By Waleed Ahmed
MMNewsTeam- Canada

Well, they've done it yet again. Niqabi's have somehow managed to make headlines all across Canada. It's amazing how much influence this small group of women have on the national psyche. A few weeks ago I mentioned the niqab rage incident in Mississauga. Then there is the on going case of the woman who was sexually assaulted and wants to testify in court with a niqab. This week, the niqab issue was brought up once again.

This time it was Minister of Citizenship and Multiculturalism, Jason Kenny who sparked the controversy. Effective immediately, he announced on Monday, all niqabs are banned from the oath taking citizenship ceremony. Any Muslim woman wishing to become a Canadian citizen must remove the veil during the ceremony he stated. Kenny said that the niqab 'reflects a certain view about women that we don't accept in Canada'.

Minister Kenny also clarified that this isn't just about the judge being able to see and validate the recital of the oath, “This is not simply a practical measure. It is a matter of deep principle that goes to the heart of our identity and our values of openness and equality”. The niqab obviously violates all that we hold sacred in Canada according to Kenny.

So, what was the last time you heard of a woman refusing to take off the niqab before swearing the citizenship oath? Never. How many women even take the oath wearing a niqab? Probably an insignificant number. Neither Mr. Kenny nor his office could provide any statistics to back up the ban they so forcefully implemented. No one knew about this complaint up till this week. Clearly, this wasn't a problem to begin with.

It is obvious that this ban is yet another sleazy bigoted move by the Conservatives to score political points and gain some short term popularity. And it's worked quite well. At a time when their government is under heavy criticism due to the mess they created in Attawapiskat, playing the Muslim card is the best way out. Prime Minister Stephen Harper used similar tactics in September when he warned us all that the greatest threat to Canada was 'Islamicism' – whatever that is.

Regardless of the motivations behind it, the ban carries many implications. Disallowing the veil at a symbolic event like the citizenship ceremony sends a strong message that the niqab is not welcome in Canada; it certainly flies flat in the face of the tolerant and welcoming society we aim to foster. As the Toronto Star aptly put it, the ban coerces Muslim women to fit into the mainstream – 'behave and look just like us, or pay the price'. So much for the individualism we value so much.

Jason Kenny, like most, believes that he is liberating the niqabi's from the oppression imposed on them by their husbands and fathers. Reality is thathe is restricting their freedom and engagement with society by disallowing them to become citizens. Perhaps – this is just a wild idea – by allowing them to become citizens, we might have a greater chance of integrating these new comers into our social fabric?

This unnecessary ban impacts a few and is largely political and symbolic; much like the Hérouxville ban on the public stoning of women. In and of itself, I don't think many niqabi's would have refused a polite request by the judge to reveal their face in the first place. If validating the oath recital was so important, this requirement could have been easily communicated through a simple memo to the parties concerned.

Making a national spectacle over a non-issue has sparked endless debates on multiculturalism, religious accommodation and Canadian Muslims. It has further helped 'otherize' Muslims and has created an 'us verses them' dichotomy. You can either be a niqabi or a Canadian – that's what the ban represents. It's left some women with the awkward choice between citizenship and religion.

My fear is that measures like these are the stepping stones to full public bans. They help immunize the public to the singling out and marginalization of Muslims. The core arguments used for the niqab could very well be applied to the hijab too – what is to prevent that from being banned next?

Given the unpopularity of niqab within our own community, many Muslims may not feel the need to speak out against this act. But know that these are just the building blocks to greater cuts in our religious freedoms; if we stay silent now, then we're setting ourselves up for disaster. If you don't speak up for the niqabi's, no one will speak up for you.

98 Responses

  1. Umm subhana

    Yet another huge test for muslim women in deciding whether to choose short span of Dunya citizenship or the forever aakhirah .My instinct tells me that it’s just the start , we will see those days too when the non Muslims will ban to pray salah , wearing hijab and the list goes on and on. May Allah give them hidayah sooner than soon . Aameen ya Rabb ul Aalimeen .

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    • Megiddon

      There is no choice to be made, women can still dress modestly and wear the hijab fulfilling all the obligations of the Islamic faith regarding dress.  Women can have their short span as citizens and look forward to the next life without ever having to wear the niqab.

