Apparently, a Moslem woman came to his office and made him "uncomfortable", because she was wearing a burka, or something similar - her face was shrouded, in any case.
Well, I agree with him. I am not comfortable when meeting women in Burkhas, either (or so I imagine: there aren't actually that many around, where I live).
Come to think of it, though, I don't much like seeing nuns in habits, Sihks in Turbans or Jews with those ridiculous skull-caps. The Amish and their drab costumes appal me as well. As do leather-boys in ass-less chaps, ginos in tight jeans and Bay Street lawyers in expensive, but hideous, pin-stripe suits. And don't get me started on gangstas ...
All of these people me make me "uncomfortable". On a gut-level I would much prefer they "dressed white" and stopped "flaunting" their differences.
But all that is really my problem, isn't it? At least, it should be.
For some reason, East Indian women in saris don't bother me at all. Nor do Tibettan Budhhists in their weird red skirts.
The truth is, there are primarily two kinds of dress that bother me. First, the overtly religious; as an atheist, I want to shake those people out of their delusions. Second, those whose cultural significance I interpret as violent - like ginos and gangstas; I can't read them as I can those who dress more like me, and so they make me nervous.
This whole "debate" would be laughable, were it not (as Rick Salutin pointed out in today's Globe and Mail) for the fact that few Moslem women in the West who choose to cover themselves are being scapegoated by some very powerful men who are, nevertheless, losing the "war on terror".
The smallest, weakest segment of a small minority - those Western Moslems whose dress sets them apart - are being told they are a threat to our social order because, really, they look funny.
You know what? A lot of people look funny. A cabinet minister's "discomfort" is not a god damned reason to set social policy. This has all the makings of a witch-hunt or pogrom if the rest of us don't remember to check our prejudices at the door.