New Canadian Media

Defending Western Values in Brexit’s Wake

Written by  New Canadian Media Monday, 27 June 2016 11:55
Columnist Fred Maroun argues that the niqab and the burka should be banned in public places.
Columnist Fred Maroun argues that the niqab and the burka should be banned in public places. Photo Credit: NCM Stock Image by Elvira Truglia

Commentary by Fred Maroun in Ottawa

“Immigration played a role in the Brexit campaign”, reported The Wall Street Journal.

Since there were only four percentage points between the winning side (to leave the European Union) and the losing side, it is likely that this factor was decisive.

Concerns over immigration have lately been widespread across the West. They seem to have played an important role in Donald Trump’s success in the Republican primaries, and seem to be fuelling the growing popularity of hard right-wing parties in Europe.

These concerns represent a mixed bag. There is undoubtedly some xenophobia, but there are also valid concerns about the risk that immigration places on our liberal values.

I emigrated from Lebanon in 1984. My main motivation was to live in a society that shared my liberal values, where women and gay people are treated more fairly, and where freedom of expression is guaranteed.

Today, I wonder if Canada and the West in general will continue to be a haven for future generations who are fleeing tyranny.

Sharing liberal values

Many of the newcomers do not share the West’s liberal values and do not easily change their outlook once they arrive. As reported in The Guardian in 2009, a Gallup Poll found that “None of the 500 British Muslims interviewed believed that homosexual acts were morally acceptable”.

France fared better in the same poll, and “35% of French Muslims found homosexual acts to be acceptable”.

Both Britain and France have since then legalized same-sex marriage, a step well beyond simply tolerating homosexuality. If Muslims were in the majority in Britain and France, it is unlikely that same-sex marriage would have become the law.

Canadian Muslim reformer, Raheel Raza, wrote in reference to the niqab, “In the 25 years I have called Canada home, I have seen a steady rise of Muslim women being strangled in the pernicious black tent”.

Another Canadian Muslim reformer, Farzana Hassan, wrote in her book “Unveiled”, “To live strictly according to sharia is the goal of conservative Muslim families in Canada. These are the values they are imparting to their young children”.

Equality of cultures

Interestingly, our liberal values often discourage us from fighting back against attacks on these very same values. The politicians who raise concerns about immigration tend to be demagogues, such as Trump and hard right-wingers such as France’s Marine Le Pen, leader of the Front National.

If those politicians come to power, however, we cannot trust them to protect our liberal values. Demagogues pander to whatever political stand will get them elected, and hard right-wingers do not favour equal rights for minorities, a core principle of liberal values.

A claim often made by some liberals is that all cultures are equal and, therefore, we have no right to impose our culture on others. Even assuming that this claim is true, it only means that we should not forcefully go into other countries and impose our values there.

It does not take away our right to protect our own culture.

This is not a relationship of equals. It is a relationship of subservience.

For example, extreme conservative Muslim countries such as Saudi Arabia expect visitors to comply with their cultural practices, such as women covering up in public, yet we allow visitors and even immigrants to our countries to disregard our values by wearing the niqab in public.

This is not a relationship of equals. It is a relationship of subservience.

Cowering on the sidelines

Moderate Western politicians must protect our liberal values by taking reasonable measures that respect human rights. For example, many Syrian refugees have been welcomed in the West and many more are expected to arrive.

Yet, as noted by Amnesty International, “Gulf countries including Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Bahrain have offered zero resettlement places to Syrian refugees”. The West should demand more participation from rich Muslim countries to ensure that refugees find homes that match their social values.

Another reasonable measure might be screening potential migrants based on their existing values and their ability to adapt to Western norms such as respect for LGBT rights and women’s rights. Once they have immigrated, there should be restrictions on some cultural practices.

As both Raheel Raza and another Canadian Muslim reformer Tarek Fatah have demanded, the niqab and the burka should be banned in public places.

Those of us who believe in liberal values have a right and even a duty to protect them. Centrist and left-wing politicians should be at the forefront of this battle rather than cowering on the sidelines, leaving the floor to illiberal politicians.

Defending our values is important not only for the West, but also to potential immigrants who wish to leave oppressive societies. Refusing to fight for our values is dangerous for us and a disservice to new immigrants.


Fred Maroun is a Canadian of Arab origin who lived in Lebanon until 1984, including during 10 years of civil war. He writes at http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/author/fred-maroun/ and http://www.jpost.com/Blogger/Fred-Maroun.

This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to publisher@newcanadianmedia.ca

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