Canada: Quebec’s niqab ban is a chance for women to embrace Western freedom

Quebec’s niqab ban is a chance for women to embrace Western freedom

A woman wears a niqab as she walks in Montreal Sept. 9, 2013. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz)
By Farzana Hassan Shahid, Toronto Sun

Bill 62 was passed last week, in effect denying public services to people in face masks.

While the ban includes all face coverings, this has predictably turned into an Islam versus the West issue. The familiar rivalries have resurfaced. Politicians have condemned the “burka ban”, saying it marginalizes Muslim women.

I see this as an opportunity for those women, whether they are oppressed by their husbands or have themselves chosen to cover up entirely, to embrace the equality the West offers.

The victim narrative assumes that niqabi women will continue to wear face coverings and therefore when they board the bus, or when they go for a hospital checkup, they will insist on staying hidden and consequently be denied service.

Granted, we tend to resist a law we find oppressive. In France, where such laws have been implemented, some women chose to act defiantly and be fined rather than remove face coverings.

However, many have embraced the law, in fact relishing the freedoms often denied at home. In fact, when concerns about religious divisions caused France to ban the hijab in schools years ago, many among the Muslim community expressed relief.

The women’s organization Ni Putes Ni Soumises surveyed niqab-wearing women after their 2011 ban. Its research revealed some high-profile acts of defiance, but other women anxiously waited for the law to free them of their husband’s pressures.

The situation in Quebec may be similar. There have already been protests, though the law is yet to be implemented.

Once again, the universal assumption is that Muslim women who wear the niqab will decline to remove it when accessing public services. Yet the niqab is not a religious requirement and they have every reason to embrace this attempt to deliver them Western-style freedom.

The niqab is a vestige of a tribal and pre-Islamic culture defined by men. It was instituted when women were considered chattel owned by men. The concept of sexual consent by women is of course a recent development even in the West, but in patriarchal cultures it is taking much longer.

The niqab is a primitive society’s primitive attempt to proclaim ownership rights. Naturally, it is aggressively marketed by those with a vested interest in prolonging such a dehumanizing value system.

And their Western supporters also endorse this mindset rather than promote progressive values. They deny any government’s right to tell a woman what she should and should not wear and claim that in doing so they are standing up for the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. “It is what Canadians expect of me,” says Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

But Canadians also expect him to support the rights of those forced by husbands, in-laws or even parents to cover up. What about the Charter rights of Aqsa Parvez and the Shafia girls?

Niqabi women believe the niqab protects them, and even gives them back their humanity. Seriously? By becoming anonymous and invisible? Their best chance to attain the respect they deserve as people lies not in rejecting the open garb of other women, but in emulating it.

Here is a chance for them to abandon a mode of dress that is rooted in oppressive patriarchy. When there are laws and bills to discourage short dresses at restaurants and high heels in work places, it is fitting that rules of public expectation are applied to face coverings as well.


Categories: Canada, The Muslim Times

8 replies

  1. what about freedom of choice? Yes, I am against forcing ladies into burka, but so far, all the ladies that I have come across have chosen their own dress.

  2. What happens when the west becomes the oppressor and forces and bully the women into an uncomfortable and unbearable state that is unimaginable for them?

    Western freedom, is it really golden? Does it free women from child labour and birth as well, what about breastfeeding, or periods, ok ok what say you just say those aweful cramps every month, menopause???, NO??? So what good is this western freedom? Why should I embrace it?

    there is no oppression or subjugation on women like me who are raised in Canada, we are Muslim and choose to cover our selves and our veil not only protects our beauty but gives us strength and confidence to walk proud and give it our all. It gives us a unique opportunity to present before the world our true self not some piece of meat as women are used in commercials, song videos and billboards. This is my belief, my faith, my identity and my companion. It’s more than just a piece of cloth, and it’s more than western freedom.

  3. A true Muslim do not scare people around you, if people around you feel peace it means you please Allah, but if you make people scare because of you, it means you do not please Allah.
    The true Islam is religion of peace and blessing to others.
    If people scare with burqa, do wear it.


    • I meet Burqa clad ladies in Zurich’s Bahnhofstrasse shopping area. They are usually tourist families from the United Arab Emirates, possibly Saudi Arabia. I am not scared. Somi should seek a psychologist I suggest.

      • Because Raffiq, you are supporter of Burqa and Niqab.
        I do not. Non Muslim assume that Burqa and Niqab are terrorist (Isis) dress. That is why they are scare of burqa. It is reasonable.

      • I am not really a supporter of Burqa and Niqab. I am a supporter of ladies’ rights to choose what they wear.

  4. @Somi Tempo,
    If non muslim assume that burqa or niqab is a dress that scares, so women should not wear it. What kind of argument is it.? Is it rational to snatch away the right to choose one’s dress for saving a others from their fear?
    If you believe that women are as much human as men and its as imp as for men that their basic human rights are safegauded, then we have no right to restrict women from choising their dress.

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