HASSAN: London tragedy exposes need to examine violence against Muslims

Of note on the need for precision when using terms such as Islamophobia, anti-Muslim hate, antisemitism:

The horrific deaths of a Muslim family in London on June 6 have sparked conversations about loosely, sometimes interchangeably, used terms like Islamophobia and anti-Muslim hate. It would be worthwhile to examine these in detail. The ramifications for each term are different regarding freedom of speech issues, especially in the context of M-103, tabled by MP Iqra Khalid in 2018.

Islamophobia is a loaded word that can mean one of several things. It can mean fear of Islam, its practices, Islamic culture and fear of Muslims as its adherents. The last of these can sometimes translate into attacks on Muslims. When the term is used loosely, it can simply mean fear and hatred of Muslims. These have ramifications for Muslims in Canada when it comes to safety and security.

Anti-Muslim hate is specifically hatred toward the Muslim people, whether rooted in a dislike of Islam or not. This, too, can lead to violence against Muslims. In essence, both phenomena can lead to unfortunate results as we have seen a second time in Canada. The meanings tend to overlap.

Can these terms be compared to anti-Semitism? The latter term would correspond better to anti-Muslim hate, although the notion that criticism of the state of Israel is also anti-Semitism has wider ramifications. In the latter sense, we can also compare the term to the all-encompassing “Islamophobia.”

Anti-Muslim hate is utterly reprehensible and has no place in Canada. No community should be despised to the point of being denied the right to life, liberty, and property. Holding a negative opinion of Muslim practices or tenets of the Islamic faith should not automatically mean that Muslims should be wiped out or denied the same rights others take for granted.

But does this mean one has no right to criticize a world religion like Islam? After all, there is complete freedom to criticize other world faiths, including Christianity, followed by most Canadians. Most liberal democracies realize it is the fundamental right of citizens to question their own faith, to have the freedom to speak their minds on matters of faith, values, and ideologies and to scrutinize not only political philosophies but also religious dicta, especially when these have harmed society in general and women and marginalized groups in particular. Public discourse on Islam generally does not castigate an entire community. Often, an effort is made to separate a particular practice or belief from the larger body of believers in public discourse. Castigating an entire community would most certainly violate the rights guaranteed by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Thus, since the meanings above overlap, it is crucial to examine how we can address violence against Muslims and still uphold freedom of speech as an inalienable right.

The overlap in meaning between Islamophobia and anti-Muslim hate makes it that much harder to tread the fine line of criticism of Islam in public discourse and spare Muslims fallout. While public discourse is careful not to cross the boundaries of free speech, it is perhaps just as important for people in private gatherings not to paint all Muslims with the same brush.

Are these boundaries being crossed more often in private rather than public gatherings? Would they continue to generate the type of inordinate hate that translates into heinous crimes like the one we witnessed in London?

Source: HASSAN: London tragedy exposes need to examine violence against Muslims

HASSAN: Pakistan’s particular second wave challenge

Given Pakistan one of our top five immigration source countries,  of interest, with similarities with some of the fringes in Western countries:

Pakistan’s management of the pandemic was initially lauded even by the World Health Organization. Not so, the second wave.

The latest outbreaks have wrought havoc across the world, and Pakistan is no exception. COVID-19 appears to be spreading rapidly in many parts of the country. The rest of the world is beginning to see the hope of ending the pandemic in the development of various vaccines.

But Pakistan poses a special challenge toward fighting the pandemic within its borders. According to Younis Dar, Pakistan’s situation is “far more dangerous” as a significant number of Pakistanis refuse to embrace the idea of inoculation because of rampant suspicion against the vaccines.

Source: HASSAN: Pakistan’s particular second wave challenge

Hassan: What face masks tell us about the niqab

While I am less worried about the niqab than Hassan and recognize that wearing the niqab may reflect a variety of reasons, I do share her annoyance over the facile comparison between face masks and niqabs. Reasons, objectives and intent are completely different:

One annoying narrative emerging from the COVID-19 seclusion is the way some religious people gloat about the niqab being somehow equivalent to the now mandated masks.

“See?” they say. “The government wanted to ban the niqab, but Allah has decreed otherwise. Now everyone must wear a niqab.”

