Monday, December 24, 2012

What the niqaab brings out in Canadians

This past weekend I attended "Reviving the Islamic Spirit," a major Islamic conference held in Toronto, Ontario, but attended by participants from all over the world.  One of the things I saw there that I had rarely seen before was sisters wearing the niqaab, or the Islamic face veil.  Now, wearing the face veil is not fard (compulsary), but it is something that you can receive extra reward for, if you are wearing it for the sake of Allah.  Some societies have made it compulsary - Saudi Arabia and Yemen, for instance - but in reality, it is not, but it is something that many sisters do in the west because they choose to emulate the Prophet Muhammad's (sallallahu alayhi wa salaam) wives.

In and amongst this, at the end of last week, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that a woman who is/was testifying against her uncle and cousin for sexually assaulting her two decades ago must take off the veil because otherwise it denies the two men a fair trial.  Honestly, as a few lawyers said on a radio program on Friday afternoon, there are many people who can look you straight in the eye, lie through their teeth and you don't know the difference, because many times, the face does not give away whether or not they are lying on many occassions.

But here is what I have learned on this over the past few years of paying attention.

1) The media cannot be bothered to actually talk to a Muslim woman, let alone talk to a Muslim woman who wears the veil.  They make judgments and write articles and make assumptions about us (Muslim women) but actually bother to talk to us.  And if there's a Muslim woman on staff, they don't seem to bother in using her to write the article.  Maybe they figure she'd be too biased. But then, very nearly every one of the people they use to write them now are extremely biased the other way.  Barbara Kay in The National has proven this, yet again.  And, as always, they find Muslim "experts" to tell them that the niqaab is cultural, not religious, when in fact it is religious, but just not a compulsary part of Islam, as the prayers, giving charity, fasting, belief in tawheed and making hajj if possible are.

2) Canadians are just as bigoted as Americans, even though they'd deny it until they're blue in the face.  Unfortunately, all you have to do is look at the comments after an article on Muslims on the websites for The National, The Toronto Star, The Globe & Mail and I'm guessing any other Canadian publication.  And those Muslims that do post back are attacked for defending their faith.  Yet we're the ones accused of doing the attacking.  Is it any wonder that many of us look at the general public with fear and trepidation?  We've seen the comments that have been made about us.  How do we know that you're not one of "those" Canadians?  You know, the ones that can be polite and kind to your face, but behind your back are making rude, nasty, racist, bigoted comments.  I have seen Canadians comment on these articles that they want the government to ban the face veil and make it illegal in Canada.  Well, quite frankly, I'd like to make it illegal to walk around in tight fitting, revealing clothes because I don't want to see that much of anyone's body.  Oh but wait - I'd be accused of trying to shove my religion down someone's throat.  Yet the reverse, where people try to take my religion away from me, is apparently okay, so that's where we get into the bigoted and hypocritical.

3) Many of the sisters that I have met that choose (yes, choose) to wear niqaab are told to "go back to their own country" but that creates an issue.  Why?  Because many of these sisters are born and raised Canadian. They choose to start wearing the face veil to emulate the Prophet's (sallallahu alayhi wa salaam) wives, not because they're from another country or trying to be part of another culture.  There are Arabs, Malaysians, Pakistanis, Indonesians, as well as Canadians, Americans, Brits, Australians and other born and raised westerners who have chosen to wear the niqaab.  So when those that can't see past this simple piece of cloth yell at these women to go back to their own country, when they're in their own country, where would you like these women to go?

We have, so far, been fortunate to have a government that knows that banning a religious piece of clothing would make them look just as bad as the governments that force the woman to wear them, not allowing the woman to make the choice.  The Canadians that yell for it to be banned, the Canadians that yell for the women that choose to wear it to go back to their own country (even when they are in their own country), they are just as bad as the fundamentalists that we moderate Muslims fight against only in the opposite direction, the direction of removal of religion instead of becoming a fundamentalist of the religion.

Canadians need to wake up and realize one very important thing - if they are going to call for the removal of another Canadian's rights as guaranteed under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, they need to remember that someday, someone will come along and yell and scream for the removal of a right they hold sacred, or restrictions put on their lives in ways that is done in other parts of the world, and just as no one, it seems, is willing to stand up for the woman who are wearing the face veil by choice, and are harming no one in doing so.

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