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125 Responses

  1. Stephanie
    Stephanie March 24, 2007 at 11:40 am |

    Well, that’s one way to make sure you’re right when you say the niqab and hijab are signs of oppression – oppress them yourself!

  2. Arianna
    Arianna March 24, 2007 at 12:03 pm |

    I really, really don’t understand the “no covered faces” thing for voting. Is ID required to vote in Quebec? I’m pretty sure it isn’t in Ontario, either that or the volunteers in my neighbourhood are freakin’ lazy, because I don’t think I’ve ever been IDed, in which case it shouldn’t matter in the slightest if one’s face is covered or not, since they’re not comparing it to photo ID.

    Sigh, this is making me really second guess my decision to move to Quebec.

  3. S.L.
    S.L. March 24, 2007 at 12:19 pm |

    One of Quebec’s main concerns is keeping French as the dominant language and keeping its culture distinct, and it is allowed to set its own rules regarding immigration, focusing heavily on drawing immigrants from Francophone countries. While there are no end of former French colonies from which Quebec can draw immigrants, many of those immigrants will belong to religious minorities.

    Many Muslims speak French. It seems odd that they would try to recruit the francophones only to discriminate against so many of them – talk about self-defeating and elitist.

  4. Chet
    Chet March 24, 2007 at 12:32 pm |

    I’m not someone who thinks religious concerns should override the public interest in fair elections where people vote only once, but until there’s a documented case of voter fraud occurring by Muslim women voting over and over again with different hijabs or whatever, I don’t see a regulatory necessity here. I think you’re right that this is about anti-immigrant prejudice and the fear that all Muslims secretly want to suborn Western values or something.

  5. evil fizz
    evil fizz March 24, 2007 at 12:35 pm | *

    Serious question: is there something about choosing to cover your head in Islam that requires a headscarf? Could you, in the alternative, wear a wig like Orthodox Jewish women do? Or some kind of drapey hat?

  6. RKMK
    RKMK March 24, 2007 at 12:46 pm |

    I’m pretty sure it isn’t in Ontario, either that or the volunteers in my neighbourhood are freakin’ lazy,

    Well, you’re supposed to get a voter-registration card, but if you don’t get one in the mail, if you show up to the poll with some ID and a piece of mail you’ve received that proves you live in that district, you can vote too. Yeah, you’re supposed to have ID.

    As for the post – it’s fucking Quebec. This isn’t at all surprising.

    (Yeah, yeah, I’m an anglophone supremacist, whatever.)

  7. ohwell
    ohwell March 24, 2007 at 12:46 pm |

    I’m from Québec and yes, we need ID to vote here and muslim women wearing niqab are reqeuested to unveil for their photo ID. Also in some muslim countries (Morocco, Algeria) women are requested to unveil at the voting booth to avoid fraud. Unfortunatley, in Québec, much like in France, the amount of immigrant from maghreb combined with the growing western prejudice against arab/muslim (especially women since their veil stigmatise them) is problematic. This said, I think it makes sense that citizen can be identified when voting. I can only hope those women wearing niqab will not let this stop them from voting and that they will be provided with intimity and respect while exercing their civic right.

  8. Jill
    Jill March 24, 2007 at 12:48 pm | *

    But they’re Muslim and wearing the niqab and are therefore clearly oppressed! We must stop this oppression by denying them the right to vote!

  9. Sirkowski
    Sirkowski March 24, 2007 at 12:48 pm |

    Oh great, feminists taking the niqab’s defense.

    Here’s something you probably don’t know about Québec. Less than 50 years ago our province was under the oppressive rule of the Catholic church. We have freed ourselves from this oppression and now form a completly secular society. This has created a deep distrust of everything religious in Québec. The memory of these dark day is still fresh in our collective minds. Some of the reactions to Muslims is indeed racism from rural areas, but you also have to take account that the treatment of Muslim women is also deeply offensive to many of us. Quebecers also tends to be more progressive than elsewhere in Canada, Which creates a culture shock when confronted to the backwards culture of some Muslims. It’s paradoxal that this progressiveness creates intolerance, but eh, we’re not the ones oppressing women.

    As far as the electoral law goes, you do not normally need to show photo ID to vote. Which means that in theory, you don’t need to show your face either. Now thanks to the disinformation of the Journal de Montréal newspaper, people were lead to believe Muslim women were treated differently, which thet weren’t. Which lead to a temporary change of the electoral law. The fact is though, the original law is stupid. Photo ID SHOULD BE REQUIRED. It’s unfortunate that the law would change under this circumstances, but at the same time, jesus fuck, who’s oppressing women again? Muslims are far from blameless in this shitstorm. When you treat women like shit you can’t be surprised some people might not take it well.

    And finally, Muslim women wearing the niqab can still vote. All the have to is take it off to be identified and then put it back on. End of story. They’re not going to melt under the light if thy uncover their face for a few seconds.

    By the way, only 15 women wear the niqab in Québec. Fucking religions… e_e

  10. Sirkowski
    Sirkowski March 24, 2007 at 12:51 pm |

    RKMK Says:
    As for the post – it’s fucking Quebec. This isn’t at all surprising.

    Let the Québec bashing start once again…

  11. Vanessa
    Vanessa March 24, 2007 at 1:01 pm |

    I think this rule is pretty stupid, but just to clarify, niqab = face covering veil, and hijab = head-covering veil. If the rule is stating that women need to remove their niqab, it’s kind of different than hijab as niqab isn’t really demanded of women in the Quran.

    I would think there could be ways to handle this in a sensitive manner. If these women don’t want to remove their niqab in front of men, there could be a separate booth or something with a female employee…or something like that. But I seriously am suspicious of the motivations here, and doubt anything like that would be enacted.

    Also, for evil fizz’s question, I would think a wig would kind of be against the spirit of not showing your hair, since you’re still showing hair. Also, hijab takes many forms in many different countries, and many of them could be described as a ‘drapey hat.’

  12. Vanessa
    Vanessa March 24, 2007 at 1:03 pm |

    Oh great, feminists taking the niqab’s defense.

    No, feminists speaking out against rules about the niqab that will inevitably further disenfranchise women.

  13. ohwell
    ohwell March 24, 2007 at 1:05 pm |

    Just to set things straight, the rule is about the niqab, women wearing the hijab don’t have to remove it.

  14. Arianna
    Arianna March 24, 2007 at 1:07 pm |

    Photo ID SHOULD BE REQUIRED.

    Does Quebec have photo ID health cards? I haven’t moved there yet so I’m not sure, but Ontario only got ours recently, and alot of people are still using the non-photo cards. I understand that it’s less problematic to have photo ID as a voting requirement in most of Canada than in the US, due to the photo health cards that theoretically anyone eligible to vote should have as a matter of course anyway, but I still think that even here requiring photo ID to vote disenfranchises the poor, who frequently won’t have driver’s licenses, passports, etc.

    only 15 women wear the niqab in Québec

    I find that hard to believe, because I live a short swim across the border and at least three women on my block wear the niqab, and one woman in one of my university classes. That’s four that I personally see, and I don’t get out much.

    And finally, Muslim women wearing the niqab can still vote. All the have to is take it off to be identified and then put it back on. End of story. They’re not going to melt under the light if thy uncover their face for a few seconds.

    IF photo ID was required under normal circumstances – which you said it usually isn’t – then this would be reasonable only if the government was willing to ensure that every polling place would have at least one female volunteer and a secluded area.

  15. nadia
    nadia March 24, 2007 at 1:08 pm |

    I really, really don’t understand the “no covered faces” thing for voting. Is ID required to vote in Quebec? I’m pretty sure it isn’t in Ontario, either that or the volunteers in my neighbourhood are freakin’ lazy, because I don’t think I’ve ever been IDed, in which case it shouldn’t matter in the slightest if one’s face is covered or not, since they’re not comparing it to photo ID.

    oh i’m pretty sure i’ve been sent back for using my passport,told to go get something with my address on it, even with my voter registration card.

    if they have a female on hand to check that the face matches the ID, and it’s done in private, i don’t see a problem. but issues like these are way overdiscussed IMO.

  16. Raging Moderate
    Raging Moderate March 24, 2007 at 1:21 pm |

    Is ID required to vote in Quebec?

    I’m not entirely sure what the law is, but I live in Montreal, and I’ve been asked to produce a photo ID a few times (at least twice, possibly three times). I think that they just randomly choose some people instead of asking everyone in order to avoid slowing down the voting process unnecessarily.

    I’m sure some of those who complained are doing so due to racism. But there are many people who didn’t like the idea of having different voting rules for women who wear the niqab compared to everyone else (the difference being that non-niqab wearing could be subject to having their face compared to a photo ID in order to be allowed to vote, while niqab wearing women would be exempt).

    As for the soccer player, it was an issue of safety. I read an article in the Montreal Gazette while that controversy was unfolding that a few years ago in Ontario, a boy was killed when another player somehow hooked onto his headband, and it slipped down and broke his neck.

    Ironically, the referee who ejected her from the game was a muslim.

    When I was about 15, there was a boy who wore a turban (I believe he was a sikh) who wanted to play hockey but wasn’t allowed to because he wore a turban, and couldn’t make a helmet fit over it safely.

    The Herouxville nonsense was racist. They are a bunch of pea-soupers (the Quebec equvalent of rednecks) who have never seen a muslim except on “24” (there is only one immigrant in the town, and I believe that he is white). But I’d caution against thinking the attitude of 1300 people (the population of Herouxville) is representative of the attitude of all 8 million or so Quebecers.

    I take exception to the idea that Quebec is anti-muslim. We are proudly secular, and are against making exceptions for any religious belief. Some examples:

    Andre Boisclair (the openly gay leader of the Parti Quebecois) recently stated – during the election campaign – that the crucifix that currently hangs in the National Assembly should be removed to reflect Quebec’s secularism.

    An ambulance driver who brought a non-kosher meal into the kosher cafeteria at the Jewish General Hospital in Montreal was ordered to leave. He refused and was then escorted out of the hospital by security guards.

    The ambulance driver sued, and The Quebec Human Rights Commission ordered the hospital to pay him $10, 000.

    So to recap:

    Muslims think Quebecers are anti-muslim.

    Jews think Quebecers are anti-semetic.

    Christians think Quebecers are anti-christian.

    When religious beliefs come into conflict with our secular society, those beliefs lose out. Sounds good to me.

    Buddhists watch out – yer next!

