Nine-year-old Quebec girl pulled from soccer tournament for wearing hijab
A nine-year-old Gatineau, Que., girl who refused to remove her headscarf was forced to stand on the sidelines as her team played — and won — the final match of a soccer tournament.
The order came just days after the International Football Association Board voted to lift its hijab ban based on the fact “there is no medical literature concerning injuries as a result of wearing a headscarf,” the organization stated on its website.
Rayane Benatti was told to take off her headscarf for safety reasons, but she refused.
“It made me feel very sad,” she said. “I love soccer.”
(Photo: Bruno Schlumberger/Ottawa Citizen)
The Politics of Religion and Regionalism on the Canadian Supreme Court
by Michael Sohn, guest contributor
Canada’s Supreme Court Justices pose for a photo at the Supreme Court of Canada in Ottawa on November 14, 2011: (bottom row, l-r) Morris Fish, Louis LeBel, Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin, Marie Deschamps, Rosalie Abella; (top row, l-r) Michael Moldaver, Marshall Rothstein, Thomas Cromwell and Andromache Karakatsanis. (photo: Blair Gable/Reuters)
Last year when Justice John Paul Stevens retired from the Supreme Court and was replaced by Justice Elena Kagan, it provoked some concern over the religious and regional backgrounds of the members who served on the nation’s top bench. With six Catholics and three Jews, it marked the first time in American history when no Protestants held a seat. And no less than four sitting justices hailed from New York City alone (Scalia, Ginsburg, Sotomayor, and Kagan are from Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Manhattan respectively).
The discussions over the religious and regional background of justices, however, have now largely subsided or been summarily dismissed. The notion of the Protestant seat that could somehow represent the varieties of Protestantism in America was as fanciful as the notion of an essential New Yorker who could not grasp legal issues beyond her city limits.
The politics of religion and regionalism, however, took on new life from a different angle in the Canadian context. When Justices Andromache Karakatsanis and Michael Moldaver were sworn in on November 14, 2011 to the Supreme Court of Canada, it signalled both deep continuity and significant change within its history. By law, at least three members of the Court are required to be from Quebec; by convention, an additional three are from Ontario and three more are from other provinces.
The apportionment of seats along strict regional lines is rooted in the historical origins and conception of the Canadian Confederation and the aspiration to form a federalism that respected and recognized the distinctiveness and particularities of regional identities. Indeed, the fear of alienating regions and provinces was so acute in those early days that it even led some to suggest that the Court travel around the new country to hear proceedings. That both newly appointed justices, then, hailed from Ontario and that they were replacing seats which were vacated by justices from Ontario followed the time-honored traditions and customs of the Court to maintain regional diversity.
One of the consequences of the institutionalization of regional diversity on the Canadian Court was that it engendered both religious diversity and uniformity. On the one hand, as most Quebec justices were Catholic and most justices from the other provinces were Protestant, it created a kind of religious diversity that was unusual for its time. A seat vacated by a Catholic went to a Catholic and similarly a seat vacated by a Protestant went to a Protestant. It was not until 1924 when that custom changed, when Justice Abbott became the first Protestant from Quebec to serve on the Court.
On the other hand, there was maintained a kind of ethnic and religious uniformity. For much of the Court’s history, justices were almost exclusively from a French or British background with at least a formal connection to a Christian religious group. It was not until 1970, when Bora Laskin was appointed, that a non-Christian took a seat on the Court. The appointments of Justice Andromache Karakatsanis, the first Greek Orthodox, and Justice Michael Moldaver, a Jew, attest then to the changing religious diversity of the Court.
The issue of religious and regional representation on the Supreme Court was symbolically important from its inception; at stake was the very issue of federalism that has become further complicated in an increasingly multicultural society within the bilingual constitutional framework of Canada. Perhaps the greatest testimony of this was when Karakatsanis used not only French and English in her swearing-in ceremony, but paid tribute to her cultural heritage in Greek.
Michael Sohn is a Ph.D. candidate in Religious Ethics at the University of Chicago Divinity School and a Martin Marty Junior Fellow for 2011-2012. His dissertation is entitled The Good of Recognition: Phenomenology, Ethics, and Religion in the Thought of Levinas and Ricoeur.
This essay is reprinted with permission of Sightings from the Martin Marty Center at the University of Chicago Divinity School.
Music has always been incredibly cathartic for me, whether it’s writing my own stuff or singing other people’s music; it’s very freeing. But it did take me a long while to be able to write again because I was just too far down a deep dark hole to do anything. I had to crawl back up, get some light in and have some objectivity before I could start writing again.
