You can’t make this stuff up


Because what’s more fun than some old fashioned racism shrouded in pro-woman rhetoric?

Immigrants wishing to live in the small Canadian town of Herouxville, Quebec, must not stone women to death in public, burn them alive or throw acid on them, according to an extraordinary set of rules released by the local council.
The declaration, published on the town’s Web site, has deepened tensions in the predominantly French-speaking province over how tolerant Quebecers should be toward the customs and traditions of immigrants.
“We wish to inform these new arrivals that the way of life which they abandoned when they left their countries of origin cannot be recreated here,” said the declaration, which makes clear women are allowed to drive, vote, dance, write checks, dress how they want, work and own property.
“Therefore we consider it completely outside these norms to … kill women by stoning them in public, burning them alive, burning them with acid, circumcising them etc.”

Well how lovely. I wonder if the council has rules about locally-born men not beating their wives after a night at the bar? Somehow I doubt it.
Salam Elmenyawi, president of the Muslim Council of Montreal, said of the declaration, “I was shocked and insulted to see these kinds of false stereotypes and ignorance about Islam and our religion … in a public document written by people in authority who discriminate openly.”
It’s amazing to me that people are still using the bullshit excuse of protecting women to justify blatant racism.

Join the Conversation

  • katie

    Considering female genital mutilation occurs in immigrant muslim communities in this country (communities that have actually then had to make laws against it), I personally dont think its far off the mark at all. Did they have any incidences of this occuring to even warrant this? Because if they did then it’s justified. The fact of the matter is that these ARE Muslim cultural attributes, and while its clearly not the majority, it happens, and frankly i dont think they should be allowed to continue once they immigrate. (or at all, but you cant impose it in their countries).

  • Ken W

    Katie, I was thinking along similar lines as you. However, the problem with publicly posting such information on the website is:
    1. The decree is given to all immigrants, regardless of whether or not they hold these values. It presents an implied assumption which is based upon race.
    A parallel example would be if the website also had a statement listed for American Christian immigrants advising them that under no circumstances would the bombing of abortion clinics be tolerated. Obviously very few Christians condone this sort of behavior, but the warning would not discriminate; it would be applied as a blanket statement to all Christians.
    2. The website promotes these practices as stereotypes. Other people outside of those cultures will get the idea that it is a common practice and also apply it generally to the whole culture. This is how stereotypes are perpetuated.
    I think the only way you can navigate the cultural/human rights minefield is to make certain acts illegal (they should already be) and to prosecute them as you would any other crime. When you attack an entire culture for practices you deem abhorrent, then you are guilty, not only of racism, but of ethnocentrisms.

  • http://passionateactivist.blogspot.com/ SakuraPassion

    I think it was stereotyping to a large degree. Not quite Katie, female genital mutilation is not condoned in Islam, though it has been used to justify FGM, I can understand why the president was offended. It is also important to point out that FGM doesn’t only occur in Muslim cultures.
    It seems that law was directed only towards Muslim immigrants.

  • katie

    I do realize that its FGM is a nothern african muslim phenomenon and is not practied in the middle east as a whole, nevertheless, it is mostly muslims who do it, and it has been happening in immigrant communties here in the US. However I completely understand what you mean by saying it perpetuates stereotypes. If something has happened in the community to warrant this, then I think it’s completely justified, however, if not, then I think its a bit over the top. But here again we go back to the discussion of, this is where moderate muslims need to come and show that look, most of us arent like that, this is a stereotype that isnt true. Unless of course, they are having an issue with Muslims who do completely fit the steretype. All this is based on alot of different things, and its a shame anyone should have to defend themselves against it if indeed there is no reason to.

  • andrea

    They took a survey (it’s in French but go to http://municipalite.herouxville.qc.ca/ and click on “Avis Public”) of 196 people (is that all there are in the area?) and found that of 196, 4 think it would be ok if women couldn’t vote, 2 think men and women aren’t equal, and 3 think that there should be a place for people to pray in school. None think women shouldn’t be able to walk by themselves in public places and everyone thinks that men and women should be able to swim together.
    So, uh… 1-2% of people disagree with the ‘general consenus’ of Quebecers, whatever that is.
    I think they should be more worried about the fact that 10 people (5%) didn’t realize that a resolution had been made to consider Quebec a ‘nation’ than that two people consider themselves racist.
    Looks to me like there’s a few more racists than just the two who were honest about it.

