An environment of Islamophobia

Nationalism, bigotry and political apathy encourage hate rhetoric against Muslims

Following the Christchurch mosque shootings in New Zealand on March 15, people continue to mourn the 50 victims that were slain. Among the victims was Hamza Mustafa, a 16-year-old aspiring veterinarian, Arif Mohamedali Vohra, a man who wanted to see his recently born grandchild, and Abdelfattah Qassem, a pillar of the community. That day, the victims just wanted to pray in peace.

Those affected by the shooting were just people who wanted to practice their faith during Friday prayer, be with their community, and return to their loved ones afterwards. But all of that was taken from them. At the forefront of the shooting is a rhetoric of hate and dehumanization of Muslims that is pervasive in politics and in the media. A framework has been perpetuated that situates Muslims as people who need to be regulated, managed and kept at a distance from Western countries.

Images of Muslims portrayed across media depict a monolithic group, uniquely oppressive culture, and lack any history besides a nebulous idea of a universal Islamic theology. In their theorization, political pundits paint an image that discounts the vastness of Islam, opting to create a fictitious idea of a uniform ideology that all Muslims share.

Conservative commentator Ben Shapiro—who allegedly inspired the shooter before the attack on the Islamic Cultural Centre in Quebec City—argued in a PragerU video, makers of popular conservative “educational” videos, that there are more “radical Muslims” than people believe. Shapiro clearly argues that that there is a collective radical movement throughout the Muslim world, that hate America and the West.

Al Noor Mosque, the primary target of the shootings, refutes this idea; worshipers come from diverse backgrounds, like India, Pakistan, Palestine, UAE, and people born and raised in New Zealand. Each person embodies a rich history of Islam, that differs in practice, theology and lifestyle. Islam is only a part of their identity. As Muslims, we are as multifaceted as any other people; we have different interests, aspirations, dreams, and we don’t always agree with each other.

However, the media’s narrative eradicates the nuance and diversity in Muslim people’s lives.

Rhetoric, foreign policy and media coverage create a narrative that dehumanizes Muslims, enforcing an image unrepresentative of people’s lived experiences. The New York Times columnist Bret Stephens, infamous for his notion of “the disease of the Arab mind,” illustrates the unnuanced, ahistorical analysis of Muslim majority countries that is prevalent in popular discourse, a type of analysis that hinges on geopolitical strategy.

In an article published in September entitled “To Thwart Iran, Save Idlib,” Stephens sets the stakes for the battle of Idlib, a besieged city in Syria, listing ways countries will suffer from the battle of Idlib: “Europe, which could face yet another refugee crisis even as the effects of the last are felt in the resurgence of the far right.” In this strategic framework, Muslims are blamed for the rise of far right bigotry that in turn discriminates against Muslim people. With no dramatic flair, Stephens calls for the bombing of the Syrian Air Force, discounting the fact that civilians will be killed in the process. Muslim people seemingly have no agency in this worldview—we are merely a small part of a grand strategy that Western nations develop under the advisement of “experts” who have tangential knowledge of the diversity of the Muslim world.

The strategic rhetoric and analysis conducted on Muslim countries blames the rise of the far right in Europe on refugees, a supposed problem that intersects economics, culture and demographics, rather than analyzing the roots of the far right. Politicians and pundits stoke Islamophobia—as well as other forms of white supremacy—as a means to gain power. Moreover, policies are implemented as a method to gain economic and political power over Muslim countries.

The rise of hateful rhetoric revealed deep-seated forms of white supremacy. Nigel Farage, one of the champions of Brexit, and many others in the leave campaign, trafficked in anti-Muslim bigotry, using “swarm” imagery to frame refugees and migrants travelling from Muslim majority countries to the UK. Brexit emboldened bigots and brought anti-immigrant rhetoric to the forefront. The normalization of white supremacy rhetoric has tangible negative effects on Muslims living in Western countries.

