Photo Credit: Chris Gold under Creative Common License
The Canadian province of Quebec has proposed a ban on religious headwear and obvious religious symbols to all public workers. This would include doctors and nurses, law enforcement, teachers, and many others. The desired items to be banned would include hijabs, large crosses, and Jewish kippah’s. However, small, discreet jewelry would be allowed. This government proposal was sent out in an attempt to bring religious neutrality to the province in hopes of further separating the church from the workplace.
A recent article written by a Muslim-Canadian man titled, “’Fear of the Other’ is not the Quebec this Muslim has experienced” describes his sorrow and angst in seeing a normally tolerant province, and country, put forth a discriminative charter. Amir Karim has lived in Quebec with his family for nearly 40 years and has never been labeled as undesirable or unacceptable. His family’s beliefs have always coincided with the beliefs of Quebec in that “this society harnesses the power of its diversity to improve our quality of life, to bring prosperity to our communities and to resolve our challenges.” An average long-time citizen of Quebec, that has never had a problem with their government, is now a basis for unfair discrimination.
So why now is Quebec deciding that these common, everyday religious symbols are suddenly unacceptable in the workplace? As Karim pointed out, most all of Canada’s political stability has risen over the past two years, however Quebec’s has not. They have lost mining investments, job establishments have not increased as they should, and housing markets are still low. By putting this law in place, it would give the government workers the sense of control and power that they need in order to bring the province back to where it’s supposed to be. Though this ban is supposedly to help Quebec’s political slump, it is not helpful in ensuring trust among the citizens of the province.
That is why most coverage on this story has such negative feedback. People want to be able to express their beliefs. That is a major part of a democratic society. Then, there becomes the issue of drawing the line as to what is acceptable in terms of “small, discreet jewelry.” Will the government set size and color regulations, or expect the public to know what is acceptable as to what is too religious, or too flashy? Even if these regulations are put into place, the next point is brought up in the fact that citizens would be allowed to wear these articles when not at work. Would this ban encourage protestors to flaunt their beliefs more outwardly in public since they can’t support their religion in a workplace? I find it a hard thing to believe that excessive objection to this law outside of the workplace would not give the country an even worse reputation. Due to these possible protests from this charter, the government could start a chain of political laws in an attempt to organize the level of religious symbolism a person can demonstrate. It could tumble Quebec into a completely different battle even though they were simply trying to regain economic stability.
Most all article headlines concerning this ban proposal have a negative aspect to it. From saying, “Charter sparks protest” to “Charter will pass over my dead body” should immediately raise red flags. All of these headlines draw in attention by entitling them in a way that makes this proposal sound completely outrageous, and makes the government sound like a set of religious discriminators. By titling these articles that way, it brings in a curious audience, and allows the writer to propose the conflict and express their opinion on that conflict. If a more neutral explanation is desired, then online newspapers or broadcasters such as BBC or CNN have accurate, valid coverage on the story.
Karim, Amir. “’Fear of the Other’ is not the Quebec this Muslim has experienced.” The Globe and Mail. 9/16/13.
“Quebec ‘Charter of Values’ draws protests.” Al Jazeera. 9/15/13.
“Quebec mulls religious headwear ban for public workers.” BBC News. 9/10/13.