Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A Cover Up in Quebec?


Quebec seems on the verge of banning the niqab, though evidently there are only about a dozen women in the whole province who choose to veil themselves.

I find it a strange but somewhat romantic practice. If it had been at all common in the early 1970's when I was a young art student I might have taken it up myself on occasion. I love the look of the flowing robes and the mystery of the veil.

However this being 2010, I do find it disconcerting to see an Islamic family strolling down the street on a blazing hot day, the husband and children in cool western summer wear and the wife covered from head to foot in long robes. I have seen the same sort of thing in Mennonite communities, ordinary men standing beside wives dressed in traditional garb.

I may wish that the women didn't seem so subservient but I don't feel threatened by Mennonites. I feel more uncomfortable when I see a veiled woman. My mind immediately flies to the 'honour killings' that have gotten a lot of press in Canada recently even though I know that the number of women killed by their husbands or lovers is probably ten times higher in the general population. It is unfair and I've had to really think about how I feel about these things. Watching the Twin Towers fall changed a lot more than the landscape of New York City, unfortunately.

So here are my thoughts on the subject:

The main question that is troubling Quebec politicians seems to be whether veiled Muslim women should have to reveal their faces for things like Canadian driver's licences and passports. From what I have read it seems to have become a question of frightening political correctness.

I think that if it hadn't been for 9 11 we would probably see these Muslim women as just another interesting part of the Canadian mosaic and they would be expected to comply without question to Canadian laws or they would be deported. Obviously the Quran is open to interpretation because some women do not wear a head covering at all, some wear the hajib or headscarf and some the veil or niqab.

Women who choose the niqab must be prepared to show their faces for identification purposes. It is a no brainer and not worth a lot of fuss in anybody's legislature when there are so many real problems that need attention. However, the niqab should not be banned. Women should have the freedom to wear what they want and to practise their religion the way they want.

It's the almost-totally-free-to-do what-you-want Canadian way.
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