Robyn Urback and Barbara Kay on the backfiring of wedge politics

Two contrasting views in the details (niqab or snitch line), starting with Robyn Urback on the niqab):

And there, in the 905, was where the second profound impact of the niqab debate seemed to reverberate Monday night. The region, which was Conservative blue in 2011, switched to almost entirely red, except for the ridings of Vaughan and Markham-Unionville. The 905 had been, at one time, a symbol of Conservatives’ immigrant-outreach success, led by one-time minister of immigration, citizenship and multiculturalism Jason Kenney. When the Conservatives swept the region in 2011, taking almost all of the Liberals’ seats in York region, Kenney attributed his success to support from new Canadians. “Our appeal to them has been honest,” he said. “New Canadians increasingly realize that their values are Conservative values.”

Whereas in 2011 the Tories were talking to immigrant communities, in 2015 they were talking about them

Four years later, the Tories were singing a different tune, making a point of listing the ways in which immigrant values are incompatible with Canadian values. While the Liberals spoke about removing unnecessary barriers to immigration and accelerating family reunification, the Tories attacked the niqab, defended bottlenecks in Syrian refugee process and mused about launching a hotline to report “barbaric cultural practices.” Whereas in 2011 the Tories were talking to immigrant communities, in 2015 they were talking about them.

The 905 responded on Monday by giving the boot to many of its once-prominent Tories, including citizenship and immigration minister Chris Alexander, who lost by more than 10,000 votes. It became clear that while the Conservatives may have been correct in pegging the niqab as a wedge issue, they left themselves on the wrong side of it.

Certainly there were other factors at play in the last 78 days: the trial of Senator Mike Duffy, Mulcair’s flip-flopping on pipelines and free trade, Trudeau’s personal gregariousness and aspirational vision for the country. But in Quebec and the 905, two regions that arguably mattered most this election, the niqab — and discussions thereof — appeared to be the foremost factor to tip support away from the Tories, either directly, or by extension. It seems one or two people — specifically, two veiled women — really can make a difference.

Barbara Kay states it was the snitch line:

I think Harper’s big mistake was in taking discontent with the niqab for permission to go big on all culturally-rooted misogynist practices. His proposal for a tip line to report “barbaric cultural practices” like forced marriages to the RCMP was overkill, and struck a sour note, even amongst those Canadians – like me – who were his staunchest supporters for a face-cover ban.

No policy is more likely to make entire communities feel singled out as inherently suspicious than a snitch line

Face cover is a very specific, very public practice that is quite separate from “barbaric” cultural customs carried out in private. Face cover is more than the sum of its single part. As I have argued in many columns over the past few years, face cover is charged with so much negative political, ideological and cultural baggage, it does indeed cause “harm” to the social fabric. I firmly believe Quebec is abiding by a precautionary principle that is wise. Endorsing face cover in situations where the public has no option, and must deal with a covered representative of the government – nurse, policewoman, teacher, passport control officer – is to endorse a barbaric custom entirely at odds with the principles of openness and social reciprocity we take for granted as a social right, but which need protection. Harper recognized this wisdom, and that is where he should have stopped.

Don’t get me wrong. I am very troubled by practices like forced marriage, which is a retrograde, tribal custom that should have no place in our society. We know it is happening in certain cultural communities in Canada, and I applaud any government that tackles the problem.

But there was no pressing need to bring it up at this time, and no public incident that facilitated its organic emergence into public debate. Unlike the niqab, nobody from South Asia was demanding that the government recognize forced marriage as commensurate with Canadian values. And the “tip line” has odious Orwellian connotations to it. It had a seriously chilling effect, and did indeed seem to cast Harper’s “popular” niqab stance in the light of “populism,” even “ugly populism.”

The result was that people who quite defensibly resist face cover in the citizenship ceremony – or in the giving and getting of pubic services – now found themselves in the highly uncomfortable position of seeming to endorse Stasi-era tactics of social control. No strategy is more calculated to bring out racist mischief-makers and vengeful false allegers than a snitch line. No policy is more likely to make entire communities feel singled out as inherently suspicious than a snitch line. And no policy is more likely to make the party that proposes it look imperious, bullying and nativist.

