Backlash over the Women’s Mosque of Canada is predictable – and misplaced

Of note:

Across the country, makeshift mosques are popping up in various towns and cities. Many Canadian Muslims are observing Ramadan and renting out community centres, or taking up space in each other’s living rooms, basements and local dining halls to join in congregational prayers before breaking fast or to perform extra evening prayers.

There isn’t anything controversial about these gatherings. As meals are set out on tables, patterned prayer rugs, large colourful linens or simple mats are laid out nearby. Men, women and children eventually line up together in prayer.

Yet, one such pop-up gathering has received particular attention – and not all of it positive. A few weeks before Ramadan, a group of women launched the Women’s Mosque of Canada. The inaugural Friday prayers were held inside Trinity-St. Paul’s United Church in Toronto. Roughly 40 Muslim women and allies from various faith traditions listened to co-founder Farheen Khan give the sermon.

While the prayers proceeded in tranquility, reaction to the event was less calm. The debate that emerged once again symbolizes the divide that continues to exist in our communities when it comes to the place of women in traditional sacred spaces.

Why do we need this, wondered people writing in an online discussion group of more than 300 Toronto Muslim activists, leaders and scholars and posting to the Women’s Mosque’s Facebook page. One community leader admonished the effort, saying there was nothing in Islamic tradition to support the notion of a women-only mosque. Others suggested the effort would only divide people and would reinforce harmful stereotypes about the oppression of women.

Then there were the supporters, including several men who have themselves witnessed the unequal treatment of women and girls. They are sometimes banished to cramped rooms and poorly maintained areas, or made invisible behind barriers – physically and spiritually separated from a wider community in which they expect to belong.

“It’s been 30 years. How long should I tell my daughters to wait before they get taken as equal partners where they worship?” asked Naeem Siddiqui, a long-time community advocate.

Many women have decided they’ve already waited long enough.

Ms. Khan, herself deeply tied to the traditional mosque environment, was hoping to avoid any backlash. She simply aims to provide an opportunity for women and girls to regularly gather for Friday prayers and together reclaim their religious inheritance.

“Like many women, I grew up in a religious family and attended mosque. In fact, my father was one of the founders of the first mosque in Mississauga, so faith is an essential part of my life,” she wrote in a recent essay for NOW Magazine. “But as I got older I felt less connected to the experience. I didn’t see myself reflected in the scholarship, in the language and in the programming offered to women. Women’s Mosque of Canada is an attempt to engage women, like myself, to reconnect with their religion in a space with other women.”

That Muslim women, often facing the brunt of Islamophobia, need a place to heal is not lost on many. “Sadly, the reality today is that many women feel welcome everywhere except in what we believe are the best places on Earth, the mosques,” Ottawa Imam Sikander Hashemi acknowledged in an e-mail.

Indeed, a 2016 Environics survey of Muslims in Canada confirmed that women were much less likely to attend places of worship than their male counterparts.

Canadian filmmaker Zarqa Nawaz chronicled the growing alienation she felt in her own local community in a 2005 National Film Board documentary, Me and the Mosque. Little has changed since then, although many continue to push for better representation of all levels of mosque governance and participation.

Following in-depth studies of American mosques titled Re-Imagining Muslim Spaces, the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding launched a toolkit in 2017 to encourage religious leaders to nurture more welcoming spaces. Other American national institutions have similarly called for more inclusion and provided advice on how to achieve it. Last year, the Muslim Council of Britain launched a six-month program to train women to become mosque leaders.

“Muslim women, Muslim male allies and non-Muslim supporters of mosque reform are participating in one of the most significant struggles presently happening in our global Islamic communities,” Canadian researcher Fatimah Jackson-Best wrote in 2014 for the magazine Aquila Style. “Mosque reform is not some fringe movement or a bunch of troublemakers trying to jeopardize the image of Islam. This is about spiritual equality and destroying archaic notions that are based in culture and custom and have little to do with the religion.”

Growing alienation has sparked the UnMosqued movement in which women, young people and converts eschew traditional institutions, including multimillion-dollar mosques, in search for alternatives or third spaces. These are formal and informal gatherings outside of traditional religious centres and homes, where there is often less rigidity and an authentic embrace of diversity.

Those anxious about the Women’s Mosque of Canada should be less concerned with the thought of women reconnecting with their faith and instead commit to addressing the schism that drove them out of the mosques in the first place.

Source: Backlash over the Women’s Mosque of Canada is predictable – and misplaced Amira Elghawaby

Australia’s new parliament is no more multicultural than the last one

Dramatic contrast with Canadian numbers: 56 foreign-born (44 MPs, 12 Senators, 2017), and currently 48 MPs who are visible minority:

Politicians often say Australia is the most successful multicultural country in the world – but it would seem the country’s growing diversity is failing to make its mark in the corridors of power.

The newly elected 46th parliament will likely have little more cultural diversity than the previous one, according to figures compiled by the Parliamentary Library and SBS News.

The number of MPs born overseas in the new parliament is down from 23 in the previous parliament, to 22, across the House of Representatives and Senate. While the number of MPs with one or more parent from a non-European background rose slightly, from eight in the previous parliament to nine in the new one.

45th Parliament versus the 46th Parliament

SBS News (source Parliamentary Library and SBS News)

Some of the notable exiting MPs include the Liberal’s Tony Abbott, born in England and Lucy Gichuhi, born in Kenya. As well as Labor’s Lisa Singh whose parents were born in Fiji.

