THE BLOG
01/07/2014 01:59 EST | Updated 03/09/2014 05:59 EDT

Perhaps I Was Too Harsh on Québec

I have written about Quebec before.

Let's just say that I won't be beatified any time soon. But I think the Québecois deserve a badge of courage for their attempts to define reasonable accommodation.

They are asking the question "What is the definition of tolerance?" I suggest the answer lies somewhere between accommodation and capitulation. In what appears to be an honest desire to protect the very foundation of our rights, freedoms and responsibilities, Québec has looked abroad and seen the Islamification taking place in Europe.

In an attempt to be politically correct and avoid accusations of Islamophobia, Québec decided not to accommodate anyone who didn't fit their idealized version of Québecois.

Québec does not want women walking down their streets wearing clothing that symbolizes subjugation, inequality of the sexes, repression. It is the clothing worn by all women in Saudi Arabia, the country that is actively exporting its culture around the world, from Wahhabism to funding Middle Eastern chairs in universities all over the world.

There is an old expression: "The clothing makes the man." In Islam it makes and defines the woman, teaching her that she is less valued than a man, unequal in the public square. Being hidden behind a veil she signifies to others that she is unimportant, insignificant, without a voice.

The clothing screams the views of the men toward women in Islam. They are more than different, they are not of equal value and therefore have no need of freedom, civil rights, or human rights that are inherent in Islamic men. These women are prisoners; literally and figuratively: in their clothing that keeps them separated from everyone else (the men), and prisoners in their own homes; not allowed to go out without being escorted by a male relative, not allowed to drive. It was just recently that the Saudis allowed women to work in lingerie stores to serve their clientele. Until then men were the salespeople.

The citizens in Québec are forcing us with their attempts to bring in new, sweeping legislation to deal with this particular fear, to face that fear; the fear of becoming a country that allows apartheid-the total separation of women from men with men as the oppressors.

Québec is forcing us to ask ourselves what kind of country do we wish to bequeath to the next generation. In our desire to be tolerant are we prepared to allow customs that in Islam are enshrined in their religious laws, customs that are anathema to our Constitution to be accepted?

I understand the feelings behind Québec's all-encompassing legislation that removes all aspects of religion from the public square in order to prevent the influx of misogynistic Islamic practices into our country. But there has to be a better way forward.

Banning all religious symbols prevents us from getting to know "the other." It prevents us from learning about others and their rich traditions and looking at them as "us" not "them." There is no harm in recognizing a Catholic by a cross or an observant Jew by a kippa, a Sikh by his turban, or women from India by their saris. None of these adornments define these people as "lesser than."

Québec's concern regarding the garb of Islam must be the concern of us all. This is not Islamophobia. This is a discussion about tolerance; and between accommodation and capitulation lies acculturation. People from other cultures are welcome here but they must be prepared to accept that some of their customs cannot be brought here. There are bonds with the "old country" that must be broken in order to live here in the West under a system that is totally different in outlook from the one that they are leaving.

We are not a multi-cultural country and that's part of the dialogue going on in Québec. We are a uni-cultural country. Our culture is based on the Judeo-Christian ethic, the foundation of the culture of Europe and North America that provides the path to becoming a citizen. It's because of that ethic that we're a welcoming country to people of all cultures, ethnicity, religion and customs as long as none of them conflict with our most basic values: we're all equal and all have equal intrinsic value. No custom, no behaviour, no symbol must be allowed to take away from these core values.