Dan Gardner has to be one of my favourite columnists in Canada, and columns like this one just make me like him more:
Well done, concerned citizens. For weeks, in vast numbers, across the nation, you expressed outrage that a public school in Toronto permits Muslim students to pray for half an hour each Friday. In the school cafeteria. A cafeteria built with tax dollars. Your tax dollars.
Clearly, this offends the great Canadian constitutional commitment to the separation of church and state, which doesn’t exist, and you said so in no uncertain terms. Religion has no place in a public school! Not even the cafeteria! Stand away from the chili con carne and french fries, Imam! Get those Korans out of our proud agora!
Somewhat awkwardly, Christians, Jews, and others are also permitted to pray on school premises. They’ve been doing it for years. But this is clearly different. Somehow or other.
He goes on to cite numerous examples how existing preferential treatment for Christians and Jews has only been questioned or ended upon the idea that such treatment might have to be expanded to include Muslims.
The key example that he finishes with is the example of the Ontario Catholic School board, which gets public funding because no one has the political balls to question it yet (other than perhaps a couple candidates).
Be sure to read the whole article, but this really got me thinking about whether secularism has been more advanced in this country by atheists and true secularists, or if it’s been forwarded more by Islamophobes. It’s a bit unsettling to me, but Gardner may be reaching a bit.
Take for example the protests over the Islamic prayers in a few Toronto public schools. They’re enlightened signs include phrases like, “If I can’t say Christmas, then you can’t say Mohammed,” and “No Islam in our schools”. The first is just absurdly incorrect (e.g. what about kids who are named Mohammed?) and the second is more clear if we replace “Islam” with “religion.” The protesters include members of Canadian Hindu Advocacy, Jewish Defence League Canada and Costa Christian Mission. The JDL is classified as a “right-wing terrorist group” by the FBI.
What do you think? Should we support secularism forwarded on bigoted grounds? Do we just have to take what victories we can, even if it means allying with people doing it for the wrong reasons? Should we play off this bigotry to make people realize the double standard with respect to these religious exemptions?
(h/t Accidental Deliberations)