The Canadian singer talks parenting, divorce, depression, and songwriting in her interview with Spinner.
—Trent Gilliss, senior editor
Canada’s Tent of Abraham: Jews Extend Qur’an to Muslims
by Habeeb Alli, special contributor
A Charlottestown mosque in Canada invites all. (photo: level 5 vegan/Flickr, cc by-nc 2.0)
I’m thrilled again to have been a part of recent history. While someone burned the Qur’an in the United States, another presented us with a Qur’an in an expression of solidarity. I told this to my congregation during a Friday service and they were all moved by the gesture.
For the eighth year, an exercise of interfaith exchange between Jews, Muslims, and Christians in Ontario has progressed in good faith — and the gift of the Qur’an was this year’s highlight. The Abraham Festival in Peterborough originated on the premise that all three faiths have a common heritage, which needs to be explored and shared. Walking through the symbolic tent of Abraham — referring to the biblical prophet’s tent, a place of hospitality and engagement with strangers which was open to the four winds — in order to enter the St. Andrew’s United Church gave attendees the sense that history can be relived, even in a modern-day setting.
Dr. Dan Houpt, a Jewish partner, facilitator, and doctor who has been keen in bringing the three faiths together in Peterborough, presented the Qur’an to us Muslims during the festival last month. He first suggested the idea to his Muslim counterpart and co-founder Elizabeth Rahman, who then consulted with the Canadian Council of Imams about the gift. Rahman is a convert from the UK and first became active in the community in the 1970s, with her late Indian husband.
The Muslims Students Association at the nearby Trent University hosted the Friday service, on the first day of the festival this year, so that Christian and Jewish neighbours could observe the presenting of the Qur’an. Houpt offered some thoughts on the gift, stating, “It shows we stand with [Muslims] in solidarity,” and then added that this offering “shows it’s a terrible act to burn a holy book.”
I offered my gratitude and reminded the audience — comprised of people of all three faiths — that it is a tribute well received on behalf of all Muslims and that the desecration of any holy book is an attack on all Holy Scriptures. I also reminded them that this act was in line with a historic tradition when the Muslim Ibn Rushd, Jewish Maimonides, and Christian Thomas Aquinas learnt from one another’s works in 12th-century Spain, which even John Paul II recognised as being of significant historical importance.
This year’s theme of the Abraham Festival was forgiveness. Many facilitators were present to share what their faith offered on the subject of forgiving others. In my speech, I told attendees that “forgiveness is an interesting topic because you often need it for people you love the most. The person you love the most can hurt you the most. And forgiveness lightens the burden.”
The presentation of the Qur’an by the local Jewish community was a way to show goodwill and remove any misunderstanding and hurt that Muslims may have experienced in today’s unfortunate atmosphere of Islamophobia — something Jews can relate to given their long years of dealing with anti-Semitism.
I also told festival goers that recently a group of Jewish people had donated money and time to build a mosque in Toronto. Television producer Kenny Hotz will highlight this daring project, the Peace Mosque, in his documentary to be shown on the Showcase Television channel this spring.
Rahman was recognised during the event and I handed her a card of appreciation along with the Qur’an, which she will use during her tours to the area’s schools and prisons. Muslims have been overwhelmed by and thankful for this token of solidarity, for such is the tradition of Abraham.
A version of this article was published by the Common Ground News Service on May 10, 2011. Copyright permission is granted for publication.
Iron-Ringing Strengthens Traditions and Bonds Among Canada’s Engineers
by Shubha Bala, associate producer
For five years I’ve been anticipating the day when I would get to iron-ring my cousin — a tradition bestowed on me by my older brother when I graduated from the University of Toronto, and on him by his older cousin when he graduated college. In 1925, six engineers at a university in Montreal performed the first Ritual Calling of an Engineer. Herbert Haultain, a engineering professor at the University of Toronto, conceived of the idea of a ceremony because he “felt that an organization was needed to bind all members of the engineering profession in Canada more closely together. He also felt that an obligation or statement of ethics to which a young graduate in engineering could subscribe should be developed.”
Haultain recruited Rudyard Kipling, then living in Canada and already known for his respect of engineers, to design the ceremony and oath, the details of which remain shrouded in secrecy. Kipling later said of his creation:
“The Ritual of the Calling of an Engineer has been instituted with
the simple end of directing the newly qualified engineer toward a
consciousness of the profession and its social significance and
indicating to the more experienced engineer their responsibilities
in welcoming and supporting the newer engineers when they are ready to enter the profession.”
