[W]hatever the proposal’s defenders may claim, their denial is shameless obfuscation. This debate has been going on for some years, and it always comes down and back to Muslim women. There is perhaps understandable concern about a full burqa, but such a covering concerns a tiny number of people. This, on the other hand, involves a sizeable number of Muslim women, often highly educated, who want to combine a lived faith with active citizenship and public duty.
They are now being told that they can’t. It’s also worth remembering that some Muslim women wear a hijab not because they’re specially devout but because they want to self-identify at a time of increasing anti-Muslim sentiment, ranging from the horrors of Christchurch and—lest we forget, Quebec City in 2017—to regular street insults. How darkly ironic that their statement against bigotry should be met with, well, bigotry.
The bill pays lip service to Jews and to a lesser extent Christians, but is about Islam. Mind you, Quebec Sikhs will certainly be harmed by it. It’s interesting that when Sikhs wanted to defend western civilization against Nazism, their turbans were welcomed, but the Quebec government thinks differently.
The strain and stain of Islamophobia runs deep in Canada, and arguably stronger in Quebec than elsewhere. A study last year from the Canadian Review of Sociology, for example, asked people to give various groups a rating between zero and 100 to indicate how they felt about them. Muslims did the worst in Quebec, at 56. The Montreal-based polling company CROP found in 2017 that 34 per cent of Quebecers believed that Muslim immigration should be halted, compared to 23 per cent in the rest of the country. That may be partly because Quebec, just like Ireland and to a lesser extent Spain, came out from under the shadow of Roman Catholic clericalism and reacted harshly to anything seen as overly religious. The backlash infects all faiths, but the one that seems to be most obvious today is Islam, and thus this draconian response.
[T]he Quebec left has got this legislation terribly wrong when so many of its adherents support it. Their enthusiasm for what they see as secularism is misplaced, and the argument that this somehow liberates women and is feministic is startlingly paradoxical. Of course there are women who are oppressed in Islam, just as there sometimes are in other faiths, but it is common for younger Muslim women to adopt the hijab not because of but in spite of paternal and patriarchal influence. It’s often a sign of independence and even defiance, and non-Muslim leftists have no more right than anybody else to impose their views. White saviours speak French too, you know. Politics isn’t linear, and it won’t be the first time that ostensible progressives have allowed populism to infect their ideology.