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In Canada, Group Stirs Fear of Extremists | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Patrick Beaudry said he founded the group La Meute. Credit Renaud Philippe for The New York Times

Quebec — Patrick Beaudry, bejeweled, tattooed and bearded, lives on a remote wooded hillside in rural Quebec, worrying about living under Shariah law.

A year and a half ago, he huddled with two friends in a Quebec maple sugar shack, discussing how to stop the spread of what they call “invasive political Islam” in Canada. They formed a group called La Meute, or Wolfpack, created a Facebook page and invited like-minded people to join.

Within a month, they had 15,000 followers. Today, the number has surpassed 50,000, and the group is still attracting people. Now, Mr. Beaudry and his colleagues say they are shaping those followers into dues-paying members who will give the group financial muscle and, they hope, political clout.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has publicly opened Canada’s doors to refugees and presented a face of tolerance and inclusion in a world increasingly hostile to migration. But as Canadian immigration policy has transformed the nation over decades, pockets of intolerance have grown across the country.

Nowhere has it galvanized such large numbers as in Quebec, where many people still refer to themselves as pure laine, or pure wool, direct descendants of the 17th-century settlers of New France. The most emotional response has focused on extremist immigrants, who perhaps present the greatest contrast to traditional European-based culture and the secularism that Quebec struggled hard to win from the Roman Catholic Church.

Muslims represent just 3 percent of Canada’s population, and while Islam is one of the fastest-growing religions in the country, Muslims will still account for less than 6 percent of the population in 2050, according to the Pew Research Center.

Nonetheless, Mr. Beaudry and his peers say they believe there is a real threat that extremists are bending Canada’s tolerant culture to their will. The group’s main concern is political Islam pushed by the Muslim Brotherhood, the Pan-Arab movement that grew out of Egypt after the fall of the Ottoman Empire following World War I.

“Political Islam is slowly invading our institutions,” Mr. Beaudry declared, claiming that his group had documentary proof, though he was not prepared to show it. “We have to wake up people and shake them up, and then we will be able to bring change.”

The theme is popular among right-wing groups across North America and Europe, where the slow integration of immigrants into Judeo-Christian cultures has excited fears among some of a global culture war.

A 2004 move to set up Shariah mediation for Muslim family disputes in Ontario, which already allowed Jewish and Catholic faith-based tribunals to operate in the province, incited a national outcry.

Ontario eventually banned faith-based tribunals for all religions. Nonetheless, the events left an impression among many people that extremists were working to instill Shariah law in Canada.

Canadian Muslims say that not only are such fears unfounded, but that propagating them is also dangerous, to Muslims and to society as a whole.

“They are creating a problem where there is no problem,” said Hassan Guillet, a lawyer and imam.

Mr. Guillet said Canadian Muslims were caught between what he called a relentless and often-negative media focus on Islam and right-wing groups like La Meute that spread misinformation.

“If you keep rejecting the young, they will feel frustrated and feel that they don’t belong, and they will look for their own society,” Mr. Guillet warned, adding that such disenfranchisement had led some young European Muslims down the path of radicalization. “We don’t want that. We want our kids to feel that they belong, we want our kids to feel Canadian.”

As for the influence of the Muslim Brotherhood in Canada, Samer Majzoub, president of the Canadian Muslim Forum and a frequent target of conspiracy theories, called it simple fearmongering.

He noted that the largest recent terrorist attack in Canada did not come from Islamists. He was referring to the January killing of six worshipers at a mosque in Quebec by a gunman; the man accused of the killings espoused far-right views.

Small, violent right-wing groups have appeared in the decades since Canada relaxed its immigration laws to embrace multiculturalism. But revulsion toward violence and hate speech has kept such groups on the margins. La Meute has created a more moderate setting where people can communicate their fears.

The conversation within La Meute’s private Facebook page can border on hateful. In response to one person’s request about what could be done to prevent construction of a mosque in the neighborhood, another follower suggested pouring pig’s blood on the ground and letting Muslims know the land had been desecrated.

Mr. Beaudry said he and his friends were motivated by the 2014 killing of two soldiers in Canada in separate episodes, both at the hands of Canadian extremists who had converted to Islam. “We realized something was happening,” Mr. Beaudry said, adding that attacks in France and Belgium followed soon after.

The New York Times