I have had a long running discussion/argument with a twitter follower who was upset that I suggested that anyone who wants to legislate the behavior of a particular set of Muslims (those wearing niqabs) are xenophobes. He argued that a majority of Canadians feel that niqab wearing is not in line with Canadian values. I got peeved and asked him what religion should Canadians observe?
I am a liberal in the old fashioned sense of the term--people should be able to enjoy their freedom to do what they want as long as it does not infringe on the rights of others. Someone brought up government intervention when religion inhibits transfusions for kids. And, yes, the government has a role in protecting the lives of its citizens. Adults can choose not to have transfusions, but the state can say that they have no right to make their kids do something that is dangerous.
The niqab may be viewed by outsiders as whatever, but your interpretation is just that. It does not actually have a significant effect on outsiders, so they should just stay out of it. The assertion that the niqab or any other religious practice of a minority is in conflict with the values of the majority is problematic, as it says that the majority is right and the minority must suck it up. Tyranny of the majority is a real problem here.
What are Canadian values? I believe as I studied for the Citizenship test that the consistent focus on the Charter of Rights and Freedoms was a better indicator than the strange language about barbaric cultural practices. Yep, that phrase is in the guide, as we need to tell some people (all of the examples seem aimed at Muslims and perhaps South Asia [honor killings] not to do bad stuff.
My assertion that one's rights should be infringed unless one's exercise infringes on others is now leading to accusations that I am a, gasp, libertarian. Pretty sure those folks would not want to own me... that is, consider me part of their club. Why? Because I do think regulation is often required since lots of conflicts of rights need to be adjudicated by something other than the market. And there are lots of things that are not about rights, so again regulation is not a bad thing.
So, should I call anyone xenophobic for wanting to tell niqab wearers what to do? Maybe not. Maybe I should just call them arrogant? In this political context, where one party is using this issue to distract from more important ones, focusing on the niqab is foolish in the extreme. Focusing on a non-problem rather than the real, substantial issues of the day is playing into Harper's hands. Oh, and also alienating a community that will see itself as the target of scapegoating. That is bad for Canada's national security now and down the road.