Let’s keep an open mind about refugees

Peter Jackson
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While the concept wasn’t new, the horror of killing one’s own child to preserve family pride truly hit home to Canadians in December 2007.

Peter Jackson

On the morning of Dec. 10, police in Mississauga were called to the home of a man who said he had just killed his daughter. Sixteen-year-old Aqsa Parvez was clinging to life. She later died in hospital from what was determined to be strangulation. In the 2010 murder trial, it was learned her brother had killed her because she refused to wear a hijab.

Honour killings were in the news again in 2009, when an Afghan immigrant, Mohammad Shafia, along with his son and second wife, were convicted of murdering four women — the couple’s three daughters and Mohammad’s first wife.

They are shocking cases, and raise serious questions about the sort of cultural baggage some newcomers to Canada may be bringing. But they are not the norm, and are not, more importantly, specific to one religion.

That’s not to say honour killings don’t primarily occur in Muslim countries, but that the practice has more to do with a twisted view of society rather than faith.

I was interested to learn recently that the same applies to female circumcision — or, as it is more appropriately called, female genital mutilation.

This cruel practice originated predominantly in Africa, but is not, as some may think, an exclusively Muslim custom. It also occurs among Christian populations.

It’s also important to keep in mind that even in countries where these practices still abound, they are rarely officially condoned.

I bring this up after reading Ujjal Dosanjh’s recent blog posting about the so-called silencing of “white men” in Canadian society. The National Post published it Monday.

Dosanjh, a former B.C. premier and federal cabinet minister, laments that political correctness has become a silencer of free speech.

 Before you laugh it off as so much white privilege nonsense, keep in mind that Dosanjh is technically Indo-Canadian himself. His references to “white guilt” refer not so much to skin colour as traditional Canadian values. And this, he says, has been squelched in the rush to promote unconditional cultural relativity.

“What started as a legitimate change to bring about equality and transformation of how we viewed, treated and spoke about each other has now ossified into a rarely breached wall of silence,” he wrote.

I think he’s right, and this inhibition to speak the truth has helped foster much of the extreme prejudice we see today over Muslim immigrants and refugees.

“This fear has habituated many Western leaders in their frailty to speak the unvarnished truth about the need for the refugees and immigrants welcomed into these societies to fully integrate in them,” Dosanjh says.

Integration doesn’t mean assimilation. We expect new Canadians to keep their essential traditions: to eat the foods and worship the gods they are accustomed to, and to raise their children as they see fit.

But there should be no question that sexual inequality, discrimination and violence have no place here, for Canadians of any generation.

If we are cowed by political correctness against discussing these concerns openly, we create a vacuum that’s easily filled with irrational fear and the unchallenged rants of bona fide bigots.

Are we sufficiently screening potential refugees? Will we be creating parallel and unequal societies? What are the limits to cultural freedoms?

These are all fair topics. What’s not fair is to jump to conclusions: to stereotype Muslims as barbaric and violent, or to decide purely in our own minds what’s going on in theirs.

We are supposed to be living in an open society. It’s time we practised what we preach.


Peter Jackson is The Telegram’s news editor. Email: pjackson@thetelegram.com.

Organizations: National Post

Geographic location: Mississauga, Canada, Africa B.C.

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Recent comments

  • Stephen  Redgrave
    Stephen Redgrave
    January 27, 2016 - 17:49

    In 1991 Calgary, I was driving home at 1am, when I passed the scene of a triple murder in a taxi out on the road. As it turned out- The victims were The Cab driver, An Arabian girl, and her Canadian boyfriend. The son (brother of the dead girl, had got off a plane two days earlier--went to a store I used to like , called "things Military" and bought an AK-47 .223 bore with a 30 shot clip. I bought the very same gun only a few months earlier, but not to kill anyone. As it turns out he literally hunted down his sister for dishonoring the family, by being with a white man, and he sprayed them all with bullets (full metal Jacket) then turned himself in. So Peter, you have an excellent point. We must remain diligent in maintaining our Canadian ways of Life and Liberty.

