In the News: The Trial of Djemila Benhabib opens Monday September 26th 2016 in Montreal

In an interview published in a Belgian magazine, on the eve of the opening of her court case for defamation, the writer and secular activist warns us of the dangers posed by political Islam.

Djemila Benhabib : « Nous faisons face au projet envahissant de l’islam politique » (“We face the invasive plans of political Islam”), Serge Vandaele, lecho.be, 2016-09-17

Djemila Benhabib […] grew up in Algeria which she was forced to flee in 1994 when her family was condemned to death by the Front islamique du djihad armé (FIDA or Islamic Front for Armed Jihad)

The Trial

“[…] I am being sued for defamation by an Islamist school with links to the Muslim Brotherhood.”

The Burkini

“[…] When I see burkinis on the beaches of Nice, that bereaved and wounded city, I see a complete lack of decency. […] I deplore such insensitivity to the current situation, not to mention all the retrograde ideas which the burkini implies about women. I viscerally reject that outfit because is an insult to me and to all women.”

Islamic Terrorism

“Islamic terrorism did not start in Europe. It was born in North Africa and the Middle East. The Islamic Revolution began first of all in Iran. It took on new dimensions in Europe by exploiting the issue of immigration. It tries to paint the French, Belgians as guilty … even Quebeckers who have no colonial history are singled out as being racist. Always the same arguments are trotted out, regardless of the historical past of the particular country! What is going on here? We are being targeted by the same strategy, the same rhetoric which can be summed up by two infernal points: present Muslims as victims and blame the host country, no matter which one. We must break out of this pattern because if there is one thing we share, it is our responsibility to do so.”

Left-wing Parties and Communautarianism

“[…] The cozy relationship between part of the left and political Islam has its origins in the Iranian revolution which would not have achieved the success it did without the participation of the Iranian left first of all, but also and especially the help of the French left […] the first one to mention the concept ‘political spirituality’ was Michel Foucault. He and others, such as Sartre, gave their stamp of approval to that revolution. This was the beginning of our problems. […] To criticize Islam means running the risk of being accused of Islamophobia… This is complete intellectual chaos. In my opinion there is a principle, an achievement of the Enlightenment, which is that religions can be criticized and that principle applies to all religions. […] What Islamists are trying to do today is precisely this: to cut us off from that humanity, to imprison us behind the double barrier of ethnicity and religion […] We must re-learn to defend our values without shame; but Westerners are having a great deal of difficulty doing that. Just as our adversaries are unabashed, we are hesitant, […]”

States which Support Political Islam

“[…] Without the alliance between Saudi Arabia and the United States since 1945, an exchange of petroleum for security, the configuration of our world would be much different. Because international relations have been built on the basis of that fundamental contradiction, that is, the fact that one of the world’s most powerful democracies is allied with a divine-right theocracy. The situation is absurd, but that is reality. […]”

Translation: D.R.

See also:

In the News: RCMP Approves Uniform with Hijab

RCMP Approves Hijab As Part Of Mounties’ Uniform, Mohamed Omar, Huffington Post Canada, 2016-08-24

Sixteen years after the RCMP let Sikh officers wear a turban, it’s now allowing Muslim Mounties to wear a hijab as part of their uniform. Global News reports RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson “recently approved” adding the religious headscarf to the uniform.

Scott Bardsley, a spokesperson for Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, told AFP the move is aimed at encouraging more Muslim women to join the RCMP’s ranks, as well as to “better reflect” the diversity in Canadian communities.

[…]

Two other police forces in Canada have also approved the hijab as part of uniform attire. Edmonton OK’d the covering for its officers in 2013, while Toronto approved it in 2011.

Very sad news for Canada, another stop towards normalizing religious fundamentalism in public spaces. The RCMP claims that approving a uniform with hijab will help to integrate Muslim women. No, on the contrary, it will simply increase the presence and influence of fundamentalists who refuse to adapt to modernity.

In the News: In Morocco, Burkini Ban at the Pool, No Problem

Piscine et burkini au Maroc (Swimming pool and burkini in Morocco), Marc First, Dernières Nouvelles Alsace, 2016-08-27

Entrance to swimming pool in Morocco
Click to view full size
Entrance to swimming pool in Morocco

The ban which causes such contention in France seems to be accepted in Morocco without a problem. Nevertheless, we are dealing here with a swimming pool, whereas in France the controversial bans apply to beaches.

In the News: Defend Salman Rushdie Against Iranian Fatwa and Bounty

In Defence of Salman Rushdie, Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain (CEMB), 2016-02-25

We […] are outraged to learn that forty state-run media outlets in Iran have raised $600,000 (£420,000) to add as bounty to Ayatollah Khomeini’s death fatwa on the writer Salman Rushdie, because of his novel The Satanic Verses.

