// Quebec niqab bill would make Muslim women unveil
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« on: Mar 25, 2010 08:08 PM »


Landmark bill would make women unveil if they want access to public services

Quebec niqab bill would make Muslim women unveil
March 25, 2010

ANDREW CHUNG

 
Shama Naz, a 33-year-old mother lives in Kirkland, on the island of Montreal. (March 24, 2010)

PETER MCCABE FOR THE TORONTO STAR
 
MONTREAL–Quebec Premier Jean Charest and his cabinet have introduced sweeping legislation that effectively bars Muslim women from receiving or delivering public services while wearing a niqab.

According to the draft law, they would not be able to consult a doctor in a hospital, for example, or even attend classes in a university.

"Two words: Uncovered face," Charest told reporters during a press conference in Quebec City.

"The principle is clear."

However, Charest reaffirmed the right to wear other religious symbols, such as crosses, skullcaps or headscarves, which was met by some as evidence of hypocrisy and discrimination.

Some critics say the legislation could prevent women from integrating into Quebec society. "Mr. Charest is talking about welcoming people from different backgrounds and that this is going to unite us," said Shama Naz, a niqab-wearing woman who lives in the municipality of Kirkland on the island of Montreal.

"This is actually going to isolate people."

The 33-year-old mother of two young girls, a native of Pakistan, predicts women will be discouraged from going to a doctor, to school or work.

"It will isolate them from basic rights as human beings," said Naz.

The niqab is a veil worn by a small number of Muslim women that allows only their eyes to be visible. It's estimated there are "a few dozen" such women living on the island.

Charest explained that the legislation, Bill 94, demands a face in plain view, for reasons of identification, security and communication.

He further clarified that even public-service employees who do not interact with the public – the majority of the provincial bureaucracy – would also not be permitted to wear the niqab.

The province will hold public hearings on the draft legislation.

Though issues of so-called "reasonable accommodation" of religious differences elicit breathless coverage in the media, cases are few and far between.

Only 10 of more than 118,000 visits to the health board's Montreal office in 2008-09 involved niqab-wearers asking for special dispensation. Ontario has moved in the opposite direction of Quebec.

Accommodations are made for women in niqabs, said Geetika Bhardwaj, senior communications advisor to Government Services Minister Harinder Takhar.

Women can go into an interview room and have an identification photo taken by a female staff member. Or, a picture can be taken in a private location by a female agent. "If there is not a private interview room or a private location, a screen can be erected in order to obscure the photo subject from public view," Bhardwaj said.

And, in the Toronto area, health-care appointments can be made after hours, a system that will soon be extended across the province and will include health cards and driver's licences.

Critics of the niqab say they subjugate women and their right to equality.

After a woman was removed this month from a French-language class for refusing to remove her niqab, Christine St-Pierre, Quebec's minister responsible for the status of women, called niqabs "ambulatory prisons."

On Wednesday, St-Pierre said Quebec was a "world leader" when it comes to gender equality, and with Bill 94, "we prove it once again."

The legislation doesn't stop at driver's licence or health card offices. It encompasses nearly every public and para-public institution as well, including universities, school boards, hospitals, community health and daycare centres.

Daniel Weinstock, director of the ethics research centre at the University of Montreal, applauded the spirit of the law.

Still, he emphasized, the law is based on the principles of not hindering identification or communication. In that, there seemed to be some "wiggle room," he said.

"I can imagine a person whose mouth is covered still being able to convey her point of view without having to uncover her face."

Charest and his ministers said the bill highlights the primacy of equality and state "neutrality" on religion.

Nevertheless, the law aims at niqabs but not other religious symbols.

For Naz, it's simply "hypocrisy. A lot of Muslims will think it's racially oriented," she said. "Everybody else goes on wearing whatever they want to express themselves."

With files from Tanya Talaga



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« Reply #1 on: Mar 25, 2010 08:08 PM »

VOTE AGAINST QUEBEC'S DECISION

TO BAN MUSLIM FACE VEIL - NIQAAB


OMNI SURVEY

Do you agree with Quebec's decision to ban Muslim face veil in public services?

 
This question is on http://ontario.omninews.ca/.

You can call this number to vote and select option 2 :
416-872-8015




ACTION PLAN

* Call today and register your vote against this decision.

* Pass this information to all your contacts and encourage them to vote against Quebec's decision.

* Act Now !

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« Reply #2 on: Apr 04, 2010 07:40 PM »

Siddiqui: Picking on Muslim women smacks of hypocrisy

Published On Sun Apr 04 2010

By Haroon Siddiqui
Editorial Page

I do not like the niqab/burqa. It makes me uncomfortable. But that's not a good enough reason to argue that it be banned or, worse, that those wearing it be denied public services, including education and even health care, as Quebec is proposing.

