Monday, April 19, 2010

Uproar in Canada Over Face-Veil Ban

April 18, 2010 on Al Jazeera English
In the Canadian province of Quebec a furious public debate has erupted over Muslim women who wear the niqab - face veil.

Out of over 200,000 Muslims in Montreal in Quebec, only a few dozen women wear the niqab, but under a proposed new legislation they could be barred from receiving public services.

Al Jazeera's Rob Reynolds reports from Montreal where the debate has divided the Muslim community.


  1. I find this story somewhat uplifting, if for no other reason than that there's finally an overt debate AMONG MUSLIMS about such an issue. I also take some pride in the fact that Canadian culture has produced at least a representation of open-minded, engaged muslims willing to speak out.
    As for the overwhelming majority of my neighbors who agree (surprise, surprise) that the muslim next door must quit doing things we make strange about, I really doubt if that's a decision they all made after seriously considering all the facts.
    The issue itself involves a choice between bad and less bad.

  2. Is it ok to wear a ski mask in colleges, banks or markets in general!?

  3. Not sure if it's agin the law, although 10 guys wearing ski masks and brandishing shotguns would probably catch somebody's attention.
    Perhaps even w/o the shotguns.
    Perhaps we could get these ladies to switch to ski masks, THEN arrest them!!
    P.S. Come to think of it, years ago I DID wear a skimask several times on entering businesses around town. Goddam cold where I live.

  4. I would argue that, even though some women may be forced to wear such things, I find it against my principles to tell to anyone, and especially women, what to and not to wear, thus finding myself against such proposition. On another note not only do I find this proposition (dare I say) wrong, but I would argue that it is also against the Chart of Rights and Freedoms of Canada, which is an integral part of the constitution, which stipulates that, concerning people's religions, the governement ought to make "reasonable accomodations", which, even though purposedly vague, has opened quite a route for the institution of multiculturalism in Canada. It allowed such things as allowing, to a point, Sikhs to wear long hear under their... Turban? (I'm sorry, I cannot remember the exact term) And also allowed them to wear their Kirpas (again, not exactly sure if I have the right term) on college campuses. For those who don't know, the kirpa is a kind of ceremonial dagger that is recquired to be worn at all time by the male members of that particular religion. Obviously a security threat, the governement reached a compromise with the Sikh community, in which the kirpa that they are allowed to wear is in fact made solely of wood, and cannot be taken out. That would be the definition of resonable accomodation. And I think that this proposition is unreasonable and discriminatory against those Muslim women who chose to wear a face veil. And I would also like to point out that such proposition, in my opinion, would not pass if it was a proposition regarding the ban of veils for catholic nuns.

    But then again, there are several other things to consider, such as the validity of the Chart of Rights and Freedoms in the province of Quebec (For those who don't know, even though Quebec complies to most governement and court decisions regarding this Chart, such as the legalization of gay marriage in Canada, Quebec is the sole province in Canada that is NOT a signatory of the Canadian constitution, and thus is not technically recquired to comply with it.)

  5. Keyaira,

    So we should let naturists go to university naked? We should let natives of certain faith groups wear pangs? People of pirate descent can carry swords and drink rum anywhere?

    I mean, come on! There are tons of compromises of individual rights for the greater good, it would be lying to say there aren't. It's not like banning the niqab will make a big difference. OOO you can't wear cloth on your head anymore, big freaking deal! Cloth on head or education and health care? I would choose the latter and I think anyone in the right mind would.

    Taking off the cloth is not that big of a deal. Banning it isn't that big a deal either but hey! It's Canada and we want to see their goddamn face. There's nothing wrong with us obliging that. They'd still have the right to do whatever the hell they want with their face out of a government building.

  6. Might I add that of course there is a security risk, and it's damn easy to cheat on exams, if you have one of those on. Is that fair to the rest of the students who work their butts off? Everyone should be subject to the same scrutiny.

  7. I see all your points, but then again, is there not room for compromise? For example, if I remember well, women choose (or sometimes are recquired to in some countries) to wear such vestments in the company of males who aren't relatives. Maybe then, for the cheating part and the security issue part, should those women be recquired to show their face in private to a female employee for identification? There is always room for compromise. Hell! They even struck a compromise with the Sikh community for Sikh people in prison, concerning their ceremonial daggers, in Which they came to the agreement that wearing a picture or even a drawing of the dagger would suffice not to contrevene with their religious recquirements. If we can do that, I am certain that we can strike a compromise here to, instead of simply taking the easy route and banning those women to chose what to wear for themselves.

