The Niqab and Democracy 

Below is an Op-ed from Jeff Itcush, as shared on Facebook. My opinion comes after the piece.

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​The Quebec government’s Bill 62 will ban face coverings within public service contexts with the justification of promoting “state religious neutrality “.  The Charest government attempted the same thing in 2010 with Bill 94.  Below, is an op-ed that I wrote in response to that bill.  My sentiments now are the same as they were then.   
OP-ED PIECE BY JEFF ITCUSH 

THE NIQAB REVISITED
 The Charest government’s recent effort to prohibit the wearing of the niqab in public service contexts is shortsighted.  If the spirit of Bill 94 is to promote integration in a pluralistic society, the legislation is poorly-conceived at best.  At worst, it will prevent healthy social integration.
 In the past decades, Quebec has promoted immigration from various parts of the world for political, economic and humanitarian reasons.  This has helped foster Quebec’s reputation as a tolerant and open society.   In these circumstances the presence of people practicing a diversity of religious and social customs should be expected.   This is also a part of a global transference of human populations that will be even more prevalent as the twenty-first century unfolds.  Monolithic societies simply do not exist anymore.  Throughout the twentieth century, governments which attempted to reinforce monolithic myths have fostered intolerance, discrimination and gross civil rights abuses.  These things have marred the history of those societies.  What then of Quebec?
 The presence of Niqabs and other religious symbols will be an ongoing but limited  phenomenon in Quebec.  This is simply evidence that Quebec is part of the globalized and increasingly urbanized world.  Most urban societies have already long been “communities of communities”.   The only way out of sharing the presence of those with different customs is to either try to escape the present or punish people who seem different.  Both of these reactions are unrealistic and the latter is problematic from a civil rights perspective.  In the bigger picture, the latter also shows that we are not as tolerant or “open” as we think.
 If we, as a society, wish to integrate those with diverse customs, then benefits to engage in the larger community must be obtainable.  Beyond this, it must be realized that only a few people in any given cultural or religious group will wish to forgo the opportunities that integration can offer.  Thus, the total number of people wishing to wear a niqab will be minimal.  Of  146,000 clients visiting Montreal’s health insurance board offices in 2008-2009, only ten women donned in niqabs requested accommodation.
 What then is a viable integration-building alternative?   Social integration does not exist without economic integration.  Economic integration does not exist without employment.  This is significant because, according to Statistics Canada,, unemployment among immigrants in the province is more than twice that of persons born here.  Given the issue at hand, this rate is even more telling when it is understood that nearly half of Quebec’s recent immigrants are Moslem. The majority of this group can function well in the French language.
 Integration is contingent upon employment.  Needed are legislated hiring policies that are consistent with the goals of real integration – economic engagement.  Given the opportunity to prosper, very few will choose to be disengaged from a society shrowded by customs of another era.   When, however, any group is excluded from the mainstream, it has no alternative but to seek refuge in the past.  People, no matter who they are, seek stability and some sense of solidarity.  
 Integration through employment is a means for people of diverse backgrounds to build commonality on the things they all seek  – mobility, prosperity and the opportunity to contribute. Governments, including Quebec’s, need to embrace proactive measures that engage the diversity of our population despite all of our interesting differences.   Niqab curtailment isn’t likely to accomplish this.  Employment will.
Jeff Itcush

Former President – Federation of Teachers of Jewish Schools

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My take:

Here’s how the law curtails feminism. 

It would definitely be hypocritical of feminists to be for this law. After all, they support freedom of choice for women. And since this is the law made by middle-aged, mostly-male lawmakers, it would go against the very tenets of feminism by allowing them to control women’s rights. On the other hand,  it would be inappropriate for feminists to support this law if they believe men in the Muslim world are forcing these women to wear the Niqab. 

The above dilemma creates a quandary for feminists, and for us,  because we are mostly ignorant of the culture these women live in. And the main culprit in this is the mainstream media. They keep throwing images at us of those “terrorists” that are causing all the problems on this world. We are bombarded with shantee town-like images of Palestine and Lebanon. There are no images or reports about “those good Muslims”  (I’d say about the same ratio as people from all other religions) trying to live a straight and healthy life. They are just part of the problem and should stand up to the ones that are bad. I suppose it’s like how us Christians stand up to the KIK lynchings. 

