HASSAN: The burka and niqab are giving Islam a bad name

Hassan has a point:

United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s comments on Muslim dress caused a tsunami last year, and the ripples are still being felt. He asked why Muslim women should wear a burka or niqab, which makes them look like “letterboxes”.

It certainly wasn’t prudent for a prime minister to poke fun at Muslim women, and some alleged his analogy caused a spike in anti-Muslim sentiment. In his defense, Johnson did support a Muslim woman’s right to wear whatever she chooses, but his implied question remains a pertinent one: Why choose such a garment when all it ever does is give Islam a bad name?

Predictably, the “letterbox” jibe drew out Muslim activists. They defended the niqab as a personal choice or as something that makes women feel secure. Yet, no matter how they try to defend it, such Muslim garb is cumbersome, patriarchal and even dangerous, and it limits opportunities for women in otherwise free and open societies.

An article by Sarah Baxter on this issue in The Times of London this week caught my eye. It was entitled I am no snowflake, but the niqab scares me. To Baxter, if the niqab symbolizes anything it is the unsettling reminder that women in much of the world are still repressed, and the past century’s progress in women’s emancipation in developed countries may be “just a blip in history”.

Baxter’s disdain and fear are justified. Why create a walking barrier between the wearer and the confidently unmasked rest of the world? Concealment is what the niqab does best; its very reason for being is to conceal that female allure. But can’t it also conceal a whole lot more, even weapons?

The faithful offer endless justifications, apart from the standard one about looking unsexy: to “attain closeness” with Allah, to make a political statement, and to ensure Islam’s precepts are being fully observed. Advocates here in Canada have even offered the specious argument that, far from being patriarchal, donning the niqab is a feminist choice for a woman. Perhaps they are implying that in this #MeToo era, swaddling medieval clothing will keep them safe!

Retreating behind a mask is an odd action to call feminist. The most extreme Muslim garment, the burka, reflects ultra-conservative interpretations by men. It is valued by cruel misogynists like the Taliban as a convenient means of repressing women. The moderately less restrictive niqab serves to marginalize women in Saudi Arabia. All of this garb is nothing but an endorsement of the chauvinism and patriarchy that defined seventh-century Arabia.

And it has nothing to do with Islam. In fact, covering the hair and face is a practice uncritically inherited from the patriarchal cultures that preceded Islam. Women who don the niqab should take a closer look at the requirements of their faith. The recommendation is merely to dress modestly. The language of the Quran is vague and always followed by a reassurance of forgiveness if its injunctions on the matter cannot be met.

In fact, the main principle behind Islam’s modest attire is not to draw attention to women. But the political statement women make by wearing the niqab has the opposite effect. If they care about the reputation of the faith they profess to love, they should consider how the burka and niqab, as recognized symbols of separation and oppression, continue to give Islam a bad name.

Source: HASSAN: The burka and niqab are giving Islam a bad name

HASSAN: Yes, there are real problems with Bill 21

From Farzana Hassan:

The resurgent Bloc Quebecois is poised to perform well in the election under its articulate and pragmatic leader, Yves-Francois Blanchet. It has successfully pitched itself to younger voters by turning away from ageing entrenched separatists. Recent polls in Quebec put it behind only the Liberals, and first among Francophones.

Its broad mix of conservative and progressive policies makes it hard to pin down with standard left/right labels – which may be a virtue on polling day. Supporting climate change reform is very global and twenty-first century, but its demand for Quebec to have more say on immigration may be seen as traditional and isolationist. The same can be said for its support for the contentious Bill 21, the secularist ban on religious symbols for people in public office.

This bill is anathema to Liberals in Ottawa, but it is popular in Quebec. This is unsurprising, because France has a long history of encouraging private piety but public secularism. Provincial premier Francois Legault’s warning for outsiders not to tamper with the provincial bill is having some effect. Justin Trudeau is treading lightly in his opposition for fear of alienating voters there, though he has admitted the federal government “is not going to close the door on intervening at a later date.”

Of course, that means after the election, assuming a Liberal victory. Conservative leader Andrew Scheer has also been delicately non-committal, expressing support for provinces to have the right to determine some of their own policies.

Bill 21 would prevent public employees from wearing any religious regalia such as yarmulkas, hijabs or turbans during working hours. It is likely to apply to public servants such as police officers, prison guards and public school teachers. It has taken plenty of criticism. For example, Calgary’s mayor Naheed Nenshi – who is Muslim – made no attempt to conceal his outrage. He said, “It’s terrifying. It is flagrantly unconstitutional. It’s violating the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in a really, really transparent way.” His city council concurred: it voted unanimously to back a motion condemning Quebec’s law.