  8. I would also add an hypothetical scenario. What if we were a Naturist society? Then even the wearing of simple clothes would constitute a much more serious risk than the port of the face-veil ever will. After all, the face veil only hides the face, while you can easily hide all kinds of dangerous things under any simple garnments. Should we then ban the wearing of clothes for the same reasons? What of people who choose not to show their nude flesh to everyone around them, who are uncomfortable with it, should we force them to go nude because that is what our society has decided for them? For a nudist society, just as you said, taking those clothes off "isn't that big a deal" and choosing wether to have access to governement jobs, education, healthcare etc. Or wearing clothes, well, the choice is easy isn't it? And after all, nothing prevents them from wearing clothes at home.
    This hypothetical scenario may seem far fetched, but I find that it in fact represents quite well what I want to underline, that is to say that, among other things, for some people, taking that clothe off IS in fact a big deal, and that people sensibilities, however whiny they might look like to an outsider, should in fact be taken into accoun before enacting such laws.

  9. <img></img><span><span>There are good arguments to be made both ways here, and KTS99 doesn't hit a single one. I tend toward the unmasking myself, a regretable but necessary choice between personal freedom and public security and safety.   
    This guy's argument comes straight out of Alabama North.   
    Naked in univerity??? Pirate with swords? Indiscriminate rum drinking? No cloth on your head, big freaking deal! We want to see their goddamn face!</span>  
    <span>This guy would scream like an indignant banshee if his public school demanded he remove his "Fuck You" Tshirt.   
    Proves what I said in the original post about most of my neighbour's motives.</span></span>

  10. Well, if you don't mind my disagreement, I think it would be unfair to say that RTS99 did not relevantly contribute to the debate. In fact, he did contribute on multiple parts, for, if his attitude may seem rash, he did pose the always relevant question "where do we draw the line" even if it was accompagnied with rather outlandish hyperboles. Secondly, he also made the point that was in part made earlier of the security reasons, for, amongst other practical purposes, cheating in exams etc. And finally he pointed out a point that I like to adress by himself using the argument that "it's not a big deal", which is an opinion shared by many, and which I like to show as being very relative and sometimes very wrong, such as indie with my "Naturist society" hypothesis.

  11. "<span>I find it against my principles to tell to anyone, and especially women, what to and not to wear"</span>

    Yeah, I know what you mean.  Do you have any idea how much discrimination men face when they were panty-hose over their faces?  It is against your principles to tell anyone what to wear, so don't complain if they walk into a bank like that.

    More seriously, though, there was a similar case in the US.  A Muslim woman wanted to get a drivers licence (which requires taking a picture of her face for identification purposes), and she fought it claiming religious reasons.

  12. Nah, you are all missing the big picture. Let's just try to CRUSH their religion, one stupid tradition at a time!

  13. "<span>And I think that this proposition is unreasonable and discriminatory against those Muslim women who chose to wear a face veil."</span>

    What woman would choose to wear a cloth bag over their head? These women are not exercising a freedom to dress how they wish. They are complying, under the threat of violence, with rule imposed on them by their husbands. The veil is nothing more than a slave's brand.

    The fact that some women who wear the veil claim that they want to wear it is not proof that they actually want to wear it. It's merely a manifestation of Stockholm syndrome.

  14. Turn your Naturist example around.    In our normal society, would a Naturist be allowed to go take an exam in the nude?  Would we make an exception to the normal clothing requirements in order to "respect" a Naturist?  Any situation where there is a legal dress code requirement and you are allowing Muslims to have the privilege to ignore the requirement, but that you are not allowing Naturists to ignore it too is hypocritical.

  15. To be fair to those women, it might not be Stockholm syndrome.  They might know very well that they don't like doing it, but be in a situation where they're afraid to say so and chose to lie about it.

  16. Well then, what proof should you need to be able to say that those women actually DO want to wear those garnements? If they don't say anything, it's that they are being threatened into it, but if they say that they voluntarely wish to wear those veils, then it's stockholm syndrome? Do you even know what Stockholm syndrome really is? What about a woman who wishes to become a nun? And then if the nun chooses to wear the traditional nun veil (because now they aren't recquired to do so, since Vatican II)? Is this Stockholm syndrome too?
    Do you see the problem with your argument? The problem is that you are unwilling to admit that some people actually, from their own free will, do choose to lead a very pious and restrictive lifestyle, that does impose some very strict rules on things such as garnments. Some women choose to be nuns, some Muslim women choose to wear the veil, and dress themselves in a way that suits them. You absolutely refuse to admit that those women choose that for themselves. I don't say that their choice are healthy, right, or anything of the sort, but it is their call to make choices about their lives, not ours to just assume that they are somehow "forced into it" by their male relatives, and thus even when the women themselves say that it's their own choice.
    If I might remind you, in the documentary, it's not the woman's husband who filed a lawsuit to keep her veil in class, it's the woman herself for her to make a choice for herself.
    It's the woman's choice, Exactly the same as it should be the woman's choice wether or not to marry, use contraceptive, have an abortion, or dress prudely or in a sexy manner. And just because a woman dresses in a more humble and prude manner does not necessarely mean that she's being forced into it.