We condemn the Iranian regime, its fatwa and the added bounty. We stand with Salman Rushdie and the many Iranian freethinkers and writers languishing in prison, or facing the death penalty, for exercising their right to free expression and thought.

The Iranian regime must face global condemnation for its incitement to murder.

Moreover, democratic and secular governments should unequivocally condemn the regime’s fatwa and bounty, demand their immediate cancellation, prioritise human rights and free expression and side with freethinkers rather than appeasing a theocratic regime.

To sign the petition:

In the News: U.S. House Resolution 569 Condemns Anti-Muslim Bigotry

A resolution recently introduced into the United States House of Representatives condemns “violence, bigotry, and hateful rhetoric towards Muslims.”

H.Res.569 – Condemning violence, bigotry, and hateful rhetoric towards Muslims in the United States., 114th Congress, 1st Session, 2015-12-17

RESOLUTION

Condemning violence, bigotry, and hateful rhetoric towards Muslims in the United States.

Whereas the victims of anti-Muslim hate crimes and rhetoric have faced physical, verbal, and emotional abuse because they were Muslim or believed to be Muslim;

[…]

Whereas hateful and intolerant acts against Muslims are contrary to the United States values of acceptance, welcoming, and fellowship with those of all faiths, beliefs, and cultures;

Whereas these acts affect not only the individual victims but also their families, communities, and the entire group whose faith or beliefs were the motivation for the act;

Whereas Muslim women who wear hijabs, headscarves, or other religious articles of clothing have been disproportionately targeted because of their religious clothing, articles, or observances; and

Whereas the rise of hateful and anti-Muslim speech, violence, and cultural ignorance plays into the false narrative spread by terrorist groups of Western hatred of Islam, and can encourage certain individuals to react in extreme and violent ways: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That the House of Representatives—

[…]

(3) denounces in the strongest terms the increase of hate speech, intimidation, violence, vandalism, arson, and other hate crimes targeted against mosques, Muslims, or those perceived to be Muslim;

[…]

Although acts of violence against anyone, including Muslims, must be condemned, what we see here is a disturbing trend—a sort of creeping multiculturalism—where Muslims are singled out and identified more with their religious community than with their role as citizens. Although this resolutions fortunately does not mention the buzz-word “Islamophobia” and speaks more correctly of anti-Muslim prejudice, it nevertheless bears a disturbing resemblance to Quebec’s Draft Bill 59 which the Couillard government plans to adopt, a bill which pleases only Islamist fundamentalists and is opposed by all others as a threat to freedom of expression and the right to criticize religion in general and Islam in particular.

The representatives responsible for this resolution need to answer a few obvious questions:

  • Why should Muslims be singled out for special protection? What about discrimination against other religious believers? What about the very real prejudice against atheists, especially in the United States?
  • Why does the resolution condemn violence against Muslims or those perceived as Muslims, but fail to denounce violence against non-Muslims perpetrated by Islamist jihadists? Not only is the latter just as serious as the former, but indeed it is the main cause of anti-Muslim prejudice!
  • Why does the resolution endorse “religious articles of clothing” such as hijabs and headscarves, when these articles are indeed potent symbols of the very Islamism which is the root cause of the problem? Would it not make more sense to discourage or prohibit such symbols in the country’s public services in order to indicate to the population that the authorities take the problem seriously?

See also:

In the News: End of Blasphemy Ban in Alsace-Moselle

The French Ministry of Justice has just ruled that the ban on blasphemy in the eastern region of Alsace-Moselle—which includes the three departements of Moselle, Bas-Rhin and Haut-Rhin—is no longer in effect. Although the blasphemy ban was repealed in France in 1881, it persisted in this region which was still part of Germany at the time. The ban was codified in paragraph 166 of the German penal code and was integrated into local legislation in 1919 when Alsace-Moselle became part of France after World War I. The Justice Ministry has now ruled that the ban must be considered implicitly repealed because it is incompatible with fundamental principles of French justice.

With this ruling, henceforth the crime of blasphemy exists nowhere in France.

See:

In the News: Charlie Hebdo Marks Anniversary of Attack

Charlie Hebdo anniversary edition cover released: ‘the assassin is still out there’, The Guardian, 2016-01-04

French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo will mark a year since an attack on its offices with a cover featuring a bearded man representing God with a Kalashnikov slung over his shoulder, accompanied by the text: “One year on: the assassin is still out there.”

[…]

It will mark a year since brothers Chérif and Saïd Kouachi burst into Charlie Hebdo’s offices in eastern Paris and killed 12 people, including eight of the magazine’s staff.

