George Soros decries Hungary’s Orban for anti-Semitic attacks

Speaks for itself:

Hungarian-born billionaire George Soros is denouncing a propaganda campaign waged against him by the government in his native country.

Soros, whose political views are in stark contrast to Budapest’s ruling Fidesz party, said Monday he had been targeted by an administration “stoking anti-Muslim sentiment and employing anti-Semitic tropes reminiscent of the 1930s.”

In a statement published on his website, Soros also rejected seven statements in a “national consultation” orchestrated by Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s government, which claimed he wanted to settle at least 1 million migrants a year in Europe and pay them each thousands of euros.

The Hungarian prime minister has often vilified the Jewish-born investor, whose ideals are squarely at odds with Orban’s view that European culture is under an existential threat from migration and multiculturalism. Orban has previously described Western liberalism as “spiritual suicide” for Central Europeans.

‘Lies and distortions’

Orban launched a nationwide television and billboard advertising campaign in July accusing Soros of devising Europe’s refugee crisis. Critics of Orban’s drive to condemn the 87-year-old investor said posters were not dissimilar to the anti-Semitic imagery of the 1930s, which portrayed Jews as political manipulators.

Meanwhile, the Fidesz party sent out 8 million letters to Hungarian citizens last month, attempting to provide further detail about Soros’ alleged political agenda.

Soros responded publicly for the first time Monday and said attacks from Hungary’s government contained “lies and distortions” that were designed to create an “outside enemy.”

via George Soros decries Hungary’s Orban for anti-Semitic attacks

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Swing ridings with high visible minority populations will tilt 2019 federal election, says politicos

Based on my riding analysis. Interesting comments by MPs. For the complete riding list see C16 – Visible Minority – Ridings:

Some 41 “swing” ridings with visible minority populations of 50 per cent or more, including five constituencies in the Greater Toronto Area that have 80 per cent or more visible minorities, will be key battlegrounds for all major parties in the 2019 election, say politicos.

“These ridings will elect the next government,” said rookie Conservative MP Bob Saroya (Markham-Unionville, Ont.) in an interview with The Hill Times. “These are the swing ridings.”

Based on the 2016 census data, recently released by Statistics Canada, and a list compiled by author and multiculturalism expert Andrew Griffith, 27 of the 41 ridings are located in Ontario, nine in British Columbia, two each in Alberta and Quebec, and one in Manitoba.

Among the 41, there are five GTA-area ridings with visible minority populations greater than 80 per cent: Scarborough North (92.2 per cent), Brampton East (90.6 per cent), Markham-Thornhill (84.8 per cent), Markham-Unionville (84.6 per cent), and Scarborough-Agincourt (80.6 per cent). And there are 12 ridings in Ontario and British Columbia combined where visible minorities comprise between 70 per cent and 80 per cent of the population.

via Swing ridings with high visible minority populations will tilt 2019 federal election, says politicos – The Hill Times – The Hill Times

Asian immigrants altering Aussie suburbs – The Straits Times

Similar to Canadian cities like Richmond and Markham (Chinese Canadians), Surrey and Brampton (South Asian and Sikh Canadians):

Groups of men sit in front of a branch of the Bank of China on a weekday afternoon and huddle around fast-moving games of xiangqi, or Chinese chess.

Nearby, a series of Chinese noodle houses and barbecue restaurants adjoin a large Asian supermarket selling pastes, teas and oils sourced from across the region. Most customers as well as pedestrians making their way to the nearby train station speak Mandarin or Cantonese.

But this bustling shopping strip is not in Beijing or Hong Kong, but the Australian suburb of Hurstville, which is on the cusp of setting a historic first for Australia. The suburb, just 16km from the centre of Sydney, is set to become the first in Australia where the majority of the population are of Chinese origin.

According to the 2016 census, 49.4 per cent of Hurstville’s 30,000-odd residents are of Chinese ancestry, compared with just 5 per cent who have Australian ancestry.

Forty-one per cent of the population were born in mainland China or Hong Kong, while 28 per cent were born in Australia, 7 per cent in Nepal and 2 per cent in Indonesia.

It is a remarkable change from just 15 years ago, when 22.7 per cent of Hurstville’s population were born in China or Hong Kong, about half the percentage born in Australia.

Standing beside one of the xiangqi games in progress, Mr Danny Cheng, a 66-year-old originally from the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou, said he was attracted to Hurstville by its easy access to the airport and the city centre.

Recent waves of immigration have led to remarkable changes in Australia’s cultural mix, last year’s national census showed.

Based on the survey, 26 per cent of Australians were born overseas, a proportion higher than other English-speaking nations such as the United States (14 per cent), Britain (13 per cent), and New Zealand (23 per cent).

