An insidious epidemic spreads


Racism, bigotry and insular ultra-nationalism flourish under populism’s benign garb


The fatal shooting of five Muslim worshippers and wounding of 18 by a French-Canadian underlines that blind hatred and fanaticism has no religion, race, territory or permanent boundaries. The shooting at the mosque in Quebec City would probably be the last place to experience a terrorist act. The predominantly French-speaking province of Quebec, Canada’s second largest, is a mirror image of the country’s diverse cultural character, in which foreign born immigrants account for 20 percent of the total population. But the unexpected did occur, and the perpetrator was again that gray, phantom apparition lurking in the vast urban jungles of Western cities, the ‘lone wolf’.


But there was a close connection with the outside world, specifically the USA and France. For the killer turned out to be a staunch supporter of the bigotry spouted by Donald Trump and Marine Le Pen, leader of France’s far-right National Front. And the apparently ‘timid’ student’s militancy and political views were well known at the Laval University and on social media, which included, extreme right wing, anti-immigration, anti-feminist and pro-Israel leanings.


At the heart of the current rebirth of fascism lies the unmistakable failure of liberal, secular, democratic governments to deliver on the economic front. The socialist President Francois Hollande of France may have paved the way for a National Front victory in the May 17 elections for this very reason. Greece’s financial crisis since 2010 has spawned the Neo-Nazi Golden Dawn movement, and in Austria, Norbert Hofer, also boasts of a mass following. Donald Trump’s stunning success in the Rust Belt, those ordinary Americans marginalised by globalisation, has become the inspiration for many European populists. Economic factors, such as unemployment and hyper-inflation are breeding grounds of extremism, and the evil is multiplying fast worldwide.


Since the genie is out of the bottle, the only effective antidotes that remain are good governance, economic prosperity, eradication of illiteracy and ignorance, and lifting millions of citizens out of poverty. The Pakistan political leadership and social elites need to learn from contemporary events.