Quebec, Kirpans, Face Veils, and Values
by Trent Gilliss, senior editor
At first glance, this story from the National Post intrigues because Sikhs are barred from the Quebec National Assembly because of their daggers. And, what were they there for? To testify on a bill banning face coverings. That is worth clicking through and reading more about.
But, check out the last statement from one of the Assembly’s members about multiculturalism. It almost scoots right on past if you don’t stop to think about it. Now, this American citizen’s ears haven’t heard an idea like this stated in such bald fashion; I’ll admit that it’s challenging, and somewhat unsettling:
"By a vote of 113-0, the Quebec National Assembly adopted a motion Wednesday supporting the decision by security workers to bar four Sikhs who came to the assembly to testify on Bill 94, banning Islamic face coverings.
The four refused to remove their kirpans, small ceremonial daggers. In 2006, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the kirpan, which Sikhs carry wrapped in fabric under their clothing, is not a weapon but a religious symbol, like a crucifix.
Parti Quebecois member Louise Beaudoin, said multiculturalism is a Canadian value, not a Quebec value.”
(photo: Tyler Anderson/National Post)
Arranged Marriage: An Expert on Choice Speaks Across Cultures
Shubha Bala, associate producer
When I was 11, I bombarded my uncle with questions while we sat on the floor going through photos and letters from Indian families seeking a marriage arrangement between him and their daughters. At some point I naively asked, “But won’t you want to meet all the women before deciding on the best one?”
Interview upon interview, Sheena Iyengar, author of The Art of Choosing and a business professor at Columbia University, attributed her own curiosity around choice to her Sikh parents’ arranged marriage. But her interviewers often stopped short of asking her for more detail.
Sometimes there is an assumption that an arranged marriage represents an absence of choice; but, for many Indians, the modern arranged marriage still includes choice but with a collective framework. At least that’s my experience as a second-generation Indian who has had many personal discussions about this subject. For example, I want to choose the best husband for me, but some aunts think that I should include what is best for my parents, grandparents, and siblings.
Most Indians are touched by arranged marriages in some form or the other. So, although The New York Times and Express India articles both describe one of Sheena Iyengar’s experiments, which looks at cultural differences of choice, the Times only states the facts whereas Express India takes the story further by asking her opinion:
"Iyengar does not privilege either of these choices over the other; collective action, after all, can be as inspiring and purposeful as Gandhi’s Salt March to Dandi, while tales of inspired individualism abound as well. ‘Both extreme ends of the spectrum are problematic, but different places along the continuum have their own particular benefits,’ she says.
To some extent, even India Abroad's feature approaches things from a collective choice lens. Their interview of Sheena Iyengar focused on her mother and family as much as on her.
Krista and I discussed this approach as I briefed her for today’s interview with Sheena Iyengar; I hope we can delve more deeply into her personal experiences while approaching the conversation from multiple cultural lenses. By the way, you can follow the interview on Twitter as we live-tweet (@softweets) the gems of the conversation at 2 p.m. Central today.
As for my uncle, he told me that after vetting the photos and letters for a handful of women to meet face-to-face, he was sure he would meet one, feel immediate love, and have no choice but to throw away the rest.