Mayor Nenshi is partly right. I have expressed my abhorrence for certain kinds of religious garb in these pages many times. However, the only religious garments that should be banned are specifically those covering the face. In effect, these are just the niqab and burka, primarily for security reasons.

I am no fan of other religious regalia, because I would rather we proclaim ourselves simply to be human beings rather than Muslims or Jews or Sikhs, but this is surely a matter for individual preference rather than government interference – either from Ottawa or Montreal.

This bill could never be implemented in any equitable way, partly because of perceptions and definitions. Imagine that two government workers wear identical pendants. The first says she wears it because she likes the design, but the second wears it because it confirms her identity as a follower of the obscure faith the design symbolizes. Will only the second face a ban?

In any case, the bill’s future looks less than rosy. It is likely to be legal rather than legislative snags that prevent it from gaining traction any time soon. Quebec’s Court of Appeal is already hearing a challenge which claims the bill is unconstitutional, and others have been lodged. It seems nothing will come of Bill 21.

Source: HASSAN: Yes, there are real problems with Bill 21

HASSAN: UN should press Islamic nations for more inclusive societies

Valid critique of many members of the OIC:

Last year, the United Nations Council on Human Rights passed a resolution acknowledging defamation of religion as a human rights violation. Pakistan led the delegation representing the 56-nation Organization of Islamic Conference and proclaimed that “Islam is frequently and wrongly associated with human rights violations and terrorism.” Pakistan asserted that nations must “deny impunity” to those showing intolerance and ensure respect for religion.

But which religion, how and by whom?

Last Tuesday, the editor of a moderate Islamic website criticized the UN measure, citing freedom of speech issues. More important, he accused Muslim nations of expressing most of this so-called defamation of religion. He said reports from Muslim countries, such as Pakistan, not only tell horrific tales of local misogyny and terror but also reveal ways the rights of non-Muslim minorities are constantly violated. He cited many examples of this, including the publication of jihadi literature and laws that marginalize religious minorities and discriminate against women. In Pakistan, for example, Hindu girls continue to be forcibly converted to Islam and sold into marriage. This is the worst kind of intolerance based on faith.

New Age Islam editor Sultan Shaheen has tried hard in the past decade to salvage Islam from its darker manifestations and to encourage a more humane version of the faith. Like other South Asian moderates, such as Javed Ahmed Ghamidi, he has offered newer interpretations of religious precepts in an attempt to rid Islam of bigotry, violence and fundamentalism.

In drawing attention to these heinous practices in the Muslim world, Shaheen has identified the valid reasons for the bad reputation Islamic countries have earned. In a letter to the UN, he stated that, while this resolution seeks to protect Islam from defamation through any association with terrorism, other religions are routinely defamed in Muslim countries by radical Muslims. For example, propaganda is often published justifying violence against non-Muslim civilians. He cited a long essay in the Taliban mouthpiece Nawa-e-Afghan Jihad entitled Circumstances in which the Killing of Innocent People among Infidels is Justified.

Shaheen’s novelty is to interpret intolerance by Muslim extremists as defaming not only other religions but primarily distorting the essence of Islam itself. He urges the Council to “ask the Muslim countries to treat intolerance of minorities and jihadi literature too as defaming the religion of Islam.”

Shaheen quoted some jihadi literature in his letter, such as by radical Islamic scholar Sheikh Yusuf Al Abeeri, who has openly justified destroying American cities and killing enemy civilians. Shaheen characterized such literature as a tirade against Islam. He also highlighted the anti-Semitism of many of these radical scholars.

Sultan Shaheen has rightly identified the main reason for the negative image of Islam. It is the actions of radical Muslims more than anything else, coupled with the fact that moderates do not actively challenge them or distance themselves from their parochial ideas, that defame Islam the most.

The UN Council on Human Rights must look beyond its own naive resolution and urge Islamic nations to enact laws that enable freer and more inclusive societies. Instead of Pakistan urging consequences for those who supposedly defame its state religion, it should seek real consequences for those who openly and aggressively promote violence against women and non-Muslims.

Source: HASSAN: UN should press Islamic nations for more inclusive societies

HASSAN: What Michael Cooper got right and why

Andrew Coyne captured the issues better (see below):

We tend to place individuals and ideologies in neat, homogeneous compartments, when shades of grey better convey the reality.

This seems to have happened in the controversy surrounding the tiff between Faisal Khan Suri, president of the Alberta Muslim Public Affairs Council, and Conservative MP Michael Cooper – an exchange which led to the latter’s eviction from a Commons committee.

Cooper stated that lumping conservatism with extremist white nationalist factions was objectionable and defamatory. Suri then accused Cooper of insensitivity when Cooper read out passages from Christchurch terrorist Brenton Tarrant’s manifesto, which has been banned in New Zealand. Cooper simply wanted to demonstrate that Tarrant claimed to have been influenced by China and that he didn’t identify with conservatism.

