Why the Conservative ethnic outreach strategy fell apart: Cardozo

Andrew Cardozo on the reasons the Conservative ethnic outreach strategy failed:

It was that they assumed the ethnic voters were too stupid to hear the Liberal promise and could be easily scared by hot button words.

After years of visiting thousands of parades, temples, gurdwaras and the occasional mosque, and chasing around with foreign leaders like Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Filipino President Benign Aquino and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the 416, the 905, the 604—all those “heavily ethnic” ridings went Liberal.  How could they?

The first pillar of the Conservative ethnic policy was in part that they identified the more conservative elements within each of the communities, no matter how large or small, and in doing so not only expanded their base, but deepened the conservativism of the party.  They were able to attract the many traditional-minded Christians from various countries in addition to conservative elements of others from China, India and all the non-Christian religious groups.

The second pillar of the strategy was to play home-country politics.  All governments have done this, but the Conservatives took it to new heights—an extent to which it was becoming distasteful.  There will always be leaders in each community who will bask in the glow of a visiting head of state, but at a different level, members of the community are saying,  “No, Mr. Modi is not my Prime Minister, it’s you damn it.”

So on both these approaches, the Conservatives were smart enough to understand that they were not going to get the whole community but they could get the support of the more conservative segments of each community.  The sad part of it though was that they had no compunction about racing into a community and aggressively addressing issues on which there were divisions.  Unlike any other political party, they inserted their wedge politics that they use in the wider society, and have left those communities divided like never before. For example, you got a handful of demonstrators from the Jewish Defence League outside a fundraiser for a Jewish Liberal candidate in Toronto.

The third pillar of the strategy has been to play communities off each other, by resurrecting divisions from the old countries.  Taking a principled stand is what they said it was about.  They actively reached out to minority Christian communities from the South Indian and Middle East regions—people who left those countries to escape Islamic fundamentalism only to find that fundamentalism growing here, be they homegrown terrorist or the niqab and hijab.

But here is where the Liberals and New Democrats need to look deeply.  Just because the Conservatives were appearing to be overly bombastic, the other parties should not race to the complete opposite position.  There remains a need to counter radicalism within Canada and we do need to work towards gender equality in all communities.  While some women might cover by their own choice, others are certainly forced to.  So finding that balance should not be eschewed just because of the Conservative’s ugly approach.

In the end the Conservative approach was to focus on the conservative minded segments, cater to home-country politics, divide communities and scare them.  They will have earned the more hard-core conservative supporters for life, but by and large the strategy fell apart and even backfired, as they lost the vast majority in these communities to the Liberals’ positive campaign of hope and inclusiveness.

Source: Why the Conservative ethnic outreach strategy fell apart | hilltimes.com

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The [Texas] Border War on Birthright Citizenship | Rolling Stone

One of the nastier and meaner policies:

In 2013, an estimated 295,000 children were born in the U.S. who had at least one undocumented immigrant parent, according to the Pew Research Center, accounting for eight-percent of all domestic births. And Texas is home to 1.65 million undocumented immigrants, nearly 15 percent of the national total. It is reasonable to assume that tens of thousands of children are born to undocumented immigrants in Texas every year, and that a great many of them now lack birth certificates. “These quasi-citizens, outcasts, will likely experience the harsh effects of being unable to prove their true status for many years to come,” reads the Mexican government’s amicus brief. “We are witnessing the creation of a vulnerable citizenry: undocumented citizens.”

Texas is an outlier in this regard, even among states that refuse to accept matrículas. In Arizona, parents can get a birth certificate for their children with a credible witness to attest to their identity and a notorized signature. In Arkansas, they can present a foreign passport without a U.S. visa. In Virginia, they can use a hospital birth letter. Even Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, a group that advocates for harsher immigration restrictions, told the Austin-American Statesman that “the more I think of it, the more I come down against the Texas argument, reluctantly.”

