Sunday, February 14, 2010

Religious Intolerance is Not Leadership

Giving in to bigotry is a failure of leadership

Writing in the Metropolitan, Dan Delmar calls out many of the leaders in Canada who have opposed a ban on the burqa, the controversial garment worn by many Muslim women.

"The burqa (or niqab) is possibly the most offensive garment on the face of the earth: A head-to-toe covering worn by women who practice an extremist and some say perverted form of Islam," Delmar writes. "It is a symbol of repression, misogyny and, as French president Nicholas Sarkozy said last year, 'debasement.' It should not be tolerated in any civilized society."

Whether or not a woman wears the burqa voluntarily doesn't seem to matter much to Delmar.

"We have somehow become a nation of nations, and as such, it is difficult to find common ground, shared values," Delmar continues. "Only a small minority of Muslim women in this country may be forced by their husbands to drape themselves in these sheets; some are coerced by family; some, at the very least, have been raised with a warped sense of obligation to a tyrannical subculture. But are we being true to ourselves as Canadians if we accept this type of behavior? Do we see these tragic figures and look the other way out of indifference or a misplaced commitment to multiculturalism?"

Delmar notes that rejection of a burqa ban is one of the issues that Conservative and Liberal politicians alike reject.

"Canadian women have the right, if they want, to wear a burka," said Liberal MP Marlene Jennings. "As a woman, clearly it makes me a little uncomfortable. But then there are other practices that are perfectly legal and acceptable that make people uncomfortable."

Federal Justice Minister Rob Nicholson has also outright rejected the very notion of a burqa ban.

Delmar doesn't like this -- he insists that it's a dereliction of leadership.

"Montreal Liberal Marlene Jennings was one of the first MPs to rebuff calls for a burqa ban, saying that it would not survive a constitutional challenge though she herself – as a feminist – finds it offensive," Delmar continues. "Her leader, Michael Ignatieff, was also quick to abandon the idea of new legislation, as was Conservative Justice Minister Rob Nicholson."

"A medieval and, in certain cases, abusive practice adopted by a small minority of Muslims without reason should not be shielded from scrutiny by the religious freedom defense. What is needed are leaders, apart from Quebec sovereignists, who have the courage to test the elasticity of the Charter and, in so doing, uphold Canadian values and plainly decent behaviour."

Unfortuantely for Dan Delmar's argument, religious freedom is a Canadian value, and it is plainly decent.

Religious intolerance isn't leadership, and abusing the Charter of Rights and Freedoms to this end isn't the act of a leader.


  1. I find the burqa and the niqab offensive too. What are we going to do-- throw women in jail for having a piece of cloth over their faces?

    I think there are genuine security issues regarding face covering.

    Other than that we should leave people alone.

    I feel like we've lost confidence in our ability to persuade people to change their minds.

    Why must solutions always come from the state?

    Why not engage the Muslim community in dialogue and debate? Why not have some kind of outreach?

    Legislation is very heavy handed, considering the offense.

  2. I couldn't agree more fully.

    We do, however, need to get the Charter under better control so people can better address some particular concerns regarding the Burqa.

    For example, women wearing one should be required to uncover their faces for driver's license photos, to vote, to drive, and any business uncomfortable with women wearing the Burqa -- provided that it's for security reasons, such as at a bank -- should have their right to object protected.

  3. Perhaps we should make it some kind of requirement to enter the country to have people agree to uncover their faces for official purposes, such as drivers' licenses, voting, etc.

    In the West, we put a LOT of emphasis on the face. The face it the person. I try to be easygoing about people's fashion dissent, but this is a fundamental perception that we have.

  4. It's about more than perception. There has to be a good reason for these things. I agree with you about the "official purposes" bit, but there still has to be a good reason for these things.

    Fortunately, there is. We need to be able to identify people on certain occasions, and for certain purposes. It's as simple as that.


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