Quebec (twice) refuses to teach French to woman because she wears a Niqab

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j.m.

As I articulated in an earlier post, it appears that service provision where newcomers are obliged to interact with established settlers of European background is the site of these battles. It is one of the few places where the structure of the service permits those in charge of ESL/FSL classroom to exert power that they would not have in other service provisions.

I dislike the current power relations that constitute many ESL and FSL environments, and I do not think that the niqab issue is *the* issue in these environments. Rather, these environments are also rife with  cultural imperialism and patronizing and belittling of participants. The niqab fits into this issue in these environments, too.

I am not denying islamophobia, but I hope that people can acknowledge the larger issues that surround these environments. It should be no suprise that islamophobia is becoming legitimized in this learning environment if we do acknowledge the problems with these environments.

That said, there are great ESL/FSL environments where professors are cognizant of the power relations in transcultural environments and try to negotiate an inclusive atmosphere. Clearly the places where these niqab-wearing women went did not have these qualities.

 

 

Snert Snert's picture

Quote:
You persist in dodging issues of democratic principle by imagining utterly irrelevant and trivial examples pulled out of the ether every which way.

 

I see this as neither irrelevant nor trivial. We're talking about something that, really, amounts to us saying "should we or should we not intervene to save Muslim women from the niqab?". As such, I thought it relevant to point out that when the question was "should we or shouldn't we save Muslim women from a voluntary Muslim tribunal?" it seems the answer was "yes, we must". At any rate, we did.

Slumberjack

skdadl wrote:
You persist in dodging issues of democratic principle by imagining utterly irrelevant and trivial examples pulled out of the ether every which way.

What, pulled out from where.

Michelle

For me, Snert, it's about not giving an official stamp to a religious civil institution.  I don't care what people want to agree to on their own.  What I have a problem with is when the government starts to recognize "alternative" legal tribunals based on religious legal systems.  The government has no more business recognizing a Catholic or Muslim or Jewish tribunal as a legitimate quasi-judicial dispute resolution institution than they do recognizing Snert's Division Of Laundry And Other Chores Court.

Slumberjack

Unionist wrote:
And just so you know, Bill 94 (the product of cheap pandering to xenophobia)...

This entire debate, in the wider sense of course, has been cravenly used as a wedge for xenophobia and its panderers to stoke their usual hatreds.  We open this field of public debate to them not at our own peril, but at the expense of others.

kropotkin1951

I read your post above Unionist and I don't understand what the point is.  Charter rights are Charter rights you don't need a law to tell people they can invoke their rights.  Any law that for proper reasons requires a person's face to be shown is already permitted in Canada and HR tribunals have said so.  So why the bill?  It really looks like pandering to some political wonks idea of what voters will respond well too. It seems to be a non-issue being thrashed to death for effect.

Unionist

Michelle wrote:
For me, Snert, it's about not giving an official stamp to a religious civil institution.

What's your precise objection, Michelle? A person claims (say) that their religion forbids them from engaging in or recognizing any marital/family ceremonies, certificates, structures, or decisions, other than those administered by their own religion. The person asks no funding, but certainly demands that their marriage and divorce and family relationships be recognized for spousal benefits, survivor benefits, etc., just like everyone who gets married or divorced under the white, western system. What's your problem with that scenario?

To be clear - I totally oppose that scenario. I totally oppose individuals opting out of uniform social norms for religious (or any) reasons, but then claiming social rights and privileges. For example, the law which legalized same-sex marriage allows religious homophobes to continue officiating over religious marriages - and those marriages have legal recognition! That was Paul Martin's "compromise", and no one is fighting to eliminate this craven pandering to homophobia.

My problem with the niqab was never the niqab - it was the demand by some individuals to be served by (or to bare their face to) members of a particular sex, for trivial issues (like getting a photo id for a health card). The human rights commission here issued a correct opinion that such "accommodation" was over the top - just as it dismissed those customers who didn't want to be served by someone wearing a turban or hijab etc. That's the right balance to strike. But now, on rabble, we have some character condemning "Québec feminists" for refusing to stand up for the so-called "right" to cover one's face, as if this is anything but a trumped-up issue in this province aimed at getting the dinosaurs out of their caves, after the provocations of 2007 failed.

