Religious Symbols and the Montreal Police

Cultural relativists are on the warpath again.

2018-04-13

Once again, the airheads who promote cultural relativism and religious privilege are on the warpath, trying to impose religious symbols in public services, this time in the Montreal police force.

Sommaire en français
Encore une fois, les écervelés du relativisme culturel et du privilège religieux partent en guerre dans le but d’imposer des symboles religieux dans les services publics, cette fois-ci dans la police de Montréal.

Once again, conformism and fashionable nonsense are winning out over common sense. Some doofus on Montreal City Council, someone obviously with more time than brains, came up with the brilliant idea of having the Montreal Police force allow officers to wear religious symbols such as Islamic hijabs and Sikh turbans while on duty. And a lot of other doofuses (doofi?) — the usual suspects, including Prime Minister Trudeau, Premier Couillard and Mayor Plante — are jumping on the bandwagon, either agreeing completely or at least declaring their openness to the idea.

To consider this idea, and to keep it simple, let us set aside most of the issues which such an idea raises. Forget for now the fact that the hijab is a flag of an international extreme right-wing political movement, as well as a symbol of that movement’s abysmal misogyny, a symbol of rape culture, and a marker identifying the woman wearing it as “taken,” i.e. as the property of her family and religious community.

Let us also set aside the fact that only the most pious, fundamentalist or even extremist Sikh men would bother to wear the turban which is a marker indicating that their religion is more important to them than anything else in their lifes.

Let us also set aside the fact that such unnecessary religious attire can be a very real impediment to a police officer’s work, interfering with or completely preventing the wearing of a protective helmet or a gas mask, and, in the case of the hijab compromising the person’s peripheral vision.

Finally, let us set aside the very real problem of how the police officer’s religious symbol may interfere with their work because of how it is perceived by the public. Police officers wear a uniform for a reason: because it is, well, uniform, that is, in order to present a neutral appearance. Imagine the predicament of a young women who is being seriously harassed by her Muslim father because she refuses to wear the hijab; how will she feel if she calls the police and a hijabi officer shows up? Or imagine the predicament of a man attacked by homophobes who, when the police arrive, finds that one or more officers are wearing symbols associated with a highly homophobic religion. Or consider the plight of a woman beaten by her husband who appeals to the police for help but finds that several officers are wearing symbols of a very misogynistic religion.

Let us leave all that aside and consider one core issue. On what basis can one justify granting such a privilege to the Muslim and Sikh religions? Are we supposed to accept a police officer who wears a giant Christian cross on his/her chest while on duty? How about a Pastfarian who wears a collander or a bowl of spaghetti on his/her head? Or a Raelian who wears only a G-string to symbolize that cult’s sex-positive beliefs? Or a Scientologist who wears a symbol of that religion?

Should we also accept officers wearing swastikas on their uniforms? Ah, but that is a political ideology, not a religion, you protest. Bullshit, all religions are potentially political, and indeed they become highly politicized if and when their symbols are worn by an agent endowed with the coercive power of the state and the mandate to use it. An Islamic hijab, a Sikh turban, a Christian crucifix or any other religious symbol becomes a political symbol (if it was not obviously one already) as soon as it is displayed by an agent of the state while on duty.

The solution is simple. A uniform must be uniform. No modification to the uniform is acceptable unless it responds to a real, objective need, such as body size, sex, handicap, health condition, etc. A person’s religious affiliation is not an acceptable excuse to provide an accommodation because it does not represent any objective need; in other words, there is nothing real to be accommodated.

Anyone who attaches greater importance to their religion than to their duties as a police officer (or in other position as employee of the state), even while on duty, is unfit for the job. All the person has to do is to wear the standard uniform while on duty. When off duty, they can wear whatever they want.

Suggested reading:

  • Religious Symbols in the Police, Jean-Paul Lahaie.
  • Policiers et symboles religieux — une ligne à ne pas franchir (Police and religious symbols—a line which must not be crossed), François Côté, Le Devoir, 2018-04-07.
    A quote:
    “Let us be clear: when a citizen chooses to become a police officer, he/she must accept to set aside a portion of his/her individuality during the execution of his/her duties in order to embody the effective and literally armed force of the state, to be neutral in both manner and perception when dealing with the public. For example, the expression of any political affiliation is forbidden—and if the person cannot accept the idea of refraining from displaying his/her partisan ideologies during daily tasks, then the occupation of police officer is simply not appropriate for that person. One can make exactly the same point with respect to religious displays.”
  • Des signes religieux dans la police ? Non ! (Religious symbols in the police? No!), Simon-Pierre Savard-Tremblay, Journal de Montrèal, 2018-04-03.
    A quote:
    “Because it is the antithesis of racism, secularism necessarily assumes that all citizens are capable of adapting to common rules which have been democratically established, in this case the absence of religious expression when one works for the state, during, and only during working hours. This has nothing to do with any sort of discomfort which might be caused by the sight of religious symbols one might see worn in the street. It is important to understand the distinction between private life and professional duties. The hijab worn by a woman walking down the street is none of our business. However, the situation is completely different for a symbol worn by a representative of a public institution, because public institutions have no religion. The dress requirement is all the more important in the case of employees who exercise coercive power.”
  • Oui pour une police neutre et non, mille fois non, Madame Plante, pour une milice communautaire (YES to a neutral police force; but NO, a thousand times NO, Madame mayor, to a community militia), Ali Kaidi, Kabyle Universel, 2018-04-05.
    A quote:
    “This multiculturalist vision of the state does not protect religious minorities. On the contrary, it makes them second-class citizens. It is not a sign of openness towards citizens considered to be members of minorities; rather it is a sign of closed-mindedness and systemic exclusion which confines the citizen to his/her ethnic, cultural or religious group instead of considering him/her as a citizen with rights and duties similar to those of other citizens. True openness can come only from the neutrality of citizen representation and not from the promotion or religious communitarianism.”

Next blog: Status of Women Canada Endorses Political Islam

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