THE GHOST AND THE CENSORS

aqsa-parvez

I like to think, along with many of my educated friends, that I’m an open-minded person. I’m an accepting person when it comes to cultures and the multiculturalism that Canada enjoys.

That being said, I’m now convinced the criticisms coming at Sarah Fulford, Toronto Life and Mary Hogan over the article on Aqsa Parvez is clearly an indication that these so-called progressive groups representing reflexive, sometimes reactionary views want tolerance alright, but only tolerance for what they think is acceptable. Fulford shouldn’t even consider apologizing.

For the extraordinarily obtuse, I’m calling these people hypocritical. Who are they to define what’s acceptable for public dialogue and what isn’t?

I’m not going to go into a major argument here about liberalism vs. multiculturalism (not sold on either), was Aqsa Parvez’s murder an honour killing or not (sure sounds like it, if you actually read the article), if an article like this promotes Islamophobia (if you choose to view all Islam with one generalized view, chances are you already are anti-Islam anyway), or if this kind of debate cuts to the core issue of whether or not conservative Islam is even compatible with Canadian society as a whole. There’s been plenty of people talking about this already.

That being said, it’s more than a little creepy that, as Margaret Wente points out today, conservative Muslims are teaming up with many feminists over their criticism of Hogan’s article. Both sides are essentially using each other for political gain and to push their own agendas. How they managed to become allies-by-proxy is remarkable in itself – feminists rightly support the stance of stopping violence against women; conservative Islam’s litany of repugnant acts against women have been well-documented – given how much these two sides are opposed to each other. Strange bedfellows, indeed.

Why are these two very-much-at-odds groups hooking up in a reactionary attempt to stop freedom of speech here? Here’s some of the criticisms leveled at the article, all from the press conference held by several women’s rights groups and anti-racism groups. Some criticisms they make are valid. Some are, well, not so much, in my opinion.

“Aqsa Parvez had a choice: wear a hijab to please her devout family or take it off and be like her friends. She paid for her decision with her life.” One panellist argued there is no hard evidence to prove the hijab was the motive for the killing.

A fair comment, although a minor detail in the broader story.

“The conflation of Aqsa’s death with earlier media stories about the “the acceptability of sharia law, disputes over young girls wearing hijabs at soccer games, and the arrest of the Toronto 18.”

This is where things get dicey. Sure, there’s a perfectly legitimate argument to be made that by associating these stories together, we’re essentially getting a very negative portrait of Islam in Toronto. More pointedly, there’s the problem of whether other ethnic groups in Toronto would get similar treatment for a story like this – after all, there are plenty of ethnic groups in Toronto with cultural traditions that may offend the ethics and ideals of what Canada is, in theory, supposed to represent.

That being said, these incidents do beg journalistically-relevant questions, considering they aren’t made up and did happen. Is there a pattern here? Why aren’t we allowed to ask questions if bad things like these keep happening? By treating entire communities with politically correct kid gloves, we’re ensuring more people, not less, will take on racist views of Islam. Reacting as if a community is powerless to have a real, open, honest debate about what goes on in it may be construed as racist and paternalistic itself.

“The posing of the question, “Is it possible that Toronto has become too tolerant of cultural differences?” Cho said the question itself was racist: “There’s a judgement implicit.”

Okay. I’m convinced Michelle Cho of the Urban Alliance on Race Relations is either a deeply-entrenched ideologue determined to protect her relevancy position, or that she clearly has no idea what journalism is all about. Either way, she looks foolish by making that claim.

“The implication that “ethnic enclaves” within the city create alienated and dangerous subcultures of immigrants who don’t share “Western liberal values.” Sumayya Kas of Our Collective Dreams, Muslim Women Against Violence objected to the way Rogan’s portrait of immigrant-heavy Mississauga (“you see stores offering halal meat, instant passport photos, Thai food and Pakistani takeout. Dental and legal clinics advertise in Perso-Arabic script”) was tied it to this specific incident of domestic violence.”

I heard the very inarticulate Kas on CBC Radio on Tuesday about this topic. Aside from reiterating the same talking points we’ve been hearing non-stop here, has she even been to Mississauga recently? Unless everything being described was an ideology-driven mirage Mary Hogan saw, it’s not exactly an unfair treatment of the city.

“The use of photos taken from Aqsa’s Facebook page as art for the piece, which was deemed “distasteful” and “disrespectful.”

Um, alright. Not sure how, considering she’s dead.

After all this posturing from these groups, what are we left with? The right to free speech? I’d hope so.

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