Your indignation is very much misplaced. The problems of racism, xenophobia, Islamophobia, and misogyny have nothing to do with a handful of women who for whatever personal reason want to cover their faces when males are around. But it is very convenient for the Charests and Marois of this world to have the debate framed in this trivial way. You know why? Because just as they lost in 2007, using this issue, they think they have a chance of winning.

 

Unionist

kropotkin1951 wrote:

I read your post above Unionist and I don't understand what the point is. 

 

Please read the text of the law and then let me know whether you think women are banned from wearing a niqab when receiving public services. Link to English version is [url=http://www.assnat.qc.ca/en/travaux-parlementaires/projets-loi/projet-loi... this page[/url].

Quote:
Charter rights are Charter rights you don't need a law to tell people they can invoke their rights.

Are you talking about the Québec or the Canadian Charter?

Quote:
Any law that for proper reasons requires a person's face to be shown is already permitted in Canada and HR tribunals have said so. 

I don't follow you at all. HR tribunals have jurisdiction over the Québec Charter, but not the Canadian Charter.

Quote:
So why the bill?  It really looks like pandering to some political wonks idea of what voters will respond well too.

Yes, that's what I've been saying all along. It singles out the niqab because no one (I mean no one) likes the niqab, though some democratic-minded people tolerate it on human rights grounds. And that's the wedge Charest would like to use to pander to the xenophobes, head off Marois's even more xenophobic notions, and so on. The wrong response is to defend the "right" of some handful of people to cover their face in language classes or to demand females to serve them during photo ids.

Quote:
It seems to be a non-issue being thrashed to death for effect.

Exactly. I agree. 100%.

Lily_C

"The problems of racism, xenophobia, Islamophobia, and misogyny have nothing to do with a handful of women who for whatever personal reason want to cover their faces when males are around"

I couldn't agree more, Unionist. Meeting Muslima students in London it was often claimed that ladies only wore a niqab on the insistence of their husbands/families. These ladies often told me that they were against this kind of chauvinistic covering. How many feminist Muslimas wear niqab? Many choose to wear a light covering or even a small scarf but would not submit to covering their whole faces. They did not consider niqab a free 'choice' as we Western-minded people understand it.

mahmud

Michelle wrote:

For me, Snert, it's about not giving an official stamp to a religious civil institution.  I don't care what people want to agree to on their own.  What I have a problem with is when the government starts to recognize "alternative" legal tribunals based on religious legal systems.  The government has no more business recognizing a Catholic or Muslim or Jewish tribunal as a legitimate quasi-judicial dispute resolution institution than they do recognizing Snert's Division Of Laundry And Other Chores Court.

My problem was with people lining up behind Tarek Fatah and the handful of fellow sycophants of his , opposing Sharia arbitration, when silent on preceding and still existent Talmudic and Canon Tribunals. I have posted above what some experts think is really behind the cover ups of crimes by the Catholic Church: Canon Law gives supremacy to the Church's interest over any other conideration.

If the "heroes" who "saved" Canadian Muslims and Canada from the evil of Sharia are indulging in self-congratulations, I have news for them: Sharia law is alive and kicking in Canada... underground. As monument to the islamophobic double-standard, Talmudic and Canon Law tribunals are also alive and kicking.. above ground as they are apparently deemed a better fit for a white, Judeo-Christian society. 

PraetorianFour

Here are my thoughts. 

While I look good in a suit [I'm talking the new james Bond where he looks great in the suit but you can tell he detests wearing it] but being a surfer I prefer comfortable clothes.  Spring hits and it's sandles and shorts until October.  I like to dress very casual.

If I go into a fancy restraunt I may be refused service because I don't meet the dress code.  Even at our defense head quarters in Ottawa there are services I will be [and have been] refused for wearing jeans due to the strict dress policy. Uniform OR dress shoes, dress pants dress shirt.

