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North America's First 'Burqa Ban' Passed by Quebec Liberals in Name of 'Religious Neutrality'

Echoing "burqa ban" policies passed across Europe, the ban would apply to anyone using public transportation or other public services.

Lucas Oleniuk/ZUMA Press/NewscomLucas Oleniuk/ZUMA Press/NewscomThis week, Quebec banned people working in public service or using public services from wearing veils or any sort of facial covering, the first such ban in North America, one echoing "burqa ban" policies passed across Europe.

Ushered in by Quebec's Liberal Party as a way to "foster social cohesion" and "religious neutrality," and to combat Islamophobia, the law largely takes aim at Muslim women who veil their faces in public. The Canadian Broadcasting Corp. explains that under the new "religious neutrality legislation" women can apply for exemptions—essentially a special license to wear a burqa or niqab that they would have to display to public officials.

Critics, like Shaheen Ashraf of the Canadian Council of Muslim Women, question the religious neutrality narrative. "I define neutrality as being able to do what I choose and you are able to do what you choose and everyone else is able to do what they choose and that's neutral. Accepting each other as we are," Ashraf told CTV Montreal.

Ihsaan Gardee, executive director of the National Council of Canadian Muslims, called it "an unnecessary law with a made-up solution to an invented problem. We don't have hordes of women in niqabs trying to access or work in public services."

Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre and others have questioned how the law would actually work in practice. "So what does it mean now? Niqab police as bus drivers?" Coderre told CTV. "What are we going to do in libraries? And refuse to provide them with services? If [a woman is] freezing with children, say no? You have to pull that out. I don't think the doability is there."

"Bus drivers are now being empowered to decide who gets a ride based on their understanding of the nuances of Muslim head scarves," pointed out Allison Hanes in the Montreal Gazette. "Are they going to get training on the difference between a hijab and a niqab? This law could not be worse for civil rights or social cohesion."

"Telling a woman how to dress—whether she's wearing a bikini or a burqa—is the opposite of feminism," continued Hanes. "And using the full weight of the state to marginalize one particular group, no matter how much thou doth protest that a law applies to everyone equally, is reprehensible."

Although Quebec politicians pushed the new policy as a feminist one, Canadian feminists commenting on it are largely unimpressed. "A bill that legislates clothing ends up linking emancipation of women to how little or how much they wear," wrote Shree Paradkar in The Star. "In doing so, it works against choice" and "should have been rejected."

Photo Credit: Lucas Oleniuk/ZUMA Press/Newscom

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  • BestUsedCarSales||

    Critics, like Shaheen Ashraf of the Canadian Council of Muslim Women, question the religious neutrality narrative. "I define neutrality as being able to do what I choose and you are able to do what you choose and everyone else is able to do what they choose and that's neutral. Accepting each other as we are," Ashraf told CTV Montreal.

    Sounds like you need to get out of politics with ideas so ridiculous like that.

  • ||

    Wearing something to cover your face seems silly and kind of dumb to me. Making it illegal for people to wear things I find silly and dumb is evil and scary. American Progressives always point to Canada and Europe as being more tolerant and less Islamaphobic than us, but they are gravely mistaken.

  • The Brakeless MAGA Train||

    "Islamaphobia" is a rational stance against a deeply illiberal system that seems committed to subjugation.

  • Delius||

    Seems like you could have written "Christianophobia" and had the sentence make just as much sense.

  • BYODB||

    I considered it a possibility that America is more tolerant precisely because we don't share a geographic border with Islamic countries, but this in particular seems to explode that notion.

  • ||

    That is a good point.

  • CE||

    So it turns out "religious neutrality," like "net neutrality," isn't neutral at all.
    What's next, "speech neutrality," banning speech liberals don't like?

  • Rhywun||

    Speech that liberals don't like is already banned in Canada and several other Western countries.

  • Elizabeth Nolan Brown||

    Shhhhh don't give them ideas

  • ||

    *Moves ENB's name up 'The Big Board' to just below Shackford's.*

  • ||

    Have you people been paying any attention to Quebec since the 1970s?

    They already regulate speech in the form of signs. Look up Bill 101.