Can we at least establish that most Muslims are good? Now we can move on to comparing the niqab to the crucifix. Although far more visible, the niqab is a religious symbol no more or less than the crucifix. 

Now let’s go to India, where women get killed by their husbands because of the dowry system. These are scorned by the media, yet hardly ever reported on. 

Read this from a progressive Muslim feminist.

Here’s a well-thought-out article on the subject.

This is a differing opinion, from a Muslim feminist against the Niqab.

All this should make it simple to conclude that the law is fair if we are looking for separation of church and state. But this isn’t the case here. This law picks on one sole religious group. For that, it must not exist, unless it can be proven that it incites hate and /or discrimination.

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Quebec is one of the least socially and democratically progressive place in the western world. It is not surprising that they have chosen to discriminate against yet anotger group of “outsiders”. Quebec needs to build a tolerant, just, and democratic system and stop hiding under the veil of “the quiet revolution”. 

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Terrorist Attacks, Vigil, Flag Avatar, Repeat 

#democracy #terrorism 

It’s taken me 5 days to give my opinion on the Manchester terrorist attack carried out by radical Islam.  I promise no political correctness, and will not demonize 99% of Muslims who are law-abiding citizens. As the caption says, there is no room for extremism of any sort. 

There are the Jewish and Armenian genocides that were atrocities and shameful. By a wide margin,  the genocide perpetrated by Christopher Columbus and others after him on the native Americans is the singlemost biggest genocide in history. This was done in the name of Christianity to further the cause of European expansion by helping these “savages” become enlightened.  

These are facts that can’t be denied. And whether we want to accept them for what they are is up to us. But the important thing to remember is that it was the work of Christians that weren’t even radical. 

Then you’ve got these clowns dressed up in white sheets that had wet dreams of lynching people who were not white, Christian, or heterosexual. These guys were a representation of Radical Christianity. 

Manchester native Morrissey wrote his politically incorrect thoughts on the subject and was called a racist, misogynist, and a downright insensitive idiot. 

The above is part of Morrissey’s rant on his official Facebook page. I would recommend reading it and the replies to it to get an idea of the complete ignorance of the far right and the neoliberal left. The former is just an example of Tea Party politics and the latter of politically correct regressivism. Both are the problem. But identifying the problem doesn’t automatically bring about a solution. 

Neoliberals scoff at the phrase “fake news”. Then they equate it to far right news. Being a lifetime progressive lefty has led me to surmise that we are dealing with fake news in mainstream media. The information they give is not necessarily false, but it is subjective and one-sided and incomplete. It is regurgitated in conjunction with what the audience and advertisers want. CNN didn’t touch the Copt Orthodox Christians being killed by radical Islamists, a massacre was as serious as the Manchester one. But maybe it won’t get ratings. 

In this example above, we see how the media is not against radicalism of any sort. Nor does it care about who gets killed. The media cares only for ratings and staying out of the scope of political incorrectness. It is sad to see an otherwise intelligent journalist like Anderson Cooper turning himself into an establishment whore. He shows up at vigils, talks to people in his nice sympathetic and empathetic manner, tells his audience how terrible all this is, and then tries to have some kind of celebration of the mundane life of one of the victims. It sort of makes you think why you can’t put your more interesting life on YouTube, as you fall for the fake news in front of you. Yes, it’s fake news. It’s fake because Cooper takes us into the aforementioned mundane moribund reality that tries to celebrate life in the aftermath of a major deadly tragedy. 

The responsibility of journalism is to get the story out and give facts and diverging opinion. It’s not an HBO documentary special event. 

“Love For All Hatred For None” sounds very nice. And it is. It is what we should strive for. But holding this sign up after a deadly terrorist attack is counterproductive. It breeds pacifism when we need to act. It makes people numb, just like fake news. Who is this sign for? Are they holding it up for the nice terrorists?  A perfect example of political correctness.  Don’t get out of line now. 