I will be refused service for my choise of attire however if it is a religious garment then it is discrimination to refuse service.  How I see it someone choose their religion and accepts the various dress rules the very same way I choose NOT to be religious and choose to dress how I want.  I find it unfair that someone's choice of religion superceeds my choice to be an athiest. You choose to follow a religion and it's discrimination to tell you not to follow your religions rules.  If you don't follow a religion then you don't have a say.

 

 

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

Excellent point, mahmud. If Dawkins et al are successful in putting the pope on trial, we can begin to dismantle this double standard. Until then, hand-wringing about Sharia law serves only as a convenient and disingenuous diversion.

Snert Snert's picture

To be fair, the issue isn't just that atheism isn't given much credibility, it's also that atheism makes no demands of atheists.  Atheism doesn't, for example, demand that atheists wear a cowboy hat, but Judaism demands that a Jew wear a kippah or yarmulke.  So, we accomodate that Jew, but not the atheist.  Further, it's unlikely that the atheist could make any kind of convincing argument that demonstrates that his cowboy hat is part of an articulable system of beliefs, whereas, for example, a Catholic would be able to demonstrate that while their religion doesn't demand that they wear a crucifix, it's still part of a personal religious requirement, so to speak.

I'm a secular guy myself, and not at all unsympathetic to what you're saying, but for all kinds of screwed up reasons, personal free will takes a backseat to the arbitrary commandments of invisible deities. 

Quote:
Talmudic and Canon Law tribunals are also alive and kicking.. above ground as they are apparently deemed a better fit for a white, Judeo-Christian society. 

Are they? It could be that they still are, in practice, but after Muslims asked for their own tribunals, the Premier vowed to eliminate all of them, Jewish and Catholic included.

mahmud

 "If you don't follow a religion then you don't have a say." -PraetoriantFour

You sure do. The day they hand you the Bible be it in a court of law or for whatever swearing procedures are practiced in our public service, you have the right to say NO.

 

"Are they? It could be that they still are, in practice, but after Muslims asked for their own tribunals, the Premier vowed to eliminate all of them, Jewish and Catholic included." -Snert

 

Yes Canon Law and Talmudic Tribunals still do exist in theory, practice and infrastructure. The Premier? He is Catholic, very Catholic actually. I guess should he dare ban either or both his ass would be barbecued before he knows what hit him.

kropotkin1951

I think that no religious tribunals should be given standing Canadian courts.  In most courts now they ask you whether you want to affirm your oath or swear it.  I also think they should totally do away with swearing an oath and make everyone affirm without any religious trappings.

remind remind's picture

PraetorianFour wrote:

Here are my thoughts. 

While I look good in a suit [I'm talking the new james Bond where he looks great in the suit but you can tell he detests wearing it] but being a surfer I prefer comfortable clothes.  Spring hits and it's sandles and shorts until October.  I like to dress very casual.

If I go into a fancy restraunt I may be refused service because I don't meet the dress code.  Even at our defense head quarters in Ottawa there are services I will be [and have been] refused for wearing jeans due to the strict dress policy. Uniform OR dress shoes, dress pants dress shirt.

I will be refused service for my choise of attire however if it is a religious garment then it is discrimination to refuse service.  How I see it someone choose their religion and accepts the various dress rules the very same way I choose NOT to be religious and choose to dress how I want.  I find it unfair that someone's choice of religion superceeds my choice to be an athiest. You choose to follow a religion and it's discrimination to tell you not to follow your religions rules.  If you don't follow a religion then you don't have a say.

agree with this analogy exactly the same equivalency...

RevolutionPlease RevolutionPlease's picture

I agree with P4's point too.  It's also a class thing.  It reaffirms the ridiculousness of this law.

kropotkin1951

I believe P4 just said he doesn't believe Sikh's should be able to wear turbans in a legion but I am not sure.  Is that what you meant?

I thought the turban debate in BC was a classic case of discrimination promoted by racists but that is only my opinion.

