Hardline secularism
June 20, 2019 7:31 AM   Subscribe

On Sunday at 10:30pm, the Quebec government passed a secularism law which makes it illegal to wear religious symbols at work if you're a public school teacher, a police officer, a judge, a prison guard, a wildlife officer, a Crown prosecutor or if you work as a lawyer for the government. Schoolteachers already on the job will be exempt from the religious symbols ban under a grandfather clause, but they will lose the exemption if they move to another school or take up another position. The government has invoked the notwithstanding clause to protect the law from legal challenges based on freedom of religion, so opponents are challenging the law on every other grounds they can think of. Some school boards have vowed not to implement the law, and it has been condemned from outside the province as a separation from the very idea of what Canada represents.

Beaverton parodied a previous version of the bill.

Up until the late 1960s, Quebec was the most religious province in Canada. This began changing after the Quiet Revolution, which condemned the years of the deeply Catholic Duplessis regime as the Great Darkness.

In 1997, the Quebec government eliminated religious education in public schools; however, "it continued to provide generous subsidies to private schools. And so, Quebec middle class families maintained their access to private, and very often religiously-based, education."
posted by clawsoon (100 comments total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
 
One link I forgot to add: Quebec has the highest rate of religious affiliation in Canada, alongside the lowest rate of religious attendance.
posted by clawsoon at 7:36 AM on June 20 [5 favorites]


*Cough*
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 7:44 AM on June 20 [18 favorites]


And yet the Head of State is allowed to have their own church.
posted by biffa at 7:47 AM on June 20 [7 favorites]


Speaking as an atheist, and a supporter of secular government... laws like this go too damn far. A government employee should have every right to wear a hijab, a crucifix, a yarmulke, Mormon Garments, or any other religious symbol their faith requires.
posted by SansPoint at 7:48 AM on June 20 [71 favorites]


Quebec is such an odd place. I have the most bizarre experiences there because I speak no French but my facial structure is very mid-continental, and everyone expects me to be entirely fluent. I have no idea what my father's heritage is because he was adopted but since he has the same features, I would not be shocked if his parents were French refugees from WW2 (since he was born during the war). ... I never thought abuot this before. Huh.
posted by seanmpuckett at 7:49 AM on June 20 [1 favorite]


Does this mean teachers can no longer wear Star Wars merch?
posted by ejs at 7:51 AM on June 20 [3 favorites]


I guess I'm never going back to Quebec again. Here's hoping Ontario doesn't try some similar type of bullshit, but knowing how awful 'Drug Ford' is, I wouldn't be surprised. Fuck, it's so exhausting to be a person of color, or a visible minority, to just not be the default whatever that is currently in power that wants to target and victimize my peoples. Fuck Quebec and this awful ass legislation.
posted by Fizz at 7:55 AM on June 20 [14 favorites]


I was glad to hear about the CSDM school board yesterday. The English school board had already said they wouldn't follow it (although I don't think we've heard from them since it was passed) but to hear the French board say "We saw an inability to apply the law ..." is a good start.
posted by Laura in Canada at 7:55 AM on June 20 [3 favorites]


Well, given that this law appears to be intended to prevent the covering certain parts of the body, and given the story of Adam and Eve, covering the body in general is religiously motivated, the only fair and reasonable interpretation of this law is that public servants must not cover any parts of their body.
posted by Zalzidrax at 7:57 AM on June 20 [21 favorites]


Here's hoping Ontario doesn't try some similar type of bullshit, but knowing how awful 'Drug Ford' is, I wouldn't be surprised.

I suspect that this reflects a French notion of laicite rather than anything likely to be seen in other provinces.
posted by praemunire at 7:58 AM on June 20 [9 favorites]


Any idea if the crucifix in the National Assembly is getting taken down?
posted by griphus at 8:00 AM on June 20 [14 favorites]


Griphus: for a long time that was claimed to be a cultural symbol, not a religious one, so it was — oddly but conveniently — exempt. I have heard (but not confirmed) that yes, it will be coming down. Fiat justitia ruat caelum.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:04 AM on June 20 [6 favorites]


I suspect that this reflects a French notion of laicite rather than anything likely to be seen in other provinces.

In Quebec it's more reflective of pure laine. "Secularism" is just a subterfuge - this move has everything to do with appeals to white supremacy in Quebec.

I'm old enough to remember the troglodytic southwestern Ontario racists I grew up in the midst of losing their shit over Baltej Singh Dhillon arguing (successfully) that he should be allowed to wear a turban as an RCMP officer. And guess what - things were fine when he did.

All of which is to say La Meute must be thrilled with Legault right about now.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 8:06 AM on June 20 [35 favorites]


I suspect that this reflects a French notion of laicite rather than anything likely to be seen in other provinces.

It establishes a precedent that is very disturbing to consider. I'm sure the bigots who have the power and influence to push this kind of legislation are already frothing at the mouth. I do not feel any safer in this country with my being outside of Quebec. This legislation is sickening and it makes me worry about my very existence and visibility when out in public.

I do not wear any religious garb or symbols, but I am an Indian (Punjabi) and I have a lot of friends/family that this is going to impact. I'll be watching this challenge very closely. I really hope it is overturned and thrown the fuck out.
posted by Fizz at 8:09 AM on June 20 [23 favorites]


"Secularism" is just a subterfuge - this move has everything to do with appeals to white supremacy in Quebec.

It might not have been the case in 1789 but that's at least part of how it works in France today, too. It was looking at the hijab controversies there that made me realize that secularism was just a struggle to control what the other's women wore.
posted by praemunire at 8:11 AM on June 20 [17 favorites]


Given that this law is restricted to public employees in a position of authority... I'm OK with this. In my anecdotal experience I've seen on various and numerous occasions that an overt religious symbol worn by a person in authority was a quiet under-the-table invitation to like-minded folks to seek favor.
posted by tclark at 8:20 AM on June 20 [12 favorites]


It might not have been the case in 1789 but that's at least part of how it works in France today, too.

Oh yeah, no doubt Legault is tearing pages out of the Le Pen playbook here.

Bill 21 is getting more of the press, but it's no accident that Bill 9 was just jammed through at 4:00 a.m. on a Sunday:

After a 19-hour marathon session, members of Quebec's National Assembly have passed legislation that would allow the government to cancel roughly 16,000 immigration applications, some from people who have waited in limbo for years as their files languished in the old processing system.

When first announced, there were initially 18,000 applications expected to be thrown out but roughly 2,000 have since been processed.

Bill 9 sets out the framework for a Quebec values test that would-be immigrants will need to pass in order to become a permanent resident.


The ridiculous part is that Quebec desperately needs francophone immigration from countries that are potentially upsetting to the average CAQ supporter.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 8:23 AM on June 20 [14 favorites]


The notwithstanding clause is fascinating and such a disaster. You don't need freedom of religion, expression, or association if you have the political majority on your side! I guess it's nice that you can only oppress minority groups for five years at a time before reupping...?
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 8:34 AM on June 20 [9 favorites]


The crucifix in Quebec's National Assembly: Why its symbolism matters
1936. In one of its first acts, the new Union Nationale government of Premier Maurice Duplessis decides to affix a crucifix above the Speaker’s chair in the Legislative Assembly. In adding the crucifix, the deeply conservative Duplessis is trying to distinguish himself from 39 years of Liberal rule by being more attentive to the Catholic church, historians say. Duplessis’s 18-year reign is known as the “Grande Noirceur” (the great darkness) because it was marked by anti-communism, corruption and human-rights violations. One National Assembly historian has suggested Duplessis may have been influenced by Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, who had placed a crucifix in the Italian legislative chamber 13 years earlier. When Quebec’s legislative crucifix went up, a Trois-Rivières newspaper noted: “For the first time in history, Christ will preside over deliberations in the Legislative Assembly.”
Crucifix will stay in Quebec's National Assembly, CAQ says [Montreal Gazette - Oct 9th 2018]

National Assembly might follow Montreal in removing crucifix: Legault [Montreal Gazette - March 20th 2019]
“Listen, everyone has to compromise,” Legault said. “We will look at the positions of different persons at caucus.”