  17. Heraclitus (Jeff)
    Heraclitus (Jeff) March 24, 2007 at 1:31 pm |

    It’s often been observed that a wave of religious fundamentalism swept the world starting around 1975, and the simplest explanation offered is usually just that people were looking for certainties in this crazy modern world, where, in the words of my favorite Woody Allen quote, “No one out there knows what the hell’s going on.” Are we now at the beginning of a new wave of keep-everything-the-same magic, this one composed of anti-immigrant hysteria? I know xenophobia is nothing new, but where were the Minutemen, the various far-right parties in Europe, etc. ten or twenty years ago? (Then again, maybe it just wasn’t clear yet that all those Boomer white women were going to be such selfish sluts and not crank out enough white babies.) Does this mean the tide of religious fundamentalism will recede? Or do we get the best of both worlds?

    I don’t think the question is really whether these women could fulfill the letter of whatever religious law or ordinance they think they’re obeying by wearing a wig or Groucho Marx nose and glasses or whatever. The hijab or niqab is an important part of the persona or identity they’re presenting to the outside world, an integral, defining component of their public self. It’s true that we in “teh West” feel no social constraints on how we present ourselves publicly (I have to appear shirtless in front of some piddling bureaucrat before voting? No prob!), and generally that our awesomeness knows no bounds, but the fact is these gee dee dark-skinned ingrates are too stubborn and prideful to recognize that. So we’re just going to have to force them to humiliate themselves if they want to vote. That will teach them to respect women more.

  18. Vanessa
    Vanessa March 24, 2007 at 1:43 pm |

    Heraclitus: Word. What you said.

  19. Alix
    Alix March 24, 2007 at 1:52 pm |

    Oh great, feminists taking the niqab’s defense.

    Absolutely. Isn’t feminism about letting women choose for themselves what they want to wear and how they want to practice their religion, if they are religious? How can we claim to be feminists if we support only those choices we’d make? That’s like saying you’re only feminist if you don’t wear makeup.

    Feminism is about respect for women and their choices. As long as those choices don’t hurt others – and no choice about personal clothing does, unless you’re draping yourself in dynamite or something – the feminist thing to do is support women in making them, not deny them choices.

    And frankly, Sirkowski, you sound like a bigot. “OMG RELIGION IS SO EEEEVIL!” “OMG MUSLIM WOMEN!” “NEED PHOTO ID!!!!” Don’t want people looking at Quebec and shaking their heads in disgust? Don’t turn it into some insane conservative’s dream world.

  20. nadia
    nadia March 24, 2007 at 2:03 pm |

    they may not have any rules specific to head coverings but they do about wearing any jewelery (necklaces and whathaveyou) and similar logic applies. as for the blogger who said he’s never seen someone strangled in a soccer field, i’ve definitely seen girls with their earlobes shredded from where their earrings were pulled out. they have rules for a reason, regardless of whether they’re consistently enforced. just because he has not personally seen it or heard about it it doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. many a time i’ve seen people get pulled or held by their jersey(if you haven’t you probably shouldn’t be commenting on competitive sport in the first place), it’s really not that farfetched that a aggressive girl would pull it over her eyes or else pull her back by a LARGE PIECE OF CLOTH WRAPPED AROUND HER THROAT and hurt her. they probably didn’t say anything right off the bat because it’s just girls’ soccer. who gives a shit, right?

    so i’m just not buying this one.

    if they reject, say, an alternative that doesn’t pose the same problem, i’d say that’s problematic.

  21. Sirkowski
    Sirkowski March 24, 2007 at 2:05 pm |

    Here‘s my answer on the Liberal Avenger blog, with some info about Québec.

  22. Sirkowski
    Sirkowski March 24, 2007 at 2:06 pm |

    Oh yeah, I’m bigot because I am intolerant of intolerance.

  23. Sirkowski
    Sirkowski March 24, 2007 at 2:23 pm |

    They can still vote. They just need to take it off for a few second. Sure, it will displease the invisible pink unicorn god in the sky, but we can’t please everyone. It’s called a secular society. The one that Bill O’Reilly fears so much.

  24. Raging Moderate
    Raging Moderate March 24, 2007 at 2:25 pm |

    No, because you seem to be perfectly happy with disenfranchising a group of women based on their attire.

    I dunno about that. It seems to me that these women are disenfranchising themselves due to their attire. If they want to vote, they may have to provide a photo ID and allow someone to see their face to confirm their identity – like all Quebecers. Everyone’s entitled to their religious beliefs, but are not entitled to be exempt from our laws because of those beliefs.

    It’s kinda like my sikh friend. He had to choose between playing hockey and following his religion. He chose the latter. While he was disappoined, he understood that his beliefs didn’t trump our rules.

    Especially when there are quite reasonable ways to accomplish the goal of confirming ID while still respecting them.

    I don’t know the voting laws where you live, but would you feel disrespected if you had to show a photo ID to confirm your identity before you were allowed to vote?

  25. Mnemosyne
    Mnemosyne March 24, 2007 at 2:30 pm |

    Which creates a culture shock when confronted to the backwards culture of some Muslims. It’s paradoxal that this progressiveness creates intolerance, but eh, we’re not the ones oppressing women.

    I think that when you’re kicking girls out of soccer games after they’ve played in two rounds of the tournament with no problem because you’ve suddenly decided that the hijab that they wore in the first two rounds is dangerous, that’s, um, oppressing them. Especially when you make a point of doing it in front of the entire crowd of onlookers instead of, say, mentioning when the team first registered that she can’t wear the hijab for safety reasons.

    Changing the rules halfway through a process is oppressive. It makes it look like you’re looking for excuses to disqualify someone who’s been doing too well.

  26. Raging Moderate
    Raging Moderate March 24, 2007 at 2:34 pm |

    Changing the rules halfway through a process is oppressive.

    They didn’t change the rules. The rules were always in effect, but the first two referees didn’t enforce them for whatever reason (personally, I believe that they were wary of creating another muslim controversy). The third referee (the muslim) did enforce the rule.

  27. Vanessa
    Vanessa March 24, 2007 at 2:36 pm |

    I dunno about that. It seems to me that these women are disenfranchising themselves due to their attire.

    That’s like saying gay people are disenfranchising themselves by choosing not to marry people of the opposite sex.

  28. JP
    JP March 24, 2007 at 2:51 pm |

    Asking a voter to lift a veil to identify herself is not disenfranchising the voter. It is asking the voter to identify herself. She still has the right to vote, and to wear the niqab into the polling station, and to wear it while voting. She only has to take it off for a brief second in front of an elections worker to prove her identity: not a big deal. If you had read the Globe and Mail’s lead article on this story today, available here, you would have seen the response of a 30-year-old Muslim woman from Montreal who wears the niqab:

    Shama Naz, a 30-year-old Montrealer who wears a niqab, said the issue has been blown out of proportion. She said Muslim women routinely remove their face veils for security matters. She has done so for her Medicare card photo, and each time she crosses the border to visit her father in New York State.

    “It’s common sense. Muslim women have no problem identifying themselves for security reasons,” she said. “If [elections officials] had spoken to me they would have known I wouldn’t mind identifying myself at the ballot box.”

    While she would prefer to do so to a female elections worker, she would do so for a man as well, said Ms. Naz, an economics graduate.

    It’s not a big deal to ask a voter to lift a veil. What IS a big deal is not consulting Muslim women on the decision in the first place and then manipulating the story to make a larger political point on the status of Muslims in Quebec.

    While I agree that asking the young soccer player to remove her hijab was intolerant and unnecessary, I do not agree that asking a voter to (briefly!) remove her niqab to identify herself to an elections worker is wrong. I doubt, given what Shama Naz says, that most wearers of the niqab would have a problem with it. I think they’d have a bigger problem with people trying to make decisions for them without consulting them first.

  29. Adnan Y.
    Adnan Y. March 24, 2007 at 2:51 pm |

    Though I can understand the possible discriminatory aspects of this, a couple of concerns can be valid.

    Wearing the hijab whilst playing a contact-sport such as football can be as dangerous as wearing a scarf, in that, as a commenter has mentioned, it could be pulled by another player – whether accidentally or on purpose. Suppose it occurred in this instance, leading to a serious injury?
    That being said, if it could be shown that the hijab could be worn in a manner that couldn’t be construed as a dangerous risk to the player, then it should have been permitted.

    As for the ID? The language used by Chief Electoral Officer Marcel Blanchet has been inflammatory and made the situation alot worse than it should have been. I agree with the remarks made by Shama Naz in the article written in the Globe and Mail:

    Shama Naz, a 30-year-old Montrealer who wears a niqab, said the issue has been blown out of proportion. She said Muslim women routinely remove their face veils for security matters. She has done so for her Medicare card photo, and each time she crosses the border to visit her father in New York State.

    “It’s common sense. Muslim women have no problem identifying themselves for security reasons,” she said. “If [elections officials] had spoken to me they would have known I wouldn’t mind identifying myself at the ballot box.”

    While she would prefer to do so to a female elections worker, she would do so for a man as well, said Ms. Naz, an economics graduate.

    “People are usually scared of what they don’t know,” she said of the uproar and yesterday’s change in the law. “A lack of information is driving regulations like this.”

  30. Interrobang
    Interrobang March 24, 2007 at 3:04 pm |

    Oh, yeah, Quebec is a “secular” society as long as you define “secular” as meaning “coming from a nominally Catholic background.”

    There are even hijabs that follow the stricter guidelines, that is, cover the neck and not just the hair, that are made for playing sports. These ones come in “skate” (which would be ideal for playing soccer in), “aerobics,” “outdoor,” and “tennis” variations. If they had told the soccer player ahead of time, instead of after the fact, I’d see that as less of a case of rank discrimination, since I can see how a scarf-style hijab (or a bandanna, or certain kinds of hairbands) could pose a safety risk. On the other hand, I don’t see that being an issue with that “skate” hijab, either. Does anyone know what she was actually wearing?

    I don’t really know enough about voting in Quebec to comment intelligently on the ID/no ID thing, although I know that in Ontario, you need to show proof of residence (ID plus a phone bill is good enough) if and only if you didn’t get a voter card in the mail from Elections Canada. If Quebec isn’t following that system, which works very well, they’re just doing it out of spite, frankly.

  31. Jess
    Jess March 24, 2007 at 3:09 pm |

    Regardless of religion, many of these women have not shown their faces in public for years. I can’t even imagine how traumatic it would be for them to be forced to do so now. While I recognise the need for proper identification when voting we also need to show a bit of compasion for the position these women are in.

  32. Michael
    Michael March 24, 2007 at 3:15 pm |

    In a free society, the individual’s right to vote takes precedence over any and all other considerations. Without that right, a free society is not possible. Voter fraud aside, the voter has the right to vote with or without a veil, a hat, shoes, a big shiny belt buckle, underwear or any other article of clothing. I do admit that normative behavior probably requires that the voter wear some clothing.