No one supporting the plaintiffs has been able to point to a smoking gun that reveals the state had a pre-meditated anti-immigrant agenda. In 2010, when Arizona enacted its sweeping SB 1070 law targeting undocumented immigrants, the legislature declared “the intent of this act is to make attrition through enforcement the public policy of all state and local government agencies in Arizona.” In other words, by cracking down on undocumented immigrants, the state hoped many would leave and fewer would come. But there has been no such declaration in Texas — the state describes its policy as “facially neutral and non-discriminatory.” Despite the fact that Texas politicians take apparent glee in talking tough on immigration and giving Washington the finger, no email has surfaced between state officials that reads, “Let’s squeeze ’em all out.” Even Harbury admits that — unlike in Arizona — the Texas policy grew in fits and starts. “It’s not like someone flipped a switch,” she says.

Still, the timing seems awfully suspicious. The decision to deny foreign passports that lacked a U.S. visa came on the heels of President Obama’s Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals, a 2012 policy that lifted the threat of deportation for as many as 1.7 million undocumented immigrants. The increasing rejection of the matrícula as a valid ID coincided with the Central American immigration “surge” in 2013 and 2014. And what appeared to be a widening crackdown on the matrícula this year followed a Texas-led lawsuit filed last December to block President Obama’s new executive actions on immigration, one of which — the Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA) — offers immigration deferrals and work authorizations to the undocumented parents of U.S. citizens.

Source: The Border War on Birthright Citizenship | Rolling Stone

How to be less stupid, according to psychologists: Tone down that ‘confident ignorance’

Interesting study and characterization of the three kinds of stupidity (and how awareness and mindfulness are key to reducing it):

What they found is that people tend to agree about what deserves to be called stupid and what doesn’t — remarkably, there was a roughly 90 per cent rate of agreement. They also learned that there are, it seems, three situations, that we tend to use the word stupid for. Three scenarios, characterized by specific types of behavior, that make people cringe or laugh or put their hands to their forehead.

The first is what Aczel and his team call “confident ignorance.” It’s when a person’s self-perceived ability to do something far outweighs that person’s actual ability to do it, and it’s associated with the highest level of stupidity.

Think of a drunk driver, who wrongly believes he or she is perfectly capable of manning the wheel. Or a burglar, who, meaning to steal a phone, instead plucks a GPS device, which leads the police straight to him.

People don’t just find this type of behavior stupid — they seem to associate it with the highest level of stupidity. These were given a mean stupidity score of 8.5 out of 10, a good deal higher than that for any other.

“The stupidest thing someone can do is overestimate themselves,” he said. “What that tells us is that you don’t have to have a low IQ, in people’s eyes, to act stupidly. You just have to misperceive your abilities.”

The second thing we use the word stupid to describe is when someone does something because they have, on some level, lost their ability to do otherwise.

Aczel calls this “lack of control” and characterizes it as the result of “obsessive, compulsive, or addictive behavior.” He offers the example of a person who decides to cancel plans with a good friend in order to keep playing video games at home.

The third type of behavior people like to call stupid is what Aczel coins “absentmindedness — lack of practicality.” It’s an either/or scenario, in which someone does something that’s clearly irrational, but for a reason that could be one of two things: they either weren’t paying attention or simply weren’t aware of something.

Think of someone who, having overfilled their car tires, ends up on the side of the road with a flat. That person either forgot to pay attention while filling the tires or didn’t know that he or she needed to do so in the first place. And we’re apt to call both of those scenarios stupid, albeit less stupid than the previous examples.

In some ways, Aczel’s research recalls the famous and oft-quoted scene from “Forrest Gump,” in which Tom Hanks, asked whether he’s crazy or just plain stupid, quips, “Stupid is as stupid does.”

These stupidity categories can potentially predict what environmental or inner states increase the likelihood that one would behave in a way that others could call stupid

The research, as it turns out, offers important lessons for all of us, because what we choose to call stupid actually has a significant impact on our behavior. As Aczel and his colleagues write in their paper:

“These stupidity categories can potentially predict what environmental or inner states increase the likelihood that one would behave in a way that others could call stupid. For example, ingested substances or excessive social support can promote confidence disproportionate to competence.