Asked directly if the removal of the crucifix is part of the current debate over the Coalition Avenir Québec government’s secularism bill, Legault said the subject is on the table.

“Regarding our position, you know very well very soon, in the next few weeks, we will table a bill and this is part of the discussions we’re having right now. There are good arguments (for leaving the crucifix in place), and some arguments against,” Legault said.

But Legault said the government has made no decision on the idea of introducing a clause in the soon-to-be-tabled secularism bill allowing existing public-sector employees in positions of authority to wear symbols.

“I say we still have discussions,” Legault said. “Nothing is decided. I ask you to be patient.”

But at about the same time in another part of the legislature, Immigration, Diversity and Inclusiveness Minister Simon Join-Barrette said the government’s position on the crucifix had not changed.

“We take notice of the city of Montreal’s decision,” Jolin-Barrette told reporters. “Montreal takes its own decisions. We take our own decisions. The crucifix is there. For us it was always a heritage symbol, a historic symbol like other religious symbols in the blue room.”

The 2008 Bouchard-Taylor Commission on accommodating religious minorities called on the National Assembly to take down the crucifix and move it elsewhere in the building.

The assembly flatly rejected that Bouchard-Taylor recommendation, unanimously passing a motion affirming Quebecers’ “attachment to our religious and historic heritage represented by the (legislature’s) crucifix.”
posted by Secret Sparrow at 8:35 AM on June 20 [10 favorites]


Given that this law is restricted to public employees in a position of authority... I'm OK with this


You're OK with banning observant Muslim women from positions of authority?
posted by the agents of KAOS at 8:40 AM on June 20 [81 favorites]


I suspect that this reflects a French notion of laicite rather than anything likely to be seen in other provinces.

Maybe but that is a uniquely French notion and I don't know if laïcité has ever had a role in the politics of Quebec. I've always thought of the French concept as quite anti-clerical in a way that is not really aligned with the political history of Quebec.
posted by atrazine at 8:47 AM on June 20 [1 favorite]


You're OK with banning observant Muslim women from positions of authority?

You're saying that Muslim women who choose not to wear head- and face-obscuring covering are not observant of their religion?
posted by tclark at 8:50 AM on June 20 [9 favorites]


I'm old enough to remember the troglodytic southwestern Ontario racists I grew up in the midst of losing their shit over Baltej Singh Dhillon arguing (successfully) that he should be allowed to wear a turban as an RCMP officer. And guess what - things were fine when he did.

Still a current topic in the suburbs and small towns, rest assured.
posted by rodlymight at 8:50 AM on June 20 [2 favorites]


Maybe but that is a uniquely French notion and I don't know if laïcité has ever had a role in the politics of Quebec.

Would just note that the full title of Bill 21 is "An Act respecting the laicity of the State/Loi sur la laïcité de l’État," so it's definitely being drawn on, but for reasons other than a disinterested, neutral application of the concept.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 8:51 AM on June 20 [4 favorites]


While I worry about the risks of religious people in positions of power (as well as tons of other non-faith qualities), this is a really boneheaded move. Even if you're just an anti-theist who abhors all religion completely, banning these symbols is the kind of thing that just emboldens faiths. If you want to reduce the percentage of people falling to religion, it's best just done with education and social progress, not using the law or violence to stamp it out. The best policy if you hate religion is actually just tolerance. You don't have to pretend the supernatural is real, but it kind of reminds me of how I was sometimes taught to proselytize Christianity just by living a life where you treat others and yourself with respect, love, and dignity. Be the nicest atheist or anti-theist you can be, don't get all medieval on religion trying to force it out.

This clause is interesting, I can see both how it could be a great benefit to expedient governance, but it also seems like a tempting way to just circumvent the rights or will of people. In my country they certainly would abuse it often.
posted by GoblinHoney at 8:51 AM on June 20 [13 favorites]


I'm old enough to remember the troglodytic southwestern Ontario racists I grew up in the midst of losing their shit over Baltej Singh Dhillon arguing (successfully) that he should be allowed to wear a turban as an RCMP officer. And guess what - things were fine when he did.

Still a current topic in the suburbs and small towns, rest assured.
Indeed, I mentioned the Quebec law in the office a few moments ago and a guy who sits behind me said something to the effect of, “I understand the part about safety and how having a headscarf or a turban would be dangerous in certain public service-sector roles.”

I pushed back on him and asked why it's not a problem in the rest of the world where people of all faiths and nationalities have no problem wearing things and doing their job. I was met with silence.

*sighs*
posted by Fizz at 8:54 AM on June 20 [26 favorites]


I guess I'm never going back to Quebec again.

maybe skip the vast backwaters, but please don't bail on Montreal, the vast majority of which I'm pretty sure finds this law at least as troubling as anyone in this thread.
posted by philip-random at 8:58 AM on June 20 [8 favorites]


You're saying that Muslim women who choose not to wear head- and face-obscuring covering are not observant of their religion?

There is variation of belief within Islam and Judaism (and other religions) just as there is within Christianity. You come across like you're being deliberately obtuse.
posted by Secret Sparrow at 8:59 AM on June 20 [59 favorites]


A recent list of head scarf rules: Currently banned in France, Belgium, and Tunisia; mandatory in Iran and Saudi Arabia; bans recently lifted in Turkey and Syria.
posted by clawsoon at 8:59 AM on June 20 [5 favorites]



maybe skip the vast backwaters

and speaking of those backwaters, I haven't spent much time there at all, but what little I have has revealed generally wonderful people who (like all of us to some degree) happen to be defined by their history, which in Quebec's case has been a prolonged struggle to keep their culture (French to the core) from being swallowed by the rest of North America. Unfortunately, this kind of law seems to be an inevitable "other shoe dropping". It's not as if we shouldn't have seen something like it coming.
posted by philip-random at 9:06 AM on June 20 [3 favorites]


It's not as if we shouldn't have seen something like it coming.

Je me souviens, M. Parizeau.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 9:10 AM on June 20 [7 favorites]


I was looking for examples in the news reporting of what the law is outlawing and not finding much. I'm assuming this will be selectively enforced: no hijabs or kippahs, but cross necklaces are fine?
posted by hydropsyche at 9:11 AM on June 20 [6 favorites]


This is theoretically impossible in the rest of Canada, right? Like, Quebec can only do it because they’re a hellscape that never signed on to the Constitution, yes?
posted by Sys Rq at 9:14 AM on June 20 [1 favorite]


There is variation of belief within Islam and Judaism (and other religions) just as there is within Christianity. You come across like you're being deliberately obtuse.

I'm not trying to come across as obtuse. My point is that in certain variations of Islamic belief, it is not only optional but required that women submit to dress that is not required of men. This is, simply put, the subjugation of women under a religious patriarchy. Manifestations of the subjugation of women do not simply become OK because some women choose to voluntarily submit themselves to that subjugation. I know this is a very unpopular opinion on Metafilter (apropos of yesterday's thread, I'm not keeping this unpopular opinion strictly to myself), but that is my firmly and honestly held belief.