In the EU-MIDIS II, a report by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights about Muslim discrimination, 27 per cent of respondents have experienced some form of harassment for being Muslim, while 39 per cent of the respondents felt some form of discrimination five years before the study. In another European report by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, it is stated that hate crimes committed against Muslims typically increase after a terrorist attack and target Friday prayers. Both reports also mention how hate crimes are underreported due to the lack of trust in the effectiveness of the policing system and lingering feelings of shame. The hate Muslims are facing is well known to government agencies, however, people are seemingly supporting or apathetic to the injustice.

We are faced with increasing hate against Muslims and it is important to remain vigilant against forms of white supremacy. This process does not stop at voting; we also need to hold politicians and public figures accountable for their words, actions and policies they implement. It is not enough for politicians to talk about immorality of discrimination—their stance should be reflected in the policies they implement.

Beyond the realm of electoral politics, there needs to be a radical shift in the way Muslims are depicted. Muslims are diverse. We span many countries, and have different ideologies. It is not on Muslims to share their stories to help white audiences understand that we are people. The power rests with people who have influence on media, academics and foreign policy.

Rest in peace to all the victims affected and condolences to their families.

Graphic by @sundaemorningcoffee


Editorial: China’s censorship doesn’t have a place at Concordia

On March 26, Concordia University held a conference led by the Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies (MIGS), where Dolkun Isa, president of the World Uighur Congress, spoke. Isa is an Uighur activist who often speaks at conferences highlighting the ongoing human rights violations Uighur Muslims in China face.

Kyle Matthews, Executive Director of MIGS, told The Concordian: “Before the event, we started to see reports in the media that showed [the] Chinese government and some Chinese students disrupting any events about human rights abuses involving the Uighur or the Tibetans. We were kind of concerned about that and thought our event would get cancelled.”

While the event wasn’t cancelled, a day before it took place, Matthews received an email from the Chinese consul general in Montreal. In the email, Matthews was asked for an urgent meeting to discuss the event and their point of view. Matthews ignored the email, but on the day of the event, he found out that the Chinese consul general was pressuring different people in Montreal to cancel the event.

Matthews decided to ignore the email, and the event still took place with two security officers present to ensure there were no disruptions. In an article by La Presse, the Chinese consul general admitted that he pressured Montreal to cancel the event, saying students shouldn’t be exposed to terrorism. “He made some very bizarre references to the Christchurch terrorism case in New Zealand,” said Matthews. “It didn’t make sense because our speaker wasn’t some member of the far right; he’s actually a Muslim Uighur minority from China.”

This idea of linking Uighur Muslims to terrorism isn’t new—in fact, China has claimed they are dealing with threats and violence from separatist Islamist groups in Xinjiang, but human rights groups argue differently. In 2009, riots in Xinjiang’s capital, Urumqi, killed 200 people, most of whom were Han Chinese—numerous attacks have occurred since then, according to BBC News. Human rights groups argue that this violence erupted from China’s oppression of Uighur Muslims, and these violent events were used by the Chinese government to crack down on Uighur Muslims in February 2017, according to the same source.

Evidence highlights that more than 1 million Uighur Muslims in China are detained in what resembles a “massive internment camp,” according to BBC News. In these camps, detainees are forced to learn Mandarin Chinese, renounce their Islamic faith, and swear loyalty to the Communist Party of China and President Xi Jinping, according to the same source.

At first, China ignored the camps’ existence—but in October 2018, Chinese officials legalized “education camps” with the goal of eradicating extremism, according to Vox. Instead of referring to these detainment centres for what they are, the Chinese government has called them “re-education” centres that are meant to fend off terrorism, according to BBC News. Millions of people have disappeared, and Uighur Muslims are under surveillance, according to Vox. Not only that, but officials say these “re-education” centres offer classes on topics such as Chinese history and culture, and have said that inmates are “happier” after their imprisonment, according to CNN. Yet, various camp survivors have said they were physically tortured for the purpose of brainwashing, were sleep deprived, isolated without food and water, and were subject to waterboarding, according to Vox.