Indian and Chinese immigrants are rapidly changing the country’s cultural mix. Of 183,608 people offered permanent immigrant visas last year, 21 per cent were from India, 15 per cent were from China, and 9 per cent were from Britain, based on federal government data.

Chinese immigrants tend to be drawn to Sydney, Australia’s largest city. The census found that the proportion of Chinese-born immigrants has overtaken those born in England and accounts for almost 5 per cent of the city’s population of five million.

Indians, meanwhile, are the largest foreign-born group in the second-largest city of Melbourne, comprising almost 4 per cent of the city’s 4.5 million people.

Professor Jock Collins, from the University of Technology Sydney, said successive Australian governments have helped to prevent social problems with an immigration programme that is non-discriminatory and “casts the net to all corners of the world”.

In addition, local, state and federal governments have made a strong effort to ensure basic services such as health, education and welfare are easily accessible to people from diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds.

A short drive away from Hurstville, in the suburb of Harris Park, a similar story is unfolding but with a different ethnic group: Of the area’s 6,000-odd residents, 46 per cent were born in India.

The evolving characters of Hurstville and Harris Park tell the story of Australia’s changing ethnic mix, as China and India start to overtake Britain as the largest source of immigrants Down Under.

An expert on Australian immigration, Professor Jock Collins, from the University of Technology Sydney, said that Hurstville’s majority Chinese-ancestry population is a first for the nation but he pointed out that the area still has a diverse cultural mix.

He said Australia has not tended to have “ghettoes” or highly concentrated immigrant areas, unlike British suburbs with high proportions of Pakistani, Indian or Caribbean residents, or Miami, in the United States, with its concentrations of Cuban-origin residents.

“In Australia, unlike many other countries, we don’t have ghettoes where only one group dominates,” he told The Straits Times.

“Even places such as Hurstville and Harris Park are cosmopolitan rather than mono-ethnic communities. So I don’t think it is a thing to worry about – there has not been conflict or issues in those areas of high concentration.”

Analysts say that so-called “chain migration” – in which immigrants from one location follow one another to a new community – remains common for the immigrant waves from countries such as China and India, as it has for previous waves from places such as Greece and Italy. But, over time, immigrants in Australia tend to disperse across the city.

via Asian immigrants altering Aussie suburbs, Australia/NZ News & Top Stories – The Straits Times

Douglas Todd: Who decides the land is ‘sacred’?

Todd on the Ktunaxa/Jumbo Glacier case:

Ktunaxa elder Chris Luke Sr. lives in B.C.’s Purcell Mountains, about 1,000 kilometres east of Vancouver. He doesn’t speak English and he knows how to keep his silence.

Still, Luke is a powerful man.

For eight years, the elder’s religious vision has seized the attention of Canada’s top courts, demanding the focus of hundreds of lawyers, judges, civil servants and politicians.

Their work became necessary because Luke said he had an epiphany in 2004 — which he did not reveal to his people until 2009 ­— that the grizzly bears that inhabit a large chunk of public land in the Purcells are sacred, divine protectors.

As a result, Luke’s small tribal group entered into years of hard political negotiations with the B.C. government, which turned into a precedent-setting court case against developers of a ski resort called Jumbo Glacier.

The case, which Luke and his people lost this month in the Supreme Court of Canada, not only raised profound questions about Canada’s commitment to protect religious freedom, it opened a bigger cans of worms. It highlighted philosophical, ethical, anthropological and religious issues.

Four of the broad questions from Luke’s case are: Who decides what is “sacred?” Are religious beliefs static? Is Indigenous spirituality monolithic? Do aboriginals consistently respect the land?

In the case, known as “Ktunaxa Nation versus British Columbia,” the elder was put forward as the sole source of religious truth.

“The record is clear that the Ktunaxa (believe) only certain members of the community, knowledge-keepers, possess information about spiritual values, and that only Mr. Luke could speak to these matters,” wrote the judges.

The Supreme Court of Canada agreed the Ktunaxa were “sincere” in following Luke’s vision of the “Grizzly Bear Spirit.” But the judges noted the Ktunaxa had believed for less than a decade that the grizzly territory they call Qat’muk was of utmost spiritual significance.

The judges concluded timing didn’t matter, though. “Whether this belief is ancient or recent plays no part in our analysis. The Charter protects all sincere religious beliefs and practices, old or new.”

In other words, Canadian courts are obliged to take seriously almost anybody who convinces their followers that land in B.C., or anywhere, is absolutely sacred.

Theoretically, Luke could have been a New Age guru from, say, Los Angeles, who persuaded a group to “sincerely” believe parts of Saskatchewan, or Mississauga, were untouchable. The potential is high for arbitrariness.

Even though the Ktunaxa lost their case, two of nine Supreme Court judges (and many aboriginals and their supporters) believe the majority made a mistake in one of the reasons they refused to stop the ski development for religious reasons.