The Conservatives blew it. They occupied what was perceived as the moral high ground by most Canadians, and then, thinking that was base camp rather than a distinctive summit, kept climbing into thin air. They ran out of oxygen, and deserved to.

Barbara Kay: It was the snitch line, not the niqab stance, that hurt Harper

Barbara Kay: Ten reasons to ban the niqab — in public

Barbara Kay captures the popular view, but one that ignores the rights dimension (which distinguishes us from Saudi Arabia) and that wearing the niqab is not necessarily political. Her arguments, which capture the popular view, are simplistic and more rhetorical than grounded (and in some cases, using the same logic, would impact upon other religious practice or clothing).

That being said, discomfort over the niqab is real and justified.

When working on multiculturalism issues in 2008 when this issue came up (Quebec), I asked my staff, generally disposed to accommodation, whether they would feel comfortable with a niqab-wearing woman in the team. Silence!

  1. The niqab is not a religious obligation, it is, according to many Islamic scholars, a regional custom. But even in Saudi Arabia, where it is considered a religious obligation, it is removed by women participating in the hajj. Why must Canada be more niqab-consistent than Saudi Arabia?
  2. The niqab is indecent. Beyond “offence,” which can be cognitively managed, decency standards go to the heart of our psychological well-being in society, and is beyond our cognitive control. Our sense of decency is what regulates our comfort zone amongst strangers. Decency standards are not imposed by a charter, but spring up organically in all societies under a variety of historical and cultural influences. Decency standards differ amongst societies and shift with time, but the when-in-Rome principle is universally accepted by reasonable people.
  3. Decency here resides in the perceived broad middle of a spectrum. Just as full nakedness provokes extreme discomfort in most Canadians, so does full cover. That full cover is almost invariably a Muslim custom is immaterial to those of us who find it indecent. (So enough, please, with the “Islamophobia” shtick.)
  4. Double standards: it is inconceivable that we would allow men to mask themselves in civic interaction, even if they considered it a religious obligation, because masked men are threatening to women (and other men). We should not permit to women what we would not permit to men.
  5. The only societies that mandate the niqab as a social norm are those in which women are considered sexual chattel with virtually no rights. Willed indifference to the niqab is more than tolerance; it is an endorsement of gender-rights relativism in our national home — equality for our women, inferior status for theirs.
  6. The editorial notes that “only a tiny minority of women” opt to wear the niqab. This is precisely why it should be regulated now, when it is enforceable, not when potentially thousands of women adopt it and it is unenforceable.
  7. Some women wearing the niqab have had it imposed on them against their will. What is the lesser evil: that all women should be forced to show us their faces while interacting with us in the public sector, or that we facilitate the lifelong misery of voiceless women? We should err on the side of support for vulnerable women yearning to fully integrate into Canadian life.
  8. The niqab is a gross insult to Canadian men, as it suggests they require a physical barrier to prevent lascivious thoughts or behaviour.
  9. The niqab is a gross insult to uncovered women, suggesting their “immodesty” invites sexual attention.
  10. In the West, the niqab is often a political statement, a proud sign of militant Islamist activism. “Put on your niqab!” cried Hezbollah supporter Yvonne Ridley at a Montreal Canadian Islamic Congress fundraiser in 2007. It wasn’t modesty she was encouraging, but participation in the stealth jihad.

The niqab differs from other fashion accessories that promote faith and modesty like the kippah or hijab, and to pretend otherwise is disingenuous. The arc of contemporary Islamism, still in its ascendancy, frightens us. Our alleged “moral panic” is actually moral revulsion. When a symbol comes with this much baggage, libertarian rigidity in its support looks less like principled idealism and more like cultural self-sabotage. No leader who grasps and uproots this nettle need feel ashamed. True patriot love demands nothing less.

Source: Barbara Kay: Ten reasons to ban the niqab — in public | National Post

Barbara Kay: Call barbarism what it is

Barbara Kay predictably misses the point on the use of the word barbaric. It was used in Discover Canada to provide the media quote rather than more neutral but equally strong language (e.g., against the law, not acceptible, will be severely punished). It also fits into the drift towards more dog whistle and identity politics by playing to the Conservative party base.