    I cannot see this as anything other than a form of disenfranchisement. Questions related to issues of male domination that require a woman to wear a veil in the first place have nothing to do with a woman’s right to vote. Maybe she wants to wear a veil. Maybe she doesn’t. It’s nobody’s business but hers.

  33. Alix
    Alix March 24, 2007 at 3:21 pm |

    In my area of Northern Virginia, I see a lot of women slathering on makeup to the point that if you look at a picture of the same person without makeup, you’d think you were looking at someone else. Therefore, I propose that we pass legislation that requires women to show up without makeup to poll sites to vote, and that if they do show up wearing makeup, they either wash it off on-site and proceed to vote or they leave.

    I also see a lot of women who wear tight shirts that redirect poll workers’ attentions downwards, away from the face, and make it harder for them to verify the voter’s ID. Therefore, all women must show up to vote with their breasts well-hidden behind loose shirts, or they can just go home.

    …Oh, wait. Neither of those are religious requirements, sorry. God knows it’s ok to discriminate against the out-of-favor religion of the day, to the point of disenfranchising its practitioners.

  34. Mnemosyne
    Mnemosyne March 24, 2007 at 3:23 pm |

    They didn’t change the rules. The rules were always in effect, but the first two referees didn’t enforce them for whatever reason (personally, I believe that they were wary of creating another muslim controversy). The third referee (the muslim) did enforce the rule.

    That’s right: they arbitrarily enforced the rules. They didn’t announce the rule right at the beginning; they didn’t tell the team of the rules before the first game; they let a referee decide PARTWAY THROUGH THE TOURNAMENT that suddenly this rule should be enforced.

    That’s one of the most common ways to oppress people — make up rules and don’t follow them consistently so it’s up to the discretion of random enforcers whether or not the person is going to be checked. The religion of the referee who enforced the rule isn’t important; what’s important is that he was allowed to arbitrarily decide that a rule that wasn’t important enough to mention to the team before the prior two games was suddenly enough to have the player ejected.

    I’m sure that a lot of these women who are suddenly being asked to remove their veils in order to vote have been voting for years with no problem. Now, all of a sudden, the way they’ve handled things in all of the previous elections isn’t good enough, and they have to adapt to an entire new set of rules, with no indication of when the new rules will and will not be enforced.

    If you’re going to have rules, you must apply them to EVERYONE on an equal basis. If veiled Muslim women must show ID to vote, then everyone should always have to show ID to vote, even if the poll worker is your next-door neighbor. Otherwise, it’s far too easy for petty tyrants to use the rules to torment people who don’t fit their definition of a “real” citizen.

  35. Alix
    Alix March 24, 2007 at 3:29 pm |

    You know what this reminds me of, in a weird way? A lot of the hubbub over that full-body imaging thing for the airports a while back. (Sorry, I have the dumb, and don’t remember what it’s called.) How many people trotted out the whole “it’s for security – if you’re not a criminal, what objection do you have?” line, completely ignoring the discomfort of many people in the process?

    I guess that’s what reminded me – discomfort. My clothes are a very physical manifestation of my personal boundaries – NO ONE has the right to cross the line I draw with them. Security is the weakest excuse in the book; forcing someone to remove an article of clothing for “security reasons” or “identity reasons” is just a way to make yourself feel good about “doing something in these troubled times”.

    And all these insinuations that anyone who objects to this is childish are ridiculous. My boundaries are not your’s. A devout Muslim woman’s boundaries are not mine, or your’s. It is not childish, immature, or unreasonable to insist that others respect the boundaries you draw for yourself.

  36. Alix
    Alix March 24, 2007 at 3:38 pm |

    Um, not to interrupt with a totally off-topic (and probably oft-received) question, but what sends a comment to moderation? This makes the second time today… (I iz not a troll, I swears. A gremlin, maybe.)

  37. Lorelei
    Lorelei March 24, 2007 at 3:41 pm |

    Sirkowski, while the Quebecois do say that they’re ‘deeply offended’ by how Islam treats women, they use this as an excuse to make all sort of hateful comments and to treat Muslims like shit.

    There is a way to not like how women are treated by a group of people (if it isn’t an assumption and it’s researched) without being a total douchebag, but many Quebecois have not grasped this yet.

    (I am not saying this because of this article, I am saying this because I used to practically live in Quebec and have seen this in action)

  38. Raging Moderate
    Raging Moderate March 24, 2007 at 3:42 pm |

    I don’t think anyone’s established conclusively that showing a photo ID is actually required in Quebec.

    Le Directeur Genrale des Elections du Quebec states:

    When voting, the elector must establish his identity by presenting one of the following documents: health insurance card, driver’s licence, Canadian passport, Certificate of Indian Status, Canadian Armed Forces identification card.

    All of these forms of ID have photgraphs on them. What’s the point of requiring a photo ID if you can’t look at her face to see if it’s really her?

    You live there, and you don’t have to show it each time.

    As I mentioned earlier, I believe that they only ask a few people for ID in order to speed up the process. Unfortunately, I think they’re probably going to ask everyone now because of this issue, slowing down the process, resulting in the kind of long waits to vote that are common in the US. Great.

    It sounds like the rule is that niqab cannot be worn at all inside the polling place, though I could be mistaken.

    You are mistaken.

    If ID verification were really that important, an easy solution would be to provide a way to perform a discreet check by a female poll worker.

    True. But you don’t understand modern Quebec society. As was stated earlier, Quebec was pretty much governed by the Catholic church until the 50’s. Now we want religious people to adapt to our society, not have society adapt to their beliefs.

    I’m sure that many religious people find that offensive, but that’s fine by us. We really don’t want people who think we must treat them differently because of religion here anyway.

    Why a ban on covering that really only serves to disenfranchise a small group of women?

    There is no ban. A woman wearing a niqab can vote as long as she shows her face for a few seconds. Some will choose not to do so. So be it. That’s not our fault. Blame it on allah.

    And why are people so worked up about it that they’re threatening government officials?

    Those who are threatening officials are obviously disturbed. But reasonable people are angry that the government was allowing these women to be exempt from a law that the rest of us must follow. That’s understandable to me (and apparently most Quebecers, including the leaders of all 3 major political parties).

    Their fellow citizens are agitated to the point of violence, which doesn’t really speak well of that secular society, does it?

    Yes, that’s disappointing. But you must understand that here in Quebec we have been having an ongoing debate about “reasonable accomodation” for several months, and this is a sign of the backlash (“reasonable accomodation” being about “should we change our laws to accomodate religious people, or should religious people change to accomodate our laws”). Call us xenophobic if you wish, but the majority of Quebecers believe that they should change their practices if they wish to be part of our secular society. I agree.

    That’s called a waiver. If you allow a violation of the rules, you can’t go back and change them later.

    I play in a softball league where necklaces are not permitted for safety reasons. Some umps enforce the rule and some don’t. I’ve refereed soccer and baseball often, and the “I got away with it last time, you have to let me get away with it this time” argument doesn’t fly.

    And I fail to see the significance of the referee’s religion here.

    Fair enough, as I fail to see the significance of the player’s religion.

  39. Roger
    Roger March 24, 2007 at 3:44 pm |

    Feminists defending the niqab.

    Freakin’ hilarious.

    Damn, what a topsy-turvy world.

  40. MuslimFeminista
    MuslimFeminista March 24, 2007 at 3:45 pm |

    Makes sense…so long as the women are showing their face to a female official…you can only accommodate religious practices to a certain extent..and most muslim women who wear the niqab understand this…This is really a non issue to muslim women

  41. Sirkowski
    Sirkowski March 24, 2007 at 3:50 pm |

    Mnemosyne Says:
    I think that when you’re kicking girls out of soccer games

    I think the decision was stupid. But a Muslim ref made the call. Are you going to take away the right of Muslims to make stupid decisions?

    Zuzu says:
    Their fellow citizens are agitated to the point of violence,

    Jebus, this isn’t Iraq. You’re the one who’s over-reacting now.

    Vanessa Says:
    That’s like saying gay people are disenfranchising themselves by choosing not to marry people of the opposite sex.

    Religion is a choice, unlike homosexuality. Women are born with their faces uncovered. I find that comparison offensive.

  42. Lorelei
    Lorelei March 24, 2007 at 3:58 pm |

    Religion is a choice, unlike homosexuality.

    Uh, maybe to you.

  43. Raging Moderate
    Raging Moderate March 24, 2007 at 3:58 pm |

    Oh, yeah, Quebec is a “secular” society as long as you define “secular” as meaning “coming from a nominally Catholic background.”

    I have a feeling you haven’t been here for a long time. While the majority of religious Quebecers are Catholic (I was raised one, too – but I’m much better now), nobody thinks that we should return to the days where the church had influence on the government. I can’t recall a Quebec politician ever suggesting that religion should influence our laws in any way.

    You won’t believe me, but Quebec is probably the most liberal place in North America (I’ve been to dozens of Canadian and American cities). We’ve seen the damage that religion can do to society, and are unwilling to let any other religions lead us back down that path.

  44. Raging Moderate
    Raging Moderate March 24, 2007 at 4:02 pm |

    Uh, maybe to you.

    Which part do you disagree with?

    That religion is a choice, or that sexual preference is not a choice?

  45. Sally
    Sally March 24, 2007 at 4:23 pm |

    In my area of Northern Virginia, I see a lot of women slathering on makeup to the point that if you look at a picture of the same person without makeup, you’d think you were looking at someone else. Therefore, I propose that we pass legislation that requires women to show up without makeup to poll sites to vote, and that if they do show up wearing makeup, they either wash it off on-site and proceed to vote or they leave.

    Yeah, you know, it occurred to me that if you required women to remove their makeup in order to vote, my mother would almost certainly not vote. I’ve literally only seen her without makeup once in my life, and that was when I was in the process of calling 911 to report that she and my father were unconscious from carbon monoxide poisoning. And as soon as she was conscious and able to call, she asked me to bring her makeup to the hospital.

    And you know, we could certainly get into a big fight here about whether my mom’s loathing of her unadulterated face is a result of the misogynistic culture in which she grew up. I would say yes, and I think she’d probably say yes, but it’s sort of neither here nor there. The point is that it’s not a damn reason to disenfranchise her. My dad isn’t any less influenced by that culture, but the no-makeup-at-the-polls law wouldn’t keep him away. Laws that disenfranchise hijab-wearing Muslim women disenfranchise them both as Muslims and as women. They set up tests and barriers for women that don’t apply to men. Whether or not hijabs and niqabs are sexist, it’s the opposite of a feminist act.

    But you don’t understand modern Quebec society. As was stated earlier, Quebec was pretty much governed by the Catholic church until the 50’s. Now we want religious people to adapt to our society, not have society adapt to their beliefs.

