Two sides of a coin

There is no inherent contradiction in viewing fundamentalist religious headgear as misogynistic while still supporting an individual’s religious freedom, so why does the media keep painting it as such?

The Charter of Quebec Values is creating a huge, perhaps irreparable rift in the province’s women’s movement. For feminists, there is no halfway position over the proposed ban on religious symbols worn by public employees.

On one side are those for whom the Muslim hijab (or any kind of religious headscarf) is anathema because it’s seen as a symbol of female submission. On the other side are those who believe that wearing a headscarf is a woman’s personal choice and that the law will victimize Muslim women in particular by excluding them from a large sector of the labour market.

It’s similar to the concept of defending even that freedom of speech which we disagree with. I don’t agree with the choice* to wear a hijab but it is not my place to tear it from a woman’s head.

*A tricky concept in this discussion but where free choice is restricted we should target those coercing, not the coerced (don’t blame the victim).

Closure of Muslim Free School highlights folly of government policy

A bit of welcome news came today that British government inspectors have forced the temporary closure of an Islamic free school over “health and safety issues.” The school promises to re-open soon.

Over the past few years, the British government has been increasingly trying to solve its broken education system through a combination of market-based reforms. Key among them have been the opening of many “free schools,” that is, fully government-funded schools that are free from the control of local authorities (locally-elected school boards).

Many of these free schools are religiously-motivated and are permitted to have discriminatory admission policies that favour students of a particular faith. The system is loosely based around similar programs in Alberta and BC where independent schools receive a certain amount of government funding.

The British Humanist Association’s Fair Admission Campaign has highlighted that these free schools end up increasing social fragmentation and class separation, with students of higher socioeconomic standing being admitted disproportionately.

Support the Campaign for Fair Admissions

Jason Kenney shores up Islamophobia

Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney spoke with Canadian Muslims to demonstrate the supposed widespread support for his recent decision to ban burkas at citizenship ceremonies.

Speaking at a Muslim Canadian Congress event honouring his “courageous decision,” Mr. Kenney said polling shows that eight out of 10 Canadians agreed with the decision while only 14% were opposed.

Sadly, neither Kenney nor the National Post provided any evidence for this statistic, so we can’t actually verify it ourselves.

Regardless, I’m still mixed on my own feelings about these decisions. Obviously forcing women to conceal their skin is an affront to feminism and equality but forcing them to undress can be equally offensive to one’s freedoms. I’m not really comfortable with a government that tells its citizens what they can and cannot wear.

Arguments aside, this opposition always seems to come down as a political distraction. It always seems to be presented as a solution that’s looking for a problem.

How many Muslim women were taking the oath while wearing a veil?

One per year? Two?

Without numbers and evidence – which we know that this government despises – all I can chalk these announcements up to is blatant fear-mongering and Islamophobia. Recall that Harper thinks Islamicism is the major threat to Canadian security.

On the Oslo blasts

By now you’re probably aware of the explosion and subsequent shooting that happened today (yesterday there?) in Oslo, Norway. If not, go read then come back.

Going off the details that are undisputed as of now, a bomb was set off in downtown Oslo, near the government buildings and later a man dressed as a police officer opened fire on delegates of a Labour Party youth camp. (Real) Police believe the two events are linked and the death toll is still rising and is at least 10.

The New York Times had initially reported that an Islamic fundamentalist group had taken credit for the bombing, but the paper was quick to note that such claims are often false.

Any time a terrorist attack (and I define this as a terrorist attack since it was an attack that inspired terror) occurs, it’s almost instinct now to blame Muslims. Hopefully most people take a second and realize it’s not any or even a sizable number of Muslims who could commit such atrocities (can anyone picture Mayor Nenshi doing anything so atrocious?). Finally, we actually realize that in situations like this, we need to wait until some facts come out before posting our favourite violent sections of the Koran in relation to this attack.

Almost ironically, some reports are starting to come out now, and they’re worthy of the same skepticism as the initial reports, that the gunmen was a blonde Norwegian and has no links to any Islamic group. The irony comes from the fact that this man may prove to have ties to ultra-right organizations that strongly oppose the left-leaning governing Labour party and Muslim immigration.

Rather than Islamo-Fascists it may prove to be just old fashioned Western Fascists.

Of course if a xenophobic right-wing group had escaped without being caught, they could have pinned the blame on Muslims and immigrants, potentially swinging popular opinion over to some of their more extremist policies.

But now I’m into idle speculation.

I wish the best for the investigators and Norwegian people. Norway holds a soft-spot in my heart as the place Alberta (and Canada) could be if we actually worked together.