Quebec is Secular!

An Historic Date and a Great Victory!

16th June 2019

The National Assembly Adopts Bill 21

An Act respecting the laicity of the State

Quebec Becomes a Secular State!

In the News: Open Letter to the Prime Minister of New Zealand

Public Letter To the Prime Minister of New Zealand, 2019-03-31.

Given the importance of this petition, we reproduce it below in its entirety.

To the Prime Minister of New Zealand,

Mrs, We wish to send our deepest sympathies to you and your countrymen in the aftermath of the Christchurch terrorist attack. Having suffered, like so many other countries, from several terrorist attacks that have plagued us, we can deeply feel your pain and suffering, and send you our support in this difficult time.

However, we were puzzled by the response to this tragedy by you and your country citizens. You have chosen to express your sympathy for the Muslim victims by donning a hijab, which is widely (and we believe, rightly) considered a symbol of religious oppression.

While these actions have earned you wide-scale global media applause, they are also sowing a combination of misunderstanding and desolation among all people who fight against theocratic oppression. you have chosen to symbolize, represent and embody the Muslim religion by a so-called Islamic veil that is a proselyte symbol of inferiorization, marking women living in countries and communities governed by political Islam.

We understand that to express your solidarity with Muslims and to send a strong signal to the Muslim community of New Zealand, you wish to make a spectacular gesture. But why not do it in your name, as a human being in solidarity with his human brothers and sisters?

Why must you show your empathy by utilizing a symbol which is fundamentally liberticidal and sexist, as is demonstrated by the fate of the Iranian, Afghan or Saudi women who are forced to undergo it and who suffer the whip and prison when they refuse it? How to forget the murders of sad memory, the vitriolic attacks of Muslim women disfigured for life because they had refused the veil?

Whereas they are fighting this tool of oppression, you are asserting to the world the high symbolic value of the Islamic veil. What a shock for the Eastern women disavowed in their fight by Western women!

What a shock for those Muslim people who try to reform and secularize their religion by dissociating it from political Islamism, what a scandal for the ex-Muslims persecuted for having apostatized who are threatened with death, live protected and hidden, and bravely fight for the right to absolute freedom of conscience!

As you, a western woman enjoying the rights granted to women, are petitioned to be considered for the Nobel Peace Prize while donning the hijab, remember the fate of Nasrin Sotoudeh, the Irani lawyer unjustly sentenced to 33 years in prison for fighting for the right of women to refuse the hijab. We understand you are put in a difficult position in a trying time. But the eyes of the world are upon you, and We urge respectfully you to consider the consequences of your actions on millions of persons.

See also:

In the News: AQNAL Writes to the Prime Minister of New Zealand

To the attention of New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, AQNAL, 2019-03-27.

Given the importance of this letter, we reproduce it below in its entirety.

To the attention of New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern

Madam Prime Minister,

It is with great sadness that we learnt of the tragedy that struck your Country resulting in the slaying of fifty New Zealand Muslims in the two mosques in Christchurch. A heinous crime that horrified the whole World. This dramatic ordeal that you share with your fellow citizens will take time and courage to overcome and start the healing process.

But no tragedy can justify ignoring universal values of equality and freedom. As citizens of Canada of Muslim faith and /or culture, we find it crucial to inform you of the disastrous fallout of the pseudo-religious parody that you exhibited along with women in your Country, no doubt because of ignorance, and as a sign of solidarity, wearing an Islamist and not a Muslim veil. This veil symbolises the de-facto inferioritization of women. In its most degrading form, it serves as a banner for Islamist Groups such as ISIS, Boko Haram and Chebab who kidnap, rape, murder and unscrupulously imprison women in the countries where they rule. Doing so, New Zealanders seem to be unconscious about an extreme Religious Right which instrumentalises women in advancing a totalitarian political agenda.

What about Solidarity with Muslim women who are struggling to free themselves from the oppression of the veil? How, in a country as egalitarian as New Zealand, can one choose to express compassion by wearing a symbol of women’s marginalization and sexual segregation? The most degrading is that this initiative emanates from women, who wear the veil symbolically for a few hours but who, in so doing, help to normalize misogynistic practices of which women are victim all their life.

Let’s recall some facts. The Islamic veil is not a requirement in the book of Islam, the Quran. It was imposed in Iran after the Islamic Revolution of 1979, and spread in the Arab countries towards the end of the 1980s with the rise of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood organisation, Saudi Wahhabosalafism, and large financing by the petrodollars of the Saudi Monarchy and Gulf countries. The Islamic or Islamist Veil is associated with political Islam, and represents its means of proselytizing and its the most effective Territorial Marker.