In effect, Cooper was asserting that white nationalism and conservatism are two separate ideologies. He is right and there is plenty of evidence for this here in Canada.

Andrew Scheer has denounced racist factions by stating that “people know the Conservative Party is open and welcoming … we denounce any elements of society that would promote hate speech.”

Also, just as mainstream conservatism cannot be pigeonholed with extremist white nationalism, neither can most Muslims be automatically associated with the ideologies of extreme jihadist factions. Conservatives understand this, which is shown by the fact that Maxine Bernier’s far-right People’s Party has garnered little support.

Admittedly, white nationalists have in the past leaned towards the political right, and this has created the false impression that white supremacists are an outgrowth of legitimate and peaceful conservatism. A stigma attaches to conservative parties because the alt-right and violent white nationalists have supported them, such as the notion that Ku Klux Klan supporters overwhelmingly leaned Republican in the 2016 U.S. election.

The desire to promote and value the best in what is Western is imperative and therefore commendable, and moderate conservatives see this has no connection with race. What is Western now is far more racially fluid and diverse than what white nationalist extremists perceive. For example, many of us from non-white communities have come to appreciate Canadian values because we have been fully accepted here.

The perception that everything associated with the West is necessarily exclusive to white culture – a notion at the heart of white nationalism – is often anathema to mainstream conservatives.

Millions of us have migrated to open and enlightened Western nations from foreign lands with different traditions. We have come to adopt and appreciate the tolerance our adopted nations have created and honed. Contrary to what some may feel, even a significant segment of Canadian Muslims endorse Western values.

The inclusive democracies that the Western world has built are based on principles of pluralism, human dignity and universal human rights. Enlightened campaigners have engineered this type of society, but liberal principles can be appreciated only by those liberal enough to value them. While some migrants from traditional and patriarchal communities have shown little respect for our open societies, the majority of immigrants are well integrated and law-abiding.

Our values are worth preserving but they need to be seen through a non-racial lens that includes many of us from non-white cultures.

The long-term success of moderate conservatism depends on how far our community can abandon the notion that values are narrow and relative, rooted within the culture of a particular racial group.

Michael Cooper was not insensitive to allude to the Christchurch shooter’s so-called manifesto. He is right to insist that it is a slur to draw any link between those hateful beliefs and established conservative ideas.

Source: HASSAN: What Michael Cooper got right and why

Coyne’s masterful writing what Cooper could and should have said:

The Commons justice committee’s hearings into the problem of online hate were thrown into chaos last week after a Conservative MP, Michael Cooper, rounded on a witness for suggesting terrorists like the one who murdered 51 Muslims at prayer in Christchurch, New Zealand, earlier this year had been influenced, not just by anti-immigrant and alt-right sites, but by “conservative commentators.”

After admonishing the witness, Faisal Khan Suri, president of the Alberta Muslim Public Affairs Council, that he should be “ashamed” of his “defamatory” comments, Cooper read into the record portions of the gunman’s manifesto in which he denounced conservatism and expressed admiration for the Communist dictatorship in China. Needless to say this did not help his cause.

Much of the subsequent reaction was overblown, not a little of it for partisan gain — Cooper is not a racist and does not deserve to be expelled from caucus, as Liberal MP Randy Boissonault demanded. Still, I wonder if Cooper might have been able to make his point in a better way…

“Mr. Suri, there is a well-known rule of argument known as the principle of charity, which obliges us to put the best construction on our opponents’ words and not the worst.

Accordingly, I’m going to assume that when you included ‘conservative commentators’ in your list of terrorist influencers you did not mean to attribute responsibility for terrorist atrocities to mainstream conservatives, or to conservatism, which is an honourable creed professed by millions of Canadians.

It’s particularly important to make this distinction in the current debate. As a conservative I wish to conserve the best traditions of our history, one of which is freedom of speech, but because I do not wish to ban hate speech should not be taken to mean that I have any sympathy with those who propagate it.

Sadly, too many of our opponents have been too quick to make such a slanderous connection, not only suggesting that terrorists were inspired by conservative writings — as if a madman could not find inspiration in anything — but that conservatives are themselves by nature anti-immigrant, racist, white supremacist, and worse. It is dishonest, it is despicable, and it should stop.

But if we are honest with ourselves, conservatives must take some responsibility for this state of affairs. Like any political movement conservatism has its extreme or fringe elements, and of late across much of the democratic world the latter have been on the rise, feeding on public unease over immigration, exploiting fears of Islamist terrorism, and appealing to resentment of “globalist” elites.

