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When my somewhat religious (Jewish) grandparents came to Canada (Montreal) from Eastern Europe at the turn of the 20th century, they could speak neither English nor French. And they knew nothing of Canadian culture.
But what they did know, was that they were leaving a bad situation for an opportunity to live in a country where they and their children would have a much better life.
And most of all, they had no interest in making Canada look like them.
This past Christmas (2005), a Florida school district decided to end the practice of celebrating Christmas and Chanukah in their schools. The reason given was that the schools represented in this district are Secular.
The real reason was Islam.
Moslems who attend some of the schools in this district demanded equal rights. If Jews and Christians can celebrate their respective Holy Days, then why not Moslems?
So, to avoid a religious war in a nation that practices a legal separation between Church and State, the school district wisely declared that there will be a mid-winter break instead of a Christmas break.
Also: No more Christmas Trees, Chanukah Menorahs and exchanging of gifts in the schools.
To many Christian Americans, especially from the Conservative Right, this was yet another attack on Christmas. And I guess to some degree they’re right. But that said, it was not an attack on one visible religion, as much as it was a withdrawal of all visible religions within that school system.
In order to say no to Islam, the Florida school district said no to Jews and Christians who have enjoyed centuries of public school religious visibility and participation.
Not long after 9/11, a Black Florida woman with a criminal record, who had converted to Islam, and wore a full Burkah with only a slit for her eyes demanded the right to have her State driver’s licence photo display her in her full face cover.
Florida said no. The State insisted that she would have to have her entire face shown on her driver’s licence just like everyone else. She went to court. The State of Florida lost.
A year or so ago, Quebec was petitioned by Moslems for Sharia (Islamic civil laws) to be given provincial legal status. To the credit of Quebec; they told the Islamists no.
When the same demand was made in Ontario, the idiot who passes for Ontario’s Premier was about to say yes to show just how Liberal he was, until Islamic women in Ontario shouted NO TO SHARIA!
They knew how bad it would be for them to be governed by the misogynist man-made laws of Islam. But why should I just say the man-made laws of Islam when all religious laws are man-made? But I digress.
So, upon hearing the outrage from Moslem women, McGuinty, the idiot Premier of Ontario said no. But along with his no to Sharia, he also said no to Jews and Christians who already had a long and successful history of negotiating civil matters between adherents of their respective religious communities in the province of Ontario.
So, to be fair to Moslems, Jews and Christians were forced to lose something they had great success with.
A few years ago, a Canadian Sikh wanted to join the venerable Royal Canadian Mounted Police who are Canada’s best known icon, with their scarlet jackets, blue yellow striped pants, and signature Mountie Hats.
But there was a problem.
The Sikh didn’t want to wear the Mountie Hat. Instead, he wanted to wear his Turban for religious purposes. And when the Mounties rightly said no, he went to court.
In the foolish opinion of Canada’s very Liberal Supreme Court, it was ruled that the Mounties had to admit the Sikh with his Turban (in Mountie colors) so as not to discriminate against Sikhs.
But the Sikh Turban was a religious symbol opposed to the Mountie Hat which was totally Secular with absolutely no religious connotation whatsoever.
So how could Canada’s Supreme Court find any equivalence between the two?
I have to assume from the supreme Court ruling that Moslem women wishing to join the RCMP can now successfully demand to wear the right colored Hijab.
And what about religious Jews? Can they wear Yarmulkas or Hasidic fur hats in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police?
If the Sikhs can change the tradition of the RCMP to suit their religion, why not others? And after enough changes, will we be able to even recognize the RCMP?
And what about camels? Could Arabs demand the right to ride camels in the RCMP Musical Ride instead of the Mounties’ Black Horses?
This month (March 2006) Canada’s Supreme Court once again ruled in favor of religious minority rights in place of Secular majority rules.
A young Sikh boy wanted to bring his Kirpan into school. The Kirpan is a ceremonial dagger that in this case is worn on a shoulder sash as a religious statement that more or less pledges: “I will use my knife to defend the principles of my religion”.
By their religious decree, Sikh males must be armed at all times.
But the Montreal school board where this young man attended said no.
The School boards of Montreal have a zero tolerance for any weapons on their grounds. But, as with the RCMP Turban, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Sikhs on grounds of religious discrimination.
But how can there be religious discrimination when there isn’t another religion that has a benefit denied to any others.
In this case though, Canada’s Supreme Court ruling created a religious benefit which discriminates against all non Sikhs who are not allowed to carry weapons of any kind onto school property.
Now there’s a whole new challenge beginning with one Montreal university, where Moslem students are demanding a private room where they can pray 5 times daily.
Does this also mean they can have their classes interrupted for prayer as well?
In our (Canadian) quest to be so Liberal and “even-handed”, we are creating a system where religious and cultural special interests are changing the face of our society in not a good way.
Because of Islam and Sikh demands, observant Canadian Jews and Christians are being marginalized. But so are Secular Canadians such as myself who are being forced to accept special accommodations for religious rights in a Secular nation.
If religious individuals wish to practice their beliefs in schools, they would be better served in a parochial school which they should pay for themselves, rather than in a publicly funded school where being totally blind to differences in race, religion and gender are a cornerstone to our successful Western educational standards.
Also: If a person wishes to join the ranks of the public service, including, and especially our police forces, they should have to ask themselves what is more important to them; serving society in a Secular way, or serving their religious beliefs?
To believe that Secular (public) and Religious accommodation are mutually compatible is a mistake that will sooner rather than later come back to bite us on the ass.
And if you don’t believe me, just look at the European nations which are watching their cultural values vanish before their very eyes.