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15 November, 2015

PARIS TERRORISM ATTACKS HAVE IMPLICATIONS FOR CANADA

Bulletin:  French police have issued a warrant for 26-year-old Salah Abdeslam's arrest. French officials and the Islamic State group had both said there were eight attackers initially. Police said seven died.

While those responsible for the despicable terrorist attacks in Paris. France, Friday night were unknown, there was initial concern that they might be traced to Islamic State (ISIS) extremists, the very group that Canada and other nations are battling in Iraq and Syria.  The shocking incident ensures that the issue of terror and security will be thrust onto the Canadian agenda once again.  And rightfully so!

In a country where multiculturalism is holy writ and political correctness keeps many cowed, it will no longer take audacity to ask whether the presence of Muslims in Canada is a threat to Canadian society.


Woman with candle at a "silent gathering" in Toronto shows
support for those slain or injured in Paris.
Since September 11, 2001, a growing chorus has warned that Western society and its values are at risk of being overrun by a tide of Islamic immigrants. The Eurabia movement has popularized a set of assumptions about Muslim immigrants to the West: that they are disloyal, that they have a political agenda driven by their faith, that their high reproduction rates will soon make them a majority. These beliefs are poisoning politics and community relations in Europe and North America and have led to mass murder in Norway. Rarely challenged, this movement’s claims have slipped into mainstream politics.

Canada is rapidly changing culturally in ways our political elite, media elite and academic elite do not want to discuss. But the fact that this is not discussed, or is swept under the carpet, does not mean the public is not keenly aware of how much the country has changed in great measure in a relatively short period, and if this pattern continues for another few decades there is the likelihood that Canada will have changed irrevocably, and not necessarily for the better in terms of its political tradition as a liberal democracy.

The flow of immigration into Canada from around the world, and in particular the flow from Muslim countries, means a pouring in of numbers into a liberal society of people from cultures at best non-liberal. But we know through our studies and observations that the illiberal mix of cultures poses one of the greatest dilemmas and an unprecedented challenge to liberal societies such as ours.  Problems are imminent when there is no demand placed on immigrants to assimilate into the founding liberal values of the country to which they have immigrated.

National security threats do exist within refugee populations, and there are particular reasons to be concerned.  I am all for giving refuge to those fleeing the ravages of war in their homeland, but it is now worth spending time to carefully make sure that those being resettled into Canada will not bring tribal feuds or radicalism along with them. Canada is fortunate to have greater screening and selection abilities than the European nations scrambling to meet the demands of refugees on their doorstep and we can only hope and pray that those procedures are effective enough.

It goes without saying that it would be a tragedy if doors were locked against desperate refugees, and law-abiding Muslims were treated like criminals.  We need to ensure that those selected for resettlement in Canada intend to live peacefully and that they are committed to assimilation.  The new government’s first responsibility is to the Canadian public and to ensure its safety. That is why the Trudeau government could be forgiven if it did not fully deliver on the promise to rapidly bring 25,000 Syrian refugees into Canada this year.

The hijab, burqa and niqab are not the real issue

Now on to a related topic.  Unlike a certain segment of society and especially on the heels of this week’s terrorist attacks on Paris, I cannot get myself bent out of shape over Muslim women covering their faces and bodies when immigrating to Canadian soil.  The hijab, burqa and niqab have become a topic of much controversy and heated debate.  A number of countries have banned the wearing of these religious garments, while others like Canada have considered banning or limiting their use.

Many arguments have been made against the wearing of the burqa and niqab, claiming they are anti-social, backward, oppressive, and not part of Islam.  “When in Canada do as Canadians do,” is a favourite anti-burqa and niqab chant.  Unfortunately, we have allowed this issue to overshadow the much more pressing and serious matter of Muslim immigration being a demographic and political threat to Western culture

I simply feel that a degree of tolerance is warranted in this one regard because we are talking about deeply-rooted religious beliefs that are not easily discarded overnight.  Having a debate over whether to ban a well-established religious practice is in itself discrimination, and goes against the very values which ought to be protected. Being tolerant does not only mean accepting people who look and act exactly like us; but accepting the choices of other people, especially, if we do not understand or agree with them. 

We are also talking about a double standard here because other religious symbols and clothing are not only tolerated in Canada, but respected.  If we are going to take an anti-stand in this matter we should at least familiarize ourselves with the three main types of Islamic dress relating to women when in public and the reasons for them:

  1. Hijab: This is the most common type of Islamic dress, which covers the woman’s body, leaving only her face and hands visible.
  2. Niqab: This type is like the hijab, except it also covers part of the face, leaving only the eyes visible.
  3. Burqa: This type is the least common, and involves covering the whole body as well as covering the face with mesh, so that the eyes are not visible.

The hijab can generally be found amongst Muslim women all over the world, while the niqab and burqa are more common in specific regions.  It is not obligatory for a Muslim woman to dress in one of the above fashions in front of other women. It is only obligatory in the presence of men who are not closely related to them, as prescribed in Islam.

The literal meaning of hijab is to veil, to cover, or to screen.  Islam is known as a religion concerned with community cohesion and moral boundaries, and therefore hijab is a way of ensuring that the moral boundaries between unrelated men and women are respected. In this sense, the term hijab encompasses more than a scarf and more than a dress code. It is a term that denotes modest dressing and modest behaviour. For instance, if a Muslim woman was wearing a scarf but at the same time using bad language, she would not be fulfilling the requirements of hijab.

The majority of Muslim women wear hijab to obey their God and to be known as respectable women. (Quran 33:59) However, in the last 30 years hijab has emerged as a sign of Islamic consciousness. Many women see wearing the hijab as indicative of their desire to be part of an Islamic revival, especially in countries where the practice of Islam is discouraged or even forbidden.

While those who seek to ban hijab refer to it as a symbol of gender based repression, the women who choose to don a scarf, or to wear hijab, in the broadest sense of the word, do so by making personal decisions and independent choices. They view it as a right and not a burden. Nor do these women regard hijab as a sign of oppression. Women who wear hijab often describe themselves as being “set free” from society’s unrealistic fashion culture.

Hijab, ideally, frees women from being thought of as sexual objects of desire or from being valued for their looks, or body shape rather than their minds and intellect. No longer slaves to consumerism, hijab is said to liberate women from the need to conform to unrealistic stereotypes and images dictated by the media. Women wearing hijab have expressed that dressing modestly and covering their hair, minimizes sexual harassment in the workplace.

It is true that in some families and in some cultures women are forced to wear hijab but this is not the norm. The Quran clearly states that there is no compulsion in religion (2:256).  A woman wearing hijab becomes a very visible sign of Islam. While Muslim men can blend easily into any society, Muslim woman are often put on the line, and forced to defend not only their decision to cover, but also their religion.

Islamic scholars have agreed that both the burqa and niqab are part of Islam, but have differed as to whether they are also compulsory or optional acts of virtue. This explains why some Muslim women wear the hijab, while others decide to wear the niqab or burqa.  To me, this is not only a freedom of religion issue facing Canadians today, but one that boils down to women’s rights – and fashion.

But lest not allow the hijab, niqab and burqa to detract from terrorism and national security discussions in the crucial weeks ahead…Personally, it will be the least of my concern.  The far greater matter of our country’s security, on the other hand, is of grave concern and we can only hope and pray again that our government is capable of protecting it.  Given harsh realities, we must make the best of a looming messy conflict that defeats easy analysis.

A “veiled” threat is one thing…The real McCoy is quite another.

Vigilance is of the essence as terrorism reaches deadly global proportions.

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