It is difficult to know every detail of what Uighur Muslims are currently going through, as China’s lack of freedom of press hinders journalists’ ability to report freely. “What’s deeply troubling is that China is exporting its authoritarianism to Western countries,” said Matthews. “This is the third case of Chinese political interference in events happening at Canadian universities. One was at the University of Toronto, one was at McMaster, and now Concordia comes to number three.”

We at The Concordian believe this situation further highlights how urgent it is for us to discuss what is happening in Xinjiang. We’re proud of our university for offering its security services to ensure the conference took place. The ongoing violation of human rights for Uighur Muslims in China is an issue that must be continuously spoken about. Censorship has no place in Canada, or in Canadian universities—we at The Concordian hope to see this conversation continue and bring change.

Graphic by @sundaemorningcoffee


Ignoring Islamophobia doesn’t make it go away

When an ostrich realizes they’re in danger and they can’t run away, they fall to the ground and remain still while laying their head and neck flat on the ground. That way, they can blend in with the colour of the soil and avoid their threat. This is often referred to as the “ostrich approach,” which Collins Dictionary defines as “a person who refuses to face reality or recognize the truth.”

Recently, we saw the Quebec premier, François Legault, doing exactly that. Near the end of January, he ruled out the idea of dedicating a day to anti-Islamophobia, saying, “I don’t think there is Islamophobia in Quebec, so I don’t see why there would be a day devoted to Islamophobia,” according to the Montreal Gazette. The National Council of Canadian Muslims’s (NCCM) Executive Director, Ihsaan Gardee, told Global News, “[…] taking the ostrich approach and putting your head in the sand is not going to solve a problem or make it go away.”

We at The Concordian wholeheartedly agree with the NCCM’s executive director’s statement. Islamophobia is a real and ongoing problem in Quebec. Denying its existence and prevalence is not only wrong, it’s promoting a lie. The Premier later “clarified” his statement by saying that “Islamophobia exists in Quebec […] but not a current of Islamophobia. Quebec is not Islamophobic or racist,” according to the Montreal Gazette.

A spokesperson for Legault later clarified, “there is no trend or culture of Islamophobia in Quebec. Quebecers are open and tolerant and they shall continue to exhibit these qualities.” How does it, in any way, make sense to say that Islamophobia does exist in Quebec, while simultaneously saying there is no “current” or “trend?” Does the government not analyze statistics or facts and figures? Do they not speak to the Muslim community in Quebec, who experience such acts firsthand? Do they not remember the root cause of the Jan. 29 2017 mosque shooting?

In 2018, a year after the Jan. 29 attack, the NCCM had created a proposal to devote the day to anti-Islamophobia. The CAQ spokesperson at the time said the anniversary should instead be dedicated to commemorating the victims’ memories, according to CBC. The Parti Québécois also rejected the proposal by saying the term Islamophobia is “too controversial” and there is already an international day that promotes eliminating racial discrimination, according to the same source.

We at The Concordian find it exhaustingly sad that the NCCM has been rejected twice in trying to promote anti-Islamophobia in Quebec. If the government was truly supportive of its Muslim community, it would have no trouble dedicating one day of the entire year to lend its voice to uplift Muslims and their struggles. The truth is, Quebec has always had a problem with Islam, from the 2013 Quebec Charter of Values that aimed to ban religious symbols and attire in the public sector (like the hijab), to white nationalist groups against Islam like PEGIDA that flourish in the province. And, just recently, Quebec’s Minister for the Status of Women, Isabelle Charest, said the hijab is oppressive. She said, “When a religion dictates clothing […] this is not freedom of choice […] it’s a sign of oppression,” according to the Montreal Gazette. Isn’t the government dictating what a woman can and cannot wear just as oppressive, if not more?

