Thursday, 14 May 2009

The Right to Wear Religious Symbols to Work: Does That Include the Hidjab as Well as the Yamulke?

This week there's much talk about whether women in government service in Quebec should be allowed to wear the hidjab while on the job. The Féderation des femmes du Québec came out on the weekend for the right of Muslim women to do so, prompting a debate in the provincial legislature. Parti Québécois leader Pauline Marois fell all over herself saying that the Muslim head scarf is a sign of the domination of women, and should be allowed. Christine St-Pierre waffled a bit, but said that what was important was that separation of church and state be maintained, not whether people were allowed to wear religious symbols.

That seems to me to be the right stance. If you outlaw the hidjab, you should also outlaw the yarmulke, the kurpin and the cross if you’re going to be consistent. That’s what France has done, in fact, but here we have Supreme Court decisions stating that principles of religious freed require that people be allowed to do wear symbols of their faith.

Besides, don’t forget that the head scarf doesn’t interfere with the free expression of a large majority of women who wear one. If you doubt that, take a look at the number of bright young women in medical school and elsewhere who wear hidjab or the pains hidjab-wearing women go to in order to be attractive. As I’ve said before here, hidjab-wearing contains a large element of fashion.

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