[…]

Cartoonist Laurent Sourisseau, who took over the management of the weekly after the attack, also wrote an angry editorial in defence of secularism. It denounces “fanatics brutalised by the Koran” as well as those from other religions who hoped for the death of the magazine for “daring to laugh at the religious”. Sourisseau, known by the nickname Riss, narrowly escaped death and was seriously wounded in the attack a year ago.

Charlie Hebdo, cover of #1224
Click to view full size

To mark the first anniversary of the January 7th 2015 attack—during which two Islamist commandos killed twelve, including eight of the magazine’s staff—Charlie Hebdo publishes a special edition this January 6th 2016 with the cover on the left.

The cover’s image may offend some, but it is very relevant. Indeed, it is the belief in the “God” of monotheism—a god who orders the faithful to commit acts of murderous violence in his name—which is the essential cause of the folly that is jihadism.

See also:

In the News: Anti-Radicalization Centre Dismisses Researcher

The Centre for the Prevention of Radicalization Leading to Violence (Centre de prévention de la radicalisation menant à la violence or CPRMV) has dismissed one of its researchers because of the tendentious nature of an article he coauthored in a Toronto newspaper. The CPRMV was set up by the city of Montreal. The article Quebec needs to confront its Islamophobia problem in the Toronto Star was coauthored by Hicham Tiflati. Mr. Tiflati was dismissed from the CPRMV because the article was considered to be an exaggeration, falsely implying that racism is more prevalent in Quebec than elsewhere.

The dismissal of Tiflati is good news because he apparently has Islamist sympathies. He works for a school which has links to the Muslim Brotherhood and is financed in part by an Islamist government. Furthermore, his dubious comments about the Charlie Hebdo massacre in January 2015 imply a certain sympathy for the perpetrators of that terrorist attack.

Furthermore, the Rassemblement pour la laïcité (Alliance for Secularism) had written a letter to Montreal mayor Denis Coderre only weeks before, expressing concerns about the fact that individuals with Islamist tendencies were working in a centre whose mandate is to prevent radicalization.

See also: Texte controversé sur le Québec: un centre antiradicalisation se distancie d’un chercheur (Controversial article about Quebec: an anti-radicalization centre dismisses a researcher), Gabrielle Duchaine et Vincent Larouche, La Presse, 2015-12-19

In the News: New Zealand Approves Pastafarian Marriage

New Zealand: Pastafarian marriage ceremonies approved, BBC News, 2015-12-16

Members of the church call themselves Pastafarians and believe that the world was created by an airborne spaghetti and meatballs-based being, although its own website notes that some followers consider it to be a satirical organisation.

The official notice was published online in New Zealand’s government gazette. Registrar-general Jeff Montgomery says his decision was based purely on whether the organisation upholds or promotes religious beliefs, or philosophical or humanitarian convictions. “No judgement is made on the validity of those beliefs or convictions,” he tells Stuff.co.nz website.

[…]

While the church has an international following, which it says is in the “millions, if not thousands”, its members have faced legal hurdles in the past. In 2011, an Austrian man was given permission to use a driving licence photo showing him wearing a colander as “religious headgear”, but a similar application in Germany – this time involving a pirate bandana, failed last month.

See also:

In the News: Negative Correlation between Religiosity and Altruism in Children

A recently published study indicates that children of religious parents are not more altruistic then children of atheists. Indeed, they are apparently less so.

The Negative Association between Religiousness and Children’s Altruism across the World, Jean Decety et al., Current Biology, 2015-11-16

[…] While it is generally accepted that religion contours people’s moral judgments and prosocial behavior, the relation between religiosity and morality is a contentious one. Here, we assessed altruism and third-party evaluation of scenarios depicting interpersonal harm in 1,170 children aged between 5 and 12 years in six countries (Canada, China, Jordan, Turkey, USA, and South Africa), the religiousness of their household, and parent-reported child empathy and sensitivity to justice. Across all countries, parents in religious households reported that their children expressed more empathy and sensitivity for justice in everyday life than non-religious parents. However, religiousness was inversely predictive of children’s altruism and positively correlated with their punitive tendencies. Together these results reveal the similarity across countries in how religion negatively influences children’s altruism, challenging the view that religiosity facilitates prosocial behavior.

See also:

NOTE: Authors who refer to “religious children” or “atheist children” are committing a serious error which is unfortunately very common. They are labeling children with the religion or irreligion of their parents. Children should never be so labelled because they have not yet reached the age necessary to decide for themselves.

In the News: For ISIS, The Theology of Rape, an Act of Religious Devotion

ISIS Enshrines a Theology of Rape, Rukmini Callimachi, 2015-08-13

Claiming the Quran’s support, the Islamic State codifies sex slavery in conquered regions of Iraq and Syria and uses the practice as a recruiting tool.