  • http://passionateactivist.blogspot.com/ SakuraPassion

    I understand what you’re saying Katie. I suppose this a fine line.

  • Jessica

    Katie, again–do you think declarations have been issued for local men not to beat their wives? Western nations have a nice strong tradition of violence against women but I don’t see any town councils issuing rules specific to that…

  • http://feministing.com Jami

    it would indeed save more women to emphasize that beating them while drunk is not okay, although i suspect that’s universal.
    but the things they emphasized do really happen, less in canada than in other parts of the world. i’m not against this measure.
    for the “what if it were christians” folks, recall that this is not the united states of jesus christ. it’s canada. i haven’t heard of any clinic bombings in the wintry wonderland to the north.
    it’s good to consider race, but the only thing i think they could have included that seems to be white-specific is pornulating teenage girls. but then we must recall that feministing is “sex positive.”

  • katie

    Well, it’s already illegal to beat your wife there I would assume. Like any other criminal activity, a law isnt going to prevent people from doing necessarily. Perhaps they needed to make it obvious that female genital mutilation (among other things that may or may not be relevant to these communities) is illegal there and that it wont be tolerated. I mean, while we think this would be obvious, clearly it wasnt to people who are practicing it here in the US. Personally I dont like how it singles out muslims, however, many places are having problems with the integration of muslims into the community, (as opposed to other minorities). Here is where we get back to the assimilation/integration debate that we had awhile back. Is it fair to make sure immigrants comply to our laws and policies, which may mean abandoning certain cultural practices? When we are speaking of FGM, women driving, burquas, etc etc, i think it is fair. Do I think that it’s honestly a huge problem here that we have with radical Muslim immigrants not allowing women to do certain things, no I dont. I could be wrong, but I just dont see it as a majority. So, like I said, my agreement with what has gone on in canada hinges about a few things, and I am not sure I have enough info to make a completely sure decision.

  • Ken W

    Jaymi,
    My hypothetical “what if it were Christians” example was a metaphor. I was making no statements about Canada being the United States of Jesus Christ. The illustration was designed highlight the racism inherent in their decree by brining it out of the east and applying the same concept hypothetically in a more mainstream western tradition. It would be absurd to blame all Christians for the abortion clinic bombings in the States, yet it is undeniable that such violence has happened- there are groups of people who are capable of doing such thing in the name of their religion. I was making no statement beyond this and it was no more than an attempt to clarify the racism with a more immediately apparent social situation.

  • Perin

    Gayatri Spivak called this “white men saving brown women from brown men.” This decree is utilizes the kind of “feminist” rhetoric that was used to justify imperialism, as well as the recent U.S-led wars in the Middle East.
    (c. f. http://www.commondreams.org/views02/0923-07.htm)

  • katie

    ohhhh i read that in college. I agree and dont agree. If women arent standing up for themselves and if men arent doing the right thing, what exactly is the answer? Also, I personally think it’s because people dont want that type of behavior in their country, which I dont either. then again, there are lots of behaviors that occur here that I dont want either, but things as extreme as FGM you can be sure as shit i will take a stand against it going on here in any community.

  • http://www.crablaw.com/mdweekly.html The Crab

    I would be very interested to hear from Quebec attorneys regarding the jurisdictional issues involved. In general, I believe criminal law is handled in Canada at the federal level (am an attorney in the States). So to what extent these laws violate the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (more or less, their analog to the Bill of Rights) or general principles of federal jurisdiction. It is not self-evident that such ordinances are even enforceable, unless someone knows that they are.

  • http://pandanose.wordpress.com mk

    katie- what do you mean when you say that “many places are having problems with the integration of muslims into the community”?

  • http://norbizness.com norbizness

    The irony, of course, is that this prejudiced civics lesson is taking place in a province that is constantly threatening to secede from the rest of Canada.

  • http://www.tiara.org/blog alicetiara

    The furor in many countries (I’m thinking specifically of the UK, Holland and France) over the integration of Muslim immigrants into the community is something that fascinates me. First, because traditionally liberal values are often used to justify discrimination, as in Holland, where the perceived homophobia of the immigrant community was used to stir nativist, anti-immigrant sentiment. Second, because these conflicts seem often to be written on to the bodies of young women – think about the debates in France over the wearing of the veil.
    If anti-Muslim sentiment wasn’t in vogue right now (exhibit A: Iraq war), these situations would be framed differently.
    Finally, I have been reading an ethnography of Chicago written in the 1920s and there is SO much nativist sentiment against the barbaric customs and disgusting habits of the immigrant groups. Who were they talking about? Swedes and Sicilians. It’s all a cycle. In twenty years we will be demonizing another immigrant group.