In general, I tend not to champion giant ski resorts, nor shopping malls nor casinos, whether on public, private or Aboriginal land. Like many Canadians, I also strongly support reconciliation with Canada’s Indigenous populations, along with the treaty process.

The Supreme Court of Canada agreed the Ktunaxa were ‘sincere’ in following their elder’s vision of the ‘Grizzly Bear Spirit.’ But the judges noted the Ktunaxa had believed for less than a decade that the grizzly territory in the Purcell Mountains was of utmost spiritual significance. Determining ‘sacredness’ is subjective, and the courts justifiably don’t want to take a stand on it.

But, with the Ktunaxa case, it’s hard not to think the majority of judges were more reality-based than the dissenters.

One of the flaws in the Ktunaxa lawyers’ arguments was in the definition of sacred. Who decides what is sacred? And what rights does that give those who claim it?

The court concluded understandings of “sacred” are subjective. In a pluralistic society, one person’s sacred is another person’s profane.

So, instead of legally protecting a physical place or object that some claim sacred, the only thing Canada’s courts rightly felt justified in guarding is religious expression (which includes giving Sikhs the right to carry kirpans, or ceremonial knives).

Beyond the legal angles, which are many, the Ktunaxa case also brings up many broad religious issues, including about whether faiths are static.

Though many think religions such as Christianity or Islam are set in stone when they’re founded, many other believe they change over time. The Ktunaxa case inadvertently confirmed how a group’s theology can dramatically evolve, since the court found no evidence they believed in the “Grizzly Bear Spirit” before contact with Europeans.

The case also touches on the question: Are Canadian Indigenous beliefs monolithic?

The two dissenting judges seemed to assume so, with Judge Michael Moldaver saying things such as, “There is an inextricable link between spirituality and land in Indigenous religious traditions.”

But no judge mentioned the wide religious diversity among Canada’s 1.7 million Indigenous people, including that two of three are Christian. That includes many Ktunaxa.

Dream Catchers: How Mainstream America Discovered Native Spirituality, by Philip Jenkins, is one of many books describing how eclectic and syncretistic Indigenous spirituality has been, including in the way such things as smudging rituals have been loosely borrowed and adapted.

We cannot assume religious uniformity among Indigenous people or anyone else, even though the dissenting judge appeared to do so — somewhat naively, romantically.

Canadian scholar Rod Preece’s Animals and Nature has detailed hundreds of ways North American Indigenous people have through the centuries mistreated the land and animals.

That includes the way Prairie natives killed thousands of buffalo at a time, wasting their meat, sometimes just taking their tongues. It also entails recent events, such as the Inuit hunter on his snowmobile who chased 162 wolves to their deaths and B.C. aboriginals joining non-Aboriginals in overfishing.

North American aboriginals often ambivalent approach to nature also suggests itself when tribal groups erect unsightly billboards and casinos on what is supposedly “sacred” land, along with huge commercial developments, such as the new Tsawwassen mall.

Such troublesome realities, however, didn’t stop Judge Moldaver from playing the role of a religion expert when he insisted Aboriginals are unique in their firm belief physical things are sacred.

That’s unlike those who follow “Judeo-Christian faiths,” Moldaver claimed, “where the divine is considered to be supernatural.”

Thousands of religion scholars would disagree with the judge’s generalization. They might cite the Christian theology of “incarnation,” which teaches God is embedded in every natural thing, not to mention the commitment of Jews and Muslims to their holy lands.

Moldaver’s awkward attempts at theology serve as a reminder of why Canadian courts have decided never to rule on what is religiously “orthodox.”

To be fair, the dissenting judge was trying in his way to further the valuable process of reconciliation with Canada’s aboriginals.

But the majority of judges went ahead and actually did so: By clarifying that ostensibly political claims about who controls public land cannot be made on religious grounds.

via Douglas Todd: Who decides the land is ‘sacred’? | Vancouver Sun

‘More girls, fewer skinheads’: Poland’s far right wrestles with changing image| The Guardian

Different take than seen elsewhere:

The presence of Islamophobic, homophobic, antisemitic and white supremacist chants and banners at last weekend’s March of Independence in Warsaw raised fears about the rise of the far right in Poland.

But interviews with nationalist and far-right leaders and their opponents reveal a more nuanced picture of a relatively marginal movement wrestling with its public image while hoping to seize the opportunities afforded to it by the success of the ruling rightwing Law and Justice party (PiS) and popular opposition to immigration from Muslim-majority countries.

Far-right insiders described a movement that has changed substantially in recent years – “more girls, fewer skinheads,” said one – with a marked increase in middle-aged and highly educated recruits. “A decade ago if you saw us in a bar you would know we were from the far right, but if you saw us now you would have no idea,” said one insider.