[…]

The systematic rape of women and girls from the Yazidi religious minority has become deeply enmeshed in the organization and the radical theology of the Islamic State in the year since the group announced it was reviving slavery as an institution. Interviews with 21 women and girls who recently escaped the Islamic State, as well as an examination of the group’s official communications, illuminate how the practice has been enshrined in the group’s core tenets.

The trade in Yazidi women and girls has created a persistent infrastructure, with a network of warehouses where the victims are held, viewing rooms where they are inspected and marketed, and a dedicated fleet of buses used to transport them.

A total of 5,270 Yazidis were abducted last year, and at least 3,144 are still being held, according to community leaders. To handle them, the Islamic State has developed a detailed bureaucracy of sex slavery, including sales contracts notarized by the ISIS-run Islamic courts. And the practice has become an established recruiting tool to lure men from deeply conservative Muslim societies, where casual sex is taboo and dating is forbidden.

A growing body of internal policy memos and theological discussions has established guidelines for slavery, including a lengthy how-to manual issued by the Islamic State Research and Fatwa Department just last month. Repeatedly, the ISIS leadership has emphasized a narrow and selective reading of the Quran and other religious rulings to not only justify violence, but also to elevate and celebrate each sexual assault as spiritually beneficial, even virtuous.

See also: Actualités : Daech et la théologie du viol, (on our French language site)

Did you know? Yusuf al-Qaradawi Admits Islam Cannot Survive Without Death Penalty for Apostasy

Did you know that Yusuf al-Qaradawi, an Egyptian Islamic theologian and prominent intellectual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, has declared “If they had gotten rid of the apostasy punishment Islam wouldn’t exist today.” ?

Yusuf al-Qaradawi quotation on apostasy

References :


Did you know? Emma Goldman’s “Philosophy of Atheism” Celebrates Centenary in 2016

Did you know that the essay “Philosophy of Atheism” by the celebrated anarchist Emma Goldman was published in February of 1916 in Mother Earth, Vol. X, no. 12. Thus, this famous essay will be a century old in 2016. Here are a few excerpts:

The Religion Industry

[…] Inasmuch as religion, “Divine Truth,” rewards and punishments are the trade-marks of the largest, the most corrupt and pernicious, the most powerful and lucrative industry in the world, not excepting the industry of manufacturing guns and munitions. It is the industry of befogging the human mind and stifling the human heart. […] humanity is growing weary of the hundred and one brands of God.

Religious “Tolerance”

It is characteristic of theistic “tolerance” that no one really cares what the people believe in, just so they believe or pretend to believe. To accomplish this end, the crudest and vulgarest methods are being used. Religious endeavor meetings and revivals with Billy Sunday as their champion -methods which must outrage every refined sense, and which in their effect upon the ignorant and curious often tend to create a mild state of insanity not infrequently coupled with eroto-mania. All these frantic efforts find approval and support from the earthly powers; from the Russian despot to the American President; from Rockefeller and Wanamaker down to the pettiest business man. […]

Mammon and Power

Consciously or unconsciously, most theists see in gods and devils, heaven and hell; reward and punishment, a whip to lash the people into obedience, meekness and contentment. The truth is that theism would have lost its footing long before this but for the combined support of Mammon and power. How thoroughly bankrupt it really is, is being demonstrated in the trenches and battlefields of Europe today.

Atheism

The philosophy of Atheism expresses the expansion and growth of the human mind. The philosophy of theism, if we can call it philosophy, is static and fixed. […] The philosophy of Atheism represents a concept of life without any metaphysical Beyond or Divine Regulator. It is the concept of an actual, real world with its liberating, expanding and beautifying possibilities, as against an unreal world, which, with its spirits, oracles, and mean contentment has kept humanity in helpless degradation. […] The philosophy of Atheism has its root in the earth, in this life; its aim is the emancipation of the human race from all God-heads, be they Judaic, Christian, Mohammedan, Buddhistic, Brahministic, or what not. Mankind has been punished long and heavily for having created its gods; nothing but pain and persecution have been man’s lot since gods began.

Reference : The Philosophy of Atheism, by Emma Goldman

Did you know? Athena Provides Legal Info About Forced Marriage, Conjugal Violence, etc.

Did you know that the web site Athena Legal Info provides important information about marriage and civil union, forced marriage, conjugal violence, honour-based violence, etc., in Quebec. For example:

FORCED MARRIAGE

Forced marriage is not tolerated in Canada, and the law grants you certain rights and places obligations on others to ensure that when you enter a marriage, it is because YOU want to be married to that person. While family and community approval can be a very important factor when deciding whether to get married, ultimately it is your independent choice. Marriage is a life-long commitment, and you want to ensure you and your spouse are compatible.

