Author Archives: Geoffrey Wale

Geoffrey Wale: Palestine Arabs must reject fundamentalism

The conflict between Hamas and Israel rages on and both sides are suffering losses. Families in Gaza and Israel are left in mourning. The fighting goes on with no end in sight. The yearning for statehood is at the root of this conflict. Palestinian Arabs remain stateless, trapped in Gaza and under Israeli occupation in the West Bank. Is the use of terrorism justifiable in the drive for Palestinian statehood? In my opinion, the willful destruction of life and property to advance any cause is never justified. However, in the history of the conflict over Palestine, Zionists resorted to terror in advancing their drive for the foundation of Israel. Let me be clear, I am not equivocating Hamas with Zionist organizations such as Irgun.

Irgun was a splinter group from the Haganah–a militia founded in 1920 to defend Jewish immigrants in Palestine–dedicated to armed struggle for the foundation of a Jewish state, maintaining “only Jewish armed force would ensure the Jewish state.” Irgun waged a campaign against British rule in Palestine in an effort to drive the British out. There were attacks on the British Army, sabotage of infrastructure, bombings of British embassies abroad and smuggling of Jewish refugees to Palestine. Irgun was designated a terrorist organization by the British, and captured Irgun fighters were imprisoned and in some cases hanged. In the end, Irgun prevailed: Israel was founded on May 14, 1948.

However, Israel is a modern, secular nation, a parliamentary democracy and signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which crucially, ensures religious liberty is guaranteed in Israeli law.

In contrast, Hamas is an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood. Its goal is the restoration of the caliphate with the creation of an Islamic state in Palestine. The basis of the Hamas Charter is Sunni Islam and Salafism. The Hamas Charter reiterates the motto of the Muslim Brotherhood: “Allah is its goal, the Prophet is the model, the Qur’an its constitution, jihad its path, and death for the sake of Allah its most sublime belief.” This is nothing more than a deadly pipe dream. If there is any hope for the foundation of a Palestinian state in the region to coexist with Israel, the Palestinian leadership must reject religious extremism, particularly the internecine fighting between the Sunni and Shia denominations in Islam. It must also reject terrorism as this only ensures fighting will continue with no end in sight.

The Hustings

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Geoffrey Wale: Hobby Lobby and religious freedom

The decision handed down by the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby is the latest development in U.S. society in the effort to reconcile the right to religious liberty with that of reproductive freedom and the right to privacy.

Challenges to the sexual mores of U.S. society concerning fertility, contraception and abortion began in earnest in the 20th-century, largely through the efforts of Margaret Sanger. Sanger stood up to religious opposition, notably the Roman Catholic Church, in founding the American Birth Control League (ABCL) in 1921. Contraception was widely used, though not legalized until 1965 when SCOTUS ruled in Griswold v. Connecticut. A law that prohibited any person from using “any drug, medicinal article or instrument for the purpose of preventing conception” was struck down. The “right to marital privacy” were the grounds on which the Justices declared the law unconstitutional.

Religious liberty is a hallmark of U.S. society and Congress saw fit to enact the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA) in a near unanimous vote. However, with the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) on 23 March 2010, the addition of contraception in 2011 that would be provided without patient co-payment, became a requirement for all new health insurance plans, starting in 2012. The ACA allows for religious exemptions that include churches and houses of worship, but does not include exemptions for “enterprises owned or controlled by religious organizations that oppose contraception on doctrinal grounds.”

David Green–founder and CEO of Hobby Lobby–and his family are Pentecostal Christians and conduct their business affairs in accordance with their religious principles. In ruling in favour of the court challenge filed by Hobby Lobby, SCOTUS found that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, as it is written, runs afoul of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993. That Hobby Lobby is required to pay for contraceptives, on behalf of its employees, contraceptives the owners of Hobby Lobby believe are abortifacients, constitutes “laws or other governmental action [that] substantially burdened their religious practices.”

This is but the latest development in the social life of the U.S. by which the mores concerning sexuality are changing and as a society the U.S. makes adjustments in striving to accommodate the respective interests. The branches of the U.S. government perform their respective roles in this process and the issues of sexuality and religious liberty will be hotly debated for some time to come.

The Hustings

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Geoffrey Wale: Satirical correctness

Satire in a culture of political correctness is a delicate issue. Just what is and is not satirical? What if satire causes offense? In addressing these questions it is worth recalling that satire as a form of humour is, of course, part of the human condition. Satire goes a very long way back in human history.

The Roman playwright, Titus Maccius Plautus, known as Plautus, grew very rich writing and producing plays that lampooned Roman society, notably Patrician high society. The plots of his comedies typically revolve around a Patrician Roman family with a doddering old patriarch, his nagging wife, rebellious son and the clever slave who continually gets the better of him. The testament to Plautus and his brand of satire is summed up nicely in his epitaph which reads:

Since Plautus is dead, Comedy mourns,
Deserted is the stage; then Laughter, Jest and Wit,
And Melody’s countless numbers all together wept.

However offended Patrician Romans may have been by Plautine comedy, several Plautine comedies survived the are still read and produced in the present. In fact, Stephen Sondheim’s musical “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,” is based on Plautine comedy. Our ancestors appreciated satire, recognizing it for what it is: laughter, jest and wit.