    Fascinating. So basically, you’re offering a cultural relativist argument for why your society should not accommodate other cultures. You can’t be culturally sensitive because insensitivity is part of your culture! You’re making my head hurt.

    Religion is a choice, unlike homosexuality.

    Spoken like someone who has never in her life been in the religious minority. Move to a place where everyone is a rabid Christian and tell me whether it’s ok to fire you unless you take Communion because “religion is a choice.” Decent societies do not allow people justify religious oppression by claiming that religion is a choice.

  46. JP
    JP March 24, 2007 at 4:29 pm |

    So far we have Shama Naz (see the Globe and Mail article) and Muslimfeminista (see comment above), two Muslim women, arguing that removing one’s veil briefly at the polling station isn’t a big deal for Muslim women.

    For those here who are defending niqab-wearing Muslim women from the “oppressive” decision to identify oneself as a registered voter, I am curious as to whether you have read any interviews or comments from niqab wearers who are angry about this (and not comments from representatives of Muslim groups in Quebec that are predominantly headed by men). Or are we speaking for these women without listening to what they are saying? Are we assuming that they are seeing this decision as a denial of their rights, or, like Shama Naz and Muslimfeminista say, is this an understandable request? It seems that in our haste to label this oppression, some of us may be doing exactly what we’re criticizing others for.

    I think this discussion on women wearing the veil needs to be placed within a much larger context of Quebec’s ongoing debates on religion, secularity, and multiculturalism. This is less a debate about a woman’s right to cover her face in public than it is about Quebec society’s relationship with multiculturalism and religious freedoms. As Raging Moderate suggests, this is an ongoing discussion about religion in a secular society that until relatively recently wasn’t secular at all. I would like to point out that Quebec was the last province in Canada to give women the right to vote provincially – this was in 1940. Since the Quiet Revolution, women in Quebec have made great strides, partly because of their prominent involvement in the nationalist movement, which allowed them to put forward a great feminist platform that was far ahead of what the other provinces were doing. Today many of us consider Quebec to be a leader in Canada in terms of women’s rights and social justice. Granted, there are still many remnants of the Catholic patriarchy, but generally Quebec is a leader in women’s political participation. Quebecers certainly aren’t interested in disenfranchising women.

  47. Michael
    Michael March 24, 2007 at 4:52 pm |

    We really don’t want people who think we must treat them differently because of religion here anyway.- Raging Moderate

    What is that about? Whenever I hear that one, I know it’s just the first of many – the shot over the bow, so to speak. It is possible to be religious without encroaching on the rights of others. It is also possible to be secular without encroaching on the rights of others.

    Atheists, secular humanists and other “non-believers” have as much right to their beliefs as anyone else, but jeez.

  48. human
    human March 24, 2007 at 5:05 pm |

    About the soccer case, it’s important to understand that there IS NO RULE prohibiting the hijab. The laws of the game (rules of worldwide soccer handed down by FIFA) say that the referee should disallow equipment which is not safe. These sort of things are left up to the referee’s discretion. Different soccer associations, such as USSF, the US Soccer Federation, will issue “Advice to Referees” documents that go into a great more detail about how they want referees to enforce the laws. Nevertheless, referees have a great deal of discretion in these matters.

    That doesn’t make it right. I find it absolutely ludicrous to argue that an hijab that does not get wrapped around the neck (and apparently this one was not a wrap around the neck type) could be a hazard. I think that in all likelihood this individual referee had another agenda.

    But, I place the largest amount of blame on the federation authorities who have the power to issue guidance to their referees that they should permit hijabs so long as they meet some safety standard (which could be defined by the association based on evidence, rather than made up on the spot each time someone shows up for a game) … but has refused to do so.s

  49. Mickle
    Mickle March 24, 2007 at 5:07 pm |

    “I’ve refereed soccer and baseball often, and the “I got away with it last time, you have to let me get away with it this time” argument doesn’t fly.”

    Of course not, but that isn’t was this is about.

    Every girl who plays soccer or any other similar sport is aware of the “no jewelry” rule, and that refs are inconsistent. Many try to use that, as people tend to do, to get around the rules more often than they would normaly be able to.

    Comparing that to a girl who was not given adequate warning about the dangers her religious colthing posed is completely ridiculous.

    Most of us don’t care that the ref was Muslim because we care more about the effect of the actions than the intent.

    Obviously, the rule makes sense, as long as the alternatives that others have suggested are acceptable to the PTB. But the fact that the rule was not made clear in the beginning (thus giving her time to take advantage of alternatives), the manner in which the rule was enforced, and the fact that QSF’s response to the problem seems to be mostly defending the ref – the effect of the enforcement is one of discrimination. The young girl is told in various ways that her ways are so outside the norm that she is not welcome.

    This has nothing to do with kids whining because adults are inconsistent with enforcement. That’s always the case. What this is about is that such inconstitiencies can make discrimination easier or even inadvertant, and that the proper response to such accusations is not “but them’s the rules!” and nothing else. And it’s certainly not an ignorant “but the ref is (blank) too, so it can’t be discrimination!”

    (SOMEBODY needs a healthy dose of Uncle Ruckus monologues.)

    I know this is really long already, but…several years ago my mother had a chinese-american girl in her class. On the day the class made pilgrim hats for Thanksgiving, the student’s recently immigrated mother came to pick her up from school – and was immediately alarmed and frightened because her daughter was wearing a white hat. After much drama, tears, and confusion, my mother learned that white is the color of death in chinese culture, the student’s mother learned that nothing bad had happened, and the little girl walked home with a pink Pilgrim hat.

    My mom felt really, really bad about what happened. I told her that she can’t know everything about all the cultures her students come from (even though she ought to try her best), and that she handled it well by apologizing and immediately finding a good compromise.

    QSF did not, as far as I can tell. They should have stood by the ref’s decision, yes. (Not sure about the manner, because I’m a bit confused on that part.) But QSF (along with the organizers of the tournament) also should have acknowledged their part in the mess and that the effect was discriminatory, apologized for their mistakes, and asked the muslim community for their input on refining and clarifying the rules.

  50. Sally
    Sally March 24, 2007 at 5:10 pm |

    The thing is, JP, we’re not the ones who made this an issue. You and your neighbors decided that it was a huge, huge problem, requiring protest and outrage and immediate action, that a handful of women might get away with something that members of the majority population had been doing without comment for decades. We’re not the ones creating a problem where none exists. You are. You’re absolutely right that this is about larger issues. The most generous reading is that it’s about you and your neighbors using a small, stigmatized minority to work out issues in your society which don’t really have to do with them. (Does anyone really think that Muslim clerics are going to take over the role that Catholic priests had in pre-1960 Quebec? I mean, seriously?) The least generous reading is that it’s about you and your neighbors being active bigots, pretending that this is a problem so you can talk about the evil Muslims and their threat to your monolithic secular culture. Either way, it doesn’t reflect well on you. Why should Muslim women be required to be the terrain on which your society fights out its issues?

    Today many of us consider Quebec to be a leader in Canada in terms of women’s rights and social justice.

    You guys keep saying that as if this incident isn’t in any way going to influence whether people buy your claims to be leaders on social justice. I consider how one treats minorities to be an indicator of one’s commitment to social justice, so your claims to be “progressive” ring a little hollow to me.

  51. Mickle
    Mickle March 24, 2007 at 5:12 pm |

    ps – if what human says is right, I take back the part about understanding the ref’s decision. But it’s still, as human says, largely the fault of the the organization for not having clearer guidelines.

  52. MuslimFeminista
    MuslimFeminista March 24, 2007 at 5:16 pm |

    You’re right JP…I find this whole debate patronizing frankly…. It has done nothing to advance the comprehension of the politics of gender in Islam…It’s just another opportunity for the likes of Sirkowski to make sweeping claims about “islam” and supposed Muslim advocacy groups, who are notorious apologist of the mysogynist interpretation of Islam, to cry out islamaphobia.

  53. Sally
    Sally March 24, 2007 at 5:32 pm |

    Sorry, MuslimFeminista. I don’t mean to patronize.

    I guess my issue is this. I live in a neighborhood with a big Muslim population. There are tons of women who wear hijabs of various sorts. And I almost never see a woman in a niqab. I mean, very occasionally, but I can’t remember the last time. So whenever I hear people get in a tizzy over issues related to niqabs, I get really suspicious. I could be very wrong, but I don’t think that there are really enough niqab-wearing women in North America to require special regulations or action. (Actually, I wouldn’t be surprised if there are more people in Quebec who cover their faces for other reasons than there are niqab-wearing Muslims.) So when the issue is discussed, I assume that it’s really code for something else.

  54. preying mantis
    preying mantis March 24, 2007 at 6:06 pm |

    The voting requirement thing seems a bit blown out of proportion. Surely it wouldn’t be a terrible burden to have a female poll worker check a woman’s face against her ID in a private office–or even the women’s restroom–if she was uncomfortable about removing her veil in public?

  55. JP
    JP March 24, 2007 at 7:34 pm |

    “You and your neighbors decided that it was a huge, huge problem, requiring protest and outrage and immediate action, that a handful of women might get away with something that members of the majority population had been doing without comment for decades. We’re not the ones creating a problem where none exists. You are.”

    Sally, I’m not sure who the “you” and “we” are that you are referring to. Not everyone is interested in making this a big issue. By the way, I am not a resident of Quebec. I have, however, studied feminism and nationalism in Quebec and for most of my life lived just over the border in Ottawa, where many discussions on identity, immigration and multiculturalism are centred. As a Canadian, I don’t mind these discussions – we’re a young country and it gives us a chance to work through some of the big questions every society needs to deal with openly. Yes, some Muslim women are the focus of the debate, and no, that’s not necessarily fair. But every societal debate has its catalyst/example/scapegoat. It is unfortunate that this discussion has been handled so badly in Quebec this week and has been so lacking in voices of Muslim women.

    At the moment I live in the UK, where we have recently had a similar, long-drawn-out debate on the right to wear the veil. The debate here has been lively and, on occasion, offensive (there are wingnuts and racists everywhere!) The entire country seems to have been engaged with questions of patriarchy, feminism, religious rights, individual rights, the nature of liberal democracy, and multiculturalism – essentially, all the big questions about what a society is and should look like. While I disagree with a lot of things that have been said, I love that we can have the discussion openly and freely. People like Foreign Minister Jack Straw and noted author Salman Rushdie (who is Muslim and opposes the veil because he sees it as a form of violence against women) have debated with Muslim women who wear the veil and those who support their right to do so. The debates here have also been very different from what we experience in Canada, and are probably also very different from those in the United States. Clearly, all three countries have very different concepts of identity politics and what it is to be a citizen in a “liberal” society. And we’re all grappling with these issues at the moment, for better or worse.