There is no need to discuss the abuses committed by the various Islamist factions around the world, to impose their vision of an Islam full of hate and ressentment. Algerian women who have experienced the atrocities of a war waged by Islamists against civilians, many of whom were murdered because they refused to wear veils, are now marching in the streets of Algeria for demanding Democratic rule in their country, but also Equal Rights, Emancipation of women and the repeal of the Code de la famille, a set of social rules inspired by Sharia law.

How do you reconcile that while Iran lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh is sentenced to 38 years in prison and 148 whip lashes for defending women who refuse to wear a veil, New Zealanders participate in normalizing the Islamic veil as symbol of Islam?

Madam Prime Minister, we appeal to your sense of responsibility to stop trivializing the veiling of women and girls. As our compatriot Tarek Fatah says, compassion with the fallen Muslims in Christchurch is an absolute duty, whether they are men or women, wearing a veil or not. Consenting to become a living bilboard for this symbol of political Islam is an unconsciousness towards the Islamic agenda.

It is by focusing on Universal Values of freedom and equality, beyond our religious differences and our philosophical convictions, that we can build solidarity between humans.

The Quebec Association of North Africans for Secularism (AQNAL)

  • Mohand Abdelli, retired engineer
  • Nora Abdelli, chemical engineer
  • Radhia Ben Amor, associative activist
  • Djemila Benhabib, political scientist and writer
  • Leila Bensalem, high school professor
  • Nawal Bouchareb, school organization technician at the CSDM
  • Fares Chargui, doctor of medicine, resident in Psychiatry
  • Ferid Chikhi, employment Consultant
  • Yasmina Chouakri, Consultant
  • Nadia El Mabrouk, professor at the Université de Montréal
  • Hassiba Idir, manager
  • Nacer Irid, engineer
  • Hassan Jamali, retired professor
  • Ali Kaidi, activist for secularism
  • Karim Lassel, organizational analyst
  • Leila Lesbet, special education technician
  • Nacera Zergane, financial advisor

See also:

In the News: Betraying Women and Free Thought in the Name of Christchurch

Betraying women and free thought in the name of Christchurch massacres, Marieme Helie Lucas, Secularism is a Womens Issue, 2019-03-24.

In response to massacres perpetrated by extreme-right white supremacists in 2 mosques in New Zealand on March 15 2019, several symbolic actions took place that aimed at conveying to Muslims – who were attacked as such, since they were praying in the mosque when it happened – that they could count on their fellow citizens’ solidarity. New Zealand’s Prime Minister was praised the world over for her humane response to the massacres. While being moved by the generous intentions which motivated these symbolic actions, we nevertheless take distance from some of these which, in fact, will further increase the alas already prevaling confusion between personal religious faith and communal identity politics.

Here are two exemples.

New Zealand Prime Minister Ms Jacinda Ardern, followed by other officials (and then by ordinary citizens as well) saw it fit to wear a so-called Islamic head covering during their public functions. We believe that there were many other symbols that could have been chosen in order to comfort Muslim believers, than one which is contested the world over by women of Muslim heritage, – believers and unbelievers alike. Rather, it comforts fundamentalists in their efforts to gain political visibility through their wide spread promotion of the veil, thus also asserting their grip over Muslims and over Islam itself.

[…]

Meanwhile – under the same pretext of respect for Christchurch victims, – the Mount Royal University’s autorities in Calgary, Canada, just de-invited Mr Armin Navabi, an Iranian-Canadian ex-Muslim atheist, who was scheduled to deliver a talk a couple of days ago. Mr Navabi had been invited by the Atheist Society of Calgary. He was persecuted in his country of origin for being an atheist; he is the founder of Atheist Republic, an online news and information site designed to provide support to “non-believers around the world.” Said Navabi after being de-programmed:“ “What do they want? Do you want to have less conversation? Isn’t less conversation exactly what leads to people having extreme radical positions? I mean the less words exchanged between us, the more fists and bullets are going to exchange between people. Having more conversations is exactly what you need in the face of some tragedy like this”. That seems a pretty reasonable and dispassionate view, certainly not one which should be censored. De-programming Mr Navabi is clearly taking side against those of us who fight for freedom of conscience and freedom of expression, and for Muslim fundamentalists who deny us these rights. The University authorities hinted at the fact that they were pressured by students and staff.

Rather than solidarity with victims, in both these exemples we see, alas, government and intellectual authorities taking – witingly or un-witingly – a political stand in favour of the Muslim extreme-right ; a stand that is also conforting the fundamentalist claim to be the only ones who truly represent Islam, Muslim believers and all citizens of Muslim descent.