  • Frank Holden
    January 08, 2016 - 16:26

    Well WRL056, (whoever you are.) you got me. I'm fessin' up to being one of them "truthers." It's a crazy world, ain't it? You can't call somebody a liar for the smallest lie. He'll sue you, never mind if he was lying or not. And then us folks who confront big lies, like "those buildings couldn't come down because planes hit them," or "JFK couldn't have been killed by that magic bullet," we get called conspiracy nuts, "truthers" like we were worse than liars, like we were giving Truth a bad name just for doubting and asking questions. Of course, then there's "deniers," and "debunkers."" We "truthers" treat them like they're worse than liars too for not only denying global warming and debunking UFO's but for being paid to do it. Seems like we'll never get at the truth of anything this way. For example, if I was to present real police evidence, (bodies, bomb parts, etc,) to prove that over 2100 mostly women, children and refugees were killed in the big concentration camp that is Gaza, and that it was done by high tech Israeli carpet bombing during their 51-day "Operation Protective Edge" ground and air assault/attack in summer 2014, you'd most likely call me a conspiracy "truther," and reply like Obama and Netanyahu did that "Israel has the right to protect itself, (from a captive population and with the most sophisticated killing gear in the world.) We could argue forever as if the evidence didn't exist. (By the way, you wouldn't be one of them secret Zionist supremacists who can't bear to hear Israel criticized, now would you? Because I'm writing under by my own name here and you're not.) Anyway, no matter, if the world is that crazy, I'm honored to be called a "truther."

  • So?
    January 08, 2016 - 09:14

    What's a phone book?

  • So?
    January 07, 2016 - 11:11

    Prove Frank Holden is your real name. Is Maggy Carter a real name?

    • Frank
      January 07, 2016 - 15:41

      I'm the only one in the phone book. I don't see the name So? in the book.

  • Maggy Carter
    January 07, 2016 - 01:54

    Perhaps the most compelling comment in Dosanjh's (National Post) piece is the postscript. He underscores the risk of what is a growing conspiracy in the West to censor 'angry white men' (the latter being a catchall phrase for anyone who dares question the growing readiness to accommodate cultural mores alien and often hostile to our own). Says Dosanjh, "The silencing of most good white men has provided an opportunity for the Trumps of the world to rise. That is what happens when we suffocate or silence rational debate." This conflict of values, I think, is amply illustrated by the fundamental difference in how we see women in society versus the view of women fostered by other cultures. From a legal perspective, this clash is most pronounced in the weighting assigned to gender equality versus religious freedom within Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Thus far, it is fair to say, the former has lost ground to the latter in almost every head to head encounter. What's at stake, I would argue, are the gains by women in this country and elsewhere over the past half-century. (And hence my consternation that there are not as many angry white women as there are men.) There are other values at risk thanks to the acquiescence by our national media to the notion that dissent should be quashed at all costs. As Wangersky noted with enthusiasm a few days ago, north American media are rapidly shuttering their comment sections. Alternatively, as in the case of the Globe, they are shutting up even the most rational of posters on any topic touching on Islam. Today, for example, the Globe featured an article by Sheema Khan who insisted 'Muslim men must learn to treat women as equals'. Ms. Khan's take on these cultural affronts to Western values is as compelling and credible as Dosanjh's. She worries about the growth in 'gender apartheid' as a fallout of religious fundamentalism. And yet the Globe saw fit to close the article to any comment whatsoever. If the trend to irrational censorship continues among groups like the Globe, CBC and others, the effect will be to drive dissent not so much underground but into the open arms of social media. Mainstream media will have missed an opportunity to accommodate and guide that discussion, and consequently accelerate their own descent into intellectual irrelevance and economic obsolesce. It is worth noting that the Telegram has been among the most open to dissent in recent years. It even tolerates criticisms of itself - something the Globe, CBC and locally VOCM are much less inclined to do. But that seems to be in jeopardy - not, it seems, so much because the Telegram itself is thin-skinned or opposed to reader feedback on contentious issues - but because individual columnists are feeling the heat. The Telegram, presumably, can't see a direct connection between advertising revenue and reader feedback, and hence may be disinclined to allocate the necessary resources to screen out offensive comments as an alternative to shutting down boards entirely. And that would be unfortunate.

