Casting the First Stone

How IS a niqab like a gay wedding?

That is my take on the furor going on in Canada right now (more on that later) but first let’s talk scarves and stuff. The Q’uran does not require Muslim women to wear any specific type of garb; it only mandates modesty (and it mandates that of men AND women) and makes oblique reference to scarves and outer garments. It is the fundamentalist interpretations of verses in an-Nur and al-Ahzab that results in some male Islamic leaders insisting on niqab, burqa, etc.  But it IS clear from the Q’uran that the underlying purpose here is modesty – the expressed intent is to avoid inflaming “base” desire.  This may be all well and good until the proscriptions are employed as a tool a) to demean/denigrate, or b) to make unidentifiable (the Q’uran specifically states that women should be known and thereby not abused.)

But the discussion above focuses on the purpose of this dress for Muslims. We can increase the social coScreen Shot 2015-10-09 at 1.56.47 PMmplexity of such proscriptions by adding cross-cultural interpretation. While one may see a specific act as an act of modesty, another may see it as an act of defiance, secretiveness, a token of second class status, etc. Hijab and yoga pants? Can you say form over substance? Frightened yet?

Now fundamentalist Christians are no strangers to ignorance and foolishness, knowing little both as to their own religious history and theology, and as to anyone else’s. They by and large subscribe to a ‘my way or the highway’ philosophy, a policy even more extreme than Islam. And the more ignorant the Christian, the more extreme the position.  Just consider the cross which arguably symbolizes victory over death, in the kind of twisted ass-backwards logic of Paul et al (and Paul was one whacked out nutter….) In other words, the cross is a symbol for many of a categorical rejection of reality, despite the fact that such a position was not historically or theologically present in their religion until long after the alleged Yeshu was dead and gone (as he apparently was born and died a Jew.)

And so, the French look to ban both in secular space because both could be seen as acts of civil violence much as Romans saw Jewish refusal to abide by Roman civil religion (which was not,  in today’s sense, religious at all.) Culture warriors like Scalia, talk about American civil religion; Scalia dreams of being a Roman patrician, and sees the United States through the same kind of rose colored glasses that some of our propounding pops did.  Meanwhile the French, who brought religious liberty to most of the world at the end sharp end of Napolean’s legions, are the ones who argue that the only real way to address religion in a secular state is to ban it from the public square.

I was reading a thread based on a piece by Paula Simons in the Edmonton Journal,  (and the Facebook commentary on that piece) and the thought occurred to me that in as much as the burqa etc are interpretations by fundamentalist clerics of the scriptural prescriptions intended to avoid inflammation of passions, how would the Court address the possibility that the burqa wearer might inflame the passions of another woman by exposing herself to a female Court staffer?  Not what the Q’uran said, but surely closer to what it meant than shrouding all women from head to toe?

At the core all have to realize that we are rapidly approaching, as the battle over rights for LGBT in the US evidence, a time when “religious belief” will equate to whatever any group of bigots decides upon at any given time. The modern state can neither function nor co-exist with such personal freedom. So yes, what is sauce for the goose comes with the gander, but that works both ways, and the arguments in Canada ring strangely similar to those in the US where “liberals” get snarky about “anti-science climate deniers” and then without batting an eye talk bloody jihad on Monsanto. It would be wholly inappropriate to promote any policy without exploring the eventual impact of that policy. And while I would not want to aid and abet a racist, even racists can stumble on something important from time to time (even if they do so for the wrong reasons.)

Neoliberals ignore the fact that Locke was fundamentally inconsistent, but did make it clear that while individuals should be free to elect whether to become a member of some polity on reaching some age of majority, once a member, that individual was subject to the tyranny of the majority. It is the Leviathan or anarchy, says Hobbes, and I think he is correct… Screen Shot 2015-10-09 at 1.53.40 PM No line is required until a line is demanded, and as we discussed before, the genius of Canada, if you will, is that Canadians have been able to get by with greater vagary than their cousins to the South. The bigger question for Canada is not where the line will be, but whether they can manage to avoid drawing it…. and avoiding a line is the responsibility of EVERYONE.   Harper and his crowd may well be xenophobic racists twits (I think the evidence in support of such a claim mounts every time one of his crowd opens their mouth) but every bright line drawn renders the system a little more brittle, until the social contract shatters under the strain. Am I entitled to a law that says that I can marry a Doberman (as opposed to a Poodle?)


Surah Al-Ahzab – The Noble Qur’an – القرآن الكريم

Surah An-Nur – The Noble Qur’an – القرآن الكريم

The Qur’an and Hijab | Hijab, The Muslim Womens Dress,Islamic or Cultural? | Books on Islam and Muslims |