There is a certain thread of MeFi opinion which states that manifestations of women's second-class citizen status and subjugation is OK for groups which in the US are otherwise discriminated against and oppressed. And there is also a thread among old fashioned bigots to create and enforce these bans as a form of racial discrimination.

So the teams, unfortunately, break out as follows. Do I side with the fundamentalists whose purpose is furthered by women who voluntarily display the very tool of their subjugation in many countries of the world, or do I side with the bigots who want to harass and belittle people who are observant of a conservative strain of their religion?

The fact that head covering is not a core tenet of the faith is where I have made my choice.
posted by tclark at 9:17 AM on June 20 [19 favorites]


I was looking for examples in the news reporting of what the law is outlawing and not finding much. I'm assuming this will be selectively enforced: no hijabs or kippahs, but cross necklaces are fine?

I heard someone on the radio say that if the wearer considers it a religious symbol, then it's a religious symbol. I have no idea if that person was speaking in an official capacity.

This is theoretically impossible in the rest of Canada, right? Like, Quebec can only do it because they’re a lawless hellscape that never signed on to the Constitution, yes?

Wrong. The notwithstanding clause is available to all provinces. The lawlessness is written into the Constitution.
posted by clawsoon at 9:18 AM on June 20 [6 favorites]


Quebec Premier François Legault has argued the religious symbols law is necessary to ensure the secularism of the state and put an end to long-running debates in the province about how to accommodate cultural minorities.

By settling on “be as hostile as possible?”
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:18 AM on June 20 [7 favorites]


Indeed, I mentioned the Quebec law in the office a few moments ago and a guy who sits behind me said something to the effect of, “I understand the part about safety and how having a headscarf or a turban would be dangerous in certain public service-sector roles.”

To be fair, if you were a firefighter and had absent-mindedly put on an oil-soaked turban, that could be dangerous... and if you were a teacher who had to discard her hijab, you’d be in danger of having to explain to children what a bunch of asshole bigots their government is. That could destroy children's faith in the Province!
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:24 AM on June 20 [10 favorites]


My point is that in certain variations of Islamic belief, it is not only optional but required that women submit to dress that is not required of men.

Well, in Ontario a while ago they made toplessness legal for both men and women, because equality. (A measure I support.)

But if I had to dress only in boxer swim shorts in order to have a job as a lifeguard, I would quit, because I personally would not feel okay standing out on a pool deck with my tits out. So do I have to lose my job because otherwise I'm contributing to patriarchical oppression about my breasts?
posted by warriorqueen at 9:28 AM on June 20 [62 favorites]


The fact that head covering is not a core tenet of the faith is where I have made my choice.

So you're opting for the route of rules lawyering a religion and helping women by deciding for them.
posted by Dark Messiah at 9:32 AM on June 20 [50 favorites]


My point is that in certain variations of Islamic belief, it is not only optional but required that women submit to dress that is not required of men. This is, simply put, the subjugation of women under a religious patriarchy. Manifestations of the subjugation of women do not simply become OK because some women choose to voluntarily submit themselves to that subjugation.

I know lots of women who wear hijab. None of them would describe it this way. Have you ever actually talked to a woman who wears hijab about why she does it and what it means to her? Here are some answers from some actual women.
posted by hydropsyche at 9:35 AM on June 20 [64 favorites]


My feelings about religion are complicated. I grew up among mostly decent people who were religious, and I still count them among my friends. I'm an atheist now, though, and sometimes it feels like atheism and equality are sparks of truth which will be inevitably extinguished by the apparently universal human religious tendency.

A couple of comments in the PoC-only MetaTalk thread have made my feelings about religion even more complicated.
posted by clawsoon at 9:36 AM on June 20 [6 favorites]


> And yet the Head of State is allowed to have their own church.

You realize many of these people supporting this particular bill have exerted a lot of effort for the past half-dozen decades trying to do something about that too, right?
posted by at by at 9:41 AM on June 20 [2 favorites]


If you want to contribute to funding the court challenge being mounted against this bigoted law, you can donate to the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, the National Council of Canadian Muslims, and laywer Catherine McKenize here.

I am ashamed to be Quebecois.
posted by jordantwodelta at 9:52 AM on June 20 [9 favorites]


I should say that I train in martial arts with quite a few women who wear hijab, as well as live in an area of Toronto where I would say hijab is extremely common. And I have been a member of a religious community that had dress requirements.

I personally believe this law is rooted in xenophobia so there's that.

But even on a practical level, I don't understand how it's supposed to work. I have some head scarves but I'm not Muslim, so can I wear those? Is Hermes okay? What about pantyhose? I had to wear tights in the summer as a child to meet religious requirements, am I allowed to wear those to work in the Quebec civil service? What about wedding or engagement rings, also a longstanding symbol of oppressive religious beliefs? What about a flying spaghetti monster tattoo?

Is the law about unoppressing our civil servants? Because if so, I think probably the best thing to do is look at everyone's salary and how many women and people of religious backgrounds or people of colour are in leadership positions.

Why haven't we in Canada yet learned that forcing people to give up elements of their culture just to make supposedly mainstream people comfortable is a violent act upon those people?
posted by warriorqueen at 9:56 AM on June 20 [54 favorites]


Given that this law is restricted to public employees in a position of authority... I'm OK with this. In my anecdotal experience I've seen on various and numerous occasions that an overt religious symbol worn by a person in authority was a quiet under-the-table invitation to like-minded folks to seek favor.

Yes, you're right, the right to practice religion in a free society is definitely a play on the part of people who hold different beliefs than yours to subvert the existing power structure that you so clearly have a vested interest in.

It's disgusting attitudes like this that make bigoted laws like Bill 21 possible.
posted by jordantwodelta at 9:57 AM on June 20 [15 favorites]


hydropsyche: I was looking for examples in the news reporting of what the law is outlawing and not finding much. I'm assuming this will be selectively enforced: no hijabs or kippahs, but cross necklaces are fine?

I had a read through Bill 21, and nowhere in the bill is there an explicit definition of what constitutes a "religious symbol."

As I understand it (and I'm happy to be corrected by Canadian law-talkin' people), it leaves this to some administrative interpretation and provides for the creation of a provincial office to administer and enforce this.

In some of the coverage people have said this will be the "secularism police," keying off of the shorthand for the OQLF - the "language police," which is responsible for applying Bill 101 in Quebec.

But before turning our ire on Quebec as a whole, let's not forget that Jason Kenney started fear-mongering about "face coverings" at a federal level when he was in the Harper cabinet.

And let's be clear - Jason Kenney isn't remotely interested in smashing the patriarchy. He did this for one reason, and one reason only - scapegoating. And he's doing that again as premier of Alberta.

And this is not to beat up on Alberta, either - as an Ontarian I'm pretty sure Doug Ford will weigh in at some point and say "Hold my (buck-a) beer."
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 9:59 AM on June 20 [13 favorites]


I am reminded of this photo (four armed white men forcing a muslim woman to disrobe on a beach).
posted by Poldo at 9:59 AM on June 20 [5 favorites]


voluntarily display the very tool of their subjugation

This is a pretty amazing turn of phrase. Perhaps you should think about what words mean and what your actual motivation on this issue is.
posted by Etrigan at 10:02 AM on June 20 [22 favorites]


This is theoretically impossible in the rest of Canada, right? Like, Quebec can only do it because they’re a hellscape that never signed on to the Constitution, yes?

