It’s an interesting thing that Quebec has done with Bill 62: they haven’t used the word Muslim or niqab in their Bill, but they have still managed to target Muslim women. Sneaky. And, in my opinion, sinister.
There has been a statement to attempt to defend the universalism of the Bill. Something like “people wearing sunglasses will also have to take them off”.
Ha! Nice try.
Here’s the thing: will they be asked to? Will people feel the same sense of entitlement to demand that someone take off their Ray Bans? I’m thinking not. And here’s why.
Sunglasses don’t represent a religion or a belief. They are not misunderstood. They don’t carry a stigma in this country. They are not a point of conversation or a tool used to whip up fear. They don’t create a sense of Other-ness: We don’t say “those people wearing sunglasses”. But we say that about women in niqabs and burkas, even about those wearing hijabs. It’s one example of the underbelly of racism, xenophobia, and Islamophobia in this country.
And so, as Heather Mallick puts it in her article in the Toronto Star, the person deciding not to take off their sunglasses – and thereby deciding to forego a ride on public transportation – will walk without the shame and stigma of a woman in a niqab who has exercised the same right.
That person’s world will not be turned upside down, their beliefs aren’t being challenged, and they won’t have to choose between them and need when accessing services.
So… what is Bill 62 really about? What is it showing us? What is the impact – and on whom?
And before we feel smug in other provinces, how else is Islamophobia and xenophobia manifesting itself across this country?
Interested in learning more? If you live in Toronto, Raja Khouri Conversations and the Mosaic Institute are hosting a discussion next Monday evening (Nov. 26). The title is The Niqab in Canada. Now What? You can register here.