One factor in this change, they noted, was the influence on Polish society of young people returning from working in countries such as Britain. “So many young people travelled to work in western countries, and then came back and told their friends and families what was going on in western Europe,” said Krzysztof Bosak, of the ultra-nationalist organisation National Movement.

“They told them about the process of exchange of population, by which people of European origin are replaced by people from Africa and Asia, and about Islamisation.”

Aleks Szczerbiak, a professor of politics at the University of Sussex, said: “It was long assumed that young Poles would come to the west and become more secular, multicultural and liberal, and that they would re-export those things back to Poland. But instead their experience of the west seems to have reinforced their social conservatism and traditionalism in many ways.”

The march’s organisers included the National-Radical Camp (ONR), the successor to a pre-war Polish fascist movement; All-Polish Youth, a far-right youth organisation that has run social media campaigns condemned as racist; and the National Movement.

Despite their involvement, and the participation in the march of even more hardline white supremacist groups such as the National-Socialist Congress and the so-called Szturmowcy (Stormtroopers), the march also attracted thousands of people with little to no affiliation to nationalist or far-right groups.

To the march’s defenders, including the Polish National Foundation, a body with strong ties to Law and Justice that was set up by the government last year to “promote Poland abroad”, the international media’s focus on racist slogans and banners amounted to “slandering the good name of Poland and an insult to the Polish people”.

“Waving the white-red national flags, the supporters of Poland’s independence, veterans, Warsaw’s inhabitants and visiting guests all marched together. As in the past, a large percentage of the 60,000-strong crowd were families with children,” read a statement from the foundation, which described some of the media coverage as a “defamation”.

Critics argued that the presence of people with a range of political views at last weekend’s march was precisely the problem, because it amounted to a tacit acceptance of far-right extremism. “They may not all identify as nationalists, but they are being united by the language of nationalism” said Rafal Pankowski, a professor at Collegium Civitas in Warsaw and director of the Never Again association, an anti-racism campaign group.

“The fact there were families with children there doesn’t mean the march was OK, it means there is something wrong when people think there’s no problem with bringing their children to a far-right rally.”

Speaking to the Guardian, nationalist and far-right leaders distanced themselves from charges of racism, insisting their movements were dedicated to the preservation of Polish-Catholic culture and moral values, and not white supremacy.

“Faith is very important to us, the Catholic religion is part of Polish national identity,” said Bosak, who served as an MP between 2005 and 2007. “We want Catholic morality and the social teachings of the church to be the base for the state policy, for the law, for a new constitution.”

Tomasz Kalinowski, a spokesman for the ONR, said: “We have much more in common with Cardinal Robert Sarah, an African conservative traditionalist Catholic from Guinea, than we do with a pro-EU, liberal, secular politician like Emmanuel Macron or a Polish Bolshevik like Feliks Dzerzhinsky.”

Observers argue it is hostility towards perceived western models of multiculturalism that binds the far right to the anti-immigrant populism represented by the ruling Law and Justice party – an alliance consummated each year by the March for Independence.

“The problem is not that there is a huge amount of support for far-right movements, the problem is that there is a lack of distinction between the conservative right and the far right, and that is very dangerous in a democratic society,” said Pankowski.

Seen this way, the March for Independence signals not a surge in support for far-right movements but the seeping of far-right ideas into Polish mainstream discourse. The far right is not leading from the front but being left behind.

“The far right is not able to build a party, an institution, that can get even 2% of public support, said Slawomir Sierakowski, of Krytyka Polityczna, a left-leaning thinktank. “The march is a sign of frustration, an alibi for their weakness, their opportunity to get some attention once a year. Without the media, they would be nothing.”

via ‘More girls, fewer skinheads’: Poland’s far right wrestles with changing image | World news | The Guardian

Citizens with immigrant backgrounds lagging behind in Germany – Daily Sabah

Some good background into:

A report by the German Federal Statistical Office (Destatis), which conducts regular studies on ‘integration,’ has found that the divergence between immigrant-born and native Germans in key areas, such as education, the labor market and income, have mostly remained unchanged since 2005.

The study on education was conducted on young adults aged 18 to 25.

Those without a high school diploma, of an immigrant background, were 10.6 percent of the sample in 2005 and 12.1 percent in 2016.

By contrast, native Germans of that age group without a high school diploma were 4 percent in 2005 and 3.6 percent in 2016.

Regarding the labor market for people aged 15 to 64, things are somewhat different.

Unemployment has been steadily declining in Germany since the early 2000s.

Native German unemployment in 2005 was at 9.8 percent while non-natives were at a 17.9 percent. By contrast, these numbers came down to 3.4 and 7.1 percent respectively.

The numbers regarding income, however, have also remained very steady. The so-called “working poor” are a share of workers across many professions, and the percentage their group occupies has remained stagnant since 2005 as well, for both non-native and native Germans.

