Stereotype thy neighbour?

For several weeks now, the town of Herouxville, Quebec has been embroiled in something of a controversy over some guidelines published by town council for immigrants to Canada. I’m the first person to be in favour of Canada, and supporting Canadian identity, but the tone of voice you use in that is vitally important, as is the focus of your comments. The town of Herouxville is finding that lack of tact in those departments is a dangerous thing in today’s world of media sound-bites. Its easy to see how many of the pronouncements generated the controversy they did … here’s a small sample:

– It is forbidden to stone women, burn them alive, throw acid on them or circumcise girls.

– Consumption of alcohol is common in Herouxville, as is dancing. “At the end of every year, we decorate a tree with balls and tinsel and some lights. This is normally called ‘Christmas decorations’ or also ‘Christmas tree.’ ”

– Boys and girls swim together in public pools.

– Veils are not welcome. “The only time you may mask or cover your face is during Halloween.”

Today, a group of Islamic women travelled to Herouxville to teach about Islam, as MANY of these statements, given the current political climate, were taken by Islamic groups as aimed directly at them. By all accounts, the women were well received, but there’s a larger point of bigotry that people seem not to have noticed so far … most of the points made in the statements come not from Islam per-se, but from many of the basic tenets and stories of ALL Abrahamic religions. Take the first pronouncement … “It is forbidden to stone women, burn them alive, throw acid on them or circumcise girls.” This seems eminently sensible on the surface, and aimed at some extreme forms of Sharia that are practiced in other parts of the world. The problem with their presence in these pronouncements, however, is over looked … no Canadian Islamic group, even ones supporting some form of Sharia within the Canadian Islamic Community, support stoning of women, circumcision of girls, or any other form of ritual abuse of anyone. Further, these punishments are ALL described to one degree or another in Old Testament documents … are discussions of those old texts to be banned because of their support of stoning as a way of punishing people? Take Deuteronomy for instance …

“If a damsel that is a virgin be betrothed unto an husband, and a man find her in the city, and lie with her; Then ye shall bring them both out unto the gate of that city, and ye shall stone them with stones that they die; the damsel, because she cried not, being in the city; and the man, because he hath humbled his neighbour’s wife: so thou shalt put away evil from among you.” (Deuteronomy 22:23-24)

Given the first pronouncement above, I’ll assume that no Herouxville churches have Bibles that include that passage, or any of the many others that are similar. The second pronouncement talks about the consumption of alcohol, dancing, and Christmas … I’ll leave Christmas alone for now, as the war over Christmas gets re-fought every year, but never with new ammo. However, there are many Christian sects who frown pretty strongly on both drinking AND dancing … are they unwelcome in Herouxville?

The final one about veils is also interesting. This being February in Canada, I can say with VERY good authority that Halloween is not the only time I cover my face, so that one is already a bit questionable. Leaving that aside however, my grandmother was a good Polish Roman Catholic to the end of her days, and I don’t EVER recall seeing her outside in public without some sort of head scarf on. Her face would rarely be covered, granted, but modesty should never be an issue for other people.

I think its important we stand and point at stuff like this when it happens … it reflects badly on all Canadians, in my opinion. Of course, we oppose stoning, but the way its phrased by Herouxville seems to ignore the fact that Islam gets its ideas on stoning from the very same sources we get ours … ancient Abrahamic stories. I’d be a lot less worried about the bigotry of the statements if that first pronouncement included banning the teaching of Deuteronomy in Christian churches … no one objects to rational rules for life in Canada, and that INCLUDES Islamic Canadians in almost every case, but we should always remember our common heritage. Many of the “barbarians” in foreign lands who DO still stone women are probably referencing the VERY same passage from Deuteronomy above, or its Koranic equivalent … what we usually fail to recognize is that Islam builds its beliefs and practices from the VERY same stories that our own ‘Christian’ society is based on. The town council in Herouxville would do well to recognize that before making pronouncements.


One Response

  1. Why should anyone be surprised at Herouxville, Quebec’s municipal laws? They are part and parcel of the xenophobic society of Quebec.

    If anyone is puzzled by Herouxville, they shouldn’t really be. Because, the province of Quebec nde a neo-fascist government of the Parti Quebecois passed a law in August 1977, banning the use of the English language. It became a crime to use English on Store Fronts, or any businesses. The province even created a Police Force to monitor the sign issue. They would go to stores and businesses to inspect and see if the law was being observed in the province. Anyone caught in violation of the Language Law was severely punished, by having to pay a heavy fine in court. Now, that is what Quebec is all about.

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