DISCRIMINATORY NIQAB BAN WOULD PREVENT MUSLIM WOMEN WHO COVER THEIR FACE FROM RIDING THE BUS
Dear Premier Couillard,
I write to you as the elected leader of my home province. Earlier this year, I stood in the front row of Maurice Richard arena and watched you deliver one of the most eloquent, articulate and seemingly heartfelt speeches I have heard in a long time. You stood shoulder to shoulder with members of the Montreal Muslim community, Prime Minister Trudeau and Mayor Coderre and you spoke about our community that was hurting. Our community as Quebeckers. Our community as Canadians.
Listening to your address while standing a mere couple of dozen feet away from three of the caskets of my brothers in faith who had been murdered while peacefully praying in their mosque gave me goosebumps. It gave me hope and it reminded me once again why I am so fiercely proud to be a Quebec born Canadian Muslim woman. My hands and nose were thawing from having stood in line outside in the frigid cold for two hours just for a chance to pay my respects to the victims of the largest act of terrorism on Canadian soil.
The outpouring of love and support for our community was beautiful. It came from every corner. Members of various churches and temples reached out to Mosques. We held interfaith events, I even shared Pancake Dinner at the local United church. I was proud of this side of my home province that was blossoming after a horrific incident that left many children fatherless.
Pardon my disgust then to learn that in that same calendar year, Bill 62 was passed. In the very same province. Let’s back things up a little bit here. When the proposed charter of values was making rounds in the media and former Quebec premier Pauline Marois was spewing divisive comments separating our society into les nôtres versus les autres, the Liberal Party of Quebec were the heroes of the day, stepping into power when it seemed at the time that our beloved province’s leadership had gone down the drain.
Stunned. Angry. Sad. Frustrated. Confused. Those are only some of the emotions ripping through my body as I join thousands of Quebeckers reeling from the passing of Bill 62. I’m at somewhat of a loss for words. You see I don’t cover my face but I have been privileged to know many incredible, kind and intelligent women who do. I know that they are hard working, law abiding citizens who want for their families what everyone else wants; a good education, lower taxes and safe neighbourhoods. Being born and raised in Quebec afforded me the wonderful opportunity to have met so many people of so many faiths and traditions. I always felt that was a blessing, it enriched my life and allowed me to befriend some incredible people of every different colour, ideology and background.
If the concern for not allowing niqab wearing women to ride the bus or to benefit from public services is one of public security, it’s vitally important to consider the exact number of women in niqab that have been implicated in crimes, robberies, hold-ups or any other sort of criminal activity. The answer to that is zero.
If the concern is identity, if you actually do the research you’ll see that there has never been an issue with a niqab clad woman agreeing to identify herself.
As Canadians we pride ourselves on our freedom of choice and freedom of expression. The question is not whether or not people feel comfortable with women who cover their face, the real question is that the moment we feel we can tell someone what they can and cannot wear it becomes a very slippery slope.
Once Bill 62 was passed, I immediately began receiving messages of concern from friends asking if it would impact my ability to wear the hijab (just covering my hair). My response was no, not yet. The problem however is that if even if it does not right now, the floodgates have been opened. Who’s to say what comes next.
It frustrates me when words like “neutrality” are used as a thinly veiled (pardon the pun) attempt to not admit discrimination against Muslim women. Passing a law that affects at most maybe 100 people in the entire province but sends a very loud and clear message is dirty politics at its finest. At least with Pauline Marois we knew what she stood for. I’m so disappointed Premier Couillard. This happening the same year that six men were gunned down in our own province while peacefully praying in their place of worship? How do you reconcile that?
The real take away from this is the elephant in the room. The increasing need to appease alt-right extremism. The only reason the ruling party felt the need to pass this piece of legislature is the appeasing of that alt-right voter base. This is a victory for alt right groups such as La Meutre, and others whose platforms are built on division, fear-mongering and extremist ideology. The fact that there are so many of these individuals who have succumbed to this fear-mongering, and that the Liberal party of Quebec is doing this under the guise of neutrality should be alarming and concerning for ALL Canadians because if you’re not neutral (read “white”), who’s to say they’re not coming for you next?
A broken hearted Québecoise Canadian woman