As I lamented in yesterday's post, the issue of the niqab at citizenship ceremonies is apparently responsible for a resurgence of support for the Harper regime, whose leader has ruthlessly exploited the issue to his political advantage. Playing upon people's prejudices against 'the other,' Harper is appealing the court ruling against a ban on its use. The fact that this single issue should sway a significant proportion of the electorate, I think, speaks for itself when pondering our collective natures. We may not all agree about the niqab, but it should not be a defining issue, except perhaps to the extraordinarily small-minded.
Sometimes appeals to our prejudices come in much less blatant form. Such is what I believe I witnessed last night as Rex Murphy pontificated on the niqab issue. Take a listen, and see if you agree:
On the surface, Rex sounds so reasonable, doesn't he? But if we remember that appeals to symbols of citizenship, patriotism, etc. are all arrows in the quivers of demagogues both past and present, his observations and suggestions take on a more sinister cast. Consider his reference to the citizenship ceremony as a "civil sacrament." Powerful stuff, mixing religious and secular metaphors, especially for those who allow emotion to prevail over intellect. In other words, this quasi-religious ceremony, if we follow the subtext, is in danger of being blasphemed by the Muslims. His reference to "patriotic allegiance" also invokes the spectre that perhaps, if they are hiding their faces, they really aren't going to be that patriotic or loyal to Canada.
Murphy also points out they are insisting upon 'specialized treatment,' in breaking with the traditions of the ceremony. Cleverly, for his purposes, he makes no reference to our laws, which permit the use of the niqab. Then there is the suggestion that if the niqab wearer's insistence on her 'rights' (pretty uppity of her, don't you think?) is such a deeply-felt religious conviction, then perhaps she will have to choose between that conviction and citizenship.
While openly admitting to the multi-cultural nature of our society, Rex also suggests that just for the one day in which they are taking the citizenship oath, they should show themselves to their fellow newly-minted citizens. After all, he says we have core and common values, of which the citizenship ceremony apparently is one, in his view. (Subtext: they are making a mockery of our values in refusing to play by our rules.)
Without a hint of irony, Murphy suggests that these issues can be discussed without rancour, claiming there is no bigotry here. While I agree that such issues are indeed fit topics for rational discussion, Rex's approach, unfortunately, does nothing to further that goal.