Further to clawsoon's comment, the last time the notwithstanding clause was in the news (or at least as far as I'm aware) was last year, when Doug Ford threatened to use it in order to force Toronto to eliminate almost half of its city councillors in the middle of a municipal election. So yeah, not only is it available to all provinces, it's theoretically applicable to a much wider array of concerns (though if the government had gone through with its plan, you can bet there would've been some kind of legal challenge).
posted by chrominance at 10:12 AM on June 20 [1 favorite]


look, i'm a non-hijabi Muslim woman dealing with the patriarchal and misogynist revanchism of my larger majority-Muslim society, as seen in the social bullying and in some places, outright legislation of making the hijab a requirement. DO NOT use my oppression to impose oppression on minorities whose expressions of faith as yet is still not the cultural bedrock of your socialisation AND that includes those who are dealing with families who are making them wear the hijab who will find themselves in a catch-22 of having one public avenue to 'escape' cut off from them.
posted by cendawanita at 10:14 AM on June 20 [84 favorites]


The prairie provinces play an interesting role in all of this: It was ethnic groups from the Prairies (particularly Ukrainians) who pushed for multiculturalism in Canada instead of biculturalism (which was English+French only). It was also prairie provinces who pushed for the notwithstanding clause. These two things have now collided in Quebec.
posted by clawsoon at 10:20 AM on June 20 [1 favorite]


But even on a practical level, I don't understand how it's supposed to work. I have some head scarves but I'm not Muslim, so can I wear those? Is Hermes okay?

When Paul Nuttal of the UKIPs wanted to ban face covering veils in the UK his press conference was derailed by reporters asking him "what about beekeepers?" and forcing him to stand there and clarify that it would not "affect beekepers" that "big hats were not covered" and of course, most revealingly, that it wouldn't cover nuns.
posted by atrazine at 10:31 AM on June 20 [33 favorites]


To borrow from Carlin, roughly, if your religion requires a hat OR your religion shuns hats, it's a little strange. But in either case, public society should be hat-agnostic.

And so it goes for other symbols.
posted by delfin at 10:44 AM on June 20 [9 favorites]


Seems to me the argument that laws like this somehow free women from religious subjugation would be a lot more credible if the folks making it were also arguing that the Catholic Church and the Southern Baptists were engaging in discriminatory hiring practices by not admitting women to the clergy.
posted by nickmark at 10:50 AM on June 20 [14 favorites]


I wonder how those who think this is all about protecting women from the patriarchy factor in Sikhs into their rationale.

A hell of a lot of cultures and religions have some sort of visible marker. Not just the Abrahamic religions.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 10:50 AM on June 20 [20 favorites]


From Bill 21:
16. This Act must not be interpreted as affecting the emblematic or toponymic elements of Québec’s cultural heritage, in particular of its religious cultural heritage, that testify to its history.
Oh, so Roman Catholic symbols and place names have special protection. Isn't that nice.

Safe to assume the crucifix in the National Assembly is staying then?
posted by Secret Sparrow at 10:52 AM on June 20 [15 favorites]


Some cross-Canada polling about religious symbols worn by public employees. Quebec has higher rates of opposition to all symbols compared to other provinces, including crucifixes and nun's habits, but those are in the range of 30-40% opposed in Quebec, while opposition to Muslim religious symbols is in the 60-90% range.

To borrow from Carlin, roughly, if your religion requires a hat OR your religion shuns hats, it's a little strange.

The one great thread shared by all world religions: Old men with funny hats telling other people how to live their lives. (As an atheist I suppose I'll have to start wearing a fedora. SORRY, I KNOW, A TRILBY.)
posted by clawsoon at 10:53 AM on June 20 [3 favorites]


Only something like 1% of the civil service in Quebec are visible OR linguistic minorities, under-representing those populations significantly. A token, half-assed attempt was made by the previous government to look like they were trying to improve this in the lead-up to the last election. They lost. The current government, uninterested in and spurned by those minority voters in the election, believes that even a 1% chance of the unfamiliar is too much change for its supporters to deal with, and is vocally walking back the attempt.
posted by cardboard at 10:56 AM on June 20 [9 favorites]


I, too, believe this law is rooted in xenophobia AND I am not bothered by religious symbols being worn by public servants.

BUT.

I have a real problem with someone being allowed to wear something on their job because it is part of their religion if I am not allowed to wear that same thing as a non-religious person, your religion should not grant you rights that others do not have, separation of church and state and all that.
posted by Cosine at 11:11 AM on June 20 [3 favorites]


What is the likelihood of other employees showing solidarity with those affected by wearing head scarves or head coverings resembling kippot or turbans?
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 11:11 AM on June 20 [1 favorite]


I have a real problem with someone being allowed to wear something on their job because it is part of their religion if I am not allowed to wear that same thing as a non-religious person, your religion should not grant you rights that others do not have, separation of church and state and all that.

One of the CBC radio programs, I'm thinking the Current, had a Jewish lawyer and a proponent of the bill on the air. This was one of the main points of the proponent, that other people aren't allowed to wear hats in court so why should he be allowed to. If this inequality is the problem then why not just give permission for other people to wear hats in court or at their work too?
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 11:22 AM on June 20 [13 favorites]


cardboard: Only something like 1% of the civil service in Quebec are visible OR linguistic minorities, under-representing those populations significantly.

Growing up as a visible minority in Quebec, I used to joke that it'd be easier for me to crack the Ku Klux Klan than the Quebec civil service. Seems like not that much has changed in the last few decades.
posted by mhum at 11:38 AM on June 20 [10 favorites]


I would like to thank everyone in this thread for enlarging my viewpoint on this issue with your thoughtful discussion. I started from a very narrow place--as a white, secular USAian with a fundamentalist upbringing, this sounded great in a vacuum. I see it otherwise, now.
posted by the antecedent of that pronoun at 12:07 PM on June 20 [20 favorites]


Is it just me, or is there a thing where the kinder and more capable your parents were the more likely you are to be content as a centrist?

I mean, in my perfect world, you would be welcome to opt in to requiring yourself to wear a hat for religious reasons, no questions asked, even if it's just a religion you made up.

But you would be required to wear that hat as appropriate. There's a difference between "I feel like wearing a hat some days" and a piece of clothing representing a serious commitment. And while I don't think government should have a say in what religious beliefs are legitimate or not, the freedom isn't exactly "dress how you please" it's "have an appropriately serious dress code for your religion and background." And if you don't need to use that particular freedom to modify the default dress code, great. There's plenty of rights not everyone needs but are still worth protecting. I mean, hopefully most people won't need the right to a speedy and fair trial, but it's also really important that it's there.
posted by Zalzidrax at 12:16 PM on June 20 [5 favorites]


So I have no doubt that these ideas are being hijacked and deployed in bad faith here. See my comments above. But...

Yes, you're right, the right to practice religion in a free society is definitely a play on the part of people who hold different beliefs than yours to subvert the existing power structure that you so clearly have a vested interest in.

Where I come from, the problem is the majority--the people wearing crosses--and the practice is aimed against the minority religions. It is not insane to have some concerns about the degree of religious affiliation being demonstrated by a public employee in a position of authority while on the job. Freedom of speech is not unbounded in this sphere in the U.S.--for the most part, for instance, public employees cannot proselytize on the job. The S.Ct. precedent in this area is a mess that I can't even begin to try to summarize, but there is no doubt that some limitations on religious expression in the course of their employment can be enforced against government employees. And I don't think that's wrong. The question is where you draw the line, and if that line is being drawn very straight (which you know it won't be here).
posted by praemunire at 1:36 PM on June 20 [1 favorite]


I'm scheduled to give a talk at a conference at a university in Montreal in two weeks. I wear a (discreet, non-Abrahamic) religious symbol. The secularism law does not apply to universities, but I've been thinking about what I can say or do to help make more-obvious and/or less-job-secure religious-symbol-wearers more comfortable, at least in this venue and academic community.

