Three Examples of Cultural (Mis)Appropriation

Christianity, Islam and Canada

2019-12-03

In this blog I present three instances when a idea or a set of concepts was appropriated from an existing culture by a newly forming religious or political entity. Should we call it cultural appropriation, or cultural misappropriation?

Sommaire en français Je présente dans ce billet de blogue trois exemples d’une idée ou d’un ensemble de concepts qu’une nouvelle entité religieuse ou politique s’est approprié à partir d’une culture existante. S’agit-il d’appropriation culturelle ou de « mésappropriation » culturelle.

In a previous blog, I argued that the taboo against so-called “cultural appropriation” is irrational and harmful, because intercultural borrowing is not only very widespread—being practically the norm rather than the exception— and furthermore because it enriches human cultures and improves the general quality of life. I also suggested, in those rarer cases when such borrowing is harmful in some way to the orginating group and may thus be reasonably considered a sort of plagiarism or even theft, that the term “cultural misappropriation” be used instead. Of course, determining the category into which a particular case should be classified often leaves plenty of room for debate.

In this blog, I give three examples of borrowing where the resulting concept is so well known, so commonplace, that most people are probably unaware, or have forgotten, that any borrowing had occurred.

Christianity

It is well-known that Christianity is basically a rip-off of Judaism. I call it Judaism for ancient Greeks. The religion of the Hebrews, Judaism, was just another of countless tribal religions among various peoples of antiquity in and around the Roman Empire. It was not even a monotheism until rather late in its history, starting first as a polytheism, then evolving into a monolatry (worship of one god while recognizing the existence of many others) and finally emerging as a monotheism, where all gods were subsumed under their one god Jehovah. (This last step was a rationalization used by the defeated Hebrews to explain how the god of a rival tribe could defeat theirs—at least that is the explanation put forward by author Jean Soler to explain the origins of monotheism.)

Then along came Paul of Tarsus, a rather dysfunctional individual, especially his views on sexuality, whom Christians venerate as “Saint Paul.” Paul took an obscure Jewish reform movement and turned it into a new religion Christianity, and the rest is history. Paul was the founder of Christianity, not Jesus, because the existence of Jesus is uncertain, and even if he did exist, we know almost nothing about him. Christianity borrowed heavily from both Judaism (a large chunk of the Christian bible is lifted directly from the Hebrews) and from the religion of the ancient Greeks (for example, the concept of hell is an extension of Hades, but much worse). Of course Christianity also borrowed from Egyptian and other religions, in particular the concepts of virgin birth and the son of god.

Christians were persecuted for centuries by the Roman authorities, because their dogmatic monotheism was so intolerant that they refused to recognize the gods and authority of Rome. Constantine put an end to that persecution in the early IVth century C.E. and later that century the spectacularly intolerant Theodosius Ist made Nicene Christianity the empire’s state religion, while banning all other religions including the traditional cults of the Roman and Greek gods.

Thus, in creating the new religion of Christianity, a tribal religion was transformed into one with universalist pretentions and which persecuted anyone, regardless of ethnicity, who refused to adopt it. In particular, Jews who refused to convert to the new fashionable religion were particularly reviled, and the crucifixion story, an essential part of Christian mythology, was used as a convenient excuse for that persecution on the pretext that it was Jews who had murdered Jesus Christ. It is amusing to note that the word “pagan” is derived from the Latin “pāgānus” meaning “rural” or “rustic” (and related to “peasant”), as non-Christians were apparently considered country bumpkins not yet hip to the cool new religion of Christianity which was all the rage in urban centres of the empire.

Islam

Several centuries after the Christians plagiarized Judaism, along came Muhammad, calling himself a prophet of the one true god—indeed claiming to be the last prophet of god for all eternity! He borrowed heavily from Judaism and Christianity, the so-called religions of the Book, which he apparently envied for their scriptures which gave them an aura of wisdom and sagacity. His new religion Islam is sometimes considered to be a derivative of Arian Christianity. Arianism was a non-Nicene variant of Christianity (i.e. no trinity) which was rejected as heresy by the First Council of Nicaea, convoked by Constantine in 325.

I call Islam Judaism for Arabs. Muhammad initially attempted to convert some Jewish tribes, living in the Arabian peninsula, to his new religion, but when they refused, he had them massacred. Basically, Muhammad took two bad ideas, Judaism and Christianity, combined them and put himself at the centre of the result, which became arguably even more intolerant than the two already very intolerant source religions. The quran contains many expressions of anti-Jewish sentiment, as well as lots of misogyny and violent hostility towards unbelievers and polytheists.

Canada

According to the Historical Dictionary of European Imperialism by James Stuart Olson, “The name Canada probably is derived from the Huron-Iroquois kanata, meaning a village or a community.” So we can consider the use of the word Canada by Europeans to be a form of cultural appropriation, although a rather trivial one, as many languages borrow heavily from others. However, a far more significant form of cultural (mis)appropriation occurred centuries after Europeans overran the Americas.

Until the British conquest of New France in the Seven Years’ War (1756–1763), Canada was basically just another name for New France. This territory was divided by the British into Upper and Lower Canada (« les deux Canadas ») and its inhabitants, « les Canadiens » or « Canayens », were of course mainly French-speaking and descended from settlers from France with some intermarriage with native peoples. The two Canadas were re-united by the Act of Union of 1840-1841 into a single colony known as « Canada-Uni » or the “Province of Canada” in an attempt by the British to assimilate francophones into the anglophone majority.

Then in 1867, year of Confederation, the two then became distinct provinces, Ontario and Québec, in the newly founded nation which we call Canada. By that time, only Quebec was majority French-speaking, because immigration into Upper Canada, a.k.a. Ontario, had made it mainly English-speaking. At Confederation, Canada was composed of four provinces (with New Brunswick and Nova Scotia), and since then six more have been added to make ten today.

The point of this brief historical review is to explain that the name “Canada” and the adjective “Canadian” refer primarily to New France and its inhabitants, but those terms have been appropriated by the country Canada founded in 1867 in which English was and remains the dominant language. That dominance increases with each passing decade, for a variety of reasons. Thus, the word “Canadian” should properly refer to the Québécois who are the descendants of the inhabitants of New France.

Of course, that is not how things have worked out. The name “Canada” now refers to a country which stretches from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific and from the Arctic islands in the north to the U.S. border in the south. Those who once referred to themselves as « Canayens » now prefer, or at least have become habituated to, the term « Québécois » and have abandoned the now quaint-sounding « Canadiens français ». However, even after all these years, the two language groups in this enlarged Canada, English and French, are still divided by some major differences in culture and values.

So, the next time you hear some Canadian ideologue complain about how Quebecers are so stubborn and backward (or worse) and fail to worship fashionable Canadian ideals such as so-called “multiculturalism” (i.e. communitarianism) or the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, just remember that Canadians appropriated the term “Canada” and now, using that plagiarized name, wish to impose forcefully on Quebecers values they do not agree with. It must not be forgotten that the Charter is part of the 1982 Constitution which has never been approved by Quebec and was indeed foisted upon it against its will. If anyone gloats about the fact that Quebec is legally required to obey the Charter, what they are basically saying is that “Might Makes Right”—ethics and democracy be damned. This whole scenario reminds me of how Christians plagiarized Jews and polytheists, then vilified the former as Christ-killers and denigrated the latter as pagans.

Appropriation or Misappropriation?