Let it be clear: a face covering during a pandemic is a medical recommendation. A niqab is nothing but a religious travesty inflicted on a minuscule number of Muslim women by their Islamist guardians.

This false equating of the niqab to medical face masks has even made the print media rounds. Katherine Bullock, chair of ISNA-Canada, wrote an article with the provocative title We are all niqabis now: Coronavirus masks reveal the hypocrisy of face-covering bans.

First, we are not all niqabis. And secondly, there is no hypocrisy because the objectives of the two types of face coverings are completely different. Bullock asked, “If Canadians, Americans and Europeans can get used to the new ubiquitous face masks, will they also get used to niqabs?”

The answer is no. And why should opposition stop? Niqabs are discriminatory; face masks are not.

The fact is niqabi women wear what they wear because many face discrimination at home. They are considered chattel, or commodities that need to be hidden from public gaze. Their “protectors” worry they may bring shame to their families if not segregated and marginalized.

Bullock’s article further states that whereas people with surgical or medical masks are allowed to interact freely with each other without having to remove them, niqabi women are forced to remove their niqabs in public or at citizenship ceremonies. Well of course. The masks are being worn during an unprecedented medical crisis that presents an extreme danger to people’s health. What purpose does the niqab serve under normal conditions other than to create interpersonal barriers?

Another article, by freelance writer Sami Rahman, makes the same mistake of equating niqabs with medical face coverings. It alludes to U.K. prime minister Boris Johnson’s derision of niqabi women as letterboxes, and says perhaps we have all become letterboxes – as if this is some sort of divine judgment meted out to all people.

The article further confounds the debate by associating the niqab with all Muslim women. She writes, “Anti-racism organization Tell MAMA recorded a surge in hate crimes towards Muslim women that very same week.”

Muslim women? The overwhelming majority of Muslim women do not wear the niqab or even the hijab. Why associate these garments with the practice of most Muslim women, who rightly assert that their faith does not prescribe them?

The fact is that Islamists promote the niqab and hijab as symbols of mainstream Islam when they most certainly don’t represent Muslim practice.

Let Islamists gloat over the current requirement for face masks. When the crisis is behind us – and hopefully it will be soon with the development of a vaccine – all the medically prescribed masks will be gone.

But the niqab will persist, and all its supporters will still have to answer the familiar and fundamental questions: Why must they promote such patriarchal and cumbersome attire? Why glorify the niqab and hijab when they are arguably not even prescribed by Islam?

Source: HASSAN: What face masks tell us about the niqab

HASSAN: The fury over statues and symbols continues for a reason

Thoughtful reflections by Farzana Hassan. The one element that is missing is how should we balance the negative and possitive  aspects of historical figures. Statues commemorating Stalin and Hitler are the easy cases along with Confederate symbols.

But others, like Churchill, MacDonald, Ryerson and the like, made major positive contributions (winning WWII, creation of Canada, education respectively). In these cases, my preference is always for historical plaques that captures that mixed nature and complexities of character and the times that are important to recognize.

And there is the risk that overly focussing on the easy and symbolic may detract from the hard ongoing work to reduce barriers, discrimination and racism:

One of the several issues that have cropped up in today’s racially charged environment is the tearing down of monuments and statues.

Calls have become louder all over the Western world to destroy these and replace them with symbols that are more in line with today’s pluralistic sensibilities.

But this has also ignited a debate between those who believe even tainted history should be preserved, and those who seek racial equality with symbolism that reflects it.

Symbols are powerful; statues publicly commemorate and celebrate.The ones whose value is being questioned were erected when racial discrimination and bias were accepted in society – either openly or tacitly. Their symbolism informs North American history – the good and the bad, but mostly the ugly, especially the ones that symbolize the Confederacy’s racist past.

The question then is why celebrate and commemorate something as odious as slave-owning and its accompanying brutality?

Visual history, which these statues represent, is important. But what is more crucial in this environment is achieving racial harmony.

Heritage can be preserved in other ways. History books should record unsavoury events and document the changes of attitude that led to the anger towards these monuments.

Soviet Russia was littered with the statues of Lenin and Stalin, but with the collapse of the Soviet Union, many of its Bolshevik symbols were gone as they failed to represent the sentiments of the majority of post-Communist Russians. It has been left to history books to acknowledge this.