WHY DO I NEED TO KNOW ABOUT LAW AND FORCED MARRIAGE?

Knowledge of your rights can allow you to lead a safe and happy life with a partner that you choose.

RESSOURCES

There are various centers, shelters, information clinics, and helplines available to you during this difficult time. This section is meant to provide an overview of forced marriage, and act as a guide for the resources available to you.

Reference :
Athena Legal Info Athena Legal Info


In the News: Top European Court Upholds Headscarf Ban

Top European court upholds France’s headscarf ban, Deutsche Welle, 2015-11-26

The European Court of Human Rights has ruled in favor of a hospital in France, which had enforced a ban on headscarves at work. The court said the ban did not affect religious freedom.

The Strasbourg-based international court’s ruling upholds a ban on employees in the public sector wearing headscarves and other religious symbols. In 2000, [when] Muslim social worker Christiane Ebrahimian, who worked in the psychiatric department of a hospital in the Parisian suburb of Nanterre […] learned that her contract would not be renewed because she refused to take off her headscarf despite complaints from patients and colleagues, she decided to sue the hospital, taking her case all the way to the European Court of Justice.

The Strasbourg judges argued that the ban did not violate freedom of religion in a country where secularism and strict religious neutrality is enshrined in the constitution. Religious freedom, they stressed, did not mean a right to express their religious views in the workplace.

In 2004, France decided to ban “conspicuous” religious symbols, including the wearing of a headscarf. It led to a rift with France’s Muslim community, the largest in Europe. In 2014, the Strasbourg court also rejected a challenge to France’s general ban on the burqa – a full-face veil for women – in public places. The ban came into force in 2010. Belgium also banned the burqa in 2011.

If only Canada would enshrine “secularism and strict religious neutrality” in its constitution!

In the News: Senegal Bans Burqa

Senegal to ban the burqa, Ed Adamczyk, United Press International, 2015-11-18

Senegal announced plans this week to ban women from wearing the burqa to stop Islamic terrorists from using the full-face veil as a disguise.

The heavily Muslim country follows Chad, Gabon, Congo-Brazzaville and Cameroon in ordering the ban on the face covering that leaves only the eyes exposed. All, including Senegal, are former French colonies in western and central Africa.

Interior Minister Abdoulaye Daouda referred to the proposed ban as an anti-terrorist, and not anti-Islamic, action. Senegal practices a relatively tolerant form of Islam; and few women wear the burqa, but fears that Islamic extremists may soon target the country surfaced after five people suspected of ties to Boko Haram, including at least two religious leaders, were arrested in a nationwide crackdown.

But not in Canada. Not even at swearing-in ceremonies! We are much too self-righteous, too multicultural. We are tolerant to the point of tolerating intolerance and the intolerable. No security problems in Canada, Minister Goodale assures us. But does that really reassure us?

In the News: Call for Canadian government to support secularists in Bangladesh

A wide variety of organizations and individuals has issued a joint statement calling on the Canadian government to provide humanitarian assistance to embattled secularists in Bangladesh. The effort was initiated by CFI Canada and joined by various atheist, secularist, humanist and human rights supporters, including this organization Libres penseurs athées—Atheist Freethinkers. The statement is in the form of a letter addressed to The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada. Here is that letter:

Joint Statement Calling on the Canadian government to provide humanitarian assistance to secularists in Bangladesh, 2015-11-13

We, the undersigned organizations and concerned supporters, urgently call on the Canadian government to act on behalf of one of its citizens, Monika Mistry, to help her Bangladeshi husband recover in safety from a brutal attack he suffered in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

On October 31, 2015, Tareq Rahim, an intellectual, poet and blogger, was attacked with two of his colleagues by a group of suspected Islamists wielding machetes and cleavers. Just hours later a secular publisher, Faisal Arefin Dipan, was hacked to death in his Dhaka office; he is the fifth secularist to be killed in Bangladesh this year. Ansar al-Islam (Ansarullah Bangla Team), a local affiliate of al-Qaeda, has taken credit for the attacks.

See also:

Did you know? The Sergeant-at-Arms’ Mace Has a Cross at the Top

In an article entitled “A Man Loyal to Canada and to His Faith” written by Fr. Raymond J. de Souza, de Souza highlights the fact that there is a cross at the top of the Canadian Sergeant-at-Arms’ Mace.

De Souza quotes from a page on the Parliament of Canada website, “The Mace: A Ceremonial Object Rich in History and Tradition”:

“The head of the mace is in the shape of a crown, with the Royal Arms of the United Kingdom appearing on it in relief. Roses, shamrocks, thistles, fleurs-de-lys and maple leaves are carved on the staff.”