Some of the newly elected MPs from diverse backgrounds include Liberal’s Dave Sharma, born in Canada to an Indian father; the Green’s Mehreen Faruqi, born in Pakistan; and the Liberal’s Gladys Liu, born in Hong Kong, who as of Tuesday was on track to pick up the closely fought Victorian seat of Chisholm.

According to the 2016 census 28.5 per cent of Australians were born overseas. While the United Kingdom remains the largest country of origin within that, China and India are in second and third place respectively.

UTS sociology professor Andrew Jakubowicz said he wasn’t surprised parliamentary diversity hasn’t grown in the new parliament.

“Parliament is essentially a white club, it is essentially a white boys club … The dynamic of change which is sweeping through the Australian community more widely is very apparent at the state level, but the federal level it seems to have been squeezed out,” he told SBS News.

The figures on multiculturalism for the 45th Parliament come from the Parliamentary Library and were accurate as of April 2019.

Data for the new parliament is compared with the previous figures and available public biography information of all new incoming MPs on their official websites.

Parliament is essentially a white boys club.


SBS News has reached out to both the Labor and Liberal parties to confirm the birthplace of several new members who haven’t mention their place of birth on their official websites.

The analysis is also based on the likely results, with some Senate and Lower House results still not finalised on Tuesday, following Saturday’s election win for the Coalition.

Where there has been change, is in the number of women who will take their place in parliament, with at least 81 women having confirmed to have won seats in the Senate or the House of Representatives.

This is compared to 73 female MPs in the previous parliament. There are 227 seats across both houses of parliament.

The number of Indigenous Australians in parliament will also likely increase from four to five with the return of Tasmanian Senator Jacqui Lambie.

During her first stint in Parliament, Ms Lambie used her maiden speech in 2014 to reveal her family connection to Tasmania’s Indigenous population.

According to an Essential Research poll commissioned for SBS News prior to the election, 71 per cent of Australians believed the country would benefit from a greater representation of under-represented groups in parliament.

Of those who agreed with the sentiment, 46 per cent said they would like to see more women in parliament, 32 per cent said more Indigenous Australians and 17 per cent said more Australians born overseas should be in parliament.

Professor Jakubowicz said he believed the Section 44 controversies and dual-citizenship concerns may be a barrier for multicultural Australians who are thinking about getting into politics.

“I think people from ethnically diverse communities who might want to make a run might be fairly intimidated by the sorts of hoops needed to jump through,” he said.

He also added that until the major parties change their internal processes and begin pre-selecting diverse candidates in winnable seats, little would change.

“The idea is that the parliament represents the range of the Australian people … that isn’t happening,” he said.

Source: Australia’s new parliament is no more multicultural than the last one

The dangers of ‘one of us’: The NZ Chief Human Rights Commissioner on othering

Well stated:

A recent Dominion Post column attacked British-born Chief Human Rights Commissioner Paul Hunt as not ‘one of us’. It’s a phrase we should all feel uncomfortable with, writes Hunt, wherever we come from.

Not long after I took up office as Chief Human Rights Commissioner, a newspaper columnist complained that I am not “one of us”.

This charge raises important questions.

In super-diverse Aotearoa New Zealand with its more than 200 ethnicities and 160 spoken languages, who is “us”?

And who defines “us”?

However defined, it is dangerous to view society as some people who are ‘us’ and, by implication, ‘others’ who are separate and alien.

This vision of society is inconsistent with equality, non-discrimination, respect for diversity and a multiculturalism which is grounded in Te Tiriti o Waitangi. It undermines inclusion and promotes exclusion.

‘Others’ tend to include new immigrants, residents and citizens. They are often ethnic and religious minorities. They may also include tangata whenua and Pacific peoples. There are exceptions, but these ‘others’ consistently fall behind in a range of socio-economic outcomes. Some of them are regularly subjected to discrimination and abuse. Among them, there are additional layers of disadvantage for women, disabled people and sexual minorities. The two most common areas of complaint received by the Human Rights Commission are race-related and disability discrimination. Many discriminatory incidents are unreported.

‘Othering’ me – that is, complaining that I am not “one of us” – is of no consequence because I enjoy numerous advantages, such as ethnicity and gender. But ‘othering’ disadvantaged individuals and communities is dangerous because it reinforces their vulnerability, makes them feel unsafe, and exposes them to more abuse.

Moreover, ‘othering’ can lead to demonising.

And demonising can lead to the mass murder of peaceful people at prayer.

For the record, I married a New Zealander over 30 years ago. We settled in Hamilton in 1992. Our son was born in Hamilton. I completed a degree at Waikato University and lectured at the university for eight years. Our children were schooled in Hamilton. I have been a New Zealand citizen for decades.

In 2000, the government commissioned me and three colleagues to undertake a review of New Zealand’s human rights institutions. In 1998, the National-led government nominated me to an independent UN human rights position. In 2002, the Labour-led government supported my candidacy for a similar position. Both posts were voluntary.

Lured back to Europe by an employment opportunity in 2000, I have visited New Zealand every year, for weeks or months, to write, give talks and spend time with whanau. Last year, my wife and I relocated back to New Zealand.

Does all this make me “one of us”? It should not be necessary to ask.

But if someone declares I am not “one of us” it means that, in their worldview, many thousands of New Zealand immigrants, residents and citizens are also not “one of us”.

‘Othering’ on that scale diminishes and threatens our multiculturalism.

As someone who is new to the Chief Commissioner role, I have taken as many opportunities as possible to listen. I’ve heard that poverty is a recurrent concern; it’s also a crucial human rights issue.