While indeed solidarity is very much needed, we call on well-meaning people to select other symbols when showing solidarity with the Christchurch massacre’s victims. Symbols which would not lead to ideological compromising with the Muslim far-right, under the pretext of fighting the anti-Muslims xenophobic far-right. One extreme right is not any better or worse than the other; both commit crimes against the lives and the fundamental human rights of people, women included. Both reinforce each other, the crimes committed by one legitimizing – in their own eyes – the crimes committed by the other. It would be a major disaster if the racist homicides perpetrated in Christchurch against Muslim believers would, in the end, benefit the Muslim extreme-right. Let’s make sure it does not happen.

See also:

In the News: Canton of Geneva Bans Religious Symbols

Geneva votes to ban religious symbols on public employees, Agence France-Presse, The Local (Switzerland), 2019-02-11.

Geneva residents on Sunday voted for a controversial new “secularism law”, which will among other things ban elected officials and public employees from wearing visible religious symbols. More than 55 percent of voters in the Swiss canton backed the law, final results showed,[…]

Teachers in Geneva are already banned from wearing visible religious symbols, including the hijab. The new text would extend this ban to elected officials and any local or cantonal public employees who comes in contact with the public.

Excellent news. We need similar legislation here in Quebec and Canada. In fact, all jurisdictions should apply a similar ban for all public servants while on duty, so that they display no partisan symbols other than symbols of the state which they represent.

See also:

In the News: FEMEN supports Zineb El Rhazoui, target of death threats after calling to defy Islam

FEMEN supports Zineb El Rhazoui, the journalist who receives death threats after calling to defy Islam.

SUPPORT ZINEB EL RHAZOUI!

Who will dare to be Zineb today?

Why is important to be Zineb El Rhazoui today, after all the predictable threats and insults of which she has become the target after appearing on television where she called on our society and political leaders to face Islam with humour and criticism, and to subject it to the laws of the republic.?

It will soon be four years since the #CharlieHebdo massacre astonished the French. Since then, there have been so many more tragedies perpretrated for the same cause, and beyond our borders as well, that it would be indecent to pretend to be surprised. […]

See also:

In the News: Google Software Reports Blasphemy and Heresy in Indonesia

Google Hosts Sharia Law App Enabling Muslims to Report Blasphemy and Heresy to the Police, Tyler O’Neil, PJ Media, 2018-12-12.

On December 7, 2018, the Google Play Store approved the latest version of “Smart Pakem,” an app that allows Muslims in Jakarta, the capital of the largest Muslim country on earth, to report violations of Sharia law such as blasphemy and even heresy. The app allows users to report people who practice unrecognized religions or unorthodox interpretations of Indonesia’s six officially recognized faiths: Buddhism, Confucianism, Hinduism, Islam, Protestant Christianity, and Roman Catholic Christianity.

According to Google’s translation on the Google Play Store, “Smart Pakem” intends “to make it easier to find information and manage religion, belief flow and community organizations in the jurisdiction of DKI Jakarta,” the capital of Indonesia. The app, which has more than 1,000 installs, claims to provide a list of “laws and regulations that regulate the activities of the flow of beliefs in the community.”

While most areas of Indonesia do not enforce the entirety of Sharia (Islamic law), the national criminal code prohibits blasphemy, which it defines as “the act or offense of speaking sacrilegiously about God or sacred things.” Article 156(a) makes it illegal to “express feelings of hostility, hatred, or contempt against religion,” with a penalty of up to five years in prison.

As Laura Loomer reported at BigLeaguePolitics, Google’s vice president in Southeast Asia, Rajan Anandan, has not shown any resistance to the app. The National Secular Society (NSS) has protested the law in letters to Anadan. The organization’s chief executive, Stephen Evans, wrote that Google’s decision to stock the app was “incongruous with Google’s mission statement” and “runs directly contrary to the democratic ideals which Google says it stands for.” […]

While the latest version of “Smart Pakem” came out on December 7, the original version came out on November 25. The app was created by the Jakarta prosecutor’s office, which told Agence France Presse (AFP) it would help educate the public and modernize the reporting process. […] The app lists religious edicts and blacklisted organizations and will allow users to file immediate complaints, instead of submitting a written accusation to a government office.

Google is thus capitulating to religious fanaticism. Indonesia’s use of a short list of approved religions is obviously a violation of freedom of conscience. Furthermore, it is atheophobic, because non-belief is not approved.

In the News: Condorcet-Dessaulles Prizewinners Call for Withdrawal of “Religious Culture” Part of ERC course

Il faut revoir le cours Éthique et culture religieuse (The Ethics and Religious Culture Course Must be Revised), Nadia El-Mabrouk, Andréa Richard, Le Devoir, 2018-12-19.

