Barbara Kay: The Jewish blindspot to the horrors of the niqab

Interesting thought experiment regarding the Jewish equivalent of the niqab, but with Kay’s usual lack of nuance in discussing the issues and rants about cultural Marxism:

Sir Salman Rushdie spoke at Montreal’s Jewish Public Library last week. We were two of an estimated 700-strong (mostly Jewish) audience.

Rushdie’s insightful and entertaining address on “literature and politics in the modern world” was excellent, but the evening’s most noteworthy moment arrived with the Q&A, when, inevitably, his response was solicited regarding Quebec’s new Bill 62, which bans face coverings in the realm of public services. Rushdie gracefully sidestepped any comment on the law itself, but did express a robust opinion on the niqab.

His own family, Rushdie said, ranged from atheism to full Islamic practice, but “Not even the religious members would accept wearing a veil. They would say it is an instrument of oppression.” My husband and I applauded loudly, but few others did. Rushdie added, “Muslim women in the West who see it as an expression of identity are guilty of what Karl Marx called ‘false consciousness.’ A lot of women are forced to wear the veil. To choose to wear it, in my view, assists in the oppression of their sisters in those parts of the world.”

At this point I clapped even more enthusiastically and (alone) bellowed, “Bravo!” But most of the audience continued to sit on their hands. To say I was disappointed in my fellow Jews is an understatement. Here, after all, is a man who knows Islamic fundamentalism and oppression first hand, having endured 20 years of tense vigilance following fatwas against his life for the alleged crime of insulting Islam.

The tepid reaction to Rushdie’s statements thus struck me as a rebuke both to Rushdie’s personal ordeal and to the wisdom he brings to the face-covering debate as a critical insider. It’s also proof that even someone of Rushdie’s moral authority is powerless to shift liberal Jews’ reflexive instinct to identify with a perceived underdog, whatever the actual stakes at issue. I even had the sneaking suspicion that if a niqab’d woman in the audience had risen to shake her fist at Rushdie, she would have sparked an approving ovation.

I understand why young people are loath to criticize any cultural practice by the Other. They’ve long been steeped in cultural Marxism, which encourages white guilt and forbids criticism of official victim groups, including Muslims (but not Jews). But how did so many of my pre-Marxist, classically liberal Jewish contemporaries, who were, age-wise, disproportionately represented in the audience — especially the women, feminists one and all — fall for what public intellectual Phyllis Chesler calls a “faux feminism” that is “Islamically correct”?

I had assumed that my opinion on Bill 62 — that it is a fair law that privileges socially-level communications over a misogynist tribal custom — had solid, if minority, support in my community. The Rushdie evening disabused me of that illusion. Yet, I remain bewildered that Rushdie’s words don’t ring as true to my peers as they do to me. And not just Rushdie. Many Muslims are as “triggered” by the niqab as I am, and for better reason: they came to Canada to escape what it represents in those Islamic countries where it is customary (or obligatory) to wear it. They’re eager to speak up, but most media are too busy romancing the niqab-wearers to hear them.

Here’s a thought experiment I’d put to my progressive Jewish friends: How do you feel about the “frumqa”? “Frum” means religious in Yiddish. A frumqa is the Jewish burqa, worn by a few hundred Haredi women in Jerusalem who are sometimes called the “Taliban women.” The frumqa’s creator, Bruria Keren says she wears it “to save men from themselves. A man who sees a woman’s body parts is sexually aroused … Even if he doesn’t sin physically, his impure thoughts are sin in themselves.”

I’m glad the frumqa exists for one reason: I can say I find it disturbing in itself and abusive to girls without being called Islamophobic. I can freely say that Haredi fundamentalism and the obsessive gender extremism it incubates is a blot on the Jewish halachic and cultural landscape. Please don’t speak to me of a Jewish woman’s “right” to wear such a travesty of “tzniut” (modesty in dress and behaviour). Indoctrinated women, like inebriated women, are not competent to give informed consent to practices that reduce them to sexual and reproductive “things.”

I’d wager there isn’t a single Jewish woman in that Rushdie audience who wouldn’t privately express her visceral disgust with the frumqa, and who furthermore wouldn’t turn a hair if it were banned in Israel (it can’t be: the Haredim hold too much political power there). But over the Other’s burqas they draw a politically correct veil. Forgive me if I conclude it isn’t just Muslim women in the West who are guilty of false consciousness.

Source: Barbara Kay: The Jewish blindspot to the horrors of the niqab | National Post

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Barbara Kay: Liberals left reeling by clear, rational criticisms of M-103

It would be far more interesting if Kay, rather than writing about the witnesses she agrees with (and which the National Post seems to be featuring more in its news coverage) would write about the one’s she disagrees with and why (similarly, those in favour of M-103 should write about the critics’ positions and the reasons for their disagreements).

Otherwise, these commentaries only reinforce the respective bubbles:

With Parliament’s passage in late March of Motion 103, which condemned “Islamophobia and all forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination,” the Canadian Heritage Committee was tasked with a study to determine “what Canadians have to say” on the motion. Now underway, formal hearings are revealing what polls have already made clear: many Canadians find M-103 disturbing.

