Refugees and Gender Inequality

    A letter to the editor from 2016

    It’s nice to see that Edwin Weber seems to have discovered his inner feminist in last week’s letter to the editor, “Men, women equal here”. It’s remarkable how the idea of gender inequality between Muslims inspires some men to suddenly become fierce advocates for women’s rights. If only these men channelled this newfound interest towards improving the lot of women in their own country, rather than judging the perceived shortcomings of others, perhaps Canada would have actually achieved true gender equity by now. Sadly, after 50 odd years of Women’s Lib, there is still a wage gap between the sexes, men continue to grossly outnumber women in positions of power, women live in fear of violence…the list goes on.

    Despite this, Canada is better than most places in this regard. Think of India and China, where male babies are preferred. Many African and Latin American nations likewise don’t seem bastions of female liberation. The Catholic Church still refuses female priests and birth control. The sorry fact is that in the majority of the world, women are considered second-class citizens, and even in places like Canada women still face discrimination.

    Yet no one raises the issue of gender inequality when people from non-Muslim countries want to emigrate to Canada. If we were to only let in refugees from places where perfect gender equality reigned, we would let in very few people indeed. Yet Muslims take the rap for all the world’s abuses of women, perhaps because of the very in-your-face but tiny subset of Muslims who have taken the subjection of women to extremes. But it is these very extremists (and the people who created them: the Bashar al-Assad regime) whom the waves of Syrian refugees are fleeing from. It seems a bad case of blaming the victim if we then assign to these refugees the same twisted ideology as their tormentors.

    We have an obligation as human beings to help those in dire need, even if their beliefs and values don’t perfectly align with ours. No one’s do –  even those of our longtime friends, family, and neighbours. I am proud of Wakefield’s and indeed Canada’s response so far to the refugee crisis, and I look forward to welcoming new neighbours, who will bring with them their own unique gifts that will add to the diversity and strength of our community. I am also proud of the progress Canada has made towards gender equality. But in both cases, we still need to do more.