6:30 a.m., Nov. 3)
New book explores war on religious freedom
By Fred Sherwin
the recent federal election, the Conservatives took direct
aim at religious freedoms by promising to appeal the federal
court ruling allowing Muslim women to wear the niqab while
taking the Citizenship Oath, and vowing to create a barbaric
cultural practices tip line.
obviously didnt learn anything from the Parti Quebecois
whose demise at the polls was due in large part to their
insistence on banning garments of religious significance
from the public civil service in the doomed Charter of
Quebec Values which didnt place much value on religious
Pequistes and the Conservatives both tried to steal a
page out of Frances playbook where the wearing of
head scarves was banned in public schools in 2004, and
niqabs were banned in public spaces in 2011. The ban spread
to Belgium and several cities and towns in Italy and Spain,
including Barcelona, shortly afterwards.
issue of banning religious garments as an affront to religious
freedom is examined in a new book by Carleton University
assistant law professor, Dr. Melanie Adrian, entitled
Religious Freedom at Risk: The EU, French Schools,
and Why the Veil was Banned.
other things, the book takes a critical look at Frances
decision to ban head scarves in public schools; the subsequent
niqab ban six years later under former conservative president
Nicolas Sarkozy; and the actions of the European Court
of Human Rights the niqab ban.
Melanie Adrian tackles the issue of banning
religious garments in secular societies in
her book Religious Free-dom at Risk.
Adrian spent a year teaching at a high school in a mainly
muslim Paris suburb the year after the head scarf ban
was passed. She lived through the subsequent riots in
the fall of 2005 when her school was fire-bombed and she
used the incidents to generate lively discussions in her
classroom which were just as educational to herself as
they were to her students.
explains the concept of laïcité, or French
state secularism, which formed the basis on which the
underlying precepts of the banning of religious garments
and symbols in public schools were rooted. Laïcité
is not just a concept in France, it is a requirement that
is entrenched in their Constitution. In its truest
sense it bars the observance and practice of ones
religious freedom to the privacy of your own
home, or place of worship.
Adrian argues that women have the right to express their
religious beliefs and customs in a secular society so
long as in doing so they dont harm anyone else or
Adrians book is important in that it offers a historical
and sociological perspective on the war on religious freedoms
in the 21st century.
are lessons to be learned from the French experience so
that we dont make the same mistakes here in Canada
where secularism and religious freedom are not mutually
Freedom at Risk, is an important educational text for
anyone interested in acquiring a deeper understanding
of Muslim culture and religion in western society and
the danger posed by well-meaning, yet misguided neer-do-wells
on what ought to be a fundamental freedom in an enlightened
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