first-degree murder in a mass shooting the day before at a local mosque.

Described by neighbors and acquaintances as a socially awkward introvert who had recently adopted virulent political views, was also charged late Monday afternoon with five counts of attempted murder with a restricted firearm. The attack, which took place just as about 50 worshipers at the small mosque in the suburb of Sainte-Foy near Laval University had completed evening prayer, sent shock waves through Canada.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was clear that his government considered the shooting a terrorist act. “This was a group of innocents targeted for practicing their faith,” Trudeau told the House of Commons. “Make no mistake. This was a terrorist attack.”

After mosque attack in Canada, critics point to anti-immigrant ‘trash radio’

The mayor of Quebec, Régis Labeaume along with Primier Philippe Couillard acknowledged that xenophobia and hate was being spread by what they call  “radio poubelle,” or “trash radio.” Quebec City has developed the dubious reputation of being Canada’s ­capital of shock jocks, online ­radio hosts who love to provoke with outrageous talk about women, homosexuals and Muslims.

Labeaume, appeared to criticize the radio stations. Speaking at an outdoor vigil in memory of the victims Monday evening, he denounced those who “get rich from peddling hatred.”  While Couillard acknowledged Tuesday that the province has “its demons” and that “xenophobia, racism and exclusion are present here.” But he told reporters that Quebec society is generally open and tolerant.

There is no indication that the man charged in the attack, Alexandre Bissonnette, was particularly influenced by trash radio, but members of the Muslim community were quick to complain about the corrosive impact of the anti-immigrant rhetoric heard on the city’s airwaves.

Canadians form ‘rings of peace’ around mosques after Quebec shooting

Hundreds across Canada gathered around mosques to form protective barriers – described by organisers as “human shields” and “rings of peace” – as Muslims in the country marked their first Friday prayers since a gunman shot dead six men who were praying at a Quebec mosque.

“No Canadian should be afraid to go to their house of worship to pray,” Yael Splansky, the rabbi behind the effort to set up “rings of peace” around Toronto mosque told the Canadian Press.  “It’s a terrifying scene. Imagine people of faith going to pray in peace, to pray for peace, and to be at risk. Houses of worship are sacred and must be protected.”

But reports emerged of a mosque that had been vandalised just miles from where the funeral was taking place. A window at the Khadijah Masjid Islamic Centre had been smashed and the front door splattered with eggs, in an act described as “terrorism” by one city councillor.

Quebec Mosque Attack Forces Canadians to Confront a Strain of Intolerance

QUEBEC — In a world often hostile to migration, Canada has stood out, welcoming thousands of refugees fleeing war and seeking a haven. It has been a feel-good time for Canada, proud of its national tolerance.

On Sunday, that was upended when a man walked into a mosque and started shooting, killing six people and wounding eight. The man accused of being the gunman, Alexandre Bissonnette, was charged with six counts of murder on Monday.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called it an act of terrorism, and there was a collective outpouring of remorse and empathy. But the attack also forced Canadians to confront a growing intolerance and extremism that has taken root particularly among some people in this French-speaking corner of the country.

“Certainly Islamophobia has been increasing for some time,” Samer Majzoub, president of the Canadian Muslim Forum, said by telephone from Montreal.

But he said the attack was nonetheless shocking. “It is overwhelming, unthinkable,” he said.

The Bigotry That Armed the Quebec Mosque Attacker

TORONTO — On Sunday night, a gunman opened fire in a mosque in Quebec City, killing six people and wounding eight. Our prime minister, Justin Trudeau, called the shootings a “terrorist attack on Muslims.”

Worshipers gunned down in a mosque — people here more readily associate such news with the United States than with Canada. That this happened in Quebec City has shocked many of us, myself included.

In Quebec, Islamophobia manifested itself in a series of sensational cases, in 2007 and 2008, over the “reasonable accommodation” of religious minorities, Muslims in particular. The provincial soccer federation barred hijab-wearing girls on the pretext of safety. It took an official commission to calm public nerves. Its 2008 report, which had the eminent philosopher Charles Taylor as an author, found there was no crisis: Sensationalist media coverage had distorted perceptions, but Muslims were not making unreasonable demands.

I remain an incurably optimistic Canadian, and I want to believe that Canada is still not the United States. But as Sunday’s attack showed, we face the challenge of undoing the damage of years of suspicion and bigotry.