These fears and resentments have proven fertile soil for opportunistic politicians, so-called “populists” promising to defend “the people” from whatever it is that is not “the people” if only they are given power — only power that, due to the gravity of the alleged threat, must not be impaired by the usual restrictions of a democratic opposition, a free press, or an independent judiciary.

This dark, authoritarian impulse, most fully embodied in the person of Donald Trump, has nothing whatever to do with the sunny optimism of Ronald Reagan or the limited government of Margaret Thatcher. Conservativism is about freedom; populism is about fear. Indeed, populism is not just different from conservatism. It is its opposite. Where conservatives see people as individuals, it divides society into Us and Them.

Where conservatives believe in empowering the people, whether through the deliberative institutions of democratic government or the consumer sovereignty of the market, populism teaches the people to place their faith in strongmen. And where conservatism seeks to uphold the Western liberal inheritance, these new populists’ hatred of liberalism and of liberal elites has led them into a kind of nihilism, in which whatever gets a rise out of liberals — or decent-minded conservatives —is to be desired for its own sake.

At the worst edge of this movement are avowed racists and neo-Nazis, liberated from the margins of public discourse by social media and emboldened by the discovery therein of others of like mind. But scarcely better are those who, seizing on the actions or beliefs of a few extremists to harass and demonize ordinary Muslims, or who interpret freedom of speech, which is a restraint on government, as a licence to say whatever hurtful or idiotic thing comes into their head, without censure or even responsibility.

I was tempted to say that you should be ashamed of yourself for linking conservatives, even inadvertently, to racism and extremism. But as I reflect on it, it is we conservatives who ought to feel shame — shame that such vile opportunists should be able to parade about as ‘conservatives,’ but even more, shame that mainstream conservative parties have been so unwilling to denounce or distance themselves from them.

A cancer has taken root in conservative parties across the West — witness the Brexit madness in Britain, or the Republican surrender to Trumpism — and conservative leaders have too often been too slow to cut it out. Even in this country, conservative leaders have not only failed to confront the populist threat, but have in some cases actively pandered to it — stoking fears about Muslims, as in the infamous “barbaric practices” snitch line during the last election, or pretending a difficult but manageable problem — the influx of asylum seekers at irregular points across our southern border — was a five-alarm ‘crisis.’

And so I want to thank you, Mr. Suri, for this opportunity to set the record straight — to say that this sort of thing has nothing to do with conservatism, and to urge my party to return to its roots as the party of free markets, limited government and equal opportunity. And with that, Mr. Chairman, I yield the floor.”

Source: https://nationalpost.com/opinion/andrew-coyne-what-michael-cooper-should-have-said

HASSAN: Polygamy harms Muslim women and Canada should not tolerate it

More on polygamy following the CBC investigation (A man ‘cannot do that to a woman’: Why polygamy in Canadian Muslim community could be another #MeToo moment):

Will Canadian Muslim women soon have their own #MeToo movement?

A headline for a CBC Fifth Estate online story reads: “A man cannot do that to a woman: why polygamy in Canadian Muslim community could be another #MeToo moment.” The story involved a woman called Zaib, whose last name was withheld for her own safety.

Many of the left-wing activists within #MeToo who point to alleged harassment from years ago now display little interest in the woes of Muslim women marginalized in their own communities. But the soul-destroying practice of polygamy must nonetheless be brought into the open in the hopes that someone of influence cares enough to do something about it.

Zaib said she “went into shock mode” when her husband broke the news that he had taken a second wife.

“I started getting the symptoms of anxiety, depression and crying spells” she told the CBC’s Fifth Estate. Her husband offered the pathetic consolation that he had no intention of abandoning her or their three children and would continue to provide for her.

She was so depressed she had to take time off work. She believes that other Muslim women face similar predicaments, but stay quiet, and that if they also spoke out, something might be done to help eliminate polygamy in Canada. She believes the law should insist that a man can never do such a thing to a woman.

Polygamy is a sensitive topic in Islam, an issue on which the sacred word most clearly conflicts with modernity.

The Islamic provision is to treat all wives with respect and equality and if a husband can’t ensure that, then only take one wife. However, conditions for equality, respect and dignity all become meaningless in an institution that is inherently unjust, disrespects women and creates unfair dominance by males.

The very fact that a man seeks another wife shows disrespect from the outset. It tells her she alone is not good enough for him. Any suggestion that such a system can ever deliver marital equality is clearly absurd.

That is why some scholars of the Quran suggest polygamy is in effect not allowed. Others see such interpretations as convenient modern manipulations of ancient mores and practices. Who can deny the written word of the Quran? Hence the continuation of the practice of polygamy.

Some Muslim men have contracted polygamous unions outside Canada. In 2011, the B.C. Supreme Court ruled that polygamy is unconstitutional and reasonably decided that the damage polygamy does to both women and children is more important than maintaining religious and cultural freedom. An enlightened judgment.

