When I applied for a visa to visit China, before my photograph was taken I had to remove my glasses because they are photosensitive and were darkened from being in bright light. My wife had to make sure her ears were not obscured by her hair: the Chinese don’t want unidentified ears entering their country.
When we arrived in China, bleary-eyed and crotchety, we were photographed again by Chinese immigration. None of this was particularly distressing, although, admittedly, wearing glasses is more of a practical consideration than a religious observance.
Quebec’s Bill 62 requires people to uncover their faces while giving and receiving state services. Clearly, this affects niqab wearing Muslim women – or men, I suppose since gender is now fluid – more than anyone else. Showing one’s face to identify oneself before receiving a state service doesn’t seem to me to be a particularly unreasonable requirement. But it has distressed some Anglican bishops whose priority, having largely abandoned Christianity, is now one of defending Islam; when not marrying people of the same sex to each other, that is.
Here is the wail of distress by our Anglislamic bishops:
As leaders of minority faith communities in Quebec we feel compelled to express our deep distress at the manner in which the religious neutrality law passed by the National Assembly implicitly targets another minority religious group in this province.
Although veiled as a question of identification and security , Bill 62’s provisions regarding face coverings will most directly impact a small minority of Muslim women in Quebec, whose freedom to express their religious beliefs is enshrined in the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms and the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights. For Christians, these human rights are grounded in the dignity accorded each human being by virtue of having been made in the image and likeness of their Creator.
The January 29 shooting massacre at Quebec City’s Grand Mosque — and other acts of violence before and since — demonstrate that our Muslim neighbours live in a climate of suspicion and fear that threatens their safety. Bill 62 helps foster that climate at a time when we are turning to our governments and public institutions to protect vulnerable minorities in our midst.
We recognize and support the desire for Quebec to be a secular society. However, to be secular means to be pluralistic, allowing freedom of belief both in one’s private and public life. The provisions of Bill 62, however they are applied, unnecessarily put that fundamental freedom — and potentially people’s security — at risk.
We invite our elected leaders, and all Quebecers, to join us in trying to foster a safe and welcoming environment for all who make Quebec their home, whatever their culture or religion.
The Rt. Rev. Mary Irwin-Gibson, Bishop of Montreal, Anglican Church of Canada
The Rt. Rev. Bruce Myers, Bishop of Quebec, Anglican Church of Canada
The Rev. Michael Pryse, Bishop of the Eastern Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada