As usual, a Sikh taxi driver drove me from my Vancouver hotel to the airport for my return flight to Montreal. The topic of conversation, of course, was the bloody rampage yesterday at Dawson College. Details regarding the gunman have started coming out, including the fact that the gunman was of Indian/Sikh origin. This troubled the taxi driver. "How come he became like this?", he asked. "I've never heard of a Sikh doing such things."
"But he wasn't a Sikh," I said. "He may have come from a Sikh background, but I don't think he considered himself to belong to any religion. He was just evil, and religion had nothing to do with it."
It felt weird; normally, I find myself trying to defend Islam against the horrible actions of some who claim to be Muslims. Today, I found myself defending Sikhism against the actions committed by the Dawson gunman. In this case, there was clearly no correlation whatsoever. Of course, if the gunman came from a Muslim background, this would clearly be considered a terrorist act. The way I see it, it was a terrorist act regardless of who was responsible; were people not terrorized by the threat of a gunman roaming the hallways of the college?
Where people are trying to find a correlation is with regards to the gunmans' association to the Goth subculture. I had written earlier against the Gothic subculture as a very misdirected attempt to tread away from the norm; they focused entirely on image while ignoring the real threats present in mainstream society, particularly the rampant commercialism. One reader, himself part of the Goth subculture, interestingly remarked that he had never considered the Goth subculture from the perspective of someone already outside the mainstream. That is, since many Muslims are often considered outsiders themselves, their perspective on the subculture would be relatively free of the usual criticism directed towards their kind.
The obvious comparisons to the Columbine massacre have been plenty, and are deserved. In both cases, the gunmen belonged to middle-class suburbia, in relatively normal homes with relatively normal families. One important difference was that the Dawson gunman was reportedly not affiliated with Dawson College in any way, while the Littleton pair attacked their own school. His choice of the college as his target appears to be entirely arbitrary; his "revenge" was not against specific people, but simply an attack against a random group of youth he found to be vulnerable. And that's just sickening.
A lot of criticism has been raised against the vampirefreaks.com website where the gunman kept his blog. Apparently, an earlier murder in Alberta also involved members of this website. I took the time to read some of the forums on the site, and found some very disturbing comments. While many were quick to condemn the actions (they almost sounded like Muslims!), a surprising number of them appeared to be defending the gunman. One wrote that "the way you people are cursing him and attacking him makes you no better than him." Excuse me? I think cursing and attacking a guy who just walked into a school and shot over twenty people isn't as bad as shooting over twenty people. Another wrote, "where were his parents?"
The unfortunate part is that the blame always seems to be directed towards everything else, because we simply can't figure out why a person would actually do such a thing without any motivation or influence. It's perplexing, but it appears to be the natural result of a society devoid of morality and faith. Of course, many argue that faith actually causes more hatred than it prevents. They'll point to the many episodes of religious fundamentalism today, and make a strong case out of it. But again, it comes back to the same discussion the taxi driver and I had; some people are just evil, and religion has nothing to do with it.
The vampirefreaks.com website, seemingly taking a page from nearly every Muslim organization in North America, has issued a strong condemnation on their website, saying that Goths remain peaceful and loving, albeit depressed people. Blaming it all on the Goth culture is as much a flaw as blaming all of terrorism on Islam; however, just as there are certain questions Muslims must ask themselves regarding their direction and place in the West, the Goth subculture needs to do the same. Unfortunately, most people don't quite consider them to be a legitimate "organization" of any sort, so their condemnations will fall on deaf ears. Then again, so do ours, most of the time.
What can we do? I don't think anyone knows. No matter what anyone does, no matter what laws are in place, or no matter what people try to believe, there will always be crazies who go their own way. Right now, many of the families of the victims, as well as the victims themselves, have found some reprieve in the church. Some comments published in the Gazette demonstrated that even those who were never religious before simply did not want to feel alone and confused, and found comfort in the hallows of the nearby church. And of course, prayers were made at many local mosques.
It's fitting; no matter how much people say about religious fundamentalism, no matter what atrocities are committed in the name of God, we as humans always turn back. Because in spite of all our shortcomings, in spite of all our ingratitude, Allah still loves His servants. Allah still wants us to return to Him. And even while some continue to associate partners to Allah, or reject Allah entirely, the doors of repentance always remain open.
Update 9.17.2007: Great post by Shan - The Blame Game