    Personally I am of two minds on the niqab: while I support a woman’s right to wear anything she chooses, I am also concerned that, according to many Muslim feminists I have been reading, the wearing of the veil is symbolic of an extremely patriarchal form of Islam that insists upon the segregation and silencing of women – not ok!

    Clearly there are feminists on both sides of the debate. In my opinion, this is a debate that is best articulated by Muslim women themselves, because it concerns their faith and their bodies. However, in a young society like Canada, which is just beginning to explore the issues of multiculturalism, religious freedom and liberal democracy, we have to be able to have these discussions. And we have to have them even at the risk of offending. But rather than jumping to conclusions as to what is oppressing women and what isn’t, we need to pay more attention to listening to the women who are actually affected by this decision, rather than assuming how they might feel about it.

    For those interested in what a lesbian feminist Muslim Canadian’s perspective on some of this stuff is, pick up a copy of Irshad Manji’s The Trouble With Islam Today. She’s fantastic.

  56. Alix
    Alix March 24, 2007 at 7:48 pm |

    Let’s play a little game…

    Personally I am of two minds on high heels: while I support a woman’s right to wear anything she chooses, I am also concerned that, according to many American feminists I have been reading, the wearing of high heels is symbolic of an extremely patriarchal form of Western culture that insists upon the discrimination and silencing of women – not ok!

    JP, I agree with your last post (#61); I’m only picking on you because you’re useful. Criticizing the patriarchal origins/symbolism/effect of clothes and debating whether certain clothing choices are or are not demeaning to women is certainly useful, even necessary. My problem is twofold.

    1. The state should not get involved. Clothing, for the last damn time, is a matter of personal choice.

    2. Many people (not you, I don’t think) who complain and complain about how the niqab (is that the right term?) is oppressing women and needs to be banned for the sake of those poor Muslim ladies are vehement defenders of Western beauty standards. (Not to mention that they’re extraordinarily arrogant in believing that they need to save oppressed [barbarian] women…)

  57. Alix
    Alix March 24, 2007 at 7:51 pm |

    I think I need to stop saying “damn”. (More fun with spam filters!)

  58. Mnemosyne
    Mnemosyne March 24, 2007 at 8:04 pm |

    I think the decision was stupid. But a Muslim ref made the call. Are you going to take away the right of Muslims to make stupid decisions?

    You seem to feel that it’s terribly, terribly significant that it was a Muslim referee that made the call. It’s, um, not making you come across as any less bigoted than you already have. You have every right to be an atheist, but you have no more right to impose that belief on your neighbors than your neighbors have the right to impose their belief in Allah, Vishnu, or Jesus on you.

    Let’s say for a moment that the fact that the ref is Muslim is terribly significant and that his religious beliefs say that girls should not be playing sports. Therefore, he grabbed the first excuse he could find to publicly eject a clearly Muslim player from the game in front of the crowd to try and humiliate her into never playing again.

    Still think it’s perfectly okay for him to have ejected her? Or would his personal reasons for ejecting her have no impact on you because she technically broke a rule that neither she nor her coach knew existed?

  59. Sirkowski
    Sirkowski March 24, 2007 at 8:29 pm |

    Sally says:
    Spoken like someone who has never in her life been in the religious minority. Move to a place where everyone is a rabid Christian and tell me whether it’s ok to fire you unless you take Communion because “religion is a choice.” Decent societies do not allow people justify religious oppression by claiming that religion is a choice.

    I would never be in a religious minority or majority because I would never be religious point. You’re in a bad position to talk moral relativism if you’re putting theocracy and secularism on the same level. Nobody is being oppressed, even niqab wearers agree. Unless somewhat thinks they’re lying for fear of repression from the evil french-canadians.

    Sally says:
    (Does anyone really think that Muslim clerics are going to take over the role that Catholic priests had in pre-1960 Quebec? I mean, seriously?)

    To religious Muslim women, it’s already done.

    MuslimFeminista Says:
    It’s just another opportunity for the likes of Sirkowski to make sweeping claims about “islam” and supposed Muslim advocacy groups, who are notorious apologist of the mysogynist interpretation of Islam, to cry out islamaphobia.

    If you’d hear what I’ve said about Christianity, you’d think I’m unfairly nice to Islam. And you admit yourself that Muslim advocacy groups are controlled by mysogynists. So I was right.

    Alex says:
    2. Many people (not you, I don’t think) who complain and complain about how the niqab (is that the right term?) is oppressing women and needs to be banned for the sake of those poor Muslim ladies are vehement defenders of Western beauty standards. (Not to mention that they’re extraordinarily arrogant in believing that they need to save oppressed [barbarian] women…)

    NOBODY has requested that the niqab be banned. Nobody. It is however wrong, stupid and oppressive. Can’t ban it, it’s protected and that’s fine. But it’s still stupid. What can I say? Christianity is bad when it says you can’t have an abortion but Islam is acceptable when it says women are all whores and should cover their faces? Well excuse me for not giving a rat’s ass about either…

  60. Sirkowski
    Sirkowski March 24, 2007 at 8:32 pm |

    Mnemosyne Says:
    Still think it’s perfectly okay for him to have ejected her?

    Which part of “I think the decision was stupid” don’t you understand?

  61. nik
    nik March 24, 2007 at 8:38 pm |

    If ID verification were really that important, an easy solution would be to provide a way to perform a discreet check by a female poll worker.

    Where I’m from there’s a tradition that the way elections are run by government officials should be open and subject to independent scrutiny at the polls by members of the public. I don’t think we should throw this away to prevent idiots being penalised by their stupid beliefs. It’s a bad idea for voting procedures should be operated in private by government officials. If they need to check something other people should able to check them checking it.

  62. Jill
    Jill March 24, 2007 at 8:41 pm | *

    So far we have Shama Naz (see the Globe and Mail article) and Muslimfeminista (see comment above), two Muslim women, arguing that removing one’s veil briefly at the polling station isn’t a big deal for Muslim women.

    With the important qualifier that removing one’s veil is only permissible if done in front of a female polling representative, in an environment where no men will see. Is that an accommodation that most Quebecois polling stations are going to provide?

  63. MuslimFeminista
    MuslimFeminista March 24, 2007 at 8:42 pm |

    JP, In no Muslim Feminist perspective is Irshad Manji considered an advocate for Islam or Islamic Feminism for that matter…If you really are interested in an intelligent analys of gender politics in Islam by a Muslim Feminist then i suggest you read Leila Ahmed, Fatima Mernissi, Asma Barlas even Amina Waddud…These women’s work provides serious analysis about gender politics in Islam…Irshad Manji supposed “critique” is based on personal history and does not engage actual Islamic scholarship…It’s an interesting read but don’t make the mistake of believing it to be more than the unsubstantiated poorly articulated work that it is…I did enjoy watching her on big ideas though….

  64. nadia
    nadia March 24, 2007 at 8:49 pm |

    That doesn’t make it right. I find it absolutely ludicrous to argue that an hijab that does not get wrapped around the neck (and apparently this one was not a wrap around the neck type) could be a hazard.
    source? every picture i’ve seen of this girl it was a standard cloth hijab wrapped under the chin.

    and i’m sorry, that the fifa rules were enforced inconsistently may be inconvenient, but it’s hardly proof of racism. like i said before, it’s 11 y/o girls playing soccer. not the euros.

  65. MuslimFeminista
    MuslimFeminista March 24, 2007 at 8:51 pm |

    With the important qualifier that removing one’s veil is only permissible if done in front of a female polling representative, in an environment where no men will see. Is that an accommodation that most Quebecois polling stations are going to provide?

    That’s what feminists and Muslim Advocacy groups should be making sure is provided…

  66. nik
    nik March 24, 2007 at 8:58 pm |

    Come off it. It’s clearly not acceptable for a government official to usher someone into a backroom and then let them vote without that decision being open to challenge and verification by the public.

  67. Sylvs
    Sylvs March 24, 2007 at 9:00 pm |

    I’m Muslim and originally come from a country where half the population (and steadily rising) wear the Niqab. The majority of Muslim scholars do agree that it’s allowed for a Niqaby (a woman who wears a Niqab) to remove it for as long as necessary to validate her identity. Having said that, it’s recommended that she try and attempt to take every precaution to minimize the exposure. So for instance, it wouldn’t unlawful for her to show her face to a male security gaurd for instance, but if there were two pollsters (one male and one female) she would defer to the female. Also, even by uncovering, it could be as simple as having someone just walk with her to the corner of the room, and letting her open up for a sec and not in front of hundreds. Is that so much to ask? I mean really, on a basic and human level is that too much to ask??

    Sirkowski
    …the treatment of Muslim women is also deeply offensive to many of us.

    First of all, who is “us” you speak of? Secondly, your ironic prejudice to people of different beliefs is offenseive to many of us- what’s your fucking point? I’d check your slippery slope dear, lest you find yourself in the company of the very extremists you loathe.

  68. wolfa
    wolfa March 24, 2007 at 9:08 pm |

    This year is the first time they’re intending to make id mandatory, it used to be discretionary as long as you had your polling card, and often even if you didn’t. This is because in some recent election, people went around proving they could register to vote a dozen times, so now they want to prevent that. The niqab issue came up months after the id issue did.

    Most voting areas have a dozen or more polling stations in them, so several dozen people working in them. You just need one woman to go and confirm identity — if this isn’t made available there’s a huge problem. The women might need to wait a bit longer, until a woman is free, though. I have never seen a polling station without many women available. Perhaps in a small town, but the likelihood of there being a very religious Muslim woman in a small town in Quebec is minute. Most polling stations are in schools or other government buildings that have, if nothing else, bathrooms where no men will go in.

    I think this was a solution in search of a problem on the part of the elections officers here, though, and I’m not particularly in support of it. It’s just because religious accomodations have been in the news lately that the niqab came up, frankly.

    Quebec is fairly ok with ethnic minorities, but antsy as all hell with people who aren’t some form of semi-lapsed Christian, and unwilling to give an inch no matter how little it would cost them.

    A lot of these stories are remarkably one-sided. The kosher hospital thing — most of the hospital is non-kosher, but there are a few areas which are kosher, because the hospital was created when none of the other ones were willing to help Jews. Most of the others are equally biased.

  69. Sylvs
    Sylvs March 24, 2007 at 9:08 pm |

    Also, in terms of the soccer player, I think the Sporty Hijab is extremely safe (if anything safer) because it’s a tight and slicker surface and would be harder to tug at then let’s say an ear or ponytail. And as for the referee being Muslim, that is a moot point, because if you’re even remotely versed in this monolithic topic, then you’ll know that there are fellow Mulsims who loathe the Hijab. It’s not unlikely that he could be against it and was acting on his own biases.

