1. We need to have a public discussion about immigration and religion
During several visits to Europe over the last 25 years, friends on the left would tell me, in hushed voices: immigration is a big problem, but you’re not allowed to talk about it, because if you mention it, it means you’re a racist. Since that time, the far right has grown, largely on the basis of fighting immigration. I’d say it’s better to discuss difficult questions openly, because if we don’t, the situation will fester and the far right will grow.
2. Our understanding of the implications of immigration and/or religious practice needs to become more sophisticated
We need to stop relying on slogans like “freedom of religion” and “freedom of expression.” They’re excellent principles and good slogans, but they don’t replace discussion, and they’re not the solution to all problems. We need to stop calling people who disagree with us racists and xenophobes.
3. I don’t want people with extreme views to have power over me or my children
This is not about religion, it’s about extremism of any kind. A Nazi uniform or a Black Bloc outfit (as we’ve seen at various G8 or G20 summits) is a pretty good indication of extreme views, and few of us would support a government employee’s right to wear such clothing on the job.
Much the same way, a religious uniform is not a bad indication of religious conservatism. Religious people who do not wear religious insignia or clothing tend to be more moderate, more liberal in their views. Those who do wear religious insignia or clothing are more likely to be fundamentalist and take literally what is written in sacred texts. Fundamentalists are more likely to believe that men are superior and that God created Adam a few days after he created trees. They also tend to believe that women who don’t dress in the prescribed manner are loose or whores, and that nonmembers of their particular religion will go to hell. I don’t want people with such beliefs sitting in judgement over me or teaching my children.
This is not about religion. The large majority of people of all religions do not wear religious garb. Of course, there are fundamentalists and extremists who wear standard Canadian clothing. Similarly, there are many people who wear religious dress who are not fundamentalist or extremist. These moderates should have little problem removing their religious symbols while at work.