Even Imam Hamid Slimi of Toronto, who by all standards would be considered mainstream Muslim, told CBC that “the way polygamy is practiced today is unfair to women.”

That is progress, but it’s still too conciliatory, because polygamy must never be deemed an acceptable practice. The social circumstances that occasioned the Islamic provision for polygamy in the seventh century have been irrelevant for a millennium.

Canada needs to do more to monitor cases of polygamous unions that occur even here under the immigration guise of “other relationships.”

Remember the Shafia family? The first of the two wives was brought in as an aunt of the children.

Of course, Canadian law cannot stop men from remarrying abroad, but on home soil it must treat such unions as illegal, profoundly hurtful and utterly disrespectful to women.

Canada cannot tolerate this.

Source: HASSAN: Polygamy harms Muslim women and Canada should not tolerate it

HASSAN: Enough with the feminists who stay silent on Islam

Some valid points (e.g., on polygamy, FGM), less so with respect to the hijab:

The usual gusto accompanied International Women’s Day on March 8, with enlightened people of both sexes commending the strides we have made. Women debated our roles in this day and age, and how our lot can be further improved.

Needless to say, even after decades of public conversations on women’s rights, their plight in undeveloped nations has not changed much. In fact, in this politically correct era there are some nominal Western feminists who say too little about the suffering of third world women.

As always, developed countries have fared better. The biggest news is the #MeToo movement, which has prompted public conversations on sexual harassment faced by women in various settings, but especially the workplace. Actions bring reactions, however; while the movement has raised awareness on these issues, some employers may now fear to hire women because they anticipate sexual allegations.

There were already issues specific to Canadian women, such as workplace discrimination and lack of comparable wages — an issue our prime minister addressed at Davos. Accounting for missing and murdered aboriginal women is an enduring problem, as are violence and abuse in these communities.

Radical ideologies also turn many Muslim women into victims, even in Canada. This is most offensive to me, as a Muslim woman. Feminist groups, who usually expound a leftist worldview, have often defended discriminatory practices in the name of a “new feminism.”

An opinion piece by Nakita Valerio on the CBC website states that “New feminism is based on the understanding that there is nothing inherently liberating about one expression over another. Rather, the liberation is in a woman’s choice and part of modern gender equality rests on the acceptance of diverse womanhood on her own terms, regardless of one’s background.”

Really? So, by extension, there is nothing inherently constraining in any expression of womanhood. Therefore, a woman who is self-assured, economically independent and capable of making career choices is no more liberated than one who lives her entire life according to the whims of her husband? A woman who “chooses” to let her husband take a second wife because her religion permits it, and then suffers all the consequences of a polygamous union, is as liberated as one who rejects such an arrangement as repugnant?

Let’s extend this argument. Submission to the requirements of one brand of Islam has convinced some women to support the heinous practice of female genital mutilation. Their understanding of religion has brainwashed them into considering this beneficial. Such a procedure subjects them or their daughters to pain and poor health. Are they more liberated because they have defined their femininity in these terms?

Clothing matters less than mutilation. The niqab and hijab may be “mere” pieces of cloth, but the expectation that women will wear them remains an important issue. The requirement is rooted in patriarchy, and it is hard to accept that any woman who “chooses” to wear these garments has somehow defined her womanhood in a liberated way.

The new feminists have regressed if they do not call out such practices with the fervour of #MeToo. Their silence endorses a way of thinking which keeps countless women in permanent submission.

Next International Women’s Day it would be encouraging if the women’s movement redefined some of its goals as universal rather than relative. Culture can never be an excuse.

via HASSAN: Enough with the feminists who stay silent on Islam | Toronto Sun

The Tories approach a point of no return and other commentary on M-103

Terry Glavin’s usual trenchant commentary:

During the debate on the motion in the House, Khalid said she defines Islamophobia as “the irrational hate of Muslims that leads to discrimination.” That’s perfectly fine, too, but what makes no sense was Khalid’s statement that she refused Conservative MP (and party leadership hopeful) Erin O’Toole’s offer to help win unanimous consent for her motion by tightening it up, because that would have meant “watering it down.”

In a parallel topsy-turviness, Joly has objected to David Anderson’s alternative motion, which replicates Khalid’s motion except for the ambiguous term Islamophobia, because it’s a “weakened and watered down version.”

It’s true to say, as Scott Reid does, that seemingly benign injunctions against “Islamophobia” have been put to the squalid purpose of placing the Muslim religion and the practices of authoritarian Islamic regimes off limits to criticism. But it’s also fair to say that “anti-Muslim bigotry” doesn’t sufficiently capture the full-throated paranoid lunacy animating the nutcase wing of the Conservative support base these days.