    I call bullshit…

  70. Daisy
    Daisy March 24, 2007 at 9:11 pm |

    nik, you are right in that being open to challenge and verification is definitely a huge part of democracy (and yay for that!). However, as someone who has worked at a voting station and done all of the paperwork that swears I didn’t suck it up, I would imagine that there would need to be some quick form or two women available.

    As far as religion being a choice, you never know what is going on in someone else’s family. A woman could be wearing the niqab and not be religious at all but have a family member who prohibits her leaving the house without it. She might have a father/mother/brother who would not approve of her removing the veil except for another female, so those family members might not allow her to go vote. Personally, I am willing to go through tons of hoops and go way out of my way to help ensure that someone gets to vote. It might be the only voice that some of these women have because it’s not a gaurantee that their male family members are voting in their interest.

  71. Alix
    Alix March 24, 2007 at 9:19 pm |

    On the religion-is-a-choice thing, so fucking what? The only things we have a right to be are things we didn’t choose to be? Is that it? I have a right to be asexual, ’cause I didn’t pick it, but if someone gets offended at me being a Christian-Pagan hybrid, I have to bow to their delicate sensibilities because I chose to be that?

    Let’s see, what else is a choice? You choose what you eat. Okay, let’s start regulating what people can eat. Might stop that obesity epidemic I hear so much about. You choose your political allegiances. Hm. Let’s require all registered Democrats to wear blue, and all registered Republicans to wear red. Independents get yellow. Why would that upset you? It’s not like you were born wearing clothes; it’s just a choice, and you’re silly to be offended by attempts to identify you…

  72. Sylvs
    Sylvs March 24, 2007 at 9:20 pm |

    And lastly, I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: The only difference between the treatment of women in the US or Canada or France or Germany or Zimbabwe or Brazil or Yemen is *RULE OF LAW.*

    The “Global West” wasn’t just created on some altruistic notion of Women’s Rights and a love for all things female. It was only when the collective will of society stated that there has to be some semblance of order and rights that is inherant to human beings (first men with women piggybacking some time later.) If the Middle East can’t even even secure the rights of the men, what on God’s green earth makes you think, women’s needs will be met?

  73. Sylvs
    Sylvs March 24, 2007 at 9:23 pm |

    I inserted an unnecessary comma in the last sentence…

    :: sigh ::

    Uff…

  74. nik
    nik March 24, 2007 at 9:34 pm |

    I’m not sure you’re quite getting it. Jill – for instance – has signed on to denying members of the public the right to check that the election is being conducted correctly. There’s no middle ground here, you can only accomodate identification in private if you’re willing to deny the public their right to verify government officials are doing their job and that the elections are free and fair. Allowing this is explicitly anti-democratic.

  75. Alix
    Alix March 24, 2007 at 9:36 pm |

    Nik – bullshit. I suppose next you’re going to want open booths so “the public” can look over your shoulder as you vote, no? Hey, we want to prevent fraud, no?

  76. Jill
    Jill March 24, 2007 at 9:40 pm | *

    Jill – for instance – has signed on to denying members of the public the right to check that the election is being conducted correctly.

    Um, what? Feel free to point to where I ever said this.

  77. Sylvs
    Sylvs March 24, 2007 at 9:45 pm |

    Jill,

    You clearly said it in post # 454.134A.

    Keep up- Sheesh!

    /sarcasm

    *(Just a little humor nik. I think you just misunderstood, no?)

  78. Tricia(freya)
    Tricia(freya) March 24, 2007 at 9:57 pm |

    Salman Rushdie (who is Muslim and opposes the veil because he sees it as a form of violence against women)

    Only slightly beside the point, but in the last interview I saw with Mr. Rushdie (Bill Moyer’s “On Faith & Reason“) he was pretty clear that he considers himself an atheist. I realize he was raised in a Muslim family, but I doubt his opinion is unbiased. There’s also the fact that however much I consider him an excellent author and speaker, he is not a woman.

  79. nik
    nik March 24, 2007 at 9:59 pm |

    Um, what? Feel free to point to where I ever said this.

    #68 “With the important qualifier that removing one’s veil is only permissible if done in front of a female polling representative, in an environment where no men will see.

    Correct me if I’m wrong but I take it that ‘polling representatives’ rules out independent observers and ‘female’ rules out men. If you want private identification to female officials there goes the publics right to independently scrutinse the way the election is run. I’m not particularly trying to pick on Jill either, plenty of people have signed up to this above.

  80. Alix
    Alix March 24, 2007 at 10:06 pm |

    Nik – again, so-fucking-what? Does the public (God, do I hate those two words) have the right to watch over your shoulder at the ballot booth? If they took the women off to the side, where no man could see her face, but the process could be observed, would that satisfy your inner alarmist?

  81. Tricia(freya)
    Tricia(freya) March 24, 2007 at 10:09 pm |

    Ack, my last sentence disappeared… it said…

    Neither, for that matter, were any of the names I saw in your list of people debating the importance of the hijab. Funny that.

  82. Vanessa
    Vanessa March 24, 2007 at 10:29 pm |

    Religion is a choice, unlike homosexuality. Women are born with their faces uncovered. I find that comparison offensive.

    (I realize this is quite a bit upthread now, but I was at work.)

    I’m sorry if I offended you. Let me clarify. I was really trying to make more of a comparison as to how crappy a choice that is — You can still do fill-in-the-blank, all you have to do is commit an act that you find abhorrent! — rather that to suggest that homosexuality is a choice.

  83. Alix
    Alix March 24, 2007 at 10:36 pm |

    You can still do fill-in-the-blank, all you have to do is commit an act that you find abhorrent!

    Yep! Hey, personal morality’s a choice. I mean, it’s not like you’re born completely unable to kill puppies, so, I mean, there’s totally no reason for the government not to force you to do so!

    Gah. It really doesn’t matter if religion’s a choice or not. (Honestly, it doesn’t matter where sexual orientation’s concerned, either.) What matters is that it’s important to the identity of the people concerned.

  84. Hawise
    Hawise March 24, 2007 at 11:24 pm |

    I think that what is missing is that this isn’t about fifteen or so observant Muslim women. However it started, an accommodation was found for these women in the absence of clear rules within the law, but that is not how it ended. The director of elections is given some rather sweeping powers for the period between the closing of the legislature and the election in which he can amend the law for the current election. He created a ruling and when it hit the news cycle it became election fodder. Suddenly he is not looking at a group of reasonable women exercising their vote but a horde of hooligans in plastic masks trying to make any number of odd points and with less than a week in which to prepare his staff. He changed the ruling, well within those sweeping powers of his, to restrict face coverings at the polling stations. Yes, he sacrificed some of the dignity of the women but as some of them have clearly stated they are prepared to deal with that.
    The real question is- once the election is done, can we count on any of those leaders, who turned on the Director of Elections, to permanently amend the Election law to allow reasonable accomodation?

  85. exangelena
    exangelena March 25, 2007 at 10:37 am |

    So if religion is a choice, then I guess it wasn’t so bad to have the Spanish Inquisition. I mean, couldn’t those Jews and Muslims just choose to be Catholics? Same with the people tortured and executed by Henry VIII and Tokugawa Japan – they chose not to convert.
    Well, yes, and no, but the right to worship as one pleases is a basic right that people shouldn’t be coerced by punishment, let alone violence, into surrendering.
    As for homosexuality as a “choice”, what constitutes homosexuality? Merely being attracted to people of the same sex, or actually engaging in sexual activity with someone of the same sex? Obviously there are people who fall into the former category who are celibate or have sex with people of the opposite sex, and people in the latter category who don’t consider themselves gay. I knew someone who is an evangelical and she said that homosexuality as an orientation wasn’t a choice and didn’t make someone “sinful”, but to engage in homosexual behavior was. (And again, I think the right to choose the sex of your sexual partners is also a basic right.)

  86. Raging Moderate
    Raging Moderate March 25, 2007 at 10:58 am |

    For those here who are defending niqab-wearing Muslim women from the “oppressive” decision to identify oneself as a registered voter, I am curious as to whether you have read any interviews or comments from niqab wearers who are angry about this (and not comments from representatives of Muslim groups in Quebec that are predominantly headed by men). Or are we speaking for these women without listening to what they are saying?

    The only people I have heard complaining about this are white women and muslim men.

    Muslim women seem to ok with it.

  87. tzs
    tzs March 25, 2007 at 11:00 am |

    All of this reminds me of the fuss we had down in Florida several years ago (a woman wanted to be photographed while wearing a niqab for her driver’s license.) She didn’t get very much sympathy from the state. There were quite a few people pointing out that in Saudi Arabia she wouldn’t have been allowed to drive, period.

    I don’t have much sympathy for people who insist that all rules on identification can get thrown out of the window for women who wear the niqab. Especially since most of the women actually wearing the niqab seem to be far more reasonable about it.

    Heck, what do you suggest this all get replaced with? Fingerprinting? Tattooed numbers on the back of the hands? Chip ID implants? IDing through photos and facial recognition is quick and easy–if you want to find something else aside from “removing the niquab for 10 seconds” you’re going to have to come up with something equivalently cheap and simple.

  88. Mnemosyne
    Mnemosyne March 25, 2007 at 11:20 am |

    Mnemosyne Says:
    Still think it’s perfectly okay for him to have ejected her?

    Which part of “I think the decision was stupid” don’t you understand?

    The part where you continue arguing that offending and discriminating against people on the basis of their religion is perfectly a-okay because you have a “secular” society where their religion has no place.

    Interesting that all of the cases that you’ve cited so far have involved minority religions (Judaism, Islam, Sikhism) being put in their place, but not too many examples of Christians being told that they need to change their ways to fit in.

    And yet you still don’t see any problem here at all. Nice.

  89. W. Kiernan
    W. Kiernan March 25, 2007 at 11:41 am |

    Well, after all, Quebecois are proud of their French heritage, and you’d never see a real French woman wearing a scarf!

  90. Vanessa
    Vanessa March 25, 2007 at 11:52 am |

    I don’t have much sympathy for people who insist that all rules on identification can get thrown out of the window for women who wear the niqab. Especially since most of the women actually wearing the niqab seem to be far more reasonable about it.

    Well for me it’s not the rule itself (as I said, there are ways to handle this for even the most conservative niqabi) as it is these two things: can the government be trusted to enact the “sensitive ways of handling it” (in the US the answer would be a clear no, but I’m not from Quebec so I don’t know…), and the fact that people were so enraged by the fact that women wouldn’t have to remove their niqab that they gave death threats.

    And also, as someone else stated upthread, that they did all this without even consulting a Muslim woman.

