Originally published under the title "The NDP are Hostages to the Niqab."
At first glance it seemed Thomas Mulcair, the leader of Canada's New Democratic Party (NDP), had seen the light and recognized his folly in defending the Islamic facemask, the niqab, in the October 2015 election. News headlines on Saturday quoted him as saying; "NDP dropped 20 points in 48 hours after supporting niqab."
For a fleeting moment I thought Mulcair had come to his senses and was admitting the gross ideological mistake – and intellectual dishonesty – of defending women's second-class status in society in the name of equal rights for all cultures, otherwise known as multiculturalism.
But I was mistaken.
Contrary to my expectations, Mulcair had no regrets about his fling with the Muslim vote bank. In fact, reading through his remarks, I realized the man was doubling down on his historic flirtation with right-wing Islamofascists, and was in fact wearing the niqab blemish with pride!
Left-wing orientalists see Muslims as a peculiar species, not yet ready for secular ideals.
There is something deeply rotten in the mind-set of Western social democratic politicians that can at best be described as 'left-wing orientalism' - a condition that permits them to see non-Whites from the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent as peculiar species, not yet ready for membership in the liberal or conservative yet secular arena where Western civilization has thrived for the last four centuries.
This illness of the mind is not specific to Canada alone. In fact, to witness its worst form one has to study Great Britain where author Kenan Malik wrote in 2005: "I witnessed the birth of political multiculturalism in Britain. It was in Bradford in the late 1980s when the left, shamefully, swapped secular universalism for ethnic particularism."
The author of From Fatwa to Jihad: The Rushdie Affair and its Legacy nailed it in his Prospect magazine essay where his diagnosis could very well delineate the difference we find between Ed Broadbent of the 1980s and Thomas Mulcair of 2016. Kenen Malik writes:
Where the "old left" of ... trade unions still looked to the working class as the agency of change, the "new left" found surrogate proletariats in the "new social movements" — third world liberation movements, feminist groups, campaigns for gay rights, and so on. Where the old left talked of class and sought to raise class consciousness, the new left talked of culture and sought to strengthen cultural identity.
In 2006, when I left the NDP after working tirelessly with them for 17 years, the reason was their infatuation with Islamists. Looking back I could've predicted the niqab debacle.
Writing in Toronto's NOW Magazine, I said my decision was not a rejection of social democratic values, but a refutation of the intrusion of religion in politics, specially if that religion was Islam. I wrote:
New Democrats don't have the stomach to stand up to those who would reduce our citizenship to one based on race or religion. I strongly feel that New Democrats, in accepting the parameters set by the religious right, have merely validated the right's divisive agenda.
I left with a heavy heart. "For more than a dozen years I have sported a CCF-NDP licence plate on my Benz with pride and in-your-face bravado. I had become accustomed to the reactions of passers-by and motorists - the middle finger far outnumbering the thumbs-up."
Today, I don't drive, nor do I vote NDP. It's not because I abandoned social democracy, but because the Dippers [NDP members] became hostages to the niqab and are proud of it.
Tarek Fatah, a founder of the Muslim Canadian Congress and columnist at the Toronto Sun, is a Robert J. and Abby B. Levine Fellow at the Middle East Forum.