Intégrisme: la «montée» imaginaire – et les Janettes

Pretty damning indictment of those warning of a rapid increase in fundamentalism in Quebec. Interesting, most requests for religious accommodation come from Christians.

Dernier indicateur : l’avis des chercheurs qui étudient les minorités religieuses du Québec ou les côtoient. Ceux qu’a interviewés Le Soleil – soit, hormis M. Rousseau, Pauline Côté, de l’Université Laval, et Micheline Milot, de l’UdeM – sont unanimes : il n’y a pas le moindre signe d’une montée de l’intégrisme musulman au Québec. Et les termes qu’ils emploient laissent peu de place au doute : «bonhomme 7 heures», «scandaleux», «propos alarmistes et exorbitants», «création étatique de la peur de l’autre», etc.

Intégrisme: la «montée» imaginaire | Jean-François Cliche | Élections québécoises.

Shame on the PQ for not dissociating themselves from the comments of Janette Bertrand (background here):

La cofondatrice du mouvement pro charte « Les Janette » y est allée d’un exemple pour illustrer la nécessité, selon elle, de se doter de cette législation, qui prévoit notamment un encadrement des demandes d’accommodements raisonnables.

Imaginons, a-t-elle dit, que « deux hommes » arrivent à la piscine de son édifice à logements montréalais, et que la vue de femmes dans l’eau leur déplaît.

« Bon, imaginons qu’ils partent, qu’ils vont voir le propriétaire, qui est très heureux d’avoir beaucoup de, de… c’est les étudiants de McGill riches qui sont là, et puis, ils demandent ‘Bon, on va avoir une journée’, bon, alors ils payent », a-t-elle suggéré.

« Et là dans quelques mois, c’est eux qui ont la piscine tout le temps. Ben c’est ça, le ‘grugeage, c’est ça dont on a peur et c’est ça qui va arriver s’il n’y a pas de charte », a lancé Mme Bertrand.

Jonathan Kay: The space between the hijab and niqab is where our anxieties lie

Jonathan Kay on the contrast between the hijab and the niqab, following the experience of a young non-Muslim woman wearing a hijab for a week. I think he largely has it right on the contrast between the hijab being compatible with integration, the niqab not:

One of the effects of the niqab is that it strips away all of the informal social cues that we typically rely on when we talk to people: the smiles, raised eyebrows, furrowed brows and such that tell us if our jokes are funny or not, our stories interesting or not, our presence welcome or not. The Burqa signals to the non-burqa-wearer that, to the extent he is capable of arousing any emotion at all, it is of the negative variety. In such a situation, most of us non-burqa folks are likely to put on a nervous smile, say something harmless, and get any necessary social or commercial interaction over with as quickly as possible so as not to induce the fear of sexual predation that, the niqab’s existence implicitly signals, is but thinly suppressed in all of us.

Since 9/11, all Western societies have become obsessed with the way Muslim women dress. (Indeed, in parts of Quebec, it has become a sort of full-blown neurosis.) But Rawhani misunderstands the issue if she thinks that this is really about the hijab. It is about our basic, socially felt human need to see the faces  of those we interact with. The fact that we politely tolerate those who live behind masks bespeaks Canadian civility. But it does not mean the underlying practice is in any way healthy or desirable.

Jonathan Kay: The space between the hijab and niqab is where our anxieties lie | National Post.

Is multiculturalism stifling bilingualism? |

National Household Survey data on languages spoken in Canada will be released Wednesday, and will likely provoke debate over the declining importance of French. Official Languages Commission Fraser is not concerned:

Other languages and cultures have always been popular in Canada, and in some communities those third languages are in the majority, he continued.

But no single “other” language is giving French or English a run for predominance across the country or even in a single region. And none of those languages has the staying power of French or English.

“Historically, the pattern in Canada has been that immigrant community languages do not survive to the third generation as a language spoken at home,” Fraser said.

