Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The Politics of Fear in Québec

In the age of the "War on Terror," the politics of fear rages everywhere, and Canada, which prides itself on its official multiculturalism, is no exception. Micheline Carrier claims:
Selon leur habitude, les groupes ou individus de tendance intégriste s'attaquent d'abord aux droits des femmes. Cela ne se voit pas seulement dans des pays totalitaires où la religion sert de programme politique, mais aussi au Canada, aux États-Unis et en France, où l'État est censé être indépendant des pouvoirs religieux. . . . La montée de l’intégrisme religieux dans le monde n’est pas sans effet sur les sociétés canadienne et québécoise.

As is their habit, groups and individuals of the fundamentalist tendency initially attack the rights of women. That is seen not only in totalitarian countries where religion serves as the political program, but also in Canada, the United States, and France, where the state is supposed to be independent of religious powers. . . . The rise of religious fundamentlaism in the world is not without effect on Canadian and Québécois societies. (Micheline Carrier, "Est-ce de l'islamophobie de critiquer l'intégrisme islamiste ?" Trans. Yoshie Furuhashi,, 21 November 2007)
Fundamentalist Islam is a problem in such countries as the Gulf states, but the author blows the problem out of its proportion by sounding a false alarm that Canada, of all places, is vulnerable to it. Just how many Muslims are in Canada? According to the 2001 census, Muslims constituted merely 2% of the total Canadian population, and their proportion was estimated to be about 2.5% in 2006, of whom only a tiny minority must be fundamentalists -- if anything, Canada's points system of immigration, which favors the better off and better educated, means that many Muslim immigrants in Canada, like other immigrants, tend to be liberals of the "professional-managerial class" (to use Barbara and John Ehrenreich's term), given the correlation among class, education, and ideology.

A majority of Canadian Muslims live in Ontario: 356,700 in 2001. Alberta has the second largest population of Muslims in Canada: 103,900 in 2001. Québec, the second most populous Canadian province, comes only in third place with just 57,200 Muslims in 2001, half the size of the Muslim population in Alberta, even though Québec's population is nearly double Alberta's. That being the case, the politics of fear about Islamic fundamentalism in Québec is especially ridiculous, but it is apparently growing nonetheless, as noted by Richard Dufour in "Quebec’s Commission on 'Reasonable Accommodation' and the Growth of Anti-Muslim Chauvinism" (, 8 November 2007).

Instead, the Québécois ought to be asking themselves: does not anti-immigrant xenophobia, coupled with Islamophobia, undermine the Québécois struggle to fight for Québec's Francophone culture and equality with or independence from the rest of Canada, by chasing away Francophone Muslim immigrants?

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