Prejudice and the PQ

Emma Teitel on the Parti Quebecois, religious symbols—and when ‘accommodation’ is no such thing


Politicians are always civil when discussing their right to revoke your civil rights, which is probably why Pauline Marois announced this week, amid totally justified outsider criticism (otherwise known as “Quebec bashing”), that she’d like to have a “respectful” debate about her party’s proposed values charter. Some people have described the charter as an insidious form of racism. I don’t think there’s anything insidious about it at all.

To the contrary, I think its prejudice is as plain as the nose on Marois’s face, or the gargantuan crucifix hanging in the Quebec national assembly (totally kosher, by the way, according to PQ standards). In fact, everything wrong with the charter is implicit in this symbol, which happens to be featured in the notorious PQ chart pictured with this blog post. The chart differentiates between religious symbols that are apparently too ostentatious to be worn by public servants in Quebec—and religious symbols that are subtle enough to make the cut. Among the secular, friendly, non-ostentatious symbols is a pair of minuscule crescent moon earrings (presumably Muslim); a Star of David ring (presumably Jewish); and a modestly sized crucifix (presumably Christian). In the bottom half of the chart, you’ll see the forbidden artifacts: a hijab, a niqab, a turban, a kippah, and low and behold, a gigantic crucifix.

So what’s wrong with this picture—beyond the fact that a government would like to tell some of its people what they can and cannot wear? The easiest strategy to apply in answering this question is one from the Sesame Street game: “One of these things is not like the other.” Scrutinize the items listed in the chart and you will discover that the proposed charter is rife with false equivalencies. For starters, the only non-Christian symbols the PQ has deemed civically appropriate are almost non-existent. Unlike the modestly sized crucifix sometimes worn by Pauline Marois herself, the Star of David ring and lunar Muslim earrings are like Loch Ness monsters of religious iconography: essential myth. The closest thing Judaism has to a ring of religious significance, for one, is the horah, a highly ostentatious circle dance (Sacre bleu—they’re lifting the chairs!) As for the tiny crescent earrings … seen those around lately? I didn’t think so.

It seems the PQ has had to invent unassuming religious symbols for us non-Christians because we don’t have any—not by PQ standards, anyway. Even the secular among us tend to be ostentatious: I know more than one Jewish man who wears a Star of David twice the size of the enormous crucifix pictured in the PQ’s forbidden section—and more than one who, while wearing it, doesn’t believe in God. In fact, 52 per cent of Jews don’t submit to a higher power, which doesn’t stop them from wearing funny hats in public, and leaving work early on Friday afternoons. Why? Because one man’s ostentatious is another man’s everyday. It’s called variety. Some say it’s the spice of life.

But Pauline Marois doesn’t like things spicy. This religious accommodation thing, she maintains, has gone too far. The sights, the smells, the sounds … it’s all too much to bear. I’d be more than happy to sympathize with Marois if we were talking about a policy seeking to restrict makeshift mosques in public school cafeterias, or the right of fully veiled women to testify in court. These are religious accommodations worth debating. But tolerating a public servant in a veil? Standing next to a guy in a kippah? That’s not remotely accommodation, religious or otherwise.

That’s just life.

The only sign of excessive permissiveness I see taking place in Quebec at the moment is that of the PQ, falling over itself in its haste to accommodate its own xenophobia.


Prejudice and the PQ

  1. Oh good, I thought it was just me that had never seen Muslim earrings or Jewish rings.

    I have, however, seen a ton of crucifixes….from earrings to finger rings to belts….. to neckwear big enough to kill somebody if swung.

    Huge crucifixes in hospitals and schools, along with gory pictures of thorns encircling heads and hearts and a lot of blood…..and if we’re eliminating images those would be the first ones I’d remove. Bad enough it’s a symbol of state execution, like a noose or electric chair or guillotine….but organs and blood? I’ve often wondered what that does to students psyches as they grow up.

    First time you see your god, and he’s all nailed and bloody ….hmmm.

    So I’m not worried about veils and kippas and turbans ….they are tame in comparison….and at least they keep it to themselves.

    • I’m reminded of what Bill Hicks, the comedian, said of wearing crosses:

      “A lot of Christians wear crosses around their necks. You think when Jesus comes back he ever wants to see a *&%$ing cross? It’s like going up to Jackie Onassis wearing a rifle pendant.”

      • LOL very true!

    • They keep it to themselves…for now. My wife told me how traveling through north Africa a man spat in her face because she didn’t have her hair covered. She was a teenage girl at the time. I just read how in Britain an Islamic school is making female teachers sign a contract saying they will wear head covering.

