Saturday, November 14, 2015

The Danger of Denial

This morning I expressed my horror over the events in Paris to an acquaintance of mine whom I know to be a very moderate Muslim.  Her response when I asked if she had heard, was a comment of how sad it is, a shrug and then, "I don't know what they want."

I swallowed my gut response, but I would like to share it here.

"You don't know what they want?  Bullshit.  Of course you do. We all do.  They have been very clear as to what they want.  They want Sharia law to dominate the world. They want Jihad.  They want to purge the world of evils like mini-skirts, alcohol and the idea of allowing women to enjoy sex. In their ideal world they want the entire world to bow toward Mecca at the same time every day.  And in the absence of that, each of these suicide bombers wants their own personal ticket to paradise, complete with a crown of glory and 72 virgins."

By saying, "I don't know what they want," you are not helping.  You are adding to the problem.  You, as a moderate Muslim, are part of the problem. By distancing yourself from the issue, by claiming that these extremists have nothing to do with your religion of "peace," you are denying the very essence of the problem. ISIS is reading the same Q'uran as you are.  They are following the same Hadith.  Perhaps they are focusing on a different set of verses and laws than you are, but to deny that these verses and laws are not a core and integral part of the Islamic faith is to be at best, disingenuous and at worst ignorant. I have little doubt that every person who wore a suicide vest on November 14 in Paris was not there because he enjoyed killing.  He was there because he believed whole-heartedly that he was doing Allah's will and would be rewarded.  These are not political statements....they are righteous expressions of absolute, unadulterated and sincere belief in the divine.  Only when we accept that can we address it.  Only then can the entire religion of Islam have a hope of moving forward into the 21st Century and shedding the barbarism that is woven so intricately into its theology.

Terms like "racist" and "xenophobe" are not only inaccurate, but also not helpful, nor productive.   These are not words or ideas that enhance dialogue - they end it.  So before you call someone racist and turn to walk away in disgust, think about that and think a little harder about what has motivated you to say it.  Are you saying it because this person is questioning a race of people? Or are they questioning a set of ideals - a set of values.  If so, then this is not racism.  It's not xenophobia.  It's a quest for rationality and human rights.  If you don't see that or understand that, then dig deeper.  Look harder. Be very clear on why you believe what you believe.  What are you basing your opinion on? Then have a discussion about it. Be open to hearing someone else's opinions because Allah knows, we all need to listen to each other.

And what is the purpose of a statement like, "Well the Hindus kill people, too,"  or "Just look at Israel," or "What about the Spanish Inquisition?"  Does violence done by members of other religions somehow justify the violence?  Does it validate it?  Of course not.  However, if Hindus or Sikhs actually started massacring people in the name of their god or faith or based on the their theology...then, yes.  We'd have a problem.  However, that is not the case.  Or if it is, I'd be anxious to hear about it.

We need to focus on the why. We need to listen to ISIS when they say they're killing in order to avenge Mohammad or eradicate evil lifestyles from this world.  They're not scheming and hiding their political agenda.  Why would they? What purpose would that serve?  Unless we take what they say at face value, face up to it, and really talk about it, we're not going to get anywhere.  We also need to take a good hard look at the heart of Sharia law.  We need to look at Saudi Arabia and ask ourselves why we're doing such a happy business with one of the biggest human rights offenders in history.  THAT is a place to start.

Friday, February 27, 2015

A hijab in court: The case for sincerity...or insanity?

A Quebec judge had the audacity to treat a muslim woman just like anyone else:
Quebec judge wouldn't hear case of woman wearing hijab

In a nutshell the woman came before the court applying to get her car back after it was seized by the Quebec Insurance board.  The judge stated that the woman wasn't suitably dressed, that no head coverings were allowed, and when the woman refused to remove her scarf, the judge deferred the case indefinitely.

According to the reading I have done, there HAVE been cases of Sikhs being asked to remove their turbans and Jews being asked to remove yamulkes, so they are not immune. Neither are toques. It is not about obstructing the face, it is about removing head coverings out of respect for the court. Not only that, but the hijab has exactly the same symbolic function as the niqab or the of subservience and obedience to men and the wish to prevent men from being unable to overcome their desires. If I were a female judge, I would certainly have a problem with being faced with that symbol in my court.

But ultimately my question is this: why it is that the judge is automatically cast as the intolerant in this scenario? The woman in the hijab is being asked a very reasonable request: to remove her head scarf for a grand total of 15 minutes in a situation of cultural significance....and in a situation where she is asking the court to concede to her some favours....and yet the judge is being intolerant?

Perhaps the law itself about removing head coverings is flawed, and that should be addressed. Why shouldn't an 18-year-old skater-kid be allowed to wear his toque and jeans around his ankles in court? But until that changes, why is a muslim woman due any more special treatment than he is?

I have heard the argument, "But for her removing the head covering is equivalent to feeling naked. It would be too embarrassing for her."

However, if that's the case.....and we really have no way of going inside her head and knowing that is the case as many women shed or don their hijabs at various periods in their lives depending on their current interpretation of the scriptures....then it is her and her religion's problem. Not the court's. Exactly the same argument could be applied to a woman wearing a niqab or a burqa, having to remove it to testify in court....or pose for a driver's license photo. There are limits to accommodations that can or should be made for a person's personal comfort level.

But who are we kidding....the fact that her personal comfort is at stake is really not the issue here. The ISSUE is the fact that it is a religious garment and is therefore automatically granted immunity to these regulations.

I keep trying to come up with non-religious parallels for these kinds of cases, but to think of a man coming into a court, sincerely insisting that removing his hockey mask or toque or spaghetti strainer leaves him feeling naked and unable to function and therefore he is unwilling to do of course ludicrous, and would point to some kind of serious mental illness. But perhaps that is what we are dealing with here: society-sanctioned mental illness.