Speaking of cultural ignorance: A letter to Manjit Singh

with 75 comments

Dear Mr. Singh,

It’s with great interest that I read your letter in Thursday’s Gazette in which you attempt to school the « culturally ignorant » members of our National Assembly about the Sikh kirpan.

First of all, I want to congratulate you for your willingness to go beyond murky statistics and to boldly dare to make up numbers on the fly when you write that there is an « extremely high » probability that none of our lawmakers « would be able to provide a coherent answer » if asked explain the significance of the kirpan.

Most people are not willing to admit that the statistics they pull out of their asses are solely based on prejudice and ignorance. Your self-awareness is commendable.

Your brief historical primer on the kirpan was very informative. I’m sure the democratically elected members of Québec’s National Assembly will be relieved to learn that the self-appointed clerics of Amritsar, Punjab settled this matter in their name all the way back in 1922.

Indeed, why indeed should Québec, Ontario, American Homeland Security or the United Nations for that matter, have any laws regarding the kirpan at all since the wise men of Amritsar have proclaimed that the dagger is not a knife. Someone should also tell Manjit Mangat.

But as McGill’s chaplain and the president of the Interfaith council of Montreal I trust you are familiar with the many other laws of our province that violate the religious commandments of our fellow citizens. Think of the religious rights of all these poor Catholic children forced to learn about evolution, the ultraconservative Muslim clerics forced to send their daughters to school and the Mormon men prevented from marrying multiple underaged girls.

Men like you need to speak out and explain to the lawmakers and people of Québec that in today’s multicultural world, the rules of unelected religious leaders override the laws of our democratically elected legislators. Because. Just because.

I was profoundly moved by the story of the kirpan as the symbol of the Sikh’s determination to not let others impose their religious tenets upon them, and impressed with the way you use that story to argue that Québec must let Sikh’s wear their kirpan’s anywhere they want to. I was also impressed by your splendid demonstration that not giving special treatment to Sikhs who visit the National Assembly was a double standard. Remarkable.

But what truly blew me away me was your boldness and courage in choosing to lecture Québec’s political class about their need to « educate themselves about new cultures that are coming to the province » in English, a language the vast majority of your fellow citizens do not speak, read or understand!

Speaking of cultural ignorance…

God bless you, Manjit Singh.


Written by angryfrenchguy

February 17, 2011 at 4:49 pm

75 Responses

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  1. Adski,
    3 points:

    1) In the same text, you refer to Québécois Francophones as both a minority and a majority. This is an obvious “intuitive reality”, but it reveals an analytical confusion: One which only helps muddy the debate.

    Québécois Francophones are a linguistic majority within the state of Quebec. They are not a linguistic minority within the Canadian federation: That would concern Canadian Francophones as a whole. The English-French relationships are not the same whether you situate yourself within the context of the state of Quebec or within the Federal Canadian one; and even less in the N-American context.

    Now, when we discuss Bill 101 or the Sikh at the Assembly, we are in the Québécois context. Stepping in and out of it as you do at the beginning of your answer doesn’t add anything to the discussion.

    In any case, the Québécois do not ask for any privileges or special rights in the Canadian or N-American contexts, as you imply. The day Québécois workers who temporarily move to Alberta or Tennessee for work start asking for all services to be granted to them in French, including the “right” to separate publicly-funded schools, we’ll talk again.

    2) Adski : « This applies perfectly to the debate about the place of religion in Quebec. The inflexibility and overreaction of the Quebec majority to anything “alternative” is rooted in fear and anxiety »

    This is not new coming from an Anglo-Canadian perspective, but you completely fail to take in the global context of these “inflexible overreactions”. A context in which politicians are pressured by the population to, not only ban Sikh religious daggers from the Assembly, but also to close down ultra-catholic underground schools and ban catholic prayers in town assemblies. A very peculiar form of xenophobia, if you ask me.

    Also, I don’t know you personally, but my feeling here is you do not ever read French newspapers and media on these debates, and rather base your opinions on the conclusions that The Gazette and other outside sources draw from them.
    The reason I’m saying this is that the Quebec population and its elites are debating these issues very strongly, and from a number of different stances. And a good number of them would strongly disagree with my position, as expressed above.
    You, on the other hand, make broad generalisations about the Québécois, as if we were one very homogeneous tribe whose members react with the same emotional responses to certain stimuli.
    Again, that’s not surprising. In fact, we’re quite used to it.

    3) Otherwise, I don’t see anything in your answer which contradicts my analysis.

    Yes, the Québécois Francophone majority has anxieties over losing their political majority status. Some 200 years of being a demographic and democratic majority treated as a political minority certainly helped us develop these feelings.

    But I’ll point out that majorities all over the world share these feelings, whenever they face demographic changes, coupled with increasing demands from minorities over the type of privileges and exemptions such as I described above.
    -Americans in the USA’s South over Spanish-speaking populations; -BCers over Asians; -Europeans over Muslim immigrants… to name but a few examples.

    Yet, that does in no way delegitimize the need for a society — like Quebec or any other — to foster commonness and fight the centripetal tendencies that are emerging at the social level.
    As I outlined, far from being a rejection of the pluralistic character of this society, it is rather a matter of deciding how we’ll manage it at the political level: Will we let it go the way of Lebanon, or will we push for a society where linguistic and religious differences do not define one’s public statuses, define dealings with public services, laws or the state. I choose the latter. And I believe that fostering neutrality on these grounds, as well as encouraging all citizens to participate on an equal footing in commonly shared institutions, is the best solution.