Executing habitual behaviors or multi-tasking can lead to absent-mindedness. Intensive affective states can result in failure of behavior control. Our findings would suggest that these environmental or inner contexts make us more susceptible to commit foolishness. An interaction of individual differences and environmental factors may serve as predictors for people’s propensity to show behavior that others would label as stupid.”

Source: How to be less stupid, according to psychologists: Tone down that ‘confident ignorance’

Exode canadien pour les réfugiés népalais de Québec

Symptomatic of the broader problem of Quebec retaining immigrants and refugees?

La communauté de réfugiés népalais de Québec est en train de se vider, et tout indique que l’hémorragie n’est pas terminée. Au-delà des difficultés linguistiques, beaucoup partent pour l’Ontario parce qu’ils échouent à passer leur permis de conduire au Québec.

Plusieurs sources au sein de la communauté estiment qu’au moins 40 familles ont quitté la ville l’été dernier, en plus des 25 qui étaient parties l’année précédente, sur environ 200 familles. La plupart s’établissent dans la grande région de Toronto, à Windsor, London, Hamilton, Kitchener ou Waterloo.

Pour ceux qui restent, c’est décourageant, dit Bhima Maya Chhetri derrière le comptoir de son épicerie dans Limoilou. La communauté avait entrepris des démarches auprès de la Ville pour faire reconnaître son association. Or elle se demande maintenant si ça vaut la peine. « Pourquoi faire ça si tout le monde s’en va ? » dit-elle. « Cette année, pendant les fêtes de Dashara [une célébration traditionnelle très festive dans la communauté], ça a été vraiment tranquille. On n’a pas fêté beaucoup parce que tout le monde a déménagé. »

Sa famille s’en ira-t-elle à son tour ? « Il faut y penser. On a besoin de notre communauté. On ne peut pas vivre tout seuls », dit-elle. « On a toutes sortes de clients. Des Indiens, des Québécois, mais 75 % sont des clients népalais. »

La communauté népalaise est le plus grand groupe de réfugiés à s’être établi dans la capitale ces dernières années. Depuis 2008, entre 1000 et 1500 personnes en provenance des camps de réfugiés du Népal sont arrivées. À l’échelle du Canada, Québec est la ville à avoir accueilli le plus grand nombre de réfugiés de ces camps. Encore l’été dernier, de nouvelles familles sont arrivées.

Source: Exode canadien pour les réfugiés de Québec | Le Devoir

The Franco-American Flophouse: Flophouse Citizenship and International Migration Reading List

The usual impressive list from Victoria Ferauge.

Source: The Franco-American Flophouse: Flophouse Citizenship and International Migration Reading List

The Conservative Legacy on Multiculturalism: More Cohesion, Less Inclusion 

This post updates an earlier article on how multiculturalism changed under Minister Kenney and the Harper government, taking into account their use of identity politics before and during the recent election Canada Today: Less Hotel, More Live-in Condo). This complements my ‘transition advice’ post, Multiculturalism: Getting the Balance Right – Reflections for a new government.

How has government language and programming changed under the Conservative government, and what is the legacy of Jason Kenney, the Minister for Multiculturalism? And what has been the impact of the niqab controversy and Conservative wedge politics on that legacy?

The overall context is that Canada’s diversity continues to increase, given increased non-European immigration. Diversity varies regionally and municipally, with B.C. and Ontario the most diverse, the Atlantic provinces and cities the least.

Along with this increased diversity, Canadian multiculturalism has continued to evolve since the policy was announced in 1971. The policy and subsequent act had two main aspects: cultural  recognition and equity, both designed to further integration.