They dislike it because it singles out one religion for special consideration and because they don’t believe Canada is a systemically hateful nation. But they particularly fear its implications, as the principals behind M-103 — proposer MP Iqra Khalid, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Heritage Minister Melanie Joly, and Muslim community spokespeople — keep balking when called on to define “Islamophobia.”

(Feeding that fear: until B’nai Brith expressed public concern Monday, the newly-released Toronto District School Board’s Islamic Heritage Month Guidebook — citing input from some of the same actors engaged in promoting M-103 — defined Islamophobia as “fear, prejudice, hatred or dislike directed against Islam or Muslims, or towards Islamic politics or culture.” “Islam”? “Islamic politics or culture”? According to a TDSB representative, this ghastly mile-wide definition was chosen “in error.” Please, TDSB, a little respect for Canadians’ intelligence.)

Hearings began in June. Anti-M-103 activists, noting that the Liberals were allowed to call 36 witnesses, the NDP 12 and the Conservative Party 24, wondered if the fix was in for M-103 opposers. 

They were not heartened by Heritage Committee chairperson Hedy Fry’s on-record comment: “There is no guarantee that radical voices won’t speak at M-103 hearings.” So far, pro-M-103 voices predictably toe the Liberal party line that racism and Islamophobia are serious problems in Canada. What Fry might call “radical voices” have raised sensible, compelling challenges to this assumption, and have expressed concerns this kind of motion could eventually lead to politicians creating laws that further limit free speech.

On Sept 20, Toronto Sun columnist Tarek Fatah (himself a victim of oppressive speech codes in his native Pakistan) testified that discouraging or limiting criticism of Islam would, in effect, most harm those secular or free-thinking Muslims who came to Canada precisely for the freedom to speak their mind to Islamic authority figures as they could not do in their countries of origin. In any case, “You cannot define (Islamophobia),” he charged, “because the word is a fraud.” According to Fatah, these bold challenges earned him such frosty treatment from “the phalanx of Liberal MPs” and “haranguing” from Fry that one MP contacted him later to apologize for the “intimidation and bullying” he had experienced.

On Sept. 27, all four individuals who testified opposed M-103.

Father Raymond J. de Souza (speaking for himself, not the Catholic Church) said it was unwise to single out any one religion, and that government should encourage theological exchange rather than impede it.

Peter Bhatti, Chair of International Christian Voice, noted that his brother was murdered in Pakistan for daring to protect Christian lives from that country’s suffocating blasphemy laws. Bhatti said anxiety over the vagueness of the term “Islamophobia” was creating distress amongst Canada’s Pakistani Christians, who see M-103 as being tantamount to a repressive blasphemy law.

Jay Cameron, a lawyer with the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, denounced M-103’s linkage of the word “quell” to “climate of hate and fear,” as “quell” is a word normally reserved for policing riots, not words (excellent point). “Racism is something you can’t legislate against, per se, because it begins in the mind,” he pointed out.

Raheel Raza, president of the reform-oriented Council for Muslims Facing Tomorrow, asked, “Why are only Muslims mentioned by name?” and, “It’s not the government’s responsibility to babysit just one community.” She suggested that instead of the government deflecting attention from retrograde Islamic behaviours like honour killings and polygamy, Canada should take a leadership role in encouraging a return to a “free thinking” model of Islam, once a widespread norm.

The Liberals were back-footed by these forcefully argued dissents. Various Liberal MPs tried to “explain” the motion, muddying the “Islamophobia” waters further and monopolizing so much time that Conservative MP David Anderson accused them of “filibustering their time.”

One witness who earned the right to testify was shunted to “standby” status as a replacement in the unlikely event of a dropout. Major (Ret’d) Russ Cooper is a highly decorated combat veteran of the first Gulf War, recognized by the Air Force for courage and leadership in his role. The M-103 pushback campaign was kicked off by Cooper’s national anti-M-103 petition drive, which garnered 27,000 signatures and was then leveraged by other outlets to gain 200,000 signatures. Cooper’s prepared testimony to the hearings, which may never be heard formally, is a model of reason, clarity and high intelligence. You can read it in an online Canadian Heritage Committee briefing note. And the pith of his argument can be viewed on this concise YouTube video.

Stay tuned. Far from the slam-dunk feel-goody gesture it was meant to be, M-103 is looking more and more like a pivotal political and cultural moment in Canadian history.

Source: Barbara Kay: Liberals left reeling by clear, rational criticisms of M-103 | National Post

Jasmin Zine: Let’s worry more about violent Islamophobes—and less about writers who fear being called ‘Islamophobic’ 

Jasmin Zine on Barbara Kay:

I let her know that plenty of people use terms like, say, “racism” without having a textbook definition for it, but they know when they experience it or witness it.

When I read Barbara’s Kay’s column about me, it was with a mixture of anger, frustration and a heavy heart.

