6 Feb 2012
Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Somalian refugee who served as a Member of the Dutch Parliament, has published an article in Newsweek detailing the threat which Christians face in Muslim countries. Hirsi Ali asserts that “the conspiracy of silence about the violent expression of religious intolerance must stop”, condemning Western governments and media for ‘forgetting’ the about the persecution of Christians in Muslim countries in the wake of the Arab spring.
Although Hirsi Ali is no longer a politician in the Netherlands, media in the country addressed the Newsweek article ad considered Hirsi Ali’s position with respect to recent comments by Dutch politician Frits Bolkestein and political scientist Hala Naoum Nehme, as well as considering the Dutch Foreign Ministry’s human rights policy with respect to religious minorities.
The Toronto Star – August 6, 2011
Zarqa Nawaz, creator of the television hit Little Mosque on the Prairie, reflects on the situation of Canadian Muslims in this feature article about her family during the month of Ramadan. The freelance filmmaker and TV comedy writer worries when the extended family comes home about the “way things look.” “You can’t make a mistake — you will be judged.”
As for Muslims in Canada, life is not perfect, says Abdul-Basit Khan, a Toronto lawyer and past chair of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Canada. But, adds Khan, if you look at the experience of co-religionists in Europe and some parts of the U.S., “there isn’t a better country in which to be a Muslim.” Nawaz says 9/11 forced Muslims, and other religious minorities, out of their “bubble” world and to engage the greater community as never before. In charity work, for example, they moved beyond supporting only Muslim causes. “Never was there a time in history when it was so important to be active and prove to the world that we care,” says Nawaz. She also pays tribute to Canadian tolerance. “I believe that Little Mosque on the Prairie could not have been made in any other country,” says Nawaz, 43.
July 24, 2011
Members of ANELD (L’Association nationale des élus locaux de la diversité), an advocacy group representing elected local officials from ethnic and religious minorities, have stated that it’s time for France to compile statistics on its ethnically diverse population. The organization deals with issues related to ethnic diversity in France, including employment, equal rights and discrimination. Ethnic statistics are forbidden by the country’s constitution and frowned upon as a way of forcing people to identify with a set ethnic group. However, critics say these numbers are necessary given the country’s increasingly diverse ethnic landscape.
It is not the first time the issue has arisen over the past decade. The controversy over ethnic statistics last surfaced in 2009, when French President Nicolas Sarkozy appointed the Committee for the Measurement of Diversity, arguing that efforts to help minorities were hampered by a lack of data, and that he wanted to find a way to “measure the diversity of society.”
Members of ANELD are due to meet with the French commissioner for equal opportunities, Yazid Sabeg, to discuss a possible census. They say they plan to raise the issue of discrimination as a major topic in France’s forthcoming presidential election.
Quebec will refuse all government services, including education and non-emergency health care, to fully veiled Muslim women under legislation tabled yesterday in the National Assembly.
Jean Charest, the Liberal Premier, said the bill establishing guidelines for the accommodation of religious minorities is aimed at “drawing a line” to demonstrate that gender equality is a paramount Quebec value. The bill applies not only to government departments and Crown corporations but also to hospitals, schools, universities and daycares that receive funding from the province.
The proposed guidelines in Bill 94 follow an uproar this month over the expulsion of a niqab-wearing woman from French courses after she insisted that male students in her class not see her face. Quebec’s Immigration Department tracked her to a second college where she was studying French and had her expelled again because she would not remove her niqab, a veil that leaves open a slit for the eyes.
Quebec, which for more than three years has been grappling with the issue of accommodating religious differences, is the first province to take such a stance against the niqab and burqa. In Ontario, women wearing a full veil can make special arrangements to receive government services without exposing their faces to male bureaucrats.
Mr. Weinstock said Quebec is addressing head-on issues that are being ignored elsewhere in Canada. “This is a very good thing,” he said. “Whatever happens as a result of the debates in the National Assembly over this bill, and whatever the final form of this legislation is, we are having a very interesting societal debate here in Quebec that has to do with issues that are not specific to Quebec.”