The risk of using such language is within communities themselves. The use of a label (even if correct) reduces the likelihood of the substantive message being heard. 

Moreover, one of Discover Canada‘s omissions was to put this statement in the overall context in the history of women’s rights in Canada, noting the evolution of what is considered acceptible (or non-barbaric) treatment of women. Such a strong narrative would have strengthened the Government’s arguments without the ‘bumper sticker’ label:

But not only are they wrong; they are not even popular amongst the silent majority of the cultural communities they are currying favour with. No politician in Canada is more familiar with what cultural communities want than Jason Kenney, who on March 12 rose in the House to speak, with regard to barbaric practices, words I believe most Canadians strongly approve:
“Yes, [barbaric] is a strong term. It is a judgmental term, but we do sometimes need to make judgments.” He continued, “I will be absolutely blunt. When I first came to government and started as minister of multiculturalism eight years ago, for political reasons I would have probably recoiled at the name of this bill. However, my enormous exposure to and close work with the huge diversity of our cultural and faith communities taught me something over the course of time. It taught me that the vast majority of new Canadians believe passionately that there are certain hallmarks of integration into this country that we must all respect, that there is a duty to integrate, and that there are certain practices that are rooted in custom or tradition that have no place in Canada….
“They said, ‘Please do not tolerate female genital mutilation, forced marriages or polygamy. Please stop this.’ … It was women who were victims of forced marriages, including here in Canada, who most strongly motivated the bill.”

Contrasting Commentary: Barbara Kay vs Clifford Orwin and Marnie Soupcoff on the Niqab and Citizenship Ceremonies

Barbara Kay supporting the Government:

But Ms Bakht’s specious parallel has the virtue that it can be turned against its perpetrator. If a woman were to turn up at her citizenship swearing-in ceremony in a bikini, would she be allowed to? I think not. And rightly so. Bikinis on a beach are one thing – in a solemn ceremony quite another. Indecency swings both ways. Face cover is also indecent in certain situations, such as the swearing-in of a woman to citizenship in a democratic country based on, amongst other principles, gender equality. (I consider the niqab indecent in all getting and giving of government services. If the federal government would pass a law requiring the face be uncovered in these areas, as Quebec soon will, Canadians would approve en masse.)

Perhaps Ms Ishaq might give some thought to the reality that thousands upon thousands of Pakistani people wish to become citizens of Canada, but one does not see Canadians flocking to Pakistan to live. There are reasons for that. One of those reasons is that women here are equal to men, and nobody can tell a woman here that she must cover her face. One might think that Ms Ishaq would wish to honour that right, on behalf of her sisters who are forced to wear the niqab, by taking hers off for the five minutes it will take to accept the gift of great value our government wishes to confer on her.

Barbara Kay: Zunera Ishaq does a disservice to women forced to wear the veil

Marnie Soupcoff opposing:

Is the government’s quarrel with the niqab is that it represents a patriarchal practice it believes diminishes women’s autonomy and, ultimately, safety?

That seems to be what Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander was getting at when he said while commenting on the case, “We also are a government, and I think a people, that is concerned about protecting women from violence, protecting women from human smuggling, protecting women from barbaric practices like polygamy, genital mutilation, honour killings.”

Quite apart from the dramatic leap from a legal piece of clothing to the commission of major crimes, which seems to lack some clear thinking on causation vs. correlation, Mr. Alexander is treading on dangerous ground, at least if he plans to be consistent and even-handed.

The ultra-Orthodox Jewish tradition has married women wear wigs or otherwise cover their hair in public, and all women wear long sleeves and skirts below the knees, to maintain their modesty and de-emphasize their sexual attractiveness to anyone but their husbands.

The rules about women’s dress are but one expression of the tradition’s emphasis on female purity and deference, which also includes a wife’s duty to always accept her husband’s sexual advances on his terms.

