What do conservative Muslims and the Hells Angels have in common?

A short history of government attempts to legislate clothing


What do conservative Muslims and the Hells Angels have in common?One is a brash and well-entrenched criminal organization with a notorious penchant for dealing in violence, drugs, and women. The other is a strict, dogmatic community with an almost singular focus on rules and traditions. What brings them together, though, is the unusual attention provincial governments in Canada have come to pay to the appearance of each group’s members.

Before Quebec announced the details of Bill 94, which allows provincial government workers to turn away niqab-clad Muslim women who refuse to remove their head-to-toe veils, members of the Hells Angels (and, more broadly, members of other criminal organizations) were the last ones to be targeted by a government-imposed clothing ban. However, if the experiment in banning bikers from showing their affiliations in bars in Saskatchewan and Manitoba is any indication, Quebec could have a hard time justifying banning Muslim garb from government offices.

Both Manitoba and Saskatchewan have laws in place that forbid patrons from displaying “gang colours” in licensed establishments. In Manitoba, settling down at a local watering hole with, say, a Hells Angels patch on the back of your jacket could set you back as much as $5,000 and net you three months in jail. The penalties are even steeper in Saskatchewan, where the law provides for penalties of up to a year in jail and a $10,000 fine. But even though keeping biker gangs out of bars may be a laudable goal, it’s not clear whether the rules are even enforceable.

A ruling late last year in a Saskatchewan Provincial Court suggests they’re not. In a case fought in Saskatoon last December, Jesse Leigh Bitz didn’t deny being a member of the Hells Angels, nor did he deny showing up to a local bar wearing the gang’s colours. Rather, Bitz’s lawyer, Mark Brayford, argued the law’s scope was too broad and could hamper political speech. “Gang colours,” Brayford says, “was so loosely defined that it could affect university students with a Che Guevara t-shirt on.” The judge agreed, ruling “the benefits of the legislation, in its present form, are minimal while the deleterious effects on freedom of expressions are so far reaching as to outweigh the benefits.”

Saskatchewan declined to appeal the case and has since gone back to the drawing board. Rather than forget about the project altogether, according to a spokesperson for the Ministry of Corrections, Public Safety and Policing, the provincial government will take another run at banning biker clothes from bars before the end of the month. Meanwhile, the ban in Manitoba remains in effect, though both Brayford and a police officer who testified in the Bitz case say the law is so flawed police no longer even try to enforce it.

At the other end of the spectrum lies the Gwen Jacobs case. On a hot summer day in 1991, Jacobs decided to walk around Guelph Ontario with her breasts exposed and was charged with indecent exposure as a result. By 1996, however, Jacobs had successfully fought the charges, arguing any law banning female toplessness while granting men the privilege unduly discriminated against women, and toplessness is no longer covered by the ban on public nudity.

In the context of Quebec’s ban on niqabs, the Jacobs case is perhaps the most ironic bit of jurisprudence. Having already handicapped the state’s powers in determining how little women can wear in public, Canada’s courts will no doubt soon be asked to weigh into whether it can impose caps on how much they’re allowed to.


What do conservative Muslims and the Hells Angels have in common?

  1. And this is why I like the courts. They make the right decisions based not on just the emotions of the day.

  2. This why I don't like the courts. They seem to have no room to consider logic, such as the difference betweem a Hells Angel jacket and a Che t-shirt. Have to say though I certainly support the decision allowing women to go topless.

    • Actuakll, I think the court pointed out that it was the legislature that didn't draw sufficient distinctions when writing the law, and until they did the law was a violation of freedom of expression.

    • What is funny is that many thought that there would be topless women all over the place – sadly, not the case!

  3. They consider the law.. remember the law can be applied by jackasses as well as noble people, and unless you want judges who feel they get to choose when the law gets upheld and when it doesn't, you can't have judges selectively interpreting the law.

  4. This is fascism Canadian style…who cares if the Hells Angels wear colours or not. Personally i've been in a few places where the HA have been drinking and i've never seen any problems. Fact of the matter is their presence had a unspoken policing effect. The idea of saying the entire Hells Angel membership is a criminal organization… is criminal and fascist. In Canada it should be "Innocent until proven guilty" ! Some within the ranks of the HA have been proven guilty in the courts, so what! There are criminals in all walks of life. Some priests are pedofiles, but not all priests are, so should we now defrock all priests and give them a new dress code. how ignorant. What we need is better police work and a court system that is lawful.

    • "The idea of saying the entire Hells Angel membership is a criminal organization… is criminal and fascist"

      Wow. I'd love to live in your world instead of this real one I seem to be stuck in. You are also able to equate the HA with the priesthood. Nicely done.

      You're not a lawyer by chance are you? Or a Judge?

    • You don't get that patch on your back without a long history of criminal activities devoted to the organization. I don't care that you've never observed it personally.

    • thank god, and trudeau, there is a bill of right in this country

      wich is still a democraty,
      where women still can wear whatever they want,
      a mini-skirt or a niqab…

    • "The idea of saying the entire Hells Angel membership is a criminal organization… is criminal and fascist"

      Anyone else stop reading here?

  5. I dunno if I would ban the Hell's Angels from wearing their insignia. I think it is beneficial to have likely criminals walk around with easily identifiable jackets saying "likely criminal" on them. If they do commit crimes, it is easier to tell who is responsible.

    • Aw crap. I went for the thumbs up on that one and missed.. you're not signed in, so it doesn't matter much to you, but I've noticed ID has started to sort comments according to the thumbs rating.. so hopefully somebody else will come along and thumb it up at least once to make up for my thumbs down.

  6. Save money. buy used hells angels jacket and garb your girl friend or wife and save 60..00 a month on make-up and hairdresser.

    • Buying used hells angels clothing and then actually wearing it could be extremely hazardous to your health.

  7. If we let the muslims wear their garb, its easier to spot the enemy

  8. I Think the united states should take over canada. Or at least charge them for protection. The only reason another country hasnt taken them over is because its too close to the united states, and they know they would get there asses kicked.
    No wait, on second thought, nobody wants that place.

    All you people in favor of telling people what they can and cant wear, only think its ok till it happens to you, then you will cry like a baby and ask how it happened….remember this fight.

    • In Canada you can wear as little or as much as you want….just don't cover your face. Only those who do not want to be identified i.e. terrorists, bank robbers etc. need to cover their faces especially in public places. How would you feel if someone covering their face walked into your bank? They could just be pretending to be a Muslim woman.
      The Koran does not require women to cover their faces…these women choose to do so.

      • You are absolutely correct; well said …… it's an issue of concealing ones identity.

        • It should be illegal to conceal your identity? Shit, is your last name "S?" Turn yourself in.

    • Wow. Americans don't have a leg to stand on when it comes to women's rights…

  9. mike Tyou dont have a clue. your a typical sheep that believes everything the cops tell ya. or maybey you are a cop, and have been brainwashed like the rest. I belong to a 3 piece patch club and party with many clubs, but wont say which ones do to the fact its not my place to mention names, but ive never been in jail and bet you cant say the same . you cant make an intelligent comment on a subject, until youve been on both sides of the fence.

    • I have no doubt you are in a patch club and haven't committed crimes. But this club won't be the Hell's Angels. Or if it is, you aren't fully patched in it.

      I do indeed accept evidence as put forth by witnesses in the Ontario courts in the R. v. Bonner series of cases. There may be people hanging out at the clubhouse who don't have a criminal record, but the Angels don't give you a patch unless you partiicpate in criminal activities on behalf of the club.

    • You say you've never been in jail. You didn't say that you haven't committed serious criminal acts. Coincidence, I think not.

      • nope i never had, the worse ive gotten was a speeding ticket. ive even been cleared to work at a prison doing a remodel as i work construction, and there is your stereotyping, just like the cops. sheep for sure. its easy to judge when you only know one side, but that dosent make it fact. I would be happy to match my past to yours anyday. I pride myself with knowing ive not done anything to harm anyone, or anything to have to have me watch my back all the time. (except for cops with your attitude)

  10. Ironic that you might say that given how little you obviously know about the Hell's Angels

  11. The problem I have with anyone who covers their face is that they cannot be identified. If you want to be served then you need to show your face. Only theives, terrorists and some Muslim women cover their faces.. The last thing that Canada needs is to allow people to hide their identity as a religious right.

    • Don't forget celeberties avoiding the paparazzi. I agree that when you need to be identified it is no longer a reasonable accomodation to have your face covered for religious reasons, but it isn't necessary to be identified just because you are in public. I am not sure how far the proposed legislation goes but forcing people to uncover their face everywhere doesn't seem right. As for security, people that want to commit a crime are going to cover their face even if the niqab is banned, so whether or not the ban exists people that want to do bad things will find a way and forcing others not to wear a niqab isn't going to help.