Native Germans at risk of poverty were about 6 percent of the working population in 2005 and rose slightly to 6.2 percent in 2016, while those of immigrant backgrounds were at 13.8 percent and decreased by 2 decimal points by last year.

There’s an area of improvement as well.

The proportion of both native Germans and those of an immigrant background of 25-to under-35-year-olds with a university degree has all but equalized in the country.

About 17 percent of native Germans of that age group held university degrees in 2005, with people of an immigrant background lagging behind at 13.9 percent. Their share of university degree holders, however, has increased substantially since 2015.

By 2016, however, both native Germans and non-natives held degrees at an equal 26.1 percent.

Germany has seen a massive influx of people of African and Middle Eastern decent over the past two years. Exact numbers are not known, since hundreds of thousands of those who arrived since 2015 have gone off the grid, but it is estimated that nearly 2 million people got in.

A total of 18.6 million people with foreign roots live in Germany. A lot of them are of Turkish decent, descendants of guest workers who decided to stay in Germany after they were invited in the 1950s and 1960s.

Nearly a quarter of the country, 22.5 percent, are reported to have an “immigrant background” according to Destatis.

via Citizens with immigrant backgrounds lagging behind in Germany – Daily Sabah

Law society’s Statement of Principles may be useless, but it does not compel speech

The counter arguments, well articulated, by Alice Woolley:

The Law Society of Ontario’s requirement that its licensees create a Statement of Principles acknowledging their “obligation to promote equality, diversity and inclusion generally” has outraged many, but none more than this paper’s opinion writers. Bruce Pardy, Conrad Black, Jonathan Kay, Christie Blatchford and the editorial board as a whole have condemned its “egregious foray into compelled speech,” its North Korean-style requirement of “adherence to specific beliefs,” and its “virtue-signaling kabuki.”

And so I enter the lion’s den. I do so not to support compelling speech or belief. Nor to argue that the law society’s current initiative is useful or lawful. My goal is more modest. Simply put, the critics rest their argument on a particular interpretation of the law society’s requirement: that it asks lawyers to affirm their belief in equality, diversity and inclusion. That interpretation is wrong.

The argument that the law society compels speech turns, first, on its “acknowledgement” requirement, and, second, on its requirement that lawyers “promote” equality. Provided that this duty exists, however, no meaningful incursion on speech or belief follows from being required to acknowledge its existence. As an active member of the Law Society of Alberta and its outspoken critic, I have many duties that I think are stupid—overbroad or too narrow, poorly expressed or badly enforced. But I still have them, and can be required to acknowledge them as a condition of my license.

Law societies require such acknowledgements for good reason, particularly as they move toward compliance regulation. In compliance regulation, law societies alert lawyers to their duties (such as avoiding conflicts and maintaining confidentiality), make them explicitly acknowledge that the duties exist, and require them to develop systems to ensure compliance.

Evidence from other jurisdictions suggests that compliance regulation produces better lawyer conduct than the existing reactive disciplinary model. The law society’s requirement that lawyers acknowledge the duty to promote equality is thus not some bonkers PC foray into compelled speech; it is rather part of a larger effort to increase the effectiveness of lawyer regulation.

And as for “promote,” why assume that the law society means “state your belief in equality,” rather than “do something to advance equality, diversity and inclusiveness (no matter how insincerely or reluctantly)”? Even I can’t believe the law society would be dumb enough to think equality can be progressed merely by enthusiastic lawyer statements.

Surely the goal is to get lawyers to do something about inequality

Merriam-Webster (online) defines “promote” as: 1) “to contribute to the growth or prosperity of;” b) “to help bring (something, such as an enterprise) into being; c) to present (merchandise) for buyer acceptance through advertising, publicity, or discounting.” Generally speaking, therefore, “promote” means to do something, not to say or believe something. It can mean to say something, but that’s the less common usage, and there’s no particular reason to assume it’s what the law society meant here. As law society bencher Malcolm Mercer said during the discussion of this initiative at Convocation (the law society’s governing body): “All of this is… to ensure that within our workplaces people are hired fairly, promoted fairly, advanced fairly, treated fairly with a desired outcome of diversity and inclusion.”

To be fair, critics’ compelled speech argument is in large part the law society’s fault. In its explanatory materials, it stated that the intention of the statement is “to demonstrate a personal valuing of equality, diversity and inclusion.” It is understandable that this would lead people to see the law society as making lawyers personally value something—that’s what it says!

But those explanatory materials were not the product of Convocation. They have no legal force. They can (and should!) be revised. They do not change the ordinary meaning of “promote” to a less common one. Notably, the materials go on to list sample principles all of which relate to lawyer conduct: not discriminating, not harassing, abiding by workplace human rights policies and providing service to clients consistently with human rights law. The document as a whole emphasizes what lawyers ought to do, not what they ought to say and believe.

