Quebec is at it again. Just a few months after the Quebec Soccer Federation reversed its ban on turbans and other religious headwear on the field after a whole lot of public outcry, officials in Quebec have introduced a proposal to ban “conspicuous religious symbols” from public sector workplaces. These so-called symbols include the turbans, hijabs, and even yarmulkes.
The proposal is drawing lots of criticism, including from federal government officials in Canada. Minister of Employment, Social Development and Multiculturalism Jason Kenney stated, “we are very concerned about any proposal that would discriminate unfairly against people based on their religion and based on their deepest convictions,” and promised to put any law that passes through constitutional review.
Ironically, two years ago, Kenney, not particularly concerned about people’s deepest spiritual convictions, announced a ban on burqas from citizenship ceremonies, citing women’s liberation as part of the justification. The new proposed policy in Quebec also includes a burqa ban:
The proposal also requires people receiving state services “to make their faces completely visible,” a measure aimed at banning the burqa, a traditional head-to-toe garment worn by some Muslim women.
Quebec premier Pauline Marois had told a Quebec newspaper that, for her, a day care teacher wearing a head scarf carries a “connotation of a certain gap between the respect of equality between men and women, of a sort of submission.” (link)
I have written at length about the growing ban on burqas in western and northern Europe as well as Canada and won’t rehash those arguments here. What I do want to add for now is in response to many in our Sikh community who are supportive of these bans on the burqa that are spreading throughout the Western world. I’ve insisted before that our sovereignty and freedom as Sikhs is intimately tied to the freedom of our Muslim sisters and brothers who have been increasingly under attack in the last decade. This proposed law in Quebec makes that even more painfully clear. The logic behind policies that target the burqa are the same as those that target the turban: assimilation. First they may come for the burqa and then headscarves, but all religious headwear including turbans are not far behind.
The rhetoric these politicians use is that of creating a more secular, independent, free-thinking liberal society. The subtext is, however, assimilation into a white, Christian-dominated society. While politicians like those in Quebec, France, Spain, Belgium and other countries who have banned hijabs and turbans from public life (including schools) in various ways talk about separating church and state and keeping religion out of public affairs, double standards, not surprisingly, are abundant. In Quebec, Minister Bernard Drainville assured the public that his proposed law to ban religious symbols from public service workplaces will not apply to the crucifix in the main chamber of the National Assembly. It will remain up to preserve province’s “cultural heritage,” he said.
As for us, I guess we’ll have to just wear our turbans in the privacy of our own homes so we don’t impose our backwards views on our forward thinking (white) Canadian neighbors.
I’m guessing Sikhs (and others) in Quebec and other parts of Canada are on top of this. If you know of actions being planned or petitions to sign, post them in the comments, and we’ll add them into the post.