  • http://lawfairy.blogspot.com The Law Fairy

    Jeesh, how crazy.
    I only know a little bit about Canada’s laws, but my understanding is that Canada is very good on the sex equality spectrum. I imagine all of these things are already illegal — so specifically naming these things as illegal for IMMIGRANTS is incredibly insulting and xenophobic.
    It would be like Los Angeles passing a law that any immigrants wanting to live here can’t throw rocks at children, eat the flesh of fellow human beings, poison their neighbors on Wednesdays, or practice ritual cat sacrifice. All of these things are already illegal, for anyone. It would make much more sense to simply refer immigrants to the already-existing laws (e.g., any immigrants wishing to live here are expected to abide by the municipal, criminal, and civil codes of Los Angeles, the State of California, and the United States). This would be hilarious if it wasn’t so offensive.

  • katie

    I think it should go without saying that many immigrants may not be aware that FGM is illegal bc they dont see it as a bad thing, simply bc of the cultural norms they have come from. People are afraid that if they dont do it, they girl wont be able to get married, and that is a death sentence where many of these people come from. so, they may not be aware its child abuse here. I am unclear as to what is hard to understand about this.
    MK-places like france and holland are having a hard time with integration. I think a few places here as well, in that i saw an article about a man who performed FGM on his daughter in the US not to long ago.
    Also, I do understand how its offensive, but no one American needs to be told that cutting off a clitoris or telling a woman she cant drive is wrong. there is no american LAW that says “women must be able to drive”.

  • http://lawfairy.blogspot.com The Law Fairy

    katie, not one, standing alone, that specifically says it (that I’m aware of at least), but it is nonetheless the law. There are laws that regulate driving, which put limitations on the right to drive. These regulations are administered by government agencies, which are subject to the equality requirements of the 14th amendment. Put all this together and you have a “law” saying everyone (subject to lawful regulations) must have the right to drive equally, without regard to sex, race, etc.
    When dealing with something like FGM, the issue isn’t whether or not they automatically know it’s a crime. If they’re in the US, they are charged with constructive knowledge of US law (I assume Canada operates on similar legal principles). Ignorance of the law is not an excuse. Thus, if someone from Amsterdam visits the US and lights up, and is consequently arrested, she cannot protest that she “didn’t know” it was illegal because it is legal in her country. If people want to emigrate here, honestly I am not uncomfortable with the notion that it’s their responsibility to learn and abide by the laws. If they didn’t like our laws, presumably they would choose another country (again, same going for Canada as to all of this).
    There are literally thousands of laws out there that virtually none of us is aware of, that we are nonetheless charged with knowing. Most of these are laws that are completely irrelevant to us. Sometimes, however, they make a huge difference — say you want to start your own business. There’s tons of legal footwork that has to be done in order for you to avoid breaking laws in running your business. No one knows all of these laws. People like me get paid to ensure the person charged with obeying the laws is able to find out what all of them are, and figure out how to follow them. If the law was obvious and easy to understand/follow, I would be out of a job :)

  • http://jnbruns.blogspot.com ikkin

    I’m certain that domestic violence is prohibited in Quebec, and I’m also certain that the comment, “I wonder if the council has rules about locally-born men not beating their wives after a night at the bar?” can be taken as a ethnic slur against, what yankees would call, a po-dunk, hick Canadian male.
    And yeah. Some customs cannot be recreated outside of a particular society.

  • Celoneth

    It depends of course on the situation. If there is an identified problem in the immigrant community of “honour” killings and FGM, then a government awareness programme that these behaviours aren’t acceptable is not only valid, but responsible. However, these behaviours have also been attributed to all Muslim/Middle Eastern/Indian, etc. cultures as a way to marginalise those groups, much in the same way as the right-wing uses beheadings by terrorists to argue that all Muslims are evil. Also given that this is a small town, I’m guessing a rural one, and perhaps with a small or non-existent immigrant community, that this could be just be a way to insult immigrants already in the community or show off how “tough” they are on immigration.

