- Posted August 28, 2013 by
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Quebec Upsetting the Apple Cart
On April 19, 2010 , I wrote on CNN ( ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-434271) that we live in an era of aggressive pre-emptive measures, when airline travellers can no longer bring bottled water on to a plane, or carry umbrellas into a stadium The ingenuity of those with mayhem on the brain – shoe bombers, undies bombers, crazed alchemists mixing up explosive liquids from chicken soup and nitro-glycerine – has compelled security agencies to restrict so much of what once seemed harmless, X-ray peering right into our entrails There is a historical context for the kirpan, its use arising from necessity centuries ago.
Symbolism has now replaced necessity, and baptized male Sikhs wear a kirpan, along with the turban. But most of the symbols have just become not very relevant. They are as archaic as burqa or cross. All faiths have some symbol, as harmless symbols can not be equated with symbols that can be used as deadly weapons.
But a dagger used to stab a man in Brampton – which is hardly the Punjab of 1708 – has made this, once again, a matter of communal, secular concern.
Way back the Kirpan was 3 feet long and then 6 inches long. If it is a mere symbol, why not have one just one inch long and use it as a pendant, much like a Cross. After all nobody carries a huge cross on the shoulder to show one’s Christian affiliation. Or why not have one made of plastic, instead of sharp steel.
As an aside, it's interesting to note that Bill 94, proposed by Quebec Premier Jean Charest to ban face coverings for Muslim women in Quebec, with accommodation specifically denied for reasons of "security, communication or identification," does not outlaw the kirpan. Why the differentiation. May be political expediency, but definitely discriminatory.
In the new order we have to do away with symbols that are an anathema to the security and safety. We need to overhaul the system of religious temples as well as have a new fresh look at our attitudes and mindsets. Is it asking too much for the sake of peace and tranquillity?
But is kippa, cross or turban a danger to security? Definitely not.
The Quebec new policy is s being created under the euphemistically named "Charter of Quebec Values." Although Quebec must be respected for its unique cultural heritage, it must be remembered that the values of multiculturalism and respect for the cultures and religions of others must be respected as truly uniting Canadian values. Furthermore, this policy is being proposed under the guise of secularism — this is, of course, the official reason for this draconian legislation.
Moving away from the official explanation for this proposed legislation, it must be clear that this is simply a political wedge issue proposed by a party with a set of ideologies that reject Canadian values and is clearly attempting to gain votes through a policy of division.
If this wasn't such an important issue for the whole country, it would be easy to ignore it as a simple attempt to gain votes. However, the implications of this wedge issue must be examined to appreciate their potential consequences. This legislation would create a state-sanctioned policy of exclusion that will divide people based on their differences instead of making differences such as race and religion something to be respected and even celebrated.
We only need to look at France, where a similar policy has only created resentment and furthered xenophobic sentiment.
This potential law is meant to ban overt symbols of all faiths, although exemptions are being made for crucifixes, which will only be banned if they are "highly visible." It must be mentioned that the Quebec National Assembly has a cross hanging within its chamber. This is not to say there is anything wrong with crosses, only that no one religion should be targeted, something that is an inevitability under this legislation.
Quebec plan to ban religious clothing takes a step forward. The Parti Quebecois plan on minority accommodations took a big step toward becoming a reality Monday as the party that likely has the swing vote in the legislature backed major parts of it.
The Coalition Avenir Quebec says it agrees that judges, police officers and elementary- and secondary-school teachers should be restricted from wearing religious symbols like veils, hijabs and turbans. However, medical professionals and daycare teachers would be exempt under the CAQ proposal. So would public-sector workers who don’t hold a position of authority. “What we say also is that we should exclude religious signs for employees being in authority, like judges, policemen — and teachers because we think that teachers, they have in front of them children in a vulnerable position. But, that’s it,” Coalition Leader Francois Legault told a news conference.The CAQ’s votes are key because the PQ has only a minority in the legislature and the other big opposition party, the Liberals, is more hostile to the plan.
The emerging consensus in Quebec is that the issue could be a political winner. A poll said 65 per cent of Quebec’s francophones, and 57 per cent of the overall population, agree with the idea. Just 25 per cent of anglophone respondents said they agree. The Leger Marketing poll of 1,000 respondents was conducted over the weekend and has a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points.
The major point is why the dress code of certain sections of society should be objected to? As I wrote earlier, I can understand that banning kirpan is fully justified; and so is banning hijab. There is concrete evidence that Kipan is a weapon and hijab has been used to aid terrorists hide themselves. But kippa or cross or turban have no such danger. Kippa and cross are innocent symbols, and turban is more a part of dress code, than a religious symbol. It has been used by diverse communities in India, and not only Sikhs since times immemorial; and it is also been in use in Africa and Middle East. The 18th century Courts in England and France also have seen the wearing of turban.
How does wearing the turban impact negatively the cause of secularism is beyond my comprehension. Just imagine, in case the Sikhs do not wear it, then their unshorn hair would be floating around and may not present a pretty picture. It helps keep them tidy. Secondly in case turban, and also kippa and cross are banned, may be next target shall be salwar kameez worn by South Asian or kimono worn by Japanese and so on- the list is endless.
The potential social impact is equally difficult to gauge. Several medical professionals and daycare workers were featured in news reports last week saying that they would leave Quebec, quit their job, or refuse to comply if ordered to change their clothing.
I'm not religious so I really don't care one way or the other. The symbols are just social club affiliations to me. But there are clearly a lot of people who think wearing their religion on their sleeve is a god-given right.
The problem I see with this is that there are many forms of religious symbolism that are worn that are essentially entire outfits. I mean, you can tell a Hasidic Jew to take off his hat in doors but what about his beard or side curls? What about henna tattoos? Or Bindi? Is Quebec proposing to have change rooms at the entrance to every public building? What about outdoor workplaces that are amorphous like roadworks?
Ban all symbols that are symbols of slavery and human degradation; ban all symbols that can be offensive or used to create a security issues; but leave the harmless kippa, cross and turban, as they are neither dangerous nor have any implications that go against human values.
Dr. Bikram Lamba, a political & business strategist, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org