A new type of warfare – albeit perfectly peaceful – has taken form in Quebec, as intellectuals and academics weigh in on the issue of accommodating religious minorities. The debate has been reignited recently with the “ niqab ” incident, in which a woman who refused to show her face to her language teacher and disrupted the class with her many demands was finally – after months of attempted compromise – expelled from French classes for immigrants.
On one side are the “pluralists,” who call for more openness to immigrants, and for what is called in French a “ laïcité ouverte ” (a secular regime that allows for some compromise with religious fundamentalists). The initiators of their manifesto, “for a pluralist Quebec,” are mostly professors of philosophy.
The authors of this second manifesto, eager to dissociate themselves from those who use the concept of secularism to cover up their dislike of the recent waves of Muslim immigration, argue that “ laïcité ” has always been part of Quebec history, an argument that is a considerable exaggeration.
According to a new poll from Léger Marketing-Le Devoir, three-quarters of Quebecers feel that the Charest provincial government is too lenient in its “reasonable accommodation” of religious minorities. 57 percent of respondents agreed that the provincial government should ban religious signs in government-related offices.
The poll results are not yet available to the public through Léger Marketing’s website.
In a contribution to a debate in Norwegian Aftenposten, Editor and Media Researcher Knut Olav Åmås writes that ethnic and religious minorities in Norway are being categorized – and tend to categorize themselves – in terms of their religious or ethnic belonging.
Columnists of Muslim background feel forced to discuss religious issues and claim to be manouvered in to a defense position. Åmås also reports that many Muslims feel reluctant to parttake in debates in fear of threats.
Knut Olav Åmås notice two voices amongst Muslim-Pakistani immigrants. One that claims the debate in Norway is conflict-oriented and promotes strong views and posts. But there are also warnings of an victim mentality amongst Norwegian Muslims.
By Norwegian standards, the large Pakistani immigrant minority is generally successful and economically well integrated. But maybe, Åmås says, they play an unproportionally big role in media. This leads to a debate where the issue of integration is overshadowed by discussions about Islam. Åmås calls for voices of other religious and ethnic minorities in Norway.
In Turkey, the Swiss referendum banning the building of new minarets is perceived as just another example of Islamophobia and discrimination against Muslims. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said: “This decision is primitive, outdated, and manifestation of a Western understanding.”
Warning that this decision rings alarm bells, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu added “There is an increase in Islamophobia. We will live together everywhere in the globalized world, and we need to develop a new spirit of tolerance.”
The article, however, also highlights the extent to which “a new spirit of tolerance” is needed in Turkey as well. While most people criticized the Swiss vote strongly, some also drew attention to Turkey’s own situation regarding tolerance to religious minorities.
The rights of the non-Muslim minorities in Turkey are regulated to a large extent by the Treaty of Lausanne, which gives reciprocal rights to the Muslim Turkish minority that lives in Greece and Christian Minorities in Turkey, but the article argues that neither the situation in Greece nor the one in Turkey is better than the situation in Switzerland.
When Switzerland recently voted to ban the construction of minaret towers at mosques, some observers interpreted it as an expression of European xenophobia that would never find a home in multicultural America. That isn’t entirely the case.
In hundreds of communities across the U.S. where Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and other religious minorities have sought to build or expand their houses of worship, private citizens have gone to great lengths to block their construction. Tactics range from using eminent domain and citing traffic concerns to running pig races and stirring up fears of terrorism.
Such cases are currently unfolding in Illinois, New Jersey, Michigan, Georgia, and California.
Residents of Calgary, Alberta will now be allowed to swim in city pools wearing saris, hijabs and other clothing deemed “religious” in a new policy designed to encourage the participation of ethnic and religious minorities. For safety reasons, saris will be banned from the deep end. The city´s superintendent for aquatics and fitness stated that the policy clarifies what before had been a grey area, typically handled on a case-by-case basis. Ms. Bruce stated, “We wanted to make sure that everyone feels comfortable and they can participate with dignity when they use our facilities.” Clothing must be clean and swimmers must shower in the garments before entering the pool.
Similarly, last winter, the Alberta Soccer Association changed its rules to, like in the provinces of British Colombia and Ontario, allow female soccer players to wear the hijab while playing. The headscarf is banned on Québec soccer fields.
See full-text articles:
The Globe and Mail
The Calgary Herald