Should the three cases explained above be considered appropriation or misappropriation? I think it is clear that the borrowing in each case ended up being rather harmful to those who were plagiarized. This is especially the case with Christianity and Islam, both of which have been, and often continue to be, very anti-Jewish. The final example, that of Canada, is much less extreme, but nevertheless harmful to the plagiarized Québécois. I consider all three examples to be cases of misappropriation. However, I do not think that any kind of corrective re-appropriation, for lack of a better expression, is in order. That would be akin to rewriting history. It would absurd to ban the use of the Pentateuch by Christians because they copied it from the Hebrews. It would be equally absurd to require that Muslims stop referring to Abraham and Jesus as (lesser) prophets of Islam. And it would be ridiculous to insist that the country we now know as Canada change its name.

Rewriting history, in the sense of erasing parts of it, is for fools and demagogues. What we do need to do is to remember history, to preserve it, to enrich our knowledge of it, to learn from it and to use it as one resource among many as we face the future. We can learn two lessons from the above historical considerations: (1) neither Christianity nor Islam had anything particularly original to offer; and (2) Canadians have no right to feel self-righteous and superior to the Québécois.


Next blog: Décision de la Cour d’appel du Québec, 2019-12-12

Canada’s Anti-Blasphemy Law Repealed, But M-103 Remains

2018-12-13

Canada’s anti-blasphemy law has finally been repealed. Excellent news. However, Motion M-103 which condemns “Islamophobia” remains in force.
Sommaire en français La loi canadienne qui criminalise le blasphème est enfin abrogée. Excellente nouvelle ! Toutfois, la Motion M-103 qui condamne l’« islamophobie » demeure en vigueur.
The Canadian Senate has voted to repeal the country’s “blasphemous libel” law (Section 296 of the Criminal Code), as part of a Bill C-51 which removes outdated legislation. Earlier today (2018-12-13) the senate announced on its twitter feed that the Bill has received Royal Assent and is thus adopted. This has excellent news indeed and has been reported on a number of atheist and humanist web sites such as End Blasphemy Laws and The Friendly Atheist. However, before breaking out the champagne, consider this. The various reports I have seen so far fail to mention an important problem: Motion M-103 remains on the books. That Motion condemns so-called “Islamophobia” and thus sets the stage for a new kind of anti-blasphemy legislation, condemning criticism of one religion, but without explicit use of the word “blasphemy.” Although Motion M-103 does not have force of law, it is dangerous for exactly the same reason as Section 296: its international impact. Both Section 296 and Motion M-103 give countries with similar legislation a convenient excuse to continue violating human rights by pointing to Canada’s bad example. Section 296 did not, of course, have force of law outside Canada either, and even inside Canada it had not been used for decades. Nevertheless, the symbolic effect was negative. Motion M-103 continues to provide that negative example. Furthermore, Motion M-103 is, in one sense, even worse that Section 296 in that it privileges one specific religion, giving it preferential treatment. So in addition to constituting a form of soft censorship of criticism of Islam, it will generate animosity from believers in other religions which are not so privileged. Moreover, there is a legitimate fear that in future M-103 may be followed eventually by a similar proposal, inspired by it, but having force of law.
Such accusations have precisely the same chilling effect as Motion M-103: they are a form of intimidation which stifles criticism of Islam and helps to further the agenda of political Islam.
This problem is complicated by the fact that some of the very people who applaud the repeal of Section 296 and claim to be secularists hypocritically support M-103. Even worse, some even repeat absurd accusations that to oppose M-103 is necessarily a right-wing or far-right position. Such accusations have precisely the same chilling effect as Motion M-103: they are a form of intimidation which stifles criticism of Islam and helps to further the agenda of political Islam. Secularists must now work to repeal Motion M-103 and to prevent the Canadian parliament from adopting in the future any motion or legislation similar or worse.

Next blog: Open Letter to TheConversation: An Organ of Anti-Quebec Propaganda

Ensaf Haidar Challenges Canadian Orthodoxy

Raif Badawi’s wife refuses to kowtow to the “diversity” ideologues

2018-09-22

I congratulate Ensaf Haidar for her call to ban face-coverings in public services and for her support for Maxime Bernier’s criticism of Trudeau-ite multiculturalism.

Sommaire en français Je félicite Ensaf Haidar pour son appel à interdire les couvre-visage dans les services publics et pour son appui à Maxime Bernier qui critique le multiculturalisme à la Trudeau.

As most people are already aware, Ensaf Haidar is the wife of Raif Badawi, a Saudi writer, dissident and activist who has been imprisoned since 2012 in Saudi Arabia. His only “crime” was to call for a liberalisation of the Saudi regime.

Ensaf Haidar now lives with her children in Quebec and all received Canadian citizenship on July 1st 2018. Haidar has worked tirelessly for her husband’s release and for human rights in general, and has received several awards for her efforts. Two recent examples are the 2017 Goldene Victoria, awarded by the Verband Deutscher Zeitschriftenverleger (Association of German Magazine Publishers), and the 2018 Henry Zumach Freedom From Fundamentalist Religion Award from the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF).

2018 Henry Zumach Freedom From Fundamentalist Religion Award
Ensaf Haidar: 2018 Recipient Henry Zumach Freedom From Fundamentalist Religion Award

Just as her husband defied Saudi orthodoxy by calling for freedom of expression, Ensaf Haidar challenges Canadian orthodoxy […]

Just as her husband defied Saudi orthodoxy by calling for freedom of expression, Ensaf Haidar challenges Canadian orthodoxy by exercising her freedom of expression in defiance of the conventional ideology monolithically imposed by most Canadian mainstream media and politicians, especially the federal government of Justin Trudeau. On her Twitter account @miss9afi, she has repeatedly urged the new Premier of Ontario to follow Quebec’s lead and ban the niqab in Ontario schools, public transportation and government services.

2018-09-16, Tweet, Ensaf Haidar
“I urge Ontario PM to follow Quebec’s and outlaw the Niqab
from schools, public transportation & all govt services”

Unfortunately the comparison with Quebec no longer applies, because article 10 of Quebec’s Bill 62, which banned face-coverings in public services, has been suspended by the courts and the Quebec government has failed to make any effort to fight back against the suspension.

Furthermore, Ensaf Haidar has expressed her support for Maxime Bernier’s criticism of Trudeau’s dubious cult of “diversity,” despite the fact that Bernier has been the target of an enormous degree of contempt and demonisation from the media for a position which is, in reality, eminently reasonable. Tarek Fatah writes about this in his article of September 18th, Why Raif Badawi’s wife supports Maxime Bernier in the Toronto Sun. Haidar expressed her shock at the negative reaction to Bernier and his new political party (People’s Party of Canada or PPC) in a tweet on September 18th.

2018-09-20, Tweet, Ensaf Haidar
“I am shocked at the reaction to my support of the #PPC and @MaximeBernier,
I will listen to myself and look for the new change”

Trudeau’s “diversity” is simply […] a buzzword which he uses to set the stage for spurious accusations of racism or xenophobia against anyone who criticizes his pandering to religious minorities.

I do not support Bernier’s new party—its economic policies are those of the libertarian right—but I agree with his and Haidar’s criticism of Trudeau’s obsession with what Bernier calls “extreme multiculturalism.” Indeed, Trudeau’s multiculturalism is cultural relativism, leading to complacency and inaction in the face of religious fanaticism. Trudeau’s “diversity” is simply code expressing his extreme intolerance of any disagreement with his ideology, a buzzword which he uses to set the stage for spurious accusations of racism or xenophobia against anyone who criticizes his pandering to religious minorities.