In Israel, concerns about sexual abuse in the ultra-Orthodox community are significant, and rabbis are accused of participating in cover-ups.

So shouldn’t Mr. Alexander and Mr. Harper also be addressing the offensiveness of the wigs and long skirts being worn by Orthodox women taking their citizenship oaths? And if they’re not, does that mean they’re endorsing the antiquated sexist idea that a woman who shows a stranger man her elbows is engaging in brazen sexual temptation?

Of course the answer is no. No, they shouldn’t, and no, it doesn’t.

Concerns about what cultural, religious and social signals are being sent by an individual’s choice in clothing should have no place in lawmakers’ minds, or at least not in their actions.

The very beauty of Canadian citizenship is that it comes with the freedom to choose your own way and your own life. Does the majority of society have to agree with your choice, whether it be to don a nun’s habit or a Wiccan pentagram necklace?

The obvious answer again is no, so long as you aren’t infringing on anyone else’s freedom with your decision. And apologies to Mr. Harper and Mr. Alexander, but their freedom not to be offended doesn’t count.

Marni Soupcoff: Tories vs. religious freedom

Along with a former prof of mine, Clifford Orwin:

You may ask whether Islam truly requires that a woman wear the niqab. This is none of a liberal state’s business; it is for Muslims to decide for themselves. But they won’t agree, and even if most did, liberal democracy rejects the imposition of religious authority. So this is nobody’s call but Ms. Ishaq’s. Like every citizen, she must be free to practise her religion not as we see fit, but as she does. This isn’t a question of “accommodation” or “diversity” or any such currently fashionable lingo: It’s a requirement of religious freedom, one of the first and most basic of liberal democratic principles.

The worst thing about Mr. Harper’s position is its implication that Ms. Ishaq can’t be a good Canadian unless she discards a practice she regards as incumbent on her as a Muslim and which is entirely harmless to others. I’m not about to claim that the biggest problem facing Canadian society is Islamophobia. (In fact, it has shown itself remarkably free of such attitudes.) The threat of Islamist terror poses a much bigger problem to Canada, as to other liberal democracies. But aggravating the lesser problem in no way helps to solve this greater problem. We shouldn’t hand devout Muslims legitimate (and wholly gratuitous) grievances. Nor (it should go without saying) should we practise demagoguery at their expense.

 Stephen Harper’s veiled attack on religious freedom 

Barbara Kay: When it comes to Islam, the media needs to ditch the ‘narrative,’ and report the truth

What Kay misses, in her reductionist approach to ideology and extremism of all kinds, is what are the factors that push some to violence and what are the ones that increase resilience to these appeals.

With lone-wolf extremists, it is clear that mental illness and other issues can be one of the factors that push them over the edge. It does not mean that Islamist ideology is not involved; it is just that there can be other factors as well that make some individuals more susceptible.

And I would distinguish between these kinds of attacks and the more “sophisticated”and “professional” attacks that took place on Charlie Hebdo.

And of course, none of this reduces the horror over any attack, no matter the motives or factors:

We’re in the middle of a Hot War with Islamism. There will be more attempted, or realized, lone-wolf terrorist attacks on our shores. In the event, it would be helpful if the liberal media could ditch its love affair with narratives, and stick with the truth.

The right-wing media also should ‘ditch its love affair with narratives’ and recognize the complexity of the various factors involved.

Barbara Kay: When it comes to Islam, the media needs to ditch the ‘narrative,’ and report the truth | National Post.

The truth about race, the police and Ferguson –

Sobering look at the enduring prevalence of racism, and how engrained attitudes are:

Yet, a look at the research suggests the problem of police officers killing unarmed black men is not all about white police forces. In 2002, University of Chicago psychology professor Joshua Correll published The Police Officer’s Dilemma, a landmark study testing racial bias. Correll and his team devised a video game-type experiment in which test subjects were shown images of black and white males, some armed, some not. The subjects had to decide when and when not to shoot.

The results speak for themselves. “Participants fired at an armed target more quickly if he was African American than if he was white, and decided not to shoot an unarmed white target more quickly than an unarmed African American target.”

