Stephen Hume writes with insight, frankness and honesty. You just might enjoy reading his words that follow.
Larry Miller, an Ontario Conservative MP, recently apologized after saying people who want to wear a niqab when swearing the oath of citizenship shouldn’t come to Canada.
Photograph by: Adrian Wyld, THE CANADIAN PRESS
“Prime Minister Stephen Harper blurts an ill-considered reference to a little-worn item of Muslim dress as representing “anti-woman culture.” A Tweet under Immigration Minister Jason Kenny’s name circulates a photo of women acting in a religious rite that depicts an ancient bondage and misrepresents it as enslaved Muslim women today. Then backbench MP Larry Miller tells Canadian Muslim women — half of whom were born here — who wear a veil that they should “stay the hell where you came from.”
And that’s all it takes for Canada’s bigots to grant themselves permission to vent.
Now every atrocity in war-torn regions seems destined to be cited as proof of Islam’s inherent vice. Yet if the violence in parts of the Middle East and Africa can be simplistically linked to the faith where it occurs, what about other places with other religions? Is Northern Ireland’s half century of civil strife irrefutable proof of the inherent viciousness of Christianity? If 83 per cent of American citizens profess to be Christian yet shoot 100,000 of their fellow citizen dead in a decade is that proof that Christianity is inherently murderous?
What about Christian warlords and their atrocities in central Africa? If the beheading of hostages by Lord Of The Flies adherents to fascists seeking power in destabilized Syria, Iraq and Libya is proof of the essentially barbarous nature of Islam, what should we make of Christian Mexico where severed human heads are left in coolers along highways or delivered by the dozen to city hall to make a point in the media? Drug warlords aren’t true Christians, right? Indeed, and mainstream Muslims say the same of the savage fascist zealots at their religion’s ultra-orthodox fringe — which is why there’s an edict in Canada condemning and excommunicating them.
Nonetheless, assertions that the constitutionally protected religious choices of a tiny minority of Muslim women — 90 per cent choose not to wear a veil — are impossible to reconcile with “Canadian values” pound into my inbox with depressing regularity. Media comment boards bristle with ignorant clamour.
In addition to anti-Muslim vituperation, the anti-Asian gang comes howling in behind, aggrieved by everything from Chinese signage to the attack on western civilization symbolized by gai lan on supermarket shelves.
This country has been marked by the intersection of different cultural traditions for hundreds of years. Hybrid vigour, cultural fusion and diversity are preferable to the fusty, never-were monocultures held up as exemplars of Canadian values. Canada’s vitality derives from constant change; it has never been frozen in amber.
Once upon a time, the Cree controlled an area from northern Quebec to the Rockies. Cree was the lingua franca of North America’s biggest business. Economies evolve; times change. Get over it.
Canada has absorbed waves of French, English, Chinese, Japanese, Americans, Scots, Irish, Ukrainians, Germans, Russians, Finns, Belgians, Greeks, Swedes, Italians, Hungarians, Lebanese, Tamils, Punjabis, Roman Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Muslims, Doukhobors, Buddhists, Sikhs, Hindus. All changed and were changed by the country to which they came.
Chest-beating for the good old days when the British in British Columbia meant membership in an elitist white colonial old boys club is silly yearning for a time that existed only briefly — and good riddance to it.
Bigotry has a long and beef-witted pedigree here in “a white man’s country” where the “Yellow Peril” once commanded headlines and the Ku Klux Klan had a headquarters in Shaughnessy Heights. Ah, those good old days when bigots could strut their stuff. The murderous clowns in pointy white hats attracted 500 enthusiasts to their founding meeting in Vancouver in 1925. Two years later, they claimed a provincial membership of 13,000, including five members of the legislative assembly.
Before them, we had the Asiatic Exclusion League, fomenters of race riots who in 1923 lobbied successfully for the unjust laws to bar Chinese immigrants and for which the federal government has formally apologized.
Echoes of those poisonous attitudes suffuse the nasty, outraged, inflammatory commentary — often delivered with no sense of irony from behind the veil of web anonymity — suggesting that a few Muslim women’s veils are part of some fascist fifth-column assault on Canada.
Well, they aren’t. And more of us should be saying so — and helping stuff this ugly genie of bigotry back into the bottle before it starts granting wishes we come to deeply regret.”