Then we have the “je suis Charlie ” craze. This is the most hypocritical sort of support we can show to others. How does a flag on your profile help the French people or France? Speaking out the truth helps. Perhaps putting a pic with a “terrorism sucks” caption would help more. This flag just serves to make the non-victimized feel better about themselves or just represents the satisfaction they get of having participated in some small way in making the world a better place. Sheep. I hate human sheep. But it’s not their fault. We need to blame social media shaming for this one. 

Here’s an article way out in left field, shaming Morrissey and making terrorism a feminist issue. 

Then there’s the sad vigil. This fits in perfectly with Anderson Cooper’s aforementioned presence. Don’t get me wrong, this is not a bad thing to do. But when there is nothing more done by anyone, including your government, it is just an exercise in nothingness with a fake closure. Closure comes with putting things behind us. But this problem lingers over us even more. 

Now that all this has been explained, it’s time to see why the fight against terrorism is failing. 

Firstly, we need to get rid of political correctness and be allowed to speak our mind without fear that our own neighbours will scorn or shun us or that we will lose our jobs or reputations. This can be easily done by promoting people to tell us how they feel about this. 

Secondly, we need to name the problem. Anything perpetuated or inspired or perpetrated by ISIS is Radical Islamic Terrorism. There should be no doubt and there can’t be much debate. This doesn’t make all Muslims into terrorists. On the contrary,  it separates them from the radicals or extremists. 

Thirdly,  Muslims need to admit these are acts of Radical Islamic Terrorism. We also need to make sure the media doesn’t demonize these people who are just like the rest of us. 

Lastly, government needs to take a hard stance when it comes to immigrants and refugees. People mock President Trump for his view on immigration, but his views on this matter are logical. He is tackling part of the problem that is tackleable. 

Islam is a young religion with good  core values. Like the Christians during the crusades, Muslims are having growing pains. In time, they will be united against extremism and hate. Till then, all law-abiding citizens need to be protected from terror. 

Democracy 101—You May Be Surprised at What Democracy Really Is 

#democracy #freedom #rights 

The ancient Greek, Pericles,  is credited with inventing and naming democracy as it is still seen today. Although this was the reinvention and not the birth of democracy, the ancient Greeks take credit for properly immersing it into bigger population groups. 

There are many faults with this model, as it was “rule by the people” where the people were free men. Excluded was most of the adult population, consisting of women and slaves. But it was a starting point. And it also brought about semi-autonomous rule of smaller communities within the bigger city states.  This is still alive in states and provinces that exist within almost all western states and the different levels of government that rule them. 

So democracy is rule by the people and each eligible individual having a voice, or a vote. 

There have been different forms of democracy since ancient Athens. It is important to look at some examples. 

Karl Marx brought to light the conflict that exists between capitalism and democracy. Although we have a vote, our available choices are pretty much the same. Marx believed that there needs to be revolution to put an end to tyranny. Marx was arguably the inventor of modern communism. Under tyranny, communism was to be the new democracy. 

When the vote factor is taken away from the equation, democracy begins to mean equality for each and every individual. And according to communism, the state is the one responsible for keeping everything in check. In most communist thought, there is little to no private property, everyone has more or less the same salary, and society is dependent upon themselves more because capitalist entities shun it or downright refuse to even give it a chance. 

At this point, we need to combine the ideas of Pericles and Marx. We hear a lot from so-called political historians of how Marx was just a repressive recluse who never worked a day in his life. On the other hand, there is barely ever any criticism of the ancient Greek model of slavery and misogyny. This needs to be pointed out here to understand the subjectivity of the media and other experts. When these two theories are  combined, we see democracy representing rights and freedoms for all. It is not a land of opportunity, but rather a land of thriving. As much as Marx’s theory bothers some, it needs to be acknowledged that his progressivism is responsible for rights being given, however slowly, to the ones that had been, and still are, fighting for them. 

One example of Marx’s theory coming to life is one of the fathers of the Cuban revolution,  Che Guevara. An Argentinian doctor from an upper middle-class family, Ernesto Che Guevara left his native land to help Fidel Castro in the Cuban revolution. Unlike with Castro, who was satisfied to stay and govern Cuba, Che eventually tried to spread the revolution around the world one country at a time. 

