Monday, August 2, 2010

Should the Burqa be Banned in Canada?

Should the burqa be banned in Canada? At the moment, only 54% say "yes." Ezra Levant has a column in the Sun on the issue, "Will Your Daughter Play with the Burqa Barbie?" and he points out that religious freedom is in conflict with the equality of women and men on this issue.

So let's be honest here: the problem is not that extreme right-wingers are being intolerant; rather, it is that we are struggling to figure out how to respect the religious beliefs of Muslims without enabling the oppression of women, which is a legitimate and serious problem with which to grapple as a liberal democratic society. As a conservative, I am willing to admit that religious freedom is not unlimited. When a religion goes against the law of the land, it is no longer tolerated; this is a well-established principle in law and many Christian beliefs are not reflected in Western law. Islam does not have unlimited freedom to remake Western society in its image. Liberals who are busy trying to eradicate all Christian influence from our legal and educational system should have no problem admitting that principle with regard to Islam.

Yet we find that so-called "liberals" are increasingly finding themselves aligned with Islamic male oppression of women - treating women as property, obsessing about obedience and sanctioning "honor killing" - instead of being on the side of the individual as liberals used to be. Levant takes it to the feminists:

Canada’s misguided experiment with multiculturalism pretends that all cultural ideas are equal, and Canadian values, such as the equality of men and women, are no better than foreign values like the subjugation of women.

Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms, enacted in 1982 when our Muslim population was tiny, is contradictory.

Section 27 of the Charter calls for “the preservation and enhancement of the multicultural heritage of Canadians.”

But Section 28 says that rights “are guaranteed equally to male and female persons.”

Well, which is it? “Enhancing” Saudi values? Or guaranteeing women’s equality?

Because you can’t have both.

Margaret Atwood published her sci-fi novel The Handmaid’s Tale, about America being taken over by a Christian theocracy that treats women as sexual property, 25 years ago.

It has become trite to watch cultural liberals like Atwood bravely attack imaginary discrimination, while staying silent on real discrimination.

The Handmaid’s Tale won Atwood the Governor General’s Award for fiction. A book about the subjugation of women in radical Islam would win Atwood a death threat.

Atwood loves posing as a feminist at champagne receptions in her honour. But she’ll leave the heavy lifting to people like Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

She’s the Somali refugee who wrote and narrated a movie called Submission, about the place of women in radical Islam.

The film’s producer, Theo Van Gogh, was murdered for it, but a note pinned with a knife into his body referred primarily to Hirsi Ali, who has had to live under around-the-clock security ever since.

That’s all a bit too real for Atwood, and is the reason why other feminists like the once-noisy Judy Rebick are so meek and gentle with the real butchers of women’s rights.

Levant mentions Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who has emerged as a spokeswoman for women who are being oppressed by a religious-political system that is brutal, unjust and violent toward women. To give you an idea of how pernicious and craven the Left has become and how dangerous postmodern moral and cultural relativism actually is to those under oppression, have a look at this interview of Hirsi Ali by the anti-American, ultra-Leftist Avi Lewis on the CBC show "On the Map."

It is pretty amazing to watch this doctrinaire Leftist try to tell Hirsi Ali, who herself is a victim of female genital mutilation, that a lot of Muslims are content with their religion and that there is actually no real difference between religions. The idea that all religions are the same is an article of faith with Leftists. Otherwise, it would be meaningful to discuss the question of which is better and which is worse and that is a debate the Left wants to stifle because it would result in Christianity being preferred as a superior religion in the sense of being more compatible with liberal democratic values. Since liberal democracy emerged in the context of a Christian civilization, this is hardly surprising. But the Left wishes to conceal this truth because it does not fit its narrative of how Christianity (and religion in general) is the source of all evil in the world while secular statism is the source of all good.

It is entertaining watching Hirsi Ali take this guy apart; it is like watching an adult school an adolescent. My favorite part is near the end when he claims that democracy is "broken" in America and refers to "stolen elections." Then he laughs at her for saying that anyone can come to America and get wealthy and stand for public office. In response to his mocking, she says:
I read Alexis de Tocqueville and I heard about democracy and I lived in countries that have no democracy . . . so I don't find myself in some lecture as you do. You grew up in freedom and you can spit on freedom because you don't know what it is not to have freedom. I haven't. I know that there are many things wrong with America but I still believe it is the best nation in the world.
The interviewer comes off looking like a smiling apologist for tyranny, which of course is what he is as a Leftist subversive. Usually, however, that fact is disguised whereas in this interviewer the Leftist sympathy for a totalitarian regime is unveiled in all its ugliness and hatefulness.


Colin Kerr said...

Brilliant, Dr. Carter.

The essence of the matter is that the Left has never been tolerant of anything they ever needed to be tolerant of (things they actually hate), and so they are being shown in their true colours here, finally.

But the burka issue is not an easy matter to decide, as you seem to suggest. I don't think it's just about oppression of women; it's also about public security and a people a small number of whose conduct has been alarming to the extreme (terrorism). I don't care if Seiks wear special headresses in the RCMP, just as long as I can wear a cross or scapular where ever or when ever I like. Just because a woman has a burka on doesn't mean someone forced her into it, just like with a nun's habit. But I am resolutely opposed to people wearing ski masks into banks. If a woman is forced to do something she doesn't want to do (like wear a burka) she should have recourse to the law. But a burka does not equal oppression. It does equal security concern. But if she wants to wear a burka in her own home or at the beach, what do I care? If she doesn't want to, then that concerns me.