In an article in Le Devoir, Nadia El-Mabrouk and Andréa Richard, recipients of the 2018 Prix Condorcet-Dessaulles awarded by the Mouvement laïque québécois, call for the withdrawal of the “Religious Culture” part of the Ethics and Religious Culture (ERC) program in Quebec schools. They point out several serious problems with this part of ERC, such as the following:

  • ERC infringes on the freedom of conscience of both children and their parents.
  • ERC discriminates against children who practice no religion, propagates stereotypes and promotes religious dogma.
  • ERC conveys religious sexism by showing women in traditional roles and is thus incompatible with the principle of equality between women and men.
  • ERC presents stereotypical images of religious practices, promoting more pious and fundamentalist practices, thus stigmatizing those who do not share those practices. In particular, it presents the veil as the norm for Muslim women and thus discriminates against more secular Muslims.
  • ERC is taught at all levels, including primary and early secondary levels where children have not yet developed sufficient critical thinking skills and are vulnerable to indoctrination.

See also:

In the News: Canadian Anti-Blasphemy Law Repealed

C-51, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Department of Justice Act and to make consequential amendments to another Act, 42nd Parliament, 1st Session, Parliament of Canada, Senate, 2018-12-13.

Royal Assent, 2018-12-13

Last Stage Completed
Royal Assent (2018-12-13)

The Canadian Senate has just announced that the Canadian anti-blasphemy law, i.e. Section 296 of the Criminal Code, has finally been repealed. However, Motion M-103 which condemns so-called “Islamophobia” remains on the books.

See also:

In the News: NSS Opposes Formal Definition of “Islamophobia”

Home secretary urged not to adopt definition of ‘Islamophobia’, National Secular Society (NSS), 2018-12-09.

The National Secular Society has urged the home secretary to resist calls to adopt a formal definition of ‘Islamophobia’ which have been put forward by a parliamentary group. NSS chief executive Stephen Evans co-ordinated a letter to Sajid Javid on the subject after a high-profile reportfrom the all-party parliamentary group (APPG) on British Muslims.

The APPG’s report recommended that the government define ‘Islamophobia’ as “a type of racism that targets expressions of Muslimness or perceived Muslimness”. […]

Explaining his decision to write and coordinate the letter, Mr Evans said: “Racism and anti-Muslim bigotry need to be confronted, but proposals to promote the vague concept of Islamophobia seriously risk restricting public discussion and making matters worse. […]

The letter called the APPG’s definition “vague and unworkable” and said it “conflates hatred of, and discrimination against, Muslims with criticism of Islam”. “While we believe that in a liberal secular society individuals should be afforded respect and protection, we are clear that ideas should not.”
[…]

“Far from combatting prejudice and bigotry, erroneous claims of ‘Islamophobia’ have become a cover for it. LGBT rights campaigners have been called ‘Islamophobes’ for criticising the views of Muslim clerics on homosexuality. Meanwhile, ex-Muslims and feminist activists have been called ‘Islamophobes’ for criticising certain Islamic views and practices relating to women. Even liberal and secular Muslims have been branded ‘Islamophobes’.”
[…]

The National Secular Society (NSS) in the UK has fortunately begun to question the use of the highly tendentious expression “Islamophobia.” However, the NSS fails in its letter to criticize the unacceptable conflation of race and religion which typically accompanies the use of this expression.

The NSS has, on several occasions, opposed bans on religious symbols or face-coverings such as the burkini or the niqab, but without specifying (to the best of our knowledge) where they might consider such bans to be justified, if anywhere.

One of the co-signers of the letter is Maajid Nawaz, co-founder of the Quilliam Foundation, who apparently coined the phrase “regressive left” to describe those who claim to be leftists but nevertheless pander to reactionary ideologies such as cultural relativism and Islamism.

See also:

In the News: Asia Bibi’s Lawyer at London Conference

Asia Bibi: Lawyer defies death threats over Christian’s case, Monidipa Fouzder, The Law Society Gazette, 2018-11-27.

The lawyer for a Christian woman who faced a death sentence for eight years after being convicted of blasphemy says he has no regrets about defending her – despite facing death threats himself. Last month Pakistan’s most senior judges overturned Asia Bibi’s death sentence, defying personal death threats and the promise by an Islamist political party to ‘paralyse the country within hours’ if Bibi was set free.

Bibi’s lawyer, Saif ul-Malook told an International Conference on Sharia, Segregation and Secularism in London on Sunday that, in his 38 years of practice, he had never heard of a situation ‘where a group of people come with such a demand that they will kill the highest constitutional court judges if the verdict does not come to their wishes’. ul-Malook stressed that it was a ‘small group of people in Pakistan, not Pakistan’.

