Mark Steyn writes that a proposed city bylaw in Vancouver, Canada would exempt Muslim "hookah lounges" from the no-smoking ordinance:
In Vancouver, infidels can’t smoke but Muslims can:
Vancouver’s hookah-parlour owners are celebrating after winning an exemption Thursday from a proposed new bylaw that will ban smoking on most sidewalks in commercial districts, in bus shelters and even in taxis passing through Vancouver.
In giving the bylaw unanimous approval-in-principle, Vancouver city council members bowed to arguments that hookah lounges…are essential for immigrants from hookah-smoking cultures, because it helps them deal with the depression common for newcomers and gives them places like they have at home.
This is ridiculous. First, government entities should not be in the business of banning any legal action and smoking is, for the moment, still within the domain of the permitted. By all means, allow us non-wheezers to have clean spaces to eat, drink, and recreate in. I despise smoking – it is disgusting. But city-wide bans? That is not the purpose of government. **
Second, any law, whether good, bad, or indifferent, should be applied equally to all people under its sway. Wasn’t that the purpose of civil rights marches, to eliminate preferential treatment based on skin color? Now it’s suddenly acceptable to extend "courtesies" to a small minority based on their religious preference?
Third, though immigrants to Vancouver may well be homesick, particularly during the rather dreary winters that seem to last forever in the Pacific Northwest, that is not a valid reason for applying a double-standard to public behavior. Indeed, the anxiety immigrants experience is a necessary precursor to assimilation into the culture of their new home. Temporary disorientation is normal, expected, and on the whole, quite desirable. Those who adapt to it become better citizens; those who fail will return home.
Which is as it should be.
** Side Note: Mark Silva says that Hillary supports local smoking bans, Obama, while preferring local control, would support a nation-wide bad, and Crazy Kucinich says, "I’ve been breathing a lot of second-hand smoke here. You bet I’d support a national law.")