RevolutionPlease RevolutionPlease's picture

There should be no such thing as dress codes in a civilized society.

kropotkin1951

RevolutionPlease wrote:

There should be no such thing as dress codes in a civilized society.

I agree and thus I think that this law about veils is wrong. Who the fuck are we to tell others how they must look to be included in Canadian society. When they start banning nuns wear because it is based on the modesty concept I will believe it is something other than hatred of Islamic people.

Lily_C

kropotkin1951 wrote:

 

 When they start banning nuns wear because it is based on the modesty concept I will believe it is something other than hatred of Islamic people.

 

Many Islamic people want to be freed from these conventions! Why else do they want to live in non-Islamic countries? We have fought for our rights and as women we have struggled against patriarchy and the conventions that treated us as second class citizens. how can we not extend that hard-won liberation to others who choose to live with us? The theory behind niqab is that a pretty woman is a distraction to a man, a thoroughly misogynistic belief that goes far beyond 'modesty'.

Cueball Cueball's picture

Is that the theory behind the Niqab in Islam. You know, I have never read that Shura... care to enlighten me?

In anycase thanks for being blunt enough to let us know that this is really about common conceptions about Islam, your personal prejudice and nothing to do with facility at learning languages.

Cueball Cueball's picture

Unionist wrote:

Michelle wrote:

There's a difference between setting up religious legal systems and letting people wear what they want.

So that's where you draw the line - where the white western judicial system is called into question?

By the way, I do not believe there is such a thing as a "human right" to "wear what they want" - for anyone.

And just so you know, Bill 94 (the product of cheap pandering to xenophobia) does not force women to remove their niqab in publicly-run language class. Any woman who wants to invoke religious belief may ask to be accommodated. What Bill 94 does is to deny that accommodation where the requirement for a bare face is justified on grounds of security, identification, or communication. That is a matter that a tribunal can hear and decide. So, if showing one's face is in fact not required for language instruction (as several here claim), then a niqabi will have the right to wear her niqab in language class. But first, they have to invoke their right to ask for accommodation, and stand their ground.

Wow. For someone who seems to find it in himself the ability to muster a definitive opinion on just about everything, this moral curve ball is pretty astonishing. When do we start the "Afghan People will win (only if such is deemed justifiably legal after all the facts are established in a Canadian Supreme Court decision)" thread?

Nice defense of the reverse onus by the way.Embarassed

Lily_C

'personal prejudices'?

I would rather defend a woman's right NOT to wear niqab, but that's a personal preference, and her right not to wear is more in jeopardy than her right to wear it.

If you don't know what niqab means within Islam, you should do some research. Muslim friends tell me scholarly opinion is divided...

Cueball Cueball's picture

There you go again. Suddenly Niqab = Islam. Personal prejudice, Usually based in ignorance.

Unionist

Cueball, I didn't defend Bill 94 (which you obviously have not read, and which I do not support) - I explained it.

Your Afghanistan parallel is breathtaking. I know liberals who say that freedom in Canada means individuals should be able able to do whatever they want, and that we are in Afghanistan to defend that freedom for us and to bestow it on the Afghan people as well. I believe the opposite - on both counts.

Cueball Cueball's picture

How breathtakingly simplistic. I see you are still avoiding the issue.

Point being, the only people who are restricted in their dress on the basis of religion in Canada are Muslims. The rest of us folks are simply limited by the law not to be obscene. These are two different things. Lily_C knows the score. This is about Islam, not dress code, or problems learning to speak French. Go get some coffee, think about this, and get back to me.

Unionist

Cueball, I oppose the law because it singles out niqab wearers and panders to xenophobia. But if anyone wants the litmus test of Islamophobia to be: "Do you support the right of women to cover their faces in front of men in all circumstances?", then I would say that that someone is on a mission to expand Islamophobia.

I do not believe people have a "right" to dress any way they want. I do believe that people have freedom of religious belief and practice. But that freedom must be subject to compromise when it comes into conflict with other social freedoms - such as equality of men and women. If a person says, "I'll only bare my face for this passport photo if you bring me a female attendant", it must be explained to that person that the answer is no.