The following table captures the evolution from “celebrating differences”to the Harper government’s emphasis on social cohesion. To respond to perceived faith and culture clashes, greater emphasis was placed on shared values, and the original metaphor of the cultural mosaic shifted to “conforming,”a contrast to the “harmony/jazz”of a more fluid approach to integration and accommodation.

CRRF Power of Words Webinar - Short.001

But what were the main policy and program changes made by Minister Kenney since 2007?

Early on, he articulated his vision of multiculturalism, linked closely to citizenship, as follows:

But having criss-crossed this great country; having attended hundreds of events and talked to thousands of new Canadians, I am certain of this: we all want a multiculturalism that builds bridges, not walls, between communities.

We want a Canada where we can celebrate our different cultural traditions, but not at the expense of sharing common Canadian traditions.

We want a country where freedom of conscience is deeply respected, but where we also share basic political values, like a belief in human dignity, equality of opportunity, and the rule of law.

We don’t want a Canada that is a hotel, where people come and go with no abiding connection to our past or to one another, where citizenship means only access to a convenient passport. We want a Canada where we are citizens loyal first and finally to this country and her historically grounded values.

The key to building such a Canada, to maintaining our model of unity-in-diversity, is the successful integration of newcomers.

And that should be the focus of today’s multiculturalism.

Emphasis accordingly shifted from cross-cultural understanding and inclusion to integration and social cohesion. Employment equity within government was replaced by making government more responsive to the needs of Canada’s diverse population. Combating racism and discrimination and encouraging civic participation was replaced by engaging in international discussions, largely focussed on anti-Semitism. Faith communities and related issues became explicitly part of multiculturalism.

While Kenney “flirted”with replacing multiculturalism with “pluralism,” he soon recognized the long-standing “brand value”of multiculturalism and its place in the Charter. No changes were made to the Multiculturalism Act.

Government funding support through grants and contributions was reoriented to these new objectives in the new Inter-Action program. The mix of organizations supported changed accordingly. A new “events stream”was created to support “food and folklore”events that encouraged integration between communities (as well as building political support).

Explicit linkages with citizenship were introduced. The Discover Canada citizenship guide emphasized common Canadian values, a more Conservative historical narrative, and integration rather than accommodation. Symbols that highlight Canadian historical connections to Britain, including the Crown, were highlighted.

The Government delivered on historical recognition for immigration and war-time internment for a number of communities (Chinese, Jewish, Italian, Sikh, and Ukrainian Canadians). These historical events were incorporated into Discover Canada.

Black History and Asian Heritage Months continued, with more emphasis on Canadian history and military. The Paul Yuzyk Award (“the father of multiculturalism”)was created to recognize contributions to Canadian multiculturalism and integration of newcomers (as well as appropriating multiculturalism for the Conservatives).

The Canadian Race Relations Foundation broadened its programming to include inter-faith initiatives and a greater emphasis on common values. The Government invested $30 million into the Global Centre for Pluralism of the Aga Khan based in Ottawa.

Existing federal and provincial multiculturalism networks were maintained, albeit weakened given reduced resources.

Multiculturalism was shifted from Canadian Heritage to Citizenship and Immigration (CIC) in 2008 and folded into CIC’s organizational structure. Resources were reallocated to other functions in CIC. Given CIC’s “centre of gravity”of immigration and decreased emphasis, the program declined in activity and importance.

Kenney remained Minister for Multiculturalism following the Cabinet shuffle of 2013 given the importance of the “fourth sister”in Canadian politics.

At the same time, political outreach to ethnic communities increased. Kenney — “curry in a hurry” — was on the road three weekends out of four, with up to 20 events per weekend. The new “events stream” furthered his outreach. These efforts, according to the Canada Election Survey and related polling, played off particularly well in the 2011 election with older, more well-established communities such as Italian, Greek, Portuguese, Jewish, Chinese and older South Asian communities.

However, this extensive outreach failed to stem the tide in the 2015 election, where the Liberals won 30 of the 33 ridings with majority visible minority population (mainly in the Greater Toronto Area and BC’s Lower mainland). The Conservatives only won two of these seats, losing decisively in terms of the popular vote for all these ridings: 32 percent compared to 52 percent for the Liberals).

Changes to multiculturalism took place in parallel with a greater focus on economic immigration, major refugee reform to reduce the number of refugee claimants, and the 2014 changes to the Citizenship Act making citizenship “harder to get and easier to lose.”The latter makes a clear distinction between born and naturalized Canadians, as the latter (including those born dual nationals) are subject to revocation in cases of terror or treason.

So have these changes made a difference to the multicultural fabric of Canada?

First, all parties continue to actively court ethnic communities. The Conservatives, to their credit, had taken this to a new level, arguing that new Canadians intrinsically shared conservative values like hard work and family. They maintained current levels of immigration (about 250,000 per year) throughout the 2008 recession. Unlike Europe or the U.S., we have no major political party opposed to large-scale immigration. Multiculturalism generally has not been a wedge issue. While there are significant differences, Canadian debate focusses more on specific policies rather than existential debates, Quebec excepted.

However, this approach shifted dramatically in the lead up to the 2015 election and during the campaign itself as the Conservative government increasing practiced wedge politics, singling out Canadian Muslims on issues as diverse as the niqab at citizenship ceremonies, spousal abuse, ‘honour’ crimes and ‘snitch lines.’ Kenney, who had been so vocal in his condemnation in the Parti québécois’s proposed Quebec Values Charter, was complicit in this change. The end result undermined Canada’s social fabric and ultimately backfired as an electoral strategy. The Conservative Party will need to reflect upon the possible long-term effect in its efforts to gain and maintain new Canadian support.

Secondly, while all political parties have closer relations with some communities, the Conservative government was more willing to “pick sides”than others. The shift in Canadian Mid-East policy towards unequivocal support for the Netanyahu government was the most notable example.

Thirdly, the Government emphasized symbolic measures. Citizenship judges are diverse but will largely be limited to a ceremonial role under the new Citizenship Act. But, only three out of some 200 federal judicial appointments were non-white. Visible minority ministers were in junior positions (multiculturalism, sport, seniors). Senate appointments, however, were more representative.

Fourthly, broadening racism and discrimination to relations within and among communities is welcome, given that our largest cities are 25-50 percent visible minorities. However, the government’s almost exclusive focus on anti-Semitism has neglected challenges faced by visible minorities, including Canadian Muslims. While the Conservative government cultivated strong relations with Muslim minority communities such as the Ahmadiyyas and Ismailis, it made little effort to develop relations with ‘mainstream’ Sunni and Shia Muslim communities.

Fifthly, these changes need to be seen in the context of a shift towards economic immigrants and tighter citizenship rules that will likely, over time, slowly drive down the current naturalization rate of 85 percent. This change will affect some communities more than others.

Overall, under Kenney, the Canadian model of multiculturalism returned to its roots by emphasizing integration, recognizing the diverse cultural identities of Canadians so that all Canadians, whatever their origins, could feel part of Canada. However, Canadian Muslims were singled out, wedge politics practiced and equity considerations were downplayed.

As part of citizenship, Kenney implemented a more explicit approach to shared identity and values. “Harmony/jazz”ad hoc improvisation was replaced by “conforming,” to clearer expectations, correcting an imbalance that implied Canada was a clean slate or as a hotel without any sense of what was acceptable and what was not.

Had the Conservative government not played ‘wedge politics’ with Canadian Muslims, it would have ensured a reasonable legacy for the incoming government to build upon. But having done so, it has tarnished its legacy, and perhaps harmed its future political prospects.

OCASI Statement: Priorities For The New Government Of Canada | OCASI

No real surprises here.