I informed her that I found the traditional definition of Islamophobia as a “fear or hatred of Islam and Muslims” to be limiting. So in my definition, I place it in a broader sociological framework where fear and hatred manifest into individual, ideological, and systemic practices (on this, other scholars might differ). Individual practices include things like name-calling, vandalism, assaults, and the like. And that the ideologies that justify these actions include stereotypes such as seeing Islam as a violent faith or seeing Muslims as terrorists, or as people who do not accept “Canadian values,” and these notions are inculcated into systemic practices such as racial profiling and domestic security policies targeting Muslims.

In my exchange with Kay, I pointed out that while she often criticized the concept of Islamophobia in her writing, I was surprised that she did not have a definition of it herself. And, yet, her lack of knowledge on the subject had not stopped her from critiquing something she was clearly unsure about.

She began to lecture me about “free speech,” proceeding to argue that a non-binding federal motion — one that looks to study manifestations of Islamophobia in Canada in the aftermath of a massacre of Muslim men praying in a Canadian mosque — would curtail her right to criticize Islam. I reminded her that hate-speech laws would govern what can and cannot be said within the boundaries of lawful dissent. While the law permits a legitimate critique of religion, the demonization of a particular faith is different. This type of demonization becomes mapped onto its adherents and can lead to mass violence and genocide, and to argue otherwise works against the weight of history. Kay might not see how Islamophobia and anti-Muslim racism and violence are connected, but we have already seen how this has led to unprecedented and deadly consequences in our country.

It is telling that Kay admitted to me that she was concerned that after M-103 passed, her columns would be branded Islamophobic. I told her that ship had already sailed and that this motion alone would not curtail her from expressing her views. Still, it was interesting that she was more worried about being labelled Islamophobic than she was about the Islamophobia that evidently led to the deaths of six innocent Canadian men.

While Kay lamented to me the backlash against people like Bridget Bardot and Georges Bensoussan in France for their views criticizing Islam and Muslims, she has no problem lambasting my research on Islamophobia, which she paraphrases poorly, twists and takes of out context, while stopping just short of accusing me of supporting terrorism, all to further her fearmongering against Muslim academics.

Kay needs to acknowledge that the things she writes play a part in this onslaught of hate directed towards Muslims. Her rhetoric is taken up by and helps fuel the white supremacist and neo-fascist groups that are on the rise in Canada. In the aftermath of her column, since arriving home from California I’ve received several hate-filled emails, with subject lines such as “Islam is Satanic.” I admit this is nothing compared to the 50,000 hate-filled emails Khalid received after she proposed M-103 and many Muslim academics I know have received death threats.

Along with my fellow Muslim academics and our allies, I will not sit quietly as Kay discredits, maligns and slanders me and other scholars who work in this field. The day Kay applauds my work is the day I’ll be concerned. For now, attacks by her and others of her ilk confirm that I am standing on the right side of history.

Source: Jasmin Zine: Let’s worry more about violent Islamophobes—and less about writers who fear being called ‘Islamophobic’ | National Post

Barbara Kay: Actually, it turns out that you may be less racist than you’ve been led to believe

What Kay misses is the usefulness of the IAT for people to become more mindful of their implicit biases, and, in so doing, be more aware of their “thinking fast” mode to use Kahneman’s phrase.

It is not automatic that being more mindful or aware changes behaviour but it can play a significant role (and yes, the benefits can be overstated). Having implicit biases does not necessarily mean acting on them.

Kay did not mention whether or not she took the test. Given her biases evident in her columns, it would be interesting to know whether she took the IAT and what, if anything, she learned.

I certainly found it useful, revealing and most important, discomforting as I became more aware of the gap between my policy mind and views, and what was under the surface.

Anyone can take the test on the Project Implicit Website, hosted by Harvard U. By October 2015, more than 17 million individuals had completed it (with presumably 90-95 per cent of them then self-identifying as racist). Liberal observers love the IAT. New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof wrote in 2015, “It’s sobering to discover that whatever you believe intellectually, you’re biased about race, gender, age or disability.” Kristof’s tone is more complacent than sober, though. For progressives, the more widespread bias can be demonstrated to be, the more justifiable institutional and state intrusions into people’s minds become.

Banaji and Greenwald have themselves made far-reaching claims for the test: the “automatic White preference expressed on the Race IAT is now established as signaling discriminatory behavior. It predicts discriminatory behavior even among research participants who earnestly (and, we believe, honestly) espouse egalitarian beliefs. …. Among research participants who describe themselves as racially egalitarian, the Race IAT has been shown, reliably and repeatedly, to predict discriminatory behavior that was observed in the research.”

Problem is, none of this can be authenticated. According to Singal, a great deal of scholarly work that takes the shine off the researchers’ claims has been ignored by the media. The IAT is not verifiable and correlates weakly with actual lived outcomes. Meta-analyses cannot examine whether IAT scores predict discriminatory behaviour accurately enough for real-world application. An individual can score high for bias on the IAT and never act in a biased manner. He can take the test twice and get two wildly different scores. After almost two decades, the researchers have never posted test-retest reliability of commonly used IATs in publication.

