The Boundaries of Religious Pluralism
In the twenty-first century, perhaps nowhere do religion, citizenship and national values intersect more visibly than in government policies regulating and banning the niqab (face covered with the eyes showing) and burqa (full-covered body with netting in front of the eyes) that some Muslim women wear in public spaces. The reconfiguration of the visibility of religion in the public sphere has taken on an increasing dependence on public policy and the use of law in the governance, management and regulation of religion within pluralist societies. On 16 November 2015, Canada became the first western democracy to legally retract a policy directive banning Muslim women from wearing the niqab and burqa during the oath of allegiance at Canadian citizenship ceremonies. The retraction was framed as a symbol of the Canadian values of diversity and inclusion. Western democratic nations such as Austria, France, Denmark and the Netherlands have maintained similar policies banning ‘face-covering clothing’ such as ski masks, motor helmets, niqabs and burqas in public spaces (schools, hospitals, government buildings). Rationales underpinning banning or restricting face-covering clothing in public spaces are argued in two ways: security and national values. First, the securitisation discourse (Austria, Denmark and the Netherlands) emphasises national security and improved safety by making individuals more identifiable. Second, the national values (France) discourse argues that individuals ‘with their face entirely masked’ in public spaces are incompatible with French values of freedom, fraternity and gender equality. It is important to note that, while, ultimately the laws apply to all impediments that cover the face—the political rhetoric that introduces and shades these bans reveal the clear intentions and targets of the policies are Muslim women and specific interpretations of their ‘lived religion’.
- Aga Khan III. 2010. 10th Annual LaFontaine-Baldwin Lecture, October 15. www.akdn.org/speech/his-highness-aga-khan/10th-annual-lafontaine-baldwin-lecture.
- Alibhai, Zaheeda. 2018. Case Study: Zunera Ishaq v. Minister of Immigration, Citizenship and Multiculturalism. EUREL: Sociological and Legal Data on Religions in Europe. http://www.eurel.info/?lang=en.
- Bakht, Natasha. 2012. Veiled Objections: Facing Public Opposition to the Niqab. In Reasonable Accommodation: Managing Religious Diversity, ed. Lori G. Beaman. Vancouver: UBC Press.Google Scholar
- Bullock, Katherine. 2002. Rethinking Muslim Women and the Veil: Challenging Historical and Modern Stereotypes. Herdon, VA: International Institute of Islamic Thought.Google Scholar
- Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Constitution Act. 1982. http://laws-lois.justice.ga.ca/eng/const/page-15.html.
- Canadian Council of Muslim Women. www.ccmw.com.
- Chase, Steven. 2015. Niqabs Rooted in a Culture That Is Anti-Women. Theglobeandmail.com, March 11. www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/niqabs-rooted-in-a-culture-that-is-anti-women-harper-says/2015/03/11.
- Eck, Diana. 2003. Encountering God: A Spiritual Journey from Bozeman to Banaras. Boston: Beacon Press.Google Scholar
- Global Centre for Pluralism. www.pluralism.ca.
- Göle, Nilüfer (ed.). 2013. Islam and Public Controversy in Europe. Surrey: Ashgate Publishing Limited.Google Scholar
- Hall, David (ed.). 1997. Lived Religion in America: Toward a History of Practice. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
- Hirji, Zulfikar A. 2010. Diversity and Pluralism in Islam: Historical and Contemporary Discourses Amongst Muslims. London and New York: I.B. Tauris.Google Scholar
- Hoodfar, Homa. 1993. The Veil in Their Minds and on Our Heads: The Persistence of Colonial Images of Muslim Women. Resources for Feminist Research 22 (3–4): 5–18.Google Scholar
- Ishaq, Zunera. 2015. Why I Intend to Wear a Niqab at My Citizenship Ceremony. Star.com, March 16. https://www.thestar.com/opinion/commentary/2015/03/16/why-i-intend-to-wear-a-niqab-at-my-citizenship-ceremony.html.
- Kymlicka, Will. 2017. The Hardware and Software of Pluralism. Accounting for Change in Diverse Societies. www.pluralism.ca/wp-content/…/10/HardwareandSoftware_WKymlicka_EN-1.pdf.
- Mahmood, Saba. 2005. The Politics of Piety: The Islamic Revival and the Feminist Subject. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
- National Post. 2015. Trudeau Calls Harpers Niqab Comments Pandering to Fear of Muslims Its Unworthy of Someone Who Is Prime-Minister. https://nationalpost.com/news/politics/trudeau-calls-harpers-niqab-comments-pandering-to-fear-of-muslims-its-unworthy-of-someone-who-is-prime-minister/.
- Nenshi, Naheed. 2015. Divided, Canada Stands to Lose What Makes it Great. The Globe and Mail Inc. https://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/divided-canada-stands-to-lose-what-makes-it-great/article26848363/.
- Nielson, Kevin. 2015. Canadians Show Up to Vote at Polling Stations Wearing Masks in Niqab Protest. Globalnews.ca. https://globalnews.ca/news/2288937/canadians-show-up-to-vote-at-polling-stations-wearing-masks-in-niqab-protest/.
- Power and Politics. 2011. Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, December 12. www.cbc.ca/news/politics/face-veils-banned-for-citizenship-oaths.
- Stolow, Jeremy, and Alexandra Boutros. 2015. Visible/Invisible: Religion, Media, and the Public Sphere. Canadian Journal of Communication 40 (1): 3–10.Google Scholar
- The Environics Institute. 2016. Canadian Public Opinion About Immigration and Multiculturalism. www.environicsinstitute.org/institute-projects/completed-projects/focus-canada-2015-immigration-and-multiculturalism.
- Zine, Jasmine (ed.). 2012. Islam in the Hinterlands: Exploring Muslim Cultural Politics in Canada. Vancouver: UBC Press.Google Scholar