On the other hand, if the same person makes the same demand in Kandahar, it must be explained to the Canadian invaders that they must get out of Afghanistan while their asses are still attached to their hindquarters.

Likewise, if some righteous person from Ontario writes a rabble piece condemning "Québec feminists" for not defending the sacred right to cover one's face, she should be told (and I have told her) to learn some respect for other people's sovereignty.

 

Caissa

I believe people have the right to dress as they wish in accordance with their religious practice.

Cueball Cueball's picture

Now, that is a reasonable and obvious position. I mean, I am really having trouble undestanding how the truth of those 17 simple words seem to elude so many people.

Lily_C

The reason that it does, Cueball, is that people have a hard time seeing certain kinds of religious apparel being worn as a free choice, in the way that we understand religious freedom. I believe that people should be allowed to dress in accordance with their religion, but not to force others to do so. Which is not to say that all face-coverings are worn under duress, of course they aren't, but it can seem that way to our Western minds.

I suppose where I'm coming from is a context where many women I worked with (Lesbian/Queer Muslim women) saw the covering as a symbol of their oppression, although the covering itself was the least of their worries. I would love to believe that religious clothing was freely worn as a proud badge of identity, but in so many cases it is not. Sorry if I have gone off topic

Cueball Cueball's picture

Coercion is against the law. Is there some reason we need to create special legislative categories targetting "Islamic" coercion?

skdadl

I am really having trouble understanding why people keep using the word "religion." This is more broadly a question of cultural identity, and quite frankly, it is no one's business why a woman continues to choose to cover when she comes to Canada. Attaching that so closely to religion just gives white Western males (and obviously some females who don't really get how choice works -- it doesn't allow for mind-reading or putting words in other people's mouths) the opportunity to grill her on her doctrinal correctness, which is none of their forking business on several counts.

 

Freedom of conscience comes first in the Charter, and there's a reason for that. In spite of what some have said above, you don't know and can't know and don't need to know and don't deserve to know why any particular woman covers, and that is a statement not about individuals but about women's equality. I agree mainly with Cueball's analysis, and I am shocked by claims that equality means asserting men's rights in every situation, as if there were a level-playing field. That's not where the concern for equality comes from, and just pretending that women are not marked in these situations, that men and women are neutered equals, is reactionary to me.

Lily_C

skdadl wrote:

I am really having trouble understanding why people keep using the word "religion." This is more broadly a question of cultural identity,

 

Just because we separate religion from cultural identity doesn't mean everyone else does :)

Cueball Cueball's picture

That is their business, don't you think?

Lily_C

It depends, if we want a disjointed society where nothing is anyone else's business then yes.

Cueball Cueball's picture

So, laws for all personal conduct then?

Le T Le T's picture

I love all the tangents but let's remember that the issue here is that the Quebec government goes into French classrooms and forcibly removes the 1 or 2 women that they have been spying on as suspected niqab-wearing-french-learners.

 

You don't need to see someone's face to learn french, we know that's a lie. This law denies accomodation for face covering on the grounds of "security, communication or identity". Since none of those are in question here the decision to rip women out of french classes because they are wearing niqab can only be based on the centuries-old racist, sexist impulse for white men to "un-viel" Muslim women (see Afghan war for more on this impulse)

Cueball Cueball's picture

The only limit on such free expression as far as clothing is concerned is what is clearly obscene. As far as I know there is no other limit on what people may wear, until now. So, this is different. Sorry. I don't know why you are tainting your reputation for clear insight with nit-picking on this point.

This isn't about someone getting ID'd, and other than the fact that I am probably opposed to the whole idea of "ID" in the first place, i don't necessarily disagree. That said I hardly think that having someone step aside to a female attendant (or making them wait until one is available) is a great big deal, and amounts to an unreasonable demand. On the other hand, that is very work-a-day civil example we are talking about. How about a police officer now having the implicit right to demand the removal of a veil during the process of interviewing and ID'ing passengers in an automobile when some breach in the law has occurred?

