“In a world of thieves, the only final sin is stupidity.”
Hunter S. Thompson delivered this accurate summary of morality and law nearly forty years ago, yet his message is still extremely relevant to the McGill community today. Haaris Khan, the student who posted hateful tweets at a screening of Indoctrinate U hosted by Libertarian McGill, is guilty of stupidity; this is indisputable. His collection of racist and threatening tweets are a great example of this stupidity. Thompson’s brilliant quote is not only relevant for its connection to Khan’s (hopefully) momentary lack of intellegence, but to the greater context of the issue itself.
While in this case Khan is certainly the figurehead for stupidity, the thoughts he expressed on Twitter are not new, in fact, they are shared by some of the “band of thieves” to which Thompson refers. The band of thieves in this case, is comprised of anti-Semites, who appear to have given up their autonomy, becoming sheep in the herd of hatred. In this case, Khan’s incorporation of religious elements into his attack on Jews – such as the term jihad, or his disgust with a Muslim “co-conspirator” – draws focus to the particular trend of anti-Semitism within radical Islam. The opinions held by these “sheep” are present within our society as a whole, regardless of how small in number they might be. This gives those targeted by Khan’s comments every reason to feel threatened.
However, some have been critical of the reaction of certain figures who were directly targeted by Khan. This is absurd. For example, let’s say your house was robbed: valuables were taken, objects destroyed, and your perception of personal safety shattered. Your reaction would likely be to either move or to invest in a better security system to ensure that the thieves who have targeted you will have a lesser chance of being able to do so again. The reaction of those targeted by Khan – which has included numerous articles calling for action against him, Facebook groups, and legal complaints – have been the equivalent of one protecting their house. In this case, the protection is aimed against thieves trying to rob individuals of their ability to feel safe. These actions are especially needed when one considers the lacklustre manner in which officials have dealt with the situation. McGill has left the front door of the house unlocked, Morton Mendelson’s address to students has left the front door open, and the “stern talking to” given to Khan by detectives has essentially broken the front door down, inviting further bands of thieves to make their way in.
While the threats made are very real and serious, there is one important distinction to make that I sincerely hope will not be missed when students back at this event. Khan’s Twitter updates went beyond the limits of freedom of speech. A great deal of criticism against Israel and its policies however, does not. I do not believe that the thoughts Khan expressed are shared by all or even most who criticize Israel, but rather by anti-Semites. It is critical that this event is taken for what it is: an example of hatred against Jews coming from an angry member of society, whose views may be shared by others just as angry, but not held by all who criticize Israel. React with caution to the thieves who target you, but don’t open fire on a Girl Guide scout who knocks at your door.
Davide Mastracci is a U0 Arts student. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.