    As for the nudist running around, there are nudist colonies, there are possibilities, hell, there are cities where you can go practically nude and it's legal, cities where women can choose to go topless (whereas in most cities, men can but women can't). If I remember well, there may also be nude beaches (or is it only in France?) etc.
    I was making the allegory to illustrate the point that to some people, no matter how childish or strange their customs and choices might seem, they matter, and it's a big deal. Just as in my naturist hypothesis it matters a lot for what we see as obvious reasons not to go around nude, it also matters a lot to those women to be able to wear the niqab. Whereas you are taking the stand that, if they can "bend the rules", then why can't everybody?
    Here again, reasonable accomodations are the key. We accomodate naturists, they can have colonies, villages, beaches etc. We do not simply outlaw naturalists. For those women, while the proposition would not straight out outlaw the wearing of the niqab, it would do just so in a lot of places, basically giving them the choice between their religion and things such as education, healthcare etc. While there CAN be accomodations made, just as there has been in many other cases.
    Another example : Natives. Native Americans can have long hair in the military while other non-natives can't. Why? Because it matters to them, to a muh greater level than it matters to us. It's part of their culture, their religions, their heritage, it's not just a fashion statement. And thus rules have been bent for them, in the military, in prisons (they can participate in sweat lodges, which are a kind of sauna, which is part of many native ceremonies, etc.) and it is the same process that has been going on for most other religins on many points, because that is the value of multiculturalism in Canada.

    Also, if I'm not clear enough, I know that some women may be indeed forced to wear such garnments and worse, I'm not completely [...]

  17. R€LIGION $TINKS OF MONE¥April 20, 2010 at 8:44 AM

    Yes, kudos to Tarek Fatah.

  18. If this was about a dress code for government officials, I would have no problem with it, at all. But this is about limiting access to *all* public services, regardless of whether or not facial identification is required. That is a completely needless restriction.

  19. john, the point *was* to have ridiculous outlandish remarks. Because I am trying to highlight that we all have limits to accomodation and that it is silly to think we should accomodate things such as the niqab when we don't accomodate plenty of other things. Perhaps you didn't see the sarcasm, it's difficult to convey it on the web.

    Back to the niqab. Why should the already busy as heck government and services (eg health care) go out of there way to provide a woman to this person so she can show her face? It's this type of ridiculous behaviour that the Quebec government wants to stop.

    If someone refuses to receive free health care, services and education in order to wear a cultural/religious garment (I'm sure that it somehow fits in their personal religious view) then wouldn't that be a little extremist?

  20. Exactly the point I was trying to make with my silly hyperboles :) !

    Well said.

  21. Another minor point for john;

    The same cultural norms that made you think what I am saying is disrespectful, that a 'fuck you' t-shirt is not acceptable (no I don't have one), is the same one that says, although people have freedom, the niqab could potentially pose problems and since it is silly & not absolutely necessary it can be abolished from gov't buildings.

    Yes, we can always accomodate them for wearing it, it will have a few consequences, probably not a whole lot of them. But don't you think it is hypocritical of them to refuse to accomodate for their country? Canada has accomodated for them in many ways and provided services which all citizens are entitled to. The least they can do is do a slight change, pick up their courage and take off the veil. Why does Canada *always* have to accomodate for them and never vice versa?

  22. Quebecois society has been transformed for the better by the advances of feminism and the rejection of religious dogma in the last four decades. People outside Québec have no idea what sigh of relief we breathed as a culture when Catholic clericalism and authoritarianism at last came to an abrupt end.

    Now, many pro-women groups see the arrival of this face-covered Islamic ideal of feminine modesty (enforced in very few non-representative extremists community) with some measure of apprehension. They have learned from many muslims that restrictions against headscarves are in place even in muslim countries, like Morocco. These Quebecois groups rightfully believe that the face-covering is not an expression of the women's choice, but rather the product of peer-pressure from extremist communities fighting the legal reality of equality among the sexes. The shallow, mollified and opportunistic Charest government has at last been forced to take action to uphold Québécois ideals, and no bleeding-heart handwringing about "racism" or "xenophobia" will change the fact that it was a feminist move, caused by feminist pressures.

  23. "Why does Canada *always* has to accomodate for them and never vice versa?*
    That would be for multiple reasons :
    First off, it was a choice made back when Trudeau was prime minister and his administration wrote the Constitution. The choice was made that Canada would be a cultural experiment of a kind. Canada has always, from it's very beginning, been a land of immigrants, and, unlike the US, the choice was made not to create a new culture, the "melting pot", the "American way" where people came there and had to conform to sometimes very outlandish and strange rules (that is strange for them). On the other side, since it's independance from Great Britain and the queen, it was chosen that Canada, being what it was, that is a veritable patchwork of different cultures, from Irish to Natives to Acadiens to Brits to African Americans etc. The choice was made that unlike the US, Canada would have no identity of it's own, only certain core values such as the "laissé-faire" British, that is to say the customary British politeness and not messing with other people's private affairs. It was chosen that it would be a multicultural society, which, unlike the American melting pot, where cultures are quite litteraly mashed together into some unrecognizable mess, the Canadian society would be composed of a million of little cultural islands.
    That is why the Charter of Rights and freedoms explicitely says that there ought to be "reasonable accomodations" for other people's religions and customs. That is why the Canadian flag is what it is, it's just a red leaf on a red and white background. It was chosen not even 50 years ago because it didn't represent anything to anyone, it was completely neutral, thus could be adopted by anyone, without much problem. Unlike the American flag which is sacred litteraly sacred and protected by the law for I think unreasonable things (it's not only illegal to burn the flag, it's also illegal to even sit on it, such as a person that has the American flag on the back pockets of his pants can be arrested solely for the ridiculous reason of "sitting on the American flag")

    Thus, accomodating for other people's culture and religion, even if we have to bend the rules a little, is an integral part of what little core values hold Canada together. It's the law, and it is very often enforced by the courts against the governement. It's not only the law for the Muslims : "the immigrants" (even though the huge majority of the people that call them that do not see the irony of them being sons and daughters of immigrants themselves). It is also accomodations for native Americans, "old immigrants" (Acadians and British etc.), for old and new religions (Wicca, Neo-paganism etc.)
    It's a social experiment, which I am rather fond off, and which I would not like to dismiss to become just another US.
    That is why we accomodate.

    Because canadians are polite. ;)

  24. Seems reasonable to ban the niqab and the burqa from public buildings; they're a security risk.  If the government can't tell who you are, what business do you have in its buildings?

  25. I am in complete agreement with you that, the Quebec society (and not only Quebec, but Canada as a whole) has greatly gained from the advances of feminism.
    Few people may remember this, but until not so long ago, a woman could not own anything without a husband, and even then, it would be the husband who would legally own. When my partner found herself a single mother in the Quebec society a few decades ago, landlords could and did close their doors to her for the sole reason of her not having a husband, or even a male partner, and they could do that completely legally.
    But concerning this particular issue, while feminist movements might think that in doing such they are advancing the global feminist movement, by going against what is seen in many countries as a symbol of women's oppression (and maybe they are indeed advancing their cause).
    However, on that particular matter, I think that, without meaning for it to sound too arrogant, I may be a better feminist than them.
    Why? Because even though I agree that the veil may be a symbol of women's oppression under Islam (or under Judaism and Christianity not so long ago also), in many countries, I support on an individual level the right for women to choose for themselves wether or not to wear the veil. If a woman is coerced into wearing a niqab, then that is a terrible matter and should be dealt in civil or criminal court (spousal abuse etc.), but in the case of women who choose for themselves to wear what they believe, as you pointed out, to be a symbol of feminine modesty and religiousity, then I believe it is their choice to make, and if small accomodations may be made in order for them to function in society , I believe according to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms of Canada (which, as I pointed out before, is technically not signed by the Quebec Province, but that is another matter entirely) that such reasonable accomodations must be made.
    I support a woman's choice, regardless of what I personnally think of it as being right or wrong or misguided.

  26. Then can't we accomodate for those women that do not want to show their face to males for them to have female member of the staff present and private encloves to ensure their identity? After all, in other cases we accomodate JUST the same way. For example, a schoolgirl, if she had to do a medical examination, would automatically be looked after by a female nurse or doctor, and even if it was not the case and she was supposed to be looked at by a male nurse or doctor, they could ask to be looked at by a female instead and we wouldn't think twice about it!

  27. Keyaira,

    I think your arguments are complete and utter nonsense. You act as if the Canadian government has an infinite 'laisser faire' to other's religions, cultures, etc. Why aren't native africans allowed to wear nothing but a pang? The same cultural relativity that says this is not acceptable here, is the one that says the niqab is not.

    Clearly you have grasped none of what I was saying.

    The government doesn't always accomodate (there are enough proofs of that), the niqab is unreasonable in many circumstances, why should they waste gov't time for special treatment (don't even start with the little girl thing, it's a straw man argument), and just why exactly is it so terrible for them to take it off.

    Look at the British 'multicultural islands' and tell me how well THEY have done! Several areas are breeding grounds for islamic extremism.

    Done. End of the line. Fin.