Explaining the case, ul-Malook told the conference that Bibi was working in a field for £1 a week: ‘You can imagine what was her status. She had never gone to school… She cannot write her name.’ Bibi offered water to two Muslim girls who refused, which led to ‘hard words exchanged between them’. The imam of the village mosque called the district imams. After five days, Bibi was arrested.

[…]

The conference heard that ul-Malook worked on Bibi’s case for four years. Her appeal was heard in the Supreme Court on 8 October and judgment was reserved. The court’s 56-page judgment, overturning Bibi’s sentence, was published on 31 October.

[…]

The conference urged the UK government to grant Bibi protection and asylum. Its resolution supporting Bibi states: ‘Whilst Asia Bibi has been released on appeal in November 2018 after eight years on death row, her life is in danger and she is living in hiding. Islamist groups have been calling for her death as well as the death of her lawyer Saif ul-Malook and the judges who acquitted her […] Despite her urgent need for refuge, the UK Foreign Office has urged the Home Office not to grant Asia Bibi political asylum in the UK out of safety concerns. This decision amounts to a gross violation of the very idea of asylum as a human right.’

Islam’s overwhelming obsession with blasphemy has caused and continues to cause great damage. The case of Asia Bibi and the protests by Islamists against her acquittal are a vivid and painful example of that fanatical obsession. We salute the courage of her lawyer Saif ul-Malook, the Pakistan Supreme Court judges who acquitted her, and her other supporters, in that embattled country, all of whom have risked their lives by standing up against the worst elements of political Islam. Already, two prominent Pakistani political figures have paid with their lives: Minorities Affairs Minister Shahbaz Bhatti and former Governor of Punjab, Salmaan Taseer, both assassinated in 2011.

See also:

In the News: Québécois Solidly Support Banning Religious Symbols

Nearly two-thirds of Quebecers support public-sector ban on religious symbols, poll finds, Jonathan Montpetit, CBC News, 2018-11-26.

Most Quebecers are in favour of banning public-sector workers from wearing religious symbols, according to a CROP poll released ahead of the first legislative session under a Coalition Avenir Québec government. […]

Premier François Legault indicated after last month’s election that he will seek to bar civil servants in positions of authority from wearing religious symbols such as the kippa and hijab. Not only would this apply to police officers, judges and Crown prosecutors, but also to school teachers, Legault said. […]

The CROP poll, taken between Nov. 14 and 19, estimated that 72 per cent of Quebecers supported banning visible religious symbols for judges, 71 per cent supported banning them for prosecutors and police officers and 65 per cent backed extending the ban to public-school teachers.

This is the lastest in a series of polls done over the years which indicate that the Quebec population is solidly in favour of secularism, including the necessary ban on religious symbols worn by public servants.

Sondage CROP-Radio Canada, novembre 2018
The graph indicates the percentage of those polled who are
strongly for, somewhat for, somewhat against, strongly against or express no opinion about
a ban on the wearing of religious symbols by
judges, police, crown prosecutors, prison guards and teachers.

See also:


In the News: The Missionary and His Indoctrination

La bêtise religieuse (Religious Stupidity), Loïc Tassé, Journal de Montréal, 2018-11-25.

The attempt by John Allen Chau to convert the Sentinelese tribe was particularly stupid, illustrating once again the unhealthy role which religion plays in our societies.

Chau’s decision was stupid because his mere contact with that isolated island population could have decimated it. […] His action is inexcusable. Even from the point of view of a missionary, his behaviour was inappropriate. He should never have defied the laws of India which forbid visiting the island. […]

[…] in his case, religious belief was obviously a consequence of indoctrination. Indoctrination similar to that of radical Islamists who seek to convert the world using violence. Indoctrination like that of Hindu nationalists who refuse women entry into certain temples and who are prepared to kill to defend their beliefs.

What is extraordinary here is that practically no-one has discussed Chau’s indoctrination. Readers’ reactions have often been virulent. Many people condemn Chau. But who condemns those who put such ridiculous ideas of conversion and belief into his head? No-one dares to do so.

[…]

All this religious stupidity is unfortunately increasingly present in politics. Many people push the idea of freedom of conscience so far as to defend religious groups which indoctrinate their members with the most enslaving and deadly beliefs. This is unacceptable. That is the lesson which we must learn from the pathetic death of Chau.

[Translation: D.R.]

It is rare for the mass media to publish a text so lucid, so frank, so forthright, which denounces religious lunacy and all the harm it does. Bravo Monsieur Tassé !

In the News: Tunisia: Gender Equality in Inheritance Law

Tunisian cabinet approves controversial gender equality in inheritance law, Al Arabiya English, 2018-11-24.

