My comments about a recent article in the magazine Toronto Life lionizing Zunera Ishaq who became famous for winning the legal “right” to wear her niqab at her Canadian citizenship ceremony.
Sommaire en français Ma réponse à un texte, paru récemment dans la revue Toronto Life, dans lequel Zunera Ishaq, célèbre pour avoir gagné le « droit » de porter son niqab lors de sa cérémonie de citoyenneté canadienne, est encensée.
Lauren McKeon’s Toronto Life article “Zunera’s War” is typical of the air-headed attitude towards religious fanaticism, especially the Islamist variety, which is currently in fashion, especially since the election of that poster boy for complacency, Justin Trudeau.
McKeon focuses greatly on the personal details of Zunera Ishaq’s life in order to lionize her. This strategy is superficially effective, but it is ultimately facile. Heart-warming anecdotes and cute details of day-to-day life could be used to make anyone, even supporters of the most egregiously backward socio-political movements, look sympathetic.
McKeon completely ignores the most salient facet of Ishaq’s case: that Ishaq is a legal jihadist, that is, she uses legal means to promote an Islamist agenda. Of course this is far less dangerous than violent jihadism. We are lucky that Ishaq uses lawyers, not guns or bombs, to further her ends. But she remains dangerous nevertheless because her ends, her goals, are to trivialize symbols—such as the niqab—of an extremely retrograde ideology, to make such accoutrements commonplace and “normal” in Canadian society, so that ultimately the ideas which underlie such symbols become mainstream and acceptable.
Islamism, the ideology which Ishaq promotes—at least implicitly—via her personal legal jihad, is far to the political right of fundamentalist Christian supporters of the Conservative Party, […]
Political theorists may debate whether or not Islamism—i.e. political Islam—corresponds to a coherent definition of “fascism.” However, whatever conclusion they may reach, one thing is certain: Islamism, the ideology which Ishaq promotes—at least implicitly—via her personal legal jihad, is far to the political right of fundamentalist Christian supporters of the Conservative Party, far to the right of Donald Trump, far to the right of the Front National (FN) in France or Pegida in Germany, far to the right of Mussolini or Pinochet or just about any other disgusting dictator one can name. Recently FN leader Marine Le Pen visited Quebec and was generally shunned and treated as a pariah. But Ishaq, whose ideology is far worse than Le Pen’s, is celebrated by fools too cowardly to acknowledge the reprehensible nature of her activism.
McKeon’s article makes a big deal of the idea that Ishaq is not some blushing wallflower, i.e. she is not a female victim being manipulated by controlling males off-stage. If this is true, then that simply deepens her guilt, and the foolishness of people like Trudeau, Mulcair and McKeon who enable her jihad. If she is acting on her own initiative and fully mindful of the consequences of her actions, then she is not just objectively reactionary, indeed she is consciously and deliberately a reactionary political activist, an active agent of extreme right-wing misogyny.
Ironically, McKeon does mention, but only in passing, the main legal issue which needs to be tackled to return Canada to sanity by not allowing religious fanatics to impose their nonsense during official ceremonies. She writes: “If religious freedom was such a tenet of Canadian society, she thought, then why couldn’t she practise her religion as she was becoming a citizen?” The problem, as anyone who has read attentively the Citizenship Act, the Preamble to the constitution or the Criminal Code (in particular the “Blasphemous Libel” section and the religious exception in the “Hate Propaganda” sections) can tell you, is that Canadian law gives undue priority to freedom of religion to the detriment of other freedoms. Indeed, freedom of religion should not be considered a fundamental freedom. Rather it is freedom of conscience which is fundamental, and it subsumes both freedom of religion and freedom FROM religion. The latter is compromised if we give precedence to the former.
As for Ishaq, she should be told in no uncertain terms that she may wear her silly niqab in her private life. But if she wishes to participate in public affairs—such as a citizenship ceremony—then she needs to act like a human being and show her face.
- Another reaction to the same article: Not Really “Zunera’s War”
Next blog: Freedom of Religion is Not Fundamental