    Here's the kicker. Look up Jean Francois Lisee and his letter to the editor in the NYT when he claimed Quebec's 'reasonable accommodation' charter was akin to Thomas Jefferson.

    Personally, seeing Muslims dressed in full black with only their eyes exposed is ridiculous but I'm not about to set laws against that. It's like that dink Coderre argued. What's the line?

  • Citizen X - #6||

    "I define neutrality as being able to do what I choose and you are able to do what you choose and everyone else is able to do what they choose and that's neutral. Accepting each other as we are," Ashraf told CTV Montreal.

    Look at Little Miss Anarchist over here.

  • Berserkerscientist||

    Quebec is crazy. As a women, you can't legally take your husband's surname after marriage. They think this is somehow progressive.

  • Juice||

    That's...strange.

  • ||

    And yet, transgenders in Quebec can force you to call them "he" or "she" or you are breaking the law. What a weird and wild place.

  • cgr2727||

    And yet, transgenders in Quebec can force you to call them "he" or "she" "il" or "elle" or you are breaking the law. What a weird and wild place.

    FTFY, what with the silly Francophone laws and such.

  • Rhywun||

    What's 'xe' in French?

  • Rhywun||

    WTF? That is like full on New Soviet Man BS. Smash the system!

  • BYODB||

    It's almost universally recognized that the Quebecois are bat shit insane.

  • Mickey Rat||

    They are even more insecure Frenchmen, if that is possible.

  • ||

    This place is nuts but from what I read here, California is another level prog crazy. We're not quite there but we sure love to copy California on some of their idiocy.

  • BYODB||

    Oh my Rufus, I had no idea you were in Quebec. I'm so, so sorry!

  • ||

    Montreal baby!

  • Paloma||

    Can a husband take his wife's?

  • Rhywun||

    It's nice - for once - that a country which doesn't have proper free speech can come around to the idea that maybe free speech is a thing worth having.

  • $park¥ leftist poser||

    Are they going to get training on the difference between a hijab and a niqab?

    Who cares, it only matters if it covers the face.

    Other than that, carry on.

  • Paloma||

    Hmmm, what about the Guy Fawkes masks so popular with the young folks?

  • The Brakeless MAGA Train||

    I agree that telling a woman how to dress is not feminist. So now someone tell their husbands and fathers to stop making them wear these ridiculous get-ups that are reflective of the woman's status as Muslim chattel.

    or just import less Muslims. that would fix the problem.

  • Ben of Houston||

    If she wishes to stop wearing such an outfit, she can. If a relative uses force, there is already a law against that.

    The issue is that many women choose to wear these outfits out of tradition, custom, or their own decision. Would you rip the habit off a nun? Forcibly shave a rabbi?

    You cannot fix one form of oppression by banning something else.

  • BYODB||

    Ah yes, because the French style of secular Democracy is so great over the American style of Republicanism.


    Yeah, no, I don't really think so. The French are what America would look like if we didn't give a single fuck about freedom of religion.

  • Zeb||

    And if we were all a bunch of smelly, lazy labor unionists.

  • ||

    Quebec's 'fonctionnaire' (bureaucrat) and unions ranks is double that of California. Or something like that. The province is run by bureaucrats. Same with Ontario.

    Population California: c 38 million.
    Quebec: 8 million.

  • Entropy Drehmaschine Void||

    And if we were all a bunch of smelly, lazy labor unionists.

    who ate Freedom Fries with Mayonnaise.

  • SQRLSY One||

    Can I wear a burka in a high-crime area, to conceal my identity? Can I wear a burka to assist me in hiding from the cameras, while I rob a bank? Burkas have WAY often been used to assist suicide bombers, while helping to hide their bomb loads! This is a real issue, and I don't see "Reason" addressing it very often...

  • Rhywun||

    This is a real issue

    No, actually, it's not. Unless you want to ban ski masks and Halloween costumes too.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    Unfortunately, that is super common.

  • I can't even||

    They are banned in many places.

  • Rhywun||

    Well, those places are stupid.

    It's the gun-totem thing all over again.

  • SQRLSY One||

    If you were a bank teller, on the job, what would you think if a ski-mask-wearer or a Halloween-mask-wearer came your way? That is why I cry "BullShit!" here!

    PS, try wearing those masks through security at the airport, too...