I congratulate Ensaf Haidar for her principled support for Bernier’s criticisms and for her opposition to the Trudeau-ite obsession of allowing religious face-coverings anywhere and everywhere.


More Relevant Links


Next blog: The Quebec Election of October 1st 2018

Exploiting Mass Murder for Political Gain

2017-02-17

I recently learned that I am the target of defamatory remarks published on a Canadian web site. I am accused of a certain degree of complicity in the Quebec City murders. This is my response.

Sommaire en français Je viens d’apprendre que je suis la cible de propos diffamatoires publiés sur un site web canadien. On m’accuse d’un certain degré de complicité dans la récente tuerie à Québec. Voici ma réponse.

In a recent blog The Quebec City Attack: Some Context, I wrote:

It took a very short time for the unscrupulous to begin exploiting this tragedy for political ends. Slanderous and hateful comments have been made, …

When I wrote the above, I did not yet realize how appallingly true it would turn out to be. It has recently come to my attention that I have been accused, on a certain Canadian web site, of a certain degree of complicity in the Quebec City massacre, although it is a little vague (perhaps deliberately so) what that degree is. What was the nature of my complicity in this atrocity? According to my accuser, my criticism of the word “islamophobia” in a recent blog Fools Against “Islamophobia” implies a total—and, in my accuser’s apparent estimation, near-criminal—disregard for anti-Muslim prejudice.

In that blog I criticized gay activists in Ontario and in the U.K. for their inappropriate response to the Orlando shooting in which about 50 were massacred in a gay bar. Instead of concentrating their energies on denouncing religious homophobia, in this case Islamic homophobia, they foolishly chose to demonstrate against “Islamophobia” as if “the possibility of antipathy towards those who practice Islam is worse than murdering gays in the name of Islam.” Furthermore, they chose incorrect language to do so: if they were concerned about the danger of an anti-Muslim backlash, i.e. attacks against real people, they could have denounced anti-Muslim prejudice.

But instead, these gay activists used the term “Islamophobia” which implies a (possibly irrational) fear of the ideology Islam. This is wrong for at least two reasons: (1) there is nothing irrational about fearing Islam; and (2) criticizing an ideology is very different from hatred of real human beings. By confusing the two issues, these activists stigmatized criticism of Islam and its cousin Islamism, thus playing into the hands of Islamist propagandists. Those who control language also control minds. The words we choose are important. Clarity is essential.

…the Quebec City killing of six Muslims was far, far worse than mere “Islamophobia.” It was not an attack on a religion or an idea. On the contrary, it was murderous violence against living, breathing human beings.

What is ironic here is that the Quebec City killing of six Muslims was far, far worse than mere “Islamophobia.” It was not an attack on a religion or an idea. On the contrary, it was murderous violence against living, breathing human beings. It was anti-Muslim terrorism, it was an anti-Muslim massacre. (Some people reject the term “terrorism” in this case. I tend to disagree.) We all have a duty, especially atheists and secularists, to distinguish between ideas and people, i.e. between beliefs and believers. To confuse the two categories only increases the danger of misunderstandings and possibly retribution for past acts of violence.

I also know why my accuser hates me (although we do not even know each other). Based on previous writings, it is clear that my criticism of communitarianism, a.k.a. multiculturalism, and my concomitant support for republican secularism burn his or her butt.

It is not clear whether my accuser is literally insane, or merely a horrific jerk. Maybe both? Fortunately, unlike Donald Trump, my accuser is not the head of a powerful nation with massive nuclear capability, so there is a limit to how much damage the lout can do. Unfortunately he or she is far from alone in this venal practice of exploiting a bloody tragedy for partisan political purposes.

Yesterday I slipped on some ice, fell and hurt my knee. Who or what is to blame? I blame Islamophobia and the Quebec “Charter of Values.” … OK, just kidding.

It has been said (I am unable to locate the source) that the only vice is conformism. Since the Quebec City attack on January 29th, we have seen a lot of vicious conformism. There has been a chorus of unscrupulous individuals claiming that the debate, in 2013-2014, around the Charter of Secularism proposed by the previous Quebec government, was a major cause of the massacre. This is accompanied by lamenting the prevalence of “identity politics” or “nationalisme identitaire” etc., etc. when in reality the Charter would have imposed neutrality on public institutions so that individuals would be prevented from promoting their particular, partisan religious or political identity while being paid from public funds. The Charter would have attenuated identity politics.

One very high profile example of this is the recent media splash by Charles Taylor who was co-president of the Bouchard-Taylor Commission, about a decade ago. The Commission was mandated to study the issue of so-called “reasonable accommodation” which to be precise should be called religious accommodation. One of its principal recommendations was that public servants in positions of coercive authority—police, judges, etc.—should not be allowed to wear religious symbols while on duty. I think such symbols should be banned for all public servants while on duty, but the Commission’s recommendation was at least a step in the right direction.

Taylor has exploited the Quebec City massacre as an excuse to repudiate, in a very public fashion, one of the rare constructive positions he has taken in the past.

Very recently, Taylor repudiated his previous position; he now thinks that no such ban should be imposed. His reason? The Quebec City event has changed the situation and, according to Taylor, the debate over the Quebec Charter “stigmatized” some groups. In reality, as ex-MNA Fatima Houda-Pepin has revealed, Taylor has discreetly held his current opinion for years, since long before the recent event. In other words, Taylor has exploited the Quebec City massacre as an excuse to repudiate, in a very public fashion, one of the rare constructive positions he had taken in the past.

But the prize for the most excessive and most egregious behaviour exploiting the Quebec City tragedy goes to Member of Parliament Iqra Khalid who is promoting her motion M-103 condemning “Islamophobia.” According to a CBC news report, she defines that term as “the irrational hate of Muslims that leads to discrimination.” Once again, we see a deliberate confusion of terms in order to justify a dangerous threat to freedom of expression. And once again, both the political centre and the so-called left have completely abandoned all rationality, so that only some members of the Conservative Party oppose the motion, thus allowing its promoters to accuse anyone who disagrees with them of being right-wingers.

My accuser is a petty member of that rogue’s gallery of unprincipled conformists.

You are allowed to disagree with me. But you are not allowed to accuse me of complicity in murder.

Further reading:


Next blog: Islam and Islamism

Challenges for Canadian Secularists

2016-09-20, updated 2016-09-21

A (non-exhaustive) list of seven challenges which Canadian secularists must meet in order to promote a state which is truly independent of religious interference.

Sommaire en français

Une liste (non exhaustive) de sept défis que les partisans de la laïcité doivent relever afin de prôner un État véritablement indépendant et libre d’ingérence religieuse. Ces défis sont :

  • Prôner l’abolition de la monarchie
  • Abandonner le multiculturalisme (communautarisme)
  • S’opposer à tous les intégrismes, y compris l’islamique, et pas seulement le chrétien
  • Reconnaître que certains codes vestimentaires sont nécessaires pour la laïcité
  • Respecter le choix du Québec en matière de laïcité
  • Laisser tomber votre puéril engouement pour Saint Justin Trudeau
  • Rejeter l’influence de la gauche régressive

CANADIAN SECULARISTS MUST:

PROMOTE ABOLITION OF THE MONARCHY.

