Thursday, October 8, 2015

Sick of hearing about niqabs?

Me too, but I feel I have to put my oar in the water on this issue.

I’ll admit my prejudice right up front. I do not like niqab-citizenship-zunera-ishaqeither the niqab or the burqa. Both make me feel extremely uncomfortable, but not for the usual reasons being trotted out about misogynistic religious/tribal practices or a panicky fear of terrorism. No, they make me uncomfortable because I want to see who I am dealing with – and eyes only, or just a disembodied voice in the case of the burqa, are not how I want to interact with my fellow citizens.

But lots of things Young-men-in-sagging-trou-007people do or wear make me uncomfortable. Exposed boxers and pants hanging off some wannabe punk’s thighs make me Face tattoouncomfortable. Facial tattoos and nose piercings make me uncomfortable. The ‘average’ Walmartian makes me uncomfortable. It’s a long list. However – and this is what’s important – simply being uncomfortable Walmartiandoes not give me the right to dictate how any of those people choose to present themselves to society. Their choices do not affect me, personally, in any way whatsoever.

That’s why Harper making this an election issue by conflating the niqab with terrorism in order to enrage the base is so outrageous. A small handful of women wearing niqabs in a country of 36 million does not and will not make the slightest difference in any Canadian’s life - except to make those women convenient targets for the misfits in our midst who understand Harper’s vilification of their dress as being permission to physically and/or verbally attack them. And when that inevitably happens, what does Harper do? He blames the opposition and the media.

With his handling of this issue, Stephen Harper has engaged in a despicable and cowardly act. Hopefully he will be suitably rewarded come October 19.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

“I want my country back”

Commonly seen in the Twitterverse and in online comments responding to the latest Harper Conservative “outrage” is the phrase “I want my country back”. This is immediately dismissed by the Conservatives and supporters as a meaningless expression by ‘leftards’, malcontents, elites, and others over on the progressive side of the spectrum who wouldn’t know a “strong, stable, secure government” if it bit them on the ass. “The country hasn’t gone anywhere” they say. Or they simply state that the country is better off today than it has ever been and challenge you to prove otherwise – “I don’t accept the premise of your comment.”

Well, up until this week, I had some sympathy for the latter position.  The country is, in fact, still here. And while we bemoan the changes made by the Harper Conservatives as being ones we can’t support, the reality is that governments make changes every day, some good, some (most?) bad, and we learn to live with them.

But my views changed this week with the announcement by Chris Alexander, our so-called immigrationchris-alexander (1) minister, that the Conservative government would set up a snitch line so that people could report their neighbours (anonymously, of course) for “barbaric cultural practices”.

Harper’s Conservatives seem to have a rather broad view of what, exactly, constitutes a barbaric cultural practice. Some, like honour killings, are obvious and already illegal in Canada, well covered by existing laws (for which the tip line is 911), while others, like wearing a niqab or burka, are matters of personal choice. You may not agree with those practices (and the Conservatives certainly don’t) but they are not illegal and, quite frankly, do not affect the average Canadian in any way, either positively or negatively.

Now Alexander, in his usual style, did not provide any details such as what, exactly, would happen when you ratted out your neighbour, but the mere fact that the Conservatives are floating this thinly-veiled (no pun intended) threat targeting Canadian Muslims leaves me in despair for my country.

Think back in recent history to other governments that used the power of the state to have citizens renounce their neighbours for actions that the government felt, in their own estimation, to be anti-social, uncivilised, or a threat to public order. At the risk of invoking Godwin’s Law I would point out that in pre-war Germany the public was encouraged to report, among others, Jews, gays, and the mentally and/or physically disabled to the authorities. Ukraine, Stalin’s Russia (even today’s Russia), Uganda, South Africa… the list of countries where this practice flourished (and flourishes) is a long one, and I lose heart to see Canada being added to the list.

So, yes, now I really do want my country back from these ignorant bigots.