It’s a wonder the IAT has a shred of credibility left. In 2015 Greenwald and Banaji responded to a critic that the psychometric issues with race and ethnicity IATS “render them problematic to use to classify persons as likely to engage in discrimination,” and that “attempts to diagnostically use such measures for individuals risk undesirably high rates of erroneous classifications.” Greenwald acknowledged to Singal that “no one has yet undertaken a study of the race IAT’s test-related reliability.” In other words, the IAT is a useless tool for measuring implicit bias.

In an interesting aside, Singal points to a 2012 study published in Psychological Science by psychologist Jacquie Vorauer. As her experiment, Vorauer set white Canadians to work with aboriginal partners. Before doing so, some of the participants took an IAT that pertained to aboriginals, some took a non-race IAT and others were asked for their explicit feelings about the group. Aboriginals in the race-IAT group subsequently reported feeling less valued by their white partners as compared to aboriginals in all of the other groups. Vorauer writes, “If completing the IAT enhances caution and inhibition, reduces self-efficacy, or primes categorical thinking, the test may instead have negative effects.” As Singal notes, this “suggests some troubling possibilities.”The IAT has potentially misinformed millions of test-takers, who believe that they are likely to act, or are routinely acting, with bias against their fellow citizens. Harbouring biases is part of the human condition, and it is our right to hold them, especially those warranted by epidemiology and reason. Our actions are all that should concern our employers or the state’s legal apparatus. Any directive to submit to the IAT by the state or a state-sponsored entity like the CBC constitutes an undemocratic intrusion into the individual’s privacy.

Source: Barbara Kay: Actually, it turns out that you may be less racist than you’ve been led to believe | National Post

Barbara Kay: Actually, one needn’t be a hysterical bigot to have concerns with M-103, other commentary by Lorne Gunter and Chris Selley

Barbara Kay continues not to understand, or appear not to understand, what M-103 includes and what is do not. Coyne is on much sounder ground than she, despite her examples of unacceptable comments:

In December, for example, Georges Bensoussan, a Morocco-born scholar on Jewish communities in Arab countries, was prosecuted in France, because a complaint was filed against him for incitement to racial hatred by the “Collective Against Islamophobia.” His crime? Two quotations were cited in the charge, taken from an interview last year on a French cultural radio show. Bensoussan said, “Today, we are witnessing a different people in the midst of the French nation, who are effecting a return on a certain number of democratic values to which we adhere,” and “This visceral anti-Semitism proven by the Fondapol survey by Dominique Reynié last year cannot remain under a cover of silence.” (Here he was referring to a 2014 survey finding Muslims in France were nearly three times more likely to be anti-Jewish than French people as a whole.)

If these are not fair comments by Andrew Coyne’s standards, then I do not know what is. But Bensoussan is in the dock for them. His story frightens me — with reason.

Ironically, I happened to come across this story at the same time as it was revealed that in at least two sermons distributed on Youtube, imam Sayyid al-Ghitaoui of Montreal’s Al-Andalus Islamic Centre called for Allah to “destroy the accursed Jews,” to “kill them one by one” and to “make their children orphans and their women widows.” (Has he been fired yet? I ask because only Jewish media considered it a story worth covering.) It’s not as if this imam is unique here either. Imams all over the world say the same and much worse about Jews, citing sacred Islamic texts. ISIL members too tell journalists they are following the prophet Mohammed “in the strictest way.” They feel their Islam is as “real” as those who wrote E-411.
So I say to the petitioners of E-411 that I have received their opinion loud and clear. And now I would like to make up my own mind about Islam, as I do with all contentious issues: that is, according to primary sources, credible commentators, legitimate opinion surveys and so forth.

I do not wish to be told by a petition or by the recommendations of a study based on that petition what I must think — or say in a considered and thoughtful way — about any ideology or belief system in deference to the sensibilities of a specific group in order to earn a seal of non-Islamophobic approval from agenda-driven advocacy groups and their political allies.

I greatly admire Andrew Coyne for his exegetical brilliance in the hermeneutics of electoral reform, but on the subject of creeping Shariah-based blasphemy laws across the Western world, it grieves me to say that he has revealed himself as an authority of rather lesser stature.

Source: Barbara Kay: Actually, one needn’t be a hysterical bigot to have concerns with M-103 | National Post

Lorne Gunter picks up the same slippery slope argumentation:

After arguing it was wrong to tar all Muslims – extremists and moderates – with the same brush, Prof. Kutty then added I was way off base for linking the treatment of suburban Montrealer Antonio Padula with the effects M-103 may have.

Padula is just some guy from the Montreal-area community of Kirkland. One evening shortly after the horrific murders at a Quebec City mosque, Padula saw three police cars pull up outside his home. He was arrested, taken away in cuffs and put in jail for the night, all because police misinterpreted some tweets he posted as promoting hatred toward Muslims.

Kutty said Padula’s treatment had nothing to do with the intent of M-103, that he was being charged under hate crimes and other laws, not under a Parliamentary motion offering support for Muslims.

But that’s how these things start. Too often they begin with well-meaning intentions. Yet once they get into the hands of politically correct bureaucrats, Parliamentary committees and human rights commissioners, they morph into something unrecognizable.

