The Fractured Nation Interviews

Muhammad Abdullah

The Minarets and Steeples War

Canada - The Fractured Nation Interviews Johnny: Yes. Returning to the event that ignited the conflict. Your Excellency is free to interrupt at anytime if you feel that I have not been historically accurate.

Muhammad: If I don’t correct you, Allah, The Responsive, surely will and you will not like it.

Johnny: There was this small town in the then province of Québec where people lived in religious peace – everybody got along. Eventually this small town became the home of a sizable Muslim community who built a wonderful mosque with a long slender minaret in the center of town, not far from a large Catholic church. Some parishioners had initially expressed reservations about the size and location of the mosque, reservations which were quickly dispelled when the town’s mosque, with its tall and graceful minaret, became both an attraction for the faithful and tourists.

Muhammad: Yes that minaret was a wonder to behold.

Johnny: [looking at his producer] Do we have a picture? Maybe we will have one before the end of the show. As I was saying, everything went well until the leadership of the mosque approach city council for the right to perform the ritual call to prayer. Perhaps your Excellency could elaborate on what is the call to prayer.

Muhammad: Sunni Muslims are called to prayer five times a day, This was a Sunni mosque. The call to prayer is heard at dawn, at midday, about the middle of the afternoon, just after sunset, and at night fall about two hours after sunset. The muezzin, a man appointed to perform the call to prayer, climbs the minaret and he calls the faithful to prayers in all directions. To be heard today he usually makes this call over a set of loudspeakers.

Johnny: Thank you. The council refused the Muslim community’s request saying it would be in contravention of existing noise bylaws.

Muhammad: Imagine denying the call to prayer because of some silly noise bylaw. Hell is too good for them.

Johnny: This refusal became a rallying cry for the Muslim community. They claimed it was religious discrimination.

Muhammad: IT WAS DISCRIMINATION! The church next door’s bells could be heard far and wide at noon everyday, for Sunday mass or on special occasions such as weddings and funerals.

Johnny: The religious leadership then called on Muslims to vote their religion. In the next elections, voting as a block, they replaced the council with Muslims or council members who were favourable to their demands. To ensure a favourable vote they had even invited Muslims from neighboring communities to move to this small Québec town.

Muhammad: What is wrong with that?

Johnny: Some parishioners protested that this was using, abusing the democratic process to further religious objectives.

Muhammad: By using man-made laws to further the cause of Allah, The Opener, The Judge, we were using democracy the way it was intended, to vote God into government and to vote out those who would exclude Him. Democracy never had a more noble purpose.

Johnny: The end justifying the means.

Muhammad: Talk about hypocrisy. When Israel was using the same tactics to gain control of Palestinian lands, Canadians never raised as much fuss. Unlike the Zionists, Muslims were just trying, through non-violent means, to build a community where they could live in peace and harmony, worshipping God in accordance with Allah’s, The Lord Of Majesty and Bounty, and the Prophet Muhammad’s, the peace and blessings of God be upon him instructions.

Johnny: After the Muslim faithful were successful in gaining control of the city council, it wasn’t long before the lyrical wailing of the muezzin over loudspeakers was heard far and wide, five times a day, seven days a week.

Muhammad: What a beautiful sound, thought it did spook some cows on neighboring farms who were not accustomed to the gentle, insistent call to prayer.

Johnny: Unfortunately for the muezzin, many in the community did not share his taste in music especially the dawn and after dark rendition of the call to prayer.

Muhammad: Barbarians!

Johnny: It wasn’t too long, in spite of strict gun laws, before the early morning and late night muezzins were dodging bullets and it wasn’t long before one found its mark and a muezzin came plummeting to earth from the top of his graceful minaret … dead before he hit the ground. The response from the Muslim community was immediate and loud. Across Canada Muslims started a national call to prayer protest. The call to prayer could now be heard over loudspeakers from every mosque in Canada.

Muhammad: Canadians during those days lost a lot of sleep.

Johnny: One of the demands from the Muslim community was that the federal police, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police investigate the murder.

Muhammad: How could a mainly Catholic provincial police force be trusted to investigate the death of a Muslim!

Johnny: The Canadian government agreed to this request which silenced the mosques outside the province of Québec. In Québec, politicians were incensed at federal interference in what they considered a provincial police matter. A number of Catholic bishops and parish priests started talking about an assault on the Catholic Church and the Catholic traditions and culture of Québecquers. And then it happened.

Almost as spontaneously as the national call to prayers, Catholic churches started ringing their bells across the province, usually to coincide with the Muslims call to prayer. In Montreal the din of bells and the wailing of the muezzin was so loud that it caused dogs to howl in pain adding to the cacophony of sounds that filled the Montreal air from dawn to dusk. Something had to be done!

Two solutions were proposed. One was a typical Canadian solution, the other a typical Québecquer solution. The Canadian solution was introduced by the party in opposition at the time, the Liberal Party of Québec. In keeping with the Canadian tradition in these matters which can be summarized as “if you can’t please everyone then please no one”, the provincial Liberals, with support from the national party, recommended passing a law banning the call to prayer and the ringing of church bells.

The governing Parti Québecquois would have none of it. They maintained the ringing of church bells was a four hundred year old Québec tradition and Québec tradition took precedent over the traditions of what they called “the newcomers” “les nouveaux arrivés” and simply outlawed the call to prayer. This of course led to more violence, minarets and steeples being the choice targets for bombers on both sides and more restrictions placed on Muslims, eventually leading to the exodus of Muslims from the province, today the country of Québec.

Muhammad: While you did not mention the name of the many martyrs in this unequal struggle your recounting of the events is acceptable.