But maybe that sounds a little more like an US army check point in Iraq?

It's nice that you have such a soft spot for Quebec sovereignty. I admit a man using "identity politics" to try and trump a debate being had among feminists about a law voted in mostly by men, on the basis of the right of "self determination of peoples" sounds a bit like someone from Alabama invoking "states rights" when talking about the "right to life", but perhaps that is just my mood. Odd, that the premise here is that a woman should be denied the right to "respect" the sovereignty of Quebec by learning the official language in the cause of her "liberation"....

Let's remember that aside from the complexities of the right of the national security aparatus to make it necessary that everyone have photo ID handy when they go to a public toilet, lets remember that what we are really talking in this thread is denying a woman the right to education.

The onus as to what is "reasonable" should reside where, in this case? On the person who wants the education, or with the state?

Cheers... I mean Salut.

 

PraetorianFour

kropotkin1951 wrote:

I believe P4 just said he doesn't believe Sikh's should be able to wear turbans in a legion but I am not sure.  Is that what you meant?

I thought the turban debate in BC was a classic case of discrimination promoted by racists but that is only my opinion.

Well Kropotkin you're half right, sorta.

I think Sikh's should be allowed to wear whatever they want in a legion.  I also think you should be able to wear a clown hat if you want, I wear a baseball hat, cueball wear a cowboy hat and Michelle wear a wreath of pretty flowers.

Cueball Cueball's picture
pookie

P4 - That is sometimes referred to as formal equality.  ie; It's ok if the Sikhs can do it, so long as everyone else gets exactly the same consideration with respect to whatever THEY want to wear.

It's been over 20 years since Canada has adopted a model of equality that recognizes that people do NOT have to be treated in a precisely similar way in order to respect equality.

Now, that is not to say that people don't have a presumptive right to wear what they want.  It does, though, mean that the justification for asking Michelle to remove her wreath may be quite a bit less stringent than the justification for asking a male Sikh to remove his turban. 

kropotkin1951

Cueball wrote:

Women Know Your Limits

 

Laughing Laughing

Unionist

Caissa wrote:

I believe people have the right to dress as they wish in accordance with their religious practice.

Do you agree with skdadl that that right extends to cultural practice as well, not just religion?

If so, should we write cultural freedom into the Charter (note: it ain't there now)?

 

kropotkin1951

freedom of expression is the right to present yourself to the world as you want. I can wear a t-shirt with a protest slogan as well as show my devotion to a cultural practice, it is the same right I would argue.

Caissa

Unionist: I'll "quote" Pontius Pilate "I wrote, what I wrote."

I'll let you and skdadl continue that conversation.

mahmud

Lily_C wrote:

The reason that it does, Cueball, is that people have a hard time seeing certain kinds of religious apparel being worn as a free choice, in the way that we understand religious freedom. I believe that people should be allowed to dress in accordance with their religion, but not to force others to do so. Which is not to say that all face-coverings are worn under duress, of course they aren't, but it can seem that way to our Western minds.

I suppose where I'm coming from is a context where many women I worked with (Lesbian/Queer Muslim women) saw the covering as a symbol of their oppression, although the covering itself was the least of their worries. I would love to believe that religious clothing was freely worn as a proud badge of identity, but in so many cases it is not. Sorry if I have gone off topic

"Many women saw the covering as the symbol of their oppression". Gee and I thought bras played that role ! Before we start banning innocent things, let us know what exactly is the symbol of women's oppression? Could it be a thong? High heel shoes? How about skirts.. Very few men wear skirts. 

Lily_C

You should direct that comment, Mahmud, to women who have been banished by their families (or worse) for not wearing it. But as I said, for LGBT Muslims, the veil is the least of their worries.

Lily_C

and a thong is only oppressive if it's too small :)

Timebandit Timebandit's picture

Depending on your age and body type, a brassiere can be either oppressive or liberating. 

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