The Tunisian cabinet has approved on Friday the law of gender equality in inheritance, to be discussed in the parliament dominated by Ennahda Movement before being effective in the country. The Tunisian president, Beji Caid Essebsi, had suggested the law in August 2017, on the occasion of national women’s day.

The controversial law entitles women and men an equal inheritance, disagreeing with the Qura’anic verse stating that males should inherit what two females should. The law will also ensure freedom of choice between following the constitution or the Sharia Islamic law.

In the News: Federal FGM Ban Ruled Unconstitutional

Federal Ban on Female Genital Mutilation Ruled Unconstitutional by Judge, Pam Belluck, New York Times, 2018-11-21.

The case, the first to be brought under the 1996 law that criminalized female genital mutilation, has been closely followed by human rights advocates and communities where cutting is still practiced and whose members have moved in growing numbers to the United States and other western countries.

On Tuesday, Judge Bernard Friedman of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan ruled that Congress did not have the authority to pass the law against female genital mutilation and he dismissed key charges filed against the doctors and removed four of the eight defendants from the case.

“As laudable as the prohibition of a particular type of abuse of girls may be,” he wrote, prosecutors failed to show that the federal government had the authority to bring the charges, and he noted that regulating practices like this is essentially a state responsibility.

Genital mutilation is a barbaric practice. If the federal law banning FGM is indeed unconstitutional, then that simply underlines the urgency of adopting similar legislation at the state level in all of the United States.

In the News: Religious Headwear to be Allowed in U.S. Congress

New Muslim congresswoman will seek to allow religious headwear in the House, AJ Willingham, CNN, 2018-11-19.

Last week, Democrats announced a proposal to end a rule that bans headwear on the House floor. Rep.-elect Ilhan Omar, one of the first two Muslim congresswomen, vocally supported the move on social media this weekend. […] Omar wears a religious headscarf, and under the current 181-year-old rule, a House member must be “uncovered” in order to address the floor, and cannot even enter the House “with his head covered.”

Granting this religious privilege is obviously a step backwards for the U.S. Congress. But what is worse is the naïveté and complacency of so-called liberals who support such religious accommodations. Worse still is their arrogance, their claim to be morally superior to those who oppose it.

In the News: Supreme Court Upholds Kirpan Ban in Legislature

Supreme Court upholds National Assembly’s ban on kirpans, The Canadian Press, CTV News Montreal, 2018-10-25

OTTAWA – The Supreme Court of Canada has refused to hear the appeal of a Sikh man and woman who were prohibited from entering Quebec’s legislature while wearing kirpans. Thursday’s decision upholds previous decisions from the Quebec Superior Court and Quebec Court of Appeal that found the legislature had the right to establish its own rules.

Balpreet Singh and Harminder Kaur did not want to part with their ceremonial daggers as they headed into a legislature hearing to submit a brief in January 2011.

The pair are members of the World Sikh Organization of Canada […]

Thus, it is possible to ban religious symbols in some contexts. And the sky will not fall!! However, Sikh fundamentalists will keep up the pressure in an effort to maintain their religious privileges. They must not be allowed to win.

In the News: ECHR Condemns “Defaming” Muhammed

Defaming Prophet Muhammed not free expression: ECHR, Such defamation could stir up prejudice and risk religious peace, says European Court of Human Rights, Anadolu Agency, 2018-10-25

STRASBOURG – Defaming the Prophet Muhammed “goes beyond the permissible limits of an objective debate” and “could stir up prejudice and put at risk religious peace” and thus exceeds the permissible limits of freedom of expression, ruled the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on Thursday, upholding a lower court decision. […]

According to a statement released by the court on Thursday, the Vienna Regional Criminal Court found that these statements implied that Muhammad had pedophilic tendencies, and in February 2011 convicted Mrs. S. for disparaging religious doctrines. […]

The court held “that by considering the impugned statements as going beyond the permissible limits of an objective debate and classifying them as an abusive attack on the Prophet of Islam, which could stir up prejudice and put at risk religious peace, the domestic courts put forward relevant and sufficient reasons.” […]

Thus, the court grants priority to religious doctrines and to so-called “religious peace” to the detriment of freedom of expression. Very disturbing. This is the equivalent of banning blasphemy.

In the News: Poland: KŁF Denounces Judgment Against NIE for Blasphemy

Statement of the Kazimierz Łyszczyński Foundation on the judgment concerning the caricature of Jesus in the weekly “NIE”, Kazimierz Łyszczyński Foundation, 2018-10-16.

Jesus is amazed
Jesus is amazed because statistics show that believers are leaving the faith.