I am no mindless supporter of the law society’s efforts here. Their impact can be debated, and the legal basis for the duty to “promote” has not been sufficiently explained. On the other hand, evaluation of the law society’s initiative should be based on what it is, not what it isn’t. What it is is a good faith effort to get lawyers to do the work necessary to decrease inequality in the legal profession. That inequality has been well documented. It does real harm to those who suffer from it, and to the profession’s claim that it is working for the rule of law and justice.

The required Statement of Principles is one of a number of steps being taken by the law society to redress inequality. Speaking personally, until I can look out at my first-year students, and not believe that the students who are white and privileged have a material advantage in getting law firm jobs, and until I cannot believe that students of colour will suffer stereotyping and disadvantage, all in the name of a firm’s pursuit of “fit,” I will not rush to condemn law society efforts to encourage lawyers to change that reality—or, at least, I will try to interpret their efforts accurately and fairly.

via Law society’s Statement of Principles may be useless, but it does not compel speech | National Post

A quarter of Canadians think religious diversity is a bad thing

Not much new here:

Canadians are divided over whether religious diversity is healthy for the country, but they consider Islam in particular to be a negative force, a new poll has found.

In the survey, conducted the same week Quebec adopted a law prohibiting niqab-wearing women from receiving government services, 26 per cent of respondents said increasing religious diversity is a good thing while 23 per cent said it is bad. Nearly half — 44 per cent — said diversity brings a mix of good and bad; the remaining seven per cent were unsure.

When the pollsters sought respondents’ views on particular religious groups, anti-Islam sentiment stood out. Forty-six per cent of the people polled said Islam is damaging Canada compared with 13 per cent who said it is beneficial. The others either did not know (20 per cent) or said it has no real impact (21 per cent.)

The Angus Reid Institute, which conducted the poll in partnership with Faith in Canada 150, said the results are in keeping with “a well documented pattern” in recent years. “Namely, if Islam is involved, a significant segment of Canadians will react negatively,” the institute said in its analysis of the numbers.

The only other religion with an overall negative score was Sikhism, with 22 per cent calling it damaging and 13 per cent beneficial. Catholicism, Protestantism, evangelical Christianity and Judaism all had overall positive ratings.

Angus Reid, the founder and president of the institute, said he found it disheartening that Canadians are not more committed to the freedom of religion enshrined in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

A slight majority — 55 per cent — of respondents said freedom of religion makes Canada a better country, while 14 per cent said the freedom makes Canada worse and 21 per cent it has no impact.

“I think the low number of Canadians who celebrate the fact that we have religious freedom is very troubling and really speaks to the forces of secularization that are at work in Canadian society,” Reid said in an interview.

He sees in the results a “potential for intolerance” toward the faithful, especially adherents of minority religions. Asked whether various groups’ influence was growing or shrinking in Canada, respondents identified Islam, Sikhism and Hinduism as growing. Canada’s more established religious groups were all seen to have a shrinking influence.

The poll is part of Faith in Canada 150, a multi-faith initiative of the think tank Cardus to highlight the role religion has played historically and continues to play in Canada.

I don’t think the people answering this poll are answering from the consequence of day-to-day experience. I think what we’re talking about is a public narrative

Ray Pennings, executive vice-president of Cardus, noted that roughly three per cent of Canadians are Muslim and less than two per cent are Sikh, so the chances of a poll respondent having a Muslim or Sikh neighbor are slim.

“I don’t think the people answering this poll are answering from the consequence of day-to-day experience. I think what we’re talking about is a public narrative,” he said.

He said it is telling that the two groups seen negatively are also those with visible religious symbols such as the hijab and turban. “Is it a discomfort with the particulars of their faith? Or is it a discomfort with the fact that they’re different than us?”

The poll asked about cases where religious practice intersects with the public sphere. There was solid opposition to the niqab — a garment worn by some Muslim women that covers the entire face except the eyes. Forty-nine per cent of respondents said a woman in a niqab should be prohibited from visiting a government office and 29 per cent said she should be discouraged but tolerated. Twenty-two per cent said the woman should be welcomed.

There was greater tolerance for the idea of opening a council meeting with a non-denominational prayer to God — just 25 per cent said the practice should be prohibited. Opinion was divided on whether organized religions should continue to receive special tax consideration, with 55 per cent saying yes and 45 per cent saying no.

The same split — 55 per cent yes and 45 per cent no — emerged on the question of whether a religiously affiliated nursing home should be able to refuse the practice of physician-assisted death.

via A quarter of Canadians think religious diversity is a bad thing | National Post

Austria accepted its Holocaust guilt. So why is its far right on the rise? | Jewish Telegraphic Agency

Good long read:

When it comes to the Holocaust, Austria has made a lot of progress assuming responsibility.

