Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Xenophobia Loses

Xenophobia lost this round although it ain't going away anytime too soon.  The government of Canada was seeking to prevent a woman from swearing an oath to the Queen, the key part of the Citizenship ceremony, if she wore her niqab.  That is, if she did it with her face mostly covered. 

I can see why the conflict between state interests and religious freedom might be significant for testimony in jury trials as it would be handy to see someone's face to see if they are lying (as if members of a jury can figure that out?), but for a citizenship ceremony?  Given that all of the docs, with pictures, have already been processed and that a passport would still need a picture on it, this seemed far more like grandstanding on an issue of identity than a real public need. 

So, I am pretty pleased that the courts ruled this way.  On issues of symbolic politics, I guess I will always prefer the court's take than that of an elected official since I fear the latter pandering to populist/xenophobic sentiments than the former.  This is not always the case, but more likely than not, I think.

Today, we talked in our Contemporary International Security class about terrorism and that Canada does pretty well (better than Europe) on not alienating Muslim immigrants.  So, today's decision is not just the right thing to do, but good policy as well. 

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