“Racism” doesn’t quite cover it. “Hatred” doesn’t quite get at it. Whatever term you like, it’s more than merely ironic that those who make the most hysterical claims about clandestine Islamic conspiracies at the centre of Justin Trudeau’s government are also the ones shouting the loudest that an irrational fear of Islam isn’t even a thing.

It’s not as though the Liberals are blameless in all this. They could have welcomed O’Toole’s efforts at reaching out to find a compromise, but they didn’t. And the Liberals do seem quite content to have the Conservatives squirming and chafing against the appearance that the reason they object to the term Islamophobia is that they themselves are Islamophobic, whatever that might mean. It is not as though it bothers the Liberals that the Conservatives are stuck with the crazy talk coming from several of the leadership candidates these days.

Trudeau may have given away more than he intended last week when he was confronted at a community meeting in Iqaluit about why he reneged on his electoral reform promises. Raising the spectre of proportional representation opening the door to “fringe” parties, Trudeau asked, rhetorically: “Do you think that Kellie Leitch should have her own party?”

Clearly, Trudeau doesn’t want that. For starters, it would mean decent Conservatives couldn’t be tarred so easily with the indecencies committed by the party’s fringe factions. It would mean bigot-baiting the Conservative Party would be that much harder to do. In the meantime, it’s up to the Conservatives to get themselves sorted, and after the sordid events of the past few days, their options are limited:

Isolate, quarantine, amputate or purge.

Source: The Tories approach a point of no return – Macleans.ca

Campbell Clark in the Globe:

It’s one thing for MPs to say they oppose the motion. But it’s another to accept the bogus reasoning.

One is the slippery-slope argument. Mr. Levant is telling Canadians that once a Commons committee starts studying the vague notion of Islamophobia and what to do about it, they’re going to propose laws that make it illegal to criticize Islam, and restrict free speech.

The obvious weakness in that is that Motion M-103 doesn’t even ask the committee to propose laws, nor could it force them – let alone the kind that stifle free speech. If they ever did, MPs could vote against it then. And it still could not violate constitutional guarantees on free speech.

If Conservative objections really were about a vague term, some deal-making would be in order. There are arguments that in some countries the term has been used to refer to any criticism of Islam.

Of course, this motion calls for MPs to study it, so they could define it.

But Liberals were unwilling to compromise when the Conservatives asked them to change “Islamophobia” to “hatred for Muslims.”

But it’s not about the word. Ironically, it’s about fear.

All this began when Montreal-area MP Frank Baylis started a petition last year to assert that all Muslims should not be equated with a few extremists. NDP Leader Tom Mulcair later asked for unanimous consent for a motion condemning Islamophobia – and got it on his second attempt on Oct. 26.

Conservative House Leader Candice Bergen responded to Mr. Mulcair’s motion with her own, condemning religious discrimination.

Both were adopted. The word Islamophobia was fine for Conservatives then, before they got scared.

Source:  Conservative MPs are afraid of Motion 103, and things it can’t do 

The contrary view, and the conflation of Islamophobia/anti-Muslim hate with free speech concerns, comes from Farzana Hassan in the Sun, who appears not to have understood what the motion covers and what it does not:

When we challenge a certain Islamic practice, we are careful to exclude the moderate majority and focus our attention on a small segment of the Muslim community. Yet some claim that even such discussion conflates the radicals with the moderates.

If Khalid believes such discussions include all Muslims, she is unwittingly admitting that all Muslims are indeed like the fundamentalists.

Khalid is mistaken if she believes any rational discussion on Islamic practice castigates all Muslims. She must understand that any well-intentioned and constructive discussion on a religious practice or ideology is a fundamental right of every Canadian.

There is no phobia of Islam in Canada. There is genuine resentment toward orthodox Islam. But it has little to do with the usual public discourse.

Some practices, whether we discuss them in public or not, are commonly known to be associated with orthodox Islam, such as polygamy, wife battery and ostracism of religious minorities.

It is up to moderate Muslims to distance themselves from these outrages as much as possible. So far no robust public challenge to such practices has emerged from moderate segments of the community.

Without such a grassroots challenge any social observer, professional or amateur, can form any opinion on orthodox Islam, whether positive or negative.

We know some Muslims are working to institute gender equality, and others are partners with the government in fighting terror. However, these efforts need to become the norm rather than the exception. Once this takes place, the world will automatically begin to see Muslims in positive light.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has talked about finding the right balance between protecting a religious minority and also protecting our Charter rights.

The answer to his dilemma is simple: Do not put the slightest dent in our right to free speech.

To balance this, the prime minister can take more measures to protect the security of all minorities with tighter law enforcement and stricter punishments for alleged offenders like Alexandre Bissonnette.