I want to hear from those with lived experience of poverty and widening social and economic inequalities. So, colleagues and I visited the Corstorphine Community Hub in Dunedin, Tuwharetoa Health, Education & Social Services in Kawerau, and Habitat for Humanity in Rotorua.

During the Rotorua visit, we met a widow whose children suffered from serious health issues made worse by their damp cold home. (She now owns a new home thanks to Habitat for Humanity and her own toil and investment.) In Kawerau, we met a reformed dad who is not allowed to see his children and is made to feel like a criminal when he deals with the authorities. We also learnt about a flax-roots initiative which has dramatically reduced the suicide rate in the community.

The overall impression was of proud individuals and communities, precarious and raw, living on the edge.

Our ‘listening visits’, as well as other consultations, will enrich the planning process for the Human Rights Commission’s future work. In this process, we are asking difficult questions like: how can we convey that human rights are based on shared values like fairness, decency, dignity and equality?

How can we make human rights relevant to the practical realities of everyday lives throughout New Zealand?

How do we convey to national and local officials that human rights can make a practical contribution towards the effective delivery of policies which aim to enhance wellbeing?

Consistent with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the commission will not only focus on vital civil and political rights such as freedom of expression, but also on important social rights, such as the rights to a decent home and accessible education. The commission has tried this before and we need to build on those foundations. Should we also work on the right to a healthy environment?

Our overarching question is this: how do we refresh human rights for modern times?

No ‘othering’, no barriers

Across all my human rights work, I have always sought to be non-party political and non-sectarian. This might be the influence of Quakerism and its call for dialogue and peaceful reconciliation. In the 1980s, I worked for Quaker Peace and Service on its Israel/Palestine programme, and Quakerism continues to inform my thinking.

Later I worked for a London-based civil liberties organisation which had an all-party parliamentary group encompassing libertarians and social democrats.

In Belfast, long before the Good Friday Agreement, I would discuss prisoners’ rights with unionist organisations in the morning, then walk across the city, and discuss prisoners’ rights with nationalist organisations in the afternoon, to the bemusement of my Irish friends.

Perhaps this explains why I am alert to ‘othering’.

Talking about some people as being “one of us”, and implying that ‘others’ are alien, places a barrier between communities.

What is needed is support, dialogue, friendship, respect, acceptance of diversity and recognition of human rights for everyone.

The ‘other’ road is fraught with danger.

Source: The dangers of ‘one of us’: The Chief Human Rights Commissioner on othering

The New German Anti-Semitism

Good long and disturbing read:

One of Wenzel Michalski’s early recollections of growing up in southern Germany in the 1970s was of his father, Franz, giving him some advice: “Don’t tell anyone that you’re Jewish.” Franz and his mother and his little brother had survived the Holocaust by traveling across swaths of Eastern and Central Europe to hide from the Gestapo, and after the war, his experiences back in Germany suggested that, though the Nazis had been defeated, the anti-Semitism that was intrinsic to their ideology had not. This became clear to Franz when his teachers in Berlin cast stealthily malicious glances at him when Jewish characters — such as Shylock in “The Merchant of Venice” — came up in literature. “Eh, Michalski, this exactly pertains to you,” he recalls one teacher telling him through a clenched smile. Many years later, when he worked as an animal-feed trader in Hamburg, he didn’t tell friends that he was Jewish and held his tongue when he heard them make anti-Semitic comments. And so Franz told his son Wenzel that things would go easier for him if he remained quiet about being Jewish. “The moment you say it, things will become very awkward.”

As a teenager, Wenzel defied his father’s advice and told a close friend. That friend quickly told his mother, and the next time Wenzel saw her, she reacted quite strongly, hugging him and kissing his face: “Wenzel! Oh, my Wenzel!” Now a stocky, bearded 56-year-old, Wenzel recalled the moment to me on a recent Saturday afternoon. He raised the pitch of his voice as he continued to mimic her: “You people! You are the most intelligent! The most sensitive! You are the best pianists in the world! And the best poets!” In his normal voice again, he added, “Then I understood what my father meant.”

Wenzel Michalski is now the director of Human Rights Watch for Germany. He and his wife, Gemma, an outgoing British expat, live in a cavernous apartment building in the west of Berlin. In their kitchen, Gemma told me that after arriving in Germany in 1989, she often got a strangely defensive reaction when she told people she was Jewish; they would tell her they didn’t feel responsible for the Holocaust or would defend their grandparents as not having perpetrated it. And so, to avoid conversations like these, she, too, stayed quiet about being Jewish.

Recently, the Michalskis’ youngest son became the third generation of the family to learn that telling people he is Jewish could cause problems. The boy — whose parents asked that he be called by one of his middle names, Solomon, to protect his privacy — had attended a Jewish primary school in Berlin. But he didn’t want to stay in such a homogeneous school for good, so just before he turned 14, he transferred to a public school that was representative of Germany’s new diversity — a place, as Gemma described it, where he “could have friends with names like Hassan and Ahmed.”

The first few days there seemed to go well. Solomon, an affable kid with an easy smile, bonded with one classmate over their common affection for rap music. That classmate introduced him to a German-Turkish rapper who would rap about “Allah and stuff,” Solomon told me. In return, he introduced the classmate to American and British rap. Solomon had a feeling they would end up being best friends. On the fourth day, when Solomon was in ethics class, the teachers asked the students what houses of worship they had been to. One student mentioned a mosque. Another mentioned a church. Solomon raised his hand and said he’d been to a synagogue. There was a strange silence, Solomon later recalled. One teacher asked how he had encountered a synagogue.

“I’m Jewish,” Solomon said.

“Everyone was shocked, especially the teachers,” Solomon later told me about this moment. After class, a teacher told Solomon that he was “very brave.” Solomon was perplexed. As Gemma explained: “He didn’t know that you’re not meant to tell anyone.”

The following day, Solomon brought brownies to school for his birthday. He was giving them out during lunch when the boy he had hoped would be his best friend informed him that there were a lot of Muslim students at the school who used the word “Jew” as an insult. Solomon wondered whether his friend included himself in this category, and so after school, he asked for clarification. The boy put his arm around Solomon’s shoulders and told him that, though he was a “real babo” — Kurdish slang for “boss” — they couldn’t be friends, because Jews and Muslims could not be friends. The classmate then rattled off a series of anti-Semitic comments, according to Solomon: that Jews were murderers, only interested in money.

Over the next few months, Solomon was bullied in an increasingly aggressive fashion. One day, he returned home with a large bruise from a punch on the back. On another occasion, Solomon was walking home and stopped into a bakery. When he emerged, he found one of his tormentors pointing what looked like a handgun at him. Solomon’s heart raced. The boy pulled the trigger. Click. The gun turned out to be a fake. But it gave Solomon the scare of his life.


Le français décline comme langue seconde de préférence

While the overall support for bilingualism is strong, the growing lack of interest in learning a second language, whether French or another language, is worrisome in an era of greater mobility and globalization:

Si le bilinguisme officiel continue à bénéficier d’un très fort appui au pays, la préférence pour l’apprentissage du français comme langue seconde a décliné, surtout chez les jeunes. En fait, la simple idée qu’il importe de maîtriser une deuxième langue, peu importe laquelle, chute en popularité, au grand étonnement de certains experts.

Ce sont là quelques-unes des conclusions d’un sondage réalisé par six instituts de recherche, qui ont voulu tâter le pouls des Canadiens sur le concept de dualité linguistique, alors que l’on souligne en 2019 le 50e anniversaire de l’adoption de la première Loi sur les langues officielles.

La nouvelle encourageante, selon l’auteur du rapport, c’est que 82 % des répondants se disent en faveur de la politique du bilinguisme officiel au pays – un pourcentage qui se maintient depuis le début des années 2000, au fil des diverses enquêtes menées sur la question.

« L’opposition n’est pas en croissance. J’étais un peu trop jeune pour sonder en 1969, mais j’imagine que l’opposition aurait été supérieure. Et il y a plein de partis politiques qui aimeraient avoir l’appui de quatre personnes sur cinq », relève Andrew Parkin, du Mowat Center, en entrevue avec La Presse.

L’enthousiasme face à la dualité linguistique et à son enchâssement dans la législation fédérale, sous le gouvernement de Pierre Elliott Trudeau, est nettement moins présent en Alberta, où 3 personnes sur 10 ont affirmé désapprouver le fait que le Canada ait deux langues officielles.

Il n’y a là rien de « surprenant », souligne Stéphanie Chouinard, professeure adjointe au département de science politique du Collège militaire royal du Canada, à Kingston. « On sait qu’historiquement, l’Alberta, ç’a été un terreau fertile pour des partis qui avaient des positions assez fortes contre le bilinguisme, dont le Parti réformiste », explique-t-elle dans un entretien téléphonique.


Pas de quoi tirer la sonnette d’alarme, donc. En revanche, un aspect du sondage fait allumer un voyant rouge au tableau de cette spécialiste en langues officielles : le déclin de la préférence pour le français comme langue seconde.

« On voit que les Canadiens croient encore au bilinguisme, mais que ce bilinguisme-là, ce n’est pas nécessairement le bilinguisme français-anglais. »

– Stéphanie Chouinard, professeure adjointe au département de science politique du Collège militaire royal du Canada

La tendance est plus particulièrement marquée chez les 18 à 34 ans, d’après l’enquête que les instituts de recherche rendront publique aujourd’hui. En 2001, parmi les anglophones hors Québec de cette tranche d’âge qui disaient juger important que leurs enfants apprennent une autre langue, 75 % déclaraient que ce devait être la langue de Molière. En 2019, cette proportion est passée à 61 %.

L’apprentissage de l’une ou l’autre des deux langues officielles – l’anglais pour les francophones (88 %) et le français pour les anglophones (67 %) – reste le choix de prédilection des répondants. Mais des langues autres que les officielles ont maintenant la cote. Chez les allophones, 18 % préconisent l’apprentissage de langues chinoises pour leurs enfants. Chez les anglophones, 6 % miseraient sur l’espagnol.


Mais la trouvaille la plus étonnante du sondage est ailleurs, soit dans la réponse à la question : « Dans quelle mesure est-il important pour vous que vos enfants (si vous en avez) apprennent à parler une deuxième langue ? » Dans toutes les tranches d’âge, partout au pays, on a constaté un déclin – plus ou moins marqué selon la province – du nombre de personnes qui jugeaient l’aptitude très ou assez importante.

« On aurait pensé [dans un contexte de mondialisation] que les Canadiens jugeraient encore plus pertinent d’apprendre une autre langue. Il faut faire attention en interprétant les résultats : une majorité le pense toujours, mais la tendance est à l’inverse de ce que l’on prévoyait », fait remarquer Andrew Parkin.

Le politologue Rémi Léger ne peut malgré tout s’empêcher d’y voir quelque chose de préoccupant. « Sur la durée, sur 20, 30, 40 ans, est-ce que cette tendance va se maintenir ? », soulève en entrevue celui qui enseigne la science politique à l’Université Simon Fraser, en Colombie-Britannique.

