This is a topic that I have skated around once or twice, normally in the context of opposing any restrictions on what anyone wears except in a few specific situations like driving a car, applying for a photo ID card, likely a driving licence, or showing photo ID when, for example, voting or boarding an aircraft. I might find certain clothes a bit odd and I might wonder why anyone would want to wear them but, quite frankly, it’s none of my business, nor is it yours and nor is the business of the state
But then I saw this opinion piece, in the Toronto Sun, by Raheel Raza, who is President of The Council for Muslims Facing Tomorrow, author of Their Jihad … Not my Jihad and an international activist for women’s rights, and it struck a chord.
“As a Muslim mother who never saw a niqab when I was growing up in Karachi, Pakistan,” she writes, “I am astonished to see Canada’s judiciary caving in to Islamists who have nothing but contempt for Canada’s values of gender equality … [but] … in the 25 years I have called Canada home, I have seen a steady rise of Muslim women being strangled in the pernicious black tent that is passed off to naïve and guilt-ridden white, mainstream Canadians as an essential Islamic practice … [because, she says, echoing what I have been told by several Muslim men] … The niqab and burka have nothing to do with Islam.” They, the niqab and burqa, are, she says “the political flags of the Muslim Brotherhood, ISIS, the Taliban, al-Qaida and Saudi Arabia.” Well, they are that, I suppose, but they are, mainly, the tattered remnants of an old, medieval, culture in which, to be sure, many women, all over the world, wore long dresses ~ even peasant women because a long garment provided some protection when working in the fields, but in which only a few, even in the Near and Middle East, ever “took the veil” and in which people, including women, were often, until the end of the 18th century in Europe but still, even today in parts of the Middle East, property. It is the taste of the latter, of slavery, that still lingers, for me, when I see a woman who is wearing a niqab or chador ~ I cannot help but wonder if she is doing that by choice, perhaps to express her (erroneous) religious views, or if she is being forced to wear it.
Ms Raza says, and I agree that “Now I learn I have not only to fight the medieval, theocratic adherents of my faith for a safe space for myself, I have to battle the Federal Court of Canada as well, which has come out on the side of these facemasks … [because] … The ruling concerns the case of Zunera Ishaq, a 29-year-old woman who emigrated to Canada from Pakistan in 2008 … [and] … After previously showing her face to an immigration official in 2013 when taking her citizenship test, she refused to take part in the citizenship ceremony because she would have to show her face while taking the oath of citizenship … [but] … Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government rightly banned face masks at such ceremonies, but this was found to be unlawful by the Federal Court.“
“With all due respect,” Raheel Raza writes “let me introduce our Canadian judges to their Pakistani colleague in the jihadi badlands of Peshawar … [where] … In November 2004, the Chief Justice of the Peshawar High Court (PHC), Tariq Pervaiz Khan, ordered female lawyers not to wear face veils in courtrooms, saying they couldn’t be identified, nor assist the court properly while wearing veils … [and] … He scolded the niqabi women saying,“You are professionals“.”
“Covering the face,” she explains, again echoing what some well educated Muslim men have told me, “is not a religious requirement for Muslim women … [because] … The injunction in the Qur’an is for modesty (for men and women) … [and, while] … Some Muslim women interpret this as covering their head with a scarf or chador … [it has been argued by] … A scholar of Islamic history, Prof. Mohammad Qadeer of Queen’s University, Kingston, [who] wrote in the Globe and Mail in March 2006:
- “The argument about concealing one’s face as a religious obligation, is contentious and is not backed by the evidence.”
- He added, “in Western societies, the niqab also is a symbol of distrust for fellow citizens and a statement of self-segregation.The wearer of a face veil is conveying: ‘I am violated if you look at me.’
- It is a barrier in civic discourse. It also subverts public trust.”
The federal Liberals and NDP,” she says “are treating Canada’s niqabis as a latter day Rosa Parks, fighting for justice … [and] … This is vote-bank politics that is, as my friend Tarek Fatah calls it, “sharia Bolshevism”.“
Ms Raza concludes that “There is just one way forward: The next government must legislate the complete ban on wearing face masks in public, not just to expose the hypocrisy of the Islamists but for the sake of our security as well.“
People, including women, must be allowed to wear whatever they wish wherever they wish, whenever they wish, subject only to keeping the peace ~ ‘streaking‘ is, probably, an offence against public order in most places ~ and obeying a few rules that require them, and you and me, too, to provide positive, visual conformation of their identity … such as when voting or accepting citizenship, or applying for a driving licence, or boarding an aircraft or crossing a border. The rules, the limits of a person’s fundamental right to privacy must be spelled out in laws and regulations and, now and again, justified to a judge. Otherwise we, all of us, have a right to be left alone and even to be different and, perhaps, even a bit strange, if we choose.