Sunday, December 6, 2009

Montreal massacre redux

Since this is the 20th anniversary of an iconic mass murder in Canada, it seems obligatory for bloggers and media types to say something about it.

On December 6, 1989 a young man, called Marc Lepine, entered a post secondary institution in Montreal, separated an engineering class into males and females, sent the males out of the room and proceeded to gun down the women. He then wandered through the school shooting other people at random, but mainly targeting women. Eventually, after killing 14 women and wounding 14 others, including four men, he killed himself. He left a suicide note indicating that he wanted to kill feminists.

Over the years, a lot of explanations have been given for his behaviour, all of it centering on a psychological explanations.

His actions spurred feminists to use the anniversary of the event as a kind of a club to draw attention to violence against women. It also led to tightening of gun ownership laws.

One of the things almost never mentioned, however, is the role religion might have played in this. This is interesting because it is common to find that feminists ignore the plight of their fellow women who suffer injustice at the hands of religion, especially Islam.

Marc Lepine was a name that he adopted when he was 14 years of age. Up to that point, he had been known as Gamil Gharbi. His mother was French Canadian, a professional nurse. His father was an Algerian immigrant, a Muslim Arab. By all accounts, the father was not a “regular go to the mosque” Muslim, but he certainly grew up in a Muslim household and culture in Algeria. He despised women and treated his wife and children abysmally, making sure that the children also were deprived of a close relationship with the mother.

He eventually abandoned the family and the mother went back to work as a nurse to support the family. That is when Gamil changed his name to Marc and adopted his mother’s maiden name as his last name.

Twenty years ago it is not surprising to find that nobody would have considered the religious influence in this matter. Yet, even today, accounts of the events fail to offer any religious angle.

This is what Nonie Darwish has to say in her latest book, Cruel and Usual Punishment about the impact of Sharia law on the role of Muslim males.

According to the rules a man is not to take his wife into matters of any importance, he must not reveal his secrets, he is not to tell her the amount of his property, in case she exercises her built in bad judgment to influence him and cause him ruin. He is also not to give her an excess of affection lest she gain power over him. Simply put, a husband is not to trust his wife nor ever show her much love.

A man’s role in the home has been narrowed down to that of the feared disciplinarian and controller. According to codified Islamic Law: The Prophet said, “Hang up the whip where the members of the household can see it.”

It may well be that Lepine’s father didn’t attend the mosque, but his behaviour in the home would suggest that he well understood the law of Islam.

To what extent did his “role model” activities shape Lepine’s attitude to women?

Perhaps feminists would care to dwell on that.

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