Bill-62 legitimizes Islamophobia, creates fear

It might have popped up on one of your social media feeds that women in Quebec who wear the niqab, the Muslim face covering, aren’t allowed access to any public services while wearing it. Yes, Bill 62 is a thing, and yes, people in 2017 still aren’t over the fact that women can dress however they please.

Officially, the bill does not explicitly ban Muslim women who wear the niqab—that is against the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms—but it bans anybody wearing any face covering altogether. However, it is obvious that the Quebec government has endured a great deal of trouble to bypass the charter to pass this bill in the name of provincial security.

Despite a recent stay of the bill by Quebec’s Superior Court,  our Canadian sisters who chose to physically manifest their love to their God are still openly being discriminated against. If hearing about this didn’t trigger your inner Canadian, I am here to nudge at it by speaking from the perspective of a hijab-wearing Canadian Muslim student at Carleton University who lives on the other side of the provincial border.

In 2015, police across Canada recorded 159 hate crimes targeting at Muslims, up from the 45 recorded in 2012, representing a 253 per cent increase—most victims being women. Is that even a comprehensible percentage?

More recently, a number of reported cases state that women’s hijabs were being ripped off their heads on Canadian campuses. Harassment and violence against Muslim women was on the rise at Dalhousie University to the point where last month, the Dalhousie Student Union started offering emergency hijab kits. If that doesn’t concern you, just imagine women’s tops being ripped off for being off-the-shoulder. Or imagine it becoming  common practice to tear off anything we don’t agree with. Jewish kippahs. Sikh turbans. Ugly window blinds. The last chapter of the Divergent trilogy. Pineapples on pizza.

As a student residing in Gatineau, I use the the transit service of the Outaouais region of Quebec, known as STO, everyday on my way to Carleton and back. And, compared to cases I’ve read about, I’ve encountered a light share of Islamophobes on these busses. People have changes spots because I—a woman who wears the hijab—have sat across from them or beside them.

People willingly push me and don’t bother to apologize, pretending it was only the bumpy ride, leaving me wondering why their hands would ever be raised in the first place. People creatively wave their hand before them pretending to clear the air when I get on busses, like it got stinky all of a sudden. I’ve swallowed that lump in my throat during all these incidents and held back the tears. They were so insignificant to address but so heavy on my heart.

The question at hand:  what is the effect of something like Bill 62? That’s right. It reinforces these Islamophobic behaviours. It validates racism, because on a provincial level, it was openly performed. And of course, it increases the rate of hate crimes against Muslim women.

This bill was but a pathetic disguise to Islamophobia, and another disgusting demonstration of society’s obsession with controlling the way women dress. I shouldn’t feel ashamed to be a Quebecer following the passing of a bill like this one.

I shouldn’t feel ashamed of being a Muslim women when dwelling in my own province. Nor should not any of our niqabi sisters. That is the reason we can’t stay disinterested and inactive when the freedom and rights of one of us are being snatched right off their faces. As Desmond Tutu put it, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”