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No Community Should Have To Publicly Denounce Extremism

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When a person committing an egregious act belongs to a group or community with which we identify, should we feel some responsibility for their action? By virtue of a shared language, religion, skin colour or ethnic background, should we feel compelled to publicly denounce an individual that commits a criminal offence? Is it fair to assume that the absence of such a denunciation implies a tacit endorsement of the offender?

On the night of September 4, 2012, as the Parti Quebcois was celebrating its election night victory at a downtown Montreal night club, a masked man with a semi-automatic rifle approached the building where the celebration was held and opened fire, killing a stage technician and injuring another.

This occurred as incoming Premier Pauline Marois was partway through her victory speech. The assailant, Richard Henry Bain, was charged with first-degree murder in the deadly election night shooting. During his arrest that night, Bain shouted that, "Anglophones are waking up!"

Why disassociate oneself from something with which we should not be associated?

In the aftermath of the Bain shooting, I was asked by Quebec media to publicly denounce Bain as a way to assure francophone Quebecers that his views were not shared by the province's Anglophones and thereby prevent any acts of retaliation.

When La Presse asked me about my reaction to the shooting I offered the following response:

"My reaction was similar to that of all Quebecers. I was angry. When I heard the phrase [referring to Anglophones] I said to myself the guy's crazy. But I don't understand those Anglophones that feel the need to disassociate themselves from the shooter. Why disassociate oneself from something with which we should not be associated? Should a Catholic feel concerned if Richard Bain said he did this because he was Catholic? If he is part of an organization or a movement with which someone was affiliated that might be different, but here we're dealing with a crazy person."

It is worth noting that Bain later described himself "... as a Christian soldier and freedom fighter who Jesus had sent to rid Canada of the separatist problem."

When I was employed by the Jewish community, I would occasionally be asked by the media to disassociate myself from individuals or groups that identified with the community. There is a need for greater empathy with members of communities for whom such disassociation is commonplace.

In September 2014, La Presse's Rima Elkouri decided to respond to an obnoxious reader of the newspaper who insinuated that the failure on the part of individuals of the Muslim faith to denounce the actions committed by IS is deemed a tacit endorsement. Ms. Elkouri, who is not Muslim herself, denounces such an absurd logic.

In her response, she pointed out that "sometimes it's our citizens of the Muslim faith that feel compelled to denounce barbaric acts with greater vigour than the rest of us so as not to be seen as guilty by association."

Elkouri added: "... Muslims, we tend to forget, are the principal victims of jihadists. They are no more likely to have ties with the Islamic State than do Christians with the Ku Klux Klan. Why this persistent societal demand for Muslims to break ranks with a group with which they do not associate? Why this hunting that regards silence with suspicion." (Editor's note: blogger's translation.)

Elkouri concludes by disassociating herself publicly from this absurd logic.

As a solution to the real problem of terrorism in our society, it is counterproductive to collectively accuse persons of being complicit because they happen to share the same faith as a perpetrator of a heinous act. For the time being we can be thankful that in Canada when it comes to such forms of collective stigmatization, it's the cooler heads that continue to prevail.

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