In this blog I present a sampling of articles in which opponents of Quebec Draft Bill 21 make outrageous claims as they attempt to rationalize their irrational opposition to the Bill.
Sommaire en français Dans ce blogue je présente un échantillon de plusieurs articles dans lesquels des opposants au projet de loi 21 du Québec font des déclarations extravagantes dans le but de rationaliser leur opposition irrationnelle à cette législation.
Given their lack of any plausible line of reasoning, antisecularists, in their vituperations against Quebec Draft Bill 21, have a strong tendency toward dishonesty, irresponsible speculation and sometimes complete nonsense. Here are a few examples.
- The Ignoble Prize for Hyperbole goes to William Steinberg, mayor of the Montreal suburb of Hampstead, who accused Bill 21 of promoting “ethnic cleansing.” He subsequently qualified his remark by stating that he was talking about “peaceful ethnic cleansing,” not by direct violence. Either way, this outrageous claim is an extreme example of the defamatory behaviour of many opponents of the Bill.
- The Ignoble Prize for Dogmatism goes to the Conseil québécois LGBT (Quebec LGBT Council) for its May 10th declaration « Des organismes LGBT dénoncent le projet de loi 21 » (“LGBT Organizations Denounce Draft Bill 21”) which (1) falsely accuses the Bill of being discriminatory, (2) repeats the slander linking the Bill to anti-Muslim violence and (3) laments the legislation’s restrictions on face-coverings which are “obviously aimed at veiled Muslim women and thus contribute to the stigmatisation of a population already hyper-marginalized.” In other words, the Council completely ignores the fact that fundamentalist Islam promotes death for gays, lesbians and other sexual minorities and instead chooses to express its solidarity with fundamentalist Islam’s favourite propaganda ploy, promotion of the veil, even the face-covering niqab. Why? Because unconditional defense of fundamentalist Muslims (while throwing secular Muslims under the bus) is part of the regressive pseudo-left dogma to which the Council evidently adheres.
- The Ignoble Prize for Hypocrisy goes to CFI Canada (CFIC), an organization which claims to support secularism and critical thought but which abandons both in its attitude towards Bill 21. I discussed CFIC’s betrayal of its espoused principles in a previous blog.
- The Ignoble Prize for Pseudoscience goes to McGill University psychiatric residents Sara Hanifi and Salam El-Malouf and many cosigners for their April 26th article which alleges that Bill 21 will negatively affect Quebecers’ health! They associate the Bill with “exclusion,” “hateful and racist speech” and “interpersonal and systemic discrimination” no less. Their discourse is replete with the familiar specious vocabulary (including the notorious “Islamophobia”) of the regressive pseudo-left which racializes religion and thus enables religious privilege. Their entire thesis is based on the false assertion that the Bill is discriminatory—a house of cards which crumbles on first inspection. Columnist Denise Bombardier qualified these psychiatrists’ theory as paranoid ravings. I basically agree, although I consider their nonsense to be more ideological than paranoid.
- In Maclean’s Magazine, Michael Coren has a cow over Bill 21 in his article “Quebec’s proposed secularism law is repugnant. Here are six reasons why.” Coren repeats the old canard about “discrimination” against Muslims, slanders Quebecers with the extremely tendentious and unacceptable term “Islamophobia.” He dismisses the Bill as populism, confuses religious neutrality with secularism (the latter extends the former greatly) and fails to distinguish the public sphere (which is totally unaffected by Bill 21) from the civil sphere (i.e. State institutions, where the Bill does apply, but only to some employees). What is repugnant here is Coren’s pro-religion prejudice.
- Dan Bilefsky recycles old anti-Quebec clichés in his New York Times article “Quebec Proposes Bill Barring Public Employees From Wearing Head Scarves at Work.” The article greatly emphasizes declarations against the Bill and repeats several of Coren’s tactics, including use of “Islamophobia.” Even worse, Bilefsky links the Bill with mosque shootings in Quebec City and Christchurch, thus implying that the Bill would somehow increase the probability of such attacks. Such speculation is irresponsible. In fact, the exact opposite argument is more plausible: by taking action to reduce religious interference in State institutions, the proposed Bill would favour social harmony and reduce the danger of such violence.
- Montreal Gazette columnist Don Macpherson tries to ridicule the Bill in his article “The CAQ anti-hijab bill, worse than useless” but succeeds mainly in displaying his total ignorance of secularism. He maintains that the Bill “would weaken Quebec’s own charter of rights” when in reality it would significantly strengthen and improve Quebec’s Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms by inscribing “laïcité” into it, thus ensuring that future legislation would respect (1) the equality of all citizen—including male-female equality, (2) the freedom of conscience of all citizens, (3) religious neutrality and, most importantly, (4) separation between religion and State, i.e. State autonomy with respect to religions.
Coren […] fails to distinguish the public sphere (which is totally unaffected by Bill 21) from the civil sphere […]
[…] by taking action to reduce religious interference in State institutions, the proposed Bill would favour social harmony and reduce the danger of such violence.
Antidotes to Antisecular Misinformation
The above list is only a small sampling of the wide variety of inanity and insanity which can be found in the media opposing Draft Bill 21. As an antidote, I urge you to read the article “Quebec’s Secularism Bill” in which author Luis Granados expeditiously cuts through the bullshit of the Bill’s opponents. A sample:
The ban covers all religions, including Quebec’s majority Christian population. No more crucifix pendants. No more yarmulkes. No more hijabs. No Satanic Temple t-shirts, should anyone be so inclined. Government employees get paid to do a job for the taxpayers, period. Advertising for the God industry has no place in the doing of that job, any more than advertising for a political candidate would. Employees are free to promote whatever they like on their own time, but not while they are officially representing the government. […]
Some are even threatening civil disobedience, because the laws of God should apparently trump those of mere humans. What should matter most here is not what the employees want, but what the “customers” want—given the customers are children whose minds are being shaped by those in authority. […] Children deserve to be educated in a neutral environment. They don’t need teachers putting up signs saying “Jesus is the Answer”—or wearing clothing that says the same thing. They don’t need teachers wearing a cap boasting that “I’m one of God’s chosen people, and you’re not.” They don’t need teachers silently communicating that women should be ashamed of their bodies—or the equally disgusting message that men are incapable of controlling themselves if they are sexually distracted by seeing the top of a woman’s head.
Finally, some logic and common sense about secularism from an English-language publication—a rare thing indeed.
Here is another reality-check. Consider the fact that article 22(4) of Quebec’s Loi sur l’instruction publique (Education Act) stipulates:
“A teacher shall act in a just and impartial manner in his dealings with his students;”
How can a teacher be impartial while he or she constantly displays an obvious symbol of a particular religion when on the job, interacting with pupils in the classroom throughout the schoolday? The ban on religious symbols which Draft Bill 21 proposes is a simple application of the above stipulation. Even if you continue to oppose the ban, at least be honest in your opposition and avoid gratuitous accusations. It is patently outrageous to assert that Bill 21 is xenophobic or worse.
I leave the final word to columnist Mathieu Bock-Coté who, in an article entitled « La laïcité vue d’Europe » (“Secularism Seen from Europe”) writes:
“From a European perspective, Draft Bill 21 appears terribly minimalist, almost insignificant. Every time I explain the Bill to people in France, whether they are on the political left, right or elsewhere, they wonder how something so elementary could cause such scandal. When I talk about the accusations of racism directed at Quebec for something so minor, they sincerely struggle to believe it.”
Next blog: Le Québec est laïque !