  • fluxisrad

    Norbizness says: The irony, of course, is that this prejudiced civics lesson is taking place in a province that is constantly threatening to secede from the rest of Canada.
    Wha? I don’t get the irony. Is it that this town — situated in a province with a strong secessionist movement, which is bad civics and disqualifies the town from giving civics lessons — is giving a (prejudiced) civics lesson?
    The town’s website is full of positive comments about the rules, with just a few disapproving ones. Reading them, I felt alternatively sick that some of the commenters may actually share the worldview that led to these rules, and sad that others may just not see what’s wrong with them. Not that I had any illusions about my home province or anything.
    I was kind of shocked by that poll mentioned in the Reuters article, where 59% of respondents admitted to some racist feelings. I wonder if that means we’re especially racist or especially honest…

  • http://norbizness.com norbizness

    The irony would be that, if the immigrant population was really as ass-backwards and incompatible with Canadian living as the prejudiced rules-makers envision, they could always take a lesson from Quebecois politicians and create a smaller seceded state within the larger wannabe-seceded province.
    Sorry, I’ll stop using the word irony.

  • donna darko

    If there is an identified problem in the immigrant community of “honour” killings and FGM, then a government awareness programme that these behaviours aren’t acceptable is not only valid, but responsible.
    CEDAW reports FGM, honor crimes and forced marriages occur in the UK which has thus far taken a “multi-cultural” approach.
    However, these behaviours have also been attributed to all Muslim/Middle Eastern/Indian, etc. cultures as a way to marginalise those groups, much in the same way as the right-wing uses beheadings by terrorists to argue that all Muslims are evil. Also given that this is a small town, I’m guessing a rural one, and perhaps with a small or non-existent immigrant community, that this could be just be a way to insult immigrants already in the community or show off how “tough” they are on immigration.
    Reminds me of the provincial little burg in Chocolat.

  • prairielily

    None of you seem to live in Canada. Having lived here most of my life, I can say that Canada really doesn’t have a problem with Muslim women being publically stoned, burned alive, and having acid thrown on them. I have NEVER heard of this happening.
    I’m also annoyed with the blanket statements on Muslims. There are over a billion Muslims in the world, and it’s just unfair. It would be like suggesting that people who were born Christians everywhere, even those who are no longer practicing, believe that women should be forced into pregnancy. It’s completely untrue, and it sounds ridiculous.
    A few facts: FGM is not a Muslim tradition and has been condemned by Muslim leaders. It is practiced in areas of Africa where there are Muslims, but the Muslims in that area are not the only people who do it. It has NOTHING to do with Islam.
    You could say that people might do it in Canada because it helps their daughters get married, but where my family is from in Pakistan, the best way to ensure your daughter gets married is to send her to college and make sure she gets a degree in a science-related field, especially medicine. That on its own demonstrates the HUGE cultural and class gulfs within the Muslim world.
    Also, it’s true that women don’t drive in Saudi Arabia, but they DO drive across the border in Bahrain, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, etc. Saudi Arabia may be the centre of the Muslim world, but their laws aren’t always representative of how things are done in the many other Muslim-majority countries.
    I’m also a little annoyed by the idea that “moderate Muslims have to speak up!” Is it really so hard for non-Muslims to understand that bad things happen in the Muslim world, but that they don’t happen to everyone, all the time? It REALLY doesn’t occur to people that if life was so incredibly atrocious over there, everyone would be dead? How would you feel if people in other part of the world were saying, “Well, moderate Americans need to speak up so we know that not ALL Americans want to bomb abortion clinics!” when clearly, the idea that all Americans would think that is STUPID.
    Lastly, we’re talking about immigrants to Canda. They’ve gone through a points-based immigration system that advantages the wealthy, and highly educated. I’m sure that all the immigrants who are doctors, lawyers, etc. love the idea that they need to be told not to publicly stone women. I’m thinking of all the immigrant families I know, and I can think of ANYONE who wouldn’t be so insulted that they would avoid that town like the plague. That’s probably what they want, though.

  • http://pandanose.wordpress.com mk

    katie- That still doesn’t really answer my question. You added more specific locations, but didn’t clarify what “problems with integration” are. Are you referring to immigrants actually breaking laws, or is this more of a cultural integration (whatever that would be)?
    Beyond that, the notion that “no one in America needs to be told” something–anything–is a crime ignores the fact that tons of Americans break laws, knowingly and unknowingly. Sure, at this point no one in America needs to be told that rape is illegal, but that hasn’t stopped rapists in the slightest.

