Promoting Integration through Intolerance
The government of Quebec is debating a new law that would ban women from wearing the niquab/face veil when receiving or providing government services in public. This includes such highly frequented places as libraries, schools, and hospitals.
For all of Quebec’s concerns over its core values, this is a terrible law for a number of reasons.
Let me count the ways:
1) If the law is designed to promote integration, as some of its supporters claim, denying people the right to use government services while practicing their religious beliefs—beliefs which harm no one—seems a pretty strange way to go about it. Intuitively, this law would seem to push religious believers away from government institutions and onto the social margins. It would have the exact opposite effect it supporters claim it would have.
2) The proposed law stigmatizes an entire group of people for the crime of choosing to wear a piece of clothing. It also pushes their faith beyond the acceptable pale of Quebec society.
3) The discussion around the law, predictably, has promoted some nasty discourse. The women who wear the veil are frequently depicted as lacking any choice in the matter. Their husbands and fathers are portrayed as violent tyrants. Denying the free will of Muslim women who choose to wear the niqab treats them as a group rather than as individuals with their own volition. It is absurd.
4) This law would still be wrong if the government promoted it honestly, but the fact that it is providing transparently false justifications about “security” and “communication” makes it worse. It decreases the stature of both the government and the law. That government officials point to the fact that the proposed law is supported by 95 percent of Québécois as justification for its passage shows a startling lack of respect for minority rights. If it passes, it’s hard to see what this law succeeds in accomplishing accept stigmatizing a group already despised by a large majority of society.
For other cogent critiques of the proposed new law, see this post at racialious.