It says a great deal about Canadian pluralism and decency — and about the diversity that still exists in the corners, if not mainstream, of Islam — that a group of Muslim women can come forward and ask a Conservative government minister to extend, not limit, the burka ban.
Those brave activists within the Muslim Canadian Congress do not speak for all Muslims of course, but then neither do the various extremist Islamic groups in the country. But unlike the MCC, those fanatics pretend otherwise.
What these truly liberated women have requested is that the prohibition reach beyond the brief and unique point of swearing citizenship, and apply during any interaction between a Muslim woman and the state or public sector. For this modest and enlightened proposal, they have been intimidated, insulted and threatened.
Their suggestions may well be introduced at some point, but this is Canada and not France, and I suspect the change will be incremental and depend on polls, parliamentary majorities and the influence of Jason Kenney within the government. There are still some politicians, right as well as left, who are terrified of “causing offence.”
There’s a lot of confusion over this entire issue. The right of a woman to dress and worship as she wants is pretty much as sacred — forgive the pun — as you’re going to find in a liberal democracy. The litmus test is harm done to others. So, for example, a religion-based refusal to allow a child a blood transfusion to save life is easily defeated by acceptable standards of protection and state intervention.
To generally ban burkas because they diminish female dignity and portray men as uncontrollable beasts is, while intellectually and morally compelling, difficult to uphold.
But a state demanding that those who use or work in its services comply with certain dress codes is entirely moderate and well within a sensible understanding of the extent of individual freedom and the right of state influence.
No Canadian should be intimidated or made uncomfortable because the bureaucrat to whom they are speaking is dressed in a tent, and nor should that bureaucrat have to talk to someone they cannot see.
We also need to stress that this has little to do with religion. The burka is not Islamic but tribal, and was almost unheard of in south Asia, the Levant and others parts of the Islamic world until the late 1970s. In Mecca, the epicentre of Islam, the burka is not required, and the theological leaders of Islam in Cairo — about as Vatican-like as Muslims get — have repeatedly rejected the necessity of the burka.
That’s not surprising, as it’s more pagan than monotheistic. The full covering of women predates Mohammad, and is a desert dress imposed on women in ancient Arabia. So rather than being the essence of Islam, it’s anti-Muslim and probably in need of a fatwa.
As for the moaners complaining about religious freedom, spare me the trash talk. They tend to be white leftists and brown fundamentalists, who have opposed religious liberty for Christians and Jews for decades.
You can’t hide your hypocrisy under a veil, comrades, even if we can’t see your eyes!