Uneasy Solidarity and the Hijab

As the debate on Quebec’s Charter of Secularism (formally the unaptly named Charter of Values) rages on, two Montreal professors wore the hijab to demonstrate their solidarity with Muslim women. In short, the Charter of Values in Quebec is a proposed law that bans the visibility of religious symbols – hijabs, kippa, crosses, turbans – in public spaces. Effectively, if the law passes, anyone employed by and paid through the public purse may be disallowed from wearing anything that could be construed as religious. (For a fuller discussion of the Charter and its implications, refer to Krista’s MMW post from September.)

Concordia University professor Nora Jaffary. [Source].

Nora Jaffary, a history professor at Concordia University, and Catherine Lu, a political science professor at McGill University, have worn the hijab to their classes in protest of the proposed charter. Jaffary, who as of November 25th was still wearing the hijab on campus grounds, points out that the vast majority of Muslim women have the autonomy to choose the hijab and that the charter instead singles out visible minorities. She goes onto say, “If many people are wearing religious signs, it’s impossible to tell who’s wearing them for what reason and so it sort of muddies the waters.”

Jaffary’s and Lu’s iintentions are incredible, especially in the context of a public debate that has been venomous and xenophobic. By being so public in their support for, in particular, the religious rights of Muslim women, Jaffary and Lu risk the ire of a Quebec populace among whom the Charter has substantial popularity. Yet, to be bluntly honest, this act of solidarity does not sit well with me. [Read more...]