D’autant plus que la tendance s’est inversée chez les répondants de 18 à 34 ans. « Alors que les Canadiens plus jeunes étaient auparavant plus susceptibles que les plus âgés à dire qu’il était important que leurs enfants apprennent une autre langue, ce n’est plus le cas », note-t-on dans le rapport. Ils étaient 86 % d’anglophones hors Québec à le penser en 2001, et voici qu’en 2019, ils ne sont plus que 69 %.

C’est un mystère qu’espère élucider Andrew Parkin dans une prochaine enquête.

Méthodologie et crédit

Le sondage a été réalisé en ligne dans les provinces et par téléphone dans les territoires auprès d’un échantillon représentatif de 5732 Canadiens âgés de 18 ans et plus entre le 14 décembre 2018 et le 16 janvier 2019. Le projet est une collaboration du Centre Mowat, de la Canada West Foundation, du Centre d’analyse politique – Constitution et fédéralisme, de l’Institut de recherche en politiques publiques, de l’Environics Institute for Survey Research et du Brian Mulroney Institute of Government.

Source: Le français décline comme langue seconde de préférence

Limiting Muslim immigration is patriotic, US cardinal says

??? Pope Francis has his challenges:

Limiting the number of Muslims allowed to immigrate to traditionally Christian nations would be a prudent decision on the part of politicians, said U.S. Cardinal Raymond L. Burke.

During a pro-life and pro-family conference in Rome May 17, the day before Italy’s March for Life, Burke outlined his views on immigration.

“To resist large-scale Muslim immigration in my judgment is to be responsible,” Burke said, responding to a written question.

Islam “believes itself to be destined to rule the world,” he said. “You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to see what has happened in Europe,” the cardinal said, citing the large Muslim immigrant populations in France, Germany and Italy.

Burke’s comments are the latest addition to a debate among Catholics regarding the application of Gospel precepts to the large numbers of migrants arriving in Western nations from Africa and the Middle East.

In early May, Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, the pope’s almoner, told a reporter that the Vatican would refuse a papal blessing to Matteo Salvini, Italy’s deputy prime minister, who is known for his restrictive immigration policies.

Burke said that the while the Church must be generous to “individuals that are not able to find a way of living in their own country,” this is not the case for many Muslim migrants, “who are opportunists.”

The cardinal mentioned the book No Go Zones: How Sharia Law is Coming to a Neighborhood Near You, written by former Breitbart News reporter Raheem Kassam, as evidence that Muslim immigration is having an effect even in the United States.

Pope Francis has made a generous attitude toward migrants a cornerstone of his pontificate, underlining the Christian duty to “welcome the stranger” over political or demographic considerations, although he repeatedly has added that government leaders have a responsibility to assess how many migrants their countries truly can integrate. Such an assessment should include the financial costs of helping immigrants learn the local language and customs, the pope has said.

Answering the written question from a conference participant, Burke said Christian nations’ abandonment of traditional moral norms has been a cause of Europe’s Muslim influx.

“Muslims have said that they are able today to accomplish what they were not able to accomplish in the past with armaments because Christians no longer are ready to defend their faith, what they believe; they are no longer ready to defend the moral law,” the cardinal said.

Another reason for the demographic shift, the cardinal said, is that “Christians are not reproducing themselves,” referring to the widespread use of contraceptives.

In this context, Catholics have a duty to instruct migrants on “what is bankrupt in the culture” into which they are received. To the extent possible, Catholics should even to try to work with them “to recover what is true culture,” which includes a recognition of the dignity of life, respect for sexual morality and proper worship of God, the cardinal said.

In view of these considerations, limiting “large-scale Muslim immigration is in fact, as far as I’m concerned, a responsible exercise of one’s patriotism,” Burke said.

In April, Burke contributed a foreword to a book titled, Love for the Papacy and Filial Resistance to the Pope in the History of the Church, by Roberto de Mattei, an Italian historian.

“At a time of profoundest spiritual and moral crisis, the Catholic Church needs more than ever before to recall her sacred tradition, unbroken from the time of the apostles,” the cardinal wrote.

Burke, 70, is perhaps best known as one of four cardinals who, opposed to the possibility that some divorced and civilly remarried couples might eventually be readmitted to the sacraments, wrote a series of “dubia” or doubts about Francis’s 2016 exhortation on the family, Amoris Laetitia.

Source: Limiting Muslim immigration is patriotic, US cardinal says

More women, fewer minorities receive appointments under Liberals’ ‘merit-based’ process, documents show

Interesting. When I requested the information earlier, PCO did not provide the breakdown between applications and appointments for GiCs (in contrast to judicial appointments – see Taking stock of Ottawa’s diversity promises):

The Liberal government’s overhaul of the patronage system has led to gender parity in government appointments, but new figures show few of those women are in leadership posts and visible minorities are being left out.

Documents from the Privy Council Office, obtained under the Access to Information Act, show that as of last year, 55.5 per cent of appointees to federal agencies, boards and organizations were women, slightly above their proportion in the Canadian population.

But the Liberals’ “merit-based” process for appointments has screened out 61.8 per cent of visible-minority candidates as insufficiently qualified, compared with 37.6 per cent of applicants who are not visible minorities.

Visible-minority applicants who made it past that cut and into job competitions were less likely to be recommended or appointed.

“This is one of the reasons why we need to know what constitutes merit,” said Kathy Brock, a politics professor at Queen’s University who has studied the changes in the appointments system.

“What are the criteria that are being used to screen people, and embedded in that criteria are there certain considerations that have a negative impact on those communities?”

