Legislators in the Canadian province of Quebec have guts.
Led by Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard, the government in Quebec City plans to vote on a bill that would ban both public workers and those who use public services from wearing face coverings such as, for example, the Islamic niqab and burka, according to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.
The public workers clause would cover doctors, nurses, teachers, day care workers, etc., while the public services clause would apply to those, for instance, riding a bus or trying to obtain identification or licenses.
“As long as the service is being rendered, the face should be uncovered,” said Quebec Justice Minister Stéphanie Vallée earlier this week in a TV interview, according to the CBC. “This is a bill about le vivre ensemble (living together in harmony). It’s a bill about guidelines and clearly establishes neutrality of the state.”
The idea behind it is that there ought to be established expectations for how people should behave and dress in public — and that these expectations should not be limited because of people’s religious beliefs.
“Having your face uncovered is a legitimate question of communication, identification and security,” Vallée added in a statement to reporters Tuesday, according to the Montreal Gazette.
It’s common-sense logic. If you’re either serving the public on behalf of the government or receiving service from the government, you need to maintain a basic level of decorum. And I’m sorry, but walking around fully covered head to toe like an enslaved Muslim woman — or a bank robber, for that matter — isn’t right.
Of course, Muslims disagree. Shaheen Ashraf, a board member of the Canadian Council of Muslim Women, is especially perturbed by the bill.
“I think it’s basically fear-mongering and pandering to these fearful people, you know?” she said in an interview with host Carol Off of “As It Happens,” a show that airs on CBC Radio One. “I mean, there are some Quebecers who have never met another Muslim, you know? Because once you meet the person you know that they are just normal human beings like yourself.”
But according to Vallée, critics like Ashraf are missing the point.
“We’re talking about having the face uncovered — it’s not what is covering the face,” she said. Her point was that the bill would also apply to masked protesters, bank robbers, you name it.
What makes this such a gutsy move — one not apt to followed by any of the weak-kneed legislators elsewhere — isn’t the bill itself but the reaction Quebec’s legislators knew it would evoke from Muslims.
Political correctness is a powerful force that’s hamstrung many legislators, preventing them from passing meaningful legislation that would make society a safer and better place. Luckily for the citizens of Quebec, however, this clearly isn’t a problem suffered by their legislators.
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