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March 15, 2015

Recently, Rylan Higgins, a Saint Mary’s anthropology professor, wrote an editorial for the Halifax Chronicle stating – correctly – that Stephen Harper’s recent anti-niqab comments were ethnocentric, sexist, and wrong.

But, while being entirely correct, Prof Higgins completely misses the point.

Stephen Harper is smart enough to know that his comments were indeed ethnocentric, sexist, and perhaps even a little wrong. But he cares not a whit about such things.

Harper is a master political strategist and he knows the song-and-dance that plays to his base.

Fundamentally, the anti-niqab comments are anti-Muslim-immigrant comments, and as Mr. Harper has shown, he has no problem stoking that fire if it will get him votes.

It’s political populism of the vilest kind. Mr. Harper is entering the world where democratic principles are turned back-in on themselves, and the majority votes to be racist, xenophobic, or violent against a perceived enemy from within. And because it was done in the name of democracy then it must be correct. It is, afterall, what the people want.

Anti-Muslim xenophobes are currently gaining support in France, Germany, Israel, England, and a slew of other countries. Harper is just photocopying a page out of their handbook.

They want to paint the entire lot of Muslims as intolerant, misogynist, and anti-democratic.

We hate the way some Muslim women dress, and we – the enlightened ones – will tell them what to wear, and how to wear it (if they want to be Canadian), and we will force them to do it at the ballot box, if we have to.

In the end, we become everything we hate about our enemy.

John Stewart Mills reminded us more than a 100 years ago, that when the majority votes for tyranny over the minority, it is no longer a democracy. It is simply tyranny of the majority.

It’s a bad way to try and win an election, Mr. Prime Minister.

A very bad way indeed.

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