Celine Dion Angers Muslims With Comments About Cultural Assimilation

“It’s a very delicate question to answer because I’ll hurt some people and please others but you have to have an opinion. For me, it’s not about the veil — it’s beyond that. I’m not against what people wear but if you go to the hospital, and you are in Quebec and we have embraced you and opened our country for you to live in a better world, you have to adapt to our rules. If the doctor is a boy or a girl, you’re gonna see the doctor that [is] sent to [treat] you. You can’t just say, “My religion doesn’t permit me to see a woman or a male doctor.” That’s the problem for me. If I’m going to see a doctor and he is gay, I’m not going to have a problem with that. It should not be an issue. …  It’s just that these women who practice the things they believe in have to adapt to our country. They have to not change our laws. Because you have a lot of Anglican or veiled women in a school—you can’t just take off the [Catholic] cross from the walls, or take down Christmas trees. If I go live in their country and have to be veiled, I will.”

Celine Dion did an interview with the Canadian magazine MacCleans and was asked, as someone who has been called Quebec’s greatest ambassador, what she thinks about the province’s new proposed charter of values, which would forbid veils and turbans. Amnesty International, as well as the province’s own Human Rights Commission, criticized Quebec for including in its charter of values a ban on public employees wearing the Islamic face-covering veil, such as the hijab, as well as turbans. The 600,000 public employees affected include medical professionals, educators and day care workers, among others.  Amnesty pointed out that it would limit women’s rights, as some women will opt not to work at all if they cannot wear their religious garments. 

“For people, and particularly for women, who might be coerced into wearing a religious symbol, prohibiting them from wearing it will not solve the problem,” Amnesty said in a statement. “The people who had coerced them will still go unpunished, while the people who have been coerced will be punished in a number of ways, such as losing their jobs and hence their right to work and risking becoming isolated and stigmatized in their communities.” (A similar law in France was also criticized for being xenophobic — although Amnesty doesn’t  come out and say that.)

Not surprisingly, Celine Dion has been called out in Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper for her misinformation about the stipulations in the charter. More specifically, she’s been criticized for the way she seemingly refers to the Muslim minority as interlopers who should assimilate. And then there’s the words she uses to “other” Muslim folks in these statements “our country,” “our laws,” “our rules,” “their country.”  She knows there are Canadian Muslims, right?  Quebec is their home, too.

There’s a way to discuss issues of religious freedom, women’s rights and cultural melting pots (a subject Quebec knows well!) without making it an us versus them issue.  I don’t expect a pop star to be knowledgeable about all such issues, but perhaps that’s an indication she should have demurred on the question.

[National Post]
[Globe And Mail]

Email me at [email protected]  Follow me on Twitter

[Image via Splash News]