Do not expect, however, that all will be met (e.g., increased settlement funds) but many are aligned to the Liberal platform and/or public statements (and OCASI appears to have taken this into account):

Refugees

  • Fully restore Interim Federal Health Program for refugees and refugee claimants;
  • Expand and expedite government and private sponsorship of refugees including Syrians;
  • Remove the arbitrary and unfair Designated Country of Origin scheme, which has created a two-tier refugee determination system

Family reunification 

  • Grant permanent resident status to sponsored spouses upon arrival, eliminating Conditional Permanent Residence which has increased the vulnerability of women immigrants.
  • Restore maximum age for sponsorship of immigrant dependents to age 22 from 19;
  • Increase parent and grandparent sponsorship applications, at a minimum doubling them to 10,000 a year (Liberal party commitment);
  • Make family reunification faster by increasing resources to process sponsorship applications, particularly at visa posts with the longest delays; and by introducing Express Entry for family reunification (processing within 6 months);

Citizenship

  • Repeal the revocation of citizenship of dual citizens, and remove barriers to citizenship introduced through Bill C-24 including longer residency period to qualify, expansion of language and knowledge test requirements and no right of appeal to courts;
  • Reduce delays to acquire citizenship and reduce costs (which have tripled as a result of Bill C-24);

Migrant workers

  • Give all migrant workers (at all skill levels) a pathway to permanent residency;
  • Remove the four-year-in four-year-out limitation on migrant workers;

Francophone immigration

  • Support more francophone immigration to Ontario and the rest of Canada, meeting the 4% target (outside Quebec) as a minimum;

Immigrant and refugee settlement

  • Support immigrants and refugees to get jobs that match their experience and education through foreign credential recognition, enforcement of employment equity legislation and through bridging, mentoring and job placement programs;
  • Reverse the deep funding cuts to settlement services in Ontario.

Source: OCASI Statement: Priorities For The New Government Of Canada | OCASI

Ontario sets strict new limits on police street checks

Changes to carding, the new Ontario policy:

You will be told you have the right to walk away. You will be told the interaction is voluntary. You will be told that you do not have to give any information, and why you are being stopped and asked for it to begin with.

You will be provided with a written record of your interaction, given information about the officer, and informed about the police complaints system.

In a move hailed as historic — and overdue — the Ontario government is proposing a strict set of regulations banning all random and arbitrary police stops, and setting limits on how and when police can question and document citizens.

“The regulation makes it very clear that police officers cannot stop you to collect your personal information simply based on the way you look or the neighbourhood you live in,” Yasir Naqvi, Ontario’s minister of community safety and correctional services, announced at Queen’s Park on Wednesday.

“This is the first rights-based framework surrounding these police interactions in our history.”

Source: Ontario sets strict new limits on police street checks | Toronto Star

And Desmond Cole’s reminder that rules need to be accompanied by cultural change:

The Wynne government is finally acknowledging that residents’ stories of intimidation and surveillance are credible, and deserve a response. It’s a welcome, if long overdue, development. But new rules cannot, on their own, reverse a police culture of aggression and hostility towards residents, especially black Torontonians. We can’t regulate decency and respect in policing, but we must nevertheless demand it.

… Too many residents — especially those who are black, indigenous, homeless, or living with mental illness — can recount stories similar to Miller’s. They rarely have the video evidence to prove what we should all collectively know by now: the police regularly abuse their authority when dealing with vulnerable and marginalized people.

New rules and technologies can help discourage bad behaviour and hold officers to account when they transgress, but without tackling the ingrained culture of police intimidation no real solution to this problem is possible. Indeed, the arresting officers in Miller’s incident directed their TAVIS colleagues to “turn the camera on that guy,” to use their recording devices as a tool of intimidation. Equipping police with body cameras is different from insisting that police respect all residents, and ensuring that those who do not are taken off the streets.

Likewise, provincial rules on carding, which have simply not existed until now, can’t fully eliminate arbitrary police stops or disproportionate police suspicion of black people. It makes no difference that the TAVIS officers who accosted Miller are themselves black; if the expectation in police culture is to treat black residents with greater suspicion and less respect, all officers must fall in line, or must face internal scrutiny for failing to play the game.