Anti-Muslim sentiments are higher in Quebec than in the rest of Canada, according to a 2018 study published in the Canadian Review of Sociology. CBC reported that the study found that Muslims are the least liked social group amongst Canadians. The study asked Canadians to assign certain groups a score from zero to 100 that demonstrated how much they approved of them and Muslims in Quebec received the lowest score of 56. The study also found that 70 per cent of respondents in Quebec expressed “significant” anti-Muslim sentiment and 57 per cent of Quebec respondents had more negative attitudes towards Muslims than other racial minorities.

The truth is, we can fill up an entire page in this week’s issue of The Concordian with facts and figures demonstrating just how prevalent Islamophobia is in Quebec. Perhaps government officials are putting too much emphasis on the “phobia” part of Islamophobia, when it encompasses more than just a fear of Muslims and Islam. Perhaps they believe Islamophobia only manifests itself in violent attacks, like the Jan. 29 shooting. But we at The Concordian believe Quebec officials, and citizens, need to understand that Islamophobia exists in more ways than just attacks and fear. It is disliking an entire group for what they believe in. It is scoffing at their struggles rather than acknowledging them. It is questioning whether or not they deserve basic human rights. Islamophobia is real and, using the Premier’s words, is a “trend” in our province. Let’s fight against it—but first, let’s acknowledge it instead of taking the ostrich approach.

Graphic by @spooky_soda


Anti-Semitism common among European Muslims, says Concordia guest speaker

MIGS invited German anti-Semitism researcher Günther Jikeli to host the talk

Anti-semitism expert Günther Jikeli challenged Concordia students and faculty to confront Muslim-European anti-Semitism in a recent talk.

“Muslim Anti-Semitism in Europe: What Changes Can Be Expected With The New Wave of Refugees?” was presented to a dozen attendees on Feb. 17. The event was organized by the Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies (MIGS), a Concordia-based research group which advocates for genocide education and government intervention in cases of genocide.

Anti-Semitism, Jikeli said, is more common among Muslims than among the general European population.

Citing his own 2006 study for the Institute for the Study of Global Anti-Semitism and Policy, Jikeli said that Muslims in France, Britain, Germany and Spain were on average 10 times more likely than the general population to hold “very unfavorable” views of Jews.

In Spain alone, 60 per cent of Muslims held “somewhat unfavorable” or “very unfavorable” views of Jews, according to Jikeli’s research. In a 2014 survey by French think tank Fondapol, more than half of French Muslims felt Jews had too much influence in politics, the media and the economy.

Jikeli addressed four distinct forms of Muslim anti-Semitism based on his own survey of European Muslims. Photo by Ana Hernandez.


Jikeli said there are currently 22 million Muslims within the European Union, representing 4.3 per cent of the total population. Seventy per cent of them live in the U.K., France or Germany.

Based on his own survey of European Muslims, Jikeli identified four distinct forms of Muslim anti-Semitism: hatred grounded in conspiracy theories about Jews and their influence, anti-Zionism that associates all Jews with Israel, ethnic narratives about Jews and Muslims being sworn enemies, and anti-Semitism with no clear foundation.

Jikeli said there is no correlation between anti-Semitism and economic status or education, areas in which European Muslims are often disadvantaged.

MIGS Executive Director Kyle Matthews. Photo by Ana Hernandez.

Despite these findings, Jikeli cautioned against sweeping generalizations. “[European Muslims] are very diverse and even in conflict with each other very often,” Jikeli said. He also warned of European Islamist organizations which claim to represent Muslims, but are statistically viewed unfavorably by many European Muslims.

Jikeli identified other sources of anti-Semitism in Europe as well, including far-right nationalism and anti-Zionism from the political left.

According to MIGS Executive Director Kyle Matthews, Jikeli’s findings are relevant for Canadians as well as for Europeans. “Mr. Jikeli’s research poses important ethical questions with regards to what is the best strategy to help and assist refugees fleeing war and persecution,” he said.

