The failing PQ charter of values
The PQ has introduced its charter of values to ban visible religious expressions from public service. It is said that the message religious symbols convey may interfere with the secular operation of the government. The separation of state and religion is not the issue of the debate, nor is any type of religious expressions that may be a threat to public safety or promote hatred or violence.
The argument that banning public workers from wearing religious symbols will prevent preaching religion by expression is invalid. That is because there is no specialized study that can establish grounds for this assumption. In fact, the established reality is that there is no case revealing religious conversions in Quebec’s early education centers and schools due to religious symbols carrying workers. So not until there is an independent scientific study proving that such conversions occur due the influence of religious symbol wearing, the argument remains invalid and based of false assumption. Thus, the preaching and conversion issue which has been used by the PQ to prove the necessity to protect state's neutrality is an invented baseless issue that can not be responsibly taken to make way for a charter that affects the constitutional rights of the Quebec population.
The issue of preaching symbols can also be discussed based on the assumption that there is indeed a study revealing alerting numbers of conversions within the population due to the influence of religious symbol display. In this case, the PQ proposal can not make discriminatory exceptions that do not ban the display of the cross in the national assembly, nor can it exception the renaming of Quebec streets where most carry religious names and symbols. It can not exception the government institutions such as hospitals that carry religious names as well. To say that such state symbols are exceptional because they represent a cultural heritage is an argument that can be used against the PQ itself. Many religious symbols, especially the face showing Hijab, represent the cultural heritage more than the religious belief. The proof is that Moroccan Hijab for instance is different from the Iraqi or the Lebanese or the Iranian Hijab. Therefore, it can not be banned based on its cultural value.
There is a common PQ rhetoric portraying the wearing of Hijab by Muslim women as an expression that women are inferior to men. Thus, it promotes gender inequality. Such rhetoric would not circulate if the PQ politicians did their due diligent work to learn about the Hijab tradition. If we eliminate the cultural value of wearing the Hijab and look at it from the strict religious point of view, we shall find the motif behind it in the Islamic belief is to cover what is culturally considered as a sexually attractive part of the body. It is believed that the neck and the hair are sexually attractive in some traditions. So there is no harm if a woman shares that feeling. If covering part of a woman’s body conveys gender inequality, then the PQ needs to add to their proposal banning women in the beaches of Quebec from covering their chest. Not all Muslim women share this opinion, but there are those who share it and must enjoy the freedom of conscience.
The PQ proposal set an unprecedented example of promoting gender inequality. For example, growing a trimmed and visible beard is a religious obligation and expression in some Islamic schools of thought. Banning the Muslim women from wearing a traditional scarf while allowing men to observe religious rulings regarding the beard growing represents a gender based discrimination.
The weakness of the PQ proposal extends to other areas that have not been mentioned yet, such as tattooing and verbal expression. For example, if a police man has a big cross tattoo in his arm that may be visible when wearing the summer uniform, is the new charter of values going to force public employees to wear long sleeves throughout the year? Will it ban those who carry big arm tattoos from working for the public? How about religious verbal expressions such as “bless you” after sneezing?or "Bismillah" (In God's name) before eating ?. The PQ seems to be introducing a charter of values that will be definitely challenged in courts by Quebec citizens.
There is no doubt that Quebecers are more concerned with the issues of corruption, infrastructure, economy and education. The idea of the charter of values remains an attempt by the PQ government to redirect public attention from issues they failed to handle responsibly.