Home The niqab debate

The niqab debate

by admin March 16, 2010

The niqab debate

by admin March 16, 2010

The niqab debate

by admin March 16, 2010

The niqab debate

by admin March 16, 2010

A woman was ejected from a government sponsored language class because she refused to remove her niqab Tues. March 9. This event was symptomatic of the attack on religious freedoms that has been taking place in Quebec as of late. This incident of the restriction of religious freedoms, as well as others like it, was plainly meant to satisfy a part of Quebec’s population which no longer represents the vast majority. As well, it demonstrates a lack of respect for democracy, and is dangerous for Quebec society as a whole.

The attack on religious freedoms in Quebec represents an attempt by the government to act in the interests of only one part of the Quebec population, to the detriment of the rest. The perpetrators of this attack, such as Premier Jean Charest, claim that they are protecting “Quebec’s values.” The question is, which “Quebec’s” values are being protected? The attempts to restrict people’s rights to sport religious symbols is an attempt to satisfy the “old” Quebec; the part of the Quebec population that is xenophobic, resistant to change and unwilling to live in present reality. Regardless of what Quebec’s demographics and values used to be, things have changed. Quebec is now a far more multicultural and diverse place than it was even 15 years ago. The influx of foreign immigrants has been a godsend for Quebec’s economy and society, bringing in people who are hard-working and actually reproducing at replacement level. With the benefits that these new immigrants bring, there must also be accommodation.
Quebec no longer has a monolithic population, and as such, its government cannot continue to act as if there is still any semblance of monolithic values. To infringe on people’s religious freedoms in the name of protecting common values is ridiculous in a society where the values, like the population, have become increasingly diverse.
The restriction of religious rights represents an attack on democracy. Freedom of religion is one of the core tenets of a democratic system, and by eroding religious freedom, the Quebec government is doing a great disservice to democracy. One of the most essential documents in terms of Canadian democracy, The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, specifically protects freedoms of religion and conscience, as well as freedom of expression. In restricting the right to both practice and express religious beliefs, the government of Quebec has demonstrated that it has no respect for the Charter, or for democracy in general.

The lack of respect for the part of the Charter which guarantees religious freedom does not bode well for the future of democracy in Quebec. The Charter is a document which is indivisible, and once even one right or freedom has been restricted, the whole document becomes to a certain extent worthless. We cannot afford to pick and choose which democratic values and ideals we want to adhere to, and which we don’t. Democracy and the Charter are a zero-sum game, a game which, if the Quebec government follows its current course, it will lose.
The Quebec government’s attack on religious freedoms is extremely troubling. The Quebec government is acting in the interests of an increasingly small part of the population, and in such a way that is detrimental for democracy in general. Hopefully, the population of Quebec, which has in the past demonstrated itself to be quite progressive and forward thinking, will rise up and let the Charest government know that religious freedoms, like all freedoms, must be protected.

Quebec is not a multicultural society and has never been.
While the rest of Canada likes to champion its multiculturalism, this province’s official policy has always been what it calls interculturalism. Essentially, this means that aspects of different cultures are welcome given that they do not contradict the dominant culture.
As an example of this policy in action, the Quebec National Assembly in 2005 unanimously voted against the introduction of Sharia law (the rules to a Muslim way of life), when the Ontario government of the time recommended that law be privatized and people be allowed to use Sharia law if they wished to do so.
The message was clear: Quebec has its values, and they ought to be abided by.
So why is the niqab still tolerated?

Quebec does, of course, guarantee religious freedom in its Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms. But this seems to be a contradiction: how can it give every person the right to practice their religion freely on the one hand, while banning an important aspect of Islam on the other? There’s clearly a limit on this right. And it’s about time this limit be extended.
It’s important to note that despite the fact that Sharia law would have been voluntary &- a couple would have had the choice between secular and Islamic law to solve their domestic disputes &- the Canadian Congress of Muslim Women stood firmly behind the Quebec National Assembly.
The fact is, behind the veil of choice lies a deeper truth that many outsiders fail to see.
Coming from a religious background, I have witnessed many female friends and family being pressured by parents and peers into wearing not necessarily the niqab, but the hijab &- many of them before becoming teenagers. Of course the final call was theirs, they “chose” to wear the hijab, but what can a young girl do when she’s bombarded by people she loves, people she lives with, people she goes to social and religious events with? What can a young girl do when all these social elements and more converge to tell her that she should be a good girl and cover up, or her creator would disapprove of her and she could be destined for eternal damnation? Not only that, but a girl knows she could also be destined for social rejection.
Unlike Western societies, many Middle Eastern and Islamic societies do not encourage independent thought.
The fate of Benazir Bhutto, the former democratic, secular Prime Minister of Pakistan is a well-known example of what could happen to a Muslim woman leading her own path. She was assassinated because she did not give in to the ultra-conservative interpretation of Islam and was paving the way for a new Pakistan, one with more freedom and respect for women’s rights. And it is telling that she refused to cover her face or hair.

Bhutto’s case might be an extreme one due to the presence of extremist elements in her country, but it is not unusual for Islamic societies to be numbered with ultra-conservative, judgmental and forceful people, people who cannot tolerate interpretations of Islam other than their own. A girl in an Islamic social circle might not be killed for questioning a certain view of Islam, but the real choice many Muslim women face is between social acceptance and rejection, and between supposed eternal bliss and suffering.
Multiculturalists often argue to keep the niqab legal for the sake of religious tolerance, but in doing so they fail to see that their view aids in the repression of women, and could potentially silence many a Benazir Bhutto &- much needed women who bridge the gap between Islam and the West.
The niqab is in direct conflict with Quebec’s views on gender equality, and it’s high time we ban it.