In July, 2013, Men’s Rights Edmonton–a men’s rights activist group–generated controversy when they produced posters with the caption “Don’t Be That Girl” as a parody of the “Don’t be That Guy” advertising campaign. The “Don’t be That Guy” campaign addresses the issues of women’s alcohol consumption and how the men dating them obtain their consent to sex. The “Don’t be That Girl” posters lampoon the message that it is men who are solely responsible in such situations, whereas women who drink are not accountable for their actions. Lise Gotell, chair of the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies at the University of Alberta reacted angrily, stating: “These posters, I think, are quite troubling … What’s been done to transform an anti-sexual-assault campaign into a rape-apologist campaign is just deeply offensive.”

The “Don’t be That Girl” posters are controversial, but as Judy Rebick (Canada’s wealthiest Marxist-feminist) asserted, “Canada has a long history of satire–sometimes very biting satire.” Those who condemn the “Don’t be That Girl” posters would do well to remember this, see it for what it is, satire, and take it in stride.

The Hustings

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Geoffrey Wale: Men going their own way

Jackson wrote last week, in response to my piece on Men’s rights activists (MRAs), arguing that “men’s rights advocacy is not so much a response to feminism but an appropriation of feminism.” There is one strand in the broader movement for men’s rights that one can argue is simply an “appropriation of feminism.” Men Going Their Own Way (MGTOW) defines itself as “a statement of self-ownership, where the modern man preserves and protects his own sovereignty above all else. It is the manifestation of one word: “No”. Ejecting silly preconceptions and cultural definitions of what a “man” is.” Key to this movement is the belief that men should reject marriage or cohabitation to a woman. While the man who adheres to the precepts of MGTOW vows to remain a bachelor, he does not rule out forming a relationship with a woman where they become and remain friends and lovers.

Interestingly, this disdainful view of marriage is no different than that held by second wave feminists. “A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle,” the quotation attributed to Gloria Steinem, was actually coined by Irina Dunn, Australian writer, social activist and filmmaker, in 1970. Dunn, like Steinem, is a second wave feminist. Marlene Dixon, second wave feminist and professor of sociology at the University of Chicago and McGill University wrote:

The institution of marriage is the chief vehicle for the perpetuation of the oppression of women; it is through the role of wife that the subjugation of women is maintained. In a very real way the role of wife has been the genesis of women’s rebellion throughout history.

Marriage, the process by which two people (historically a man and woman) who love each other make their relationship public, official, and permanent, is one of the most highly valued conventions basic to society. Even Gloria Steinem, famous for the quotation, a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle, chose to marry at 66 years of age. She married David Bale, father of Christian Bale, on September 3, 2000. They were married until his death in 2003. Just as second wave feminism failed to abolish marriage, MGTOW is destined also to fail. “Omnia vincit amor” (love conquers all) continues to apply in the present just as in antiquity, when Virgil wrote these words, to harmonious relations between men and women.

The Hustings

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Geoffrey Wale: Are men’s rights activists misogynists or advocates of equality?

Men’s rights activists (MRAs) have attracted notable attention in the mainstream media and blogosphere of late. Organizations such as the Canadian Association for Equality (CAFE) have received considerable criticism and condemnation from liberals and feminists. These organizations find themselves accused of fostering a “culture of misogyny and toxic masculinity”. These are serious accusations, but is it really the case?

CAFE started its activism in 2012 and is well represented by men and women in its leadership and organizational structure. The list of advisory fellows includes Janice Fiamengo who is an author, editor, and Professor of English at the University of Ottawa, Eleanor Levine who is a Field Educator at Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work, University of Toronto, Jackie Orsetto who is a Course Instructor and Research Coordinator, Department of Sociology, Trent University and notably, Warren Farrell, author of Why men are the way they are and The myth of male power. The advisory fellows lend their expertise in helping CAFE fulfill its mandate of consciousness-raising through events, campus outreach, research, press engagement, YouTube and blogging.

The mandate of CAFE is to “… facilitate an inclusive, rational and civilized public conversation about the status of boys and men in Canada. Topics we think should be discussed include mental & physical health, suicide, family law, education, public policy, workplace safety, media & cultural stereotypes, and misandry. We believe this conversation must be based on facts and evidence-based research and not on ideology, e.g. gender profiling that assumes that only women can be victims and only men can be the perpetrators of abuse and discrimination.”

In addition, CAFE has taken care to clarify its position on equality between the sexes affirming “we do not believe that equal rights is a zero-sum game, and we reject the notion that identifying and eliminating discrimination against men and boys will somehow increase discrimination against women and girls. By definition, equal rights means equal rights for everyone.”

To raise a discussion concerning the rights and well-being of men and boys is not unreasonable; nor is it fostering a culture of misogyny and toxic masculinity. CAFE addresses equality between the sexes in addressing the rights of men and boys in Canadian society based on facts and evidence-based research. In doing so, they have as much right to present their evidence and express their thoughts as do those who egregiously accuse them of fostering hatred of women.

The Hustings

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