In recent years, Austrian officials have consistently acknowledged their country’s support of Adolf Hitler, an Austria native, and his war of annihilation against Jews. In the early 2000s, the government dropped the claim that the country was mostly a victim of German Nazism, citing “the special responsibility imposed on Austria by its recent history.” Instead, teaching about the Holocaust has become mandatory, with visits to former death camps and teacher training in Israel.

The government has paid nearly $1 billion since 2005 in compensation to Holocaust victims, and since 2012, Holocaust memorial projects have popped up at an unprecedented rate. They include the opening of a learning center at the Mauthausen former death camp, a monument for Vienna’s deported Jews and an international exposition, commissioned by the national railway firm, on its own role in murdering some 65,000 Austrian Jews.

Yet in spite of this increased sensitivity, nationalism still has a firm grip on Austrian society: The far-right Freedom Party, which was founded in 1956 by a former Nazi SS officer, is on the rise. In last month’s national elections, the party garnered 26 percent of the vote with a platform that included denouncing “forced multiculturalism, globalization and mass immigration.

As a natural ally of the center-right People’s Party, which won the most votes, the Freedom Party is poised to enter Austria’s government for the second time — it was part of the governing coalition in 2000.

Amid the ascendancy of far-right populism across Europe, its revival in Austria is seen as particularly alarming, as it suggests a failure by society to learn from its recent history. After all, if a country that does nearly everything “right” when it comes to Holocaust education can fail to inoculate itself to the kind of hatred that makes genocide possible, what hope is there for other countries in the region, such as Hungary and Poland, which face rising nationalism amid complicated reckonings with their own Holocaust legacies?

Experts on Austria say the rise of its xenophobic far right is connected to fears over Muslim immigration, as well as a perceived need to protect the nation’s sovereignty from an increasingly interventionist European Union. But it’s also connected to the Austrian government, which deflected its guilt for decades and failed to purge Nazi supporters from positions of influence.

Unlike neighboring Germany, Austria did not have an organized, judicial denazification effort in the aftermath of World War II — in fact, no one has been convicted of Nazi war crimes in Austria in more than 35 years.

“In Germany, and quite a few of the countries that were under Nazi occupation, many people involved in Nazism were convicted or at least not permitted to be civil servants, teachers, police officers, etc.,” said Tina Walzer, a Vienna historian. “But this has never happened in Austria and we are witnessing the results of this crucial difference.”

This has entrenched populist ideas in a way that has seemed resistant to increased Holocaust awareness.

“When you look at the population as a whole, you don’t feel there has really been a change,” said Milli Segal, founder of the newly opened For the Child museum in Vienna honoring the young Holocaust refugees who fled to Britain through an arrangement known as the Kindertransport.

“Well, there’s change, but in very, very small steps,” she added after a pause. “It makes you feel voiceless.”

Many in Austria share Segal’s feeling of powerlessness over the Freedom Party’s recent successes. Its strong showing last month follows an even greater electoral feat in last year’s presidential elections in which the party’s candidate, Norbert Hofer, won 49.7 percent in the first round of voting. Hofer lost in the second round to the left-leaning candidate Alexander Van der Bellen, 53 percent to 46 percent.

The close election indicates that far-right populism is a “ticking political bomb,” warned Barbara Wesel, a senior Europe correspondent for Germany’s Deutsche Welle broadcaster.

The Freedom Party, for its part, rejects claims that it plays on Nazi and other racist sympathies. Party leader Heinz-Christian Strache has vowed to kick out members caught engaging in racist rhetoric, and has indeed done so to a former lawmaker who supported online the assertion that “Zionist money-Jews worldwide are the problem.”

The Jewish Community in Vienna considers the Freedom Party a racist entity, according to Oskar Deutsch, the community leader, who has called on Chancellor-elect Sebastian Kurz to prevent the Freedom Party from reaching power.

“It’s a facade,” Deutsch told JTA of Strache’s statements against anti-Semitism and racism. “Despite this talk, they position themselves as the go-to address for people with Nazi sympathies.”

A case in point: On Nov. 9, when the outgoing chancellor, Christian Kern, spoke in parliament to commemorate the 79th anniversary of Kristallnacht — a series of pogroms that the Nazis carried out in Germany and Austria — the Freedom Party’s lawmakers were the only ones who demonstratively did not applaud.

“These subtle signs are how they signal and excite their supporters,” Segal said. “If the Freedom Party will be part of the government, it will become difficult to commemorate the Holocaust in the same dignified way that we have now in Austria.”

The dissonance between Austria’s Holocaust commemoration efforts and the far-right’s popularity can be unsettling.

On Oct. 19, for example, a Vienna city official inaugurated a Holocaust memorial installation outside the Herminengasse subway station, near an alley in which the Nazis imprisoned hundreds of Jews during the war. From there they were taken to be deported as non-Jewish locals watched from their balconies. The inauguration ceremonies were held during election season; nearby hung a giant poster of a smiling Strache bearing the slogan “Fairness.”

