Introduced in Québec in March 2010, Bill 94 proposed requiring women to unveil their faces if they wanted to work in the public sector or access public services, including hospitals, universities, and public transportation. The bill was eventually tabled and was followed in November 2013 with Bill 60, which demanded in more generalist language the removal of conspicuous religious signs in order to dispense or use public services in the province. These Québécois bills—which have not passed—echo the logic of the April 2011 French law targeting the niqab (face veil) and banning the “dissimulation of the face” in public spaces. Both French and Québécois proponents of these laws cited gender equality and women’s emancipation—which they deemed foundational to French and Québécois values—as their primary goal. Despite Québec’s long insistence that it espouses a third path between Canadian multiculturalism and the French Jacobin model, Québec and France have increasingly converged to promote a model of secularism in which liberty and equality are articulated as sexual liberty and sexual equality. In fact, these niqab restrictions represent a broader secular-liberal discourse—what Joan W. Scott calls “sexularism”—that posits secularism as the best guarantor of women’s sexual freedom and sexual equality and, therefore, as that which distinguishes the West from the woman-oppressing rest, especially from Islam.
Posts Tagged ‘laïcité’
On November 7th, 2013, on the heels of a heated public debate about the role of religion in public life, the government of Quebec tabled its controversial Bill 60, “Charte affirmant les valeurs de laïcité et de neutralité religieuse de l’État ainsi que d’égalité entre les femmes et les hommes et encadrant les demandes d’accommodement” (Charter affirming the values of state secularism and religious neutrality and of equality between women and men, and providing a framework for accommodation requests). The legislation, introduced by Bernard Drainville, the minister for Democratic institutions and active citizenship, seeks to affirm the religious neutrality of the state, specifically by prohibiting public sector employees—including those working in hospitals, schools, daycare centers, and universities—from wearing “signes ostentatoires” [conspicuous religious symbols], examples of which include hijabs, kippas, Sikh turbans, and “large” crucifixes. The legislation also proposes to amend Quebec’s Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms, in order to enshrine the equality of men and women as the highest human right, to which other rights (e.g. freedom of religious expression) would be subordinated.
The recent media buzz stirred up by a sad story captures well the sense of uneasiness pervading Quebec since the ruling Parti Québécois (PQ) began working to implement a bill known as the “Charter of Quebec Values,” which would ban state employees from wearing “conspicuous religious symbols.”
Ars Disputandi has recently published a collection of essays from the 2010 Conference of the European Society for Philosophy of Religion titled Religion in the Public Sphere. Edited by Niek Brunsveld and Roger Trigg, the volume—available online and in print—includes contributions from Nicholas Wolterstorff (“Does Forgiveness Violate Justice?“) and Richard Amesbury (“Secular State, Religious Nation?“). In the introduction, Trigg writes.
For Modood, moderate secularism can and should go on more or less as it is, but, in order to accommodate Muslims, must undergo some institutional adjustments. How then can we speak of—that horrible term—a crisis of secularism in Europe? Surely, this is hyperbolic, a gross exaggeration! Here is where we profoundly disagree. Moderate secularism, for me, is irretrievably flawed.
With the ascent of Marine Le Pen to the head of the National Front and her growing popularity in the polls, France joins the surge of nationalist parties that is sweeping over all of Europe. We must understand the new dynamics that underlie this relapse toward a continent-wide far-right movement: in its latest change of face, the far-right misappropriates the legacy of 1968 at the same time that it targets Islam under the guise of defending national values, just as its leaders claim to embody the value of personal liberty all the while asserting their belonging to the “land” of popular imagination, thus forging a new rhetorical repertoire and introducing it into European political culture.
On April 11th, the hotly debated “burqa ban” went into effect in France.
French students protest burka ban by hiding face, showing legs.
Since our previous dispatch from the IWM Summer School in Cortona, we have settled back into our real lives in London, New York, and Washington, DC, respectively. But the discussions inspired by the summer school have continued—over email and group chats—and we wanted to share with you one recent exchange that followed from our course on “Religion and Multiple Modernities,” taught by Dipesh Chakrabarty, Sudipta Kaviraj, and Charles Taylor. The course drew on examples from European and Indian history that prompted us to think about the relation between modernity (a concept that itself was called into question) and secularism.
As I depart from Senegal, a more important passing has taken place within the Mouride Sufi brotherhood. Serigne Mouhamadou Lamine Bara Mbacké, Khalife general of the Mourides, died last Thursday. For a student of religion and politics, the post-mortem patterns of partisan condolence have provided yet more evidence of the powerful place of the Mourides in Senegalese society.
What fascinates me about [the] language of purity and contamination is the extent to which it is mobilized in the service of both religious and secularist narratives. This is particularly true in the case of France’s republican culture of laïcité, as the recent controversy over the Islamic headscarf—repeatedly figured as a scandalous threat to the purity of the secular public sphere—amply attests. . . . What is interesting is that both the religious and the laïque appeal to a discourse on purity and contamination and rely upon a similar narrative structure, invoking the rhetoric of purity to describe both an originary moment that has since been lost, and an eschatological ideal to be fulfilled at some point in the future.
What makes a religious political party? The question is more than semantic in Senegal. The constitution bars political parties based on religion or sect (Article 3.1), so when a young leader within Senegal’s Mouride Sufi brotherhood, Serigne Modou Kara Mbacké, formed a political party in 2004, the ban was put to a test.
What would FIFA President Sepp Blatter make of the Hand of God? With his declaration that there is “no room for religion in soccer” and that religious gestures could pose “a danger” at the World Cup, maybe Blatter would dub Maradona’s iconic 1986 goal the Hand of Fate. This all seems perfectly appropriate as I prepare for summer fieldwork studying laïcité in Senegal.
In a somewhat surprising move, Turkey’s Constitutional Court announced today in a very close vote its decision to not ban the governing Justice and Development Party (AKP)—which was facing charges of threatening the laicist order of the country—but only to cut its financial state support. Despite the relatively moderate decision, the verdict presented by the President of the Constitutional Court sent a clear warning to the AKP that the judiciary will not tolerate any subversion of the laicist order. […]
Later this week, the Turkish Constitutional Court is expected to hand down a decision that will determine the fate of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). Many expect that the highest Turkish Court, when judging the legality of the AKP, will be consistent with its earlier decisions and close down the party, which has controlled the Turkish government since 2002. Furthermore, many expect the court to declare a five-year ban from politics for a considerable number (up to 70) of the party’s high-ranking representatives, including Prime Minster Tayyib Erdoğan and President Abdullah Gül. All of this in the name of protecting the laicist order—or, at least, this is the language in which this cause is presented. […]
Women who are proponents of the headscarf distance themselves from secular models of feminist emancipation, but also seek autonomy from male interpretations of Islamic precepts. They represent a rupture of the frame both of secular female self-definitions and religious male prescriptions. They want to have access to secular education, follow new life trajectories that are not in conformity with traditional gender roles, and yet fashion and assert a new pious self. They are searching for ways to become Muslim and modern at the same time, transforming both.