    "Special status" for the Islamists sucks!

  • ||

    If you were a bank teller, on the job, what would you think if a ski-mask-wearer or a Halloween-mask-wearer came your way?

    This situation is awkward and uncomfortable. Clearly I've chosen the wrong elected representatives. I should elect more people to tell me how to solve this problem. Until then, it is completely unable to be resolved by civilians in a wholly private manner.

    Otherwise, I'd ask the female teller next to me, whom we're obligated to employ, to verify the woman's face/photo if not wholly assist them. If either one complained, I'd say I need a minute to make my ham sandwich for lunch and that if either one of them wanted to do it, they could feel free.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    Egads man. Mentioning ham in front of a Mohammedan? You disgust me.

  • GroundTruth||

    Hopefully it will still be ok to climb on the bus some February morning wearing a full ski mask because it IS Quebec and it IS freaking cold?

  • BYODB||

    This bit here does give me a moment of pause:


    Ihsaan Gardee, executive director of the National Council of Canadian Muslims, called it "an unnecessary law with a made-up solution to an invented problem. We don't have hordes of women in niqabs trying to access or work in public services."


    Well, I'm wondering if that might be because female Muslim's are property who's rightful role is in the home. I can't say with certainty where the line is between religious tolerance and illiberal madness, but it seems like considering half your population that happens to have a vagina as property could be a problem in a Western culture. We don't really tolerate that from any religion, so there is a line past which Religion liberty takes a backseat to other liberties.


    Wearing a headscarf, though, would pretty clearly fall under religious liberty since it harms no one at all. Treating women as property, however, does have a harm. That seems over the line for natural rights.


    I'm not saying that's why this guy said what he said, but given the overarching Muslim view of women as subservient I do have to wonder why there aren't 'hordes of women' trying to work in public services or access those same public services.

  • Calidissident||

    I believe that outside of a few countries like Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, etc. most Muslim women wear hijabs (which cover the hair but not the face) rather than niqabs or burkas.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    I've noticed it becoming popular within a specific sect of American women as well. I wonder why that is. It's often types that I would not expect to be religious.

  • BYODB||

    At least a few modern feminists view the traditional garb as liberating to women since it hides them from the rapist male gaze.

    I suspect, though, that the real reason is because they're tired of being judged by their appearance by other women. Women are the most anti-feminist group around in my experience and do more harm to women than men could possibly hope to achieve. That seems to transcend cultures, too, which is truly bizarre.

  • Enjoy Every Sandwich||

    I don't remember where I heard this, it might an Al Bundy quote: "Don't try to understand women. Women understand women and they hate each other."

  • Calidissident||

    Are you talking about converts to Islam or women that just wear it despite having no religious or cultural ties to Islam? And are you talking about the hijab or niqab/burka? I haven't seen any women wear any of them that I knew or had any reason to think wasn't Muslim.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    1) I don't know if they are converts as I never ask explicitly. Just by talking to them they do not strike me as religious types. Obviously this is based on a stereotype though and could easily be wrong.

    2) I meant the hijab not full face coverings.

  • BYODB||

    Like all groups that come to America I would expect that over time American Muslim's will veer more secular or at least less overtly religious but some aspects of that culture will probably remain, mostly as an outward sign of faith. I'm thinking of some Jewish people I know that barely qualify as religious yet they still wear their yamicah in public (not all the time, obviously) to signal that they are Jewish.

    I think it's about the same thing for some folks, although I do know a few Muslim women that don't wear the garb simply because their families came here to get away from oppression and some of them see the garb as a symbol of that oppression.

    People are individuals, after all.

  • Zeb||

    Maybe they just had a bad hair day.

  • Entropy Drehmaschine Void||

    I wonder why that is.

    'Cos they UGLY bitches.

  • BYODB||

    That sounds about right to me, but it doesn't really matter what type they wear none of them cause any harm.

    This reeks of 'if you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear' which I generally reject as a notion.

  • Rhywun||

    The head-to-toe job is very common in my part of Brooklyn, nearly as much as the others. And they are right, those ladies aren't taking the subway to Wall Street every morning. I tend to agree that the thing is an unpleasant relic of for-real patriarchy, but that's for them to sort out - it's not my problem.

