9.16.2005

sharia again

Star columnist Rosie DiManno has a terrific column about sharia law, the McGuinty decision and Canadian identity.
The time has come for Canadians to be weaned off the teat of multiculturalism as a primary source of sustenance and self-identity.

Surely, in the 21st century, we are more than the sum total of our diverse parts and hyphenated definitions.

What once bound us together in a less self-assured era - the appealing dynamics of ethnic and cultural distinctions undiluted by melting pot nationalism - served its purpose well for several decades, since first advocated as a cementing ideology by Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau.

But somewhere along the line, perhaps when human rights tribunals and clumsily codified diversity legislation began to illogically skew the social balance, asserting minority rights over majority concepts, the whole thing began to unravel.
DiManno goes on to say that the decision is not racist, anlabelingng opposition to the use of sharia "Islamophobic" is missing the point. (But she says it much better than that. Please read.) She closes with this:
There is nothing to prevent Muslim women, or people of any faith, to continue seeking mediation from religious authorities. Surely, it is well within the purview of such authorities to give counsel and advice to the faithful. The spiritual and the moral remain realms of temporal consultation. But this province couldn't put its faith in the fallback protections afforded by civil courts, which would still have maintained the right to overrule decisions rendered under sharia law, had the Islamic Institute of Civil Justice been successful in seeking state sanction for Islamic tribunals.

The most vulnerable individuals - women accustomed to patriarchal dictates and their children - would likely find it extremely difficult to assert their civil rights, particularly if they are new to this country, unfamiliar with our legal system, and living within an ethnic cocoon, as is the case for many recent immigrants. This might seem, as proponents of sharia law (including some Muslim women) claim, an intrinsically paternalistic view, as if Muslim women are incapable of grasping their own circumstances and require the apparatus of the state to defend them. But the reality is that, for so many women, especially immigrant women who lead insular lives, they do not share, are often not permitted to share, in the values and rights so vital to our society.

I saw this a generation ago in the constituency I know best - Catholic women in Italian families, allowed precious little choice by the domineering, if however well-intentioned, men in their lives.

Islam may be the answer for more than a billion people on this Earth and I in no way wish to diminish the richness of a majestic faith that expresses itself in every facet of a person's daily life. It is, or thus it seems to me, a religion of surrendering to intensely codified conduct. Perhaps this is what makes it so attractive and why it is the world's fastest growing faith. It's not my place to judge.

But there are applications of that faith, as determined by sharia law, that have no formalized place in Canadian society.

That much we do have the collective right to judge, without being called racist.
Good stuff, I think. Read more here.

13 comments:

James said...

While DiManno has a good point, it's also important to remember that she has a very pronounced anti-Palestinian bias which affects how she deals with Muslim issues.

I also disagree that we have to be "weaned" off multiculturalism -- quite the opposite, I think monoculturalism is a bad idea. (Note that most people who are pushing for us to "get away from" multiculturalism also think that their culture is the right one to fall back to.)

The trick is figuring out just where the appropriate balancing point in multiculturalism should be.

Kyle_From_Ottawa said...

James is right, we definitely don't need to be "weaned" off multiculturalism.

To many people seem to want this so-called "clash of civilizations" between the "West" and "Islam". Even many that were against the Iraq war seem to think of Islam as some sort of monolithic and alien thing from Asia. The non-aggressive "clash" people want it contained, whereas the aggressive ones (i.e. neocons) want it essentially "westernized".

For the record though, I do want to make the point that religion is not the cause of women's repression. The place of women in religion is a symptom. Women have been second class citizens in every religion and culture around the world. In fact, most of the practices in Islam that seem discrimanatory predate Islam itself. Old tribal practices were simply absorbed and codified.

Actually, I think the cause has to do with human intelligence and biology, just like so many of our human failings. In groups of great apes, there's always the "alpha" male who gets to breed. The whole structure of that society is just to ensure that the male can continue his genetic legacy, nothing more.

Humans have the same instincts, but our intelligence required us to "explain" that behaviour. We had to create institutions, laws, and traditions to ensure that the male ws on top, and from that came the idea that males were superior.

War is another result of those deep animal insticts. Animals fear the unknown, since in the wild letting down your guard means death.

Humans have removed themselves from the wild, but again our intelligence made a basic survival instinct into something far more terrible and sinister. We need to rationalize the fear, and even worse we always decide to remove the source, whereas the animal won't take the risk unless absolutely necessary.

RobfromAlberta said...

I swore I wouldn't comment anymore on this issue, but I have to say something about multiculturalism. As I mentioned in a previous post the other day, we Canadians were taught that our Cultural Mosaic was different from the US Melting Pot. The primary difference was that we encouraged immigrants to maintain their cultural distinctiveness, whereas, in the US, conformity was encouraged. In theory, our model seemed kinder and more tolerant and, thus, better. I assumed it would also mean that the US would be some dull monocultural wasteland where everyone spoke English, wore jeans and drank Coke. Imagine my surprise the first time I visited a major American city, in my case Boston, and found a populace of profound ethnic diversity where people from every part of the world continued to practice the cultural traditions of the countries they originated from. It was then when I realized there is no such thing as the Cultural Mosaic or the Melting Pot, immigrants are as free to assimilate as much or as little as they choose in either country.