Completely ignoring the fact that the crown represents the crown worn by British monarchs and all of the crowns worn by British monarchs have a cross at the top, de Souza says that the webpage “neglects to mention that the most notable item, at the very top of the Mace, above the crown, is not a maple leaf or a thistle, but the cross (emphasis added).” He goes on to say that the mace is “not only the heraldry of our history, but a symbol of faith.” And comes to the conclusion that the present Sergeant-at-Arms, Kevin Vickers, “a servant of Canada and disciple of Christ, has lived a life made possible by the grandness of our history and the broad horizons of our faith.”

Will no one rescue us from these meddlesome priests and monarchs?

Reference:

See also:

In the News: Jacques Fremont Propagates the Myth of Islamophobia

Survey reveals troubling data on religious tolerance in Quebec, Catherine Solyom, 2015-10-29

An as-yet-unpublished survey conducted by the Quebec Human Rights Commission paints an alarming picture of attitudes toward religious diversity in the province — especially toward Muslims:
•43 per cent of respondents said you should be suspicious of anyone who openly expresses their religion.
•45 per cent said they had a negative view of religion.
•48.9 per cent — roughly one out of two — said it bothered them to be attended to by a woman wearing a hijab.

[…]

These are some of the results presented Friday at an international symposium on Islamophobia by the president of the Commission, Jacques Frémont.

[…] there have not been many complaints for discrimination filed at the Human Rights Commission, Frémont said. An average of 1,500 complaints are filed every year. Since 2013 there have only been 64 complaints filed for discrimination based on religion, however, 65 per cent of which were filed by Muslims.

[…]

Still, the Commission has not been inundated with complaints. “We expected an increase in incidents around the debate over the Charter of Values. I told my team, hang on to your hats! But we didn’t hear a single complaint. The victims chose not to file complaints and that’s very worrisome … Victims prefer to close in on themselves.”

The Gazette article quoted above is spectacularly bad, totally prejudiced in favour of Jacques Frémont’s highly tendencious opinions.

Frémont and his ilk would have us believe that to be anti-religious is a bad thing. However, religions are dangerous, even odious, ideologies. If an anti-religious person is well informed and expresses his or her antipathy towards religion in a coherent and reasoned manner, then it is a virtue. In particular, the myth of “islamophobia” is that to fear Islam is irrational and repréhensible. On the contrary, to fear Islam, especially its more radical variants such as Islamism, is quite simply prudent and rational.

According to Frémont, the fact that complaints to the HRC from Muslims have not increased in number is proof that “islamophobia” is on the rise in Quebec. This is a classic example of a non-falsifiable hypothesis. If the number of complaints were stable or on the rise, he would probably say the same: that “islamophobia” is a big problem. So no matter what the data say, nothing can invalidate his specious theory.

In the News: Secular publisher murdered in Bangladesh

Secular publisher hacked to death in latest Bangladesh attacks, Associated Press, 2015-10-31

A publisher of secular books has been hacked to death in the Bangladeshi capital, police have said. In a separate attack in Dhaka, police said two other writers and a publisher were stabbed and shot at a publishing house. Fears of Islamist violence have been growing in Bangladesh after at least four atheist bloggers were murdered in the country this year. The attacks have been linked by police to domestic Islamist extremists, while Islamic State has claimed responsibility for three other attacks.

The body of Faisal Abedin Deepan, of the Jagriti Prokashoni publishing house, was found inside his office, said senior police officer Shibly Noman. The publisher had filed a complaint with police afterdeath threats on Facebook, friends said. Earlier in the day, publisher Ahmed Rahim Tutul was attacked in the office of the Shudhdhoswar publishing house and seriously wounded. Two writers were also wounded in that attack. All three of the victims were hospitalised, and Tutul was in critical condition, police said. Both Deepan and Tutal had published books by Bangladeshi-American writer and blogger Avijit Roy, who was hacked to death in February. He was one of the four secular bloggers killed in Bangladesh this year. A local Islamist group, Ansarullah Bangla Team, had claimed responsibility for the killings and recently threatened to kill more bloggers. […]

See also:

In the News: Erdogan Tightens His Grip on Turkey

Turkey election: President Erdogan tightens his grip on power in surprise landslide victory, Patrick Cockburn Independent, 2015-11-02

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has won a decisive victory in the Turkish parliamentary election, with his Justice and Development Party (AKP) winning a majority of seats and defeating the other three opposition parties. […]

In the wake of the AKP’s spectacular victory, it will be in a strong position to take control of all remaining levers of power: army, security services and media. Ever since it first formed a government in 2002, the AKP has been progressively eliminating all opponents in positions of authority in the secular Turkish state founded by Kemal Ataturk. Almost all the state and private media has already come under AKP control, which is one factor explaining its gain in votes. State television has given blanket coverage to Mr Erdogan and the AKP, while largely ignoring its opponents. […]

[…]Turkey’s growing ethnic, sectarian and religious divisions are not going to disappear. Among Kurds, the poor results of the HDP will strengthen those who argue that armed struggle is the only way forward. There will also be many who will argue that Mr Erdogan and the AKP won because they frightened voters by fomenting a crisis and an atmosphere of fear which they then pledged to end.

