Pursuing Tolerance, or, Why I believe in the Niqab

July 1, 2015

Dave 07Today is Canada Day, formerly known as Dominion Day. Many people from around the world choose July 1 to take the oath of Canadian citizenship. I thought it might be appropriate to rerun and expand a bit on the following Facebook post from last February.

A story that’s been in the news a lot lately is about the Muslim woman who wishes to wear a Niqab during the citizenship swearing-in ceremony. The Niqab covers the face completely, leaving only a slit for the eyes. The Burqa goes even further and puts the woman behind a fine mesh screen so that she is in semidarkness all the time.

The Hijab on the other hand, is a simple scarf similar to the one worn by Hutterites or by my Mennonite ancestors, and it leaves the face exposed.

I have to confess I’m torn on this one. I do find it offensive that someone would insist on covering their face during a citizenship ceremony. As a Canadian I even find it offensive when I see women wearing the Niqab or Burqa on the street. It is antithetical to the open Canadian culture where we look at each other’s face when we speak. The Hijab on the other hand doesn’t bother me at all – some are very beautiful – nor do Hutterite women wearing their scarves.

NiqabBut if those who wish to have their faces covered during the ceremony are prepared to prove their identity in a private room before the ceremony, then I have to come down on the side of letting them offend me, and even offend Canada. Because if giving offense is sufficient reason to ban something, then it certainly won’t be long until things that we do or believe in are going to offend someone else. In fact we’re already there, and doing or saying some of those things can get you taken before a human rights commission, or worse. That is what totalitarianism looks like, and it has happened here.

As a Christian, I am deeply offended by some of the comments or articles we read in the papers, or art that’s denigrates my faith. But I am entirely prepared to tolerate it. We’ve gone way too far down the road toward having the rights of selected individuals or groups to not be offended, becoming enshrined in law. That road ends in totalitarianism.

I actually got a lot of positive response to that blog. But here’s the problem. Our society is becoming more totalitarian day by day, and unless we do something about it, the trend will continue.

It’s not just universal free speech that’s a thing of the past.

Property rights are opposed by most politicians and most bureaucrats. You might think you own property and have an exclusive right to it, but if the government, or an environmental group, or some other favoured group needs access to it, or decides that some species need saving, kiss your rights goodbye. You’ll be lucky if they even discuss it with you before they walk over you. And if you oppose what they do, you will be accused of being a selfish, wealthy, not in my back yard-ist. “Toe the line!”

A bureaucrat in India recently made the comment that the big story of the 20th century was not the nationalization of industry, but the nationalization of the family. Children used to be the right and responsibility of the parent. Now, bureaucrats – appointed by politicians we elected, either actively by voting for them, or passively by not getting involved – have decided that they are “co-parents.” (That’s a new word, coined in the last couple of years by an Ontario bureaucrat.)

And the nanny statists are extremely intolerant of any opposition to what they are teaching your children. Depending on the subject, if you voice an objection you will be labelled a racist, a homophobe, intolerant, bigoted, or some other pejorative suitable to their purpose, which is to silence you.

To the nanny-statists, if you own a gun you are potentially a danger to society. Any day now, you might go out and kill someone, so your guns should be taken away. If you object you are obviously a gun nut, and have just proved their point.

If you oppose spending billions to combat climate change because you know from history that the climate has always changed, you are called a DENIER, which puts you in the same class as a contemptible Holocaust denier.

If you say out loud that Canada should have some sort of regulation on abortion – in surveys, most Canadians do – you are branded a woman hater and anti-choice. Is it possible to be pro-choice; just not unlimited choice?

The radical left has an agenda, and since the 1930s it’s been perfectly clear what it is, because they have stated what it is. Their agenda was to take “a long slow march through the institutions of the West”, and completely change those institutions so that Marxism / Socialism could achieve peacefully what was done through violence in Russia, China, and elsewhere during the 20 century.

So that’s why I’m concerned about fighting for tolerance. Because when the long slow march is complete, tolerance for those who don’t subscribe to what the state prescribes will become nonexistent. Think Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union, or Communist China.

Think I’m exaggerating? Dr. David Suzuki who some Canadians regard as St. Suzuki, said in 2008 that politicians who do not believe in climate change the way he does should be put in jail. And he has refused to repudiate that comment. That’s not the spirit of scientific inquiry; that’s the spirit of Totalitarianism.

In the Afterword to his excellent book: “The Great Divide” William Gairdner says: “I hope it is not vain or overly optimistic to think that the quality of the divisive cultural climate in which we now live, might one day improve and rise, instead of continuing downward.”

I hope so too, because if we continue on this road to selective intolerance, a couple of generations from now I’m not sure Canada will be the kind of country to which people will want to emigrate, or in which to celebrate Canada Day.

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