On March 2, 2017, police in Canada arrested forty-seven-year-old Lebanese PhD student, Hisham Saadi, for threatening to bomb Concordia University if Muslim students do not stop practicing “religious activities of all kinds on campus.”
Saadi’s threat, which was sent to several Canadian media outlets on Wednesday morning as a letter from the non-existent “Council of Conservative Citizens of Canada” (C4 for short), is being called a hoax by police, who say they have found no bombs either at the university or at Saadi’s home.
In his letter, Saadi alleges that one of C4’s members was ignored when they complained to the University that “anti-Christian” and “anti-Jewish” sentiments were being communicated at Friday sermons on campus. Saadi’s bigger concern, however, appears to be with Muslim students “WASH[ING] THEIR FEET ON THE BATHROOM SINK which is for washing hands!” and “walking between their prayer space and the men’s room on the 7th floor of the H building in FLIP-FLOPS with bare wet feet while we try to study or eat lunch.”
The letter concludes by declaring that C4 is “ready to go to fight Moslems” and will bomb the areas on campus “where Moslems hang out” unless the university takes necessary action to prohibit Muslim students from practicing their religion. Concordia University responded by expressing deep regret at the threat, and affirming its commitment to inclusivity.
Saadi’s concerns and demands reflect the parochial and tired theory known as the “clash of civilizations.” Like many other right-wing fascists and Islamophobes, he likely believes there is an inherent, abiding divide between the enlightened “West” and the archaic “East,” which will always be at war with each other. This is evident not only in Saadi’s absurd conclusion that bombing “Moslems” is the best way to resolve the feet washing issue, but also in the language and images used throughout his letter.
For example, Saadi’s letter employed the pejorative “Moslems.” It also brandished an image of the Star of David alongside a crucifix, as a symbol of the “Judeo-Christian West” resisting the foreign barbarism of Islam. Towards the middle of the document, two stereotypical Muslim faces—one wearing a niqab, the other wearing a skull-cap—can be seen looking ominously over Canada’s borders, a metaphor for the “Muslim takeover” so many right-wingers and fascists fear.
These sophomoric, irascible tropes are a standard hallmark of Islamophobes, many of whom have felt empowered since President Donald Trump’s election in the Unites States. Saadi himself acknowledges that he feels emboldened by Trump, stating in his letter that because “President Trump is in office south of the border, things have changed. We will not tolerate [Muslim] behavior anymore.”
On the very same day as Saadi’s hoax, an Islamic center in Toronto was set ablaze in a possible act of arson; just last month, on February 1, 2017, an attacker entered a Quebec mosque and killed six worshippers. Attacks against the Jewish community have also become more prevalent. Well over fifty (as many as seventy) bomb threats against the Jewish community in both the United States and Canada have been made in 2017 alone, while numerous Jewish cemeteries have been desecrated in recent weeks.
Anti-immigrant and anti-minority bigotry of this sort is completely insatiable. As the exiled African-American activist, Assata Shakur, famously remarked in her autobiography, “nobody in the world, nobody in history, has ever gotten their freedom by appealing to the moral sense of the people who were oppressing them.” Whether for Saadi, the Quebec mosque attacker, or those who vandalize Jewish cemeteries, the solution is not to “spread love” and “forgive,” but to employ every possible legal and extralegal means to confront their racist and xenophobic ideologies.