Tuesday, April 06, 2010

One Step Forward - Three Steps Back...

Now I know this is old news now, but I can’t stop ranting about this one... Quebec, la belle province, is set to ban the wearing of cultural head coverings in a new bill that is being tabled shortly. You can read all about it in the various media, my personal favorite was The Globe and Mail article about two weeks ago. I'd link it in, but have lost the ability to link a story for some reason... I'll assume you can do a Google search and find it. :)

This flurry of anti-Muslim leanings (and lets face it, there aren’t any other folks being targeted by this legislation) was kicked off in Quebec when a Muslim woman who wears a niqab (a full face covering which shows only the eyes and is worn by an extremely small percentage of Muslim woman here in Canada) was kicked out of a French language class because the teacher “needed to see her face to properly instruct her.” OK, first rant. What? My computer is teaching me Japanese. Its doing so without the ability to see me at all, let alone the ability to make judgement calls about me or my ability. It is simply listening to the sounds and comparing them to what the word in question is supposed to sound like and then correcting me when necessary. I could be wearing a Storm Trooper helmet from Star Wars and still get the proper coaching.

The woman then attempted to enroll in another class, and the Minister of Immigration actually intervened in this new course to have her removed once more. Suffice to say, she’s filing a Human Rights complaint with the Commission des droits de la personne et des droits do la jeunesse (Quebec’s Human Rights Commission).

Now let us put this in perspective... this is a woman attempting to learn one of the official languages of Canada. Language is frequently cited as the means though which one can most easily understand a culture. So she’s making an attempt to learn more about Canada, to become, as it were “more Canadian” and we’re telling her no.

I won’t say that I favour the niqab or the burka. I personally consider them to be dehumanizing and can’t condone their use. That said, I also respect a woman’s right to wear one if she chooses to do so, particularly if that woman is making that choice out of a religious obligation.

The last time I checked, Canada was involved in a war against the Taliban and its supporters in Afghanistan. One of the reasons that Canadians were so incensed about the situation in Afghanistan was the way women were treated. We were inundated with images of these poor women, trapped behind their burkas, not free to choose. We sent troops there, and many have died. We’ve spent billions of dollars, and have cost thousands of lives, to (among other things) give women the right to choose. Now, here in our own country, we’re taking away that right?

Where does the line get drawn? I am offended by many things each day. I think the manner of dress of many young people these days is deplorable and borderline pornographic. Yet I respect their right to choose, even if I can’t understand their choice. Why does Sally Smith get to walk through the mall wearing only a belt and two pasties, while Najiira can’t wear her niqab? Safety? Security? Come on people, lets try and move past the culture of fear and oppression.