Sunday, February 22, 2015

On the niqab

I live in Scarborough where a lot of women wear hijab*** or the niqab. Hijabs*** don't bother me. The niqab forces me to look away. It says the wearer doesn't want to meet me, has no interest in the world outside of her culture. I respect that-- their business. That might not be the message she is trying to send but it's the one I'm receiving as a Canadian raised in Toronto during the 70's.

That said, I'm in a pretty heavy twitter argument over whether Harper's response to the niqab is right. I'm actually being mistaken for a Liberal. Should a woman in our free society be allowed to cover her face during the oath of citizenship. Harper says no. I believe he's wrong.

I believe the person taking the oath is ID'd prior to the oath-taking and the choice to cover her face during the oath taking (if based on religious or cultural tradition) should be respected. Who am I to say it goes against Canadian culture? My schooling told me that our culture was whatever we said it was... well ... we said we were pluralistic, we embraced multiculturalism ... Would we say 'no' to a kilt or a sari? A turban or a kirpan? The covering of the face by some Muslim women, except in the presence of their immediate families, seems foreign or strange.... but we invited them... we said come: keep your traditions so long as they are non-violent and don't infringe on the rights of others .... and now we want to say "EXCEPT" ... except Muslim women who choose a niqab.

This is not about oppression. If you are against the niqab because it symbolizes the forced submission of women ... then be against the niqab but you can't pick and choose and say it's fine for women to be subjected to oppression every day except when they are swearing an oath of citizenship.

If it is the garb of oppression, then be like France and get rid of it altogether... don't be wishy-washy and pretend we are enlightening anyone when in fact we are just subjecting them to OUR will instead of the will of their husband or culture ... either way they are not free, so why the moral indignation?

In the end we non-Muslims will never know the dynamic within families where this is the norm, but since many of our families are also messed up in so many different ways... are we really going to get in the way of people exercising their freedoms?

The niqab is not honour killings, it isn't FGM -- it isn't any of our business. If we are going to pick and choose the cultural or religious traditions of our immigrants, it should be in matters that affect the public or their potential safety. A woman wearing a niqab is disconcerting.... to us. Maybe women walking down the street topless is disconcerting to them but by law, we can. But the niqab is not, as some on my twitter feed have suggested, equivalent to chains or KKK robes.

If I was a Canadian, born to a culture where the niqab was expected or acceptable, and I was told that in order to be allowed to swear the oath of citizenship in our free country, my mother was stripped of her choice and her dignity and forced to submit to the will of the government, I might not think this was such a free country after all. I might in fact, choose a niqab as a form of political protest. By pushing back when people test the limits of our willingness to accommodate, we risk alienating the very people we hope will learn to embrace our values of inclusiveness, acceptance, understanding, diversity. It's a lose-lose and Harper should re-think his position.

*** Edited -- originally read burqa, Was corrected by commenters. I actually meant hijab.


Anonymous said...

I for one do not want people living in my country who's so called holy book says they have to or can kill me if I do not believe what they believe..... oldwhiteguy. this is not a racist comment because islam is not a race.

bertie said...

It is not accepted .It is not a religious garment.It is forced on these women by men.What in F is wrong with you FN Liberals.You have no idea if it,s a man under that friggin ugly piece of shit costume.How can anyone possibly trust someone who is hiding behind a FN mask.Never saw one of these animals in a bank & never do I see one of them with a man.Are the men friggin cowards??

Anonymous said...

"Burquas don't bother me. The niqab forces me to look away."
Are you sure you know what a burka is like? The burka is that whole-body covering with a tiny mesh screen for the wearer to see through, worn primarily by Afghani women. Maybe you were thinking of the hijab, a veil which covers only a woman's hair.

As to your argument about women -- or anybody, for that matter -- being free to choose what they want to wear or not wear, I guess you subscribe to what I consider the extreme libertarian POV. If I understand that POV, each individual acts and behaves according to his/her own standards, without any regard for societal norms. That to me spells anarchy.

Personally, I have no quarrel with women choosing to wear whatever they want -- in their own society. But when they leave that society, they should accept some adaptation to the welcoming society (which our family had to do when we came to Canada). I disagree with immigrants who expect -- even demand -- to live their lives in exactly the same way they used to do in the country they supposedly left behind in search of a new start in life.

Just as it would be unacceptable IMO to wear a hockey mask or a bikini to a solemn occasion like the citizenship ceremony, so too would it be disrespectful to hide one's face when one is being welcomed into Canadian society.
-- Gabby in QC

Anonymous said...

I think you have the hijab (simple head covering), niqab and burka mixed up. The hijab is benign. The other two... not so much.

Canadianna said...

Gabby, thank you for your correction and I've edited my post to reflect it, noting your comment.