While his point is valid (Ukrainian Canadians being the prime example), not quite so sure that this will apply to the same extent in the future, given that cheap travel, free communications, and myriad language specialty media make integration and identity more complex and varied.

Is multiculturalism stifling bilingualism? |

Mental Health Break: Spin and Branding

For those of you tired of corporate spin and branding, a wonderful ironic and sarcastic take at the clichés used from Dissolve Video:

Opinion: To which Charter do we owe our allegiance: Values or Rights?

A reminder of the complex and varied identities some of us have, given mixed heritage and families, by Zara Rubin:

So while many societies around the world are perplexed or even torn apart by diversity, in Canada we celebrate and derive strength from it. This is one of the defining features of Canadian multiculturalism — and one of the many reasons I am proud to be Canadian.

I am Muslim and Jewish and when asked, “Well, which one are you?” it is Canada that has allowed me to answer, “Both.”

Vive le Canada!

Interfaith and inter-ethnic marriages, while still relatively small, continue to grow, meaning more of these interesting combinations. Some individuals and communities may feel threatened by this, as it means a weakening of their community identity and faith.

In one of my briefings on Canadian multiculturalism, I had noted the increase in intermarriage rates as a success of multiculturalism. This prompted a response from a Jewish community representative who reminded me of the sensitivity within the community regarding intermarriage, given the longer-term demographic impact. Understandable, and a reminder of competing trends, one towards a more mixed and varied series of identities, the other reinforcement of a core ethnic or religious identity.

Opinion: To which Charter do we owe our allegiance: Values or Rights?.

It’s Muslims themselves who give voice to verse

Good piece by Ayesha Chaudhry on religious texts and interpretations. Although written about Islam, applies more broadly:

An indispensable step in this process of reinterpretation is an honest and unflinching examination of the religious tradition. Believers need not apologize or be ashamed of their history, but they must certainly not defend and perpetuate aspects of their religious tradition that are oppressive and tyrannical.

Religious traditions are shaped by their own social and historical contexts and it’s only natural that given the evolving notions of justice and gender equality, modern Muslims will look to the Koran to protect women against gendered violence. They have begun doing so, and the rest of us, Muslims or other, must use our power to give these interpretations the authority they deserve.

It’s Muslims themselves who give voice to verse – The Globe and Mail.

In Canada, we’re Canadians | Tarek Fatah

I’m with Tarek on this one. It is one thing to celebrate and recognize cultural and religious holidays, quite another to celebrate the national days of countries of origin. Let’s celebrate by all means the rich cultural heritage that different communities bring to Canada, but let’s ensure that is separate from national holidays.

I am all for the “Taste of Danforth” festival that celebrates our country’s Greek heritage and culture and the many contributions the Greek-Canadian community has made to Canada.

But Greece’s Independence Day? Were the people waving Greece’s flag citizens of Greece or Canada?

Just another one of the ironies of the Government’s efforts to strengthen Canadian citizenship, implying strong and exclusive loyalty, while being attuned to diaspora politics, and recognizing the reality that people have more complex and varied identities and loyalties.

In Canada, we’re Canadians | Columnists | Opinion | Toronto Sun.

Minister Kenney issues statement recognizing Greek Independence Day

Citizen of Convenience: An Example

A wonderful example of the instrumental approach to citizenship:

In 2009, my elder two daughters both had plans to move to western Europe, so they asked me to apply for Polish citizenship. This would allow them in turn to derive citizenship through me and acquire a European Union passport that allows them freely to live and work in 28 countries.

Poland does not have a first generation limit on passing on citizenship, likely reflecting their wish to maintain strong links with their diasporas as an immigrant sending country. Canada, as an immigrant-receiving country, decided to have a first generation limit to limit access to benefits of citizenship when little or no attachment. Countries a with strong sense of ethnic identity may be more inclined to be encourage citizenship in their diasporas than countries with more civic than ethnic identities.