    • Frank Holden
      January 07, 2016 - 10:34

      Great comment Maggy C. We shall soon see by what major media does, whether it serves the public/ecological good or it serves elites. If it serves elites, I'm afraid we should also expect to see muzzling of social media and the internet soon too.

  • Frank Holden
    January 06, 2016 - 22:26

    In the name of the public good, columnists should write about the PC phenom, about prejudices and cruelties around the world. I wish they would do much more of it. Notice below that Malcolm Brown gave what appears to be his real name, as I did. Notice that Non, W and Nicht Shuldig did not. It's no accident these three hidden voices personally attacked Peter Jackson. At best they either misunderstand the topic or at worst they prefer a muzzled, prejudiced society where they can hide and hurl insults. This is the best evidence for removing anonymity from the Tely forum. Let's do it and flush out the snarleygobs. As for the growing PC phenom, let's apply Mr. X's (Donald Sutherland's) questions to Kevin Costner late in the famous JFK movie: Who had the power to do it? Who had the power to cover it up? Who benefited? Who? Well, who benefits when we are taught to treat other humans as enemies, to fear them, not to talk to them, about them or deal with them? Who has the power to make us think and act like such obedient, inhumane zombies? Who has the power to cover it up, to persuade us that this self censorship is morally right, politically correct? Who? As for honor killing, state and religious murder, rape and genital mutilation, and all doing unto others as you wouldn't want done unto yourself, these are every bit as murderous as killing men, women and children with drone strikes, as carpet bombing Gaza, as gunning down black Americans. The Golden Rule applies to everyone equally, doesn't it?

    • WRLO56
      January 08, 2016 - 10:13

      Frank Holden: The arrogance of your statement "At best they either misunderstand the topic or at worst they prefer a muzzled, prejudiced society where they can hide and hurl insults" offends me. You don't even consider the possiblity that others understand the problem, and you don't. The movie' JFK' was a glorification of a crackpot, New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison, who, many people believe, abused his authority to prosecute New Orleans businessman and highly decorated WW2 veteran Clay Shaw, based on very flimsy and unreliable evidence. Shaw was acquitted within hours by the jury. The lines that you quote are very similar to arguments made by 9/11 "truthers" and Global Warming "skeptics"; they are specious arguments. Your final reference to "carpet bombing Gaza" reveals that you are the one who hasn't done any research; whatever is happening in the Middle East, nobody is "carpet bombing" Gaza.

  • Nono
    January 06, 2016 - 14:05

    Is Jackson really that virtuous?

  • W
    January 06, 2016 - 08:22

    Mr. Jackson, go ahead keep an open mind. Are you suggesting that someone who doesn't share your opinion doesn't have an open mind? While you ponder this then are you also suggesting the women of Germany should keep an open mind about the unwarranted mass sexual attacks against them in Cologne, Hamburg and Stuttgart on New Year's Eve? Some parts of these cities have now been declared "out of bounds" to women, citizens of these same cities- their homes. The problem may be as much cultural as religious however we not not have to accept everything that washes in on your "politically correct" tide. Why should we have to lock up our daughters to keep them safe? And a Happy New Year to you too. But, please don't try to tell me what to think, or believe.

  • Malcolm Brown
    January 06, 2016 - 08:06

    Ujjal Dosangh's column that you quote has hit the nail on the head regarding political correctness in this country. I searched for comments on Dosangh's column during my daily morning read of a number of major newspapers across Canada yesterday and today and have so far drawn a blank. The press in all it's forms have earned an "F" for it's silence on this issue.

  • Nicht Schuldig
    January 06, 2016 - 07:41

    Mullah Jackson shifting blame to Christians again.