Egyptian Christians hold placards during a Feb. 16 protest in Cairo against what is said to be the killing of Coptic Christians by Islamic State militants in Libya. Egyptian jets bombed Islamic State targets in Libya Feb. 16, a day after the group there released a video showing what is said to be the beheading of 21 Egyptian Christians. CNS photo/Mohamed Abd El Ghany, Reuters

Forgotten faithful

  • March 5, 2015

A friend who attended a commemoration Mass at a church in Montreal’s Villeray neighbourhood at the end of February e-mailed me this compelling observation shortly afterward.

“When four Charlie Hebdo cartoonists were murdered, there were demonstrations in the streets, and the media went wild. When 21 Coptic Christians were dragged to a beach in Libya and had their heads chopped off, few people took notice. This morning I went to a memorial service in a church that was packed. Even three imams showed up. And no one, no one, took notice. No one. Not a single TV camera or reporter. I really wonder why.”

The easy explanation of course, is that journalists love nothing more than writing about journalism because journalism is the only thing too many journalists come close to understanding. The deaths of four cartoonists at a third-rate satirical rag selling 3,000 copies weekly in a city the size of Paris became an international media orgy because journalists could self-identify with those who were gunned down at work and because there is a self-serving grandiosity in courageously defending freedom of the press at no cost.

But there is a harsher answer, one that leads to even uglier places than the self-indulgence of journalists. It was already vividly evident before the 21 Copts were killed in Libya. It was apparent in the terrible, almost sickening, silence that shrouded the murders of four Jews executed for being Jews in a Paris market the same week as the Charlie Hebdo shootings. In a country that 73 years ago shipped Jews to the Nazi ovens, did the cold-blooded murder of four innocent Jews in a local market provoke protest marches? Did our social elites self-identify with the victims? Did the media go, in my friend’s word, wild over the killings? None of the above.

As with the Coptic Christians killed in Libya, the multiple murders of Jews in Paris was reported as an event that happened on a Friday, then left to slip into the abyss of the forgotten.

Part of the reason, of course, is the anti-Semitism that seems baked into the bones of even post-Christian societies. Yet there is something, hard as this is to believe, even more nefarious at work. It blights alike Christians, Jews and even Muslims who are constantly hectored to explain the inexplicably violent acts of their co-religionists. It is the unblinking belief among European and North American elites that religions — at least the Abrahamic religions — are so essentially irrational and therefore so inherently dangerous that violence among, between, toward and upon their adherents is to be expected, nothing to get too excited about. Much like the phenomenon of so-called black-on-black violence in American inner cities, it happens.

The underlying contempt this bespeaks need not be prompted by physical violence alone. It manifests itself in a myriad of ways, for example in the recent public shaming of a Muslim woman in a Montreal courtroom by no less than the judge hearing her case. Rania El-Alloul was appearing on the minor matter of getting her car back from the provincial insurance agency, which impounded it because her son was driving while his licence was suspended.

What should have been a straight in-and-out application became another flagrant example of elite disdain for religious faith when El-Alloul was ordered to either remove her hijab or leave the court. Indeed, the judge compared the wearing of a hijab in court to someone showing up in a “hat and sunglasses” or similar inappropriate attire.

In fairness, no less than a spokesman for Prime Minister Stephen Harper said the PM disagreed with the judge’s actions. And Liberal leader Justin Trudeau did weigh in on Twitter with his concerns. But where is the larger outpouring of outrage? Where are the “Je Suis Rania” buttons worn proudly in the streets?

It might be said such extreme public responses are reserved for cases of horrific physical, not just psychological, violence. But as my friend’s observation about the Copts, and the murders of four Jews in Paris makes plain, that is simply not true. To wonder why is to fail to see that our elites would rather faith, and the faithful, were simply forgotten.

(Stockland is publisher of Convivium magazine and a senior fellow at Cardus.)

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