Muslim Women: Our New Favourite Scapegoat

Racist and sexist fucking shit.

As i mentioned yesterday, i don’t have time for this crap. Which of course doesn’t stop it from oozing out of the anus of the capitalist patriarchy. Political diarrhea one might say.

I’m just going to post the following article from today’s Montreal Gazette. As i predicted a few weeks ago, racist anxieties (specifically regarding Muslim women) have been exploited by all three contenders in the upcoming Quebec provincial election.

Sad to say.

Here’s the article from today’s paper:

Quebec’s chief electoral officer has changed the law, obliging everyone who votes to show their face. It’s an extraordinary measure to ensure “crazies” won’t disrupt polling to protest against Muslim women voting in full veil.
Worried about the safety of election workers and the prospect of Monday’s vote turning into a “masquerade,” Quebec’s chief electoral officer took the extraordinary step of unilaterally changing the election law yesterday to force everyone who votes to show their face.

And a Muslim group said the entire controversy – which relates to Muslim women who wear full-face veils known as niqabs – has been fabricated by news media outlets that are “fuelling hate” toward Muslims and leaving some members of the community fearing for their safety.

On Thursday, reacting to a newspaper article about voting by niqab-wearing women, chief electoral officer Marcel Blanchet said they would not be required to remove their veils to confirm their identify.

Yesterday, after intense media coverage and threatening phone calls and emails to election workers, Blanchet reversed his stand. Some people on radio call-in shows were also urging Quebecers to turn up at polls in Halloween costumes.

“What’s at stake here is the integrity and serenity of the electoral process,” Blanchet said at a news conference. “It would be extremely damaging if incidents disrupt voting Monday. And it would be even more damaging if there is so much anxiety among some electors that they don’t show up to vote.”

To ensure his own protection, Blanchet said he now travels with two bodyguards.

He said he found it “troubling” that threats caused him to change the electoral law.

“I personally would have preferred not to have to do it, but my priority is to ensure that everything will run normally and that a few or many crazies won’t show up to cause trouble Monday,” Blanchet said.

The episode has some Muslims fearing for their lives, said Salam Elmenyawi, head of the Muslim Council of Quebec.

“If the chief electoral officer needs two bodyguards, imagine the woman in a niqab, how many guards she’s going to need to guard her – at a polling station or even on a street today,” he told The Gazette. “Their lives are under threat right now.”

Elmenyawi said election officials never consulted Muslim leaders about the issue.

Had they, they would have been told niqab-wearing women will show their face for identification purposes, preferably to other women. He estimates 10 to 15 women wearing niqabs might have shown up to vote. Given the controversy, he’s not sure any will vote now.

Elmenyawi said some news media – particularly the Journal de Montréal and its sister TV networks, TVA and LCN, all owned by Quebecor – are fuelling hatred toward Muslims.

The Journal wrote about the issue Thursday, the first news media outlet to do so.

Yesterday, it ran photos of Youppi and people wearing paper bags and Darth Vader or skeleton masks on its front page under the headline: “Masked voting is legal.”

Earlier in the week, the newspaper ran extensive coverage of sugar shacks that welcome Muslims. One eliminated ham from its pea soup. Another allowed Muslim customers to pray on a dance floor.

The LCN all-news channel has been giving extensive coverage to the Journal’s articles.

Mathieu Turbide, assistant managing editor at the Journal de Montréal, said he was surprised by the Muslims’ criticism and noted the “reasonable accommodation” issue is part of the news agenda.

“To suggest we are promoting hate is very extremist and does not correspond with reality,” he said in a phone interview. “We simply decided to look at the Elections Act and ask what would happen if a voter did not want to uncover her face.

“We learned there was a gap in the law, most political leaders confirmed it, and the chief returning officer has just changed the regulations.”

At TVA, which is LCN’s parent network, vice-president (news) Serge Fortin said its coverage was “irreproachable.”

“We followed the Journal story on Thursday and covered the news conference today.

“We have nothing to change. Somebody has an agenda somewhere,” he observed.

But Elmenyawi remains concerned. “This kind of ‘reasonable-accommodation police’ going around manufacturing crises within Quebec society is doing us all harm,” he said.

“The Muslim community is at the receiving end of hate, anger, disgust and indignation – and it’s damaging the social fabric of Quebec society.”

The coverage in Quebecor news outlets – and in some competing ones trying to keep up – is “feeding hysteria, and rash thinking that (Quebec) culture is under attack and in danger from Muslims or Jews who are coming, or whoever it is they’re targeting that day.”

Elmenyawi urged political leaders to calm things by asking those with concerns about “reasonable accommodation” to take them in a “rational, objective way” to the commission Premier Jean Charest created to study the issue. “I’m asking leaders to stand up and say, ‘Enough is enough,’ ” he said.

In Cap aux Meules last night, Charest expressed his satisfaction with the veil ruling. “We agree with the director-general of elections’ decision to use the powers that he has in the law, exceptional powers, to make sure when people vote they are correctly identified,” he said.

He said he doesn’t see the issue as a clash of religious rights with Quebec’s voting system. “I don’t see any collision, really. The issue is quite simple. We just want to identify the right person.”

Action démocratique leader Mario Dumont said he is pleased with the decision. “I had confidence in the director-general of elections,” he told reporters at a campaign stop in St. Eustache.

“Today, he came out with an interpretation of the law that to my mind is what those who enacted the law intended.”

On Thursday, the chief electoral officer had said a fully veiled person would be given the same treatment as a person whose face is covered by a bandage. To vote, she had to declare her identity, sign a sworn statement and either produce documents that confirm her identity or be accompanied by someone who confirms her identity.

If a voter has lost his or her medicare card or has no driver’s licence – both of which have photos – that person can identify themselves under oath before a three-person identification verification panel at every group of polling stations. Under the change announced yesterday, anyone who shows up at that panel must now show their face.

The electoral law allows the chief electoral officer to unilaterally change rules under “exceptional or emergency” circumstances, Blanchet said.

This change applies only to the current election, he said.

Whether someone’s face is visible during voting does not pose a problem in Ontario, British Columbia or Alberta, officials from those three provinces said yesterday. In all three, the only requirement is to be on the list of electors. For those who must register to vote on site, all that is required is proof of identity and address; there is no requirement to present photo ID.

A check of the Elections Canada website reveals there is no requirement for photo ID either to be added to the voters list or to register to vote on site.


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