    This isn’t *just* about niqab. It’s about how *yet again* the clothing of Muslim women becoming a huge point of debate in a stupid manner, and in a way that leaves Muslim women out. Again.

  91. W. Kiernan
    W. Kiernan March 25, 2007 at 12:03 pm |

    Voting is a public good for everyone’s benefit. This is the fundamental axiom of democracy. For this reason, just as you help hospitalized or disabled people to participate by allowing them to mail in absentee ballots, and you allow people who can’t make it to the polls because they’re elsewhere doing military service the same privilege, and volunteers assist people in wheelchairs or with deficient eyesight to operate voting machines, similarly, even if poll workers were genuinely concerned with verifying voters’s identities, it would be trivially easy to escort hijab wearers to a private back room and have female poll workers check their faces against their photo IDs without gratuitously outraging these women’s religious sensibilities.

    Voting officials wouldn’t put up with this minor inconvenience because they have to, they’d do this because they’d want to, because voting is a public good for everyone’s benefit. Conversely, if they refuse to do this simple thing, then we must conclude that they do not believe that voting is a public good for everyone’s benefit.

    Why do these people hate democracy?

  92. Jill
    Jill March 25, 2007 at 12:33 pm | *

    #68 “With the important qualifier that removing one’s veil is only permissible if done in front of a female polling representative, in an environment where no men will see.”

    Correct me if I’m wrong but I take it that ‘polling representatives’ rules out independent observers and ‘female’ rules out men. If you want private identification to female officials there goes the publics right to independently scrutinse the way the election is run. I’m not particularly trying to pick on Jill either, plenty of people have signed up to this above.

    Nik, you cannot be this dumb. You left out the part that I was responding to, which was this:

    So far we have Shama Naz (see the Globe and Mail article) and Muslimfeminista (see comment above), two Muslim women, arguing that removing one’s veil briefly at the polling station isn’t a big deal for Muslim women.

    My response, then, means that the Muslim women arguing that removing one’s veil is ok were doing so “With the important qualifier that removing one’s veil is only permissible if done in front of a female polling representative, in an environment where no men will see.”

    Get it? I was talking about their position, not mine. Jesus, dude, learn to read before you go making comments.

  93. PoliticalCritic
    PoliticalCritic March 25, 2007 at 12:34 pm |

    With all the voter fraud that takes place, showing your face when going to vote should be a bare minimum requirement.

  94. Raging Moderate
    Raging Moderate March 25, 2007 at 12:38 pm |

    Interesting that all of the cases that you’ve cited so far have involved minority religions (Judaism, Islam, Sikhism) being put in their place, but not too many examples of Christians being told that they need to change their ways to fit in.

    I would argue that’s because Christians went through this in the 50’s and 60’s, when religious influence (mainly Catholic) in schools and government began to be eliminated (The Quiet Revolution). There were some Christians who were upset by this, but they were in the minority, and today are almost non-existant. They have zero influence today. We rarely have to tell Christians to modify their behavior anymore, because it’s become quite unusual for Christians to ask for special treatment, the enactment of laws based on their religion, or exemptions from laws based on their religion. They lost that battle years ago. Members of other religions are losing that battle today. We’re proud of that.

    However I do remember one incident last year. There are about 30 unlicensed schools in Quebec (Christian Evangelical, Hasidic, and Muslim). The government knows about them, but allows them to operate as long as they teach the cirriculum mandated by Quebec law in order to avoid unnecessary conflict with those groups.

    It was discovered during governmental reviews that some of the Christian Evangelical schools were teaching creationism and abstinence education. This violates Quebec law that states that the theory of evolution and sex education must be taught. The schools were told to quit the creationism and abstinence crap, or they would be shut down. They argued that they should be exempted from this law since the cirriculum violated their religious beliefs. The vast majority of Quebecers rejected that argument, as did the government, and the schools were forced to comply with the law.

    Are we disrespecting or oppressing Christians too?

  95. Jill
    Jill March 25, 2007 at 12:38 pm | *

    Religion is a choice, unlike homosexuality. Women are born with their faces uncovered. I find that comparison offensive.

    You were also born naked. Would you go and vote if part of the requirement was to take off your shirt and bra in front of the polling person? That’s an issue of modesty and personal morality too, even if it isn’t explicitly religious.

  96. Jill
    Jill March 25, 2007 at 12:39 pm | *

    Oh, and Nik, if you think that the existence of “polling representatives” is the problem, then take it up with this law, which requires women to show their IDs to polling representatives. Good God.

  97. nik
    nik March 25, 2007 at 12:44 pm |

    …it would be trivially easy to escort hijab wearers to a private back room and have female poll workers check their faces against their photo IDs without gratuitously outraging these women’s religious sensibilities.

    It’s not gratuitous. The whole idea of democracy is that electoral procedures are performed in public and open to challenge. The electoral register is open to public inspection. You can go along and watch the ballot box be sealed and opened. You can go along and watch that the votes are counted properly. You can to a polling station and check the officers are doing their job and issuing ballot papers correctly.

    The problem is that these women don’t believe in the openness and equality neccesary for democracy. If you aren’t willing to let other voters check the procedures through which your vote is registered and counted then you aren’t treating them as equals and shouldn’t be allowed to vote.

    Nik, you make identification to a polling official anyway, not to the general public. Apparently you believe that female polling officials are unable to do their job properly. Or at the very least, can’t be trusted.

    You make idenficiation in public to polling officials, allowing the public to see that their election is being run fairly and openly by the officials. And yes, I don’t believe we should have to trust polling officials or take their competence on faith.

  98. Raging Moderate
    Raging Moderate March 25, 2007 at 1:02 pm |

    Let’s say for a moment that the fact that the ref is Muslim is terribly significant and that his religious beliefs say that girls should not be playing sports. Therefore, he grabbed the first excuse he could find to publicly eject a clearly Muslim player from the game in front of the crowd to try and humiliate her into never playing again.

    If that were the case, it would seem to bolster the argument that muslim women are being oppressed by muslim men, not Quebec society.

    By the way, here’s a pic of the girl. It seems she was wearing a standard hijab with the cloth around her neck, not a sports hijab.

  99. W. Kiernan
    W. Kiernan March 25, 2007 at 1:10 pm |

    So you are so distrustful of poll workers that if a female poll worker ducks into the back room to verify a nijab-wearing voter’s photo ID,you still would refuse to accept that poll worker’s verification?

    I take it then that you would have no problem if, when you go to vote and you present your driver’s license to the poll worker, that poll worker snaps a digital photo of your face, and scans your license, and puts the two images, complete with your name and address and license number, on a big-screen teevee in the voting place and on a publicly accessible web page. And let us not forget requiring that you give up a mandatory DNA sample. Clearly anything less allows – no, encourages – a secret, sinister voting-fraud conspiracy between you, the corrupted poll worker who checks your ID, and, of course, your Illuminati masters.

    Enough nitpicky nonsense. The bottom line is, you do not think voting is a public good for everyone’s benefit, and you are pantingly eager for any excuse, no matter how paper-thin, to disenfranchise voters who are different from you. In other words, you hate democracy.

  100. nik
    nik March 25, 2007 at 1:32 pm |

    Sorry Jill. I didn’t realise you support unveiling in public to vote. I guess I interpreted your asking if private unveiling to officials was “an accommodation that most Quebecois polling stations are going to provide?” later in #68 as a rhetorical question suggesting this should happen and you supported this, rather than just a simple question. My mistake. Sorry.

  101. wolfa
    wolfa March 25, 2007 at 2:07 pm |

    Oh, please. Quebec doesn’t discriminate against Christianity in any way. The reason you don’t hear stories about Christians asking for accomodations and being refused is because the entire society is set up for Christians. Sure, they got rid of religious school boards — in Montreal, that was in the 90s, not during the Quiet Revolution — but the major Christian holidays are already statuatory holidays.

    I assume that Monday and Tuesday we will hear how the niqab issue played out. Were women willing to show their faces? Did female election officials help out where needed? Was this story primarily a ploy to stir up the less tolerant voters?

  102. DAS
    DAS March 25, 2007 at 4:26 pm |


    So if religion is a choice, then I guess it wasn’t so bad to have the Spanish Inquisition. I mean, couldn’t those Jews and Muslims just choose to be Catholics?
    – exangelena

    Just a clarification. The Spanish Inquisition actually only went after those Jews and Muslims who did choose to be Catholics and then showed some sort of sign that they were “backsliding” into their original faiths. AFAIK, the Inquisition had no authority to do anything to non-Catholics.

    OTOH, if you didn’t choose to be Catholic, you had to leave Spain.

    *

    As to the “but the ref was Muslim” retort, it’s meaningless: my grandfather (z”l) was a sheet metal worker. Not too many Jewish sheet metal workers about — and, shall we say, his bosses generally did not expect one of their employees to take off Jewish holidays (c.f. wolfa’s comment about statuatory holidays — Christians get to have better attendence records, for example, ’cause they don’t have to take time off for Christmas or Easter, whereas we Jews often have to take time off for Rosh Hashana and Pesach). Generally his bosses were, begrudgingly, accomodating., but he had a few who would raise a stink about him taking Jewish holidays off — and guess what: those few were all (at least nominally) Jewish!

    As to the point about not all Muslims liking the hijab: most of the women I knew, e.g. in college, who wore a hijab were hard-core feminist types for whom the act of wearing the hijab was, at least at some level, an act of rebellion against the paternalism of their anti-hijab families.

    I’m with those who wonder if this is some sort of tempest in a tea-pot — as with the wearing hijab’s during soccer, it seems like the niqab in voting could be easily accomodated by having a female verify the ID of the voters in question. And with such tempests, the question always is, who is stirring the pot and why? Hint — it ain’t us liberals!

  103. DAS
    DAS March 25, 2007 at 5:00 pm |

    And BTW — religion, it seems to me, is actually a very similar sort of choice as homosexuality: you might be born gay or born into the Zoroasterian faith, but indeed you do choose whether to act on your beliefs and/or orientation.

    And any democratic society which does not make reasonable accomodations to allow people to act on such basic matters of faith and orientation is hardly a democratic society as it demonstrates that it is not willing to allow freedom of conscience to translate into any form of action. Viz, in such a state, what would any democracy mean of those making the votes are not free to base actions, e.g., votes, on their fundamental beliefs.

    That is why freedom of religion — and freedom from religious coercion, even the subtle kinds found by introducing certain public displays of religion on public property so as to imply the state finds certain religious beliefs normative and hence certain other beliefs not so — is so critical to a democracy. And freedom of sexual orientation — and freedom from the coercion occuring because the licensing solely of straight marriages implies that state finds homosexuality non-normative — is, being such a similar thing, a canary in a mine-shaft regarding religious freedom and hence regarding democracy. I know many people who, even if they are opposed on a religious basis to homosexuality (even to the point of being, in fits of projection given how religious groups recruit troubled youth, paranoid about “gay groups recruiting confused kidz into teh gay lifestyle”), are nonetheless very keen on anti-hate-crime legislation include anti-gay crimes as being hate crimes, e.g. … because they know that, e.g. if you’ll pardon the Godwin’s law violation, in Nazi Germany, first they came for the gays.