The monarchy is a religious institution, incompatible with fundamental human rights.

The fact that Canada’s head of state must be of a particular religion is bad enough, but it is only a symptom of the underlying problem: the monarchy is essentially a religious institution, in which the king or queen rules by “divine right,” i.e. a mandate from an imaginary divinity. The fact that Canada’s monarchy is constitutional does not change that situation; it simply makes the monarchy non-absolute. Similarly, so-called “moderate” Christian churches avoid some of the worst excesses of fundamentalist churches, but they are still Christian.

Furthermore, hereditary transmission of the title of head of state violates the principle of equality which is fundamental to human rights and secularism. Finally, the bizarre circumstance that Canada’s monarch is a foreigner—and the head of state of a foreign country—tends to favour those whose ethnic background is from that country and to undervalue all others.

ABANDON MULTICULTURALISM.

Multiculturalism = communitarianism = cultural relativism = ethno-religious determinism = religious essentialism = soft racism = an electoral strategy of unscrupulous politicians

I have criticized multiculturalism in previous blogs and articles and many other writers have pointed out the flaws in this nice-sounding but retrograde concept. In particular the Canadian Multiculturalism Act must be repealed or at least modified substantively so that it can no longer be used to favour the more religious (including fundamentalists and worse) over the less religious and the non-religious.

OPPOSE ALL RELIGIOUS FUNDAMENTALISMS, INCLUDING ISLAMIC.

Christianity is not the only crappy religion. Islam is just as dangerous—and currently it is arguably even worse (which does not imply that we can stop criticizing Christianity for now). Sikh, Hindu, Judaic and other fundamentalisms are also dangerous.

In particular, we must resist the Islamist ploy, so commonly used to manipulate well-meaning fools, of playing the victim, of exaggerating the seriousness of anti-Muslim acts. In Canada, hate crime statistics indicate that the most frequent targets of such acts continue to be blacks and Jews.

Although is it obviously unfair to blame all Muslims for the actions of Islamist terrorism, all Muslims, including so-called moderates, nevertheless have a responsibility to confront the reality of that terrorism—i.e. the fact that the coran and other core documents of Muslim tradition contain much hate propaganda and many calls for deadly violence—and to distance themselves definitively from it. The fact that the torah and the bible also contain similar content does not mitigate Muslims’ responsibility; it simply means that Christians and Jews also have responsibilities.

As the journalist Joseph Facal puts it, not all Muslims are guilty but all are responsible. Adopting the posture of a victim is a strategy for shirking those responsibilities. (“enfermement dans une posture victimaire qui conduit à se défiler devant ses propres responsabilités.”)

RECOGNIZE THAT SECULARISM REQUIRES DRESS CODES.

Or do you want police and judges to wear collanders and niqabs?

It is unacceptable for public servants—especially those with coercive power such as police, judges and prison guards—to display blatant symbols of religious or political affiliation while on duty. To allow such aberrant behaviour has nothing to do with “rights”—rather it amounts to granting a privilege to the wearers of such symbols and to their religion or ideology, a privilege which compromises everyone else’s freedom of conscience.

Face-coverings are even worse, as they are impediments to security and communication, among other issues. They should be forbidden for all users of public services, not just state employees on duty.

RESPECT QUEBEC’S CHOICES.

The Québécois have every right to choose laïcité without being vilified for it.

During the debate over Quebec’s proposed Charter of Secularism in 2013-2014, opposition to the Charter from Canada outside Quebec was ferocious and based largely on ethnic bigotry against Quebeckers, bigotry which is often called “racism” (although inaccurate here, because French-speaking Québécois constitute a nation, not a “race”). When the PQ goverment was defeated in the provincial election of April 2014 and the Charter thus died, the defeat was because voters rejected the PQ’s sovereignty option, not secularism. Polls show that secularism remains very popular among Quebeckers, and their secularism is more in line with the modern republican tradition of laïcité which is obviously superior to the lame 17th-century Lockean pseudo-secular tradition which is dominant in English-speaking countries and remains so, largely as a result of anglo-ethnocentrism.

(This tension was also very evident during the recent burkini controversy. More on that in a future blog.)

ABANDON YOUR CHILDISH INFATUATION WITH SAINT JUSTIN TRUDEAU.

Justin Trudeau is as anti-secular and as shallow as Pope Franky. Like the pope, his strength is in dishonest self-marketing.

Trudeau opportunistically courts the votes of various religious communities by flirting with very dubious Islamists (with ideological affinities to the Muslim Brotherhood) and with fundamentalist Sikhs.

Trudeau insults gays and women by marching in gay parades and claiming to be a feminist while continuing to be very chummy with religious fanatics who practice gender segregation and oppose gay rights and gender equality.

Trudeau slanders secularists by lumping us all in the same category as a bigoted con-artist like Donald Trump.

To criticize Trudeau does not imply support for his adversaries and enemies. That would be falling into the trap of what I call the “binary fallacy” and which Wikipedia calls “False dilemma”.

REJECT THE REGRESSIVE LEFT.

Western women who wear the veil contribute to the subservience of women elsewhere in the world for whom wearing the veil is an obligation.

The regressive left uses specious accusations of “intolerance,” “xenophobia,” “islamophobia,” etc. to deflect or silence legitimate criticism of religions and multiculturalism.

Secularists must explicitly reject the odious influence of the regressive left which Wikipedia describes as “a section of left-wing politics which is accused of paradoxically holding reactionary views due to tolerance of illiberal principles and ideologies (such as extremist Islamism) for the sake of multiculturalism and cultural relativism.” This accusation is certainly valid in light of the behaviour of many leftist and centrist Canadian politicians, the most noteworthy being Justin Trudeau who, for electoral advantage, regularly panders to various religious communities (such as Islamist and Sikh) which tend to be of the fundamentalist variety.

It is shameful how Trudeau and his ilk present the wearing of the Islamic veil as some sort of victory for women’s rights when in reality it is precisely the opposite. Remember the admonition of Mona Eltahawy, author of “Headscarves and Hymens”: western women who wear the veil contribute to the subservience of women elsewhere in the world for whom wearing the veil is an obligation.


Next blog: False Memes from the Burkini Wars

Hate Quebec, Hate Secularism

2016-02-06

Antipathy towards Quebec and anti-secularism often go hand in hand in Canadian politics. They are, or should be, unrelated issues, but as republican secularism is more popular in Quebec and multiculturalism more popular outside Quebec, they become intertwined. I give some examples of this harmful attitude, from comments on an atheist web site to a Globe and Mail article.

Sommaire en français Une antipathie pour le Québec et une prise de position antilaïque sont deux attitudes souvent confondues dans les débats politiques au Canada. En principe ces deux questions n’ont rien directement en commun, mais deviennent entremêlées puisque la laïcité (républicaine) est plus populaire au Québec et le multiculturalisme plus populaire hors Québec. J’en présente quelques exemples tirés d’un site web athée et d’un article du journal torontois Globe and Mail.

One day during the campaign leading up to the Quebec provincial election of April 2014, I visited the web site Canadian Atheist and found, to my initial surprise, that the most recent post consisted mainly of a very brief video, only a few seconds, configured to run in an infinite loop, showing Pauline Marois—premier of Quebec at the time—standing before a cluster of microphones at a press conference and, with the palm of one hand, gently but firmly pushing Pierre-Karl Péladeau away from the microphones. Péladeau, a rich businessman and owner of media giant Québecor, had recently become a Parti Québécois (PQ) candidate in that election and has since become leader of the party, replacing Marois after the party’s defeat in that 2014 election.