The Holocaust was one of the most despicable events in human history. The landscape of Hitler’s Germany was dotted with swastikas and Nazi memorials, none of which exist today. We can still read about the despair of those terrifying years before and during the Second World War.

We must consider whether America’s slavery era can be equated with the atrocities of Nazi Germany and the brutality of Communist Soviet Union. Were its effects on human lives as far-reaching and destructive as the other two more recent examples in history? And if so, what should stop a more enlightened modern government from erasing public celebration of this brutal past, especially when that past evokes anger caused by continuing discrimination?

We should also ask why Confederate symbols have lasted this long. Their persistence may show a kind of reluctance to break away from a racist heritage that divided a country over the issue of slavery.

The statues were actually commissioned post-slavery by Confederate organizations such as the United Confederate Veterans and the United Daughters of the Confederacy. One of the strangest outcomes of the American Civil War was the construction of these monuments in the late 19th century, perhaps with the intention of reclaiming a past that was lost after the defeat of the Confederacy.

The racist connotations of these statues cannot be ignored, and the fury over their preservation continues for good reason. They also represent a secessionist era of American history.

Canada has its own monuments to consider.

The name of Ryerson University in Toronto is very much in contention, Egerton Ryerson having forged the move toward residential schools for children of native communities. Supporters of preserving the name of the university point to Ryerson’s contributions to education.

Canada has no history of slavery. Yet the fury behind the move to remove certain symbols is nonetheless understandable.

Source: HASSAN: The fury over statues and symbols continues for a reason

Call to Prayer controversy – Hassan: Why the mosque loudspeaker request makes little sense vs Farooq: The call to prayer is a prayer for the future, a call to those in times of despair

Further to After Arab countries, now Canada punishes Indian origin man for Islamophobia; terminated from job and removed from school body as probe continues and related protests against the sunset Azaan during Ramadan being sung with a microphone, two contrary perspectives. IMO, similar to church bells being played during religious events.

That being said, there might be legitimate to it being amplified five times a day all year:

Farzana Hassan on why it is not needed, arguing that it feeds into the Islamist agenda:

When Bilal ibn Ribah, the very first muezzin, or Islamic prayer caller, recited the now familiar lines of the azaan, early Muslims rushed to the mosque to offer supplication to Allah. Their homes were near enough for them to hear the call and respond accordingly. Bilal had a powerful and melodious voice that inspired the fledgling Muslim community to convey their devotion to Allah.

Muslims across Canada have always responded to the azaan, but inside mosques. Also, many Muslims now play the azaan in their homes on their phones or azaan clocks to remind themselves that the time for prayer is approaching, or they simply refer to printed prayer schedules. Anyway, the azaan itself has never been a prerequisite to prayer. The protocol for congregational prayers includes the azaan followed by the iqamah, the sequel to the azaan, calling worshippers to line up for prayer.

But the azaan now being broadcast in some cities of Canada serves no such purpose. The demand has come under the false pretext that Muslims will hear the azaan and be comforted during this time when COVID-19 has denied them access to mosques.

Assembly of more than five people during the COVID-19 crisis is still not permitted, and the call is not even reaching Muslim homes spread across the expanses of Canada. Also, it is only during the maghrib, or fourth prayer, that the azaan is being broadcast. That is the time most devout Muslims stay home with their families to break the fast. When there are no congregational prayers being held, who is listening to the azaan? Are some Muslims driving to the mosques just to hear it? What is the purpose of this futile exercise other than to score points under the flag of Islam as a political movement, known as Islamism?

It is obvious that for proponents of Islamism a political victory, however symbolic and however pointless, is what matters. In this case, they have obtained exemptions to noise by-laws in some cities. It is only votaries of Islamism who make such demands. This year Easter and Passover were also spent in isolation. No church bells were heard in Mississauga or Halifax because church services were denied. Most citizens, including moderate Muslims, have no wish to impose their rituals on others. Munir Pervaiz, former president of the Muslim Canadian Congress, deems the broadcast of the azaan unconstitutional.