The script I'm considering: "Before I start I want to warn you that I'll be giving this talk while wearing a religious symbol. I hope everyone here can cope with that!"

Feedback very welcome!
posted by heatherlogan at 2:48 PM on June 20 [9 favorites]


Tclark, you don't get to decide for women which of their behaviours is sexist, and which isn't. Furthermore, you certainly don't combat men telling women what they can and cannot wear by.... Telling women what they can and cannot wear.

In some ways I like when shit like this law comes out; because the stakes are so low (as in, any harm from wearing a hijab or turban or whatever the fuck you want is miniscule), it exposes the naked racism behind these sentiments super clearly.

The fact that proponents then have to scramble around trying to dress their xenophobic terror as logical and consistent when it's anything but really does expose the foolishness of it all.
posted by smoke at 3:03 PM on June 20 [28 favorites]


tclark: You're saying that Muslim women who choose not to wear head- and face-obscuring covering are not observant of their religion?

If you want to score points with stupid pedantry, you should be more aware of details like whether I said that *all* observant Muslim women would be affected.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 3:05 PM on June 20 [8 favorites]


tclark: Given that this law is restricted to public employees in a position of authority

Well, there are actually several parts to the law (the text is pretty short and not too jargon-heavy). The main part that's been getting the most attention is the one that forbids a whole bunch of governmental actors from "wearing religious symbols in the exercise of the their functions". The list is outlined in Schedule II. The main groups outlined here are (I think): judges/justices of the peace/clerks/sherriffs/government arbitrators, goverment lawyers, members/directors of goverment commisions (e.g.: the liquor and gaming board, etc...), every government lawyer, peace officers, and public school teachers/principals/vice-principals.

However, there's another part regarding facial coverings, pretty transparently aimed at people who wear niqabs and burkas (though possiby not the hijab?). This part not only prevents an even wider range of people from performing their services with faces covered (except for health reasons) -- including doctors/dentists/midwives, home childcare providers, and everyone who works for a public transit authority (i.e.: bus drivers) -- but also prevents anyone from receiving services while their face is covered:
Similarly, persons who present themselves to receive a service from a personnel member of a body [listed in Schedule I] of must have their face uncovered where doing so is necessary to allow their identity to be verified or for security reasons. Persons who fail to comply with that obligation may not receive the service requested, where applicable.

For the purposes of the second paragraph, persons are deemed to be presenting themselves to receive a service when they are interacting or communicating with a personnel member of a body in the exercise of the personnel member’s functions.
While the text stipulates that this is for identity verification or security purpopses, I think it's pretty naive to think that this is anything but an attempt to outlaw niqabs and burkas.
posted by mhum at 3:26 PM on June 20 [14 favorites]


Also, btw, this is Quebec's second attempt at banning niqabs and burkas. The first attempt was in 2017. It was found by the courts to be contrary to the Quebec and Candian charters of human rights and freedoms. Presumably, by invoking the notwithstanding clause this time, the Quebec government is aiming to avoid a repeat of that court challenge.
posted by mhum at 3:33 PM on June 20 [2 favorites]


This part not only prevents an even wider range of people from performing their services with faces covered (except for health reasons) -- including doctors/dentists/midwives, home childcare providers, and everyone who works for a public transit authority (i.e.: bus drivers) -- but also prevents anyone from receiving services while their face is covered:

If the law were restricted to only those acting in a position of authority, I would agree with it. As it casts a net far wider than governmental employees acting in a position of authority over members of the public, I completely disagree with it, and do not support it.
posted by tclark at 5:40 PM on June 20 [1 favorite]


the very tool of their subjugation in many countries of the world

As a woman who chooses to dress somewhat modestly, it is amazing how many times people I know AND strangers have commented on me wearing ankle length skirts - telling me to show my legs, wear miniskirts, wear yoga pants etc. Frankly it is weird body policing that my outfits are expected to conform with the western patriarchal “flaunt your oppression” subjugation by (lack of) clothing.
posted by saucysault at 8:37 PM on June 20 [23 favorites]


As a woman who chooses to dress somewhat modestly, it is amazing how many times people I know AND strangers have commented on me wearing ankle length skirts - telling me to show my legs, wear miniskirts, wear yoga pants etc. Frankly it is weird body policing that my outfits are expected to conform with the western patriarchal “flaunt your oppression” subjugation by (lack of) clothing.

Of course, were you ever to start doing that stuff, you'd then have people – in many cases the same people –switching gears to, "Show some modesty, harlot!" Good times, good times.
posted by non canadian guy at 11:29 PM on June 20 [6 favorites]


The best policy if you hate religion is actually just tolerance. [...] Be the nicest atheist or anti-theist you can be, don't get all medieval on religion trying to force it out.

Nah. First, in brief, the way the west got to be a secular as it is now is Protestants mixing it up Catholics (including several wars), Protestants mixing it up with other Protestants, and finally atheists mixing it up with Protestants and Catholics. Feel free check wikipedia articles on atheism, this lecture series on the history of atheism (https://www.gresham.ac.uk/series/origins-of-atheism/), or read any book about the history of atheism in the west to confirm. A lot of people like to think that the West just slowly slide into secularism. That's not how it happened at all.

Second, your policy ignores all the people being oppressed by religion and religious people today. Like a gay Christian or Muslim who thinks they are going to hell because they are gay, or that fucked up abortion bill that got passed in Alabama or a woman who is desperate to escape Saudi Arabia so she can be free. I'm not comfortable telling such people that eventually, in the future, religion will be less of thing if I live a good life. Being quiet is your choice, but it's not going to help anybody.

(Will this specific law make anyone less religious? No.)
posted by brandnewday989 at 7:32 AM on June 21


Frankly it is weird body policing that my outfits are expected to conform with the western patriarchal “flaunt your oppression” subjugation by (lack of) clothing.

Your body is supposed to be available for whatever use men want to make of it. This leads to some, uh, charmingly paradoxical results.
posted by praemunire at 8:01 AM on June 21 [2 favorites]


you'd then have people – in many cases the same people –switching gears to, "Show some modesty, harlot!"

Oh I already get that at the same time - I wear long skirts but I have big boobs and cleavage in anything less than a turtleneck. My "flaunting" my breasts is equally remarked upon (guess I am supposed to tuck them in my armpits or something).
posted by saucysault at 8:19 AM on June 21 [1 favorite]


In some ways I like when shit like this law comes out; because the stakes are so low (as in, any harm from wearing a hijab or turban or whatever the fuck you want is miniscule), it exposes the naked racism behind these sentiments super clearly.

The harm of wearing a hijab is not minuscule to women who are socially pressured or legally mandated to wear the hijab.

You know in discussions like this (discussions about these laws by mostly Western non-muslims) I never see anybody talking about what effect these laws actually have on Muslim women who, due to personal beliefs or social pressure, can't take off the hijab. Nobody here has said. Has anybody done any actual research on the effect or are people just speculating on what they think will happen? If they have negative effects, what can be done to ameliorate them?