That said, I'm not advocating the niqab or burqua. I am not advocating the repression of women. I'm not even suggesting that these women are "choosing" to wear these garments. I am suggesting that anyone raised in the environment where this is common practise, men or women, is accustomed to it. To ask a woman who has worn a niqab for most of her life, to remove her veil, is like asking a woman from our culture to strip naked. I think we have to remember that not everyone is raised with our liberal sensibilities. I simply see the forced removal of the veil as insensitive. How is it helping a woman to take her outside of her comfort zone 'for her own good' or so she'll learn 'our ways' or the 'right way'. All it does is reinforce the idea that we do not allow freedom for some people. Assimilation comes from living amongst us, not one day at a swearing in ceremony.

newcenturion said...

I understand where you’re coming. The great Canadian multi-cultural experiment is set up so we can’t pick and choose. Multi-culturalism has morphed into the idea that all cultures are equal to Western culture and are just as valid; they are not. I believe all people regardless of race are equally valid but not all cultures. Islamism is not a race, it, in its purest form, which we see in ISIS and other hardline Islamic countries, is a political/theocratic belief system. It is the same as communism or National Socialism. Its adherents have gone on public record and stated that Islamism is incompatible with democracy. So how do we respond? For “tolerance sake” we tolerate a political/religious ideology that is the antitheses of Western thought and practice. It is baffling. The person that wears the full body suit, hijab or burka or whatever it is they call it… is telling us “infidels” that, “I’m not here to assimilate. I’m not here to “share” or ad my culture to the great Canadian mosaic. I’m here for the free healthcare, welfare and the shopping malls so “F” you”.

Anonymous said...

“I am not advocating the repression of women.”
Nor am I, nor are Western leaders, IMO. However, if any fault is to be attributed, then Western leaders past and present should be faulted for their belief that Western style democracy, with all its attendant liberties verging on libertinism, can quickly be exported and implanted into societies that are radically different from our own. Do we need any more proof that democracy does not take root so easily? Have Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya suddenly blossomed into democracies?

I think we should refrain from trying to reshape the world in our own image. On the other hand, our own Western societies should work to strengthen and maintain our own democracies, rather than trying to water them down to appeal to newcomers. Mind you, you make a valid and compassionate point when you say “To ask a woman who has worn a niqab for most of her life, to remove her veil, is like asking a woman from our culture to strip naked.” Perhaps prospective immigrants should be reminded time and again that certain practices are unacceptable in our Canadian society, so if they wish to participate in it, they have to adapt. That doesn’t mean completely ridding themselves of their own culture, adopting everything Canadian society offers. But it does mean showing respect for our established rules and traditions.

Finally … freedom of expression is often cited in dealing with this issue. This quote sums it up quite nicely for me:
“To have a right to do a thing is not at all the same as to be right in doing it.” -- G.K. Chesterton
-- Gabby in QC

Anonymous said...

Yeah the "right" to freedom of religion and culture (all those beautiful feel-good words) worked out well for the Shaffia girls who refused to wear their masks. The mask undoubtedly represents a religion that influences a culture which perpetuates the oppression of women, advocates against Christian Canadian values (sorry I used the "C" word) and represents a barbaric element of Islam endorsed by Sharia law.

This very Sharia law has resulted in prayers in Canadian public schools (Valley Park Middle School) and universities U of Regina). The very Sharia law that results in gender segregation in public swimming pools operated by the government (Dennis R. Timbrell Recreation Centre). These are just a few examples but there are many in Canada and many more to come.

The underlining point here is that our program of multiculturalism, liberty and democracy is being perverted and used against us in the name of creating an egalitarian society.

Pierre Trudeau's concept of a "Just Society" was premised on the ideology that the caprices of the ruling majority (the English White men) must be stripped of their power and have that power vacuum replaced by multiculturalism through immigration hence creating a new cosmopolitan/diverse society where all would new be equal.

The face mask issues we have is one of the failures of Pierre's "Just Society" and the entire concept of multiculturalism which has been transformed into nothing but a politicized issue that begets votes.

Opposition to multiculturalism is taboo and is career suicide for politicians. In fact, any person who opposes multiculturalism is deemed a racists, bigot, xenophobic and Islamaphobic. That's a stigma that someone doesn't want; especially politicians.

So want do we have: A whole bunch of liberal/left winged rhetoric that includes feel-good words used by politicians, media and left of centred conservatives like Stephen Harper. The end result is people - like Canadianna - saying that it's "no real big deal and it's their right to do so". "It's just part of their religion so let it be cause this is Canada".

canadianna said...

I think we are very much in agreement, Gabby. Like the quote, too.

Anonymous, I never said it wasn't a big deal. My point is that it's a very big deal to the woman. I find it hard to think of this issue on a sweeping 'rules are rules' level. This is not about disrespecting rules, or suggesting that cultural sensitivities are above Canadian culture or law. And quite frankly, I really understand the other point of view.

Anonymous said...

why are all of you staying silent on this one?

your conservatives had a pedophile in their party for god sakes!
Christians everywhere are shaming your party right now.
time to put the politics aside and do the right thing.

and harper knew all along: