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Condemning the Evil of Violence

March 19, 2019

This rant concerns the mosque attack in Christchurch, New Zealand. Since my comments here could be misconstrued, let me state my unequivocal position. This murderous violence was evil personified. The monster who perpetrated it is vile. Period. And the slugs who took to antisocial media to support this loathsome act are sub-humans, unworthy of participation in civil society. New Zealand abolished the death penalty in 1961. I would not object to its making an exception.

Now for the comments that could be misconstrued. For decades, the world has suffered almost continual attacks by terrorists slaughtering people in the name of Islam. In just this century, over twelve thousand people have died. And how did Islamic leaders react? I have longed to hear just one of them condemn terrorism, or support the victims (as they themselves are now being supported), or offer to cooperate with police and security authorities to identify and purge potential terrorists in their midst. I have wished that mosques would make clear to their members that violence will not be tolerated. I have waited in vain for imams to condemn the slavering radicals in their ranks who rage against whomever they hate while calling for jihad.

Instead, what I heard from Islamic leaders over the years ranged from celebrating their "martyrs" to simpering hopes that these attacks would not rebound on them. The theme was not the humane, "How can we help you?" It was, "You deserved it. Don't blame us." And from sneering commentators I have endured rationalizations such as, "While we condemn terrorism, we can understand the motives behind it." Shorthand for the justification of butchery.

Columnist Andrew Coyne has questioned why Conservative leader Andrew Scheer was so slow to condemn the New Zealand attack1. Referring to this delay and to previous questionable responses by Sheer, Coyne noted, "Obviously … Scheer … is [not] responsible … for the actions of terrorists. But … [he] can be held to account for … [his] part in creating the climate of opinion in which extremists flourish and madmen find inspiration."

My question is this: if Sheer can be "held responsible" for contributing to this "climate of opinion," why cannot Islamic leaders who failed to condemn, and too often celebrated terrorist acts, also be held responsible for their roles in creating this climate of hate?

This is not blaming the victims. This is pointing the finger at those who created the conditions where raving madmen massacre the innocent.

The next time there is a mass shooting, whether of Muslims, Jews, Christians, or schoolkids, anyone whose condemnation is fumbling, late, or equivocal, deserves our contempt. Being a spiritual leader, a national leader, or an opinion leader, whatever the religion or politics, demands the unconditional condemnation of violence. Any imam, priest, rabbi, politician, or commentator who fails to damn murderers deserves our censure. The climate of hate works in all directions.

1 Coyne, A. (2019, March 15). Why does Andrew Scheer find it so difficult to say the right thing? The National Post. Retrieved from http://bit.ly/2TV8exq.