And another thing that never comes up is actually how to help the women who are forced to wear the hijab. I donate to ex-muslim groups and liberal muslims groups (I am an atheist) to help, but discussion about helping these women never comes up among American progressives, I only found out about these groups by associating with ex-muslims to learn more about them, which lead to meeting liberal muslims, men and women, who do believe the hijab is sexist and have no desire to wear it.
posted by brandnewday989 at 10:21 AM on June 21 [1 favorite]


Has anybody done any actual research on the effect or are people just speculating on what they think will happen? If they have negative effects, what can be done to ameliorate them?

Of course someone has. Why didn't you even look for it?

"Those who have left to go and fight in Syria say that this law is one of things that encouraged them. They saw it as a law against Islam. It had the effect of sending a message that Islam was not welcome in France,”
....
“We now live in a society where people think it’s normal to insult Muslim women wearing the full veil just because they are disobeying the law,”
...
"the law has encouraged the kind of “communitarianism”, which France is ever desperate to avoid, because those who insist on wearing the niqab stay in the housing estates where they live. They don’t leave for fear of being insulted or stopped by police"
The Local, 2015


surveys of attitudes toward French Muslims showed that there was a strong correlation between the highly publicized legislation banning headscarves in 2004 and an increase in anti-Muslim sentiment. In 2013, a pregnant woman suffered a miscarriage after two men allegedly attacked her for wearing the veil and ripped it off her face as she walked down the street in a Paris suburb. A report that year indicated that more Muslim women were staying home, because “after the ban they felt considerably less secure because of harassment and violence targeted at them by members of the public who have been emboldened by the ban … Restrictions on the movement and security of women in the public space has had significant detrimental consequences on their physical and mental health and on their relationships.” The Atlantic, 2018
posted by the agents of KAOS at 10:48 AM on June 21 [11 favorites]


And another thing that never comes up is actually how to help the women who are forced to wear the hijab. I donate to ex-muslim groups and liberal muslims groups (I am an atheist) to help, but discussion about helping these women never comes up among American progressives, I only found out about these groups by associating with ex-muslims to learn more about them, which lead to meeting liberal muslims, men and women, who do believe the hijab is sexist and have no desire to wear it.

If they are forced by family members to wear hijab against their will, that is abuse, and we have lots of resources to help people being abused by their family members. I live in an area with a substantial Muslim population, and I know that our domestic violence centers are welcoming to people of all faiths--fundamentalist Christianity is one of the more common causes/justifications for abuse in our area. Abuse because of religion is still abuse.
posted by hydropsyche at 10:52 AM on June 21 [7 favorites]


Why Quebec's religious symbols bill changed my university plans
Twenty-five years ago my mother arrived in Montreal to pursue a graduate degree. She had just left Tunisia, where then president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali implemented anti-hijab policies on public university campuses. State officials and university administrators harassed women like my mother who wore hijab to school. Campus became a hostile space where women had to make an unfair choice: wear hijab or get an education. My mother felt she was smoked out of her own university. Not only was she denied the opportunities afforded to her counterparts, but her hijab was under constant scrutiny. Her ambition propelled to her to immigrate to Canada and study at McGill, where she received her PhD in finance.

Two decades later, that same campus represents the opposite for me.
posted by heatherlogan at 11:00 AM on June 21 [7 favorites]


At the mall, on the bus: Muslim women say racist incidents are now part of daily life
Manalle Abdallah says she was speechless after a man spit on her and her friend at a shopping centre on the island of Montreal, after Bill 21 was announced.
Confusion, questions as Quebec schools forced to apply ban on religious symbols
In midst of teacher shortage, school boards, unions, educators try to make sense of new law. [...]

"I think there's a lot of confusion and a lot of questions," said Starr, a professor in McGill University's faculty of education.

While classes are finished for the summer, Starr said several university students who wear religious symbols have contacted her to find out whether their school placement will still go ahead next fall.

She said it's not clear if the ban applies to student teachers, who aren't yet public employees.

posted by heatherlogan at 11:10 AM on June 21 [2 favorites]


There is a lot to be said about how Muslims in the West themselves believe in the necessity of the hijab and yes, the sexism that drives a lot of how it's being policed in-community and how then it gives the impression to outsiders such that I get asked by non-muslim Europeans why I don't wear one if I'm a Muslim. But laws like this doesn't emancipate women like me, it makes the fight worse, and it really is just another expression of paternalism and patriarchy.

My country has had a rise of women donning the hijab and I've mentioned the social bullying and laws in one particular state, but you know what is also happening? Women are also taking it off voluntarily as they examine the whys of the practice (though also in larger part the modern hijab is so unlike the light scarves women of this region did wear), or repurposed the intention to be one that is more about their own faith expression instead of moral policing from others (and don't think that doesn't rile up the conservatives either, for 'wearing it wrong'!). I've been on both sides of the practice, wearing it and not, and at no point have I not been somehow, doing it wrong.
posted by cendawanita at 11:12 AM on June 21 [10 favorites]


And another thing that never comes up is actually how to help the women who are forced to wear the hijab. I donate to ex-muslim groups and liberal muslims groups (I am an atheist) to help, but discussion about helping these women never comes up among American progressives, I only found out about these groups by associating with ex-muslims to learn more about them, which lead to meeting liberal muslims, men and women, who do believe the hijab is sexist and have no desire to wear it.

This tactic was tried by Prime Minister Stephen Harper in his Zero Tolerance For Barbaric Cultural Practices Act to "help" women (but really get to say "barbaric" and "Islam" in the same phrase as many times as possible) and Canadians saw through that Islamophobic bullshit and booted his ass, so I would say it comes up.

Yes, women living in family or cultural oppression need help. That goes for members of polygamous cults, women living in states where their reproductive rights are under attack, victims of the genocidal attacks on Indigenous women in Canada, and a whole host of other situations - check out ex-Mormons, for example, where the belief is wives are called into Heaven by the secret name given to their husbands. Are you questioning every woman with a Jesus fish sticker on her SUV whether she has been forced to bear children or suffered a lack of access to education (particularly science education) via Christian homeschooling? Are you donating there?

To be clear, it's great you're donating but just consider why it is you perceive hijab as such a critical human rights violation...is it perhaps that it is easier to critique fundamentalist Islam rather than other religions that are more predominant in North America, and most especially, is represented in recent refugee and immigration crises? To me it reads a bit like concern for ignorant Catholics during the Irish potato famine...not exactly rooted in equality.

Somehow, it's Islamic women who have their dress scrutinized and made into a political tool for xenophobic actors. If you are not familiar with the basis of this aspect of Quebec politics, some of which has been outlined in this thread, you may want to read up before bemoaning the lack of action that Americans are taking on...following suit and banning headscarves?
posted by warriorqueen at 11:14 AM on June 21 [10 favorites]


For those who still aren't sure whether women's rights are human rights, Bill 21 affects men too:

Montreal teen who dreams of joining police vows to fight religious symbols ban
When Sukhman Singh Shergill was a little boy, police cars would make him turn his head in excitement.
He collected police badges and notebooks, watched cop shows and told anyone and everyone around him: "I'm going to be a police officer one day."
Shergill is now 15, and his dream remains the same.

"I love the [idea of] helping the community," Shergill said. "It's out of love for people. I love people. I want to make them comfortable."

He watched with admiration as his older cousin, Gurvinder Singh, blazed a trail in New York City.
As president of the New York Police Department's Sikh Officers Association, Singh helped lead the charge for the NYPD to change its uniform policy in 2016, allowing officers to wear turbans in place of the traditional police cap.

[...] "a police force is likely to more readily gain the trust of a diversified population if it is diversified and inclusive."
posted by heatherlogan at 11:20 AM on June 21 [7 favorites]


Of course someone has. Why didn't you even look for it?

