Written last year. And now we have a federal government that will deny the very right of citizenship to women, WOMEN, not their male oppressors or the folks who drove them to come to Canada, for this. As usual these cowardly bullies will target the alleged victim, as this is easier than attempting to understand them. They will do so in the usually self-satisfied way that pretends that this is their contribution to the struggle for women's equality.
This is such a disgrace that it is hard to fathom fully. Really racist and wrong-headed. And yet such laws have a surprising number of defenders on the left.
They are wrong.
On Pseudo-Leftist Intolerance.
There is little that is more simplistic or beneficial to the hard right racists than those in the left who would accept the violation of fundamental and basic freedoms under the guise of promoting women's rights or social order.
Yet another government on the continent that brought us not only democracy and liberalism, but fascism, racism and colonialism, has chosen to force women, under threat of imprisonment, to violate their own beliefs and be "liberated" by parliaments led almost entirely by a white social elite that had no problem with letting Islamics in as long as they shut up and did the jobs that Europeans were "too good for".
Never mind the obvious and vital fact that these laws threaten the very people they are alleged to liberate, and the vile disgrace that it is the supposed victims of the Niqab who would be imprisoned. This is a simple reflection of the desire to bully the easy target. It is the effortless way out for the intellectual coward. "Liberate" Islamic women by threatening them with jail.
Whether it is Sikhs in the RCMP, Jews in the legion, various forms of religious daggers or dress, there are always calls from those afraid of the other for people to set aside deeply held beliefs and conform. When it comes to religious or political beliefs or how a person dresses one really must, after the crimes of all of our history, be a pure libertarian.
Laws like this always backfire, pushing those inclined that way even further towards isolation and extremism and they are wrong applied to any group.
They are also almost certainly unconstitutional in both Canada and the USA. And so they must be. If the government can regulate one form of dress, then why not others?
As for the absurd and racist argument that if they wanted to come here they should be like us, they should adopt "our" values, whatever that means in a nation of immigrants, well that argument has been used against Italians, Jews, Sikhs, Catholics...every group you can name. It was wrong then and is now.
Maybe we should outlaw wigs worn in public by Jewish orthodox women. I have never heard of any legal discussion around this obviously vile and backward practice, and the reason is plain. These women are not Islamic and need not be targeted for special treatment. The ideas are Islamaphobia, no matter which way you cut it.
Maybe we should outlaw the speech of those opposed to a woman's right to abortion, or imprison women who chose not to liberate themselves from the inane practice of being forced to wear a long dress to attend many Christian Orthodox churches, to play a certain and clearly backward role in Amish or Mennonite communities. Or maybe we should start to measure the length of skirts to ensure that we do not allow women to make the mistake of objectifying themselves.
I have long had issue with those who claim that such laws are for the benefit of women. ALL of the great monotheistic religions have sects, some more mainstream than others, that have disgraceful views of women and women's rights, and, as with the wigs of the Orthodox, are just as bizarre or outside of our alleged "cultural norms" as is a niqab.
Frankly, one will never liberate anyone by telling them what they are NOT allowed to do!
But, more importantly, it needs to be clear, the government of Quebec is stating that it will DENY government services to people who refuse to compromise what is, for better or worse, a part of their religious belief system. European governments are threatening these women with the oddly unliberating prison cell. The punishment for "not showing their face" is a denial of basic citizen access to government services or to free social mobility. This is every bit as bad as keeping people off beaches due to their race or out of certain clubs or areas. It is disturbingly similar to fascist race laws.
It is simply disgraceful and has no place in a constitutional democracy that claims religious freedom and that pretends to have equality of access before the law and government.
Opposing the Niqab is not racist. I do oppose it. I oppose the use of wigs by Orthodox women. I oppose the Catholic ban on women priests. I think circumcision is disgusting. I feel that little is more disgraceful than female genital mutilation, it is vile. I could go on and on about any number of human religious practices, certainly not limited to the Islamic community.
Frankly, most practices justified by tradition or religion, especially many involving women, are outright moronic and have no place in modern society. And yet they not only exist, they are often endorsed by the same people who claim to care about the women under the niqab.
What I think is outright discrimination, is the denial of government services or human freedoms, by law, to people for any of these religious reasons including the niqab. That is anti-democratic, period.
And anyone from any group that has suffered systemic discrimination historically, and all those who claim to stand by their side, should oppose every government attempt to deny religious freedom rights, most notably when they are clearly aimed at a specific group.
Beyond that, though, to those who feel that this is a women's rights issue, I would also say that of the many profound issues facing women in their struggle for equality, the desperate questions of poverty, reproductive freedoms, the increasing legal spread and imposition of evangelical christian perspectives, (who are a far greater threat, with their often successful and aggressive attempts to impose their religious views on North American women), and so many others, to me this is simply a diversionary tactic by the right that will do nothing to help women in Canada at all, including the handful of women who wear the Niqab.
In the end, I believe a secular society does not impose it values but rather extends them through the discourse of debate and example.
Using the force of government and the threat of imprisonment in a democratic society to propel people to conform to our cultural norms is an outright violation of everything we claim to stand for. There is just as much violence in forcibly ripping the veil off as there is in allegedly putting it on.