Labeling People the Quebec Government Way

The liberal media have been criticizing those 20% of Americans polled who believe Barack Obama is a Muslim. The president declares himself a Christian, yet those 20% insist upon determining his religion based upon his father's adherence to Islam. The left would have us believe this is bigotry and intolerance.

It should be noted that Canada -- that bastion of liberalism, gay marriage, and universal health care -- subscribes to the very same intolerant view. And it's government policy.

We're all aware by now of Edward N. Luttwak's May 12, 2008 New York Times piece -- recently cited on American Thinker -- in which he wrote:

As the son of the Muslim father, Senator Obama was born a Muslim under Muslim law as it is universally understood. It makes no difference that, as Senator Obama has written, his father said he renounced his religion. Likewise, under Muslim law based on the Koran his mother's Christian background is irrelevant.

Of course, as most Americans understand it, Senator Obama is not a Muslim. He chose to become a Christian, and indeed has written convincingly to explain how he arrived at his choice and how important his Christian faith is to him.

Muslim countries aren't alone in this regard. For one particular group, the Quebec provincial government has, for years, determined "ethnic" identity according to one's parent's or ancestors' religion.

I direct your attention to two links. The first is to a publication from the Directeur général des elections du Quebec:

Scroll down to page 52 of the pdf file (page 49 of the actual booklet) and you'll see, in French, a listing for the D'Arcy McGee electoral district under "population totals for ethnic origin." Over the following eight pages, about 250 ethnic origins -- from Italian to "Arabic origin" to Chinese -- are listed. Note that the only religion listed as an ethnic group is "Jewish" ("Juif" in French). No other appears.

An individual in Quebec who has Jewish parents but doesn't believe in God, has never been in a synagogue in his life, has never adhered to the tenets of the Jewish religion, and may even celebrate Christmas will still be entered as "Jewish" in demographic reports published under the auspices of the Quebec government.

The second is a link to the 2006 Long Census Form for Census Canada. Like those secular Jews who choose to identify themselves as "Jewish," the primary identity of many -- if not most -- devout Muslims is their faith rather than their country of origin. Indeed, according to Question 17 of the census form, linked to above, they are free to answer "Muslim" if they so choose. I cannot explain why this is not reflected in the Quebec document -- which relies on Canada Census tracts for its information -- and it is for "Jewish" ethnic origin. Perhaps there is an innocent explanation that I am not aware of.

Yes, Barack Obama's religion should be determined by one person and one person only:  Barack Obama. And if Canadians want to identify their ethnicity by labeling themselves as "Jewish" or "Muslim," they are free to do so according to that country's practices and be registered as such under census rules. However, these are not ignorant or intolerant attitudes, but rather personal choices reflecting individual identity. Such choices are then reflected in the culture and become part of the lexicon, disseminated through the media, or, in the case of Quebec, government policy. Liberal Canada makes public policy of the practice of determining one's ethnic origin according to an ancestor's or parent's religion. Is it no surprise then that a substantial percentage of Americans have adopted the same practice and assume Obama to be a Muslim?

Ideas about what the religion of the American president is -- no matter how erroneous they may be -- are at the end of the day still private, individual opinions. Contrast this with the practice of singling out one specific group for special treatment for data collection, official publication, and, ultimately, public policy. No one from either the Canadian or American left says "boo!" regarding the latter, yet they yelp like slaughtered seals at the first instance of the former. 

Tony Kondaks is a Canadian citizen living in the United States. His most recent book, Why Canada Must End, can be found online in its entirety at
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