Gestures, symbols, rights

The warm and fuzzy feeling of protection
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2015-03-14 Symbols-of-faith

Rex Murphy commented on the Niqab Debate; then Peter Jaworsky added his.

 Are you all wound up about the prospect of a few women wearing the Niqab during the citizenship ceremony? Don’t be. It’s as much of a non-issue as symbolic issues generally are.

No jobs will be gained or lost, no taxes will be levied or eliminated, the GDP will not move any points — or even fractions of a point, no one will be hospitalized, no one will, well, anything.

It is hard to see why the government should require any dress code for the ceremony. If anything, people should be encouraged to wear whatever makes them happy, and not whatever makes the government happy.

Because Canada, unlike too many other countries, is a free country, and amongst these freedoms is the freedom to wear whatever the hell we want, no matter what our government would prefer.

 On a first read, I would agree with everything Peter says here but the more I look at it, the more things I find objectionable.

 The meaning of freedom

Peter says that Canada is a free country. Is it? Really? Does that new citizen have the right to shoot the judge shouting Allah Akhbar? Should she have the right to assault him in any way? Refuse to recite the oath? How about just lying to him about her allegiance to the Queen? To Canadian laws? What if she decides to follow the example of Chiheb Esseghaier, the train plot suspect who rejects the jurisdiction of Canadian laws in Canada? If she cannot accept something as trivial as the ‘show your face’ rule in citizenship courts, what can we expect when it comes to the more foundational aspects of her beliefs?
If a Muslim woman should be allowed to reject Canadian rules favoring the ones of her faith, to what extent should she be allowed to advocate the particular tenets of that faith? Should she be able to advocate that gays should be hanged, apostates beheaded, adulterers stoned to death and Jews killed in any way possible?

Peter says “no taxes will be levied or eliminated.” Are we sure about that? The same fervor that drives her fight for the right to wear a niqab also drives Muslim to demand ‘simple’ things such as food labeling to accommodate their primitive and brutal ideas about food safety. Halal is inhumane and we are already allowing it. Labeling regulations don’t come without costs. Wearing the niqab indeed does not cost much, but the accommodation of Muslim sensibilities generally does.

The power of symbols

When the communist government of Hungary sentenced me to a year in jail for talking back to two policemen, that was symbolic. It was a message to the rest of society. When Stalin did his purges that was also largely symbolic. The most important part of the process was the message it sent, not the lives it took. When I see a red star or the hammer and sickle, when I see people rally behind them, I see the conviction, the intent to create the world represented by these symbols.

When I see a swastika, I also see a lot more than just a fashion statement. Would Peter or Rex feel comfortable with people wearing swastikas to a Canadian citizenship ceremony? Would that be a non-issue?

The niqab is not a fashion statement, it is a symbol of Muslim power, of Muslim identity, Muslim destiny. When a Muslim woman insists on wearing it, she insists on bringing everything that it means, everything that it represents into her Canadian citizenship. It is a declaration, if not outright flaunting, of the primacy of her values over ours.

The fashion question starts with the niqab and ends with this: A woman shot for wearing a red jacket.(The very graphic video has been since removed from Youtube.)
The question for us is where exactly, we Canadians, are going to draw the line on the continuum of Muslim fashion statements.

When Rex says that we have more important things to talk about, he is absolutely right. What he is missing on is that this issue is a proxy for more important things. Because IT IS on a continuum. The niqab is just a step on the journey.

Having the right to wear the niqab in Canadian (citizenship) courts is an ideological ‘ribat,’ a foothold, on which the jihad (struggle) for more rights can be based. Not unlike the moment I experienced at a stop on the 401.

Once we allow the niqab in one court (citizenship), wouldn’t it be logical to allow it in any other? Once it is allowed in the courts, why not by teachers in the classroom? (as debated in a case in Britain)
If we say yes to that, then why not to sharia? The fact that we rejected it once means little. I am sure we will talk about it again.

The question of allegiance

While I try not to make the mistake of conflating state and society (and for which I often criticise others), let me suppose, for the sake of simplicity, that the Canadian state is Canadian society with its Canadian culture.

Since wearing the niqab is discretionary, then so is Canadian citizenship. It should be up to us to decide who can have it. If a Muslim woman should have the freedom to wear the niqab any time, any place, why should we not have the freedom to say thanks, but no, thanks, you keep your niqab, we keep the citizenship? She wants something from us that she does not need to have. She is already a resident with nearly all the rights of citizens.  I know some Germans who live here and will not become citizens because they do not want to lose their German citizenship. You can live your whole life here without becoming a citizen. You don’t have to have it.
If someone wants to become a Canadian citizen, why should Canada bend to her will and not the other way around?

I suspect that what’s behind the arguments of Peter and Rex is an arrogant sense of superiority. That we are better, that we are more grown up, that our culture is stronger than to give in to the petty need to have our way about symbolic gestures. It is a profession of faith suggesting that we can afford to ignore the symbolic gestures of these little people with their religious superstitions and fashion statements.

I do not share this sentiment. I wish we lived in a world with “the freedom to wear whatever the hell we want.”  Unfortunately, we do not. (Just watch the red jacket video again!) Islam is a real danger to our civilization and we need to be resolute opposing its attempts to change our culture, playing on our tolerance to introduce intolerant ideas and practices to it. Freedom is not unconditional. ISLAM is. Of the nine religions symbolized on the top of this page, Islam is the only one hell-bent on world domination. Apart of communism, Islam is the only supremacist religion I know of.

Both Peter and Rex are dismissing the significance of the question. They don’t think that it is serious. Muslims do. They take it very seriously. Shouldn’t we wonder why?
Rights and freedoms are always about drawing some lines between what is and what is not permissible.

If Peter and Rex disagree with where the line is drawn on this issue, then shouldn’t they be able to tell us where the line should be drawn?
Instead of the dreamy “why can’t we just all get along” attitude of Rex or the dismissive “move along there is nothing to see here” attitude of Peter, wouldn’t that be the serious, the grown up way to handle it?

3 replies on “Gestures, symbols, rights”

  1. Google images – ‘cultural masks’ and try to determine where the line should be drawn by our courts. Also what about face coverings for other subcultures – surgical masks, gas masks, batman comic character mask, KKK hood, anonymous movement Guy Fawkes mask, etc.
  2. Ros Feldman says:
    ExcelLent rebuttal.
  3. zorkthehun says:
    This rather long presentation by a reformed Muslim radical has a whole section on the hijab starting @ 54:45. Definitely worth listening.
    He is making the point that the Hijab has nothing to do with modesty, it is a symbol of Muslim identity, Muslim supremacy. He is confirming points I made above.

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