Does the party’s recent success suggest that such commemoration projects are ultimately failing to make a difference politically?

“You might say so,” Deutsch said. “But the Jewish community will not remain silent.”

To Efraim Zuroff, a hunter of Nazis and historian for the Simon Wiesenthal Center who is based in Israel, the success of the far right in Austria reflects how Holocaust commemoration projects in urban areas hardly reach people who live in smaller towns — the Freedom Party base.

“Holocaust education, which only recently really began developing in Austria, happens there in pockets — in the big cities, in the artists’ scene,” he said. “It has big visibility but isn’t penetrating the way it has in Germany, where the effort was much more robust.”

Zuroff said this has a lot to do with Austria’s failure to prosecute Nazis.

“Holocaust education efforts in Austria are having limited impact because they are done in two voices,” he said. “There was a belated admission of guilt by politicians. But the judiciary, whose work sends a much stronger message in society, was a total failure.”

To some activists against racism, the Freedom Party’s rise is motivation to invest even greater efforts in Holocaust commemoration.

The far-right’s success in Austria “only strengthens our resolve,” said Brigitte Prinzgau, an artist who designed the newly inaugurated Aspang Railway Station Memorial, near where 47,035 Austrian Jews were dispatched from Vienna to death camps. “Now educators and artists will make even more monuments confronting fascism and xenophobic populism.”

via Austria accepted its Holocaust guilt. So why is its far right on the rise? | Jewish Telegraphic Agency

Australia: Multiculturalism must be reinvented in order to survive, study claims | SBS News

I am always a sceptic on calls to change terminology as, in many cases, it is not needed and it is generally preferable to focus on what a term means. In any cases, the terms multiculturalism, interculturalism, and pluralism are largely plastic terms which can be interpreted and implemented in integrative or divisive manners.

But the report is correct in noting the challenge is to ensure that multiculturalism (or interculturalism or pluralism) applies to all members of society, not just minority groups:

A majority of Australians, including those working in the multicultural sector, believe that multiculturalism is focussed too much on the celebration of diversity at the expense of social inclusion and participation, a new study claims.

The Doing Diversity report, authored by Deakin University’s Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation, and released on Thursday, set out to examine the current state of multiculturalism in Australia.

The research involved consultations with professionals and community members in the multicultural sector, focus groups, and a randomised online survey of 1000 Australians.

Its findings echoed other surveys such as the longstanding Scanlon Foundation’s Mapping Social Cohesion Survey, in which a clear majority of Australians routinely expressed a positive view about multiculturalism. But the Deakin study also suggested ‘identity politics’ – or political positions based on identifying with a particular race or nation – has gone too far.

“Around 64 per cent of survey respondents reported that Australia was a successful multicultural society and 68 per cent considered cultural/ethnic diversity as a fundamental positive characteristic of Australian culture,” said the Institute’s director, Alfred Deakin Professor Fethi Mansouri.

But he said that there is a strong perception, especially among those working in the sector, that multiculturalism was not working as well as it should be.

“A sizeable majority of participants in the multicultural sector [75 per cent] and the wider public [51 per cent] reported that multiculturalism, while positive for society, needed refocusing and reinvigoration,” Professor Mansouri said.

“While multicultural policies provide room for self-expression and belonging among minority groups, they have been limited by their exclusive focus on cultural minorities, leaving members of the dominant culture outside their radar.”

Multicultural sector focus group participants said they believed the majority Anglo-Australian group was highly disengaged from multiculturalism and viewed it as a peripheral concern.

From multiculturalism to interculturalism

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull says Australia is “the most successful multicultural country in the world”, with a high degree of social harmony despite half the population being born overseas or having a parent who was.

But the Deakin report claimed multiculturalism is under threat, particularly from Turnbull’s own government, citing the federal government’s stalled changes to citizenship and the apparently failed debate on weakening section 18c of the Racial Discrimination Act.

The researchers laid the blame at the feet of policymakers for cutting funding arrangements for multicultural services and for not communicating “a coherent vision of multiculturalism that stakeholders and more importantly the broader community can embrace.”

They propose a shift in Australia’s official multicultural policy framework – in place since the Whitlam government in the early 1970s – to something they call “intercultural dialogue”. This is defined as an approach “encompassing meaningful two-way engagement among majority and minority groups” manifested through “working together, interacting socially, and learning from each other’s respective cultural repertoires.”

This is distinct from multiculturalism which, focus group participants told the researchers, “reinforced the ‘othering’ of minorities and the dominance of the Anglo-Australian culture”.

Intercultural dialogue would foster cohesion and should be promoted through grass-roots efforts, cross-cultural competency within institutions and the national school curriculum, the report claimed.

via Multiculturalism must be reinvented in order to survive, study claims | SBS News