Tremont asked me whether, perhaps, Padula’s treatment was justified given that his indelicate tweets came just days after the bloody shooting. But isn’t that just promoting a climate of fear – fear that everyone who posts politically incorrect tweets is a potential murderer who deserves to be arrested and throw in a cell, and possibly face months of expensive legal defence to clear his name?

The supporters of M-103 insist there is an increasing public climate of hatred and fear against Muslims. But wasn’t the treatment of Padula just as much an overreaction based on fear?

If Muslims shouldn’t be condemned for the actions of a few extremists in their faith, shouldn’t it also hold that Antonio Padula shouldn’t be arrested just because officials are suddenly acting out of fear that everyone who tweets unkind ideas is a potential killer?

Prof. Kutty also said it was wrong to focus on the word Islamophobia because he had a good definition of it. And, I’ll admit, his wasn’t bad. But that’s the problem – everybody has his or her own definition. Give that much leeway to the human rights police and the broadest possible definition will be upheld. There will be more, not fewer, Antonio Padula’s rousted from their beds in the middle of the night for the “crime” of being politically incorrect, or even just ironic.

Source: M-103 could morph into something unrecognizable

Chris Selley nails it beautifully in this commentary, contrasting the federal conservatives with their Ontario counterparts:

Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown says he will support Liberal MPP Nathalie Des Rosiers’ private member’s motion asking the legislature to “condemn all forms of Islamophobia.”

“I think it’s pretty straightforward to condemn any form of hate,” Brown told reporters Tuesday morning. “In terms of Islamophobia, it is real.” He said he would encourage his MPPs to vote likewise. And there is no sign of significant dissent in the ranks.

That’s a good thing. Private members’ motions compel the government to do precisely nothing. They are not the soil in which legislation grows, nor are they fertilizer. They are farts in the wind. And on thorny issues like Islamophobia or Israel or transgender rights, their primary purpose is often to expose one’s political opponents as holding unsuitable positions and then denounce them.

Nothing good can come from falling into that trap — and if there was any doubt about that, Brown’s former colleagues in Ottawa are proving it in spades.

It is now lost forever in a toxic fog, but there were legitimate debates to be had about Liberal MP Iqra Khalid’s private member’s motion M-103, which calls on the government to “condemn Islamophobia and all forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination,” and to “develop a whole-of-government approach to reducing or eliminating systemic racism and religious discrimination including Islamophobia.”

Perhaps the platonic ideal of this legislatively inconsequential motion would not single out any one religion. Perhaps it would be worded differently: were he still an MP, Irwin Cotler said he would have proposed replacing “Islamophobia” with “anti-Muslim bigotry” or “anti-Muslim hatred.” That’s perfectly reasonable. To some people Islamophobia means “anti-Muslim bigotry” or “anti-Muslim hatred,” but to others it means what it says: fear of Islam.

You’re allowed to be afraid of religions (though I wouldn’t recommend it), and you’re certainly allowed to criticize religions. Some Canadians spent the entire Stephen Harper era being afraid of evangelical Christians, for example. On Monday the Masjid Toronto mosque apologized for a supplication recorded on its premises asking Allah to “purify Al-Aqsa Mosque (on the Temple Mount) from the filth of the Jews.” (That’s as translated by Jonathan Halevi of CIJ News.) I’m certainly not going to sit here and condemn Jews for “fearing” Islam.

But these are delicate arguments to make even in a regular political climate. It’s quasi-suicidal in today’s political climate — one in which six parishioners were recently gunned down at a mosque in Quebec City; in which protesters have descended on Toronto mosques with signs reading “ban Islam,” “Muslims are terrorists” and the like; and in which some portion of Canadian conservatives who were already leery of Islam have followed Donald Trump’s tire tracks into a ditch of conspiracist madness.

Among the ditch-dwellers and those who flog merchandise to them, M-103 is an “Islamic blasphemy law” that prohibits criticism of Islam or it is the first step (or another!) toward the implementation of Shariah law in Canada. Ezra Levant’s Rebel Media held an entire “free speech” rally based on those premises last week, and four Conservative leadership candidates actually showed up — including whichever demons have seized the bodies of well-regarded diplomat Chris Alexander and orthopaedic surgeon Kellie Leitch. Enough has transpired in the past couple of weeks to fill an entire campaign’s worth of attack ads for the Liberals; they must be thrilled to pieces.

Back at Queen’s Park, there are many grounds on which to question whether Patrick Brown is the best man for the job of ending nearly 14 years of Liberal rule. The Liberals will cast him as the worst Conservative bogeyman since the last worst Conservative bogeyman: anti-abortion, anti-sex-ed, anti-government, the whole lot. Many conservatives, meanwhile, wonder whether there’s much conservatism to Brown at all — or much of anything that outranks political expediency.

But Brown’s outreach to immigrant communities remains one of his key accomplishments; there is no reason to believe he isn’t sincere in supporting Des Rosiers’ motion on principle. And if there are Ontario Tories who do have minor concerns, the Ottawa precedent makes it clear how best to proceed: express those minor concerns by all means, but vote for the motion. There is nothing to be gained by doing otherwise.

