Sunday, September 09, 2007

Reasonable Accommodation?

No veils at the polls, feds urge

"As a political storm erupted in Quebec yesterday, the federal government called on Canada's chief electoral officer to review his decision to allow Muslim women to vote with their faces covered by niqabs or burkas.

"We disagree with Elections Canada's decision," said Conservative Democratic Reform Minister Peter Van Loan. "It just doesn't make sense. Common sense is being trumped by political correctness. It's the kind of thing that results in ordinary people just shaking their heads." Van Loan's comments came as two other federal political parties - the Liberals and the Bloc Québécois - also called on chief electoral officer Marc Mayrand to require all voters show their faces in order to vote, even those whose faces are normally covered for religious reasons. They joined a chorus of Quebec politicians who attacked the decision."

Strangely, but predictably, not everyone agrees:

Debate over niqab - example of Islamophobia

The debate over whether veiled Muslim women should have to show their faces when they vote is really a bid to disenfranchise them, says a British journalist who converted to Islam after her release from a Taliban jail.

"I find it astonishing that anybody would try to stop women from voting," Yvonne Ridley told reporters yesterday.

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Muslims are criticized for not engaging in democratic issues ... yet here is a group of women who want to engage in a democratic process and are being criticized for their style of dress."

Astonishing spin. A simple, elementary requirement for legal identification is turned into a charge of disenfranchising women.

I have a suggestion: Let the women who wish to remain veiled be identified in some other way. Finger-prints are an even more secure method of determining an identity. Why not instruct any woman who wishes to vote without revealing her face to come to the elections office, be fingerprinted and issued an appropriate I.D. Card based on her finger prints. On election day, she can vote at only such locations where these cards can be verified. This may involve some hassle and extra expense for the state, and some hassle and extra effort for the woman, but it does circumvent the necessity of disqualifying and excluding the veiled woman altogether from her voting rights.

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