      Peace

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  2. Abdullah

    As salamu alaikum

    “if we stay silent now, then we’re setting ourselves up for disaster. If you don’t speak up for the niqabi’s, no one will speak up for you.”

    We know what is happening and we know why it is happening. The question is: What can we do about it? I’d like to see that question addressed by you and the people of knowledge on this blogging site. I hope and pray that I am mistaken when I say that MuslimMatters is turning into Captain Obvious. We know what is going on, what is more important is how do we deal with it and how do we respond to / address these issues. That is what your blogging should concentrate on.

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    • waleed ahmed

      Walaykum asalam,

      Good point. You might find the implications of this ban quite obvious but many people don’t; which is why many Muslims endorsed it here. Part of the reason for publishing this article was to bring awareness around those issues and tell Muslims that they need to condemn it in the strongest of terms.

      As for ‘what should we do about it’ – this is my advice (not that I am some guru; but since you asked). At an individual level, we need to be speaking out against it. How? First, speak amongst our peers and raise awareness at that level. Next, write to your local newspapers, radio and tv. Unfortunately this article was published a bit late; but ideally I would have asked readers to bombard newspapers with letters when this was on the headlines. Alhamdulliah, I was able to do this on my own and got some stuff published. If you are at school, write an article for your school paper – it’s very easy to get stuff published in school papers. Same is the case for small town newspapers.

      More importantly, we need to be writing to Jason Kenny himself and our local MPs stating our concerns and condemning the ban. Organizations and Masjids should be doing the same as it sends a much stronger message.

      Also, if you are in a position of leadership, then at an organizational level we should be issuing joint statements against such impositions. A very effective example of this was when CAIR-CAN recently issued a joint statement condemning domestic violence in wake of the Shafia murders. Almost every major Canadian Muslim organization endorsed it and Imam’s concurrently gave khutba’s against domestic violence. This was covered by all major news outlets and sent a very strong an clear message. This unfortunately was not done to such an extent in case of the niqab ban.

      Lastly, just talking about issues should not be downplayed as some meaningless endeavor. It helps raise awareness at the grassroots level and can greatly impact the direction of a discourse. In addition, MM frequently releases ‘action alerts’ where reader’s are given practical steps one can take to address issues.

      Hope that helps,

      Waleed

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  3. RCHOUDH

    I agree we shouldn’t stay silent when the rights of some of our Muslim sisters is being violated just because we don’t carry the same opinion as them when it comes to niqab. Here’s the ultimate paradox that I see with these bans. In the West they like to say that they’re all for campaigning for Muslim women to have the right to a life free from harassment and from not having access to an education and career. Ok so then why don’t they see that these bans ultimately lead to Muslim women getting harassed and getting no access to the education/jobs that the West says we so desperately need??? Here I’m not just talking about the niqab ban in Canada but also France and even Turkey. Is it that they secretly don’t want Muslim women to compete for the same jobs/college slots as their kids? I have a feeling that’s part of the issue here too.

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  4. AnonyMouse

    What I found most unfortunate was just how many Muslims support this citizenship/ niqab ban – according to many comments that I read (some in response to my blog post here), some Muslims are saying that they, too, find the niqab “frightening”… and apparently that’s reason enough to support the ban!

    Alas, it seems that many Muslims are blind (or perhaps just deluding themselves) as to the very real repercussions of these new ‘requirements.’

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    • RCHOUDH

      Unfortunately those Muslims may not realize that that’s what the Powers That Be are banking on…us perpetuating divisions amongst ourselves. Those Muslims should realize that the discrimination won’t stop there, and the really racist individuals who come to power won’t bother distinguishing between so-called “moderate” Muslims from the “radical” ones. Just look at the controversy between the All-American Muslim show, a show about “moderate” Muslims was seen as a threat to their “values” (whatever that is).

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    • Muhammad S.

      Salaam,

      I really think even some Muslims find Niqab frightening because even Muslims are affected by propaganda directed towards them through the Media. Even though they initially might not have been affected by it. But persistent and increasingly bias media coverage and bias wears a people down.

      There is also an inferiority complex that begins to be created within the mind of Muslims and we end up lashing out a specific part of our population to release our frustration and to place blame. Kind of like a an angry father who has financial issues coming home and taking out his frustrations on his kid for breaking a remote control or something. The remote control really has nothing to do with the financial problems. Niqab has nothing to do with hate directed towards Muslims.

