All cultures deserve respect and tolerance
June 25, 2012 | Jewish Tribune
I cannot match the scholarship of Professor Salim Mansur whose premise of repudiating multiculturalism to protect democracy and individual rights was reviewed in the article by Joanne Hill (Multiculturalism endangers democracy, professor says, Jewish Tribune, June 14, 2012), however, I do agree with the concept of protecting ethical values grounded in the principles of basic human rights inherent in our democratic system.
Multiculturalism, as I see it, is respect and tolerance for diversity in culture. It is when a different culture has practices that we consider to be immoral, and unjust that we must stand our ground and indicate that such practices may actually be criminal in our country. This applies to such things as suppression of women’s rights, the barbaric practice of female mutilation, selective abortion of unborn females and a host of other practices considered to be unethical and criminal.
Whenever our courts stand against such horrors – such as so-called ‘honour’ killings (there is a case in BC in which a relative hired assassins to murder a niece who had married without consent), it doesn’t mean we can’t respect many aspects of other cultures – indeed, this is what makes the world at large so interesting, and we often gain from other cultures in so many ways.
I had the unpleasant experience of a rabbi here in Toronto who defended female circumcision in a study group as a cultural difference with the idea that if this was banned, then the Jewish ritual of male circumcision might face the same ban.
I objected to this in the group and wrote him a very strong argument about how immoral it was for him to even think of accepting this practice of injury to any young girl in Canada. Indeed, this is a criminal act in Canada. If the rabbi would not allow this barbaric outrage to his own daughters, then why should he tolerate this being done to others? But this is not a reason to disrespect an entire culture.
I agree with much of what was written in the article, but I think we need to be respectful of other cultures while at the same time imparting the fact that Canadians will not accept violations of human rights. These are basic values that Canadians hold dear. I am very proud that in a recent survey, Canada was the No. 1 nation in the G20 for rights and equality for women, and we still are not perfect in this.
At the same time, we need to be careful about cultural arrogance – all cultures do deserve respect and tolerance.
We must be careful to not forget that antisemitism has deep roots in disrespect and intolerance, and Jews were often singled out for attacks because of their differences from the culture in the diaspora.
Sam Bryks, Toronto ON