Monday, October 5, 2015

We Aren't As Good As We Think We Are

If anything, the racism and xenophobia that have become cornerstones of the Harper re-election strategy are showing us something we would prefer not to think about: when provoked, our own darker natures come easily to the surface.

In his column today, Edward Keenan reveals a few things we should ponder:
... if you have been paying attention, it’s obvious enough that when Team Harper refers to “barbaric culture” it means Islam.

And so this new election initiative is intended to respond to some imagined Canadian epidemic of “child and forced marriage,” “sexual slavery and so-called ‘honour killings’ ” and “female genital mutilation.” These things, of course, are horrific and are already illegal. And while they do not appear to be particularly common here compared to other crimes (even compared to other crimes against women), there is already an established national reporting mechanism for those encountering them: dial 911. So nothing about this announcement actually makes women any safer. Instead it’s an excuse to talk about Muslims as barbarians in a press conference. It’s a transparently BS announcement to drum up hate and fear, for their own sake.
Sadly, there seems to be evidence that this loathsome strategy is working:
As they’ve unveiled these items, the Conservatives have gone from third to first in many polls. Is it a coincidence? There’s reason to think not.

A government poll showed 82 per cent of Canadians support the niqab ban, for instance. Moreover, eight per cent of voters told Leger marketing that the niqab ban was the main issue determining their vote. Considering that the Conservatives’ recent swing into the lead has been an increase of only about six points in their support in most polls, it’s not crazy to conclude this anti-Islam posturing has made much of the difference for them.
It is time for all of us to take another look in the mirror, because despite our desire to think of ourselves as a tolerant and accepting people, the truth appears to be something else:
But we’re also a country where it appears an election may be won by blatantly disregarding the Charter and promoting intolerance for no discernable reason other than to stick our thumbs in the eye of a minority whose cultural and religious practices we find off-putting.
Cultivating such prejudices, as the Harper regime is shamelessly doing, has consequences beyond electoral gain. Consider what happened to Safira Merriman, a 30-year-old convert to Islam who wears the niqab:
Last week, wearing her Islamic face veil – the niqab, which has become a central issue in the federal election – she says she was trying to enter Shoppers Drug Mart at Toronto’s Fairview Mall when a man carrying a liquor-store bag blocked her path and then drove his elbow hard into her shoulder, in front of her two daughters, ages nine and four.
Or how about this?
Last week in Montreal, two teenagers reportedly pulled the hijab, or head scarf, of a pregnant woman, causing her to fall.
These are not things we should be proud of. Yet if we succumb to the Harper politics of hatred, suspicion and division, there will be no one to blame but ourselves and our unwillingness to resist the demagogues who skulk among us.

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