Here’s the kicker, though: Correll found little difference in the willingness or not to shoot between black and white test subjects. In 2007, he replicated the study with actual police officers, and came to a similar conclusion: A young black male is as likely to be a target of a black police officer as his Caucasian partner.

….In a sense, Michael Brown was victim to the most deadly demonstration of how black males (and blacks in general) are less likely to be given the benefit of the doubt. Even if his life doesn’t end at the hands of a cop, a black youth will face myriad examples of as much throughout his life.

Statistically, as a recent Kirwan Institute study suggests, he is more likely to be singled out as aggressive, mean and/or intellectually deficient for similar behaviour than a white kid. Should he enter into the justice system, he is more likely to be charged with a greater crime than someone with lighter skin; even if he isn’t, the black kid is more likely to be treated more harshly by judges and jurors.

Several studies have shown how blacks are more likely to be sentenced to death when their victims are white; yet another shows a correlation between death penalty sentences and typically black features. In America, the darker your skin and the fuller your lips, the higher the likelihood you will be sentenced to die for your crimes.

The truth about race, the police and Ferguson.

Much more serious than Barbara Kay’s piece:

Barbara Kay: Ferguson is the exception, not the norm in U.S. race relations

More Ottawa Shooting Commentary

Further to yesterday’s round-up of the recent shootings, more of the better commentary or more interesting commentary that has crossed my eye.

Wesley Wark: Reducing the risk of terrorism provides a sober assessment of the ongoing risks and the need neither to over or under act, but learn the lessons from any failures and gaps in security.

In the theme of let’s not get carried away, André Pratte in La réponse and Stephen Maher Time to reflect on the courage of our ancestors remind us to have balance and perspective. Doug Saunders notes how the public space around parliaments the world over has been whittled down by successive security threats in Don’t let the seat of government become a fortress.

On the other side, Journal de Montréal’s Richard Martineau is characteristically alarmist in Terrorisme: appelons les choses par leur nom.

More on the common elements to the two most recent cases of radicalization, Martin Couture-Rouleau  and Michael Zehaf-Bibeau:

Martin Couture-Rouleau et Michael Zehaf-Bibeau partagent plusieurs points en commun : ils étaient jeunes (25 ans et 32 ans), ils s’étaient récemment convertis à l’islam radical, la GRC avait confisqué leur passeport par crainte qu’ils rejoignent le groupe État islamique, et ils auraient agi tels des « loups solitaires ».

Pour les autorités policières, c’est le cauchemar. Les deux jeunes ont agi de leur propre chef, sans même avoir été initiés au combat par des groupes extrémistes à l’étranger. Ils sont difficiles à repérer et à neutraliser.

Un loup solitaire aux motivations inconnues

And further details about the troubled life of the shooter, Zehaf-Bibeau in the Globe in Drugs and religion key themes in Ottawa shooter’s troubled life and in the Post in Details of Zehaf-Bibeau’s life paint picture of a man derailed by homelessness, crime and addiction, detailing his drug addiction, quarrelsome personality and his failed efforts to use his faith to control both.

Canadian Muslims are quick to respond and express outrage in Canadian Muslims denounce recent attacks, fear backlash.

Matt Gurney challenges the military’s decision in Canadian soldiers don’t hide in their own damn country — rescind the order to not wear uniforms in public.

Barbara Kay covers a different angle in The unique anguish of a terrorist’s mother:

If it is inevitable, why feel guilty about these “bad seeds”? And yet, inevitably, parents do. Our sympathetic embrace for the real victims should therefore be wide enough to include their murderers’ collateral damage.

A great deal of favourable commentary on Parliament yesterday, how each leader struck the right tone, the hugs of support, and the deserved standing ovation for Sergeant-at-Arms Vickers starting with Jeffrey Simpson in Tribute, solidarity and back to politics (with some barbs at the difference between Government rhetoric and funding).

Jonathan Kay noted the contrast between this time and 30 years ago, when the then Sergeant-at-Arms was able to talk armed Denis Lortie into surrendering in Two Sergeants-at-Arms, two kinds of heroism.