So Daniel Pipes, a controversial academic and commentator, became Polish as did his children. While obtaining Polish citizenship has an emotional and sentimental connection for him (his parents were Polish), clear that the value of Polish citizenship was the right to live and work freely in the EU.

Not being critical as most of us would likely do the same for our kids if we could.

National Review Online | Print.

Misunderstanding Canadian Multiculturalism : Joseph Heath

While I would characterize some of the issues differently, a good overview piece on Canadian multiculturalism and Quebec by Joseph Heath of UofT.

The defining debate for the Canadian policy was triggered in 1990, when a Sikh officer in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) requested a modification of the official uniform so that he could wear a turban instead of the traditional Stetson hat. While this created an enormous backlash in English Canada, observers were quick to point out the good news – to wit, that Sikhs in Canada wanted to join the national police force. The accommodation that was being requested – which the multiculturalism policy was broadly understood to license – was quite different from the type of accommodations requested by many Aboriginal groups, or indeed by the province of Quebec, which wanted to opt out of the RCMP entirely and create its own police force.

This revealed an important ambiguity in the concept ‘reasonable accommodation.’ The kinds of accommodations requested by national minority groups, such as French Canadians and Aboriginals, were aimed at changing things so that they would not be required to integrate into majority institutions – that is, so that they could instead create their own, parallel set of institutions. The demand for modification of the RCMP uniform, however, was a sign of an immigrant group wanting very much to participate in majority institutions, and requesting a change in the dominant practices in order to remove a barrier – conscious or inadvertent – to its full integration. The fact that such demands were being made was a sign that the multiculturalism policy was in fact working.

I think he misses some of the nuances between interculturalisme and multiculturalism but is correct that the similarities outweigh the differences (see Table 9: Diversity Paradigms,  Table 10: Multiculturalism/ Interculturalisme Comparison).

Misunderstanding Canadian Multiculturalism : Global Brief.

And some interesting commentary by Heath on a debate between Will Kymlicka and David Miller, on national vs subnational identities:

It is not the case that by adopting a national identity organized around the federal government, immigrants are simply buying into the national-building project of English Canadians. Walking around a major city like Toronto one could get that impression, but that is precisely because there are so many immigrants in those cities. Many older English Canadians are profoundly uncomfortable with the federal project, as witnessed by the fact that the current federal government – which rules, I should note, with essentially no support in Quebec – is very actively trying to undermine it. Thus there is, in Canada, a distinct national identity, at the federal level, which cannot simply be identified with the national identity of either English or French (or, obviously, Aboriginal) national groups. And so to the extent that immigrants gravitate toward that identity, they are not necessarily “picking sides” in the age-old disputes between Canada’s founding peoples.

More thoughts on Kymlika

York University professor too quick to denounce sexism in refusing student’s request to avoid women in class: rights advisor

While I have a lot of respect for David Seljack, and his work and that of Paul Bramadant were very helpful to the Multiculturalism program in developing greater awareness and sensitivity to religious diversity, I think he doesn’t quite have the balance of rights question right in the context of a diverse society that needs a certain degree of integration to function well.

“First question is ask the student what is his religious belief and why does it not allow him to interact with women. If the student said, as many people have implied, [his] religion feels that women are dirty, women are inferior, I cannot mingle with them, then Dr. Grayson should have immediately denied him the accommodation… If he just said it’s a question of modesty, or this is the way my religious group has decided to protect itself from what we see as an over-sexualized youth culture in Canada, or simply, this is how we assert our religious identity, then you weigh it, not against the imagined rights, or the principle of gender equality, but the real impact on the rest of the students in the class…  Instead, Dr. Grayson decided to go public and discuss this in large ideological terms, rather than on the specific merits of the individual case.”

The same question arises: what makes gender discomfort more acceptable as a reason for accommodation than racial discomfort? I think the broader framing of the issue has merit, as we always need a framework to assess how well individual accommodation decisions conform to the broader policy and societal objectives.

York University professor too quick to denounce sexism in refusing student’s request to avoid women in class: rights advisor | National Post.