      Muslims who are not “brave” enough to wear the Niqab or walk around with a woman who wears Niqab or cannot picture themselves in that scenario because of their weakness or inferiority issues will sometimes blame, ridicule Niqab and even go as far as to make a fiqh decision about how Niqab “how it is just not part of Islam”. When in reality, Niqab is a very important part of Islam and Islamic identity.

      I remember reading about how the African American community in the US is very affected by the way the media portrays them. The news, music industry, movies and other TV shows portray certain stereotypes of African Americans, and even African Americans start believing them after a while.

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    • Fezz

      The only niqaab I find frightening is the one Jason Kenny has bound so tightly over his heart.

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  5. Sanjida

    My thoughts EXACTLY. May Allah amply reward you with good for posting this article. Ameen!

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    • Canadian guy

      Most Canadians (and I am coming from a background of European and Canadian Indian decent) are tired of both sides of these arguments. As most of you know, Canada is welcoming and open to change. One thing I find disturbing is the lack of effort by muslims to include Canadians in their celebrations, its no wonder we don’t understand your requests. To austracize yourself from a community and then turn around and demand that your ways are accepted is to impose your values on our society as a whole. Don’t you think thats a problem? Maybe you ought to consider others and become somewhat extroverted vs. always looking at what muslims can do, and what ways you can protect your beliefs, rather than considering a broader perspective of inclusion ie. what can PEOPLE do.

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      • Monz

        Thanks for voicing your concerns Canadian guy. Let me start by saying that I’m a fellow Canadian of the Muslim faith, and just to give you a little insight about myself, I’m a normal Canadian that has a normal 9-5 job and I’ve worked with Muslim organizations in my city (Montreal) to help spread the word about our community and what we stand for.

        After pondering about what you wrote here’s what I have to offer as an explanation:

        1- You asked why we don’t include others in our “celebrations,” but I’m a bit confused as to what you mean. Perhaps the reason why is because Muslims are more worship-oriented rather than celebration-oriented. For example, many of my non-Muslim friends always ask me if I’m celebrating Ramadan; however, no Muslim “celebrates” Ramadan as it’s a holy month that is designed to increase our worship. However, I’ve seen several Muslims invite their non-Muslim friends to break their fast with them to share in the spirit of Ramadan, so to speak.

        2- Muslims come from all over the world, from Africa, Europe, the Middle East, even China. Each region has its own celebrations and it’s has more to do with their cultural/ethnic background than religion. So for example you may see an Indonesian Muslim celebrating something, yet an African Muslim might not celebrate it due to cultural differences. If you’re referring to the two religious celebrations that all Muslims celebrate — ie, Eid — things are improving in that regards and non-Muslims are becoming more and more involved in Eid celebrations.

        3- You made one assumption in your message. That assumption is that we keep to ourselves and don’t interact with the outside world. Nothing can be further from the truth, both at the micro or macro level. At the micro level, Muslims interact with Canadians from all walks of life in their day to day, and it’s unfair to criticize us on this level simply because you may not have much interaction with Muslims. At the macro level, many organizations at the city level do their best to have outreach projects on many levels, whether it is with their local community (of non-Muslims), politicians or the media. Unfortunately, when we have our “Open Mosque” events (similar to “Open Door” events), few turn up to speak to us.

        4- Finally, I’d like to mention that my wife wears the face veil, as do other members of my family, and all we’ve ever asked for is to be treated fairly. My wife, for example, is a hard working woman who had a steady 9-5 job at a great company for years. Her managers and co-workers treated her fairly and expected the same of her as anyone else, and she got along with them swimmingly. Yet, throughout her entire experience, she ALWAYS had a face veil on. The company respected that, and she respected what was expected of her. When she finally decided to leave (on her own accord), she did so to start her own studies/business ideas. The point of this story is to show you that we, including women who wear the face veil, are quite extroverted.