Rick Salutin, similarly praises Kevin Vickers, but provocatively, and accurately, rubbishes the idea of Canadian innocence in We didn’t lose our innocence. We never had it.

Andrew Coyne, perceptively noted the nuances in the various positions and how that hopefully portended more serious political dialogue and debate in Politics weren’t put aside during the Ottawa hug-out, they were just made over for the occasion:

For Mr. Harper, it was “to identify and counter threats and keep Canada safe here at home,” as well as “to work with our allies” in the fight against “the terrorist organizations” abroad who hope “to bring their savagery to our shores.” For Mr. Mulcair, it was “our commitment to each other and to a peaceful world.” For Mr. Trudeau, it was “staying true to our values” of “fairness, justice and the rule of law.”

“We will not be intimidated,” Mr. Harper vowed. “That is not going to happen,” Mr. Mulcair seconded. “We will not be intimidated into changing that,” Mr. Trudeau agreed. But they meant very different things.

And the still and video images of the citizens of Ottawa paying their tribute to fallen soldier Nathan Cirillo (as well as the accounts of those who tried to save him in ‘You’re breathing — keep breathing’), as well as to democratic values, were moving.


Barbara Kay: Chinese signs, native ‘medicine,’ niqabbed women — a busy week on the multicultural front

Barbara Kay on the niqab issue and citizenship:

Finally, there is our old friend, the niqab, back in the news, with Pakistani-Canadian Mississauga, Ont. resident Zunera Ishaq suing the federal government because the Conservatives’ ban on veiled oath-taking in citizenship ceremonies allegedly violates her Charter right to religious accommodation. (She withdrew from such a ceremony on that account.)

Yawn. Can we please once and for all jettison the false belief that Muslim women are required by Islamic doctrine to wear the niqab? It is a cultural custom observed only in the most tribal and misogynistic of Islamic societies. The question has been put to, and answered, by a plethora of Islamic scholars. And if some niqab-wearers remain ignorant of their own religion’s demands, that’s their problem, not ours. The general timidity amongst pundits to “go there” is irksome.

What a pleasure it therefore was to read in a recent Maclean’s interview the bracingly commonsensical words on this subject from Quebec premier Philippe Couillard. While dismissing the PQ’s contentious Charter of Values, whose sweeping proscriptions of religious symbols helped to bring that party down last April, Couillard explained that the niqab is a case apart from mere crosses, kippahs and hijabs: “Certain principles have to be clarified. One is the question of the face. I think this is a line in the sand for many Quebecers and Canadians: That if you’re going to give services or receive services, your face should be uncovered. That’s about all we’re going to do, and frankly all that needs to be done.” Hear, hear.

While I agree with her praise of Premier Couillard, the issue is not whether or not the niqab is required or not by Islam or whether the belief that it is sincere or not.

Rather, is it acceptable for a niqabi to give or receive government services, take the citizenship oath, obtain a driver’s licence or passport etc, in the context of Canadian society and integration?

Barbara Kay: Chinese signs, native ‘medicine,’ niqabbed women — a busy week on the multicultural front

Barbara Kay: ‘Values’ return to Quebec in more sensible Liberal version

Barbara Kay on the more narrow approach to a “values charter.
Apart from her intellectually lazy comment “multiculturalism as it is practised in English Canada,” hard not to oppose the narrow requirement to show one’s face when receiving government services.:
In Quebec, “values” is a loaded term. Last year, the Parti Québécois bought into the assumption that a crackdown on hijabs and yarmulkes and other outward signs of religious belonging would stir up nativist emotions along sovereignty-friendly lines. The gambit failed rather spectacularly, arousing latent racism at the margins, producing across-the-board cultural tensions, and in the end the now-infamous Bill 60, the Charter of Quebec Values, contributed to the PQ’s dramatic tumble from power in last April’s election.

Which does not mean that Quebecers aren’t concerned about cultural self-preservation. Protectionism is not a dirty notion in Quebec, and for good historical reasons. Apart from Montreal, Quebec is the only ethnically homogeneous collective in North America of its size. Disapproval of the PQ version of values protectionism was not an endorsement of multiculturalism as it is practiced in the ROC.

