Columns

You are here

Stephen Harper's moral crusade

By: 
John Bell

February 25, 2013

Stephen Harper has created the Office of Religious Freedom within the Department of Foreign Affairs. “Around the world, violations of religious freedom are widespread and they are increasing,” according to a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office. And high time too. I can think of one country in need of the Office’s immediate attention.
 
This is a country where a religious minority is regularly singled out for legislative and verbal attacks from the government--that naturally send a signal to the general population that it is okay to attack said religious minority with physical violence directed either at people or places of worship. This is a country that attempted to extinguish the spiritual beliefs of the indigenous population, where generations of young aboriginal people were subjected to at least cruel isolation from their families and cultures, and at worst brutal torture and murder, all at the hands of the prevailing religious establishment.
 
Religious freedom is impossible without freedom from religion. The country I have in mind is in danger of having religious fundamentalism restrict women’s rights and freedoms. It sees freedom of scientific inquiry curtailed. And it is a country run by a party with religious zealots in its topmost echelons. No doubt you’ve figured out the punch line. Canada’s own record of religious tolerance and freedom is spotty at best. And that of the Harper Tories is downright piss poor. Let’s review.
 
Afghanistan
Harper is intent on militarizing Canadian society, and to do that he needs to build up a bogeyman. Red scare is difficult  when one of your major trading partners is China. Luckily for Harper there’s always Islam. Harper is on record as saying that the major threat facing Canadians “is still Islamicism.” This is justification for Canada’s continuing support for the invasion of Afghanistan that has wasted billions of dollars, not to mention the lives of thousands of Afghans and 158 Canadians.
 
So many bogus rationales for this endless war have been put forward, but the most odious is that Canada is fighting for the rights of Afghan women. Two Afghan-Canadian women are currently suing Sun TV for defamation: when they dared to voice their opposition to a pointless war and occupation, Laila Rashidie and Suraia Sahar were subjected to insult and abuse on the news network. Anyone who doesn’t think fighting Sun TV equals fighting Harper’s agenda needs to rethink the relationship between their head and their anus. Laila and Suraia need your help to fund their fight. Check out their fund-raising website for details. They will be receiving no help from the Office of Religious Freedom.
 
Secret Trial 5
Then there are the five Muslim-Canadians jailed without charge or trial for almost a decade. Granted, the deed was done on the Paul Martin Liberal watch, but Harper has been only too happy to reaffirm the post-911 assault on the rights and freedoms of all Canadians epitomized by the Security Certificates used to jail Hassan Almrei, Adil Charkaoui, Mohamed Harkat, Mahmoud Jaballah and Mohammad Mahjoub.
 
All five men wanted nothing more than the legal rights supposedly held by all Canadians: to be tried in open court and to face their accusers. These rights have been denied them, while their lives have been made hell based on “evidence” derived from torture or the word of profit-seeking opportunists.
 
A film is being made to publicize the plight of these men (two of whom have had their certificates quashed), and to expose the hypocrisy of Harper’s regime. The Secret Trial 5 and the filmmakers need your help: the film is being “crowd sourced”, funded by small donations from Canadians who value the rule of law and human rights. For more information and to donate, visit the film's website. They will be receiving no help from the Office of Religious Freedom.
 
Don’t even get me started on the vilification of Muslim women who dare to wear visible symbols of their faith in this country. The Harper government has blazed new trails to bully and abuse these women–a percentage of the population so small it doesn’t exist statistically–all in aid of stoking anti-Islamic reaction in the population.
 
Zionism and Christian fundamentalism
The Tory government is demonstrably fickle when it comes to religious freedom and its political offshoots: while “Islamicism” can do no right, Zionism can do no wrong in Harper’s eyes.
 
It was only a few years ago that Kairos, a progressive ecumenical group was defunded by the Canadian International Development Agency, literally with a wave of Minister Bev Oda’s pen. Kairos had the nerve to oppose the environmental and cultural carnage wrought by the Tar Sands on Northern Alberta and its native peoples. It also advocated for human rights for Palestinians. That isn’t Harper’s kind of religion, folks.
 
Yet we are told that CIDA funding to Canadian religious (read fundamentalist Christian) “charities” has increased by 42 per cent under Harper’s regime. Emblematic is the more than half a million dollars given to Crossroads Christian Communications with the aim of digging wells in Uganda. Uganda has criminalized same-sex relationships and has been attempting in institute the death penalty for being gay, and Crossroads is an evangelical organization that defines being gay as “perversion” or “sin.”
 
Thanks to public outcry, the grant to Crossroads is “under review.” It may represent the kind of religion that Stephen Harper advocates, but its views are repugnant to a majority of Canadians. Nonetheless, Christian extremists say the episode is evidence of how their religious values are under attack. Those voices were noticeably absent when Kairos was dumped.
 
Stephen Harper’s moral crusade is part cynical ploy to win votes from new Canadian’s concerned about abuse of religious minorities in their homelands. Worse, it will be used to build up Islamaphobia, while advancing a right-wing Christian evangelical mission.
 
English writer C.K Chesterton observed: “The old hypocrite was a man whose aims were really worldly and practical, while he pretended that they were religious. The new hypocrite is one whose aims are really religious, while he pretends that they are worldly and practical.” Stephen Harper is both.

Section: 
Geo Tags: 

Featured Event

Recent Videos

Toronto Steelworkers join solidarity action in Trois-Rivières
Thousands gathered to support workers locked out by ABI, a smelter owned by ALCOA.
Rally outside Morgentaler Clinic January 28, 1988
With mounting attacks on access to abortion, a look at the fight that led to a historic victory in Canada
Visit our YouTube Channel for more videos: Our Youtube Channel
Visit our UStream Channel for live videos: Our Ustream Channel