Clearly the video was meant as a mocking embarrassment to the PQ, showing a conflict between two leaders—current and future—of that separatist party. But why would such a video be posted on an atheist web site? It had no relevance there. What could some alleged power struggle within a provincial political party have to do with atheism? The video sequence was obviously meant to be humorous but succeeded merely in being adolescent and bizarre.

Furthermore, by any reasonable standard, an atheist web site would be expected to adopt a serious, even sympathetic attitude towards that political party. After all, a major aspect of the PQ’s platform in the 2014 election was its Charter of Secularism which, if adopted, would have officially declared the Quebec state to be secular and would have instituted separation of religion and state as official policy in Quebec. All atheists and secularists could be expected to support such a measure enthusiastically and to be favourably disposed towards whoever proposed it.

However this is Canada, and as I have learned to my great chagrin, expecting Canadians—in particular Canadians who claim to be secularists—to behave reasonably and in accordance with their own best interests is a recipe for disappointment. Despite the valiant efforts and the perseverance of my friend and colleague Veronica Abbass, editor-in-chief of Canadian Atheist, the postings and in particular the comments on that site sometimes degenerate into a fetid cesspool of anti-secularism and hatred of Quebec, the two currents being very much intertwined. That, in a nutshell, is the explanation for the video posting described above. For technical reasons it has unfortunately—or perhaps fortunately—since disappeared from the site, so I am unable to name the author who posted it.

Indeed, that site is infested by a small but very vocal number of ethnic bigots—the poster of the video just mentioned being one—whose extreme antipathy towards Quebec nationalism greatly exceeds any attachment they might have to secularism. Several of them avoid using a full name. Their comments vary in length, from a simple specious insult like “Islamophobia!” to interminable diatribes thousands of words long. Here is a representative sample from one of those comments:

[…] the pq charter […] had nothing to do with secularism and everything to do with repressive nationalism.

[…]

The PQ hates multiculturalism because it implies québécois culture is no more special than any other, and therefore not deserving of special status and protection. True secularism is about not privileging one religion over any others, it is not about bullying religious minorities out of the public sphere/service.

Comment by “Joe”

The author of the above comment needs to pulls his/her head out of his/her gluteal sphincter and recognize a few obvious facts:

  1. The Charter, whether one agreed with it or not, was certainly about secularism.
  2. Quebec nationalism in general has been, for the last half century, resolutely secular in orientation.
  3. Putting Québécois culture on par with a religion, as he/she does, is absurd.
  4. French-language culture in Canada, concentrated in Quebec, is certainly “deserving of special status” and indeed, constitutionally so, as French and English are Canada’s two official languages.

The reality is that the avant-garde of secularism not just in Canada but in all of North America—indeed in the entire western hemisphere—is in Quebec. The crucifixes that used to be omnipresent there are mostly gone, while the crucifix still hanging in the National Assembly is an annoying remnant whose continued presence was formally guaranteed not by the PQ but by the Quebec Liberal Party which vehemently opposed the Quebec Charter of Secularism, in collaboration with Islamists.

The irony of the comments by “Joe” is that he/she correctly identifies the situation—that multiculturalism reduces the French language and culture to a status no greater than any other non-English culture—and then draws precisely the wrong conclusion: that this situation is justified.

Canada was founded as an ostensibly bilingual nation, a partnership between two founding cultures and languages: the English and the French. In practice, it did not quite work out that way, with English having far greater dominance, while French gradually receded almost everywhere. The British imperial power, at its apogee, was notorious for its arrogance, ethnocentrism, paternalism and racism. The fact that the French (and to a lesser extent the Scottish) tended to intermarry with First Nations people a little more than others gave the English yet another excuse to look down their noses at them. In the 1960s, the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism studied this linguistic imbalance and proposed policies to attempt to correct it. However, within a few years, the concept of biculturalism had been forgotten and was supplanted by multiculturalism.

Whether intentional or not, this replacement of “bi-” by “multi-” led to further devaluation of French language and culture, already in an inferior position. With multiculturalism, French culture became just another in a mosaic. The dominance of English culture became overwhelming. Multiculturalism thus became a vehicle for Anglo ethnocentrism. An ideology which claims to be a solution to racism (it is not) became a vehicle for devaluing one of Canada’s two founding cultures.

Multiculturalism thus became a vehicle for Anglo ethnocentrism. […] The arrogance and paternalism of British imperialism have been recycled and repackaged as multiculturalism.

And that is one major reason why multiculturalism is so popular in Canada outside Quebec, and less popular in Quebec. It allows Canadians to pretend to be anti-racist, while simultaneously providing a convenient excuse for their ongoing antipathy towards French-speaking Quebecers. The arrogance and paternalism of British imperialism have been recycled and repackaged as multiculturalism.

Anyone who claimed to be a secularist could not in good conscience oppose the PQ Charter unless they were honest about what they were opposing, and on what basis they were opposing it. They were in fact opposing a law inspired by the French tradition of republican secularism, and their opposition was based on a defence of religious privilege as guaranteed by Lockean pseudo-secularism as explained in a previous blog. Charter opponents rejected the Charter because it represented a more coherent form of secularism. They preferred the inferior Lockean form, but rarely had the clarity to say so. However Quebecers prefer the republican form, as is their right.

The tendentious habit of opposing secularism by vilifying those who propose it certainly did not disappear when the party which proposed the Charter was defeated in April of 2014. It continues unabated. We saw it recently during the federal election of October 2015, when anyone who pointed out the foolishness of allowing face-coverings during citizenship hearings risked being accused of “intolerance” or worse. Anti-Quebec memes were freely recycled for this purpose. For example, Sheema Khan, writing in the Globe and Mail during the federal election campaign trotted out that old chestnut of Jacques Parizeau’s “money and ethnic votes” comment as an excuse for supporting wearing the niqab, while comparing the 1995 pro-Canada, anti-separatist rally in Montreal to a “noble” pilgrimage (i.e. the “hajj”). Does this mean that Allah condemns those damn separatists?

It is a tenet of Canadian mythology that Parizeau’s comment was “racist” but in reality he was just being a sore loser, angry that his side lost the referendum by a very narrow margin whereas the federal government had subsidized the rally in violation of Quebec legislation limiting campaign spending. Without such federal overspending, the “Oui” side might have won. As for the “ethnic” part, Parizeau was simply referring to the well-known phenomenon of federalists seeking electoral advantage by encouraging new immigrants in the Montreal area to assimilate to the English-language community rather than the French. Parizeau’s comment, made in the heat of bitter disappointment, was foolish because an intelligent politician such as he should have known that his political enemies would use such a comment to make unfounded but damaging accusations. That is indeed what they did, and continue to do even after his death.

Another irony: Parizeau was among those sovereignists who expressed strong reservations about the Charter of Secularism. But that does not stop enemies of secularism from using his example to denigrate secularists.

The demonization of Quebec nationalism harms all Canadians because it jeopardizes the fight for secularization.


Next blog: The Cult of Impotence

Secularists Have Nothing to Celebrate

2015-10-26 @ 21:30

The recent electoral defeat of the Harper Conservatives is good news, but the election of the Trudeau Liberals is not. Indeed, for secularists, the new government is even worse than the previous because it is obsessively attached to the anti-secular ideology of multiculturalism.