    So, sorry to be OT, but I wanted to follow up a bit on the relation between gays and religious minorities — even if I’ve not been coherent about what I’m saying …

  104. exangelena
    exangelena March 25, 2007 at 5:28 pm |

    DAS – I hope my sarcasm came through alright. My point was that even if religion is a choice (as in, unlike race/ancestry), that doesn’t excuse oppressing, torturing or murdering people on the basis of it.

  105. DAS
    DAS March 25, 2007 at 5:54 pm |

    exangelena,

    It did come through OK (although maybe I was being a bit dense). I guess I get a bit pedantic about people thinking the Inquisition went after Jews and Muslims who hadn’t gone geshmatt. I dunno why I get so pedantic: I guess I figure people ought to appreciate the Hobbson’s choice involved in being a non-Catholic in 16th century Spain.

  106. Badger3k
    Badger3k March 25, 2007 at 6:35 pm |

    A simple thought experiment, if you will. For this experiment, I am a spider-man fanatic. I changed my name legally to “spider-man”, I wear a mask all the time in public, it is part of my identity. By the logic I see here, then it would be fine for me to vote (or do anything else requiring a picture ID) without lifting my mask and having someone verify that I am who I am? That would be ok, since it is part of my identity?

    Or do I need to have some belief in a supernatural “Spider-God” who requires me to wear a mask in public, and keep my face concealed? Does that make it somehow different? Why?

    Personally, you can call any attempt at voter identification as insulting – the nerve of those people, saying I am not who I am, saying that I might lie about it! Horribly offensive, hmm? Perhaps, except we realize that for the voting process to work, there need to be safeguards, and if someone is offended by that, well, too bad. If the law requires a picture ID/visual identification, then there should be no exceptions. None. To ensure that all people can vote, I agree that allowances (such as the woman-woman verification) should be allowed, but definitely no exception exempting them from the requirement. If they choose their belief over their responsibility as a citizen, then that’s their choice. If the problem is the pressure of the culture they live in, then that is a problem of the culture (or subculture, perhaps), not the country or the law.

  107. Alix
    Alix March 25, 2007 at 6:37 pm |

    Badger – if they took you into a back room or off where no one could see your face to verify your identity, it’d be fine. Forcing you to take off your mask in front of everyone? Not cool.

  108. nik
    nik March 25, 2007 at 7:13 pm |

    Why shouldn’t your fellow electors (including men) be able to check that their election is being conducted properly? Which includes the right to check that polling staff are correctly verifying voters identities.

    Anyone care to suggest a reason? There’s a strong case that electoral procedures should be open and subject to public scrutiny. Why is some hocus pocus religion more important than this?

  109. wolfa
    wolfa March 25, 2007 at 7:26 pm |

    If I go to vote, what gives you, another citizen, the right to check my identity cards to confirm that my name, date of birth, address, etc, mean that I really can vote there? I am fairly certain that the right to verify that identity checks are done is not the same as the right to perform them yourself.

  110. JP
    JP March 25, 2007 at 8:17 pm |

    The Chief Electoral Officer of Quebec provides voting manuals in 26 languages other than English and French and an additional seven native languages. The Chief Electoral Officer of Quebec has programs in place for people who have difficulties voting, including people with mobility problems, health problems, and people who are temporarily out of the province during election time. There is also a voting in Quebec program designed to inform newcomers to the province of their rights.

    My point is that many provisions have been made to ensure all voters will be able to vote, whether on election day, in advance polls, or by mail. No one is being disenfranchised. These policies were adopted only after electors with different needs pointed out the problems in the system. I’m sure that this issue will spur Elections Quebec into finding a way to accommodate voters who wear the veil. Elections workers are already trained to accommodate voters with special needs and they can easily be trained to identify a voter wearing a veil without causing offense to the voter. It may not happen by tomorrow, but I have no doubt it’ll be fixed the next time around. Have a little more faith in our electoral system and our poll worker friends, will you?

    And in response to nik, before rambling about whether the public should or shouldn’t be able to ensure that the election is being conducted properly, maybe you should do a little reading on how elections in Quebec and Canada are actually conducted. We have scrutineers from each party at all the polling stations. There are a lot of safeguards in place, and relatively low incidences of voter fraud. It’s certainly not Florida.

  111. Raincitygirl
    Raincitygirl March 25, 2007 at 8:26 pm |

    Nik, are you honestly arguing that electoral procedures are NOT open and subject to public scrutiny if only a female poll-worker is allowed to take a female voter aside and verify her identity? Random other voter, male or female, does not have the right to scrutinise my ID and stare at me. Poll-workers are sworn in as temporary employees of Elections Canada, and have significantly greater responsibilities than Random Voter Guy or Girl. I don’t have to show my ID (which would have my address on it, and thus be a privacy concern) to everybody there, regardless of status. That’s what poll-workers and party-affiliated scrutineers are for.

    Having worked as a scrutineer, I also know that if I witnessed something dodgy, I would have the right to challenge that person. But the final authority would be the head official at the polling place, and if I, say, challenged somebody’s right to vote here on the grounds that, say, I didn’t think they lived in this catchment area, it would be the top Elections Canada person present who would have the right to look at that voter’s ID and verify that they do indeed live where they say they do. If, that is, they objected to me seeing their address. And it isn’t entirely improbable that a voter would rather show their private information to a poll-worker rather than a scrutineer from a party. And it’s certainly not improbable that a voter would object to showing their private information to Random Other Voter.

    Let’s get the loaded issue of religion aside and look at this another way. Say when you’re at the polling place casting your vote, another voter comes in wearing enormous sunglasses which obscure much of their face. It’s not unreasonable for the poll worker to ask that person to take off their sunglasses for checking against their photo ID, and if they don’t, it’s not unreasonable for you to notify an official that this polling worker didn’t do so. It’s not even entirely unreasonable to directly ask the sunglasses-wearing voter to take off their glasses, although it is rude (from an etiquette POV, it’s only justifiable if there is no other poll-worker available at the time to whom you can submit your complaint. But while it’s very rude, it’s also legal).

    Now, let’s say this person responds by saying they have a problem with their eyes, this room is very bright, and it would be painful to do so. It’s entirely appropriate for a polling worker to ask them to come over to a darker place and take off their sunglasses there. It’s not appropriate for you to demand that you be allowed to come too. The polling-worker is handling it properly.

    In your position as a Random Other Voter, you personally don’t have the right to check up on other voters’ bona fides. You absolutely have a right to notify another Elections Canada official if you see a voter engaging in suspected shenanigans, and/or a polling worker not doing their job properly. And if the top official present doesn’t deal with the issue to your satisfaction, you absolutely have the right to phone the Elections Canada toll-free number and complain, or to submit a written complaint, or to go to the media. But you still don’t have the right to make that person prove to YOU that they’re not engaging in shenanigans. They have to prove it to the officials who have sworn to uphold the law.

    Are you saying that polling workers are generally tolerant of voting fraud, or generally dishonest? If so, God help our democracy. You can’t just say, “I think that polling-worker and/or that voter are cheating, and I think that because I have a very strong feeling about it.” Or, at any rate, you can, but you shouldn’t expect to be taken very seriously. If you have a reason to suspect a specific person is engaging in voter fraud, of course you should make a fuss. But “she only let that female official look at her face, not me” doesn’t count as a good reason. That’s the official’s bloody job. Let them get on with it, unless you have reason to think they’re betraying their oath and opening themselves up to criminal prosecution.

  112. Sylvs
    Sylvs March 25, 2007 at 9:51 pm |

    Once again, it doesn’t have to be a seperate room. For those who aren’t familiar with the niqab its a simple matter of either lifting up or lifting it down. This can be done in a corner of a room with the Niqaby facing the official who would be in the corner.

    This is all semantics. You either believe that a simple accommodation can be met or you can’t. No grand conspiracies, no secular mongering, no Jihadist movement to take over Quebec…

    Just simple basic ettiquette…

  113. Link Roundup: 26 March 2007 « Vox ex Machina

    [...] On a one-day hiatus for today. Here are some blog links worth reading. Disenfranchised for wearing a veil — “Quebec’s chi [...]

  114. Raging Moderate
    Raging Moderate March 26, 2007 at 9:35 am |

    Was this story primarily a ploy to stir up the less tolerant voters?

    That’s exactly what it was.

    The Gazette had a few interviews with women who wear the niqab. Their comments were all along the lines of “Of course we’ll show our faces to be identified. It only makes sense. If anyone would have asked us, we would have told them that.”

    Le Journal de Montreal manufactured this controversy (not for the first time, either) by asking about women who refuse to remove their niqab, when it seems there are no women who would refuse to do so. They understand that is the law, and are happy to comply with it.

    The only problem that could arise is that the government can’t guarantee that a female worker will be available at all times at all polling stations.

    The question I have is why are so many people upset by this law if the women you claim are being oppressed or disenfranchised don’t feel that way?

  115. nik
    nik March 26, 2007 at 5:25 pm |

    You can’t just say, “I think that polling-worker and/or that voter are cheating, and I think that because I have a very strong feeling about it.” Or, at any rate, you can, but you shouldn’t expect to be taken very seriously. If you have a reason to suspect a specific person is engaging in voter fraud, of course you should make a fuss.

    I really don’t understand the mentality behind a comment like this. You are saying I have a right to complain if I have evidence to suspect that fraud is occuring. But, at the same time, advocate arranging things so they they are done in private such that I can’t be a witness to any fraud that occurs. There are some rather obvious difficulties with this line of reasoning. You obviously appreciate the right of the public to make complaints, but you don’t see that this right is useless unless they can observe behaviour of which they may wish to complain.

    “Are you saying that polling workers are generally tolerant of voting fraud, or generally dishonest? If so, God help our democracy.”

    There’s some willful ignorance behing this comment. Of course I don’t believe polling workers are tolerant of voting fraud. Why not? Well, no-one believes poll workers stuff ballot boxes – because they are sealed in public. And no-one believes counts are rigged – because they’re performed in public. Can you see where this is going? People have a lot of trust in poll worker because they do their job in public and people can go along and check their performance. You’re clearly aware of this. So it’s rather perverse or you to use trust which has been gained from the job’s publicness to argue for making aspects of it private.

  116. Shameless Magazine - for girls who get it » Niqab Outlawed at Quebec Polls

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