Quebecois academics support dueling manifestos on religious accommodation

A new type of warfare – albeit perfectly peaceful – has taken form in Quebec, as intellectuals and academics weigh in on the issue of accommodating religious minorities. The debate has been reignited recently with the “ niqab ” incident, in which a woman who refused to show her face to her language teacher and disrupted the class with her many demands was finally – after months of attempted compromise – expelled from French classes for immigrants.

On one side are the “pluralists,” who call for more openness to immigrants, and for what is called in French a “ laïcité ouverte ” (a secular regime that allows for some compromise with religious fundamentalists). The initiators of their manifesto, “for a pluralist Quebec,” are mostly professors of philosophy.

The authors of this second manifesto, eager to dissociate themselves from those who use the concept of secularism to cover up their dislike of the recent waves of Muslim immigration, argue that “ laïcité ” has always been part of Quebec history, an argument that is a considerable exaggeration.