I do not support the niqab.
I said it - I do not, nor ever will, support women of any creed wearing a niqab, which to specify is the face veil that forms part of a hijab, though you can wear the latter without the former. I feel the same way about burqas and other clothing or symbolism that I feel is part of a systematic repression of women (or any group) in a large swath of the world. It is one of the starkest examples of dictatorial repression by religious and misogynist extremists that still exists today, and it should be noted as such by all reasonable people.
Given my position, you would think that I would be backing Stephen Harper when he rhetorically asks, "why would Canadians, contrary to our own values, embrace a practice at
that time that is not transparent, that is not open and, frankly, is
rooted in a culture that is anti-women?" when discussing his government's proposal to ban niqabs during citizenship ceremonies, as well as Chris Alexander's assertions over the hijab's similar cultural connotations. Hell, you'd think the péquiste's Values Charter would have been my best friend.
But, I don't. For a very simple reason, a reason that you would think the quasi-libertarian Conservative Party would embrace: freedom.
Now, that line is super cheesy, so let me explain. While I don't support the symbolism of the niqab or burqa (even the hijab gives me some pause), I don't see it as my place to go out and criticize them for doing so. If comments are invited, I'll say what I think, but I try to avoid going out of my way to criticize someone for a personal choice, especially in clothing or even religious symbolism.
Now, that's just talking about me. I think most people will agree with that as well, usually no matter what side of the aisle they're on. Live and let live, all that.
The difference, however, seems to arise when we talk about public appearance, whether its civil servants, or appearing in court, or at a citizenship ceremony. Some people start freaking out at the idea of seeing a woman with their face covered or a man with a turban on in any sort of public capacity. It is especially acute when the news is saturated with reports about groups like the Taliban, Boko Haram, or IS. When politicians get a hold of it, the topic becomes symbiotic, with the give and take of public opinion inviting all sorts of unsavory people and ideas to the table. Thus we end up with the current values war over whether or not we should ban articles of clothing.
Here is a very simple liberal philosophy that I try to organize my beliefs by: until your fist meets my face, you have the right to do anything you want - but the second it makes contact, we have a problem, and your rights have violated mine.
Taking that as a standard, I ask you: what right of mine or yours is being infringed upon when a woman wears a hijab, niqab, or burqa?
The answer is none. Her wearing that clothing doesn't affect you, me, or anyone in any significant way.
Now, I ask you the reverse: what rights of that woman are being violated when the government decides to ban clothing or religious symbolism, just because it can? What is wrong with the picture when the government decides it has the right to punch you in the face, with the sole excuse being "you're being oppressed"?
The answer is almost every right. Freedom of expression is a fundamental part for most of our social contract, and the government violating here means they can violate it anywhere.
That is why when Trudeau says, "it is a cruel joke to claim you are liberating people from oppression by dictating in law what they can and cannot wear," he is absolutely correct. It is practically newspeak to say you're protecting people from oppression by oppressing them.
There is of course a lot of nuance within this argument that we can get into, but the fact remains that in this situation, the government is the one with all the power. Conservatives are supposed to embrace the concept of stopping government overreach, yet here we are.
This whole story becomes even more insane when you consider who the friends of this Conservative government are. While Harper rails against the oppression of women, he has secured an arms deal with a nation that is just about the most oppressive on the planet, especially in regards to women's rights. Saudi Arabia mandates the burqa. Where is the Conservative outcry there? It doesn't exist, of course.
Do you want women to be empowered, Conservatives? Promote education. The best way to get women away from the oppression of misogynists is to ensure they have accessible education. Its a very easy, very direct, and very effective way to ensure women's rights are strengthened, not just in Canada but everywhere.
The Conservatives already know this - that is why they toot their horns about supporting education programs abroad for women, and good on them for doing so. Of course, this just means that all this recent talk is just a cynical political ploy, aimed at boosting Harper's support in the polls even more. Do any of them even believe the crap they've been spewing? Is this just an appeal to the lowest common denominator from a party scared of losing power?
You're right, Justin. This government truly is just a cruel joke.