The Kazimierz Łyszczynski Foundation expresses its outrage over the unjust judgment concerning publication of the caricature of Jesus in the weekly newspaper “NIE” (NO). The fine of 120,000 pln (more than US$30,000) plus legal costs total 150,000 pln, which is many times higher than any fine ever ordered by a court for the offense of religious feelings (article 196 of Penal Code).

The judgment’s reasoning is bizarre, because it is difficult to find any criticism of an object of religious worship, expressed in an “abusive, derogatory and degrading” way, when we look at a gentle cartoon depicting an amazed Jesus. Such an interpretation was given to this law by the Constitutional Court in 2015 on the request of another “blasphemer” Dorota Rabczewskiej (Doda) to examine the conformity of article 196 with the Constitution.

It is therefore an unfair judgment and a disproportionate punishment even if we assume the decision of the Constitutional Court to be fair. However, from the atheist viewpoint, it is difficult to consider this law to be fair and in conformity with article 25 (2) of the Constitution, as pointed out by many experts. It is a scandal that while practically all European countries are getting rid of this bastard of medieval canon law (i.e. United Kingdom, Denmark, the upcoming referendum in Ireland), the Polish state in alliance with the Church try to return Poland to the darkness of a bygone era.

The adoption of this law in 1997 was inconsistent with democracy, while its current application is a blatant mockery of democracy.

It is a political judgment, which aims not only to condemn the independent satirical and anticlerical magazine to bankruptcy and to provoke a “chilling effect,” but also to intimidate both media and society. We shall not let Polish law become an instrument of religious oppression as is the case for the Shiite regime of the Ayatollahs or the Sunni theocracy in Saudi Arabia! We shall not allow the state authorities to condemn free media to death, acting like the fundamentalist attackers of Charlie Hebdo!

Regardless of one’s sympathy or antipathy for Jerzy Urban and his weekly “NIE” we call for the defense of freedom of expression, freedom of conscience and freedom of the media, because without them there is no democracy.

Jerzy Urban
Jerzy Urban, owner and chief editor of “NIE”


In the News: Nadia El-Mabrouk: Secularism is Necessary for the Emancipation of Women

Dans un monde réel près de chez vous (In a Real World in your Neighbourhood), Nadia El-Mabrouk, La Presse, 2018-10-11

For Nadia El-Mabrouk, secularism is a the first and foremost condition necessary for the emancipation of women and development.

While the former Miss Irak Tara Fares and other Iraqi women have been murdered for daring to defy the rules of the patriarchy, by appearing in public in Baghdad wearing jeans, here in Quebec, some people would have us believe that the Islamic veil is a symbol of freedom.

In Morocco, on September 15, women marched without veils, in silence and with their heads held high, to claim their right to public space without aggression or harassment. Meanwhile, here in Quebec, in one of the most egalitarian countries anywhere, Ève Torres, the veiled candidate of the Québec solidaire party, claimed to have adopted the veil as a form of protection. Meanwhile, anyone who questions the Islamic veil is accused of “Islamophobia.”

The most bizarre case is that of Jamil Azzaoui, a singer of Moroccan origin who was a candidate for the Green Party in the recent elections, but was expelled because of his friendship with the secular activist Djemila Benhabib! Have secular Muslims become pariahs in Quebec? Have they become invisible?

We are beginning to see pressure groups react to the CAQ’s secularism plans with the same strategy of vilification and demonisation which they once applied to the Parti québécois. Will they claim, once again, that secularism is a program which is racist, anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim? But as Ali Kaidi of the Association québécoise des Nord-Africains pour la laïcité (AQNAL: Quebec Association of North-Africans for Secularism) explains, racism is rather the refusal to discuss secularism with Muslims, the denial that they are incapable of undertanding it, and that secularism is incompatible with their religious and cultural values. The real racism is to condemn Muslims to isolation and captivity in their community.

In the News: Profs Against Religious Symbols

Des enseignantes contre les signes religieux (Teachers Against Religious Symbols), Yves Poirier, Journal de Montréal, 2018-10-10

Teachers Against Religious Symbols

The new premier of Quebec, François Legault, and his CAQ party, have received the support of several public school teachers. Several teachers orginally from Algeria and now living and working in Quebec have expressed their support for a ban on religious symbols worn by public servants, such as themselves, in a position of authority. These employees of the Quebec state have a similar opinion of the veil, the kippa and the crucifix: they should not be worn by school teachers while on duty.

In the News: Djemila Benhabib Calls for Decisive Action on Secularism

Laïcité: le nouveau gouvernement doit agir avec rigueur et diligence (Secularism: The New Government Must Act With Rigour and Diligence), Djemila Benhabib, leNouvelliste, 2018-10-06

2016-09-30, Djemila at the Montreal courthouse
Djemila Benhabib is a writer,
secular activist and recipient of the
Prix international de la laïcité 2012.

