A Loss of Civil Liberties is Contagious

– Leisha Senko, staff

France is not a country known for being passive. Even when mildly peeved, Parisians make their voices heard, and often in the most overt fashion possible. The 1789 French revolution is the ultimate example. People were hungry and angry with their lack of political authority so women and men took to the streets and demanded a change. In 1968, when university class sizes were too big, students barricaded streets for days and basically set the city on fire.

So, with all of this in mind, it’s a bit of a shock that Nicholas Sarkozy, France’s eccentric President, has assaulted different minority rights without any resistance.
In the last few years Sarkozy has effectively banned Islamic face veils for women in public, performed an aggressive deportation of ethnic Romanian gypsies which was only defeated by a leaked memo, and has refused to legalize gay marriage even though roughly 58 percent of French citizens approve of it. Most recently, he’s made it illegal to serve anything vegetarian or vegan in schools, hospitals or retirement homes.

This may all seem like small beans in comparison to larger political issues, but to the people affected by these laws, it makes a world of difference.

So then, why aren’t the French out protesting, doing the thing they seem to do best?

The answer seems to highlight a universal truth. Governments realize it’s easy to bully unsympathetic minorities who can be painted as ‘dangerous’ or ‘harmful’.
In America and Canada, this lesson has been completely ingrained and fully utilized concerning Muslims. This minority group has been increasingly targeted, with the New York Police Department harassing and infiltrating Islamic schools, groups and mosques. Even in Canada, wire tapping in 2008 has been centering on ‘dangerous demographics,’ and our airport’s no-fly list has been alarming many people, says the CBC. In 2003 in Canada, 23 Muslim men were randomly arrested for ‘terror plots’ without any evidence or connections; within the span of a few years, they were subsequently released without charges and deported.
Like in France, we’re dealing with small scale problems on their own that seem not to affect Canada as a whole, but when pieced together and viewed on an abstract level, they become even more important. It’s clear that the more we allow our Muslim brothers and sisters in Canada and America to needlessly suffer and lose civil rights on the basis of a negative social construction our society has haphazardly thrown upon them, the more we sacrifice our own liberties.

By turning a blind eye to the plights of those who suffer needlessly because they are deemed less worthy, whether in France or here in our own hometowns, we give others reason to look away when it happens to us. In the end, it gives others reason to shy away from doing what’s right.

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