07/24/2012 05:13 EDT | Updated 09/23/2012 05:12 EDT

So a Boy in a Burka Walks Into an LCBO...


One of the most significant local stories in recent times that has nationwide -- if not worldwide -- implications, is the one that appeared in the Toronto Sun on Tuesday about the 14-year-old boy in a burka buying liquor with impunity.

Yes, it was a stunt orchestrated by Sun TV News host David Menzies, but it was not a stunt designed only to shock, but one aimed at underlining a problem. And the problem is not 14-year-old grade 8 boys buying booze, but of anyone wearing a burka or veil, rarely being questioned.

Those who feel the staff are culpable at three LCBOs for not demanding the Burka-clad person show a face, or at least identity as the law requires, are missing the point. Had they demanded the purchaser show a face or produce identity, they may well have feared being accused of prejudice or being motivated by hate. Who can blame the LCBO cashier for not risking the wrath of human rights zealots who often seem to lack qualities of common sense that one would think would be a requirement for the job? Nor is it unknown that Western "converts" to Islam use wearing the burka as a statement, and even a provocation.

The greater implications of this burka-and-booze story is that it could happen anywhere. Personally, I await with interest when the first burka-clad gang of robbers hits a bank, mindful of the Bill Murray movie (Quick Change) where the bank robbers were dressed as clowns to pull the job. Funny, but effective. The burka is an ideal disguise in our country, because we are so sensitized to pretending it's normal, that we are reluctant to cause a scene by asking questions.

One only has to think back to when the Soviet Union occupied Afghanistan and enterprising Western reporters periodically tried to enter the country disguised as women in burkas. It didn't work too well then, because the guys in the burkas were much taller than most Afghan women, and stood out.

Then there was a case in Florida a few years ago, where a niqab-clad Muslim woman wanted her photo for a driver's license taken with her face covered. When she was told to show her face to the camera, all hell broke loose as she and others demanded their "human right" not to show her face.

The same argument has occurred over Muslim women testifying in court and insisting that they have the right to be in disguise. Quebec is one province that has taken a lead by insisting that the burka is taboo when applying for a government job or appearing as a witness in court where the accused has a right to face an accuser. That sort of thing.

Wearing a burka or veil has little to do with religion, and everything to do with cultural mores. Many feel that when people from other cultures come to this country, they should at least go through the motions of adjusting to the new culture to which they've been granted citizenship. That doesn't seem too much to ask. And in fairness, most who emigrate here do adjust, and add diversity to the existing culture.

The David Menzies story in the Sun nicely defines the problem, and readers are fortunate that columnists like Tarek Fatah, Farzana Hussein and Salim Mansur have the courage to defy extremism, and put a touchy problem into perspective.