Despite the changes, final say still sits with the responsible minister or the Prime Minister’s Office, meaning a partisan lens remains in place on appointments, Brock said.

Months after taking power in late 2015, the Liberals changed how the government makes hundreds of appointments each year to the boards of Crown corporations and tribunals that make decisions on benefit payments and immigration claims, for example. The majority are part-time. They don’t include senators, judges or officers of Parliament, such as the ethics commissioner, who are not chosen with the same process.

Before 2015, governments simply decided who would get what position, often giving posts to party loyalists. The Liberals promised to make appointments based on merit, where applications are open to anyone and selection committees recommend names based on precise criteria.

“The government is striving for gender parity, and seeks to ensure that Indigenous peoples and minority groups are properly represented in positions of leadership,” spokesperson Stéphane Shank said in an email, calling the number of visible minority applicants “encouraging.”

As of April 30, 2019, the Liberal government has concluded 1,100 appointments under the new process, he said, noting that 13 per cent of the appointees self-identified as visible minorities. Another nine per cent identified as Indigenous.

The percentage of visible minorities currently serving in the roles nearly doubled, from 4.4 per cent in November 2015 to eight per cent in May 2019.

About 4.5 per cent of appointees identified themselves as having disabilities, below the 15.5 per cent of people with disabilities in the Canadian population.

The government documents show that eight per cent of female appointees had been placed in leadership positions. But they don’t offer the same information for male appointees, so it’s not clear how the sexes compare.

The figures were smaller for visible minorities and Indigenous people: two from each group had been put in “leadership” positions. Like visible minorities and Indigenous people, only two people with disabilities have been appointed to leadership positions.

“It’s that whole analogy of a big ship that has a big wake and you have to give it some space to move. That’s what we’re seeing here with the appointments,” said Carole Therrien, who worked on such appointments in Jean Chretien’s Prime Minister’s Office.

Although upcoming openings are supposed to be flagged a year out, and recommended candidates vetted by the Privy Council Office within four weeks, the new system has often been criticized for leaving too many positions unfilled for too long.

The documents show that at the end of 2018, the selection processes for 181 positions had yet to start, including for some openings as distant as February 2020. The documents don’t identify those positions.

A similar number of appointments — 183 — were sitting with the Prime Minister’s Office or a minister’s office awaiting approval.

Source: More women, fewer minorities receive appointments under Liberals’ ‘merit-based’ process, documents showThe Record·2 days ago

German inter-faith scheme criticised for using beermats to explain Islam

Well, if one wants to reach non-Muslims (the intent), beer mats are not a bad way to go about it:

A scheme to promote better understanding of Islam in Germany has run into controversy — after Muslim groups objected to the use of beer mats to provide information.

Under the scheme, beer mats are provided to pubs and restaurants with questions about Islam. On the reverse is an internet link to the answers.

Rather than using formal German, the beer mats are printed in regional dialect for each city, complete with local slang.

Typical questions include “Mohammed, what was he like?” and “What is it with Muslims and pork?”

The scheme has run in a number of German cities since it was first launched in 2016, and the beer mats have been translated into three dialects.

But a bid to introduce it in the small central German town of Maintal, close to Frankfurt, has run into opposition from local Muslims, who say beer mats are an inappropriate way to educate people about a religion that forbids alcohol.

“They could have used postcards, or adverts on the side of a bus. Why did it have to be the pub?” Salih Tasdirek, the head of the local foreigners’ advisory council, told Spiegel magazine.

The local council has defended the scheme. “We wanted to bring big social issues into conversation,” said Verena Strub, the council’s integration officer.

“I can understand if someone associates beer mats with alcohol, but not that anyone would associate Islam with alcohol just because the questions are on beer mats.”

The scheme is the work of Orient Network, a small German NGO that promotes interfaith understanding.

“We wanted to give answers in local language to the questions that our members, mostly Islamic scholars, are always asked,” said Raban Kluger, the scheme’s main organiser. “It is not our intention to associate alcohol with Islam.”

The questions and answers on the beer mats were all drawn up by Muslims and checked by Germany’s Central Council of Muslims, Mr Kluger said.

Tens of thousands of beerm ats featuring the questions have been printed. So far, they have been translated into the local dialects of Saxony, the Baden region, and Hesse, where Maintal is located.

Source: German inter-faith scheme criticised for using beermats to explain Islam

Australia: Migrant groups hopeful for new dialogue after Fraser Anning’s political demise

Some reactions to the Australian election results, beyond the overall result:

With some of Australia’s most divisive politicians unsuccessful in this election, Australia’s Islamic community are hoping it will mean more productive political discussions around race.

Peter Doukas from the Federation of Ethnic Communities Councils of Australia said his impression is that there has been a change in approach and he hopes the government will seize a new opportunity.

“We believe that this government has now an opportunity to embrace a more diverse agenda,” he told SBS News.

“We don’t want to see a return to the rhetoric that led to the Section 18C debates. We are hopeful that the departure of Fraser Anning and the reduction of Pauline Hanson’s presence in parliament will result in a more open and accepting debate of Australian multiculturalism, so we are looking forward to working with the Government to that effect.”

Bilal Rauf from the Australian National Imams’ Council said it would be important, going forward, the government leads for all of the country and promotes a more inclusive stance.

There’s also a sense of hope for a more rational debate, and narrative and dialogue in parliament with the departure of divisive political figures.

“There’s a sense of relief that some of the voices that have been there in the past that have really exploited an Islamophobic platform, will not be there going forward,” he said.

Mr Doukas has high hopes that progress will be made with the new parliament.

