Veiled Concerns

I wish to respond to a comment (Thank-you James!) on my last post:

Veiled girl

G&M File photo, Fred Ernst/Associated Press

“I have mixed feelings about this one, Ron.  I think we all have the right to dress however we want in public, for whatever reason.  However, I don’t think we have the right to expect our fellow citizens not to notice.  Also, the niqabi question is very much open for debate within Islam itself.  Therefore, incompatibility between public services and niqab is not incompatibility between public services and Islam. ” — James Fleming

This may be so, but I made no assertion of any right not to be noticed.  And, I would agree that anyone who dresses outside of the norm should indeed expect to be.

It has been said as well that niqab and burqa, as examples, are symbols of oppression, and I wouldn’t disagree with this, nor can I quite fathom why anyone would want to wear one if they didn’t have to.  And, yes, I acknowledge an on-going debate within Islam itself in this regard.

But these things are all beside the point, for notwithstanding any of them, it is a fundamentally different matter to deny as a general practice, service or employment to anyone who does choose to cover their face, for whatever reason.  There needs to be a reasonable and compelling necessity for such denial, beyond one’s own personal likes or dislikes in the matter.

The particular cases noted lately:  banning women from French classes citing “pedagogical” reasons are fully on point — the instructor’s justification that he “needs to see the lips move” in order to properly instruct on pronunciation seems absurdly disingenuous.  Perhaps it is indeed true that this would help, but if the student does not wish, or feels not able, to avail herself of such benefit it is unreasonable to leap from there to banning her from class.

If in any circumstance there is a clear and definitive necessity for a positive-identification comparison to photographic ID, fine — address that; but even this doesn’t need to mean outright refusal of employment or of service.

The proposed law and the particular incidents in question do not overtly single-out Islam nor the religious practices of any religion.  But this doesn’t mean they are not rooted in religious intolerance and bigotry, however well hidden.

Regardless of the motivational roots, without a clear and compelling need to forbid employment or service, such policies are an affront to the dignity of individuals and their freedom of choice and of expression, and I fully expect them to be found unconstitutional in the end.

As reported, the law, in its excess, would seem to be very broad, which I again suspect hails from wanting to at least appear motivated by the purest of intent.  I quote from a March 26 story in The Province:

“Under the bill, all public sector employees will be required to have their faces uncovered, as will any citizen using government services, …

“The ban on such face coverings as the niqab or burqa also applies to the entire education sector, from daycare centres to universities, as well as hospitals, public clinics and social services.”

I haven’t seen the text of the bill, and there will no doubt be a litany of exceptions (and therein lies another unnecessary bag of trouble).  Taken quite literally, one could see that it would forbid a surgeon in a public hospital from wearing a mask when supplying a surgical “service,” or a fire fighter wearing a safety mask when providing a fire-fighting service …

The whole thing is a pointless celebration of intolerance, and at the end of the day merely buys trouble where no real problem existed in the first place.

This entry was posted in Acceptance, Québec and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.