Source: I’m a liberal Muslim and I reject M-103

Lastly, an article on Iqra Khalid’s reading out the hateful emails and tweets she has received, providing proof of the validity of M-103 and its specific reference:

The Liberal MP who tabled an anti-Islamophobia motion says she has been inundated with hate mail and death threats.

Mississauga, Ont. MP Iqra Khalid told the House of Commons today she received more than 50,000 emails in response to M-103, many of them with overt discrimination or direct threats.

“I have asked my staff to lock the office behind me as I now fear for their safety,” she said. “I have asked them not to answer all phone calls so they don’t hear the threats, insults and unbelievable amount of hate shouted at them and myself.”

She described a “chilling” video posted on YouTube that called her a terrorist sympathizer and disgusting human being.

“‘I’m not going to help them shoot you, I’m going to be there to film you on the ground crying. Yeah, I’ll be there writing my story with a big fat smile on my face. Ha ha ha. The Member got shot by a Canadian patriot,'” she read, quoting from the video.

And that, she said, was just tip of the iceberg. Here are some other messages she received and read in the House:

  • “Kill her and be done with it. I agree she is here to kill us. She is sick and she needs to be deported.”
  • “We will burn down your mosques, draper head Muslim.”
  • “Why did Canadians let her in? Ship her back.”
  • “Why don’t you get out of my country? You’re a disgusting piece of trash and you are definitely not wanted here by the majority of actual Canadians.”

Khalid said she has also received many messages of support.

Source: ‘Kill her and be done with it’: MP behind anti-Islamophobia motion reads out hate mail

Multiculturalism must be a two-way street | Hassan

Farzana Hassan makes valid points regarding the proposed Brossard Muslim housing development (the local mosque does not support such segregation), although it is not unique to Islam: fundamentalists from all religions generally demand more accommodation, and be less open and tolerant:

Even the issues of living space and location have an ethical dimension. Is it socially desirable to allow the creation of religious, cultural and ethnic enclaves and ghettoes, such as the one proposed for one hundred Muslim families in the suburbs of Montreal, or would such localities defeat the very idea of multiculturalism?

The Quebec plan does just the opposite. By definition, any enclave designed to house a community with a shared background proliferates monoculturalism.

The idea was reportedly inspired by the desire to have interest-free housing for Muslims concerned about violating sharia regulations on usury. To that end, solutions, some of which in essence are the same as any other mortgage plans, have already been proposed and implemented.

But using some religious pretext to shut out non-Muslims from a housing development is not the answer. Many Canadian mosques have already instituted culturally acceptable banking systems.

Nabil Warda, the Montreal developer who proposed the project, has stated the following: “Nowhere is it written: ‘Listen guys, we don’t want any nasty Québécois or Canadians in this place.’ We never said that. We never intended that. It is not even my way of thinking.” Nevertheless, the very existence of such an enclave would be exclusionary.

It is time spokespeople from some immigrant communities take a hard look at likely repercussions of their own actions. When Canadians have to endure this housing proposal and the upcoming “Reviving the Islamic Spirit” conference – a gathering to promote orthodox belief – it is hardly surprising that political leaders like Kellie Leitch call for a Canadian values test for immigrants.

Tolerance of “the other”, even in an avowedly multicultural society like Canada, must be limited.

As surely as we cannot possibly tolerate polygamy or the mistreatment of women, we cannot approve of discriminatory housing. Such actions cause rancor with host societies and ultimately make victims of immigrants themselves.

While most Canadian Muslims are well integrated into Canadian society and are happy to interact with other Canadians, fundamentalists and Islamists continue to draw justified negative press through their outrageous demands for faith accommodations.

They withdraw from the multicultural process by locking themselves up from the outside world. Whether it is exemptions from music class for their children, or creating their own sharia-compliant silos, these fundamentalists insist on imposing their inflexible mores on others.

Fundamentalists asserting these rights on the basis of Charter freedoms must assert whatever cultural identities they have within a common context and participate in the multicultural experience without reservation.

To be candid, this is an Islamist issue. I see no devout Hindus, Sikhs, Jews or Christians seeking such far-reaching faith accommodations.

Source: Multiculturalism must be a two-way street | Hassan | Columnists | Opinion | Toro

Farzana Hassan: It’s unjust to revoke the citizenship of refugees’ children

Good piece by Farzana Hassan on the streamlined revocation process, without right to a hearing or equivalent procedural protections. Welcome contrast to much of the other commentary in the Sun:

Monsef’s mother filed an application stating her children were born in Afghanistan, but it turns out the MP was born just across the border in Iran, during her mother’s several crossings to avoid persecution and harassment from the Taliban.

