Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Culture Wars

Hérouxville has one immigrant family in its 1,300 population (Photo - Getty)

A rural Québec town has declared itself subject to a few simple rules that "Muslims have branded shocking and insulting." Since Salam Elmenyawi, president of the Muslim Council of Montreal, is the only name I've seen quoted anywhere, it must be admitted that precisely how many Muslims are offended remains hazy at best.

Here's a sampling of the offending declaration :

"We consider it completely outside norms to... kill women by stoning them in public, burning them alive, burning them with acid, circumcising them etc." It also bans "Sikh children from carrying ceremonial daggers to school, even though the Supreme Court has ruled they can," but the facts are of little concern to Mr. Elmenyawi. "It set back race relations decades," he told Reuters news agency, conveniently ignoring the fact that race and religion (i.e., Islam) are two completely different things. "I was shocked and insulted to see these kinds of false stereotypes and ignorance about Islam and our religion."


Muslim women still have acid thrown in their faces for the crime of not properly veiling.

Muslim women are still being raped to settle tribal vendettas.

Muslim women are still being murdered in the name of family honour.

Muslim women protest regularly against their second-class status. So do non-Muslim women, in fact.

Mr. Elmenyawi should take some time to consider that not everybody wants to live as a Muslim. He should also consider that in a good number of non-Muslim lands, including China (many, many centuries ago in fact), humanity has adopted the attitude that religions (ALL of them) should remain in the sphere of personal belief. It's called secularism (which, incidentally, protects the rights of Muslims to keep their religion), or in French laïcité. (Oops! I meant here.) There is nothing in the declaration saying that Muslims are not welcomed : it is simply saying that if Muslims (and Sikhs - or don't their rights count for anything when compared to "Islam and your religion," Mr. E?) want to live in Hérouxville, they must agree to live according to these simple rules. Religious dogma is not license to emulate tenth century mercenaries whenever you feel your cultural or religious sensibilities have been affronted. And if you don't like the rules, feel free to practice your beliefs elsewhere.
Most Québécois and Québécoises don't pay much attention to the Vatican any more either. Despite the fact that they still call themselves Catholics, it's now a cultural identity instead of the theocracy it used to be. So why should a state which has struggled mightily to rid itself of centuries of religious domination and establish a secular way of life, why should this state now offer Muslims special dispensations it isn't preapared to offer anybody else? Answer : it shouldn't.

For all you French readers out there, here's a tidy overview of the evolution of Québec's laïcité from Paul Bégin, the province's former Minister of Justice :

Finalement, on en est venu à connaître des États où les religions ne jouent plus, directement ou indirectement, de rôle officiel auprès des dirigeants de ces États, ni dans leurs décisions ni dans leurs institutions. La séparation des Églises et de l'État est chose faite.

You can read the whole letter here, Mr. Elmenyawi.

[Update le 5 février, 1400h]
Le Congrès islamique canadien, le Forum musulman canadien et la Fédération canado-arabe sont en train de préparer une plainte devant la Commission des droits de la personne relativement à cette affaire.

La municipalité est accusée d'incitation à la haine et au racisme et de « jeter de l'huile sur le feu ».

[1730h] Féderation canado-arabe ne partage plus de cela : l'article maintenant cite seulement les deux autres.

What was that about "false stereotypes" again?

A Saudi Arabian judge sentenced 20 foreigners to receive lashes and spend several months in prison after convicting them of attending a party where alcohol was served and men and women danced, a newspaper reported Sunday.



Anonymous Frederick said...

In my opinion, Québec is one of the most tolerant nations in the world. We want to respect everyone's freedoms, including the freedom to practice religion. However, I believe one's freedom end where the other's start. I believe it to be my right in this nation to send my child to a school where there are no weapons of any kind (our provincial and federal laws agree with me). How is it that, in the name of religion, my right to peace of mind has been partialy revoked? _That_, in my opinion, is a step backwards for our nation.


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