Craig Carter said...

I agree that if a woman really wants to wear a burka she should be able to do so except in areas of public safety, voting, in courts etc. But how is it possible to establish that a Muslim woman really wants to do so? Does Islam allow her the choice?

One way to resolve it would be for those Muslims who want the burka to go live in Muslim countries and not in the West where it goes against the dominant culture. That preserves both choice and Western culture. As long as Christians in many Muslim countries cannot even build churches, how can Muslims object?

David said...

I agree that in the video clip she is right in the main and the interviewer is a fool.

I do think though that for Hirsan Ali and many others the post enlightenment West represents something very different to 'the darkness' that preceded it. The France that banned the Burkha is a culture that has in the past, and I think will again see itself in strong opposition to Christianity. For most of Europe Catholicism is misogynist and homophobic and is NOT in keeping with the culture that the west has evolved into being. When they stop me wearing a cross, as many in the UK have so stopped, where do I go to live? I can claim all I want that Christianity is a core aspect of Western culture, but, like gladiatorial contests, infanticide and cock fighting Christianity (especially Catholicism) is seen by many in Europe as a skeleton in the West's closet.

Sections of Hirsan Ali's Nomad read very similarly to a planned parenthood diatribe, Religious subjugation of women leads to abortion not being safe and legal and so women's health suffers. My guess is that she'd say the same thing about the Catholic Philippines. She also feels that all Religious faith is repressive in some form or another. She mainly targets Islam and sees Christianity as a lesser evil for those muslims who are not capable of making the full move to atheism. Personally however there isn't much of what she says that can not also be found in Christopher Hitchens.

I know Muslim women who feel that only enslaved to the will of God can they be free. They claim that Western Women pay men to cut them open, remove fat and put in botox and breast implants. Behind the Burkha they will never be so mutilated mentally and spiritually by a truly misogynist culture (western secularism) that they will "choose" to be mutilated physically. I feel I have far more in common with these women that I do with Nicolas Sarkozy and the French and Dutch secularists who condemn them.

The relativist idiocy of the interviewer is ridiculous, but in Europe this is being replaced by a clear positive secularism which sees Religions like Islam and Catholicism (it tends to see Evangelical Christianity as largely a bizarre American thing) as misogynist and homophobic threats to the brave new world of post religious Europe. They have criminalized the Burkha but also to a large extent Catholic understandings of the human person (as a homophobic hate crime). I'm very slow to take common cause with atheist secularists like Hirsan Ali against children of Abraham.

Craig Carter said...

I take your point that secular liberals can be as oppressive toward Christianity as toward Islam. I have not read Nomad and you comments make me want to do so. I think Hitchens is somewhat naive about what kind of society would emerge if he successfully eradicated Christianity from the West. (David Bentley Hart addresses this question in a splendid manner in Atheist Delusions.) But I thought I detected in the interviews I heard with Hirsi Ali a lot more nuance and I thought I heard her come very close to saying that Christianity is superior to Islam. Now that is a lot more than the average leftist is willing to admit or is even aware of (like Lewis the interviewer).

Here is a thought: if Christianity dies out in the West and the fight for power is between the hardline Marxists and the Muslims - both of which would initiate a totalitarian regime if they win - would one be any better from a Christian perspective? My point is that we have two threats which are equally destructive of the human spirit.

AS for the Muslim women you know, I would say that Christianity represents a choice that involves neither physical or mental/spiritual mutilation and ensuring that they have the choice to convert is the minimal act of compassion we can offer.

David said...

Hi Craig,
I agree that both regimes (secular Marxism and Islamist) would be terrible for Christianity. Right now it's the secular knife that's to our throats. I read this today,
the worst thing about it is the huge blow it lands against the Church's pro life strategies. We try to offer alternatives to murdering the unborn, we try to advise and protect life by helping the Mother find suitable parents for her child rather than killing it. Now these adoption agencies must either shut down, which will lead to many many more deaths, or cut their ties with the Church, losing the strategy of helping women who think their child is unwanted to see that it IS wanted, by couples willing to adopt. This ruling with lead to thousands of lives lost every year by denying Catholics the opportunity to help Mothers who approach the Church in crisis find families for their babies rather than killing them.

I get so angry at the secular powers because of this that I find it hard to take their side in any instance, even when they're right! The discourse started in the Enlightenment which gives us the modern secular state is, in nuce, a discourse in opposition to the Church. I'm not even sure it's in competition with it, as is Islam, it is rather, a kind of anti-matter, its a nihilistic refusal of grace, enchantment, the sovereignty of God, a demonic refusal of life. It exists as a parasite on the Christian world view, something that lives in the body (and so can seem to be part of the Christian story, the unfolding of the Augustinian vision) but distorts the cellular structure of the Christian story, looking to kill the body in which it is. The ruling linked to above uses Christian dna in its language of individual dignity, equality etc but it uses it in a viral fashion, distorting it against the body (of Christ).
I'm probably thinking far too apocalyptically and counter-culturally as I'm just so wounded by this story.