This is a low bar the Ontario Tories are clearing here, and it shouldn’t be a surprise. Given that their federal cousins are currently beating themselves around the mouth and ears with that same bar, however, it is nevertheless a reassuring sign of basic political competence, leadership and sanity. It’s quite a world Canadian Conservatives are living in all of a sudden.

Source: Chris Selley: On Islamophobia, Ontario Tories look to pass the very easy test their federal cousins failed

 

Barbara Kay: Teach the truth about Islamophobia

While I disagree with Kay’s dismissal of Islamophobia (arguably, many of her commentaries suggest an anti-Moslem bias), I do share some of her concerns with the guide, particularly not situating Islamophobia within the broader context of racism and discrimination more broadly, whether antisemitism or against Blacks and other visible minorities, or racism and discrimination within and between visible minority groups.

Hate Crimes Comparison.004Police-reported hate crime data 2008-14 as in the chart above shows an increased share of anti-Muslim hate crime (while much less than reported crimes against Jews, this reflects in part the greater comfort the Jewish community has in reporting, including through B’nai Brith):

Then there are flag-raising statements in the guide itself.

  • The guide states “it is apparent” that Muslim children are suffering high levels of stress and alienation, but provides no objective evidence other than vague allusions to community feedback. Are mental health professionals reporting elevated levels of Muslim-specific anxiety? It doesn’t say (raising the question: in future CHRC proceedings, could assertions from this CHRC-approved guide be relied upon by parties to a CHRC process without independent proof of their veracity?)
  • The guide (divisively) states that “racial and religious profiling” has become “acceptable” when directed toward Muslim youth, but provides no examples, or comparisons with, say, black profiling.
  • The guide suggests Israeli children’s suffering receives more media sympathy than Palestinian children’s suffering. That is demonstrably false. But is this now a CHRC-Red Cross position?
  • The guide says special support is needed for arriving Syrian Muslim children traumatized by their war experiences, without mentioning the war-related trauma of (the shamefully few) Syrian Christian or Yazidi children allowed into Canada. What message does this send the latter groups?

Most ominously, in its “Final tips” to teachers, the guide states: “Generally, some care should be taken by teachers on the language and tone they take when discussing world events and the Islamic faith.” As opposed, say, to the tone teachers may feel free to take when discussing other religious faiths? One sees here the heavy hand of the Cairo Declaration and its intention to see criticism of Islam criminalized, or at least censored, on a global basis.

If a teaching guide on tolerance is necessary, let it be about tolerance for all minority groups. Let it be evidence-based and a collaboration of racial, religious and other groups. And instead of NCCM/CAIR.CAN, let Muslim input come from the democratic, pluralistic and reform-minded Council for Muslims facing Tomorrow (MFT), one of whose founders, Sohail Raza, responded to my media query on this subject:

“The CHRC and the Red Cross should be more concerned about human rights abuse and actual racial discrimination than pandering to a victim ideology and a contrived phrase like ‘Islamophobia’ created to stifle conversation. MFT is distressed by the activities of certain organizations claiming to represent Muslims while closely linked to the supremacist Muslim Brotherhood. These organizations are part of the problem and not the solution.”

Well said. This ill-conceived, “some are more equal than others” initiative, designed to encourage grievance-collecting in Muslim children and baseless guilt in other Canadian children, should be terminated at once.

Source: Barbara Kay: Teach the truth about Islamophobia | National Post

Azeezah Kanji: Counterpoint: While on the topic of Muslims, here are a few other numbers to note

Kanji effectively rebuts Barbara Kay’s early piece stoking fear of Muslims (Barbara Kay : Most Muslims aren’t jihadists, of course. But some of them are), providing context to the numbers Kay uses and comparisons to attitudes within other religious groups:

In order to cast her net of suspicion beyond the small number of Muslims actually involved in violent activity, Kay cites data regarding the percentage of Muslims around the world who “hold beliefs in retrograde cultural practices that cannot co-exist in harmony with Western civilization.” These beliefs include a minority of Muslims’ endorsement for capital punishment for apostasy, adultery, and homosexuality: opinions which are certainly disturbing, and are vigorously opposed by Muslim activists in those countries. But the Pew study Kay relies on does not suggest that Muslims are trying to impose these beliefs in “the West” (on the contrary, available research indicates the opposite) — so on what basis is the threat to Western civilization construed?

Indeed, when it comes to attitudes deleterious to “harmony,” surveys suggest that Kay should be directing her gaze elsewhere. American Muslims are more likely to oppose attacks on civilians (which Barbara Kay defines as “terrorism”) than any other major religious group polled in the United States. And while Kay claims that “support for terrorism is high in Islamic countries” (where, according to Pew, support for such attacks ranges from 1 per cent to 40 per cent), a 2011 Gallup poll question on whether it is ever appropriate for a military to target civilians reveals it is proportionately far higher among Christian Americans (58 per cent) and Jewish Americans (52 per cent). Curiously, Kay references the numbers on Muslim support for “terrorism” but is silent on the non-Muslim statistics.

