Travelling through Iran, the locals would joke about the “fashion police.”
Squads of uniformed men hunted out anything deemed immoral — tight clothes, scarves too far back on the head, tattoos. Although the police officers’ enforcement of the rules was the brunt of many a comical tale, the dress code was far from funny. It’s a constant reminder that the republic only played the charade of a democracy.
Fears of this form of oppression have prompted Quebec’s leaders to propose its own form of oppression in the Charter of Quebec Values. In the Parti Québécois’s bid to “entrench the religious neutrality of the state and the secular nature of public institutions,” it has eaten away at religious practices and beliefs and opted for a uniformed province.
Quebec Premier Pauline Marois has taken a page out of Iran’s moral security plan in introducing the proposed values. The document would bar teachers, civil servants, daycare workers, university staff, health-care personnel and provincial judges from wearing “ostentatious” religious symbols on the job, which on officials’ lists includes a hijab, turban, kippa and large visible crucifix. At the same time, it won’t remove religious symbols considered “emblematic of Quebec’s cultural heritage” from government buildings.
The cheese curds hidden in this bureaucratic poutine are an assault on anyone not seen as Quebecois — i.e. immigrants and non-Catholics. And although I’m not religious, I am fearful of any government that treads on such beliefs and practices. This affects us all.
Where does it stop? Will women be asked to remove Hermes scarves? Will Battlefield Earth T-shirts be seen as promoting L. Ron Hubbard’s Scientology? Will necklaces that include feathers be forbidden as they may be interpreted as sacred to the First Nations? Fashion police?
There are so many ugly grey areas with this set of “values” that it’s appropriate that the document is packaged in a cover depicting a cold, grey stone wall. This charter rocket launches the government in the opposite direction of reaching a “neutral state,” making it one that dictates cultural norms.
Uniformity, Madame Marois, is not a utopian goal. Some folks in the U.S. South aim to achieve it with their Hooded Order. A guy in Germany played his “Aryan” vision out, killing millions. While this doesn’t touch those atrocities, the seed behind it is spawned from the same negligent evil.