  • Citizen X - #6||

    It will be your problem once one a' them lays a whole clutch of America-hating Islam eggs in your chest cavity!

  • Calidissident||

    I live in LA and work in Santa Monica and I see women wearing hijabs pretty frequently, but I'm not sure if I've ever seen the full niqab/burka worn here.

  • John||

    I see them in Washington occasionally. And they are always with men in western dress.

  • John||

    Until the last 30 years most Muslim women in countries outside the Gulf did not wear any sort of head coverings. Even in places like Egypt or Afghanistan hijabs was something eccentric old women wore. The return of the hijab is a symptomatic of a general move away from societal liberalism in Muslim communities

  • BYODB||

    Looking at photo's of Iran in the 1950's was certainly instructive for me on what the trend actually is.

  • Ben of Houston||

    Then ban the actual problem. That is, enslavement of women.

    Don't ban a non-problem, that is, an article of clothing that women may choose to wear for their own reasons, whether for cultural purposes or whatever else they wish (even for health reasons, as this would also ban medical face masks). You simply oppress them in a different way.

  • Ron||

    the simplist law would be no face covering of anyone not just women except outdoors when the temperature drops below 32º or some number they want to choose. your religion does not impede my right to know your not a potential cook in the bank or etc.

  • Calidissident||

    Wouldn't that be an issue for the bank to decide, not the government? In general, I fail to see how you being nervous or suspicious supersedes their right to dress how they want. The assumption should be liberty, not the other way around.

  • Ron||

    Note I pointed out specifically in the bank or etc, meaning when the government allows certain religious groups to wear their religion on their arm, so to speak, while not allowing other religions the same latitude then you end up with government sponsorship of that religion over others while conducting government business which is wrong.

  • Calidissident||

    What does the bank have to do with government sponsorship? Banks are owned or ran by the government.

  • Zeb||

    Even simpler would be no law at all. Unless there is a real, serious problem that can't be solved otherwise, a law against something that is not inherently damaging to anyone is a terrible idea.

  • WakaWaka||

    Nonsense. Your fears do not trump someone's religious observance. The only time when they should be required to remove their covering is if the government has a compelling interest in them doing so. And, hey, were back to the American version of religious liberty, which is shown to be superior to the European conception.

  • John||

    Sure. But a business owner should have a right to refuse service to them as well. The problem isn't that people can wear burkas. The problem is that the public accommodation laws force people to associate with women who wear burkas.

  • WakaWaka||

    This is beyond offensive and shows why American religious liberty is superior to the European variety which is not liberty, but mild toleration. What's even worse is that Gary Johnson proposed the same thing during the campaign before he backtracked. Those that oppose religious liberty are illiberal

  • μ Aggressor||

    I'd say requiring an uncovered face to work in a public sector job is totally reasonable, to "use" a public service though is bull

  • ||

    This is in a province that still shits its pants every once in a while when an American company with an English sign comes into play.

    They still have language police going around giving fines for the crime of having too much English that runs afoul the language law. And it graduated to ethnic words like 'pasta' and 'trattoria'.

    Yeh. This law is gonna work out just so well.

  • ||

    I should add it's forbidden to speak English on some university campuses and French-Canadians aren't allowed to send their kids to English school if they so desire because of Bill 101.

    Freedom in Canada is a suggestion.

  • BYODB||


    Freedom in Canada is a suggestion.

    That seems about right from the few times I've been that far North. Still, a pleasant people overall. Perhaps because it seems politeness is mandated by law, but it's hard to say what's the cause and what's the effect there.

  • ||

    Quebec is not into multiculturalism like the ROC is.

  • lap83||

    Luckily, we value freedom of speech too much to do that here. Which is why I'm proposing that we make it illegal for anyone to discriminate against someone wearing a burqa. Is anyone with me or are you all a bunch of free speech haters?

  • mondo_cane||

    I'm with you, totally!

  • John||

    These bans are a necessary consequence of public accommodation laws in many ways. I seriously doubt a business could refuse service to anyone wearing a burka without running afoul with the Quebec laws against discrimination. The people of Quebec don't like burkas and don't want to be around women wearing them. But the law prevents them from not associating with women wearing these things. So they express their objection via an outright ban because they cannot express it with their actions and choices. Get rid of the public accommodation laws and businesses just refuse to serve anyone in a burka and the problem solves itself.

