Canada
4 min

Nobody should vote based on religion or sexual orientation

Muslim candidate threatened for running against another Muslim

A Muslim candidate in the Toronto area says he was threatened for running against another Muslim candidate in the recent election.

Mustafa Rizvi, who ran for the NDP in Mississauga-Erindale, told the Toronto Star he received dozens of threatening phone calls and was called a “traitor to Islam” for running against Liberal incumbent Omar Alghabra. Ultimately Conservative Bob Dechert won by 239 votes over Alghabra with Rizvi a distant third.

Rizvi said calls accused him of splitting the Muslim vote and costing Alghabra his seat.

“I ran as an equal Canadian,” Rizvi explained. “I ran as an NDP candidate. Just because I’m a Muslim running against a Muslim, why is that a question? Why is it not a question when one Christian runs against another Christian?

“The Muslim community is closed-minded in that sense and that’s what I’m trying to look beyond. I have a future in this political business and I want to maintain it. I enjoy my religion, but I don’t make it a part of my political life.”

Alghabra denied that his NDP opponent cost him the election.

“Voting for people based on ethnicity or religious background is an outdated notion,” said Alghabra. “I don’t think anyone voted for him or me based on those things. There may be a very small number of individuals that will vote against or for someone because of their ethnic background. Unfortunately they exist, but they are not representative of our riding or our country.”

Now it’s not clear if people were upset because they thought Rizvi cost a Muslim his seat or because they thought he caused a Conservative win. But either way Alghabra is right, nobody should vote for anybody based just on their religion.

And nobody should vote for anybody based just on their sexual orientation either. Take Toronto Centre, the riding that contains the largest gaybourhood in Canada. There were two openly gay candidates running, one for the NDP and one for the Conservatives, until he was booted for musing on his blog that gays should carry concealed handguns. Should queer voters have considered voting for him?

In the end, it seems most queer voters supported Liberal Bob Rae — on the grounds that he would be better able to fight for the community as a prominent MP — over supporting a member of Parliament’s third party or a gay man who agreed with Stephen Harper.

And Rizvi was right too. Nobody’s religion should be part of their political life.

***

A recent study by University of British Columbia psychologist Ara Norenzayan concludes that religious believers are generous and giving, not because it’s the right thing to do, but because they think God is watching them.

According to an article in the Vancouver Sun, the study, published in the journal Science on Oct 2, shows that believers “act more kindly than atheists on condition they believe their acts will enhance their reputations among their peers. The second condition is being freshly reminded, in a subconscious way, of the existence of a morally tinged God or supernatural being….

“If researchers remove those two conditions, Norenzayan said, ‘All of a sudden you don’t find any differences’ between the behaviour of the religious and non-religious.”

In fact, the study also found that in many cases, even when they are being generous and giving, believers often tend to be helpful only to those who share their faith.

Now it’s certainly nice to have a properly conducted and peer-reviewed scientific study to refer to when religious types claim that they’re better people simply by virtue of believing in a higher being. In fact, the study implies that kind and caring atheists are better people because they don’t expect to gain anything from their behaviour.

But the study actually points to more important issues. It once again begs the question of why there is a growing trend of governments in Canada, the US and Europe handing social services over to faith-based organizations, supposedly because churches are the natural organizations to help anybody who needs it.

Faith-based groups are no better qualified to take care of people than any other, and they’re even less qualified to take care of gays. This study shows that religious types think God needs to see their actions. If they think God hates fags, they’ll think that God actually needs to see them hating fags, by refusing them help for example.

***

The main council of Islamic clerics of Malaysia has banned tomboys in the country, partly out of fear that they’ll become lesbians.

According to Britain’s Skynews, Abdul Shukor Husin, chairman of the council, said, “It is unacceptable to see women who love the male lifestyle including dressing in the clothes men wear. It becomes clearer when they start to have sex with someone of the same gender, that is woman and woman.

“In view of this, the National Fatwa Council have decided and taken the stand that such acts are forbidden and banned.”

“They must respect God,” said fellow council member Harussani Idris Zakaria. “God created them as boys, they must behave like boys. God created them as girls, they must act like girls.”

Presumably they think Allah will see the stand he’s taken.

***

This is barely relevant, but it amused me too much to leave out. It’s from a recent Ontario Divisional Court ruling on a case involving a man who filed a successful complaint against an OPP officer for false arrest.

“The charges against the appellant arose as a result of events on April 19, 2003 in Barry’s Bay, Ontario. The appellant was alone on duty that evening. He was driving his OPP car when he saw Jerry Yakabuskie and Vanessa Cowan walking down the street in a residential area. Mr Yakabuskie yelled a comment, the content of which is disputed. Mr Yakabuskie and Ms Cowan testified that he called ‘Happy Easter,’ while the appellant heard ‘Fuck you, fucking pig, fuck off.'”

If that doesn’t sum up the fight over religion, I don’t know what does.