The final weeks of the campaign took place with no rallies, except those held by the AKP, because of the bombing of a demonstration in Ankara on 10 October that left 102 dead. Many voters in Istanbul said they feared that the violence was going to get worse. Many secular voters did not conceal their revulsion against the AKP-run state imposing more Islamic norms on Turkey. Aynur Olanlar, whose husband worked in a bank in Istanbul, said “I don’t want these people with head scarves any more.” […]

Bad news indeed, given Erdogan’s desire to concentrate a maximum of power in his presidency and the Islamo-fundamentalist tendencies of his party.

In the News: Disturbing Church Presence at Montreal School

Church presence at Montreal high school raises questions, CBC News, 2015-10-28

A religious group is offering a little extra help to a Montreal public school, but one expert says the volunteer work raises questions about religious neutrality. The église du Plateau Mont-Royal is relying on its worshippers to volunteer at Jeanne-Mance High School. Volunteers offer support for homework, extend library hours and help find musical instruments for students. Since the end of September, the church has also been renting out space from the secondary school that belongs to the Commission scolaire de Montréal. Solange Lefebvre, the chair of the religious studies department at the Université de Montréal, warns that clear rules must be in place for when individuals from a religious group interact with minors in an education setting. The evangelical baptist organization is counting on its 70 worshippers to give a helping hand. Approximately 20 volunteers are being trained to work at the school’s library.

[…]

Julie White, a spokeswoman for Quebec Education Minister François Blais, said that proselytism is not allowed in schools and that volunteers must work in the name of the school. However, that is entirely up to schools and individual school boards to oversee.

The religious are often very willing to “help” provided that the situation allows them access to persons who are easily influenced, such as children, the poor, the sick, etc. The Quebec government’s austerity policy tends to impoverish public schools, thus making them more dependent on volunteers such as those provided by the church.

In the News: Egypt ahead of Canada?

Reading Past the Headlines

When the Middle East Monitor announced (2015-10-08) that Egypt plans to prevent niqab-wearing women from voting in Egypt’s parliamentary election scheduled to be held in two phases Oct. 18-19 Nov. 22-23, Canadian secularists cheered. The inevitable contrast between Canada’s attitude toward wearing the niqab in citizenship ceremonies and Egypt’s attitude toward the niqab during voting began:

It seems that Egypt is ahead of Canada

This contrast was further strengthened when the Middle East Monitor revealed that Cairo University has “barred lecturers from wearing the niqab.” Egypt appeared to be more progressive and more secular than Canada, where it is possible to vote “wearing a mask.”

Abaya

Secularists may want to temper their enthusiasm for Egypt’s attitude toward the niqab and female attire in general.

On October 14, the Mail Online’s headline, “Egypt Bans Women from Voting If They Are Wearing ‘Revealing Attire’ … But Insists Anyone with a Niqab Veil Must Remove It So They Can Be Identified,” makes it clear that Egypt continues to control what women can wear when voting. As one secularist pointed out,

“The only tolerated costume may be the Saudi abaya.”

So before secularists decide to leave Canada because Elections Canada allows citizens to vote regardless of attire as personnel can recognize voters by their eyes, they should consider what attire the Egyptian government may require in order for its female citizens to vote.

by Veronica Abbass

See also:

In the News: Open Letter from AQNAL to Françoise David

AQNAL (Quebec Association of North Africans for Secularism) denounces the folly of Françoise David

Nadia El-Mabrouk, for AQNAL

NOTE:
AQNAL is a participant organization of the Rassemblement pour la laïcité (RPL or Alliance for Secularism), as is our organization LPA.
Françoise David is an MNA and spokesperson for Québec Solidaire.

On behalf of the Association Québécoise des Nord Africains pour la Laïcité (AQNAL or Quebec Association of North Africans for Secularism) we must respond to the resolution which you proposed and the National Assembly adopted this morning. We thank you for your willingness to appeal for social cohesion. Who could disagree with this principle? We thank you as well for reminding everyone that Quebecers of the Muslim religion, and indeed of all religions, or even of no religion, are all citizens of Quebec. Indeed, during our presentation before the parliamentary commission dealing with Draft Bill 59, we insisted on being recognized as citizens of Quebec of various national origins, not on the basis of our religion.