Kay’s tunnel-vision perspective leaves out more than half the picture. In addition to her selective use of statistics, Kay also makes unsubstantiated accusations about Muslims’ use of the legal system and “political/institutional membership” to advance some nefarious but unspecified agenda — recalling the fomentation of moral panics about other minority groups in other periods of history. Exaggerated narratives about the “disease of radical Islam” have been debunked by government dataacademic analyses, and expert commentary. The fact that they still have any purchase reveals the perturbing resistance of stereotypes to reality.

Source: Azeezah Kanji: Counterpoint: While on the topic of Muslims, here are a few other numbers to note | National Post

Robyn Urback and Barbara Kay on the backfiring of wedge politics

Two contrasting views in the details (niqab or snitch line), starting with Robyn Urback on the niqab):

And there, in the 905, was where the second profound impact of the niqab debate seemed to reverberate Monday night. The region, which was Conservative blue in 2011, switched to almost entirely red, except for the ridings of Vaughan and Markham-Unionville. The 905 had been, at one time, a symbol of Conservatives’ immigrant-outreach success, led by one-time minister of immigration, citizenship and multiculturalism Jason Kenney. When the Conservatives swept the region in 2011, taking almost all of the Liberals’ seats in York region, Kenney attributed his success to support from new Canadians. “Our appeal to them has been honest,” he said. “New Canadians increasingly realize that their values are Conservative values.”

Whereas in 2011 the Tories were talking to immigrant communities, in 2015 they were talking about them

Four years later, the Tories were singing a different tune, making a point of listing the ways in which immigrant values are incompatible with Canadian values. While the Liberals spoke about removing unnecessary barriers to immigration and accelerating family reunification, the Tories attacked the niqab, defended bottlenecks in Syrian refugee process and mused about launching a hotline to report “barbaric cultural practices.” Whereas in 2011 the Tories were talking to immigrant communities, in 2015 they were talking about them.

The 905 responded on Monday by giving the boot to many of its once-prominent Tories, including citizenship and immigration minister Chris Alexander, who lost by more than 10,000 votes. It became clear that while the Conservatives may have been correct in pegging the niqab as a wedge issue, they left themselves on the wrong side of it.

Certainly there were other factors at play in the last 78 days: the trial of Senator Mike Duffy, Mulcair’s flip-flopping on pipelines and free trade, Trudeau’s personal gregariousness and aspirational vision for the country. But in Quebec and the 905, two regions that arguably mattered most this election, the niqab — and discussions thereof — appeared to be the foremost factor to tip support away from the Tories, either directly, or by extension. It seems one or two people — specifically, two veiled women — really can make a difference.

Barbara Kay states it was the snitch line:

I think Harper’s big mistake was in taking discontent with the niqab for permission to go big on all culturally-rooted misogynist practices. His proposal for a tip line to report “barbaric cultural practices” like forced marriages to the RCMP was overkill, and struck a sour note, even amongst those Canadians – like me – who were his staunchest supporters for a face-cover ban.

No policy is more likely to make entire communities feel singled out as inherently suspicious than a snitch line

Face cover is a very specific, very public practice that is quite separate from “barbaric” cultural customs carried out in private. Face cover is more than the sum of its single part. As I have argued in many columns over the past few years, face cover is charged with so much negative political, ideological and cultural baggage, it does indeed cause “harm” to the social fabric. I firmly believe Quebec is abiding by a precautionary principle that is wise. Endorsing face cover in situations where the public has no option, and must deal with a covered representative of the government – nurse, policewoman, teacher, passport control officer – is to endorse a barbaric custom entirely at odds with the principles of openness and social reciprocity we take for granted as a social right, but which need protection. Harper recognized this wisdom, and that is where he should have stopped.

Don’t get me wrong. I am very troubled by practices like forced marriage, which is a retrograde, tribal custom that should have no place in our society. We know it is happening in certain cultural communities in Canada, and I applaud any government that tackles the problem.

But there was no pressing need to bring it up at this time, and no public incident that facilitated its organic emergence into public debate. Unlike the niqab, nobody from South Asia was demanding that the government recognize forced marriage as commensurate with Canadian values. And the “tip line” has odious Orwellian connotations to it. It had a seriously chilling effect, and did indeed seem to cast Harper’s “popular” niqab stance in the light of “populism,” even “ugly populism.”

The result was that people who quite defensibly resist face cover in the citizenship ceremony – or in the giving and getting of pubic services – now found themselves in the highly uncomfortable position of seeming to endorse Stasi-era tactics of social control. No strategy is more calculated to bring out racist mischief-makers and vengeful false allegers than a snitch line. No policy is more likely to make entire communities feel singled out as inherently suspicious than a snitch line. And no policy is more likely to make the party that proposes it look imperious, bullying and nativist.

The Conservatives blew it. They occupied what was perceived as the moral high ground by most Canadians, and then, thinking that was base camp rather than a distinctive summit, kept climbing into thin air. They ran out of oxygen, and deserved to.

Barbara Kay: It was the snitch line, not the niqab stance, that hurt Harper

Barbara Kay: Ten reasons to ban the niqab — in public

Barbara Kay captures the popular view, but one that ignores the rights dimension (which distinguishes us from Saudi Arabia) and that wearing the niqab is not necessarily political. Her arguments, which capture the popular view, are simplistic and more rhetorical than grounded (and in some cases, using the same logic, would impact upon other religious practice or clothing).

