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Savignac June 7th 2012
Original French Text: http://quebec.huffingtonpost.ca/savignac/amir-khadir-arrestation_b_1576297.html
Other than Magnotta’s macabre puzzle, and the envelopes of revolutionary flour that have been found throughout the city, Amir Khadir was really the news item of the week. Arrested and handcuffed in Québec City during a peaceful but illegal demonstration, given an absurd charge, Amir spent several hours in a bus-prison of the SPVQ (Service de police du Ville de Québec), and many more hours on the front pages of our media. What’s more, his daughter was featured in the news just a little later!
Political opponents first. Members of the government have not passed up a chance to attack him, pointing out his civil disobedience, an unacceptable tactic for a deputy in their eyes. “This is fair,” they say, “this is the healthy game of democracy – and then there goes Amir, going over the top, comparing himself to Gandhi and Martin Luther King. He must be kidding!”, they cry, “He always has to go that one extra step. And then, to top it off, he doesn’t even back down. After the fracas about the portrait of W.Bush, there he goes with a new casserole (sauce-pan). He’ll be banging it for a long time.”
And now, his ideological opponents. Khadir is a leftist icon in Québec, considered radical and therefore all the easier to attack. Our right, crafty as they are, decided to label him with adjectives that will scare the bourgeois: socialist, communist, islamist. The first two, like a vicious and dishonest echo from the dark hours of the USSR, Cuba, or China, suggesting that the left is drawing from its bloody roots. There’s a careful avoidance of evoking Mandela, Jaurès, Lévesque, Mitterand, Lula, and even, yes, Luther King. Amir is Stalin, Marx, or Lenin, a knife between his teeth. Fair game? Sure.
But islamist…a curious accusation for a man who worked with Iranian students against the regime of Ayatollah Khomeiny. A curious accusation, too, for a man who gives so much freedom to his daughter that he has picked her up more than her fair share of times from the police station.
Islamist? Arab, yes, and the association is maybe tempting…
Political adversaries and ideological adversaries, with grotesquely convenient bad faith, aren’t abusing the ‘fair game’ of politics for nothing. At the end of the story begun by the excessive language of politicians is the matter of public opinion. And public opinion is even more public than ever, these days. From Facebook to Twitter, the fallacy of the ‘silent majority’ makes me laugh! Technology has broken the silence, and now it is harder to get away from voices screaming their opinion. Unfortunately, more than ever, this outpouring of mediocrity is delivered from the comfortable safety of the Internet.
Here’s just a smattering of comments on social media: “Amir Khadir arrested..All of a sudden I’m craving a shishtaouk.” And: “Let him go back to Iran!!” “I’m happy…a mean guy, that Tamil..” Still more: “He’s been trying unsuccessfully for so long. Now he’ll really be able to play martyr now, like a good Muslim!”
These are only a few of the hundreds, with many far nastier.
These shameful outpourings are as much an observation of facts as they are an incitement to racial hatred, worth condemning. But they are above all the expression of little, daily hatreds that ideologues would never say in public, though they echo this type of sentiment in more subtle ways. If you ever told any of these idiots that their words were those of hatred and racism, they would scream and shout about the communist plot that rules the Plateau.
It’s too bad that once again, and, I fear it will always be the case, that it is our duty as civilized individuals to remind people that racism is not an opinion, but an offense. What’s more, that racism is a danger, and that it is and continues to be a fatal danger.
In the 1990s, someone named Godwin stated a law that went onto carry his name. Godwin’s law states that the longer a discussion goes on, particularly online, the higher the probability that Hitler’s Nazism will be brought up. An interesting observation, and likely based in reality, but one that carries with it a perverse evil: the banalization of hatred by the avoidance of discussion of the horrors of racism. It is the most mundane phrases, little drawings, little stories, multiplied to infinity, published in the press, that fertilize the ground for Nazi-like actions.
Amir, Rima, and others with darker hair are the targets of these small hatreds every day, often orchestrated by public pathways who you already know and who I will have the unjustified grace not to name.
These little mundane hatreds, which each author defends indignantly, but which spread far and wide, like the shames of past years.
Translated from the original French by Translating the printemps érable.
*Translating the printemps érable is a volunteer collective attempting to balance the English media’s extremely poor coverage of the student conflict in Québec by translating media that has been published in French into English. These are amateur translations; we have done our best to translate these pieces fairly and coherently, but the final texts may still leave something to be desired. If you find any important errors in any of these texts, we would be very grateful if you would share them with us at email@example.com. Please read and distribute these texts in the spirit in which they were intended; that of solidarity and the sharing of information.