Quebec shows the way
In May 2005, the province of Quebec showed leadership when its legislature voted unanimously to pass a motion against permitting shariah law to be used in the province’s legal system.
Moving the historic motion in the Quebec National Assembly, Muslim member Fatima Houda-Pepin said, “The application of shariah in Canada is part of a strategy to isolate the Muslim community, so it will submit to an archaic vision of Islam … These demands are being pushed by groups in the minority that are using the Charter of Rights to attack the foundation of our democratic institutions.” Four months later, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty would ban the use of all religion-based tribunals in the province, thus ending all hopes Islamists had of creating a beachhead for shariah law in North America.
Now, Quebec has taken another bold and courageous step to stall the inroads being made by Islamists in Quebec society: In a bill that could soon become law, Quebec will refuse all government services, including education and non-emergency health care, to Muslim women wearing face masks (known as the niqab or burka). Jean Charest, the Liberal Premier, said the bill is aimed at “drawing a line” to demonstrate that gender equality is a paramount Quebec value.
As a Muslim Canadian, I am thrilled at this development, and welcome the rescue of all Muslim-Canadian women who were being blackmailed, bullied and brainwashed into wearing attire that has no place in either Islam or the 21st century.
Muslim women — my wife, mother, sisters, daughters and friends — were deeply angered that cowardly Islamists were using their faces and heads as the flag of Islamism. Their faces were never the property of hateful, joyless men who wish to consign women into dark, mobile prisons. If faces of Muslim women are a source of sexual tension to these men, it is these men who must shut their eyes and lock themselves in permanent prisons.
The burka is not just a piece of clothing: It is a symbol of Islamofascism and a rejection of the West and its cherished value of gender equality. The cruel reality is that the burka implicitly castigates women as a source of evil ( a’wra), condemning them to a life of isolation away from the gaze of men.
Beyond that, it is important to understand the more practical reasons as to why Quebec is right in listening to the call of liberal and progressive Muslims who asked for a ban on the burka:
– Security: As news from around the world shows, thieves and terrorists are using burka disguises to evade checkpoints, hide explosives and commit crimes.
– Safety: Anyone who has tried on a burka knows that it provides minimal peripheral vision. Walking is hard enough. Would you want to be on the highway with drivers whose perspective is constrained by such a human tent?
– Health: Doctors have provided evidence that vitamin D deficiency, which is associated with serious health problems, can result when a face-covering blocks all incoming sunlight.
To the Islamists and their apologists who argue that Canada’s position on the niqab should be based on Canadian values of equal citizenship, rather than assimilative French values, I simply say: Canadian values are themselves based on French and British values. They did not fall from the sky. Furthermore, if importing ideas from France is so suspect, then smuggling the values of tribal monarchies and theocracies into Canada is far worse. We would rather embrace France’s equality than the institutionalized misogyny and polygamy of Iran and Saudi Arabia.
– Tarek Fatah is the author of The Jew is Not My Enemy: Unveiling the Myths that Fuel Muslim Anti-Semitism, which will be published by McClelland & Stewart in October 2010.