Writing on the US website The Daily Beast, Ottawa patent consultant and occasional Globe and Mail columnist Sheema Khan condemns Quebec Premier Jean Charest’s bill to ban the traditional Muslim niqab. In a stand reminiscent of Maurice Duplessis’s Grande Noirceur, Charest would ban religious veils on grounds they “subjugate” women. Khan, who holds a PhD in physics from Harvard, nails the double-standard at play:
The most vehement reactions against face-veiling have come from women, who have projected their own fears, assumptions, and judgments onto attire worn by a minority within a minority. They think of the bad old days when the Catholic Church controlled women’s lives in Quebec. They pity the present-day lives of women in Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia. “We will save you from your own foolishness and your own delusional beliefs, for your own good,” they seem to say. “We will bring you to liberation by force. You Muslim women really aren’t independent until you embrace our lifestyle choices.”
In the meantime, they would deny us access to language lessons, hospitals, courts, schools, and public transportation—all services that help immigrants assimilate. But at the same time, they condemn the Saudi religious police for hounding women who don’t dress according to that government’s dictates.