        I apologize for making this reply long, but I felt that your concerns needed to be addressed fully so you can understand where we’re coming from. Please think about what I’ve said and I invite you to visit your local mosque or Muslim organization and just talk to the person there to get to know us and our belief in God better. We won’t bite =)

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  6. Aliyah Hassani

    Bismillah ar Rahman ar Raheem
    Assalaamu alaikum wa rahmathullah wa barakatuhu

    I would like the agree totally with RCHOUDH. As a niqaabi myself (I prefer the expression n” منتقبة muntaqabah”) although from the Middle East, I constantly find myself up against the paradox he speaks of. The dichotomy of responses I get even from brothers I rank as pious and learned is amazing. But it is evident that some of our supporters secretly feel that it is best for women to be “unseen and unheard” even if this means us missing out on education and career opportunities.
    Alhamdulillah, I am blessed by being able to be muntaqabah and to have been well educated and now starting out on a career of my own insha’Allah. But many sisters are not so fortunate. So, while sisters in Canada, France and various other countries suffer from blatant discrimination that is cruel and unjustified (as shown in the main article), the paradox RCHOUDH speaks of is evident even in countries where niqaab is permissable by local law. And it is sad that some brothers prefer to view it as a justified tool in their own discrimination against their own sisters in Islam.
    Aliyah

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    • RCHOUDH

      Wa alaikum salaam wa rahmatullah wa barakatuhu,

      Sister I understand what you are saying about some Muslim countries not allowing the muntaqabah to lead a public life. I think the reasons for this are twofold: 1). A religious misunderstanding of the issue, combined with cultural practices that lead to women being absent from public life. 2). A lack of job/educational opportunities in these countries for anyone really (both males and females) whereby it’s believed that since men have more responsibilities, they should be given priority in having access to the few jobs/educational opportunities that are available in these countries. I’m living in a Muslim country right now and it’s been just recently that they’ve started to sloooowly integrate women (majority of whom are muntaqaba) into the workforce (women have been receiving higher education for awhile here to the point where now more women attend universities here than men). Much of the reason for why these women were barred from going out to work was because of cultural hangups but now those attitudes are slowly changing in accordance with Islam.
      But I think the issues faced by Muslim countries with regard to the muntaqaba differs from that of the West. The West, even when you take into account the ongoing economic crisis right now, theoretically has more job/educational opportunities to offer than most Muslim countries. And they obviously don’t have the same cultural hangups as some Muslims do about women in the classroom/workplace. So why are they barring Muslim women who wear niqab from these opportunities? Alot of these Western countries always say they support a Muslim woman’s right to an education/job (that’s why they’re always touting the number of girls’ schools they build in Iraq and Afghanistan). So why is it that for Muslim women living in their own countries they bar them from accessing these same opportunities? It simply makes no sense and is an act of plain old discrimination.

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  7. Abu Sumaiyah

    Please someone fill me in. Okay, so it is okay for a Muslim woman to appear in a courtroom and remove her niqaab to give testimony, correct? It is okay for a Muslim woman to remove her nigab for a drivers license? It is okay to show the face when she has to prove her identity, right? Well then doesn’t that then fall in line with this situation? The woman must prove it is her. She is infact giving testimony infront of a court and judge. So would this not be permissiable?

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    • Umm subhana

      Well , a sisterbmust be arranged for a particular niqabi who will prove her identity to the judge in court . It happened in Dubai airport with niqabis , that they have female security staff who can see their faces in an enclosed room. Hope u get my point inshallah.

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    • waleed ahmed

      Abu Sumayiyah,

      The logic you mentioned is exactly why many Muslims see this ban quite reasonable. ‘What’s the big deal with showing your face to a judge?’. Well, like I said, this wasn’t an issue to begin with; we don’t have any reported cases of niqabi’s refusing comply with the requirement. Therefore, an outright ban is pointless. What people need to to be able to see are the greater implications of this requirement and what it symbolizes – and what it can lead to. That is why we need to condemn it. The line of thinking used in this ban can easily be applied to the hijab too – so if we don’t condemn this ban, then it we will create a precedent which could be used to outlaw the hijab too.

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      • Abu Sumaiyah

        Comdemn what? Canada is a non-Muslim counntry. It is true in fact that the niqab goes against the values of Canada. Muslims must realize that you dont have the right to anything in Canada. Yes, there is the charter of rights. but there is also the notwithstanding clause, article 32 of the constitution. this article takes away all the rights of citizens in the country. the government can basically pass any law so long as they can justify that they are trying to protect a liberal democtatic society.