Before there was a PQ Charter of Values, let us remember, there was Bill 94, a Liberal project that had as its centerpiece a prohibition on face cover in the getting and receiving of public services. Polls gave the bill near-unanimous support in Quebec – 95% – and 75% support in the rest of Canada. The lack of equivocation is due not only to Quebecers fears of cultural dilution, but to Quebec’s outsized commitment to feminism (in part a response to the outsized patriarchism of the Catholic Church in Quebec’s history). Female politicians exert a powerful influence over all social and cultural policies and disbursements here. The galling sight of veiled, depersonalized women in this women’s rights stronghold arouses far more animus than any multiculturalist ideal can counter.

And so, now that Quebec has a Liberal majority government once more, it should come as no surprise that Bill 94, which foundered with Liberal party fortunes several years ago, is being revived. On Wednesday Justice Minister Stéphanie Vallée announced that her government will proceed this fall with “inclusive” values legislation. It will be tamer than Bill 60 – I take that to mean no hijabs, crosses or yarmulkes will be challenged – but it would require that public services be dispensed and received with the face uncovered.

Hurrah! One can argue until one turns blue that face cover is of a piece, rights-wise, with head coverings and crosses, but as the Sesame Street Song has it, “One of these things is not like the other.” Three of “these things” are socially harmless. Face cover is anti-social, anti-equality and anti-community in the larger sense of the word. It is associated with oppressive, misogynistic regimes. It is not clothing and is not worn; it is a mask and is, so to speak, “borne.” We do not have the freedom to give or receive pubic services while naked. Too much cover is as indecent as too little when it comes to psychological comfort in our culture.

Barbara Kay: ‘Values’ return to Quebec in more sensible Liberal version

Sheema Khan: We can end honour killings, but not with films by anti-Muslim zealots

Sheema Khan’s reasonable approach on how best, and how not to, address gender issues, including “honour-based” violence.

Barbara Kay (Suffering caused by honour tell tales that smite the heart) and Margaret Wente (Don’t ignore women’s struggles in the Muslim world) would  do well to reflect further on Sheema’s points, as well as those of Amy Awad (Don’t Separate ‘Honour Crimes’ From Other Violence Against Women).

While much of Sheema’s piece is largely on the motives of Clarion Project (the organization behind Honor Diaries, Iranium, Obsession, and The Third Jihad), it is more her positive formulation on how best to counter “honour-based” violence that is of interest:

For those who want to help eliminate “honour”-based violence (HBV), a good place to start is through in-depth research about the issue. Next is consultation with those who have first-hand expertise in the field and credibility with affected communities. Aruna Papp, a South Asian Christian, has survived the trauma of “shame”, and is one of this country’s leading experts. In London, Ont., the Muslim Resource Centre for Social Support and Integration recently launched the “Reclaim Honour Project” that “works to promote honour and prevent violence against girls and women through the support of the community.” In March, the Ottawa Police Service held a collaborative session with local communities to address HBV, with expert Rana Husseini. Ms. Husseini, a Jordanian-based journalist, has over twenty years’ experience in the field. She advised: “never denigrate a people’s faith or culture,” but rather, protect at-risk women, create safe spaces to raise the issue, and work patiently to change laws and attitudes. The absence of Ms. Husseini’s approach in Honour Diaries speaks volumes.

We can look to the recent successes against female genital mutilation in sub-Saharan Africa as an example of how to approach centuries-rooted traditions. The key drivers include community dialogue and education, health-based initiatives, alternative income for cutters, legislative reform, and the involvement of religious clergy whose moral authority has undercut cultural legitimacy of genital mutilation.

Religion is an ally against “honour” killings. Islamic scholars (both Sunni and Shia) have condemned this practice. Their voices need to be amplified, in order to remove any doubts about the immoral nature of this crime. They carry far more legitimacy than anti-Muslim propagandists. But then again, eradicating honour killings was never the goal of Honor Diaries.

We can end honour killings, but not with films by anti-Muslim zealots – The Globe and Mail.