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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Harperocrisy at its best

Muslim Women line up to vote in Somalia (top) and India

This is my recent letter to the local editor. Self explanatory, even if you don't know the current political scene in Canada.

The politics of fear and prejudice are alive and well in Canada. Prime Minister Harper has introduced a bill to force veiled Muslim women to show their faces at the polls. On the surface this seems like a reasoned response to a current issue of voting fairness, and the struggle to find the right balance in accommodating those of diverse beliefs. Take a look beneath the surface.

When is the last time you were required to show photo identification to vote in a federal election? That’s right…never. When was the last time Canadians who send in an absentee ballot had to prove their identity in some visual way? Correct again…it’s not required. No one is required to match their face to identification documents.

So what then is the furor about removing the veil to vote? Is it possible that it is a politically-stirred pot that plays on some Canadians’ fears of those of the Muslim faith, or who are uncomfortable when they see a veiled woman?

A simple explanation is that for the good of democracy and the integrity of the voting system in Canada, every citizen must prove that they have a face. In fact, in the spirit of acceptance and generosity, the Prime Minister’s bill allows for Muslim women to ask to be taken behind a screen by another woman, to lift the veil. This will prove, of course, that she has a face.

I’m tempted to begin a movement in time for the next (possibly soon) election. I’d love to see thousands of fellow Canadians, men and women, show up at the polls with masks, veils, bandannas and other stylish face coverings. We could each demand the right to be seen in private to prove we have faces.

Pandering to prejudice is a cheap way to win votes. I believe most Canadians cannot be bought so easily.

I had heard about this...I was under the impression that it was to match face to photo id. That's not the case?
Well, well.
On the OTHER hand, given my non-religious stance, it boggles my mind that we need to cater to anyone's religious dicatates when it comes to government policy.
Government and religion shouldn't be co-joined in any manner.
But that's just me.
Tai - thanks for dropping by. I also believe in separation of religion and state and also think there are some accommodations not acceptable (forced marriage and female genital mutilation for example). However, we can accept and accommodate almost every belief and behaviour and shouldn't politicize this issue in a cheap way.
I do not get this one bit. So, they see the face, then what? The real idea is to intimidate them so they will not vote. What a bunch of garbage.
I'm not sure what to think of this. It does sound rather weird doesn't it? When I lived in Saudi Arabia, we (my friend and I) were taken behind a screen to be 'wanded' by female security. That said, since I value your opinion (and the question is not intended to annoy you so take it face value pls), what do you think of burqas? My mother who still lives in the Netherlands and other Dutch women for that matter, are strongly opposed to Muslim women wearing burqas in Holland. For one, you never know if there is not a woman underneath, but also, most importantly, there's a Dutch saying 'a country's ways, a country's honor', meaning, when in rome basically. My mom said that what the hell, it took us ages to not have to cover (because women in Europe a few ages back were expected to be covered too) and now, with hardline Islam creeping up its ugly head (trust me, it's ugly) in Holland and other European countries, the tolerance that Holland prided itself on is being turned on its head by people who are not tolerant of its guest country's ways. Covering the face to me is these days not as much a religious as more politically religious motivated. Covering the hair is what is really the Koran requires. And from personal experience and as a woman Gary, when I lived in saudi, it unnerved me not to be able to see the women's faces. I didn't know their expressions, felt I could not communicate with the person behind the veil. for those who showed only their eyes (as opposed to those who doubled up their veil and had another cover for their eyes on top of that), I learned to read their expressions. Still, I do believe that it is not appropriate in Western culture where identity matters and women's rights etc as well, that women should cover their faces. I am opposed to it. Covering their hair to me is ridiculous as well however, fine, cover their hair they must. BUT.. as a woman, I do not believe in women having to be covered (and I understand you're not making any commentary on that, it's a whole other issue no worries).In Islam, it's always the women's fault. The woman attracts attention due to her beauty and the poor men can't just help themselves. She gets raped, it's her fault. Anyhoo, pardon the rant but I've seen it in person, lived in the culture. Let me tell you this; Saudi Arabia (I know it's not all Arab countries) does not let you openly practice any other faith, it goes both ways. Yes peopel can practice their religion, but (always that 'but'), I do not believe in accomodating the kind of backwardness that subjugates women. Not here in the West. Covering their hair is one thing, veiling their faces should not be allowed. Remember, changes are brought on by one little change at a time. And let me tell you, it IS psychological. Been there done that. I have covered my hair in saudi and accomodated the strict culture to the point of not even bothering to drink sadeeqi in private (moonshine), but any covering for women is out of discrimination and subjugation..make no mistake. As for your original point, I'm afraid I am not as accomodating. Respect for religion is one thing, but do respect the culture you're in. In the Gregorian calendar it's 1428, not 2007.
(stepping off my soapbox rant)
Ingrid - don't hold back sister! :)

I will separate my points here, because as you noted, I wasn't talking about wearing veils or not, but this particular voting thing.

Voting thing: the government has created this fuss in order to bring attention to Muslim women and to pander to fear and prejudice that they perceive will get them votes. Muslims haven't even raised this issue. I think this is wrong, particularly since visual identification is not required to vote (80,000 mail-in votes last election for eg).

Covering up thing: If someone wants to cover their face for any reason, it doesn't harm me or others and I don't believe the state has to get involved (same with diet, language, etc.)

The line to struggle with is when cultural behaviours harm others or are against basic human rights (which are enshrined in Canada). So forced marriage, sharia law and violence in the home are out, as examples.

Cultural sharing and understanding starts with people understanding each other as individuals, not generalizing about each others groups. If I want to know why a woman is veiled, I should ask her. When I have done that (and I have), the answer has always been because it's a personal choice for a range of reasons. It could be otherwise for some.

In Canada, there is no longer a 'Rome' when in to do as in. We are so multi-cultural that the idea that we are ex-Brits and ex-French people is quaint at best (especially in big cities). We're bigger, deeper and better now, although I'm not sure the original native people would agree with me on that :)

Bumper sticker I saw in Montana:

It's the Basque Seperatists in berets that I truly fear. Radical Muslims generally speak loudly and carry a small stick.

What is Canada's policy toward Basque Seperatists in berets.
Hey Bohemian! I think our policy towards Basque Separtists in berets is that they must remove the beret and expose their hairlines. They also must demonstrate that they know how to cook traditional Basque Paella (with fresh shrimps with tails on).

Then we accept them fully to vote.
As long as they don't ask the rest of us to wipe off our makeup!
Gary, hope you don't think badly of me, I kinda sound like an ogre don't I? hehe. Well, women's issues I tell you. My rational, laissez faire 'self' says live and let live. The other side says, what the hell? I had to endure women having to cover up in Saudi, and I having to abide by their culture, I don't particularly feel like accomodating politics of oppression. (it's politics I tell you) Of course, as you state, it's definitely a political bs action to not allow women to be covered for voting..
I am not the authority on this obviously. I have been 'tainted' by my saudi experience...
oops, gotta go, have visitors,

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