Opinion: the CAQ's Religious Symbol Ban In Quebec Is Racist And Anti-Semitic
It's time to act.
The Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) has not even officially assumed control of the government and already it has forced a national controversy.
The party defied even the most optimistic projections to win what will be a majority government in the Quebec National Aseembly. Its leader, François Legault, will be the next premier.
TL;DR The CAQ's proposed ban on religious garments for public servants targets Muslim women and Jewish people, especially Jewish men. The ban is also rooted in a tradition of hypocrisy.
The centre-right party promises to usher in serious reform after the almost fifteen year dominance of the Parti Libéral du Québec (PLQ).
Among the CAQ's plans is an agenda of cultural preservation, including strict secularism.
This week, Legault announced he would invoke the notwithstanding clauses to enforce a ban on religious garments for public servants.
The move has sparked national outcry. Even prime minister Justin Trudeau.
Indeed, the ban would specifically target Muslim women and Jewish people, particularly men, the two groups for whom religious garments can be a fundamental demonstration of faith.
The ban will have a marginal effect on Christians, or others who wear accessories that include Christian symbols, who are largely not required to make material presentations of their religion.
The specific targets of the ban are enough to label it racist, islamophobic, anti-Semitic, and sexist. Yesterday, The Beaverton published an article titled, "CAQ insists religious symbol ban can’t be Islamophobic if it’s also anti-Semitic." The article is only barely parody.
But the discriminatory aspect of the ban is also deeply rooted in hypocrisy.
Were the government of Quebec really interested in strict secularim, it would removed the cross that hangs in the National Assembly.
Were secularism really important, the government of Quebec would dismantle the cross that tops Mount Royal in Montreal.
Were officials truly interested in shielding students from religious influence, they would remove the Christian symbology that still decorates public schools.
The truth is that Quebec does not have a long tradition of secularism. The Catholic Church controlled public schooling well into the twentieth century. Only the Quiet Revolution finally put an end to the Catholic grip on the province.
But Catholic infrastructure and design still persist in public schools. In school buildings constructed before the 1960s, crosses above main entrances continue to greet students each morning.
Quebec residents, voters, and politicians should ask themselves why, in their minds, demonstrations of Christianity on public land are acceptable while people of other faiths must only practice in privacy.
Proponents of the ban will cite cultural heritage as the reason for the preservation of Christian symbology.
But that presents a paradox.
To admit that such Chrisitan symbols are artifacts of Quebec heritage is to also admit that Quebec is at its core not a secular state.
Those who support the existence of the cross atop Mount Royal also argue that it has lost its religious connotations and remains only as a historical monument to the original wooden cross erected on that spot by the first French settlers.
But the history of French colonial settlement and the forced Catholic conversion of indigenous populations are intertwined.
The historical and religious functions of the Mount Royal cross are inextricable. It is, after all, still a cross.
The ban on religious garments should not be viewed in a vacuum. In fact, it is the latest iteration of a tradition of hypocrisy, racism, and anti-Semitism in Quebec.
The ban is nothing more than another attempt to uphold the supremacy of (white) Christianity and a direct attack on the rights of Muslim women and Jewish men.
The law will effectively demote individuals in populations to second-class citizens. While the province celebrates its heritage through Christian symbols, it shuns religious minorities.