        Seconldy, Muslims have no busines living in Canada. Many use this dawah escuse, but really, how many Muslims are truly living in Canada for dawah, I dont think many. wallahu alaam. Yes, it is not possible for all Muslims to make hijrah, but at least they should have this in their heart (sincerely). Alhamduliallaah I was able to make hijrah. Inshallah those who are sincere about this will also hae the chance.

        Inshallah with these Islamic parties coming to power the middle east, there will be opportunities for Muslims to leave canada.

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      • Rameez

        Nice post Abu Sumaiyah ,

        I agree , I don’t know why muslims think that they are so special in kuffar land . Being a muslim , If you are so persistent in wearing a niqab , then why not move to a muslim land where you can practise Islam without having objections .

        Hijab is obligatory , not face veil .This is a useless article .

        And before any one comes out and blast at me . Show me direct evidence from Quran or hadith where it states that muslim women are required to cover their face .

        Moderation is the key . Going to extremes will not help you .

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      • Amal

        Too right Rameez. Even for those who *do* think it’s obligatory, all have agreed that in case of need, such as testifying in court or taking a citizenship test, it can be removed. This article is simply more needless fuel on the fire of our collective persecution complex.
        Oh how I long for the day when I’ll see Muslims railing against the fact that women are FORCED to wear abaya in Saudi Arabia just as loudly as they complain about this niqab matter.

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      • waleed ahmed

        Rameez/Amal

        I believe you guys missed the point of my article. I actually said that the requirement to reveal one’s face to a judge is a reasonable request and I don’t think any niqbi’s should have a problem with it – and there never has been.

        Implementing a nationwide ban over a non-issue is a means to earn political points by demonizing Muslims. The arguments behind it are very problematic too as they could be applied to the hijab too – so why not ban that as well? My point is that if we don’t speak out against this ban, it becomes easier for them to cut out religious freedoms that are obligatory by agreement.

        I am surprised that many non-Muslims saw the bigotry underlying the ban and wrote op-eds against it in newspapers; yet we Muslims are having a hard time see that.

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      • khan

        @ Amal: Why do u want to see the Muslims rallying against the abbaya in Saudi Arabia..?? The Quran also instructs the Muslim women to wear jilbaab and if the state has made this into a law, I think ultimately its an ease for Muslim women

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      • amatullah

        Assalamualaikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh brother Rameez,

        Kindly please take some time and read more about the niqab and hijab.
        How can you look down on the niqab when our own Mothers of Believers observed the veiling of their face.

        Knowledge is light and ignorance is darkness. And just because we don’t know the ruling of certain thing does not mean that ruling does not exist.

        Not all sisters/brothers who want to migrate can do so because of financial or other reasons.

        By the way, if every individual starts defining ‘moderation’ in his own way, we’ll have different types of Islam. I have some books, ill search for the ebook version and post it here so you can take a look on the discussion about niqaab, insha Allaah.

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    • ums

      The citizenship oath has nothing to do with giving testimony. It’s purely ceremonial. You already got your citizenship through a mass of paperwork. If there was some reason to worry that the woman with a face veil switched places with another woman with a face veil for the duration of the ceremony where they listen to the national anthem and hear some patriotic speeches, and that possibility was deeply unnerving to them, they could easily check. But even if she did sneak her sister in because she didn’t think she could make it through the tear-wrenching story of the 3rd world refugee who found everlasting peace and happiness upon crossing the Canadian border, in the end the documents they give you and the passport they issue are for the person who applied for citizenship.

      Like Mr. Kenny said, it’s about the whole idea of “niqabis” becoming a part of Canadian society that is disturbing to them.

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      • ums

        And, it makes me so sad that so many Muslims are unaware of their own religion. Why did our mothers – the mothers of all those who believe until the Day of Judgment – why did they wear niqab? If it was just specially for the wives of the Prophet peace be upon him, then why did the women of the sahaba wear it? Weren’t they the women who understood this beautiful religion the best and practice it the best? They were braver and clearer focused and more intelligent than any of us nowadays. Nowadays we buckle under pressure and – much less wear it ourselves – start to mutter and blush when non Muslims raise their eyebrows at us.

        If you know your religion, and are true to Allah, He will honor you.

