Charles Taylor says PM’s anti-niqab rhetoric helps terrorist recruiters

Taylor say Stephen Harper seems ‘tone deaf’ to the dangerous influence of his rhetoric



OTTAWA – Prime Minister Stephen Harper was accused Saturday of playing into the hands of terrorist recruiters with inflammatory comments about the face-covering veil worn by some Muslim women.

The accusation came from renowned philosopher Charles Taylor, who co-chaired Quebec’s 2007 commission on reasonable accommodation of cultural and religious minorities.

Taylor said Harper is fuelling anti-Muslim sentiment and that, in turn, makes alienated Muslim Canadians easier targets for recruitment by radical Islamist terrorists.

“Ask yourself what are the recruiters for Islamic State saying? They’re saying (to Muslims), ‘Look, they despise you, they think that you’re foreign, you’re dangerous, you’re not accepted here, so why don’t you come with us?'” Taylor said following a speech to the annual summit of the Broadbent Institute, a social democratic think-thank.

Related post: Stephen Harper and the niqab gambit

“The more you make it sound like that (is true), the more you’re helping them. And it’s strange that people don’t see this.”

Harper has said it’s “offensive” for women to wear the face-covering niqab when taking the oath of citizenship. And he’s called the niqab the product of an “anti-women” culture.

Last week, Conservative backbencher Larry Miller was forced to apologize after saying women who insist on wearing a veil during the citizenship ceremony should “stay the hell where they came from.” Harper’s office called the comment “inappropriate” but the prime minister himself has not weighed in.

Opinion polls suggest a majority of Canadians agree with Harper, a development Taylor called “a ridiculously disproportionate reaction” to the “tiny” number of women who wear the niqab in Canada.

Related post: Justin Trudeau on liberty and the niqab

Nevertheless, he said the reaction is understandable given the furor over Islamic terrorism.

“We’re in a context where Islamaphobia is very powerful in the West,” he said.

“It’s perfectly understandable emotionally. We have to get over it and the worst and the last thing we need is for our political leaders to surf on it and encourage it.”

Taylor said Harper seems “tone deaf” to the dangerous impact his rhetoric can have, although he said it also seems to be a deliberate tactic to whip up support in the run-up to the next federal election, scheduled for October.

He called on all political leaders to show restraint, even if it costs them votes, rather than risk “terrible damage” to Canadian society.

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau has been criticized by Conservatives, NDP Leader Tom Mulcair and two prominent Jewish groups for suggesting that Harper is employing the kind of rhetoric that historically triggered some of Canada’s most shameful episodes of bigotry, including the “none is too many” approach to Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi Germany in the 1930s and 40s.

But Taylor said the stereotyping and stigmatization of Muslims today is “sociologically very, very similar” to that faced by Jews in the past.

“This kind of scapegoating, alas, we see this throughout human history … We’ve got to fight it wherever it comes up, no quarter. This is something we can give not an inch to, not a centimetre to.”

Related posts: Follow this link for more coverage from the Progress Summit


Charles Taylor says PM’s anti-niqab rhetoric helps terrorist recruiters

  1. Taylor is correct that the stereotyping and stigmatization of Muslims today is “sociologically similar” to that faced by Jews in the past. Not nearly to the same degree … yet. Still, there is a disturbing and seemingly growing trend, rooted in ignorance and fear, to push back against or lash out against Muslims in general–particularly Arab or Arab-looking people–in a thoughtless, knee-jerk, mob-mentality reaction to Islamic terrorism.

    What compounds the problem even further–and likely even more harmful–is the poorly-considered, knee-jerk attempt to shelter and defend Muslims from stigmatization of denying an honest conversation of the complex issues at play. The anti-thesis of ignorantly insisting all Muslims are to blame for Islamic terrorism is not ignorantly insisting Islam has nothing to do with Islamic terrorism. It is engaging the complex and nuanced issue honestly and thoughtfully.

    While we must ensure we combat the blanket stigmatization of Muslims, we cannot move forward without honestly admitting that Islam itself–the religion–is unique in both doctrine and the culture in which it is practiced. In the same way not all Muslims are terrorists, not all religions are equal. And we cannot go on deluding ourselves, against all evidence, that terrorism and atrocities can be motivated and justified on any basis imaginable except religious belief. Religious belief plays a significant to near exclusive role in the overwhelming majority of Islamic terrorist acts. Saying that is in no way equating all Muslims with terrorism, and in no way should such an ignorant conclusion be made. And acknowledging the flaws of the doctrine and current state of Islam are capable of moving people–a small number of people–far too easily to violence, is being honest and critically important to the conversation.

  2. Harper never used the word “Muslim”. He talked about a “culture that is anti-women”. Anyone with half a brain understood he was talking about Islamism, a minority among Muslims. Many Muslims fight against those forcing women to wear full face covering. It is Charles Taylor, not Harper, who is equating the niqab with Islam, something completely untrue. He, not Harper, is the one painting all Muslims with the same brush and, therefore, it is Taylor, not Harper, who is promoting Islamophobia.

    Charles Taylor is threatening our peaceful and egalitarian Canadian society, opened to all who wish to respect our values, for the sole purpose of helping his favorite politician. I find this disgusting.

  3. O.K. Here’s the deal ! Your country , your rules ! Our country , OUR rules . If we make a law that you can’t conceal your face then that’s that !

    • We have made the rules that people have to abide by in this country, be they regular citizens or law makers; our highest ones are called the Constitution and the Charter. Those documents protect citizens from discrimination based on religion. Maybe you should spend more time learning about how our system works and the reasons behind it and less posting this sort of nonsense on the internet.

  4. I think Harper is perfectly aware of the fact that his rhetoric and actions have increased the threat of terrorism to Canadians. I think his dream scenario is a terrorist attack near election day because it would translate into a major slide toward the CPC because there are a lot of people who vote based on ignorance and fear. It wouldn’t take much to spook them into voting CPC.

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