  • ||

    Quebec is interesting. Montreal is, obviously, cosmopolitan and for the most part Montrealers (excepting some parts of the city out east) don't give a shit about the language divide. Laws like this one are designed to appeal to the hinterlands outside Montreal which is the other half of the province and carry a lot of votes. That's why Coderre chimed in. Montreal's situation is different than other places.

  • John||

    Can the country out vote Montreal that much?

  • ||

    Canada has no say in any of this.

    In Quebec, you have to appeal to the 'pure laine' Quebecois out in the rural areas not unlike you see in the American south to get into power.

  • John||

    I mean the rural areas of Quebec out voting Montreal.

  • ||

    I should be more ready with a better answer but in theory it could:

    http://bit.ly/2hOiuCw

  • Kivlor||

    "North America's First 'Burka Ban' Passed by Quebec Liberals in Name of 'Religious Neutrality'"

    Anti-mask laws are a time-honored tradition in many states here in the US.

  • creech||

    "Religious neutrality?" So Catholic nuns cannot wear their traditional habits in Quebec? How about Catholic priests with a collar? Can one wear a large gold cross or Star of David as a necklace? WTF?

  • Brandybuck||

    1977 liberal: "Do your own thing, man!"
    1987 liberal: "Do your own thing, main!"
    1997 liberal: "Do your own thing, man!"
    2007 liberal: "Do your own thing, man!"
    2017 liberal: "OMG! We can't have differences!

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    It was sliding by '97.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    What happened in '87 that they wanted to empower mains?

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    I welcome any opportunity to make fun of French Canadians.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    They speak gutter french and are all drunken layabouts who are constantly vacationing.

  • ||

    It really doesn't make sense the amount of traffic on the roads....at 11am!

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    So I guess it's again time to ask, which is more scary, 12 dudes with bad social skills who drive forklifts gathering with Tiki torches, or...

  • Entropy Drehmaschine Void||

    Can we just fucking nuke Mecca from orbit?

    Mebbe then they will just die off in a generation or two ...

  • SQRLSY One||

    Nice little store ya got there… And I see that yer daughter and yer wife have NOT been wearing their burkas lately… Be a SHAME if something HAPPENED to yer store late at night!
    Libertarian philosophy is GREAT, and I LOVE it, please do NOT get me wrong! It would be nice if everyone lived by it… Sad to say, we have to live in the real world, of the here and now. With ALL of its gaping voids and chasms!

    In goat-fucker-land, the men and women will be equal, when MEN have to obscure all but a narrow slit to see through, lest the WOMEN see a few square inches of their skin! When women rape men over there, because they just can NOT control themselves, when they see some male skin... And the MEN start to get blamed for the female-imposed rapes, for being tempter-dudes (male version of temptress; I cannot conjugate that, I must be some kind of subtle sexist), for dressing too sexily... THEN we will start to approach equality in goat-fucker-land! ... Cum to think of it, I am looking forward to TRUE equality in the USA as well! When my opportunities to be a well-paid and well-laid naked-dwonky-dancer are equal to the plentiful opportunities afforded to naked-titty-dancers, THEN we will be equal! I am NOT holding my breath...

    Meanwhile, let's not let the USA turn into goat-fucker-land! Laws against obscuring our faces in public (other than on ski slopes or at Halloween) would be a good and smart place to start…

  • mondo_cane||

    Well, I guess that means trouble for Roman Catholic Nuns. Or are they exempt? If so, why?

  • SQRLSY One||

    Roman Catholic Nuns do NOT hide their faces, from the security TV cameras or standers-by. Roman Catholic Nuns do not hide explosive suicide vests under their habits / burkas. Those are the differences, and they are significant, to say the least.

  • Headache||

    Burqas for bank robbers! But, remove the hat and sunglasses.

  • Intelligent Mr Toad||

    Some Canadians want to ban the burka. Others want to allow it. I offer a compromise: Canada should allow the burka, but only for men. Men who want to wear a burka should be allowed to do so; women who wear a burka should be severely punished.

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