Debate over Muslim Integration: Doug Saunders and Salim Mansur

Starting with Robert Sibley’s good account of the debate over Muslim immigration from both the comforting (Saunders) and alarmist (Mansur) angles.

Some of Mansur’s language, however, almost resembles “Elders of Zion” language in its conspiratorial characterizations (for my mini-review of Mansur’s book, Delectable Lie: A Liberal Repudiation of Multiculturalism, see my other blog, Lymphoma Journey Week 49: Another Good Week):

Mansur pointed out that the long-term subversion of the West is the mandate of the Muslim Brotherhood, the parent organization not only of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in the United States, but also CAIR’s Canadian subsidiary, CAIR-CAN (which now prefers to call itself the National Council of  Canadian Muslims). The Muslim Brotherhood “sees immigration as a process of settlement in its strategy of subverting Western civilization from within,” he said

In Mansur’s view, the Islamists think long-term in much the same way as the communists did following the Russian Revolution in the early 1900s. What Canadians are seeing now, he concluded, is “the drip, by drip, by drip” effort to erode the liberal democratic traditions of western countries by means, in part, of mass immigration.

The actual text of the interventions by Doug Saunders and Salim Mansour opening the debate:

A follow-on column by Sibley, commenting on Irshad Manji’s recent speech and interviews (Q&A: Irshad Manji on Multiculturalism), also building on the “controlling the world” theme:

In a similar fashion to Mansur, Manji warns that if current fear-based multiculturalism continues Canadians will see their country increasingly segregated and cliqueist. And that way lays a fractured society of competing power elites. “By giving rights to cultures, not just to individuals, what we wind up doing, in fact, is not giving more power to the entire community, we wind up giving more power to those who are already powerful within certain communities.”

And therein resides the “threat.” As theologian Mark Durie observes: Islam “classically demands a political realization, and specifically one in which Islam rules over all other religions, ideologies and competing political visions. Islam is not unique in having a political vision or speaking to politics, but it is unique in demanding that it alone must rule the political sphere … Not all Muslims are seeking to implement this vision, but many are.”

In other words, offending people (including Muslims) is a necessary, if insufficient, condition for freedom in a multicultural society.

I agree with his point on being able to offend people as part of a democratic society, and the focus on individual rights, not group rights, but the ability to offend should not be used in a gratuitous manner and criticism should be measured in tone.

Muslim immigration and multiculturalism

And while free speech and debate is to be encouraged, a reminder by Amy Awad that what seems to be considered acceptable discourse with respect to Muslims would not be for Blacks, Jews or other minorities:

Unlike recreational debating societies, MLI is supposed to be providing real policy alternatives. But the resolution being debated tonight is informed by fear: “Muslim immigration is no threat to Canada or the West.” Can you imagine if the word “Muslim” were replaced by any other religious or ethno-cultural group — say “Jewish” or “black”?

Over the past century, Western democracies have held public debates on whether or not blacks ought to be given certain rights, and whether Jews threatened the European societies in which they resided. The debates were based on the problematic premise that blacks, Jews or other minorities were monolithic groups with defined characteristics, and that those characteristics were more important than the humanity they shared with everyone else.

Similarly, can we really start a debate about “Muslim immigration”? There is no such thing. Rather, there is immigration of a large variety of Muslim individuals from a broad range of countries and cultures around the world with a wide range of religious practices. Recall that 20% of the world’s population is Muslim. It is not possible to generalize about the threat they may or may not pose to Canada. We should not accept the very premise of this debate.

But better to have the debate out in the open, rather than being overly polite and avoid discussion.

Charte des valeurs: Some Good Opinion Pieces

Starting to blink as the Quebec Minister for Montréal, Jean-François Lisée signals open to compromise. However, what sort of compromise, and how do you compromise fundamental human rights, is another matter. A suivre:

Charte des valeurs: porte ouverte aux compromis | Le Devoir.

And a range of commentary in The Globe, ranging from Jeffrey Simpson on the Charter being a wedge issue, one that seems to be backfiring on the PQ,  and not even working well, Jack Jedwab of the Association for Canadian Studies provides a solid critique, contrasting with Canadian multiculturalism, and Lysiane Gagnon reminds us of the different histories of France and Quebec, and how France is hardly a model to follow. Francine Pelletier in Le Devoir also notes the generational gap on how the Charter and related issues are seen..

The Quebec charter is a wedge issue solely of the mind

No thanks Ms. Marois, I’ll take Canada’s brand of multiculturalism

Could Quebec go further than France?

La Charte de la chicane

Less profound commentary comes from Robert Sibley in The Citizen, who focuses on easier issue of the niqab/burqa, and is silent on the hijab. Not one word. And the issue in the Quebec Charter is more the hijab and other head coverings (kippa, turban etc.), rather than the niqab/burqa.

Targeting one religion without making a distinction between the two is intellectually dishonest at best. There is a wide range within the Muslim Canadian community from the secular to those who wear the hijab, and how they wear the hijab a similar range between extreme versions (no hair showing) to colourful and flirtish versions.

Might Quebec’s “charter of values” serve real Islamic values

Tarek Fatah repeats his call in The Sun for banning the burqa/niqab, citing the reason court decision in the UK that allowed for a woman to wear the niqab during her trial. This was a more permissive ruling than the recent Canadian Supreme Court ruling which set some tests. I am with Fatah on this; when it involves government identification requirements, working in a government office, or implicated in the legal system, accommodation is not appropriate. Walking down the street is one thing, compliance with government and legal requirements and practices is another thing.

West should ban niqab

The trouble with birth tourism

Robert Sibley of The Citizen on birth tourism. As per my earlier post (‘Birth tourists’ believed to be using Canada’s citizenship laws as back door into the West | National Post), while the CIC consultations earlier this year were helpful in clarifying the nature of the problem, and suggesting that it was more widespread among more communities, it was not ‘hard’ evidence with ‘hard’ numbers. It was rather ‘informed anecdote’ without the due diligence of applying more rigorous statistical analysis based on medicare billing and other records.

It may be adequate to give the government cover to change Canadian legislation – and there is, in today’s globalized world, a case to be made. However, CIC has not managed well previous policy and program changes, with the result that the number of  Canadians granted citizenship fell 37 percent in 2012 (from an average of 172,000 during 2007-11 to 113,000 in 2012), and the waiting period increased to 25 months (Australia’s is 6 months). And like all changes, the linkages between citizenship and related federal and provincial policies (e.g., vital stats) require detailed attention to get the balance right between improved citizenship integrity (needed) and efficient service to Canadians.

So a note of caution to Sibley and others: current implementation problems in citizenship can undermine the policy rationale.

The trouble with birth tourism.

An independent Canada

Good piece by Robert Sibley on the history and the people that shaped Canada’s becoming independent in the 20s and 30s. And a strong comment on how much the role of the public service may have changed since then.

That’s the kind of visionary counsel — backbone stiffening, if you will — Canadians could once expect from their public servants. You have to wonder, given the current dysfunctional relationship between the government and the public service, if those days are long past, and, if so, how that might affect the country’s future.

An independent Canada