That being said, discomfort over the niqab is real and justified.

When working on multiculturalism issues in 2008 when this issue came up (Quebec), I asked my staff, generally disposed to accommodation, whether they would feel comfortable with a niqab-wearing woman in the team. Silence!

  1. The niqab is not a religious obligation, it is, according to many Islamic scholars, a regional custom. But even in Saudi Arabia, where it is considered a religious obligation, it is removed by women participating in the hajj. Why must Canada be more niqab-consistent than Saudi Arabia?
  2. The niqab is indecent. Beyond “offence,” which can be cognitively managed, decency standards go to the heart of our psychological well-being in society, and is beyond our cognitive control. Our sense of decency is what regulates our comfort zone amongst strangers. Decency standards are not imposed by a charter, but spring up organically in all societies under a variety of historical and cultural influences. Decency standards differ amongst societies and shift with time, but the when-in-Rome principle is universally accepted by reasonable people.
  3. Decency here resides in the perceived broad middle of a spectrum. Just as full nakedness provokes extreme discomfort in most Canadians, so does full cover. That full cover is almost invariably a Muslim custom is immaterial to those of us who find it indecent. (So enough, please, with the “Islamophobia” shtick.)
  4. Double standards: it is inconceivable that we would allow men to mask themselves in civic interaction, even if they considered it a religious obligation, because masked men are threatening to women (and other men). We should not permit to women what we would not permit to men.
  5. The only societies that mandate the niqab as a social norm are those in which women are considered sexual chattel with virtually no rights. Willed indifference to the niqab is more than tolerance; it is an endorsement of gender-rights relativism in our national home — equality for our women, inferior status for theirs.
  6. The editorial notes that “only a tiny minority of women” opt to wear the niqab. This is precisely why it should be regulated now, when it is enforceable, not when potentially thousands of women adopt it and it is unenforceable.
  7. Some women wearing the niqab have had it imposed on them against their will. What is the lesser evil: that all women should be forced to show us their faces while interacting with us in the public sector, or that we facilitate the lifelong misery of voiceless women? We should err on the side of support for vulnerable women yearning to fully integrate into Canadian life.
  8. The niqab is a gross insult to Canadian men, as it suggests they require a physical barrier to prevent lascivious thoughts or behaviour.
  9. The niqab is a gross insult to uncovered women, suggesting their “immodesty” invites sexual attention.
  10. In the West, the niqab is often a political statement, a proud sign of militant Islamist activism. “Put on your niqab!” cried Hezbollah supporter Yvonne Ridley at a Montreal Canadian Islamic Congress fundraiser in 2007. It wasn’t modesty she was encouraging, but participation in the stealth jihad.

The niqab differs from other fashion accessories that promote faith and modesty like the kippah or hijab, and to pretend otherwise is disingenuous. The arc of contemporary Islamism, still in its ascendancy, frightens us. Our alleged “moral panic” is actually moral revulsion. When a symbol comes with this much baggage, libertarian rigidity in its support looks less like principled idealism and more like cultural self-sabotage. No leader who grasps and uproots this nettle need feel ashamed. True patriot love demands nothing less.

Source: Barbara Kay: Ten reasons to ban the niqab — in public | National Post

Barbara Kay: Call barbarism what it is

Barbara Kay predictably misses the point on the use of the word barbaric. It was used in Discover Canada to provide the media quote rather than more neutral but equally strong language (e.g., against the law, not acceptible, will be severely punished). It also fits into the drift towards more dog whistle and identity politics by playing to the Conservative party base.

The risk of using such language is within communities themselves. The use of a label (even if correct) reduces the likelihood of the substantive message being heard. 

Moreover, one of Discover Canada‘s omissions was to put this statement in the overall context in the history of women’s rights in Canada, noting the evolution of what is considered acceptible (or non-barbaric) treatment of women. Such a strong narrative would have strengthened the Government’s arguments without the ‘bumper sticker’ label:

But not only are they wrong; they are not even popular amongst the silent majority of the cultural communities they are currying favour with. No politician in Canada is more familiar with what cultural communities want than Jason Kenney, who on March 12 rose in the House to speak, with regard to barbaric practices, words I believe most Canadians strongly approve:
“Yes, [barbaric] is a strong term. It is a judgmental term, but we do sometimes need to make judgments.” He continued, “I will be absolutely blunt. When I first came to government and started as minister of multiculturalism eight years ago, for political reasons I would have probably recoiled at the name of this bill. However, my enormous exposure to and close work with the huge diversity of our cultural and faith communities taught me something over the course of time. It taught me that the vast majority of new Canadians believe passionately that there are certain hallmarks of integration into this country that we must all respect, that there is a duty to integrate, and that there are certain practices that are rooted in custom or tradition that have no place in Canada….
“They said, ‘Please do not tolerate female genital mutilation, forced marriages or polygamy. Please stop this.’ … It was women who were victims of forced marriages, including here in Canada, who most strongly motivated the bill.”

http://news.nationalpost.com/full-comment/barbara-kay-call-barbarism-what-it-is