Because nobody here was talking about it. France came up several times, but the effect of the law on French muslims didn't, so I didn't know. That's why I asked. Also, at work and don't have time to do a ton of research.
posted by brandnewday989 at 11:30 AM on June 21


brandnewday989: Has anybody done any actual research on the effect or are people just speculating on what they think will happen? If they have negative effects, what can be done to ameliorate them?

Well, the Quebec law just passed this week and is somewhat different than the related kinds of bans passed in Europe (and it's going to be challenged in court), so it'll be a while before this specific law's effects can be researched. However, there was an article in the Washington Post earlier this month summarizing the authors' study of the French headscarf ban.
In a recent study, we evaluate the effects of headscarf bans, studying the landmark 2004 French law banning conspicuous religious symbols in public primary and secondary schools. Independently of normative or political motivations for such laws, our research suggests that outlawing headscarves in schools actually hinders the economic and social integration of Muslim women.
posted by mhum at 12:10 PM on June 21 [7 favorites]


But laws like this doesn't emancipate women like me, it makes the fight worse, and it really is just another expression of paternalism and patriarchy.

Sorry, wasn't trying to support the law. It's discussion around the law in Western progressive spaces that I was complaining about. It's always a lot of 'This law is really prejudiced' and that's it.

Several years back, I was reading a discussion on Metafilter, about a proposed anti-hijab law somewhere, and I just had a blinding realization that none of the people in the discussion knew anything. They weren't Muslim, most weren't women. Why am I listening to them talk about this? So I decided to educate myself. And I watched videos, read articles, talked to ex-Muslim and liberal Muslims about why the took off the hijab, read and watched stuff from women who do wear the hijab.

And I realized that this discussion inside the Muslim community is so complex and nuanced. Like the concept of "hojabi", really? Or the pain of women who do feel it's a requirement but take it off to keep a job. Or Dina Tokio, a Muslim fashion blogger who took off her hijab, and got so much hate from the Muslim community that she made a 45 minute video just reading out hateful comments. (Please note, she didn't stop wearing it, she just said she wasn't going to wear it everyday and got so much hate. People wrote articles about it.)

That hijab isn't just about wearing a headcovering. It's also about wearing or not wearing make up, tight clothes, etc. And women who fall on the wrong side of their communities line will often catch a lot of trouble for it. See 'hojabi'.

Or women who take the off hijab because they want to drink and date and so aren't 'good muslims' anymore ,and women who want to take it off but won't because her mother will think she failed to raise her daughter to be a good Muslim.

And the struggle of being a liberal feminist Muslim woman who wears a hijab but is fighting against sexism in Islam, and the struggle of being a liberal feminist Muslim woman who doesn't wear it, thinks the practice is sexist and so is alienated from her Muslim community, and is alienated from progressives because a lot of them are incapable of separating criticism of Islam from prejudice and call her a bigot.

All of these views are important should be considered. But none of this is reflected in discussions about this issue in western, non-muslim, progressive spaces.

And I popped into this thread and the discussion is exact same as the one I read several years ago.

And I want more. Metafilter should do better. Western non-muslims should do better. We need to be better.

I was serious about wanting to help. What can non-Muslims do for hijabi and non-hijabi Muslim women after laws like this are passed? But again, the discussion in Western progressive spaces never seems to move there.

And now i seriously have to go back to work, so I won't be responding to comments for a while.

(I do think Muslim women who want to wear the hijab should be allowed to, and laws against that seem to just make it worse for Muslims, but I do think the hijab and all the modesty issues that come with it is a sexist practice, even though I know individual Muslim women can wear it for non-sexist reasons. )
posted by brandnewday989 at 12:11 PM on June 21 [3 favorites]


It's always a lot of 'This law is really prejudiced' and that's it.

Sometimes, it's that's simple. Sometimes, people do things motivated solely by hate.
posted by tobascodagama at 12:17 PM on June 21 [6 favorites]


What can non-Muslims do for hijabi and non-hijabi Muslim women after laws like this are passed?

The best thing you can do is stop thinking it's ok for other people to tell women how they should dress. All of the problems you're grappling with are due to other people trying to police what women wear and how they present themselves in public. Women should be able to dress however the fuck they want. Men too.
posted by heatherlogan at 12:20 PM on June 21 [19 favorites]


To the Americans in this thread: why not concentrate instead upon the religiously-motivated clothing-mediated oppression in your own back yard? Consider the unconscionable oppression of students -- regardless of their religion! -- attending Brigham Young University:
Men

A clean and well-cared-for appearance should be maintained. Clothing is inappropriate when it is sleeveless, revealing, or form fitting. Shorts must be knee-length or longer. Hairstyles should be clean and neat, avoiding extreme styles or colors, and trimmed above the collar, leaving the ear uncovered. Sideburns should not extend below the earlobe or onto the cheek. If worn, moustaches should be neatly trimmed and may not extend beyond or below the corners of the mouth. Men are expected to be clean-shaven; beards are not acceptable. Earrings and other body piercing are not acceptable. Shoes should be worn in all public campus areas.

Women

A clean and well-cared-for appearance should be maintained. Clothing is inappropriate when it is sleeveless, strapless, backless, or revealing; has slits above the knee; or is form fitting. Dresses, skirts, and shorts must be knee-length or longer. Hairstyles should be clean and neat, avoiding extremes in styles or colors. Excessive ear piercing (more than one per ear) and all other body piercing are not acceptable. Shoes should be worn in all public campus areas.
Maybe America should ban the wearing of sleeves in public, seeing as how they are being used as an instrument of oppression. People like me who sunburn really easily will wind up as collateral damage, but isn't it a small price to pay for liberty? Free the shoulders!
posted by heatherlogan at 12:33 PM on June 21 [8 favorites]


brandnewday989: It's always a lot of 'This law is really prejudiced' and that's it.

I mean, here's the thing. The larger issues regarding the hijab specifically and modest dress generally in the vast array of Muslim communities are, indeed, extremely complex. There are many, many layers to those issues and they're all, of course, linked to the even larger issues of the place of women (and feminism and modernism and integration vs. identity and etc...) in Muslim communities.

However, as strange as it may seem, all of those complexities are essentially moot with regards to this law (and the related European laws). We have to keep our eye on the ball here: this law is not even really about hijabs or Sikh turbans or kippahs or crucifixes or whatever. This law is about who does and who does not belong in Quebec society. They can't come right out and say "no muslims allowed", so they have to go about it in this roundabout way. But believe me, if this law holds, the next thing you're going to see are some kind of laws regarding halal (and maybe kosher) butchering, probably under the guise of protecting animal welfare. Apparently, the PQ has already flirted a bit with this back in 2012.
posted by mhum at 12:36 PM on June 21 [14 favorites]


I just had a blinding realization that none of the people in the discussion knew anything. They weren't Muslim, most weren't women. Why am I listening to them talk about this? So I decided to educate myself.
...And I popped into this thread and the discussion is exact same as the one I read several years ago.
I was serious about wanting to help. What can non-Muslims do for hijabi and non-hijabi Muslim women after laws like this are passed? But again, the discussion in Western progressive spaces never seems to move there.


There are literally comments in this thread from Muslim women. Stop complaining that nobody is having the discussion you want to see and bring the information in yourself, what else did you spend all that time educating yourself for?
posted by the agents of KAOS at 1:23 PM on June 21 [16 favorites]


Also this law is broader than just being against Muslim women and I don't know if you can say that Sikh and Jewish men are just collateral damage or if it was intended to make the province less welcoming for them too. Especially taking the immigration changes into account that mandolin conspiracy noted. Deciding that immigrants being European is more important than being Francophone sends a pretty clear message of what exactly this government and its supporters are trying to achieve.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 3:21 PM on June 21 [4 favorites]


Has anybody done any actual research on the effect or are people just speculating on what they think will happen?