So now we jump ahead to 2005, some Ontario Muslims want the same rights as Christians or Jews, namely religious tribunals to settle civil matters. This is a true test of multiculturalism. Does our willingness to tolerate cultural diversity measure up to our rhetoric? I guess the answer is no. Our commitment to multiculturalism turns out to be pretty superficial. I don't suggest this is good or bad, but it seems clear that my perception upon my first trip to Boston turns out to have been fiarly accurate.

L-girl said...

I do want to make the point that religion is not the cause of women's repression. . . . Women have been second class citizens in every religion and culture around the world.

Of course there are many ways to practice religion that don't oppress women! But to say it's not religion itself that's the problem - seems to me that's splitting hairs.

Fundamentalist religions of all types are a source of anti-woman feeling, behavior and standards. It doesn't matter where the ideas stem from, earlier tribal practices or any other source. The point is the religions are patriarchal and give women a sub-equal status.

Also, I don't think DiManno is saying Canada needs to forget multiculturism, nor is she advocating monoculturism. I don't read that here.

But now I must run. See y'all later.

L-girl said...

Actually, I think the cause has to do with human intelligence and biology, just like so many of our human failings.

I am highly suspicious of - and generally end up rejecting - any evolutionary explanation of human behavior. They are usually based on carefully selected bits of facts and a tremendous amount of speculation and extrapolation.

Kyle_From_Ottawa said...

Don't get me wrong. I'm not trying to explain everything away by saying we're programmed that way, nor is it my point.

What I'm saying is that we do still have insticts like any other animal, and they are a factor in our behaviour. When instinctive behaviours get mixed up with our extremely complicated social behaviours, bad things can happen.

Lone Primate said...

When instinctive behaviours get mixed up with our extremely complicated social behaviours, bad things can happen.

And I thought I was the only one here who was a fan of Dallas re-runs! :)

L-girl said...

What I'm saying is that we do still have insticts like any other animal, and they are a factor in our behaviour.

Yeah, but we (the world at large, not you and I) would have to agree on what those instincts are and how they effect us, if at all. And I'm not sure we do.

Supposedly there is a survival instinct. Yet people commit suicide, or willingly die for a cause. Supposedly there is a maternal instinct. Yet women choose not to have children, and some women do not care for their children. Supposedly there is an instinct to aggression - yet people can, and do, choose nonviolence.

So while I appreciate you're not reducing human behaviour to biological programming, I'm extreme this way - I'm not even sure it's part of the picture.

And I thought I was the only one here who was a fan of Dallas re-runs! :)

Ha! Wish I could find some on TV here. Once I start writing again, I will miss them on my afternoon tea break.

RobfromAlberta said...

So while I appreciate you're not reducing human behaviour to biological programming, I'm extreme this way - I'm not even sure it's part of the picture.


Oh, I'm sure it's part of the picture. Animal behaviourists often note similarities in behaviour between humans and other mammals, there has to be some evolutionary residua that remains from our past. Of course, instinct can be ignored by force of will or suppressed by training.

Also, consider the maternal instinct you mentioned. It is necessary for any species to reproduce. But, of course, it is only through human intellect, that we understand the link between sex and reproduction. To a dog, for instance, sex is one drive and caring for puppies is another. The instinct to look after the litter only kicks in after the puppies are born. The dog can't decide not to have puppies even if it wanted to, because it wouldn't know how. Now with humans, we still retain the vestigial instincts of our mammalian cousins, but we know that sex leads to reproduction and we can choose to interrupt the process. So a woman who has less interest in children has the means to prevent it. It's possible, if she did have a child, some of that slumbering maternal instinct might be awakened, but that eventuality is never realized.

RobfromAlberta said...

Further to that, you mention the instinct for aggression. Now, I certainly believe there is some of that humans, what always amazes me is that the people who argue most vehemently that violence is in our nature, are the same people who dismiss evolution. Although, I suppose they can maintain this odd contradiction by claiming it's the work of the Devil or something.

Anonymous said...

"Oh, I'm sure it's part of the picture."

Yeah, I imagine you (and Kyle) are right.

My absolute rejection of biological explanations is a reaction to the "men are from mars" mindset that has bexome so popular. A way to excuse behaviour that is learned and cultural and not inevitable - and supposed "proof" that traditional gender roles are correct. I'm sure you know what I mean.

The so-called evidence is often bullshit, not science, and always with an agenda.

I also think the weight of culture is much greater than many people acknowledge. It's insidious, like the air we breathe.

L-girl on iPAQ (on my new couch!)

Anonymous said...

And further to that, I take your point about maternal instinct. I'm well aware that my dogs satisfy some latent mothering urge in me - although I seldom admit it!

L-girl on iPAQ

Anonymous said...

Sex leads to babies?!?

Who knew!

:D

Peter