The City of Ottawa has advanced religious privilege over human rights

Eric Adriaans, the Executive Director of CFI Canada, wrote an open letter to the mayor and council of Ottawa about their “Celebrate Hijab” day.

To the Mayor and Council of the City of Ottawa

It has come to the attention of Centre For Inquiry Canada (CFIC) that the City of Ottawa is hosting a celebration of the hijab on February 25, 2016.  As an organization which represents views of the non-religious and secularists members of the community, CFIC – including our Ottawa Branch members – opposes this initiative.

Centre For Inquiry Canada (CFIC) supports and promotes the human right to freedom of religion which includes freedom from religion.  CFIC does not denigrate those who wish to express their personal freedom by wearing of articles of clothing; we do however, assert that there are others who are forced, coerced, pressured and otherwise manipulated into submission to religious oppression – that their freedom of thought, expression of their individual agency is daily violated. For these people, the hijab is not a symbol of choice, but a symbol of victimization.

CFIC is an advocate of secular human rights as well as secularism.  From  the perspective of a modern secular democracy,

  • government should not endorse or favour the religious rites or practices of any religion
  • government should never celebrate practices which are clearly connected to human rights violations
  • government should not favour one religious practice or perspective over other practices and perspectives

In celebrating the hijab, the City of Ottawa is demonstrating a favouring of one religious perspective over other perspectives.  The  perspective of those atheists, humanists, ex-Muslims, Christians, Muslims and others who object to the hijab have effectively been rejected by the City of Ottawa.  Just as the City of Ottawa should not host “anti-hijab” demonstrations, neither should it host “pro-hijab” activities.  By sponsoring Hijab Day, the City of Ottawa has  advanced religious privilege over human rights.  That is not acceptable.

From the perspective of human rights, the hijab is recognized as a symbol and practical tool for the oppression and victimization of women.  Consider the following comments from Muslims, Ex-Muslims, atheists, secularists and humanists that have been submitted to CFIC in response to this activity (names withheld to respect confidentiality):

  • And just as the hijab, Female Genital Mutilation is defined by policing female sexuality. As an immigrant, I can’t even begin to understand ”why” Canada is endorsing such blatant sexism and misogyny in the name of “tolerance”. It’s a step back in the fight for universal human rights.

There are a bunch more comments; read on.

H/t Theo Bromine

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