Efforts to ban the niqab, an Islamic face veil required under some interpretations of Sharia, are met with resistance and hostility by fundy Muslims and even some moderate and liberal Muslims. This is terrible thing, but understandable given that people who identify as Muslim tend to organize their priorities around religious, rather that moral principles. Such people tend to value the strength of their religion over the freedom and dignity of women.
Less defensible is the position of the so-called multiculturalists. These people seem to believe that ethics is somehow a cultural concept, and immune from outside criticism. To these people forcing women to wear buquas, head to toe bags of cloth, whenever they step outside their home cannot be considered a bad thing. It is simply a cultural norm, and therefore value neutral. Such a position, which renounces any sense of true morality, simply amounts to throwing an entire population under a bus through convenient philosophy. Under such a conceptualization of society, genocide simply becomes a value neutral cultural norm.
As surprising as a liberal, multicultural approach to defending the niqab and the burqa might be, what is more (yet contradictorily less) surprising is the opposition to laws banning the burqa from other, competing fundamentalist religions. The Globeandmail.com
Quebec’s Orthodox Jewish community appeared for the first time on Wednesday before a National Assembly committee, taking up an unexpected cause – fighting a bill that would ban the wearing of the Muslim niqab when receiving government services.
The Jewish Orthodox Council for Community Relations said by placing gender rights above religious rights, the bill would create a hierarchy of individual rights and freedoms that would be challenged before the courts. The group warned the government against adopting “hard and fast rules” that could exacerbate social tensions surrounding religious minorities.
“The government’s interpretation comes in conflict with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, both the Canadian Charter and the Quebec Charter,” said the group’s legal counsel, Lionel Perez. “It will lead to court challenges, and if it leads to court challenges there will be more media coverage. If there is more media coverage, it will lead to more scrutiny … and it will exacerbate the social tensions."
Upon reflection, it becomes obvious why Orthodox Jews would be opposed to such a statute. Both religions have rules on dress and conduct and there may come a day when protecting a woman's rights against religion might mean protecting a Jewish woman from the negative aspects of her religion. When push comes to shove, Orthodox Jews think about as much about their women as do Fundamentalist Muslims and Catholics (who still treat women as second class at best.)
Another issue the Jews and Muslims might come together on is circumcision. Female genital mutilation is a rampant and disgusting evil throughout the Muslim world, (multiculturalist arguments to the contrary not withstanding) and laws passed that prevent the mutilation of a child's genitals could easily and properly be applied to male circumcision. This barbaric bronze age practice is treated as a sacrament by these religions, yet is responsible for untold miseries and horos.
Immoral religious concerns can turn theological enemies into best friends overnight: Check out the Catholic/Mormon/Evangelical efforts to block access to safe and legal abortion as well as their various efforts against LGBT rights.
As the light of secular reason forces the vermin of religion into ever smaller corners of darkness, competing clans of roaches will often find that it is in their best interests to work together to fight for a return to ignorance and superstition. It will be a long battle, but as human beings it is important to keep the pressure on, and not be fooled by the arguments of those who feel that the stoning of a few women in some oppressive and poor country is the morally right thing to do.