Bill 62 is what Islamophobia looks like

, , Leave a comment

What you choose to wear shouldn’t stop
you from getting on the bus, going to the hospital, doing, pretty much, anything. But if you live in Quebec, that’s about to change. In October, Quebec passed Bill 62, a law aiming to create “religious neutrality.” People who cover their faces in public will be barred from both giving and receiving
public services. Effectively meaning, Muslim women
who wear niqab and burka can’t work as doctors or teachers and can’t do things like get on the bus, take
a book out from the library, or pick up their kid from daycare without
uncovering their face. If this sounds vaguely familiar, it’s
because efforts to ban religious symbols in the province have been in the news for years. In 2013, the Parti Québécois government tabled Bill 60, also known as the “Charter of Values.” It included a proposal to ban public servants from wearing prominent religious symbols. While promotion of the bill suggested it
would affect workers equally, it would likely have had a bigger impact on
people of the Sikh, Jewish and Muslim faiths. After the Parti Québécois was
defeated by the Liberals 2014, the new government introduced its own proposal
the following year. This time, the focus was on banning covered faces. On October 18, Quebec’s
majority-Liberal National Assembly officially passed the bill into law
with 66 votes in favour, and 51 against. Premier Philippe Couillard defended the law, by saying it’s about communication, identification and safety. The government said there will be a mechanism to ensure that people won’t be
subject to this law because of their faith but it’s unclear how that will work,
since the law now appears to be targeting one particular expression of faith. This could just be viewed as a typical case of overreach: as part of Quebec’s pursuit to rid
itself of tyrannical religious relics secular politics have become tyrannical. But this ban isn’t about religion,
it’s about one particular religion. It’s absurd to argue that these women are
a threat to Quebec’s secular culture it’s estimated that there are
fewer than 100 of them but their image is powerful because they represent the kind of difference
some Quebecers are uncomfortable with and the Liberals know it. The amount of political effort that has been
thrown behind this law reveals less about the crusade for secular society
than it does about which group is politically palatable to target. Islamophobia conveniently hides behind
the shield of secularism in Quebec and many Quebecers have argued that Islamophobia has a particular history of acceptance there. Last year, a Forum poll found 28 per cent of Canadians viewed Muslims unfavourably. Quebecers polled at 48 per cent. Considering the impact Bill 62 will have,
it’s laughable to hear Quebec Justice Minister Stéphanie Vallée insist this new law is part of the
pursuit of the neutrality of the state. This law will only fuel Islamophobic
sentiments, similar to what happened when Donald Trump was elected U.S. President. We cannot afford to be so
politically correct anymore. [Applause] If we’ve learned anything in
the last year, it’s that you can’t just shove those sentiments
back in the box. This law sends a message to these women that choosing to express
their faith in this way is an affront to “Canadian values” that it‘s okay to treat
some people like second-class citizens and if they don’t look like “us” they
don‘t have a right to the services they fund with their taxes. In a year where six Muslim men
were killed because of their faith— in that very province—the
Liberal government has chosen to send a message that Muslims will never belong
unless it’s on the government’s terms. Not only does this law feed the
insidious strain of Islamophobia that has taken hold in Quebec,
it puts thousands of public servants in the awkward position of enforcing
systemic discrimination. The union representing bus drivers in Montreal has already said that drivers don’t want to be
responsible for enforcement. Many Quebecers have made clear
they don’t support this law. Protesters covering their faces descended on the
Metro in Montreal, the weekend after the vote. This legislation may not withstand a legal challenge but either way it has the
added cruel effect of making this small yet very visible group of women act as a proxy in an ongoing identity war they didn’t ask to be a part of. So no, this isn’t what
“religious neutrality” looks like. This is what Islamophobia looks like.


Leave a Reply