Monday, March 23, 2015

Full Of Sound And Fury, Signifying Nothing But An Unfitness To Govern

Like one of my favourite Shakespearean creations, Macbeth, the story of a corrupted Scottish king, Stephen Harper's tale unfolds on a landscape that has become increasingly blighted thanks to his diseased leadership. Harper's demagoguery, his total disregard for the moral, social and ethical well-being of Canada, all powerful attestations to his unfitness for the country's leadership, grows more poisonous the closer we come to the next election. A man seemingly without any ethical underpinnings, he exploits every opportunity that presents itself to vilify and condemn, inviting the citizens of our country to participate in his campaigns of hatred and segregation.

Muslims are one of his favourite targets, easy ones given fears about terrorism and the horrific actions of ISIS, an ever-growing group of fanatics who seem to know no bounds whatsoever. And yet, it is the height of stereotyping to conflate such with the overall Muslim population, something Harper does with especial relish.

Zunera Ishaq, in her refusal to doff her niqab for the Canadian citizenship ceremony (which, the laws says, is not necessary) has become an easy target for Harper's vituperation, attended by his claim that the wearing of the niqab is rooted in a 'culture that is hostile to women.' Fortunately, not all Canadians are swept up in Harper's hatred.

As usual, a group that keeps me from total despair, Star letter-writers, offer their reactions to the prime minister's war on the niqab:

Why I plan to wear a niqab at my citizenship ceremony, Opinion March 16
I have thought long and hard about joining the debate on the right of Islamic women to wear the veil for the citizenship ceremony. I cannot remain silent on this matter as we all have to at some point say enough is enough.

First of all, like many non-Muslims and even some Muslims I am uncomfortable with the whole concept of the niqab or burka. However, my discomfort does not give me or anyone else the right to deny anyone to wear them if that is her wish.

The issue in question is not an immigrant demanding that Canada amend its laws to accommodate her views or those of the culture she chose to leave behind. The issue is her asking us to uphold our own law and allow her to take her oath, having already removed her niqab before the judge to establish her identity.
If we allow our uneasiness and fear, which is being stoked by cynical politicians, to allow us to change our laws to trample this woman’s rights, then everyone of us who is different in any way should start looking over his or her shoulder.

When all the Muslims are gone, who will be next?

Denise Irvine-Robertson, Toronto

Tory MPs are kept on very short leashes with their barking restricted to PMO-approved talking points. The recent spate of racist and anti-Muslim comments coming forth from this group appears to be a rather disgusting tactic within Harper’s re-election campaign much like a lawyer who speaks inappropriately before a jury and then withdraws the comment – knowing full well it will be remembered.

These messages are intended to attract, engage and inflame the fearful and prejudiced components of our personalities to motivate us towards voting Conservative. So does Bill C-51 address the radicalization of the Canadian public when it’s committed by MPs and a prime minister?

Randy Gostlin, Oshawa

MP Larry Miller’s inappropriate comments are proof that the veil has finally fallen off the Harper Conservatives hidden agenda. It has been slipping for months as nasty, mean-spirited, bigoted utterances have been made by Conservative caucus members and cabinet ministers.

Harper himself tested the waters with a bigoted comment and when it was cheered by his base Harper, the only economist who thinks one third of anything is most, quickly adopted the mantra that most Canadians agree with him. True to form this chant has been taken up by his cabinet and caucus to support the party policy.

Keith Parkinson, Cambridge

Demanding that a woman take off her niqab during the Canadian citizenship swearing in ceremony offends me deeply. I am a 33-year-old Jewish male. I am proud that Canada is a multi-cultured country. People wear turbans and kippahs and should be proud of their cultural dress.

Philosophically, I don’t love the idea of a niqab, but who am I to judge? I have a thick beard that grows to my eyebrows — my face is technically “covered.” If they have to take off the niqab, I should have to shave.

Many people mistakenly associate the niqab with oppressive Muslim extremists, which elicits fear. But when someone wants to be Canadian, so long as they aren’t harming anyone, they should be accepted for who they are, and what they wear.

Our opinion on their choice of clothing is irrelevant. And if you argue that wearing a niqab is not a choice, just ask Zunera. I’m with her, and offended that this conversation even needs to be had.

David Keystone, Toronto
So 67 per cent of Canadians oppose women wearing the niqab. So what? From time to time, in both personal attitude and public policy, “Canadians” have opposed everything from immigrants to aboriginals to pit bulls to nude beaches – the list is long and embarrassing.

Canada has evolved, with painful slowness, from its elitist, xenophobic roots to a diverse and somewhat tolerant society that was until recently the envy of the world. Now a desperate government is trying to use public opinion polls to drag us back into the dark ages where democracy is equated with majority dictatorship.

Paul Collier, Toronto


  1. We should know who they are by now, Lorne. And we should be ashamed.

    1. It is only the willfully ignorant who can endorse an agenda such as Harper's, Owen.

  2. Willful ignorance is only one reason for that.

    There's non-willful ignorance too (a much higher percentage I wager), there's bigotry, there's radical political crap (which could also be called ignorance but is at least usually the result of having read something, sometime). People will vote Conservative (or for any other party) because a neighbour/family member/co-worker they don't like is going to vote LPC/NDP/Green. Or they'll vote Conservative because a neighbour/family member/co-worker they do like is going to vote Conservative. They'll vote Conservative (or for any other party) for the vaguest, shallowest, most irrelevant, meaningless reasons and fight you to a standstill to defend their choice as reasoned and valid.

    As my late sister in law was wont to say, "Feckin' people man."

    1. Point well-taken, Dana. Each instance you cite is an abdication of the responsibilities of citizenship in the most meaningful sense of the word.

  3. I'm not sure that word 'citizen' has any meaningful sense any more, Lorne. Just as the conservative movement has done an excellent job of removing much of the meaning of the word 'society' they have also done to 'citizen' and 'citizenship'.

    1. I'm afraid you are right, Dana. This government, along with other neoliberals in sheep's clothing, has much to answer for.

  4. I may personally not like the niqab, but it is her choice. And, it is perfectly legal.

    see also

    1. Many thanks for the link, UU4070. It is a powerful article.