The rebelliousness of Che got him assassinated. But this will never change the fact that he was perhaps the biggest freedom fighter of the last 100 years. He wanted to rid the world of greedy capitalism and establish human rights for everyone. He still has a cult following because he represents the small chance people have of overcoming the system.  

Unlike his predecessors, Che was never popular outside of his circle of believers. He managed to blur the line between communism and democracy. In fact, he may have equated them. This brought about big theoritical change around the world as capitalists and communists were fighting to prove which theory was democracy. The cold war proved nothing, but it did cause strife. 

I would like to mention heroes like Nelson Mandela,  Martin Luther King Jr, and Mahatma Gandhi, who were peaceful men fighting for democracy. 

But let’s move forward to the most recent example of a man who is a great example of democratist, if you will. Yanis Varoufakis stood up to Europe and lost because he had no backup. He was the Greek finance minister who had the plan to go back to the old currency overnight. He was stopped by Alexis Tsipras, who changed his mind minutes before the midnight hour. 

Varoufakis wasn’t a politician. He is the inventor of modern game theory. He wasn’t a communist, but he still wanted to help the far left movement come to power. He did and was rewarded by being fired. Greece is now poor and losing its culture and pride. 

Click below to read about his memoirs. A great book. 

https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/paul-tyson/adults-in-room-by-yanis-varoufakis-london-bodley-head-2017

In the following few blog posts, I will look at democracy and its implications on everyday life, politics, racism, etc. 

My short definition of democracy is:

Egalitarianism.  Striving to build a society where all people have equal rights and freedoms by birthright. This encompasses the responsibility of the government to listen to its citizens and guaranteeing that they are living the best life available to them. This ensures that they are empowered to be able to properly choose what they deem as the right thing for them.  The government has to make sure its  citizens are secure and that any dangerous activity is eradicated for the good of the citizenry. 

A Postmodern  Populist November 

Postmodernism is ,  as I was taught in my second-year lit course ,  something we aspire to become through the non -acceptance of modern ideology. The Britannica dictionary gives a more thorough meaning. I tend to think of a theory that is already there and waiting to be defined when there is enough cynicism with most of what we define as being part of the establishment . 

It has been an eventful November so far .  We only need to look at the weather and its consistent inconsistency to see change is really upon us .  We have come to realize this with the advent of populism . Yes ,  the plight of the working class ,  the so-called huddled masses, has finally come to the fore .  They don’t care about the environment . Recycling won’t help them put food on the table . The climate may be changing ,  but that is secondary to the power of the only democratic thing out there —the ballot .  The people kicked out the establishment when they voted in Donald Trump . 

There has never been so much civil defiance as far as I can remember .  The pollsters were wrong. So were the media . So were ,  most importantly ,  the establishment and the elite . You know ,  that Wall Street bunch with Maseratis and secret offshore hedge funds .  We have overcome because they didn’t get their candidate in .  In fact ,  Trump is the ultimate  anti -candidate ,  which is what makes it such a coup .  He talks like us .  He thinks like we do ,  privately .  He even look like my Uncle George with an ill -fitting ugly cap worn with a suit and ugly tie .  He is the emblem of middle America and the one to empower the poor .  He is the one who overcame all odds and won .  For the everyman. Like the bully we live vicariously through ,  Donald Trump is the one who was able to defeat the Republican establishment and be heard over the corrupt musings of the Clinton clan .  And as for his comments ,  what else could he have said ?  The goal was to win .  You bring in the wounded to your party and rebuild their dignity .  It is the only way to empower the huddled masses .  

Michael Moore predicted the victory.  Here is a video explaining exactly why Trump would win. 

Do we need more proof ?  Yes , first Britain experienced postmodernism with Brexit and now the USA with Trump . This is possibly the way to epiphany and atonement that we’ve longed for since my first anarchist thought . Since my first Bukowski poem . Since my first Lit course . Since I realized democracy was still a theory .  Since I saw how much worse public schools were .  Like Trump says “what have you got to lose? “ And truth be told ,  there’s nothing much to lose .  Is there ?  When you look at it from a broad spectrum ? 

I woke up this morning in the fog of autumn .  The fire escape is for the huddled masses who will continue to live in such places .  But Trump won .  It was what needed to happen . It is the only way out.