Compliant and gullible city officials have answered a demand from provocative Muslim groups and permitted this broadcast of the azaan. The allowance was made under special circumstances and for the duration of the month of Ramadan. The feeble rationalization of Muslims not having access to mosques ignores the logical, cultural and geographical absurdities of allowing azaan as compensation.

It would be gratifying if the Islamists who constantly spew hatred of the “infidel” West at least have the decency to acknowledge this act of goodwill and bridge-building. They won’t, of course. We can only hope that the demands stay confined to just this one Ramadan spent under unprecedented circumstances occasioned by the pandemic.

But, as my colleague Tarek Fatah warned last week, “A spokesperson of one of the mosques revealed that this was merely a first step” and that Islamists across the Western world are seeking to make this change permanent.

The Islamists may have foisted this controversy upon us for the long haul.

Source: HASSAN: Why the mosque loudspeaker request makes little sense

And Mustafa Farooq providing some context  and rationale:

“Allahu akbar, Allahu akbar.”

The delivery room at the Grey Nuns Hospital in Edmonton is dark, but on May 5, 2015, at 6 a.m., I was jumping up and down as my newborn son came into the world.

The Muslim tradition is to whisper the call to prayer — the adhaan — in the ear of the newborn child after birth; but I was so filled with adrenalin in the moment, that I began to loudly chant the call to prayer even as I held him in my arms for the first time.

Five years on, almost to the day, we in the Canadian context are having a public discussion about the place of the adhaan — the call to prayer — as numerous municipalities, including Brampton, Missisauga, and Edmonton have amended their noise bylaws to permit Canadian Muslims to make the public call to prayer during the COVID-19 crisis.

I am a lawyer by training — so by nature I am inclined to want to draw out arguments before you about treating citizens equally (church bells are allowed, so why shouldn’t the Muslim call to prayer?) or around the need of citizens to adequately study the changes to the bylaws (many of the changes roll up in the next two weeks as Ramadan comes to an end), but in this case, I wish to tell you what the adhaan means to me, and what it means to me today, in the context of COVID-19 and in the context of life, birth, and death.

I cannot help — even as Nazis make bomb threats to mosques because they had the audacity to recite a five minute prayer at dusk — but think of the worshippers at the Quebec City Mosque, who reportedly heard Alexandre Bissonette state the opening words of the adhaan, “Allahu akbar” before opening fire in the bloodiest attack on a religious institution in Canadian history.

I cannot help but think of the adhaan as many traditional Muslims understand it as a matter of praxis. We are taught through the tradition that the Messenger Muhammad, peace be upon him, fled from his home to new land — Madinah — from those whose in the tribe of the Quraysh who were trying to assassinate him. Upon building the first mosque, the Medinian Muslims began to think of how to call people to prayer.

At first, the idea of blowing a shofar, as per the Judaic tradition, was considered. There was then the decision to utilize a wooden clapper, the naqus, which some of the Arabian Christians used in lieu of the bell. However, revelation came of a call to prayer, delivered without material instruments, but rather with the call of the human voice — a profound reflection on the absence of the need of the material to connect with the Divine.

Yet, there is a way in which the adhaan can be understood historically in the context of the neighbours of the Medinian Muslims, of different faith communities who lived together. It can be understood in the way that the first man who called the adhaan was Sayyidna Bilal — a freed Abyssinian slave who was tormented by his Qurayshi captor, and insulted for the colour of his skin — and who would look to the first faint light in the east on the Arabian Desert and say in supplication, “Oh God, I praise Thee, and I ask Thy Help for the Quraysh.”

I think of when Bilal, may God be pleased with him, returned to Makkah, and his voice filled the whole valley, much to the chagrin of the old chiefs of the Quraysh, who were furious at the sight of the former black slave on the roof of the Kaaba making the call to prayer — the call that equalized all human beings as being servants of the Divine, of being devoted to a call to ethics and justice.

I think of learning the adhaan in mosques across Canada from so many different folks. From a Sudanese neurologist, whose strong, bold voice made my hair stand on end, to the meliflous, lilt of a Bosnian refugee who had lost his bakery during the war, the call to prayer is a call to God, a prayer, a prayer for the future, a call to those in times of despair.

And I suppose that’s the key.

Source: ContributorsOpinionThe call to prayer is a prayer for the future, a call to those in times of despair

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