Djemila Benhabib urges the new Quebec government of François Legault and his CAQ party to act with rigour, decisiveness and consistency. In particular, they must not be distracted by the anti-secular forces who have already begun to mobilise against the government, as if planning a putsch!

This long debate must be resolved by adopting legislation to implement a truly secular state. As for religious symbols worn by state employees, to ban them will establish parity between political convictions (whose symbols are already banned) and religious, spiritual and philosophical beliefs. Thus, the requirement of political neutrality will be extended to include religious neutrality.

Given the strong majority which it won in the recent election, the new government has a solid mandate to proceed. It must act decisively where the Parti québécois failed—and where the Quebec Liberal Party had neither the courage nor the will to act.

Secularism puts believers and non-believers on an equal footing. It applies the same requirements to both the majority and minorities.

In the News: Legault Advances Secularism Measures

François Legault would invoke notwithstanding clause to ban hijabs from civil service, Benjamin Shingler, CBC News, 2018-10-02.

Quebec’s premier-designate says he is prepared to invoke the notwithstanding clause to enforce a prohibition on any public employee from wearing a religious symbol such as a hijab or kippa in the workplace.

[…]

“I think that the vast majority of Quebecers, they would like to have a framework where people in an authority position must not wear a religious sign,” Legault said.

[…]

Legault said Tuesday he would offer those affected, including teachers, “jobs in offices for people who want to keep wearing a religious sign.” His pledges to ensure the religious neutrality is one of several significant changes Quebecers can expect under a CAQ government.

Almost immediately after being elected on October 1st, the new premier of Québec, François Legault, leader of the Coalition avenir Québec (CAQ) is already acting decisively on secularism issues, promising to ban religious symbols worn by public servants in positions of authority, i.e. judges, prosecutors, police, prison guards and teachers. Furthermore, he is committed to invoking the notwithstanding clause if necessary to make sure that such legislation cannot be struck down by the courts. These secular measures are widely supported by Quebeckers.

See also:

In the News: Ireland Holds Blasphemy Referendum, October 26th

Atheist Ireland: Referendum on blasphemy about freedom of speech, Irish Examiner, 2018-09-30.

Irish Atheists will today launch their campaign for a Yes vote in October’s referendum on removing the offence of blasphemy from the Constitution. […] Chairperson Michael Nugent said it is about freedom of speech and the separation of Church and State.

Mr Nugent said: […] “If there is a god, the god can take care of itself. In terms of religious people, there are other laws such as the defamation laws and the laws against incitement to religious hatred, that protect people.

“But there is a big distinction between protecting people from harm and protecting ideas from criticism.”

[…]

The organisation also issued an open letter from 24 victims of blasphemy laws.

The referendum will be held on October 26th 2018.

In the News: Maxime Bernier Denounces the Cult of Diversity

Tory MP Bernier criticized for saying ‘more diversity’ will ‘destroy’ what makes Canada great, Rachel Aiello, CTV News, 2018-08-13

Outspoken Conservative MP and failed leadership contender Maxime Bernier is facing criticism from within his caucus, and beyond, over a series of tweets accusing Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of fostering a “cult of diversity” that he believes will destroy the country.

In a six-tweet thread posted Sunday evening, the Quebec MP says that more diversity will “divide us into little tribes” and bring “distrust, social conflict, and potentially violence.”

[…]

He argues that “Trudeau’s extreme multiculturalism and cult of diversity” will divide Canadians into “political clienteles” that can be bought with taxpayer money and special privileges.

In subsequent tweets, Bernier sought to emphasize that his issue is with “more diversity” and “ever more diversity,” which he says Trudeau is proposing with “radical multiculturalism.”

“Canada has always been a diverse country and this is part of who we are. I love this Canada. But there is a difference between recognizing diversity and pushing for ever more of it. Something infinitely diverse has no core identity and ceases to exist,” he said.

Of course Bernier is right in his criticism of the vapid slogans which regularly spew from the mouth of Justin Trudeau. The Trudeau cult of “diversity” constitutes clientelism—i.e. pandering to various communities, especially religious ones, in order to garner votes—mixed with a substantial dose of airheaded identitarianism which is currently very much in fashion. But the Conservative Party also practises clientelism; hence the embarrassment which Bernier’s comments have caused his party. Furthermore, the radical multiculturalism practised by the Trudeau Liberals is incompatible with secularism, but the Conservatives do not support secularism either, as they are too closely tied to evangelical Christians in the Canadian west.