We observe that, under the guise of protecting minorities, you make a number of generalizations which are unacceptable. In fact, if the idea of denouncing face-coverings worn during swearing-in ceremonies is given too much attention during the current federal election campaign, then why did your resolution not limit itself to discussing the niqab? What link can there possibly be with the thorny and global issue of Syrian refugees, a problem for which no simple political solution exists, neither here, nor elsewhere.

[…] what shocked us even more was that today you introduced, in the National Assembly of Quebec, the word islamophobia. We must respond to the erroneous, abusive and unjustified usage of this term. It is a source of one of the most serious political and semantic confusions of our time: that to resist fanaticism amounts to racism. It is a nebulous concept, created with the purpose of curbing any vigilance with regard to Islamism and intimidating those who would criticize that ideology.

You refer then to the increase in the number of islamophobic and racist videos and comments which proliferate on social media. Exactly which comments and videos are you talking about? On social media all sorts for hateful speech can be found. Once again, what has this to do with the niqab? However, we nevertheless recognize two key concepts which you succeeded in introducing in the National Assembly today: islamophobia and the fight against hate speech. This brings us back to Draft Bill 59 which was almost unanimously denounced, during the parliamentary hearings, as legislation contrary to the foundations of a free and democratic country. Numerous persons and groups, including ourselves, presented arguments that such a law would do more to protect Islamist radicals than it would to protect society from them. Unfortunately, you were not present, nor was any representative of your party, to hear our concerns.

But what shocked us even more was that today you introduced, in the National Assembly of Quebec, the word islamophobia. We must respond to the erroneous, abusive and unjustified usage of this term. It is a source of one of the most serious political and semantic confusions of our time: that to resist fanaticism amounts to racism. It is a nebulous concept, created with the purpose of curbing any vigilance with regard to Islamism and intimidating those who would criticize that ideology. Rather than attacking those who are afraid of Islam, we should be standing up to those who create that fear, those who manipulate democracy, who use Canadian charters to advance their program of political Islam. It is not difficult to see that women who wear the niqab belong to that category of citizens who provoke Quebec and Canadian institutions.

Here in Quebec, it is Islamists who claim to be victims of exclusion but who reject the way of life of the society which has welcomed them, meanwhile blaming all those who refuse and criticize their antiquated practices. It is they, not we—who nevertheless come from the same cultural and religious sphere as they do—who claim to be victims of islamophobia. The majority of Muslims are collateral yet direct victims of this concept of islamophobia.

Quebecers are provoked and often outraged by so-called religious practices such as the niqab. They notice that, more often than not, such practices are reactionary and backward, and that they risk compromising the societal project which they have been developing and evolving for decades, if not for centuries. We, Quebec citizens of Muslim heritage, are similarly outraged to be associated with those who play the victim while pretending to speak in our name. We are outraged that you speak on our behalf while using that word islamophobia. By treating Quebecers as racists and islamophobes, you insult them and you insult us as well, we Quebec citizens of Muslim heritage.

We will thank you Madame to stop speaking on our behalf.

Nadia El-Mabrouk
For « Association Québécoise des Nord Africains pour la Laïcité » (Quebec Association of North Africans for Secularism)

Translation: David Rand


See also

In the News: Anger that Saudi Arabia Heads UN Human Rights Panel

Anger after Saudi Arabia ‘chosen to head key UN human rights panel’, Tom Brooks-Pollock, The Independent, 2015-09-20

The United Nations is coming under fire for handing Saudi Arabia a key human rights role even though the Kingdom has “arguably the worst record in the world” on freedoms for women, minorities and dissidents.

Critics, including the wife of imprisoned pro-democracy blogger Raif Badawi—sentenced to 1000 lashes for blogging about free speech—say that the appointment is “scandalous” and means that “oil trumps human rights”.

UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer said that the appointment, made in June but unreported until now, may have been a consolation prize for the Saudis after they withdrew their bid to head the 47-nation council following international condemnation of the kingdom’s human rights record.

The Saudis’ bid emerged shortly after it posted a job advertisement for eight new executioners, to cope with what Amnesty International branded a “macabre spike” in the use of capital punishment, including beheadings, this year.

Mr Hillel described the appointment as “scandalous”. He added: “Saudi Arabia has arguably the worst record in the world when it comes to religious freedom and women’s rights, and continues to imprison the innocent blogger Raif Badawi. “It’s a sad comment on our world that oil continues to trump basic human rights principles. It’s bad enough that Saudi Arabia is a member of the council, but for the UN to go and name the regime as chair of a key panel only pours salt in the wounds for dissidents languishing in Saudi prisons.”

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