Bill 62, Quebec’s legislation requiring those who access public services to show their faces, is a attempt to fan the flames of anti-immigrant hatred, under the false claim of promoting “secularism.” The law was adopted in the National Assembly, literally under a Catholic crucifix which symbolized the unity of church and state at a time when criticism of religion was virtually illegal. Like its predecessor, the Quebec Charter of Values, which was defeated by public opposition, Bill 62 is loaded with contradictions. For example, what constitutes a face covering, in a province where people wear scarves for months during winter?
This vicious law is intended purely to harass a small number of women who practise certain Muslim beliefs – those who wear the niqab, or likely even the hijab which does not actually obscure one’s face. The aim is to villify Islam as a religion which is counter to so-called “western values”. In a country founded on the “values” of genocide against indigenous peoples, and brutal racism against immigrants of Asian origin, the excuse that Bill 62 “protects secularism” is an utterly shameful version of the lie that Canada is a “white man’s country.”
Of course, this newspaper does not defend religion – we believe that public institutions must display neutrality towards religions. We seek to unite the working class against the attacks of the capitalists and to fight for socialism. But we also support the freedom of conscience and the democratic right of individuals to practice their religions or to have none. We advocate persuasion and education to develop scientific understanding, not coercion which will inevitably backfire. As Frederick Engels said, “persecution is the best way to strengthen adverse convictions,” to heighten interest in religion, and to make its actual decline more difficult.