Sommaire en français La récente défaite électorale du Parti Conservateur de Stephen Harper est une bonne nouvelle, mais l’élection des Libéraux de Justin Trudeau n’en est pas une. Au fait, du point de vue de la laïcité, le nouveau gouvernement est pire que le précedent, car attelé de manière obsessionnelle à l’idéologie antilaïque du multiculturalisme.

On election night last Monday, October 19th 2015, Canadians received some good news and some bad news. The good news: the odious Stephen Harper of the Conservative Party of Canada (CPC) went down to defeat. The bad news: the dubious Liberal Party of Canada (LPC) led by Justin Trudeau has taken power, the LPC, the party notorious for its corruption scandals, led by the very son of the inventor of Canadian multiculturalism.

Thus the leader and party who seem to think that all Muslims are terrorists has been replaced by the leader and party who apparently consider all Muslims—even the fundamentalists—to be warm, fuzzy and innocuous, or, if they are not, it is our fault for not being sufficiently nice to them. The closed-minded neanderthals of the Harper Conservatives have been replaced by the air-headed accommodationists of the Trudeau Liberals. A traditionalist party, representative of some of the most backward evangelical Christians, has been replaced by a multiculturalist party which flirts with Islamist fundamentalists.

This is not good news. We now have a government which takes the position that wearing a face-covering anywhere and everywhere, even during an official state ceremony, such as a citizenship ceremony, is a “right.” And why is such a ridiculous privilege considered to be a “right?” BECAUSE RELIGION. This is the antithesis of secularism. Religious freedom, already greatly privileged in the past, has been elevated to a status above all other freedoms, trumping even the most basic considerations such as communication, gender equality and security.

The closed-minded neanderthals of the Harper Conservatives have been replaced by the air-headed accommodationists of the Trudeau Liberals.

We now have a government led by an islamophiliac, totally besotted with the ideology of Canadian multiculturalism which is indistinguishable from cultural relativism, an ideology which shields itself from criticism by accusing anyone who disagrees with it of “xenophobia”, “intolerance” and even “racism.” We now have a government which, ironically, shares with the previous government the inability to distinguish between ordinary citizens who just happen to be Muslim on the one hand, and, on the other hand, Islamist fundamentalists who constitute a clear and present danger to our security and democracy—the difference being that the previous government apparently considered them all suspect while the newly elected government considers them all hunky-dory.

From the point of view of secularism, the Liberals are worse than the Conservatives. At least the Conservatives attempted to ban the niqab at citizenship ceremonies, although they did so in a way that was destined to fail, i.e. by a mere ministerial directive followed by legal appeals when federal courts invalidated that directive, when in fact what is needed is a modification of several laws, starting with Citizenship Act. At the eleventh hour, only days before the election, the Conservatives floated the idea of banning face-coverings in the public service if they were re-elected, an obviously good idea which any secularist would support. And yet the Conservatives are no proponents of secularism: they were merely opportunists exploiting the citizenry’s legitimate concerns about Islamist radicalism and doing so in ways that converged conveniently with their Christian hostility towards a competing religion.

But the position adopted by both the Trudeau Liberals and the Mulcair NDP was even worse: they agreed with the court decision striking down any ban on face-coverings, and supported the idea that wearing the niqab must be allowed, apparently anywhere and everywhere. If the niqab may be worn at citizenship ceremonies, then how can judges or police be prevented from wearing such face-coverings while on the job? Any hope of a secular public service is completely destroyed if this court decision is allowed to stand. And under the newly-elected Liberals, it will stand.

Do not misunderstand me. I am not saddened that the Harper Conservatives have gone down to defeat! Any government which shows such contempt for basic science deserves to be summarily kicked out of office. Any government which appoints an apparent creationist to a major position—as it did in appointing Gary Goodyear to the post of Minister of State for Science and Technology—merits our rejection.

Thus, as much as I respect and indeed admire both Ayaan Hirsi Ali, celebrated author of Heretic: Why Islam Needs a Reformation Now and the memoire Infidel, and Tarek Fatah, writer and founder of the secularist Muslim Canadian Congress, I could not agree with their call for Canadians to vote for Harper. Ayaan Hirsi Ali wrote in a tweet sent out on election day, “Dear Canadians, If you are in doubt before the polls close please vote for Stephen Harper. He is the strongest on fighting radical Islam.” whereas Tarek Fatah indicated in a Facebook post, shortly before the election date, that he would be voting Conservative for similar reasons.

Although Christian evangelical fundamentalism in Canada—which is a major underpinning of the Conservative Party—is not as retrograde as international Islamism, nevertheless both are resolutely obscurantist and anti-science fundamentalisms. Neither has any qualms about utilising the fruits of science, i.e. modern technology, when those fruits can be exploited to serve their agenda.

Broadly speaking, there are three general approaches to the question of religion and the affairs of the state. These are:

  1. Traditionalism, which promotes the continued dominance of the traditional majority religion (in Canada: Christianity), allowing it considerable privilege and influence on laws and state affairs.
  2. Multiculturalism, or ethnoreligious determinism, which broadens traditionalism by extending religious privileges to a plurality of religions, giving each religion an influence either equal to the others or weighted according to its demographic importance.
  3. Secularism, which opposes all religious privileges and and promotes universal human rights, in particular freedom of conscience, and involves complete separation between religion and state, so that the state is autonomous and independent of religious influence.

Zunera Ishaq […] exploited Canadian multiculturalism in order to promote an essential tenet of Islamic fundamentalism, the segregation of women. Ishaq is what I would call a “legal jihadi,” i.e. a fighter for Islamism who uses strictly legal means […] her objective role as a promoter of Islamist values is patent.

Both the traditionalism of the Conservatives and the multiculturalism of the Liberals are anti-secular ideologies. However, multiculturalism, although more modern, is also more dangerous because it is currently the dominant ideology in Canada and in other countries. Indeed, even the traditionalists (like Catholics, Islamists, etc.) rely increasingly on multiculturalism to disseminate their ideologies because traditionalism is out of fashion and often cannot be imposed directly as it was in the past. That is exactly what the niqab-wearer Zunera Ishaq did when she exploited Canadian multiculturalism in order to promote an essential tenet of Islamic fundamentalism, the segregation of women. Ishaq is what I would call a “legal jihadi,” i.e. a fighter for Islamism who uses strictly legal means because extra-legal means are not yet feasible. Although Ishaq has apparently been linked to radical Islamist organizations, even in the absence of such ties her objective role as a promoter of Islamist values is patent.

Multiculturalism is much easier to sell than traditionalism, especially as it often masquerades as a form of pseudo-secularism (c.f. so-called “laïcité ouverte”). Furthermore, multiculturalism also masquerades as a solution for racism, when in reality it tends to preserve and deepen divisions by identifying each individual with the ethno-religious community into which he or she was born.

The victory of the Trudeau Liberals (and the poor showing of the NDP) is probably much more attributable to anti-Harper sentiment than to any love for the winning party. Do not forget that BOTH hatred for Harper AND opposition to the niqab (and disgust for Trudeau’s and Mulcair’s opposition to any ban) were very strong in Quebec during the campaign. In fact, polls indicated that the majority of Canadians, not just Quebecers, favored a niqab ban, and yet Harper was still defeated despite his opportunistic exploitation of that issue.