Jikeli said that in order to properly integrate migrants and refugees into Canadian society, Canadians must be aware of other nations’ struggles with respect to integration.

He also warned that anti-Semitism is a global phenomenon. “I think people don’t want to face that there is, today, anti-Semitism among Muslims, but also among non-Muslims,” said Jikeli. “To face it is difficult, challenging, because then we have to think sometimes about our own society.”

Student Life

My religion: My Muslim faith

One Concordian’s honest portrait of what his faith means to him

As a Canadian-born Muslim, I’ve learned to live and grow in this country during one of the most trying times for Muslims around the world. Faith seriously entered my life when I was eight years old. My father had just been diagnosed with lymphoma and leukaemia, and his situation was quite dire.

We had been a relatively religious family up until this point, going to the mosque most Fridays and spending time within the Muslim community. However, my father’s sickness deepened our faith. We heavily relied on God and on our knowledge of the Islamic faith to get through that hard time.

Warraich’s father and brother

At the worst point of his sickness, it seemed not much more could be done, so my father planned a visit to the holy city of Mecca. There, he performed the Islamic hajj pilgrimage—a must for any Muslim before they die. After his pilgrimage, my father had a miraculous recovery, which further solidified his faith, and our family’s faith.

Religion is all around us. For thousands of years, it has been a driving force behind civilizations and understanding societies and the people who fill this planet. Sadly, it has also been the cause of many acts of war, genocide and persecution—whether it is a group of people using religion as a front to further their own political motives and agendas, or a group being persecuted for following a particular religion.

It seems to me that, these days, people increasingly dislike the concept of religion. Many cite it as outdated and the cause of the barbaric acts of violence we have all seen throughout the world.

I have found it difficult to refute these ideas in discussions with nonreligious or atheist people. Many who don’t practice any religion know very little about religion. As such, I believe when people see images and videos of people carrying out acts of violence in the name of religion, they paint a picture of that religion based solely on the brutality—ignoring all the positive sides of religion.

Islam is based on five pillars all Muslims should adhere to. The first pillar is “ shahada,” a declaration that there is only one God, and the Prophet Muhammad is the last of his messengers.  The second pillar is “salat,” a prayer Muslims perform five times a day. The third pillar is “zakat,” which means giving charity to the poor and to those in need. The fourth pillar is “sawm,” which is the act of fasting during the holy month of Ramadan. The final pillar is “hajj,” the pilgrimage to Mecca.

These pillars represent the basis on which Islam was created. Growing up, my parents really emphasized the importance of kindness and generosity.

“This should be the focus of your time here on earth,” they’d say.  Islam’s pillars reinforce kindness. This is why faith plays such a big part in my life. Many people say: “What if it’s all fake? And you’ve lived your life trying to be good all for nothing?” Yet, that is the point of Islam and many other religions in the first place—to sacrifice, and live your life for others, having faith that this is your purpose.

Warraich’s father (top left), with his siblings and other relatives

For me, regardless of whether it’s all fake or not, religion has taught me these key principles. To be kind, generous, empathetic, honest and to help people, regardless of their faith. Living with these ideals and trying to uphold them regularly is, in my opinion, a good way to live your life—this is regardless of what you feel happens after we die. This is why I find religion so powerful.

On Jan. 29, in la grande mosquée de Québec in Quebec city, six men, four of whom were fathers to young children, were massacred as they stood for evening prayer. The term I want to introduce here is “shahid.” This word is used to denote a martyr, a person who has died fulfilling a religious commandment.

Though people will say these men were not fighting for Islam in the typical way we think of today, these men are the brightest and most valued of Muslims—innocent, humble and hardworking fathers who were taken from this world and from their children too early. We must not forget what happened almost 10 days ago, we must not forget the names of these men, and we must always remember what they and their families were forced to go through in order to shed light on the problems our society faces. May they find their way into eternal paradise and may their families be lessened of the burden they now face.


