Prayerful Protest and Niqabs?

Although I agree with much of what Father Raymond de Souza says in his recent column in the National Post, I must respectfully disagree with his comparison between the recent ‘bubble zone’ law in the Ontario, and the ‘niqab’ law in Quebec.  He is correct, that both laws stem from regimes that can be described as totalitarian, with both Liberal parties expanding the reach of the State into areas where it dare not tread, and not in benign ways.

Yet how to compare those claiming the right to protest the ongoing holocaust of abortion (and hopefully saving some mothers and children from this heinous act), with the purported right for female Muslims never to reveal their faces?

The first right is not, strictly speaking, a religious question, but one of direct and plain natural law, based on the very right to life of the most innocent and defenceless humans, which all of us, Catholic or not, have the concomitant right and duty to protect and uphold. With this 50 to 150 metre zone of enforced ‘silence’, even the last bastion of such defence has been removed.

The second (purported) right is purely a religious question, and not a very defensible one.  As I wrote recently, people have a duty at certain times and places to reveal their identity, without which society cannot function.  Father de Souza’s rather tendentious example of a Muslim woman, presumably wearing a little decorative niqab, picking up little Muhammad at the daycare, like she has done so many times before and where is so well-known, is not really what is at stake.

What if the Muslim mother has gone full burqa, the day-care provider new on the job, and furthermore has no idea whether there is a woman or man underneath the layers of cloth?  To extend the example, what if the same woman wants to board a plane in the same attire? Or be hired for a job?  Or use a Costco membership card? Perhaps I misconstrue, but are we to understand from Father de Souza’s implicit argument that there are no cases wherein people, Muslim or otherwise, can be coerced to reveal their faces?  Even the fact that they must be so forced indicates the cultural divide already evident.

I am all for limits to the State, and share Father’s sympathies against totalitarian creep, but there are times when even totalitarian regimes can enact laws that approximate sanity.

Yet, and yet:  As I myself implied in that same recent article, I agree that the executive branch, police officers and officials, will have a tough time enforcing this law.  As Saint Thomas wrote, custom has the force of law, abolishes law and is the interpreter of law, and custom is based on culture, which in turn is based on religion.

Quebec’s cultures and customs are no longer Christian, indeed no longer much of anything, except perhaps a vague and inchoate spirit of  ‘Quebecois-ness’, founded primarily on a near-fanatical, dare I say religious, adherence to their language. So the stronger culture, founded on the much firmer bedrock of their religion, seems to be filling in the vacuum, which a flailing reactionary law founded on not much of anything will do little to hinder.