It took too long for the province to object to carding. It will be many months before the new regulations are critiqued, modified and passed. Even then, it will be up to local police services boards, many of whom have shown no interest in stopping carding, to make the proposed changes real. But carding is just an ugly manifestation of the dominant social belief that blacks and other marginalized people need to be kept in line with aggression, dominance, and disrespect.

India, France and Secularism – The New York Times

Interesting comparison between Indian and French secularism by Sylvie Kauffmann:

Hindu fundamentalists have a more radical view of beef consumption and the slaughtering of cows. Some states, like Maharashtra, have banned the sale of beef, and calls for a national beef ban are growing. The fact that Muslims and Christians are traditional beef eaters is not an obstacle. The B.J.P.’s Tarun Vijay, expressing a more stringent interpretation of secularism on the opinion website Daily 0, sees “beef eating as a challenge to India, its public display as an act of bravado,” adding, “It is a political act that has nothing to do with culinary practice or religion.”

In both countries Muslim minorities complain about discrimination — and with reason. But while many French Muslims, who make up about 7.5 percent of the population, feel targeted by “laïcité,” Indian Muslims see secularism as their best protection. One important difference is that radicalization is an almost nonexistent phenomenon in Indian Islam, while it is a dangerous (but limited) trend among European Muslims. Only 30 Indian citizens are known to have joined the Islamic State so far, out of 176 million Muslims; in France, the number of home-grown jihadists is close to 2,000, out of 4 to 5 million. So while in France, fundamentalism comes from the Muslim minority, in India it comes from the Hindu majority.

India has been home to Muslims since the 8th century; Mughals ruled most of India and Pakistan 400 years ago. In contrast, Islam’s implantation in Europe is only a few decades old; France’s law on laïcité predates their arrival. Today, as minorities, Muslims feel vulnerable. In France, the January terrorist attacks against Charlie Hebdo and a Jewish supermarket deepened the malaise, as many Muslims stayed away from the #JeSuisCharlie movement. When 4 million French people took to the streets in support of freedom of expression right after the attacks, they assumed that French Muslims would make a point to be part of this show of unity. Only a small number did. For many of those who did not show up, laïcité has gone too far. Allowing cartoonists to make fun of religious figures, including their Prophet, may be a French tradition; it is not their idea of secularism.

In India, the threat against secularism goes even deeper, down to the values dear to its founding fathers, Gandhi and Nehru. “This is an India which is crying out for a Mahatma who puts compassion and tolerance above all else,” wrote the well-known journalist Rajdeep Sardesai after the recent attacks. An India that could rally behind #JeSuisIkhlaq.

Source: India, France and Secularism – The New York Times

Why Fans Are Sending the Chinese Artist Ai Weiwei Boxes of Legos – The Atlantic

Installation and performance art combined, along with politics:

Ai Weiwei, the Chinese artist known worldwide for his politically charged art installations, has long butted heads with his country’s government over its censorship policies and human-rights violations. Now, he’s facing resistance of a different kind. The Danish toy company Lego refused to send the artist its plastic bricks to use in a project for the National Gallery of Victoria, explaining that it “cannot approve the use of Legos for political works.”

In an Instagram post on Friday, Ai announced the company’s rejection of his request, and suggested that it’s related to the recently announced opening of a new Legoland in Shanghai. In subsequent posts, he blasted the company’s decision and questioned their ethics: “Lego’s refusal to sell its product to the artist is an act of censorship and discrimination,” he wrote. Commenters on his posts expressed disdain for Lego (“Will never see Lego the same way again after their decision,” said one), and others suggested that Ai’s supporters send him all the bricks he needs.

The idea took off: Offers from fans seeking to donate Legos to Ai have been pouring in on Twitter since, and the company is receiving backlash for inadvertently making a political statement in their refusal to sell to the artist.

Source: Why Fans Are Sending the Chinese Artist Ai Weiwei Boxes of Legos – The Atlantic