Burkini backlash

This past week, images surfaced from Cannes, France where four armed police officers surrounded an innocent woman on the beach. They forced her to remove her garments amongst a bevy of bystanders and issued her a hefty fine for defying a new ban that prohibits her apparel.

The burkini is a swimsuit that essentially covers the entire body and is worn by Islamic women around the world when swimming or sunbathing. It adheres to their religious beliefs regarding veiling, while also allowing them to enjoy typical aquatic activities, such as going to the beach on a sweltering summer day.

Several French municipalities banned the religious swimwear, with the French Prime Minister saying that the swimsuit symbolizes “the enslavement of women,” according to the CBC. However, this past Friday the ban was overturned by a French high court, ruling that municipalities cannot issue fines, according to another report by the CBC.

Nevertheless, the debate has even spread overseas to Quebec. CAQ MNA Nathalie Roy recently advocated for a province-wide ban of the burkini, and linked the religious garment to radical Islam, according to the CBC. Meanwhile, Parti Quebecois leadership candidate Jean-Francois Lisée said to CTV that the hijab and burkini represent “the ultimate symbol of oppression of women.”

These remarks are reminiscent of Pauline Marois’ mandate back in 2012, when her government tried to introduce the draconian Charter of Quebec Values, which drew upon the dark underbelly of Quebec’s xenophobia. Although the charter was never passed, it stirred up quite the controversy and casted many religious minorities—including Muslim women—to the peripheries of society.

Here at The Concordian, we are absolutely mortified by the conversation amongst Quebec’s political elites, and we fully oppose any ban on religious garments. Since when is it appropriate for the government to tell its citizens how to dress?

It was nearly a century ago that women were subjected to similar harassment from the police in North America, but it was because their swimsuits were too short and revealed too much skin, according to an article published in The Huffington Post. An accompanying photo featured in the article reveals a policeman using measuring tape to see if the length of a woman’s bathing suit is preserving her modesty.

It is preposterous and paradoxical to create a policy that would aim to impose that same kind of control. Furthermore, it is blatantly oppressive and misogynistic to tell women how to dress, in order to meet certain standards, or to better blend into society.

We should all have the right to wear whatever we want, whenever we want—even if it signifies our religious beliefs. The beauty of living in a secular and pluralistic society is that people have the power to determine their own destiny, and we think that wearing the burkini or practicing Islam is a part of that. We should be advocating for tolerance and acceptance, rather than resorting to divisive tactics that drive minority groups further towards the fringes of society.  


Unintended victims: Muslims in Western society

Fox News anchor’s anti-Muslim rant indicative of systematic problem

Over the course of the past few weeks, terrorism has again become the talk of the media, if it ever even left. Of course, our hearts and minds should go out to the victims of such tragedies—even the unintended ones.

It is never easy to be a member of a visible minority. But it becomes even more difficult, almost unbearably so, when your minority is associated with acts of terror. It’s the reality that Muslims and those of Middle Eastern descent have been living with ever since 9/11 fourteen years ago. This is especially true in France, which has banned the hijab in public schools, in addition to the niqab and burqa in public spaces. (This may sound familiar to those familiar with the policies of our own former premier, Pauline Marois.)

The effects of these attacks are felt on them for years, even if they are completely isolated from the incident at hand. Hate doesn’t heal. And that was never more apparent than on Fox News on Jan. 10, when Jeanine Pirro opened her segment with the words: “We need to kill them.”

Of course, who “them” was slowly became horribly clear.

“We need to kill them, the radical Muslim terrorists hell-bent on killing us,” Pirro continued. “You’re in danger. I’m in danger. We’re at war, and this is not going to stop.”

For those of you who have the unfortunate punishment of being familiar with Fox News rhetoric, this doesn’t sound too out of the ordinary. But she continued, and it only got worse.

“Our job is to arm [unradical Muslims] to the teeth, give them everything they need to take out these Islamic fanatics—let them do the job. We simply need to look the other way.”