I always find it astounding how many people have such strong opinions on this matter, despite being totally unfamiliar with Islam, hijab, khimar, etc.

there's an abundance of discussion on this from Islamic jurisprudence to contemporary historians on/of the MENA region to numerous novelists and so on.

as a start, Lila abu-Lughod's book Do Muslim women need saving? (Harvard UP, 2013) is perhaps the most necessary read on this today.
Frequent reports of honor killings, disfigurement, and sensational abuse have given rise to a consensus in the West, a message propagated by human rights groups and the media: Muslim women need to be rescued. Lila Abu-Lughod boldly challenges this conclusion. An anthropologist who has been writing about Arab women for thirty years, she delves into the predicaments of Muslim women today, questioning whether generalizations about Islamic culture can explain the hardships these women face and asking what motivates particular individuals and institutions to promote their rights.

In recent years Abu-Lughod has struggled to reconcile the popular image of women victimized by Islam with the complex women she has known through her research in various communities in the Muslim world. Here, she renders that divide vivid by presenting detailed vignettes of the lives of ordinary Muslim women, and showing that the problem of gender inequality cannot be laid at the feet of religion alone. Poverty and authoritarianism—conditions not unique to the Islamic world, and produced out of global interconnections that implicate the West—are often more decisive. The standard Western vocabulary of oppression, choice, and freedom is too blunt to describe these women’s lives.

Do Muslim Women Need Saving? is an indictment of a mindset that has justified all manner of foreign interference, including military invasion, in the name of rescuing women from Islam—as well as a moving portrait of women’s actual experiences, and of the contingencies with which they live.
I really cannot be bothered sometimes

if people are genuinely interested (as opposed to the various arguments in bad faith here) I am more than happy to recommend some additional articles/books/texts whatever
posted by Ahmad Khani at 3:25 PM on June 21 [18 favorites]


I'd be happy for reading recommendations, Ahmad Khani. I made the post in part hoping for some enlightening discussion that I could learn from.
posted by clawsoon at 3:35 PM on June 21


>> Has anybody done any actual research on the effect or are people just speculating on what they think will happen?

> I always find it astounding how many people have such strong opinions on this matter, despite being totally unfamiliar with Islam, hijab, khimar, etc.


I'm really curious about the question you think I was asking. I was asking specifically about the effect of laws banning hijabs et al in Western countries on Western Muslim women. Not about if Muslim women need saving or not. I can't save anybody. I just try to support liberal Muslim organizations and ex-muslim organizations.
posted by brandnewday989 at 4:29 PM on June 21


The title offers a rhetorical question—speaking more to an 'ethic' or an impulse, not to be taken literally. it deals with the very issues you are asking about
posted by Ahmad Khani at 4:34 PM on June 21 [4 favorites]


One of my physical therapists wears a headscarf. One day I overheard her telling one of the other therapists how she had to get a haircut, and her usual parlor had a back room where she could take off her headscarf without a man being able to see her (the main room having storefront windows facing the sidewalk outside). When she called, the back room was all booked. The owner offered to open the parlor early and keep the blinds down. My therapist told this story with such gratitude for a small kindness that it makes me wish there were many more small kindnesses in the world.
posted by acrasis at 5:28 PM on June 21 [7 favorites]


Several years back, I was reading a discussion on Metafilter, about a proposed anti-hijab law somewhere, and I just had a blinding realization that none of the people in the discussion knew anything. They weren't Muslim, most weren't women. Why am I listening to them talk about this? So I decided to educate myself. And I watched videos, read articles, talked to ex-Muslim and liberal Muslims about why the took off the hijab, read and watched stuff from women who do wear the hijab.

Not saying I know anything about being Muslim or a woman, but spending even a modicum of time around Muslims and interacting with them shows you exactly how complex of an issue this is. If generalizing about Muslims is possible, the only generalization I'd feel comfortable making about them is that they're an incredibly diverse group. Just like...y'know...Americans. Or something. Blah blah I spent a few months in Indonesia, which qualifies me to say little beyond the fact that it's not a monolith.

If we're considering the case of women who are legally or socially coerced into wearing hijab/niqab, how does telling people what to wear help people who are already being told what to wear? If we're so high and mighty about our freedoms, we're supposed to be the ones who let you wear what you want, and let you define what it means, and most importantly, offer you the means to make that choice by yourself. That takes supporting women's rights and organizations on the ground, period.

If your perspective is that Islam is too patriarchal and conservative, and you have some gut-level opposition to it on that level, drop it. Western bigotry against Muslims is founded in an astounding ignorance of what it hates. Bill Maher isn't about to get taken seriously in the hijrah movement, and neither are you if you walk in spouting his talking points. Quote from article (and from a proselytizing butthead I really don't like!):
“Our duty as Muslims even our Prophet Muhammad — peace be upon him — is to tell the truth. Faith is entirely Allah’s prerogative rights. It’s pointless to use violence to convert people. Too bad lately there are plenty of people who influenced others to perform qital (physical war) in return of instant glory. Learning, understanding and applying Islam in life is way harder than earning glory through the use of violence.”
Whatever secular society you want, arguing about the hijab is not going to get you that when Muslims themselves are vigorously debating the question, often at the individual level, and they're not going to stop being Muslims because you want them to. They will, however, resent that you ban it, and rightly call you an insensitive racist, and tell you to butt out. If you want to argue against the patriarchal/conservative elements, name names, quote scripture, be respectful, and be humble enough to admit when you're wrong. As in, learn about it. One of the fun things about Islam is that it's open to interpretation, as open as Protestantism, and anyone is as qualified as anyone else to have an opinion (except where forbidden by law, which is certainly not a debate limited to Islam). If you can make an intelligent case for your own opinion, it's a religion made up, at root, of reasonable people who are listening.
posted by saysthis at 12:03 AM on June 24 [6 favorites]


In case anyone is still questioning what the effect of such a law might be, here's an article from the Montreal Gazette from May quoting Charles Taylor, one of the co-authors of the previous study/commission that first recommended that civil service authorities be required to not wear religious symbols, who has since had a bit of a change of heart:
Instead of acting as a bulwark to appease people clamouring for more restrictions, the ban for some authority figures was used as a trampoline for people to ask for more, and he regrets that deeply, Taylor told a committee studying Bill 21 Tuesday.

“We were very naive,” Taylor said. “The very fact we were talking about this kind of a plan started to stimulate hate incidents, not just in Quebec but all over.

“Just talking about these kinds of policies caused enormous harm to our society. You can’t imagine the division, the sense of alienation that this causes for vulnerable minorities.

“Even going down this path in a minimalist way saying certain people can’t do certain jobs gives comfort and encouragement and creates a really frightful climate. The discussion here is a bit angelic. It does not reflect what is happening on the ground.

“I really changed my mind when I saw the consequences of such policies.”
Once again, I will reiterate that these kinds of laws are almost never about what they say they're about (in this case, laicity in the civil service). They're about who does and does not belong in society, and to what degree. Just like the whole debate about gays in the (US) military was never really about military readiness or esprit du corps; it was about whether or not gays were considered full members of the citizenry. Engaging with these kinds of laws on their own terms is falling into their trap and not really necessary.
posted by mhum at 10:47 AM on June 24 [8 favorites]


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