There’s a special place in hell for those who shoot people at prayer. And it’s getting crowded


National Post, 22 March 2019

The arms of man ought not touch the house of God

In sentencing last month Alexandre Bissonnette for murdering six Muslims at their mosque in Quebec City, the judge noted that the massacre constituted an attack on religious liberty.

We are accustomed to religious liberty threats from the state, against which in Canada we supposedly have the charter of rights to defend us. But there can be private infringements on religious liberty, about which rather less can be done. An employer can curtail the religious liberty of the employees, a university of its professors, a school of its students, or — as is currently being litigated in Canada — a professional association of its members.

The massacre at the two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, was such an attack, though different in degree and kind from other private encroachments upon religious liberty.

Violence visited upon houses of worship is motivated by a mixture of racial (though Islam is no more a “race” than Christianity), political and cultural hatreds. Regardless, such attacks erode a longstanding principle that sanctuaries should be, well, sanctuaries.

There is, even in wartime, a convention that houses of worship are to be exempt from bombardment. People flee to their churches and mosques and synagogues and temples, thinking that that they will find refuge and respite within the walls of the sanctuary. The arms of man ought not touch the house of God.

To be sure, that principle has been eroded and breached increasingly over the past centuries, as total war has overtaken previous martial conventions. Still, a massacre of innocents at prayer in a mosque is all the greater wickedness because it took place in a mosque.

This wickedness is spreading. Consider just the last decade. There are many such lists compiled; a fairly concise one was compiled by CTV News.

In July 2010, Jundallah, a Sunni terror group, killed 27 people in a suicide bombing at a Shiite mosque in Iran. Later that same year, Jundallah suicide bombers killed six more at another mosque in Iran.

In January 2015, a Jundallah suicide bomber killed 71 at a Shiite mosque in Shikarpur, Pakistan. The following year, in November 2016, as Islamic State suicide bomber killed 50 people at the Pakistani shrine of Shah Noorani. In February 2017, nearly 100 were killed at another Pakistani shrine, that of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar.

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