“The people’s safety is the highest law.” – Legal and political maxim
Prime Minister Harper, it was reported recently, will appeal a court decision which now makes it legal for Muslim women to cover their faces while taking the oath of citizenship. The article in the National Post reveals that “Zunera Ishaq, the Toronto woman who challenged the government’s policy forbidding the wearing of facial coverings during the swearing-in part of citizenship ceremonies, said Thursday she was upset by the prime minister’s remarks but vowed to continue fighting through the court process.” The article also notes that “Ishaq, a Pakistani national and devout Sunni Muslim, says her religious beliefs obligate her to wear a niqab.” Apparently Canadians shouldn’t really be offended by a Pakistani national, a resident alien, dictating to born and bred Canadians how we should rejigger our traditional swearing-in ceremony simply because, as a “devout Sunni Muslim,” she feels conscience-driven to cover her face while swearing allegiance to our sovereign nation. The incongruity of such an outrageous and ungrateful demand sounds so coarse in my ears.
What most Canadians, if not all, will not see in Zunera Ishaq’s demand—her determination—is its entire context. As Canadians outside of the multiculturalist kingdoms of Toronto and Montreal, we cannot but lack a proper perspective of the effrontery and sheer audacity of a Pakistani Muslim (not yet a Canadian citizen!) reproving the leader of a Western democracy, namely Prime Minister Stephen Harper, for appealing Judge Keith Boswell’s bizarre decision to permit a “devout Sunni Muslim” to wear a niqab during the citizenship ceremony.
Let’s keep in mind that Zunera Ishaq comes from a country where Muslims, whenever they perceive their religious beliefs to be disrespected, react with extreme violence and bloodshed, even against their fellow Muslims. Naveed Ahmad wrote in the Huffington Post last year (02/03/2014) that, “Each year during Ashura, which falls on the 10th of Muharram according to the Islamic calendar, people are killed in Pakistan.” He defines this sectarian violence as “tit-for-tat target killings between Sunnis and Shiites…” Could Zunera Ishaq’s religiously inspired demand, if not refused or challenged in the courts, become a watershed event in Canadian history? And if we do refuse to accommodate her demand, will others like her, who, as immigrants from Pakistan and accustom to violent means, choose those same “tit-for-tat” activities here in Canada? As someone commenting on Naveed’s article put it, “Hate knows no boundaries.”
In a speech to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1811, John C. Calhoun said, “Protection and patriotism are reciprocal.” I find it extremely odd to read so many insulting comments about PM Harper in our newspapers regarding this story. Prudence is an unrecognized virtue in this day and age. Good men are ridiculed for their patriotism, leaders for their prudence, so blind and comfortable have we become. Fools rage and are confident, as the proverb says, and we put more stock in the empty promises of apologists and naïve pluralists than in the defining actions of those good men and women who actually and sincerely mean to make a difference in the world, for the better of mankind.
His intention to appeal Judge Keith Boswell’s injudicious decision in favour of the selfish, religious demands of Zunera Ishaq exposes Prime Minister Stephen Harper as a leader who cherishes his country more than his political career. Out of the blue, as peculiar as ever, on the world’s stage where strong leadership is become mere pretension, we have a statesman who wants more than anything else to protect his citizens from a bleak future already become a worrisome reality for much of Europe and the Middle East. When Sunni or Shiite Muslims—in light of the violence and egregious cultures they continue to exhibit in the rest of the world—begin dictating to Western democracies how we should recode, for the sake of what would be in Canada a grossly unconventional religious tradition, those good graces we grant to those less fortunate than us, it should become obvious to all in that moment in time that we must protect, more than anything else, not only those same good graces, but even more, the subjects of those free dominions whose work and toil and sacrifices have made such good graces possible.
If the religion of Islam cannot remedy the sectarian violence it gave birth to in Pakistan, then, please, Zunera Ishaq, don’t expect that Islam can ever vitiate our peaceful and praiseworthy traditions here in Canada. As our Prime Minister has already told you, that’s “not how we do things here.” Salus populi suprema lex. The people’s safety is the highest law.
Michael Devolin has been a member of JDL Canada since the 1980s, and has served as the personal bodyguard to Meir Weinstein, National Director of JDL Canada, at several high-profile trials, including the Jim Keegstra hate crimes trial and the Imra Finta war crimes trial.