  12. "One is a brash and well-entrenched criminal organization with a notorious penchant for dealing in violence, drugs, and women. The other is a strict, dogmatic community with an almost singular focus on rules and traditions."

    Those crazy HA guys – always focusing on rules and traditions.

  13. Guest Say:
    "One is a brash and well-entrenched criminal organization with a notorious penchant for dealing in violence, drugs, and women. The other is…" Who has killed more people in one day than Hells Angels has in its entire existence? Muslims Who controls almost the entire heroin trade? Muslims Who subjugates women to second class status, allows men 4 permanent wives & unlimited sex partners, permits marriage to girls as young as one and sex as soon as puberty hits, permits rape, and beating of wife? Muslims"

    As a Muslim Canadian, I found your comments an offensive and disturbing………. I think you should learn more about islam and the muslim community. Islam forbids killing, drugs, alcohol and permits a second, third or fourth wives only if the husband is capable in terms of responsibility in take caring them all with just and fairness.

  14. How can people think that telling a woman what she can't wear is any different from dictating what she can wear? Both take away her right to CHOOSE what to wear! Women are not so stupid and oppressed that they can't make intelligent decisions as to what they wear. Women do not need the State "protecting" them and banning what some see as oppressive. If this bill becomes law, I will be driving to Quebec, slapping on a veil and walking into a government building. I am going to protest the bigotry of this law, thinly disguised as helping women too stupid to know how to dress. You don't have the right to see my face; there isn't such a right in the Charter. But there happens to be a right to religious freedom. Whether YOU think this is apart of their religion is not relevant.

    • Wow just the kind of well thought out response I expect from misogynistic bigots.

    • This as nothing too do with misogyny, according to the polls Maclean's keep referencing, the public opinion is for the ban (80 percent for) and unless the country is filled with self-hating women, I don't think it's the issue here. The State represent the people after all.

      The problem is that for a lot of Canadians, the niqab as become a symbol of oppression and religious extremism – "you know what they do to women in some countries if they don't wear it (or the burqa)" – and I'm not saying it's right, but you have to understand what goes through the head of people. I don't know if wearing the swastika in public is legal or not, but it's also a question of symbolism. The swastika is a religious symbol in many cultures, yet we associate it with the Nazis and it has somehow become a symbol of hate and antisemitism. Symbols are powerful, and even though the niqab and the swastika are on different level, it's the same kind of thought process for some. Just sayin'

      • Um actually just because you are a woman, doesn't mean you aren't misogynistic. Ever heard of the "tyranny of the majority"? The majority used to think slavery was okay and that interment of the Japanese in Canada in WWII. Germans had no problem with the Holocaust; the majority supported it. Does that make it okay? Certainly not!

        So because YOU misinterpret the symbolism, it's okay to tell women how to dress? The swastika is STILL used for white supremacy all over the world. And that is a religious symbol. The niqab is a choice of dress. A choice to be modest. It isn't for you, or any Canadian, to tell a woman what she can or can't wear; both are demeaning.

        • Where did I say that you couldn't be a woman and be misogynistic? Maybe I used the wrong choice of words, but to me "self-hating women", in the context I used it, means misogynistic women. And as a matter of fact I expressively stated : "and I'm not saying it's right, but you have to understand what goes through the head of people", because that's an argument I keep hearing and not necessarily one I agree with, I'm still not sure where I stand on this particular issue, I replied to your post only because I think the issue doesn't revolve around misogyny.

          And I'm sorry, but I think that the niqab is also a religious symbol, or at least it has been adopted as a religious symbol by a lot of Muslims. Symbolism evolves after all. Out of curiosity, what do you think of the burqa?

          • I believe that telling a woman what she can't wear is just as bad as telling her what she must wear. I do not see the allure of the hijab/niqab/burqa, but that does not mean I get to tell another woman how she may dress.

            I/you/Canadians may think they are "oppressive" but non-wearers, especially non-Muslim non-wearers have NO place telling these women what these pieces of clothing mean. Canadians are afraid of extremists and I think to them, the burqa and niqab represent extremism, and thus they want to ban them. People fear what they do not understand. This law is just Quebec legislating fear.

            The point is, it is NOT the job of the State to simply legislate the will of the majority because the majority are often wrong. Canadians are treating these women as incapable of making decisions for themselves, and thus think they are "saving" these women. That is not the case.

