Sunday, March 4, 2007

Public Service Announcement

Okay, can we all agree to just stop? Seriously, we have to stop. Alright, here's the public service announcement, then:

Everybody... Seriously... Stop.

This hijab debacle has seriously got the entire province's panties up in a knot and it's seriously disconcerting. In an attempt to help clear the air, I'm going to try to deal with both sides of the issue - or at least the miscommunications people seem to be having.

First, to those who would allow the hijab during a youth soccer tournament, I'll expound a few different points which may shed light on why myself and other rational-minded folk - leaving aside the plain old biggotted, "conform or leave" bunch - choose to oppose your rather vociferous outcry. Afterwards, I'll attempt to get into the other side of the argument and explain to those of my own position why sensitivity is a virtue.

Before I continue, I'd like to make one thing clear: I have no problem with anyone wearing whatever the hell they want on their heads, toes, knees or balls at any time of the day, my qualm over the hijab extends exclusively to this one issue.

When asked about the hijab question, the officials at FIFA simply stated that the rules already covered the issue and went about their business, at which point people starting kicking up a stink because the rule didn't specifically address 'headgear' when in fact, it had. The hijab is a danger to the player wearing it and therefore is prohibited, end of story; some cannot see how it is a danger, and that much boggles my mind. It is a scarf that wraps its way around a person's neck, in a game where - whether against the rules or not - children clutch and grab in the heat of competition.

Other reasons include the obvious: a uniform only promotes teamwork if everyone has the same one; rules are made that everyone follow, otherwise they'd just be guidelines, etc. I think the major source of dissent here, though, comes from something much more ineffable; people have become tired of saying 'yes' to everyone with a complaint - more specifically, people have become afraid of losing the power to say 'no' through the only means they have: the democratic process.

Indeed, some fear it's already been lost; they are willing to try to get it back and they'll fight the battle on any front that'll do, even one so trivial as a young soccer player's hijab.

On the other side of the argument, there is the question of equality and freedom of religion/culture (I include culture as it seems that the further this question is pushed, the further the argument gets from one that is exclusively religious). These are, if not founding, then at the very least fundamental values of our society, keystones of the Canadian way, as it were, and it is our duty to respect them as everything we have in this country rests on them.

On that point there is general agreement, and none of the dissent which I spoke of earlier, so I'll move quickly past it - noting only that it is an argument of merit - and on to the more ubiquitous, though slightly less meritous argument most used by those I've mentionned above, that is that "in their country, we would be expected to conform, why should it be different for them, here?"

This argument should not even have any air-time, ever; it is stupid and reactive and the answer to it is so painfully self-evident that I find it almost insulting to have to address it here. It should be different for them here because the countries they fled here from are run, for the most part by despotic, irresponsible, tyrannical and downright criminal governments and are themselves in worse shape than that. It should be different here because this country is better than those places. Our government doesn't demand "conformity or death," (which is, at its root, what some of these talibanesque regimes do demand) and it never will. We should not be looking to their mores to guide what is good and right in our own society.

The relative danger of the hijab is also in question; while I view it as a definite choking hazard, the fact that it's a thin fabric worn relatively tight to the head (and that I don't know exactly how it's fastened) would tend to lend credence to the argument that it isn't dangerous after all - though with all the safety hysteria parents were pumped full of these last twenty years, this is a rather peculiar time to start going soft.

In fact, that's what prompted this article; a journalist in this morning's paper accused the 'no-hijab' (as I'll call it, for now) side of attempting to hide their politicking behind soccer's safety regulations, and I will admit that there is a bit of that; there's a bit of cloaked politics on both sides of the issue. For the 'hooray-for-hijabs' side to jump in and say, "to hell with the danger, it's a small one and an acceptable risk," after years of trying to wrap every child in bubble-wrap screams agenda.

It's a roundabout way of saying it, but people in glass houses shouldn't throw stones.

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