    Feel free to disagree. But for god’s sake do try to come up with actual arguments and valid political solutions, rather than hunting for secret pathological motives on the part of anybody whose positions you dislike.


    March 7, 2011 at 2:55 pm

  2. Erratum : I meant «fight the centrifugal tendencies», not centripetal.
    My browser’s word-check’s mistake.


    March 7, 2011 at 3:00 pm

  3. Feel free to disagree. But for god’s sake do try to come up with actual arguments and valid political solutions, rather than hunting for secret pathological motives on the part of anybody whose positions you dislike.

    But he’s a one-trick pony. Don’t ever expect anything other than his discount ethnopsychology, because that’s all there is.


    March 7, 2011 at 8:31 pm

  4. For my part, I’ll have to retract my first point, after re-reading Adski’s last message. In all fairness, he did not talk of “Québécois Francophones” as a minority.

    (I was at a dinner party Saturday evening, where I had a discussion with someone who did refer to Francophones in Quebec as a Canadian minority. So I guess I still had that in mind when reading Adski’s post…)

    This said, bringing that into the discussion here still does muddy the water, for the reasons I expressed.


    March 7, 2011 at 10:02 pm

  5. “M. Bergeron, I guess it’s all settled then. Anglos, as you point out, have nothing real to complain about. But then sovereignists aren’t getting tortured either so have nothing to real to complain about either, no?”

    I would pretty much agree with that, but la loi 101 isn’t the same as Québec independence, now is it? 101 is supported or at least tolerated by more than just sovereignists.


    March 13, 2011 at 10:51 am

  6. Très bon texte !!!

    Wordy Word

    April 1, 2011 at 11:42 am

  7. Wow, what a complete sense of ignorance Mr. AngryFrenchMan. How about imposing a minority French language down the throat of the majority and getting freebies since confederation. Did your ancestors have no problem letting 15000 Sikhs fight (with their Kirpans and Turbans) the Nazis in France and helping liberate you lost souls. Not only you smack of ignorance, your intellectual capacity is much to be desired.

    Yours truly,
    Proud Sikh

    Dharam Singh

    May 10, 2011 at 2:35 pm

  8. Hey Dharam

    The ancestors of the French SPEAKERS of Québec (at least those who came from France) left Europe THREE HUNDRED YEARS before World War 2.

    Get it? The ancestors of the Québécois left France generations before Guru Gobind Singh established the Khalsa (all I needed to sound this smart was Wikipedia and a brain).

    And French, which has been the language of white men and natives in Québec longer than English, indeed longer than it has been used in most regions of France, has not been a minority language in these parts since the 17th century.

    I usually do a quick google double check before I call other people ignorant. That way I avoid looking like a total idiot…

    You can go back to the Gazette now.


    May 11, 2011 at 12:05 pm

  9. Dharam, would you like it if New Delhi/India IMPOSED Hindi on your religion’s native Punjab and tried to assimilate you, language first, rest of culture second?

    It actually happened in parts, it seems.

    You got now why we defend our language and culture. We are a minority but in our native ground, like Sikhs in Punjab!

    the Ubbergeek

    May 23, 2011 at 12:34 am

  10. Its funny how Angry French Guy talks about a Minority imposing its view on the majority, when Bill 101 was imposed by a Canadian Francophone minority on the majority English speakers who coincidentally are a minority in the most of Quebec. Bill 101 was imposed on all of Quebec. Even in areas that were majority English.


    September 8, 2011 at 9:35 am

  11. But English speakers are a majority, and in power, in ALL of north america.

    And we are NATIVES OF QUEBEC. The Québecois nation and culture is centuries old by now. We have so rights.
    Like Americans and Canucks.

    I bet in an alternate universe where english would be a minor language like ours, an english quebec, you’d say the same as us actually.

    Anglo-saxons, I have found with age, are VERY uneasy sharing power. Loook at USA, and afro-americans.. the WASP were quite reluctant.

    the Ubbergeek

    September 12, 2011 at 10:07 pm

  12. “And we are NATIVES OF QUEBEC.”

    How do you square this statement with the fact that you:
    1. have pasty white skin
    2. speak a white European language of a former colonialist
    3. have a last name of a white European colonialist
    4. your not so-distant ancestors arrived in the area of your residence under a banner of La Mission Civilisatrice, a slogan more arrogant than the one employed by your direct competitors (The White Man’s Burden)

    “We have so rights.
    Like Americans and Canucks.”

    Once again, you mean privileges, not rights. The worldly status of their language – something that your language once was-, the mass pop culture, the fact that every kid in every corner of the world learns their language, not yours.

    Well, Anglo-Americans achieved it by decades of exploitation, pillaging, war, control of trade, economy and currency, and through empire building, something that they were really good at, while your ancestors weren’t…although they tried really hard to keep up.

    You can’t deny though that your people were trying to build an empire too. Only that they failed. So first of all, have some dignity and acknowledge your own hypocrisy. Second of all, don’t be jealous of Anglos-Americans. There is nothing to be jealous about. And there is no reason for this inferiority complex which is behind the phony pride, posturing, and even official policy of this province.


    October 10, 2011 at 8:51 am

  13. Hi! i’m repost you post: to my @kwudofui twitter


    November 9, 2011 at 9:28 pm

  14. Speaking of cultural ignorance: A letter to Manjit Singh | AngryFrenchGuy

    July 3, 2014 at 4:48 am

  15. Awesome! Its actually awesome piece of writing,
    I have got much clear idea about from this post.

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    August 21, 2014 at 9:40 am

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