Fighting oppression with oppression
As a feminist, I to see the hijab, niqab and the burqa as female oppression even though my friend and colleague, Hadeel Abed, a practicing Muslim woman, assured me that by no means are women forced to cover up, the Qur’an only suggests modesty.
Women are welcome to interpret that in any way they choose.
“Even at Mecca, you’re not required to cover your face.”
Abed said that modesty protects women from men, because otherwise, they will look at you in a different way.
“You can’t imagine how important it is for them,” she said.
Abed doesn’t wear a hijab or any other traditional Muslim coverings, reinforcing the idea that modesty is up for interpretation. Although, she admits that once she is married and has children she may decide to wear a hijab to protect herself from the eyes of men who are not her husband.
I can’t accept this; I explained to her that in my opinion, this just depicts men as animals who can’t control themselves.
Why can’t the religion just teach men to be respectful no matter what a woman wears?
Abed and I had an open and honest conversation, but the fact of the matter is, none of it matters.
If the concern here is people shouldn’t be controlled by powerful institutions like religions, then they shouldn’t be controlled by a powerful organization like the government.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said it best when he said, “you can dislike the niqab. You can hold it up as a symbol of oppression. You can try to convince your fellow citizens that it is a choice they ought not to make.
This is a free country. Those are your rights. But those who would use the state’s power to restrict women’s religious freedom and freedom of expression, indulge the very same repressive impulse that they profess to condemn. It is a cruel joke to claim you are liberating people from oppression by dictating in law what they can and cannot wear.”
The hypocrisy rears its ugly head in Québec’s Bill 62.
Bill 62 is otherwise known as an act to foster adherence to State religious neutrality, and, in particular, to provide a framework for requests for accommodations on religious grounds in certain bodies. Catchy, right?
It was introduced in June of 2015 and came into effect last month. It suggested that by keeping one’s face uncovered, the act would help to promote communication, safety and identification. It was also ensured that no one would be subjected to the act due to their faith.
However unquestionably, one particular faith is certain to be victimized.
Although it is estimated that there are less than 100 Muslim women living in Québec who wear a burqa or a niqab, the bill is a message to Muslims as a whole, whether moderate or not.
They’re not welcome in Québec.
Putting aside the blatant racism enforced by this ridiculous act, what about the hypocrisy of secularism “an act to foster state religious neutrality.” As if this act wasn’t introduced under a crucifix, that last I checked, depicts some sort of religious figure.
The act includes facial coverings such as masks, sunglasses and bandanas as if doing so will mask the real target of the law: Muslim women.
Nice try Québec.
Bill 62 certainly violates a person’s freedom of expression and religion and there is no way it will stand in Supreme Court unless it can somehow justify itself by demonstrating that wearing a burqa or a niqab violates public freedoms during interaction with public servants.
If there is a silver lining, this act and the attention it garners serves to emphasize the systematic xenophobia present in Québec, and if anything we as human beings can certainly be more mindful now.