The term “terrorist” is used too liberally, often to the detriment of muslim minorities. In the wake of the Moncton shootings in June that affected many Mount Allison students – including myself – when Justin Bourque shot and killed three RCMP officers were shot and killed, inciting a manhunt in an otherwise peaceful city. Even though it was clear who the targets were in this attack, there was a widespread sense of fear and insecurity among the public. These defining characteristics held true in Ottawa, which is frightening given the little time between these two events. There is one subtle, yet important difference which has crept into the discussion recently.
If the situations were so similar, why is the Ottawa shooter being described as a terrorist, but the Moncton shooter just a mere criminal?
To give some perspective, terrorism is defined by the Oxford dictionary of Canadian English as “the unofficial or unauthorized use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims.” The usage of the word should really be limited to the intent of the perpetrator in question.
I was concerned to see immediate use of the term to describe the shooting in Ottawa, even though we knew next to little about why the shooter did it. This came hand-in-hand with enormous media coverage on the fact that he was a recently converted Muslim. Bourque’s religious views were never covered by the media.
It seems that the concept of terrorism has lost its meaning. It has become a scare tactic of sorts, using a term about fear to instill fear and trepidation about certain minorities. There is an immediate gravitation to connect a Muslim criminal with terrorism, without taking the facts into consideration first.
Stephen Harper seems to be taking advantage of this sentiment since the Ottawa shooting. By reinforcing the link between Muslims and extremism, it becomes much easier to convince people of heavy decisions, like leading our military participation in the fight against ISIS. While this is a contentious issue, the government avoided conventional debate in the house. Now that “the terrorists are on our soil,” it doesn’t seem to be something to get worked up over any longer.
Is it actually appropriate to call the Ottawa and Moncton shootings acts of terrorism? I don’t think I’m qualified to determine that. That would involve analysing the perpetrators’ motives in depth, to see if their intentions were to frighten the public to achieve an ideological goal. That analysis is still ongoing, in both cases. I don’t think the media is doing its due diligence when it rushes to use the word “terrorism”, nor is the government when it yells it at the top of its lungs.
They are reinforcing the idea that Muslims are dangerous people and contributing to islamophobic sentiments that led to the vandalization of a mosque in Cold Lake, Alta. following the Ottawa shooting. It’s time we stop condemning fellow Canadian Muslims by showing more restraint in using this word so rapidly and irresponsibly.
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