Did her mother lie about this? No one can be sure. Language could have been a barrier, or she may have been too distraught. After all, they were faced with the constant threat of harassment, even death.

It was the Harper government that revised the legislation to allow citizenship revocation without a hearing, but it is the Trudeau government that has been enforcing it quite aggressively, stripping people of Canadian citizenship at the rate of approximately thirteen individuals per month.

Such policing seems a little ironic considering Trudeau’s soft approach to revoking the citizenship of terrorists, people who should have professed binding loyalty to the people and soil of Canada. But they lied about their intention. The very basis of their entry into Canada was a false premise.

By contrast, should we be tolerant of the offspring of parents who may have committed errors on their application for a host of forgivable reasons? It may even be naive to expect poor and illiterate refugee status applicants trying to escape Taliban brutality to even understand the concept of citizenship. The law should show some flexibility towards such migrants, and more towards their hapless children.

Some migrants falsely filing their own application deserve to have their citizenship revoked. But by no means should their children be made to suffer.

Trudeau is silent on this controversy over a government insider. And Monsef too is hardly forthright enough. But the law is still unjust when it affects the children of refugees.

In order to rectify any past injustices and to bring some fairness to the debate, we are required to ask if mistakes of the past will be rectified. That is, once the MP’s case has brought the absurdity of the law into the limelight, will people already stripped of their citizenship and deported be allowed to have their citizenship status restored?

To quote Josh Peterson, executive director of the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association, “When we get a parking ticket, we have a right to a court hearing…and yet for citizens to lose their entitlement to membership in Canada based on allegations of something they may or may not have said 20 years ago, they have no hearing? It just doesn’t make any sense.”

Paterson is part of a group that launched a constitutional challenge to the law. Trudeau’s response to the Maryam Monsef case should have a huge bearing on this challenge. Let us hope a touch of humanity will soften this tough legislation.

Source: Farzana Hassan: It’s unjust to revoke the citizenship of refugees’ children | Ha

Members of dormant national security roundtable seeking answers [CCRS]

Always found the CCRS a useful forum during my time working on multiculturalism issues, where we would bring the “soft side” of counter-radicalization approaches to the table.

While it is normal for a new government to review the mandate and the membership, and whether or not it duplicates other consultative bodies (I think not), pleased that the Liberal government has signalled its intent to maintain the CCRS:

A group of Canadians who advise the federal government on national security issues are in the dark about the future of a 16-member roundtable they were appointed to.

Members of the Cross-Cultural Roundtable on Security are supposed to meet in-camera at least twice a year, yet the group hasn’t met since October 2014.

The roundtable was set up in 2005 to act as a sounding board for cabinet ministers and other high-ranking federal executives on how security matters and government policies affect different ethnic communities. Over the years, it has covered topics such as countering violent extremism, migration and cyber-security.

“I feel I’m in limbo,” said Farzana Hassan, a newspaper columnist and past-president of the Canadian Muslim Congress who was appointed to the roundtable in June 2015.

“It seemed like a very good fit and I jumped on the idea and I accepted the appointment, but I have not heard anything,” she told CBC News.

This past spring, Hassan and several other members contacted by CBC received a letter informing them that the government is re-thinking the roundtable’s activities and composition.

“I get the sense that they would want us to resign because we were appointed by the previous government and, you know, this government’s policies and outlines on certain issues is very different from the previous government,” said Hassan.

“I feel I can do more. I can share my ideas, but I have not been given the opportunity to do so,” she said.

Chair sees lack of communication

Myrna Lashley, a psychologist, was appointed to the roundtable in 2005 and has been the group’s chairperson since 2007. But after receiving the letter in March, Lashley suspects her involvement has come to an end.

“Effectively when you get that letter, you have been told ‘thank you,'” Lashley said.

In the meantime, Lashley is concerned the federal government is not communicating as effectively on national security issues with Canada’s ethnically diverse communities, such as Syrian refugees.

In the past, Lashley says the group met with and advised ministers of public safety and justice as well as senior executives from the RCMP, CSIS and Canada Border Services Agency on all sorts of issues that could or would affect an array of cultural groups.

“We could give them an idea of how different communities might react to something so that they could formulate it in a way that would be acceptable to all Canadians,” said Lashley.

Lashley points to the creation of the special advocate program, which provided independent, top-secret, security-cleared lawyers to represent people subject to a security certificate or immigration proceedings.

“We were the ones that said ‘let’s try a special advocate,’ that came from us,” Lashley said.

The Department of Public Safety refused CBC’s request for an interview. But in an email, a spokesperson said, “While the government is currently reviewing the membership of the table, it looks forward to resuming CCRS meetings in the near future.

Source: Members of dormant national security roundtable seeking answers – Politics – CBC News