In the seven minute-long rant, Pirro also calls for an end to “nuclear negotiation nonsense,” claiming that “they don’t operate the way we do” and that they simply “can’t even reason with these people.” Other lines that I could not believe were not satire included: “bomb them, bomb them, and bomb them again.” Upon speaking about President Barack Obama’s supposed “fear” of confronting terrorism, she adds: “I’m surprised the President hasn’t signed an executive order that says ‘don’t offend Muslims.’”

Allow me to understand this correctly: Pirro is asking for the co-operation of people that she claims cannot be reasoned with due to a perceived lack of societal intelligence, people that she claims don’t “operate” the same way “we” do (whoever this perceived “we” is)? She is asking the average citizen to enter into a war with an organized, military force and put their families in danger—and she refuses to acknowledge the idea of not offending them?

There’s a horrible trend of Muslims being asked to take responsibility for the acts of extremists, and I admit that, working in newsrooms, it’s something I have been complicit to. We ask them to denounce it (as if they wouldn’t), to explain it (how can anyone “explain” senseless violence?), and now, we ask them to be executioners.

Perhaps we should talk about Western foreign policy in the Middle East as a catalyst for anti-Western sentiment, and not paint a minority with a broad brush of blood.


There’s plenty of barbershops in the sea

Graphic by Jennifer Kwan.

Canada prides itself on its multiculturalism, opening its doors wide to immigrants from countries all over the globe. With them, they bring their suitcases filled with culture, beliefs, values and religion. As Canada becomes more and more diverse, its multiculturalism has proven to be both a blessing and, for some people, a burden.

Terminal Barber Shop in Toronto recently found itself in the middle of a human rights dispute after the barbers refused to cut Faith McGregor’s hair back in June. The shop is run by Muslims, whose religion prohibits them from cutting a woman’s hair, unless they are a family member.

McGregor filed a human rights complaint and told the CBC that she wants “the shop to be cited and forced to give haircuts in the fashion they provide [barbershop style] to any woman, or man that asks for one.” She also wants the shop to set up a sign stating that they will serve both men and women.

Now, here is where our problem lies. We have two sets of rights butting heads with each other; the right to religious freedom and McGregor’s right as a woman to not be denied service based on her gender. This cannot be solved with a ‘my rights are more important than yours’ attitude. Barbara Hall, the Head of the Ontario Human Rights Commission, told the CBC that “no right is absolute.”

There is something about McGregor’s story that irks me. In August, the men of the barbershop came forward and offered McGregor a haircut from a willing professional. McGregor refused and according to the National Post, she said that, “now it’s bigger than what occurred with me that one day, in one afternoon.”

Bigger? Frankly, it wasn’t a big issue in the first place. There is also the argument circulating that McGregor was refused because she wanted a “men’s haircut.” That has nothing to do with it. The barbers did not refuse to cut her hair because of the length she desired. Their refusal was based on their values and that alone.

A part of me is actually bothered that this so-called violation of human rights is gaining so much attention. There are much bigger fish to fry, especially when religion is involved. It is not as if McGregor could not walk down the street and find another barbershop or salon that would be more than willing to cut her precious locks.

It is not uncommon to find salons and estheticians that advertise themselves as “women only.” If a man walked in looking to get his eyebrows groomed and was refused, would he file a complaint? Probably not, because the man can more-than-likely find another esthetician to tame his brows.

Ultimately, the men were not discriminating because they “disrespect” women, a stereotype that a lot of Muslim men have to live with. People seem to forget that many religions preach male dominance, but not everyone that follows that religion abides by this. The men simply refused out of modesty and they have the right to do so.

McGregor is, in my opinion, overreacting. If we are going to learn to live together in Canada, we need to be a little more open-minded. I do agree that for the most part, people need to integrate into Canadian society. However, with the influx of different cultures and religions, these cases will be more common and they aren’t as black and white as they used to be.

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