Next blog: Secularism: Lockean and Republican

Trudeau & Mulcair Can Easily Resolve the Niqab Issue

2015-10-16

This blog is very brief, a short text which I posted earlier today on Facebook.

Sommaire en français J. Trudeau et T. Mulcair pourraient très facilement résoudre la controverse autour du niqab et poser un beau geste non partisan, un geste pour la laïcité contre la division, si chacun annonçait que, une fois élu, il présenterait promptement un projet de loi interdisant de se couvrir le visage durant les cérémonies officielles. Qu’attendent-ils ?

The Trudeau Liberals and the Mulcair NDP could resolve the niqab kerfuffle in a heartbeat, if they had the simple will to do so. All they have to do is announce that, if elected, they will promptly introduce new legislation to ban face-coverings in official ceremonies. This would immediately have the following effects:

  • Reassure the population that federal politicians are taking some action to stop the encroachment of Islamist extremism in Canada, thus greatly reducing the danger of any anti-Muslim sentiment.
  • Destroy any attempt by the Harper Conservatives to exploit the niqab issue for partisan electoral ends.
  • Take many votes away from the Conservatives, i.e. the votes the Conservatives gained because of this one issue, given that the majority of Canadians favour a ban on face-coverings, thus increasing the chances of Harper being defeated.
  • Show that all three major federal parties can act in a non-partisan manner for the greater good.
  • AND THEY WOULD BE DOING THE RIGHT THING, by taking a principled stand for secularism and against religious fanaticism and religious privilege.

So what are Trudeau and Mulcair waiting for?


Next blog: How to Reassure a Concerned Citizenry … and how NOT to

Thoughts on the Niqab

2015-10-13 @ 13:00

A collection of observations about the current controversy surrounding the niqab, which recently received legal recognition in two Canadian federal court decisions. Wearing the niqab while taking the citizenship oath is now a “right.”

Sommaire en français

  • Parler du niqab comme un vêtement “musulman” comme font constamment les médias anglophones Canadiens, c’est déplacer le centre de la diversité des musulmans vers l’extrémisme. C’est une insulte faite aux musulmans plus modérés.
  • Il y plusieurs raisons (chacune étant suffisante) d’interdire le niqab dans les cérémonies officielles : (1) Le niqab entrave la communication. (2) Il symbolise l’asservisement de la femme. (3) Il compromet la liberté de conscience des autres participants de la cérémonie. (4) Il est une forme de militantisme politique fasciste, totalement déplacé dans le contexte. (5) Il nuit à l’identification de la personne et à la sécurité de tous.
  • Le seul argument pour permettre le port du niqab dans les cérémonies est l’ensemble des lois fédérales canadiennes qui sont défectueuses car elles accordent une priorité indue à la religion. Il faut modifier ou abroger ces lois.
  • Les autres pseudo-arguments pour permettre le niqab sont d’une nullité totale et souvent mensongers. On essaie de culpabiliser les gens qui s’opposent au niqab pour une opinion tout à fait raisonnable.
  • Le « débat » sur le niqab—qui n’est pas un débat mais plutôt une campagne toxique de dénigrement de la laïcité—est une reprise de la controverse autour de la défunte Charte de la laïcité en 2013-2014, avec la différence qu’on ne peut comparer le Parti Québécois (qui a pris une position pro-laïcité) aux Conservateurs de Harper (qui n’ont rien de laïque).
  • La reconnaissance légale du port du niqab en tout lieu et en toute cironstance est une grande victoire pour l’islamofascisme et une grande défaite pour la démocracie.
  • Comble d’ironie, ce n’est pas Harper qui est en train de mettre le dernier clou dans le cercueil de la bonne réputation internationale qu’avait le Canada avant le début de son régime en 2006. Non, ce sont ses adversaires Mulcair et Trudeau qui s’opposent sottement à l’interdiction du niqab qui font maintenant du Canada la risée de la planète.

Moving the Muslim Mainstream Towards Islamism

By refering to the full veil—such as the niqab—as “Muslim” clothing, as the media repeatedly do, they effectively move the “centre” or mainstream of Muslims down the spectrum towards extremism. This is because the niqab is not just plain Muslim dress, rather it is a form of clothing imposed by a particular radical fundamentalist fringe of Islam, usually referred to as Islamism. If the niqab is now considered representative of Islam, then Islam is now centred around radical Islamism. This does a serious disservice to moderate Muslims, because it colours them with the same radical brush as the extremists.


The Arguments for Banning the Niqab During Official Ceremonies

Of course the wearing of face coverings during official ceremonies must be banned. It is utterly absurd to even consider allowing such accoutrements in the context of a solemn occasion such as a citizenship ceremony. There are several arguments to be made, any one of which is sufficient to justify a ban:

  1. Communication In human interaction, non-verbal communication via facial expression is a major component (about half) of the total communication. By hiding the face or most of it, the niqab-wearer refuses to communicate effectively. That individual is cut off from other humans by the virtual wall she or he is wearing, seriously undermining interactions with others. Human beings are social animals. A person who covers her/his face is a person not to be trusted.
  2. Rights of Women The full Islamist veils such as the burka and the niqab are blatant symbols of the subjugation and inferiorization of women. It is a flag of gender inequality and transmits the message that women are the property of men.
  3. Freedom of Conscience of Participants By allowing one particular group to display blatantly one of its sectarian symbols during an official ceremony, the freedom of conscience of all other participants is compromised by having a particular religious belief system imposed on them. Allowing such religious advertising in a context which is a state occasion totally unrelated to religion is similar to having large displays of commercial advertising in the classrooms of public schools.
  4. Political Activism in an Inappropriate Context Islamist fundamentalism is not just a religious tendency. It is a major and very dangerous political ideology with an anti-democratic program. Wearing the full veil constitutes implicit promotion of this fascist ideology. While this may be tolerated, for reasons of freedom of expression, outside of public institutions, such promotion is unacceptable during an official ceremony (or, similarly, if the wearer is a public servant on duty).
  5. Identity and Security Of course face-coverings make identification difficult and are thus a major security issue. No further explanation is required on this point.

There may be other arguments missing from the above list.


The Argument Against Banning the Niqab During Official Ceremonies

There is only one argument against banning the niqab, and it is not really an argument but rather a set of legal constraints. Canadian federal law is severely flawed and unjust because it grants many privileges to religions and to religious institutions. That is why judges have recently struck down the niqab ban, i.e. because Canadian law strongly supports such an interpretation. Freedom of religion is given a higher priority than other freedoms. The obvious solution is to change the law.

In the case of the niqab, the following modifications are required or highly recommended:

  • Repeal 17.1.b of the Citizenship Regulations, part of the Citizenship Act, which stipulates that the oath must be administered with “the greatest possible freedom in the religious solemnization or the solemn affirmation thereof.”
  • Repeal (or greatly revise) the Multiculturalism Act, and remove references to it from other legislation, because Canadian multiculturalism is basically equivalent to cultural relativism. As writer and secular activist Djemila Benhabib has pointed out (in a Facebook post, Oct. 10), “Multiculturalism quite simply legitimizes, in the political, judicial and social spheres, inequalities which originate in the culture and religion of one’s birth. Given that it is founded on the recognition of religions and the assignment by default of each individual to his or her immutable birth identity, any constraint on religious expression is usually interpreted as a hindrance to freedom of religion per se, as discriminatory, or even as racist. From that perspective, the various fundamentalisms have found an ideal vehicle and an open road to advance their cause!” (Translation: D.R.)
  • Revise the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to remove its pro-religious bias. For example, the Charter lists freedom of conscience, freedom of religion and freedom of belief as three of several fundamental freedoms. However, the last two are NOT fundamental; rather, both are part of freedom of conscience, which also includes freedom FROM religion and freedom of NON-belief. Thus, freedom of conscience should be listed as fundamental, while freedoms of religion, irreligion, belief and non-belief should all be listed as corollaries of it.

