Friday, March 26, 2010

To burka or not to burka?

I wear a Cross on a chain around my neck. I usually wear it under my clothing. It is a constant reminder to me of my devotion to My Lord and Saviour. It is also a link to my parents ( who gave it to me) and my heritage. If legislation was enacted to make me take it off, I guarantee I would defy that legislation. As a rule I don't like telling people what to do.
That is why I am very wary of the burka ban in Quebec. I was discussing this with Barbara Kay yesterday in Montreal. She has a piece about it in the NP. While Chris Selley has an opposite view.
I tend to actually support Barbara's argument that the burka is not a religious symbol, but a way to oppress it's wearer. I must admit I am still wary of telling people what to wear, except it is true that we do adhere to some conventions in society, like wearing clothes at all. I understand the jihadi threat all too well, I am just not sure this is a good way to fight it.


Frances said...

Dr Roy - I, too, wear a cross. But a burka is a different matter. One who wears it is totally repudiating many of our basic Canadian values. Also, it is intimidating: the wearer gets to identify you, but does not give you the same right.

I have read that the burka is not allowed in Mecca. Is that true? If so, then what's good for Mecca should be good for Montreal.

Anonymous said...

Barbara Kay is very savvy on these difficult subjects.

France is wrong to stop little girls from wearing scarves. It is also wrong to stop them from wearing crosses. Switzerland is wrong to stop the building of minarets … instead they should use bylaws to deal with loudspeakers, and building codes to deal with height.

But covering one’s face in Western society is different matter. We are an open society and are suspicious of the causes of covering up. Therefore that ban is appropriate.

Our Mounties wear felt hats. If you don’t want to wear one, don’t join the Mounties.

But we do believe in the separation of religion and state, also in the equality of men and women. The Quebec law handles that difficulty with the ban. Although it is a bit of dilemma in that covering one’s face is deemed by some to be a religious right. That’s why a dilemma is called a dilemma. Not dealing with it doesn’t make the dilemma go away. Dealing with it is what makes us civil and able to live together.


wilson said...

Why over-think this.
Are government employees allowed to wear G-string bikini's to work?
It's a dress code. period.

Look at this case in Alberta:

'..The Supreme Court of Canada ruled 4-3 Friday that a Hutterite community in Alberta must abide by provincial rules that make a digital photo mandatory for all new driver's licences as a way to prevent identity theft.

The case involved the Hutterian Brethren of Wilson Colony, located east of Lethbridge, Alta. The group had argued a 2003 regulation enacted by the province requiring photographs on the licences breached their charter right to freedom of religion.

The top court rejected the claim...''

Bert said...

Francis said:
I have read that the burka is not allowed in Mecca. Is that true? If so, then what's good for Mecca should be good for Montreal.
Are women even allowed in Mecca ?. I can't imaging a religion that treat's women the way islam does allowing them to stand beside men, especially in the line up to kiss their version of the Blarney Stone.

Frances said...

Wikipedia says both men and women go on pilgrimage. Men where the ihram, whereas women just maintain their hijab - 'normal modest dress, which does not cover the hands or face.'

A BBC site about religions says 'Women must not cover their faces, even if they would do so in their home country.'

So it seems that women do make the hajj, but bare-faced.

Matt said...

I think Roy is right to be wary of this new law. The issue isn't the burka or the niqab, but the state's ability to decide matters of individual choice. I am much more comfortable around women who follow western customs, but that doesn't mean I want to use the power of the state to enforce my preferences.

Those who have commented above should ask themselves if they would support a government ban on wearing a cross. If I wanted to I could cite Dawkins and Hitchens and provide pages of theories on how some people think Christianity is damaging to society. Such an argument would be no more or less valid than your opinions on Muslim dress.

Respect for freedom and religion should extend to all freedom and all religions, not just a chosen few.

mustcontrolfistofdeath said...

Good rule of thumb: anywhere that you can't wear a spiderman costume, you should not be allowed to wear a burka.

I agree with Sarkozy's words but Quebec's actions. I agree with France's president (and Barbara Kay) that the burka is wrong because it opresses women. But I am essentially a libertarian, I don't thnk the government should ban wearing anything outright.

However, saying that you cannot access government services (and banks) with your face covered is the exact right thing to do. It is both practical, and also sends the message that our society disapproves of this disgusting practice, yet stops short of government control over what one may wear in private or in general public.

I hope all the provinces follow suit, and that politicians go public condemning the burka, but stay clear of the temptation to try to ban it outside of government services.

Frances said...

Matt - I see your point. But there is a difference between wearing a cross and hiding one's identity under the guise of one's religion. If these women wish to do this, so be it; I should equally have the right to refuse to interact with someone I cannot identify. And forget the 'intimidated woman' bit; think of the female Khadrs.

bertie said...

Just remember it is not the government who is saying what we wear.It is the Canadian public,the voters.We tell the government our wishes.If we see someone in a bank or store with his or her face covered,automatically we think,bank robber,guns, shooting,killing of innocent citizens.Whether you like it or not,maybe the problem isn't the burka or mask ,but the libertarians who think everything is legal and no one should tell them what to do, or what to wear.Well you can see what this crap does to our youngest in schools,some showing up in skirts that reveal asses and more and libertarian principals allow it.????There has to be dress codes whether you like it or not,and masks are not part of any ones dress code and not a part of any religion.

Rebecca said...

There seems to be something problematic about women (or anyone) completely covering their faces and thus identities all the time, either because they want to or claim they want to, or because of communal pressures within their ethnic groups. The burka and niqab seem to pass a sort of line in terms of what's appropriate or not in an egalitarian or democratic society - but I agree; we should be wary of bans on anyone's identity. I don't have too much of a problem with restrictions on, say, the niqab, but a similar law about all headscarves, or sheitels for religious Jewish women, or crosses etc would be erring too much on the side of (anti-identity) "secularism."

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