The Brewing "Niquab" Tragedy

During the closing days of last week and over the weekend, we have seen not simply an escalation in virulent verbal attacks on Muslims, but two documented assaults on Muslim women, one wearing a niquab, the other no more than a simple hijab.

In Montreal, a pregnant young Muslim woman was assaulted and knocked to the ground by two teenage males. In a Toronto mall, a second young woman was roughly handled by an adult male while in the presence of her two young daughters.

These events and others, unpleasant but thus far less violent, coincide with comments made in the context of the pending federal election that clearly employed religious symbolism and identity as wedge issues among Canadians. No political, societal, religious group or individual in this country should be acting in a way as to promote or create the intolerance and hate that leads to these kinds of actions. Our common religious injunction in whatever form to “love our neighbour” leads us to oppose any kind of effort that divides our neighbours.

To date, the Courts are having none of this; as religious leaders, neither must we.

We need not take sides on the merits or otherwise of any particular religious symbol, including the niquab, but these are issues of human decency; of religious integrity; of religious liberty; of the security of persons.

We must stand up for our fellow citizens who have long been subject to abuse, and now to violence. The next episode may yet issue in death.  While I am convinced of whose hands will be stained with innocent blood, ours will be stained equally if we stand by and allow this divisive and ignorant evil to proceed unchallenged by the religious communities any longer.

I do not invite; I implore us to take action.

This blog was contributed by Dr. James Christie, Ridd Institute for Religion and Global Policy, University of Winnipeg.