  • Parry_Lost

    I agree that this ordinance is unjust to the immigrant community, and perpetuates a negative stereotype. I think it was a very silly and insulting thing to pass.
    I do, however, point out that this was a sort of “backlash” to items such as this: “Men were banned from prenatal classes at one Montreal community centre to accommodate Muslim, Sikh and Hindu women and a city police publication came under fire for suggesting female officers should defer to male colleagues when dealing with men from certain religions.”
    (From http://www.canada.com/vancouversun/news/story.html?id=b217b269-f201-4fb1-9c63-e7b8c1e52f20)
    Another similar incident mentioned was the case where a womens’ exercise club was asked to tint their windows to “protect” religious students studying across the street, which was discussed on Feministing some time ago.
    While I think this ordinance is indeed insulting to immigrants, I also don’t think that providing accommodation to different cultures should be an excuse for sexist practices. This in no way excuses this town’s ordinance, but I do point out there are examples of communities swaying to the other extreme. I certainly don’t think it is just to ask women not to do their job because it might insult men with sexist religious beliefs, and I don’t think it would be just to ask me to leave a prenatal class in my community if I were attending with my partner just because my presence offended someone’s religion.

  • sojourner

    “Another similar incident mentioned was the case where a womens’ exercise club was asked to tint their windows to “protect” religious students studying across the street”
    But those weren’t muslims they were hassidic jews and they weren’t immigrants either.

  • micheyd

    On BBC they’re reporting that the town in question has ONE immigrant family in 1,300 people.
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/6316151.stm
    Wow, sure sounds like an epidemic of stoning and FGM going on there!

  • Mina

    “Considering female genital mutilation occurs in immigrant muslim communities in this country…The fact of the matter is that these ARE Muslim cultural attributes”
    Isn’t FGM a cultural attribute of parts of Eastern Africa, not of Muslims? Sure, many Egyptian Muslims approve of FGM, but at the same time many non-Muslim Masaai approve of FGM and many Muslim Swahili, Indonesians, Iranians, etc. don’t approve of FGM.
    “1. The decree is given to all immigrants, regardless of whether or not they hold these values. It presents an implied assumption which is based upon race.”
    If it’s told to all immigrants, then wouldn’t it be non-racially-based? I thought Canada gets more than one race of immigrants.
    “I think the only way you can navigate the cultural/human rights minefield is to make certain acts illegal (they should already be) and to prosecute them as you would any other crime.”
    Great points!
    “I only know a little bit about Canada’s laws, but my understanding is that Canada is very good on the sex equality spectrum. I imagine all of these things are already illegal — so specifically naming these things as illegal for IMMIGRANTS is incredibly insulting and xenophobic.”
    Yeah.
    “It depends of course on the situation. If there is an identified problem in the immigrant community of ‘honour’ killings and FGM, then a government awareness programme that these behaviours aren’t acceptable is not only valid, but responsible.”
    Exactly. For one example, reminding someone that you shouldn’t kill your daughter for rejecting [teen pregnancy/incest/sex with a stranger/dropping out of school/getting shipped abroad to do all four/whatever] might save her life, which is better than having the courts waiting until she’s killed to do something.
    “You could say that people might do it in Canada because it helps their daughters get married, but where my family is from in Pakistan, the best way to ensure your daughter gets married is to send her to college and make sure she gets a degree in a science-related field, especially medicine. That on its own demonstrates the HUGE cultural and class gulfs within the Muslim world.”
    Yeah, I heard about that one too.
    “Also, it’s true that women don’t drive in Saudi Arabia, but they DO drive across the border in Bahrain, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, etc.”
    Not only do women drive in Iran, but women and men drive without speed limits on some of the highways there. Vrooom!
    “While I think this ordinance is indeed insulting to immigrants, I also don’t think that providing accommodation to different cultures should be an excuse for sexist practices.”
    I totally agree. Pandering to sexism, homophobia, anti-intellectualism, etc. coming from a white local isn’t liberal and pandering to the same sexism, homophobia, anti-intellectualism, etc. coming from a nonwhite newcomer is no more liberal.

  • archeon of thrace

    I agree that this ordinace does seem unfair, maybe racist, ect. But then, it might be easier to understand the “outrage” the muslim community has expressed, if 99% of worlds muslims didn’t live in countries with no record or history of democracy, rule of law, independant judiciary, reliable police forces, free elections…..
    BTW in Canada we have had several instances of “honour” killings, FGM, etc, where the people actually claimed it was their “cultural” right to do these things, or they claimed “religious” freedom as a defense.