“The departure of the more extreme voices from the last parliament is encouraging. I believe Australians are decent people, and generally we are a multicultural country and a country that is accepting of multiculturalism and we look forward to the debates that will emerge from this parliament.”

But some Chinese leaders say they’re concerned their voices won’t be heard.

“If you look at the rhetoric of the Liberal party and the scare campaigns around immigration, I am myself the daughter of refugees, and for them, they’ve often feel like they’ve been shunned,” Cindy Tan, from the Chinese Australian Forum said.

“Surprise! Anyone was assuming that Labor would win, and here we have the other party, the government, winning with a big margin. It was a surprise,” Surinder Jain, the national vice president of the Hindu Council of Australia said.

Mr Jain says that within the Hindu community there have been mixed reactions to the news.

“Our community has people in both the camps. Most of the new migrants, they go for Labor. But once they’ve bought a house and a mortgage and economics becomes important, they go for Liberals, whereas some stick with their initial loyalties. So we have people in both camps. Some are happy, some are shocked, surprised. Some are elated.”

But Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s population plan to cut the permanent migration program from 190,000 to 160,000 places per year has Mr Doukas worried.

“Australia’s been built on immigration. Scott Morrison was an immigration minister at one point in his career and he would know as well as anyone else that the value of Australia is in its people and we would encourage the Government to review all policy which reduces our immigration impact as it has an economic impact,” he said.

Mr Jain says that while Australia’s transition to a multicultural community over several decades has been a challenge, he feels that there is a great deal of support for it – both from political parties and from the general public.

“From monoculture to multiculturalism has been a big change in Australia. I have seen over the last forty years how things have improved for us. There’s a very genuine desire in both the parties to make multiculturalism a success and most Australians are behind it.”

Source: Migrant groups hopeful for new dialogue after Fraser Anning’s political demise

Sunstein: Conformity and the Dangers of Group Polarization

How ideological and other bubbles become self-reinforcing and increase polarization, amplified by social media networks:

When people talk to one another, what happens? Do they compromise? Do they move toward moderation? The answer is now clear, and it is not what intuition would suggest: members of deliberating groups typically end up in a more extreme position, consistent with their tendencies before deliberation began. This is the phenomenon known as group polarization. Group polarization is the usual pattern with deliberating groups, having been found in hundreds of studies involving more than a dozen countries, including the United States, France, and Germany. It helps account for many terrible things, including terrorism, stoning, and “mobbing” in all its forms.

It follows that a group of people who think that immigration is a serious problem will, after discussion, think that immigration is a horribly serious problem; that those who approve of an ongoing war effort will, as a result of discussion, become still more enthusiastic about that effort; that people who dislike a nation’s leaders will dislike those leaders quite intensely after talking with one another; and that people who disapprove of the United States, and are suspicious of its intentions, will increase their disapproval and suspicion if they exchange points of view. Indeed, there is specific evidence of the latter phenomenon among citizens of France.

When like-minded people talk with one another, they usually end up thinking a more extreme version of what they thought before the conversation began. It should be readily apparent that enclaves of people, inclined to rebellion or even violence, might move sharply in that direction as a consequence of internal deliberations. Political extremism is often a product of group polarization.

In the United States, group polarization helped both Barack Obama and Donald Trump to ascend to the presidency. Speaking mostly with one another, Obama supporters and Trump supporters became intensely committed to their candidate. On Facebook and Twitter, we can see group polarization in action every hour, every minute, or every day. As enclaves of like-minded people proliferate online, group polarization becomes inevitable. Sports fans fall prey to group polarization; so do companies deciding whether to launch some new product. It should be easy to see that group polarization is at work on university campuses and in feuds, ethnic and international strife, and war.

One of the characteristic features of feuds is that members of a group embroiled in a feud tend to talk only to one another, fueling and amplifying their outrage, and solidifying their impression of the relevant people and events. Many social movements, both good and bad, become possible through the heightened effects of outrage; consider the civil rights movements of the 1960s (and the contemporary #MeToo movement). Social enclaves are breeding groups for group polarization, sometimes for better and sometimes for worse.

There is another point, of special importance for purposes of understanding extremism and tribalism: In deliberating groups, those with a minority position often silence themselves or otherwise have disproportionately little weight. The result can be “hidden profiles”—important information that is not shared within the group. Group members often have information but do not discuss it, and the result is to produce bad decisions (or even worse).

Consider a study of serious errors within working groups, both face-to-face and online.1 The purpose of the study was to see how groups might collaborate to make personnel decisions. Résumés for three candidates, applying for a marketing manager position, were placed before the groups. The attributes of the candidates were rigged by the experimenters so that one applicant was clearly the best for the job described. Packets of information were given to subjects, each containing a subset of information from the résumés, so that each group member had only part of the relevant information. The groups consisted of three people, some operating face-to-face, some operating online.

Two results were especially striking. First, group polarization was common, as groups ended up in a more extreme position in the same direction as the original thinking of their members. Second, almost none of the deliberating groups made what was conspicuously the right choice, because they failed to share information in a way that would permit the group to make an objective decision. Members tended to share positive information about the winning candidate and negative information about the losers, while also suppressing negative information about the winner and positive information about the losers. Their statements served to reinforce the movement toward a group consensus rather than to add new and different points or to promote debate.

This finding fits with the more general claim, backed by a lot of evidence, that groups tend to dwell on shared information and to neglect information that is held by few members. It should be unnecessary to emphasize that this tendency can lead to big blunders—in governments, in think tanks, and on the Left and the Right. To understand this particular point, it is helpful to explore the three mechanisms that produce group polarization: information, corroboration, and social comparison.