            So while I disagree with this religious garb, I will never tell a woman/person what they are allowed to wear. It is demeaning.

          • Well, you obviously think this is a question of telling women what they can wear or not and I think this is about religion, so I guess there is not point debating this anymore.

            But I have to say that though I believe the niqab and hijab aren't necessarily a bad thing, the burqa is a whole different story. I have no way to back this up, but I don't see how the majority of the people who wear (which in Canada is probably a fairly low number) the burqa are wearing it by choice. And it's important to keep in mind that in some countries the burqa is not a choice and the consequences of not wearing it are extreme. So if the niqab doesn't really compare to the swastika, the burqa is getting close. After all, it's still being used (or forced to be used) by religious extremist who have absolutely no respect for women's right. If the niqab and the hijab are not symbols of oppression, I think that the burqa is definitively one. Not saying that she shouldn't wear it, but that this is the message that comes off.

          • Hum, I meant to say "about religion and the so-called "accommodement raisonnable".

          • what countries are you talking about? the only country wear women are forced to dress in muslim garb is Iran, and all they have to wear is a hijab.
            even in saudi arabia, it IS an option. but almost all the women chose to wear a full burqa.
            my best friend is an international student FROM saudi and it is entirely optional. the only "punishment", is social rejection.if
            in fact, reporters and women from north america and europe visit saudi all the time and CHOSE to wear it as a sign of respect. others CHOSE NOT TO. women wear it beacause they chose to. to muslim women it is a way of following the qu'ran which tells men and women to dress modestly, and for women to cover their hear.

            if someone is going to rob a bank, are they really going to walk around in a burqa? or will they pull a ski mask over the face when getting out of their vehicle 200meters away from the front door? either way the result will be the same, bank robbed, and police arriving ten minutes after the man leaves the bank.

            FuManchu…. F-U

  15. Women should have every right to go around topless, just as I have every right to leer at them if they do. It should be noted there are no Muslim countries in the world where women can go topless. Maybe Turkey, but even then, it would only be allowed on beaches. And guess what? You have to show your face to receive public services there. When in Rome…

    Girls walking around topless has little to do with this, anyway, and neither do bikers. It's all about identity. If you want to wear a niqab or a burka or whatever, fine, but when the government needs to talk to you about something, they want to know who you are, particularly if you are tapping into public money (which the lady in question was doing, actually).

    The kind of scams you can pull on public services are endless when you don't have to show your face. A single person could pretend they were an entire family; not a bad way to rip off the dole. I'm not saying that Muslims are any more predisposed to this than any other group of people, but you have to admit that having the legal right to hide your face at all times is ripe for abuse, and not just by Muslims. People get all up and arms about kids wearing hoodies for this very reason, I don't see how this is all that much different.

    Also where does religious freedom end, anyway? Arguing for unlimited religious freedom is silly. What if my religion requires people to be sacrificed a couple of times a year? (Aztecs did this, how well do you suppose that would hold up in a court today?) At some point you have to draw a line in the sand and I don't Quebec's line is unreasonable. As I said, when in Rome…


    • And I think your Caps Lock is on. Might also want to check your keyboard. The 'L' key seems to be sticking. I can fix that for you, if you like.

      • lmfao

  17. Muslim women are under domestic pressure to wear veils. A free-thinking woman does not like to look like a ghost. Ask them privately. You will get the right answer.

    • But should we craft laws to try and stop it? I know enough Christian girls to know that many of them are just as pressured and oppressed. Where are the proposed laws to save them?

  18. These Niqab women who try their luck at schools, gov't offices, polling stations, etc. are not innocent victims, they are enemies who are probing for weaknesses. They are just as much national enemies as a Nazi spy would have been in the 1940's. They are trying to see what they can get away with and what the responses will be from various sectors of Canadian society.

  19. I believe the issue is not about human rights, religious rights or what not. It is about security. A scarf should be fine as long as it does not cover the face. How we long to have those days where you can cover your face anywhere you go without consequences, but those days were gone (or where there even such a time?). Today we face so many security challenges, including mask robbers, mask rapists, mask kidnappers, mask terrorists, and etc without any ways of identification. For once, can people just be sensitive with the security needs of today and not cry human rights violations at anytime. Can we just use common sense for once?


  21. I don't see the comparison, the muslim face covering hides their identity.
    As for the hells, I would rather be in a bar and KNOW that their a hell's angel, so I can decide whether to leave or not for my own safety, in case there's an assassination attempt or some other form of violence.

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