The last of these three modifications would be very difficult to achieve because it involves amending the Constitution. The first two would be less difficult, but not easy. Once again, the above list may need to be expanded. For example, the Criminal Code needs to be revised by removing both the blasphemy ban and the religious exception for hate propaganda. And of course the mention of “God” must be removed from the preamble to the Canadian Charter.


Some Pseudo-arguments Against Banning the Niqab During Official Ceremonies

The Binary fallacy

This fallacy, called the “either-or” fallacy and other names, describes the false notion that there are only two possibles responses to a situation. In this case, you must either oppose Harper (and support the niqab as a “right”) or oppose the niqab, but not both. We can succinctly summarize this fallacy using the following pseudo-syllogism:

  1. Harper is evil.
  2. Harper hates the niqab.
  3. Therefore, the niqab is good

That sums up rather well the intellectual acuity (i.e. vacuity) of those who claim that the wearing of the niqab is a “right.” It makes as much sense as opposing the breathing of oxygen because Harper breathes oxygen.

Religious “Freedom”

The court decisions striking down the niqab ban and the discourse of those who support those decisions are riddled with references to freedom of religion which elevate that freedom above other considerations. This privilege must be refused. But to do so will require modifying legislation as explained above.

Specious Accusations of “Intolerance” etc.

Accusations of “divisiveness”, “identity politics”, “intolerance”, “xenophobia” and even “racism” are regularly thrown at supporters of a niqab ban. These accusations are pure bullshit, a smokescreen to distract from the speciousness and vacuity of arguments against the ban. In response to the fact that polls have shown that a majority of Canadians, and an overwhelming majority in Quebec, support a niqab ban, opponents of a ban blather about a “lack of understanding” of other cultures and a “lack of exposure” to diverse cultures, as if this majority were motivated only by ignorance. Yet these accusations come from those who never mention the very dangerous aspects of some very prominent variants of Islam; it is the accusers who display ignorance. Furthermore, the niqab itself is a barrier to knowledge of and interaction with others.

The Politics of Guilt

Closely related to the previous point is the tactic of trying to silence secularists—and anyone else who would try to put reasonable constraints on the excesses of religion—by instilling feelings of guilt. This is often phrased as “the politics of fear” as if fear were irrational or even a horrible sin. In reality, to fear religion in general and Islam in particular is in no way irrational. On the contrary it is a matter of due diligence, a necessity. When that due diligence is performed, when we make the effort to examine various religious doctrines and movements objectively, we find many of which we should indeed be very afraid, and Islam is currently at the top of that list. A particularly disgusting example of this strategy can be found in the Toronto Star Editorial Can Stephen Harper stoop any lower on the niqab?. They even manage to slander Quebec.

Extreme Libertarianism

The dangerous meme which states that wearing a full veil anywhere and everywhere is a “right” is related to an extreme version of the ideology of libertarianism or right-wing anarchism. This ideology holds that the only good government is basically no government, or the smallest and weakest possible. Consequently, it leads inevitably to the tyranny of the rich and powerful. For example, if a country has no legislation preventing foreign powers from financing religious institutions, then that country is a sitting duck for the Saudi Arabian government (which internally is certainly not libertarian!) and its very well financed campaign to use petro-dollars to establish mosques in many countries and use them to preach a Wahhabite version of Islam.


The Niqab “Debate” is a Repeat of Opposition to Quebec’s Charter of Secularism

There is a strong parallel between the currently proposed niqab ban and the Charter of Secularism proposed in 2013-2014 by the former PQ Quebec government. In both cases there is no real debate, but rather toxic hostilities and moralizing from those who oppose any dress code. Supporters of a dress code are vilified, accused of the usual plethora of imaginary crimes (“intolerance”, etc.) taken from the familiar arsenal of Canadian multiculturalists. In both cases opponents elevate “freedom of religion” to a status having priority over other freedoms and then call this privilege a “right.”

Of course there are also differences between the two situations. The separatism (or sovereignty or independence) promoted by the PQ is an innocuous political program compared to the anti-science, anti-environmentalist and anti-democratic policies pursued by the current federal government. Antipathy towards the PQ is largely just a matter of hatred of Quebecers, i.e. ethnic bigotry (which in other contexts many people would imprecisely call “racism”) against Francophone Quebecers, whereas antipathy towards Harper’s Conservatives has a much more rational basis. Voting for the Parti Québécois in the April 2014 provincial election was an eminently reasonable option for secularists, whereas in the current federal election the niqab issue does not justify voting for Harper, especially given that his government’s attempts to ban the niqab—although laudable and certainly preferable to the cowardly and retrograde position of the two opposition parties—have nothing to do with secularist goals.

Nevertheless, it must be recognized that these questions of secularism—i.e. the Charter in April 2014 and the proposed niqab ban currently—must be distinguished from other, unrelated issues and evaluated on their own merits. A good idea is a good idea, even one coming from the much hated (and for good reasons) Harper government. There are many good reasons to vote against Harper, but the niqab issue is NOT one of them.


Democracy 0, Islamofascism 1

The recent success of Zunera Ishaq in obtaining the “right,” as ruled by two federal courts this year, to be sworn in as a Canadian citizen while wearing the niqab, is a major victory for Islamofascism and a major defeat for secularism, and hence a defeat for democracy, because it enshrines in Canadian jurisprudence an important religious privilege. Indeed, the courts’ rulings imply that Ishaq’s religious affiliation is more important even than the citizenship she is obtaining. By elevating religious privileges, the rights of the non-religious are demeaned; indeed the rights of everyone not belonging to the particular religious sect enjoying the privilege is similarly demeaned.

The niqab, like the burka, is a sort of flag of international islamofascism and Ishaq, whether she realizes it or not, is in the vanguard of that movement. The niqab is of course a Muslim symbol, but promoted by the most fundamentalist, radical and extremist of Muslims. To trivialize the full veil, to make it commonplace, a mere choice of clothing, while simultaneously elevating it to the status of a “right” which must be protected in the name of freedom of religion—even in a solemn ceremony having nothing to do with religion—is a major victory for fundamentalists. It is a victory won without physical weapons, using only legalities, to destroy rights using “rights.” It is a victory made very easy by Canadian multiculturalism, which leaves the door wide open for abuse.

The Islamists must be laughing all the way to the mosque.


Canada’s Ruined International Reputation

After a decade of government by the Harper Conservatives, Canada’s formerly enviable reputation in the international community is almost destroyed. But, ironically, the final nail in the coffin of that reputation is being hammered not by Harper but by the fools who oppose his policy of attempting to ban the niqab. By supporting the ridiculous idea that a religious fanatic and political activist for an international fascist movement has the “right” to wear a symbol of her or his movement, anywhere and everywhere, even during a solemn state ceremony, Mulcair, Trudeau and other niqab-defenders have made sure that Canada is now the laughing stock of the planet.


Suggested reading:


Next blog: Trudeau & Mulcair Can Easily Resolve the Niqab Issue