Transfigurations of an intercultural Bias

18,5 cm x 20,2cm; fineliner and watercolour on paper; 2020

This piece grapples with the hypocrisy of the face veil bans for Muslim Women, which in France came into law in 2011, as well as Québéc‘s face-covering ban, which came into law in 2017. Moreover, it addresses the bone of contention in the narrative around the niqab and the question of why the Covid 19 pandemic has changed the proxemics of public spaces and the grammar of “living together”. Now that face masks are being used to help fight against the spread of Covid-19, it has caused some to look anew at general discriminations against Muslim women wearing niqabs. If everyone cannot go out, or enter any public spaces, without wearing a sanitary mask, why should Muslim women, who wear a niqab be discriminated against? Will the change in boundary conditions produced by Covid-19 also induce these Governments to re-categorise the meaning of the niqab? The socio-semantic earthquake produced by Covid-19 compels us to rethink this and other issues orbiting around the translation of “facts” into legal language; furthermore, it highlights the instrumentality of many partisan and ethnocentric assumptions passed off as objectivity regarding those alleged “facts”. The current almost whimsical overlapping between the sanitary mask and niqab, actually “unveils” the intercultural and cognitive flaws of a non-metaphorical translation. The integral reluctance to take in account the semiotic networks beneath the “wearing of a niqab” and their semantic ramifications made the “facts” and the “categorisation of facts” cognitively unbalanced, transforming the niqab/veil and its meaning in a cultural barrier, and in the end, in an antagonistic symbolic barricade. In this way, what should have been separated at the level of cognition and experience was instead disjointed by a decision of authority. In short, the calling of the sacred motivates some Muslim women to wear the niqab. A highly infectious virus propels many to wear face masks.How can a state simultaneously impose and prohibit the same behaviour, gesture or object ? Such a paradox would not only unmask the prejudice but also the discrimination.

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