Based on even majority public opinion, a democracy cannot discriminate because of dress – religiously dictated or otherwise. It couldn't do it in the same way that it wouldn't sanction lynching, should the masses be baying for it. The rule of law wouldn't have it.

What if society collectively decided to change the law to permit lynching? It could. But citizens would retain the right to argue that such a law would be an ass.

That's the stage we are at vis-à-vis Quebec's bill on the niqab. Hence the myriad arguments.

• The niqab is just another manifestation of multiculturalism gone mad.

No, it is a case of freedom of religion, which includes "the right to show it," as Quebec's own commission on reasonable accommodation said in its 2008 report.

• The duty to accommodate religion is not limitless. Correct.

As stated by the commission, "a request may be rejected if it leads to what the jurists call `undue hardship,' which can take different forms such as unreasonable cost, upsetting an organization's operation, infringing the rights of others, or prejudicing the maintenance of security and public order."

That may have been the case with the niqabi woman in Montreal who was thrown out of two French language classes. She was said to be making excessive demands. She said she was being true to her faith. She went to the Quebec human rights commission.

That's a good way to work through such competing claims. The case, however, is a poor excuse for Jean Charest's legislation.

• The niqab may not be a religious requirement. I agree. So do an overwhelming majority of Muslim women, including observant ones, who do not wear it.

But that does not negate the right of those who believe it is a religious requirement. That a majority of Jews do not wear the kippa, or that many Sikhs do not wear a turban, does not negate the right of those who do.

• It is essential to see the face for the purposes of I.D. documents and security. Absolutely. The state can lay down the law that a niqabi show her face for a passport, driver's license, health card (as the Quebec health board has already held). She should show her face at immigration and customs, etc., or even when collecting her child from daycare. But there are no reported cases of niqabi women objecting to any of that.

• The niqab is "a symbol of oppression," decreed by Islam or the men of the household – father, brother or husband.

Let's assume that it is. Whose business is it to end the practice – that of the state?

Let's say that it is. But she would invoke her freedom of religion, also her freedom of choice of dress. What then?

Would our argument be that we do not recognize her sovereignty, even though we accept the right of a woman to abortion on the basis of just such individual autonomy?

Or would we argue that a niqabi woman is too dumb to decide for herself or is under the sort of severe oppression that we assume she is, without having to prove that she is?

Feminists would have had greater credibility had they also been campaigning against the inferior status of women among Catholics, Hutterites, Orthodox Jews and other faiths.

• The niqab impedes integration. Yes.

Yet the proposed cure may be worse than the disease. Charest's bill, if passed, would isolate them even more.

• The niqab dilutes the secular nature of society – Quebec's, in particular. Not so.

The Constitution recognizes the supremacy of God. The Quebec National Assembly displays the crucifix. Some Quebec municipalities begin meetings with a prayer. Catholic and other churches are given tax breaks.

Fo Niemei, director of the Montreal-based Centre for Research on Race Relations, asks: "Do we withdraw funding for the Jewish General or require that the hospital remove its Jewishness because the state shall not fund or support religious expression?" The niqabi women are not demanding any favours anyway, only their rights.

TO SUM UP: We are witnessing an unholy alliance of leftist feminists, right-wing bigots and Quebec nationalists. That's why Lucien Bouchard, former PQ premier, publicly warned his party last month against playing identity politics, something he said René Lévesque would never have approved of.

Picking on Muslim women smacks of hypocrisy or, worse, the pathology of "bigots and chauvinists who, like bullies, direct their vitriol toward the weak," American academics Sener Akturk and Mujeeb Khan wrote in Turkey's English-language newspaper Zaman in an article headlined How Western Anti-Muslim Bigotry Became Respectable.


Haroon Siddiqui is the Star's editorial page editor emeritus. His column appears Thursday and Sunday.

hsiddiqui@thestar.ca

http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/article/789267--siddiqui-picking-on-muslim-women-smacks-of-hypocrisy

And.... here are some responses to Siddiqui's article
http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/article/789267--siddiqui-picking-on-muslim-women-smacks-of-hypocrisy#comments

The Almighty Allah says,

"When a servant thinks of Me, I am near.
When he invokes Me, I am with him.
If he reflects on Me in secret, I reply in secret,
And if he acknowledges Me in an assembly,
I acknowledge him in a far superior assembly."

- Prophet Muhammad (SAW), as reptd by Abu Huraira
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