With respect to information, the simple point is that people usually respond to the arguments made by other people—and the “argument pool,” in any group with some initial disposition in one direction, will inevitably be skewed toward that disposition. A group whose members tend to think that Israel is the real aggressor in the Middle East conflict will tend to hear many arguments to that effect, and relatively few opposing views. It is almost inevitable that the group’s members will have heard some, but not all, of the arguments that emerge from the discussion. Having heard all of what is said, people are likely to move further in the anti-Israel direction. So too with a group whose members tend to oppose immigration: group members will hear a large number of arguments against immigration and a smaller number of arguments on its behalf. If people are listening, they will have a stronger conviction, in line with the same view with which they began, as a result of deliberation. An emphasis on limited argument pools also helps to explain the problem of “hidden profiles” and the greater discussion of shared information during group discussion. It is simply a statistical fact that when more people have a piece of information, there is a greater probability that it will be mentioned. Hidden profiles are a predictable result, to the detriment of the ultimate decision.

With respect to the power of corroboration, the intuition is simple: people who lack confidence, and who are unsure what they should think, tend to moderate their views. It is for this reason that cautious people, not knowing what to do, are likely to choose the midpoint between the relevant extremes. But if other people seem to share your view and corroborate your beliefs, you are likely to become more confident that you are correct—and hence to move in a more extreme direction. You might think that on a scale of one to ten, the likelihood that climate change is occurring is seven—but if most people in your group agree that climate  change is occurring, you might move up to nine.

In a wide variety of experimental contexts, people’s opinions have been shown to become more extreme simply because their view has been corroborated and because they have become confident after learning of the shared views of others. The existence of confirmation from others will strengthen confidence and hence strengthen extremity. It can also make for mobs.

With respect to social comparison, the starting point is that people want to be perceived favorably by other group members, and also to perceive themselves favorably. Their views may, to a greater or lesser extent, be a function of how they want to present themselves. Once people hear what others believe, they adjust their positions in the direction of the dominant position, to hold onto their preserved self-presentation. They may want to signal that they are politically correct, whatever that means in their group. For example, they might want to show that they are not cowardly or cautious, perhaps in an entrepreneurial group that disparages these characteristics, and hence they will frame their position so they do not appear as such by comparison to other group members. And after they hear what other people think, they might find they occupy a somewhat different position, in relation to the group, from what they hoped, and they shift accordingly.

If people believe they are somewhat more opposed to immigration than most people, they might shift a bit after finding themselves in a group of people who are strongly opposed to immigration, to maintain their preferred self-presentation. This phenomenon occurs all the time. People may wish, for example, not to seem too enthusiastic—or too restrained in their enthusiasm—for affirmative action, feminism, or an increase in expenditures on national defense; hence their views shift when they see what other group members think. The result is to press the group’s position toward one or another extreme, and also to induce shifts in individual members.

Note that an emphasis on social comparison gives a new and perhaps better explanation for the existence of hidden profiles and the failure to share certain information within a group. People might emphasize shared views and information, and downplay unusual perspectives and new evidence, simply from a fear of group rejection and a desire for general approval. In political institutions and in companies, there is an unfortunate implication: group members who care about one another’s approval, or who depend on one another for material or nonmaterial benefits, might well suppress highly relevant information.

Group polarization is not a social constant. It can be increased or decreased and even eliminated by certain features of group members or their situation.

First, extremists are especially prone to polarization. It is more probable that they will shift, and it is probable that they will shift more. When they start out at an extreme point and are placed in a group of like-minded people, they are likely to move especially far in the direction with which they started. There is a lesson here about the sources of terrorism and political violence in general. And because there is a link between confidence and extremism, the confidence of particular members also plays an important role; confident people are both more influential (the “confidence heuristic”) and more prone to polarization.

Second, if members of the group think they have a shared identity and a high degree of solidarity, there will be heightened polarization. One reason is that if people feel united by some factor (for example, politics or religious convictions), dissent will be dampened. If individual members tend to perceive one another as friendly, likeable, and similar to them, the size and likelihood of the shift will increase. The existence of affective ties reduces the number of diverse arguments and also intensifies social influences on choice.

One implication is that mistakes are likely to be increased when group members are united mostly through bonds of affection and not through concentration on a particular task; it is in the former case that alternative views will be less likely to find expression. Another implication is that people are less likely to shift if the point of view or direction advocated is being pushed by unlikeable or unfriendly group members. A sense of “group belongingness” affects the extent of polarization. In the same vein, physical spacing tends to reduce polarization; a sense of common fate and intra-group similarity tends to increase it, as does the introduction of a rival “outgroup.”

Over time, group polarization can be fortified because of “exit,” as members leave the group because they reject the direction in which things are heading. If exit is pervasive, the tendency to extremism will be greatly aggravated. The group will end up smaller, but its members will be both more like-minded and more willing to take extreme measures, and that very fact will mean that internal discussions will produce more extremism still. If the strongest loyalists are the only people who stay, the group’s median member will be more extreme, and deliberation will produce increasingly extreme movements.

We live in an era in which groups of people—on the Left, on the Right, in university departments, in religious institutions—often end up in a pitch of rage, seeing fellow members of the human species not as wrong but as enemies. Such groups may even embark on something like George Orwell’s Two Minutes Hate. When that happens, or when people go to extremes, there are many explanations. But group polarization unifies seemingly diverse phenomena. Extremism and mobbing are not so mysterious. On the contrary, they are predicable products of social interactions.

Source: Conformity and the Dangers of Group Polarization