– The writer has asked to remain anonymous for their safety

Quebec is not a multicultural society and has never been.
While the rest of Canada likes to champion its multiculturalism, this province’s official policy has always been what it calls interculturalism. Essentially, this means that aspects of different cultures are welcome given that they do not contradict the dominant culture.
As an example of this policy in action, the Quebec National Assembly in 2005 unanimously voted against the introduction of Sharia law (the rules to a Muslim way of life), when the Ontario government of the time recommended that law be privatized and people be allowed to use Sharia law if they wished to do so.
The message was clear: Quebec has its values, and they ought to be abided by.
So why is the niqab still tolerated?

Quebec does, of course, guarantee religious freedom in its Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms. But this seems to be a contradiction: how can it give every person the right to practice their religion freely on the one hand, while banning an important aspect of Islam on the other? There’s clearly a limit on this right. And it’s about time this limit be extended.
It’s important to note that despite the fact that Sharia law would have been voluntary &- a couple would have had the choice between secular and Islamic law to solve their domestic disputes &- the Canadian Congress of Muslim Women stood firmly behind the Quebec National Assembly.
The fact is, behind the veil of choice lies a deeper truth that many outsiders fail to see.
Coming from a religious background, I have witnessed many female friends and family being pressured by parents and peers into wearing not necessarily the niqab, but the hijab &- many of them before becoming teenagers. Of course the final call was theirs, they “chose” to wear the hijab, but what can a young girl do when she’s bombarded by people she loves, people she lives with, people she goes to social and religious events with? What can a young girl do when all these social elements and more converge to tell her that she should be a good girl and cover up, or her creator would disapprove of her and she could be destined for eternal damnation? Not only that, but a girl knows she could also be destined for social rejection.
Unlike Western societies, many Middle Eastern and Islamic societies do not encourage independent thought.
The fate of Benazir Bhutto, the former democratic, secular Prime Minister of Pakistan is a well-known example of what could happen to a Muslim woman leading her own path. She was assassinated because she did not give in to the ultra-conservative interpretation of Islam and was paving the way for a new Pakistan, one with more freedom and respect for women’s rights. And it is telling that she refused to cover her face or hair.

Bhutto’s case might be an extreme one due to the presence of extremist elements in her country, but it is not unusual for Islamic societies to be numbered with ultra-conservative, judgmental and forceful people, people who cannot tolerate interpretations of Islam other than their own. A girl in an Islamic social circle might not be killed for questioning a certain view of Islam, but the real choice many Muslim women face is between social acceptance and rejection, and between supposed eternal bliss and suffering.
Multiculturalists often argue to keep the niqab legal for the sake of religious tolerance, but in doing so they fail to see that their view aids in the repression of women, and could potentially silence many a Benazir Bhutto &- much needed women who bridge the gap between Islam and the West.
The niqab is in direct conflict with Quebec’s views on gender equality, and it’s high time we ban it.

– The writer has asked to remain anonymous for their safety

A woman was ejected from a government sponsored language class because she refused to remove her niqab Tues. March 9. This event was symptomatic of the attack on religious freedoms that has been taking place in Quebec as of late. This incident of the restriction of religious freedoms, as well as others like it, was plainly meant to satisfy a part of Quebec’s population which no longer represents the vast majority. As well, it demonstrates a lack of respect for democracy, and is dangerous for Quebec society as a whole.

The attack on religious freedoms in Quebec represents an attempt by the government to act in the interests of only one part of the Quebec population, to the detriment of the rest. The perpetrators of this attack, such as Premier Jean Charest, claim that they are protecting “Quebec’s values.” The question is, which “Quebec’s” values are being protected? The attempts to restrict people’s rights to sport religious symbols is an attempt to satisfy the “old” Quebec; the part of the Quebec population that is xenophobic, resistant to change and unwilling to live in present reality. Regardless of what Quebec’s demographics and values used to be, things have changed. Quebec is now a far more multicultural and diverse place than it was even 15 years ago. The influx of foreign immigrants has been a godsend for Quebec’s economy and society, bringing in people who are hard-working and actually reproducing at replacement level. With the benefits that these new immigrants bring, there must also be accommodation.
Quebec no longer has a monolithic population, and as such, its government cannot continue to act as if there is still any semblance of monolithic values. To infringe on people’s religious freedoms in the name of protecting common values is ridiculous in a society where the values, like the population, have become increasingly diverse.
The restriction of religious rights represents an attack on democracy. Freedom of religion is one of the core tenets of a democratic system, and by eroding religious freedom, the Quebec government is doing a great disservice to democracy. One of the most essential documents in terms of Canadian democracy, The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, specifically protects freedoms of religion and conscience, as well as freedom of expression. In restricting the right to both practice and express religious beliefs, the government of Quebec has demonstrated that it has no respect for the Charter, or for democracy in general.

The lack of respect for the part of the Charter which guarantees religious freedom does not bode well for the future of democracy in Quebec. The Charter is a document which is indivisible, and once even one right or freedom has been restricted, the whole document becomes to a certain extent worthless. We cannot afford to pick and choose which democratic values and ideals we want to adhere to, and which we don’t. Democracy and the Charter are a zero-sum game, a game which, if the Quebec government follows its current course, it will lose.
The Quebec government’s attack on religious freedoms is extremely troubling. The Quebec government is acting in the interests of an increasingly small part of the population, and in such a way that is detrimental for democracy in general. Hopefully, the population of Quebec, which has in the past demonstrated itself to be quite progressive and forward thinking, will rise up and let the Charest government know that religious freedoms, like all freedoms, must be protected.