      Once of the lamest things about atheists and haters of religion is the ease with which they criticize Christianity and Christian symbology but I guess their hatred of religion or their atheism is not universal. Or they’re just chicken crap.

      You are naive if you think veils and turbans are tame in comparison. It just shows how limited your knowledge is, for all the other aspects of what goes along with those symbols.

      • ALL religions are anti-women. I simply point that out. Christians have a nasty habit of believing it’s only ‘the other guy’ who does it.

        Atheists have no more interest in Jehovah or Allah than they do in Zeus or Odin. However no Jew, Muslim or Hindu has ever rung my doorbell to ‘save me’. Nor do we appear to have any on this site or you’d quickly discover that atheists are anti-religion….period.

        There are well over a billion atheists in the world. We are well aware of what all religions are like…..it’s why we’re atheists.

        • Greek paganism was anti-woman?

          • Wasn’t it? At least somewhat?

            It seems to me that most of the demi-Gods in ancient Greece were the result of male gods descending from Olympus and raping mortal women. Sometimes they did so while inhabiting the form of an ANIMAL.

            At the very least, it’s not “pro-woman”.

        • Well WTF, can you imagine it?

          The bigoted screaming moron with 8,268 stupid postings on record, who trolls every story on Macleans with “we” this, “we” that, “we” everything else; finally stands up like a man and tells us who “we” is.

          “Hi my name is Emily (giggle) and I’m an Atheist” — small round of applause from a small sad group of fellow atheists.

          Thanks Emily, for the moment, I think I’ve got it. But we shall see!

          I’ll certainly be asking you were you came up with a head count of “well over a billion.”

    • I believe you when you tell us you’re not worried about it but just out of interest Emily, when you put a turban on, how exactly do you go about keeping it to yourself?

      I can understand how you might keep a yarmulke (kippa) to yourself, you could just put it on your bald spot and no one would notice. But you must be lying about this turban business. No way!

      So out with it Emily, tell us your secret or we’ll just mark you down as another Liberal Party liar.

      • John, whazzup? Emily’s prodigious ventings aren’t going to change the way the sun rises and sets. Go to 4:24 of http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OEFB_oo1Pws and then leave her to enjoy her own little pulpit.

        • 4:24 it is Thanks bud, laugh for the day.
          A guy last week posted up the his view that the thing is a bot.
          That gave me a laugh, you wouldn’t think the Liberals would have to take that extra step.

  2. I think all the women of Quebec should pick one day next week and make it headscarf day. They should all show up for work at their government jobs wearing what are obviously secular headscarfs, preferably adorned with fleur-de-lise and secular slogans including: “If you can’t eat it, it’s not good for you”, “Don’t eat yellow snow”, and “There really is a dog.” Men should wear plastic pasta strainers on their heads with the handles sticking up, equally adorned in secular messaging. Fashion, one might reasonably presume, is secular which presumably is OK under the proposed “Quebec Charter of Morale Fiber and All Other Good Things to Aid Digestion.” My Dad always said truth is stranger than fiction. The PQ prove him right again.

    • Pastafarians wearing collanders have even gotten the right in some places to have photo ID done with them.

    • Something similar happened with the proposed ban on turbans on youth soccer pitches. An entire team of (mostly) non-Sikh kids chose to wear turbans to all of their games to protest the injustice of it all.

  3. I too find the jewelry thing absurd but what really I think wins the prize is the turban ban. Do these PQers seriously think that once a Sikh removes his turban nobody will be able to recognize him as Sikh from his to-the-waist-long hair, his heavy beard, and his face?

  4. Good article. I hope to see our legislators (everywhere) spend a week wearing the PQ-banned attire in parliament and all legislatures, to protest human rights violations in Quebec.

  5. A tempest in a teapot – nothing here that has not been stated by many people when in their own kitchen.

    Like it? Stay in kebec.

    Do not like it? Move.

    Really, it is that simple.

  6. Honestly, I do agree with the implementation of the Charter. That being said; the charter’s content needs to be DISCUSSED!

    For the past years, all we’ve seen in our leaders was an interest in economics (which is obviously crucial). To me, a government also needs to care about the social aspect (just think of Mr. Charest denying the student crisis when at its peak; denying it means it is not necessary to take any further action).

    I understand this is a sensitive topic for many people, which is normal. The values in tension demonstrate it is ethical. So it is necessary in my mind that Madame Marois and her team surround themselves with ethicians. In ethics, it is necessary to go towards a compromise, which respects all values. Après tout, redonnons à Cesar ce qui lui appartient! At the moment, scientific-recognized/validated tools exist for ethical deliberation.

    As A Quebecois, let me say this: I’m very proud of our government.

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