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Ezra Levant


Time to face facts on burkas

By Ezra Levant, October 5, 2010

Here's my latest column in the Sun:

Some 54% of Canadians want to ban the burka, the head-to-toe shroud worn by a tiny minority of Muslim women in the West, but the common dress in medieval backwaters like Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia.

According to a Leger Marketing poll commissioned by QMI Agency, support for a ban is highest in Quebec at 73%.

Burkas are rare in Canada. They totally obliterate the identity of the woman inside. The face is covered with a mesh grille, like a beekeeper’s hat.

But less rare is the niqab, which leaves a slit open for the eyes.

More common still is the hijab, which covers the head and neck like a scarf.

Get to know those words, as you’ll be seeing more of them in the years ahead.

Others are planning to teach your daughters about them. Last fall, Mattel sponsored an exhibition featuring Barbie in a burka.

Canada’s misguided experiment with multiculturalism pretends that all cultural ideas are equal, and Canadian values, such as the equality of men and women, are no better than foreign values like the subjugation of women.

Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms, enacted in 1982 when our Muslim population was tiny, is contradictory.

Section 27 of the Charter calls for “the preservation and enhancement of the multicultural heritage of Canadians.”

But Section 28 says that rights “are guaranteed equally to male and female persons.”

Well, which is it? “Enhancing” Saudi values? Or guaranteeing women’s equality?

Because you can’t have both.

Margaret Atwood published her sci-fi novel The Handmaid’s Tale, about America being taken over by a Christian theocracy that treats women as sexual property, 25 years ago.

It has become trite to watch cultural liberals like Atwood bravely attack imaginary discrimination, while staying silent on real discrimination.

The Handmaid’s Tale won Atwood the Governor General’s Award for fiction. A book about the subjugation of women in radical Islam would win Atwood a death threat.

Atwood loves posing as a feminist at champagne receptions in her honour. But she’ll leave the heavy lifting to people like Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

She’s the Somali refugee who wrote and narrated a movie called Submission, about the place of women in radical Islam.

The film’s producer, Theo Van Gogh, was murdered for it, but a note pinned with a knife into his body referred primarily to Hirsi Ali, who has had to live under around-the-clock security ever since.

That’s all a bit too real for Atwood, and is the reason why other feminists like the once-noisy Judy Rebick are so meek and gentle with the real butchers of women’s rights.

So, should the burka be banned?

It’s anathema for a free country like Canada to tell citizens how to dress.

The same liberty that allows the rest of us to dress as we like is the liberty that allows a woman to hide her face.

But what about in a bank?

Should masked women, Muslim or not, be allowed into a bank? If that’s okay, how about a man in a ski mask?

How about testifying in court?

Who else can hide their eyes and facial expressions while condemning an accused or swearing to their own innocence?

And why stop at witnesses — what about judges or police officers in a burka?

What about ID cards like a driver’s licence?

What point is an ID card if it doesn’t actually ID you?

Can you vote with a mask on? Board a plane?

If a burka is okay, how about a Ku Klux Klan mask?

But more than all that, is wearing a burka truly an act of individual liberty?

For some it is. But for others, it is a manifestation of tyranny — a brutal husband demanding submission; a radical imam threatening frightened immigrant women.

We know from the case of Aqsa Parvez — killed by her father and brother for dressing in western fashion rather than in traditional Islamic clothing — that defying these orders can lead to murder.

In Afghanistan, uncovered women have acid thrown in their faces.

Only 54% of us want a ban?



By Ezra Levant on September 12, 2010

Margaret Atwood is many things. She's a "National Treasure", and recipient of countless subsidies from the Canadian government, but she endorsed the separatist Bloc Quebecois in the last election.

She natters on about the environment, but jet-sets like a rock-star. I'm guessing it's not coach class, either.

She's a socialist millionaire.

And she's the vice-president of International PEN, the writers free speech group, and a censor herself.

Here's my story in the Sunday Sun newspapers.

Atwood's free-speech flop

Canadian author Margaret Atwood is a free-speech activist. She is the vice-president of International PEN, the advocacy group for imprisoned writers.

As a civil libertarian, Atwood defends freedom, even for odious people. Like Al Jazeera, the satellite network owned by an Arab sheik. Al Jazeera helps publicize terrorists like al-Qaida, who send snuff videos to the channel, knowing they will be obediently aired as propaganda.

Al Jazeera doesn’t just broadcast terrorism. Sometimes the channel goes further. Two years ago Israel released Samir Kuntar, a convicted terrorist serving time for mass murder. One of Kuntar’s murder victims was a four-year-old Jewish girl he smashed with a rock. When Kuntar was released to Lebanon, Al Jazeera televised the welcome-home party. Then Al Jazeera threw him a party themselves. Al Jazeera’s Beirut chief, Ghassan bin Jeddo, praised the child-killer as a “pan-Arab hero.”

Atwood loves free speech so much, she doesn’t just support Al Jazeera from arm’s-length. She appears on the network to promote her books.

Like Al Jazeera, Atwood vigorously opposed the war in Iraq. But lest you think she is anti-Israel, this spring she visited Tel Aviv to accept a book prize. Arab students demanded that she refuse the award, but she was true to her principles: “We don’t do cultural boycotts,” she announced.

The fact that the prize came with a $500,000 cheque never even entered her mind.

There is no journalist too odious for her to defend, and no controversy that would cause her to boycott a cultural event. As she told a gala in her honour this April, “once the censoring begins, who shall be in control of it, and where will it stop?”


So imagine how bad the Sun must be — I’m talking about this newspaper, dear reader! — for Atwood to sign a petition demanding that a TV news channel proposed by Sun Media be stopped by the Canadian government.

Al Jazeera is fine by her. But Atwood demands that Sun TV News be banned.

She even signed a petition to that effect, to be delivered to the CRTC, the regulatory agency for Canadian television.

And then she boasted about what she’d done on her Twitter website, telling her 82,000 followers to “Join me!”

What is that, if not a cultural boycott and a celebration of censorship?

Atwood is not alone. Jim Travers of the Toronto Star declared that if Sun TV can’t prove it will be critical of the government, “it certainly shouldn’t have that licence.” His colleague Susan Delacourt wrote that the Sun must answer for its “blend of politics and journalism ... before it gets a licence.” Don Newman, the former CBC anchor, wrote Sun TV is “the absolute last thing this country needs.”

What’s going on here? Why are journalists calling for the censorship of other journalists?

The licence Sun TV is asking for would have cable companies offer the channel to Canadians, but not force anyone to pay for it. By comparison, everyone must pay for CBC and CTV news channels whether they want them or not.

So why do Atwood, Travers, Delacourt and Newman hate the Sun so passionately?

Is it fear of business competition? Not likely. Atwood is a millionaire author, Newman is retired, and Travers and Delacourt are on salaries — Sun TV won’t hurt their pocketbooks. So what is it?

It’s intellectual competition.

For decades, the only political opinion allowed on TV news has been liberal: Anti-American, anti-Christian, soft-on-crime, soft-on-terrorists, radical environmentalism, big government mush.

Sun TV will be like the Sun newspapers: Independent, conservative, populist, patriotic — and fun.

Sun TV will break the left-wing mainstream media consensus. That’s why the most left-wing journalists in the country despise it.

And that’s why Peg Atwood violated everything she stands for, by asking the government to censor it.


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