Since then, new engineering graduates have performed this ceremony in schools all over Canada, and Canadian engineers all over the world have been spotted by the iron rings on our pinkies. The importance of this ceremony, I recently realized, is not in the oath as much as it is in the community that is forged through this unchanging ritual.
On February 5, I went to the University of Waterloo as my cousin’s “temporary warden”. We temporary wardens get the special job of giving our loved ones their iron rings. It’s primarily sisters and brothers ringing younger siblings, parents ringing kids, and one special warden, who himself participated in the ceremony in the 1950s, ringing his grandson.
The obligation ceremony is short, and the details kept secret out of respect for the tradition. About 200 students and a handful of guests took our seats in the auditorium. We were the last of six groups of engineers to participate in the ceremony this year.
It opened with an enacted dialogue, symbolically acknowledging how new engineers must be humble and aware of their lack of knowledge — their learning begins now. The warden hosting the ceremony read a passage from the Bible.
Next, the new students read aloud their iron ring obligation. I turned to my cousin and placed the iron ring on my cousin’s right pinky, her working hand. For her, for many of us, this was a bigger moment than graduation itself.
Now, as obligated engineers, we listened to a recitation of Rudyard Kipling’s poem “The Sons of Martha,” which is based on the biblical characters Martha and Mary. As engineers, he describes, we have chosen a life of serving others.
The ceremony, written in the early 1900s, is full of Christian (and male) references. And it is written with an assumption that engineering is only composed of physical disciplines. Although this isn’t without controversy, I felt that it was precisely this ritual, left in tact, that connects people with the community of Canadian engineers. Other older engineers I spoke to said that the ring itself, while an important symbol, didn’t mean that much to them during their career. But the ceremony was an important tradition. After all, how often do you get to participate in something that people 80 years ago recited in the same way, word for word?
About the image: a new iron ring is displayed on an engineering text book (photo: Elisa Prajogo).
…but the truth of the 2010 Winter Olympics is that the Games did for this generation of British Columbians what no other event in modern times ever has. It united us.
—Shelley Fralic, from her Vancouver Sun column “Olympics Changed B.C. Forever”
Canadians celebrate in Yonge-Dundas Square after their ice hockey team’s gold medal win over the United States in the 2010 Winter Olympics. (photo: Sam Javanrouh/Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons)
by Trent Gilliss, senior editor
Quebec, Kirpans, Face Veils, and Values
by Trent Gilliss, senior editor
At first glance, this story from the National Post intrigues because Sikhs are barred from the Quebec National Assembly because of their daggers. And, what were they there for? To testify on a bill banning face coverings. That is worth clicking through and reading more about.
But, check out the last statement from one of the Assembly’s members about multiculturalism. It almost scoots right on past if you don’t stop to think about it. Now, this American citizen’s ears haven’t heard an idea like this stated in such bald fashion; I’ll admit that it’s challenging, and somewhat unsettling:
“By a vote of 113-0, the Quebec National Assembly adopted a motion Wednesday supporting the decision by security workers to bar four Sikhs who came to the assembly to testify on Bill 94, banning Islamic face coverings.
The four refused to remove their kirpans, small ceremonial daggers. In 2006, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the kirpan, which Sikhs carry wrapped in fabric under their clothing, is not a weapon but a religious symbol, like a crucifix.
Parti Quebecois member Louise Beaudoin, said multiculturalism is a Canadian value, not a Quebec value.”
(photo: Tyler Anderson/National Post)
The Oldest Living Canadian
by Trent Gilliss, senior editor
Sum Ying Fung, who is believed to be Canada’s oldest living citizen, is 112 today. Some of my favorite interviews lately have come from our older guests such as Joanna Macy and Vincent Harding. There is so much to learn from our elder generations, and I sure hope someone has taken the time to record her voice, her stories, her experiences, her wisdom for generations to come.
And, this story from The Vancouver Sun might bring a smile to your face:
“In 1989 she had a brain tumour, which she and her doctors were reluctant to treat, Barry Fung said.
‘After visiting several neurosurgeons, they all said she was too old to operate on, and that she’s “had a good life anyways.”’ Fung said. ‘All that is, except for a Dr. Donald Griesdale, who said that with all the family support around my grandma, how could he not give it a try?’”
[via The Vancouver Sun]