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  8. none

    While niqabis might be a fringe group, the ruling to wear niqab has scholarly weight. We have to take a stand and show our sisters and our communities that we will voice our concerns when their freedoms are trampled upon. If muslims are frightened of the niqab themselves, it is just a testimony to the rust in their own hearts. We can’t vote away scholarly opinions that are not popular. There are limits to the democratic process in the Shariah just as there are limits to the application of democracy in Modern Non Islamic governments.. If Muslims don’t like it out of their own ignorance and pandering to the majority of those who don’t know, we stand with Allah in support of our sisters who follow this valid Islamic opinion. May Allah grant us the strength to stand upon and support the truth and those who strive to follow the truth and protect us from misguidance. Ameen.

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    • Derek Bauer

      Did not Al-Azhar University in Cairo ban the niqab in classrooms as being un-Islamic?

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  9. jim karygiannis

    December 16, 2011

    Dear Community Partner/Stakeholder:

    On Monday, December 12, 2011, the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, Jason Kenney, announced a controversial decision with respect to the rules governing the oath-taking ceremony for new Canadians.

    “I have received complaints recently from members of Parliament, from citizenship judges and from participants in citizenship ceremonies themselves that it is hard to ensure that individuals whose faces are covered are actually reciting the oath. Requiring that all candidates show their face while reciting the oath enables judges—and everyone present—to share in the ceremony and to ensure that all citizenship candidates are in fact reciting the oath as required by law.” Minister Kenney said. “Effective today, everyone will be required to show their face when swearing the oath.”

    – Minister Kenney in Montreal, Quebec on December 12, 2011, speaking on the value of Canadian Citizenship

    Presently, the Supreme Court of Canada is hearing the case of a woman who wants to testify in court while wearing a niqab. Why wouldn’t the government simply let the Supreme Court determine this issue?

    In my capacity as the Liberal Critic for Multiculturalism, I know that to some the burka or niqab is an essential part of Islamic religious and traditional expression. I believe that all Canadians have the right to practice their faith and culture – rights which are protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It is my belief that the rules governing our institutions should reflect the religious and cultural practices of our multicultural society.

    In this regard, minor changes could be made to this ruling. Women, who choose to wear the burka or niqab, could ask to have their credentials confirmed by a female officer prior to taking the Oath of Citizenship. The Oath could be taken in the presence of a female Citizenship Judge.

    My statement on this matter can be viewed at the following link: http://www.ctv.ca/CTVNews/Politics/20111212/canada-face-veils-ruls-citizenship-new-canadians-111212/

    I invite you to let me know your views on this matter – visit my website, http://www.jimkarygiannis.net/citizenship_niqab, email me at jim@karygiannismp.com, or fax me at (416) 321-5456.

    Sincerely,

    Hon. Jim Karygiannis, P.C., M.P.,

    Scarborough-Agincourt

    Liberal Critic for Multiculturalism

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  10. Umm Sulaim

    The anti-niqab stance of some Muslims is more cultural than a consequence of media propaganda.

    I live in a Muslim region where a ban on niqab existed long before that of France, Belgium or Canada. People here are trained that the niqab is against their culture and anyone wearing it is a shi’a marked for death. Only Allah knows the number of niqabis and their families who have been murdered.

    Much of it is ignorance; here people vie with each other in being idiots (do pardon my language).

    Recently my lecturer told me people were afraid of me. My response:

    How can those who are good at murdering people fear me?
    He suggested Boko Haram and I reminded him the murders have been taking place before Boko Haram.

    Moreover, Boko Haram is a consequence of their cultural educational policy.

    Umm Sulaim

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  11. Concerned Canadian

    It seems that many people don’t know that secularism means the separation of religion and state with the understanding that religion is kept private. As soon as religious practice enters the public realm, it is subject to state regulation, just like every other public behaviour. Also, religious freedom is not absolute, as we’ve seen with the polygamy ruling. Furthermore, since the politicization of Islam is a growing global phenomenon, a political response is reasonable. When Islam is de-politicized (i.e., kept in the private domain of place of worship and home), then and only then will a secular society have no issue with it.

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    • Rifaie

      Politicization of Islam as a global trend is not an issue of relevance in this specific discussion. Also, given that , until now, there was really no law as such that Niqaab as a dress code was violating, what is wrong with it other than that Canadians are not comfortable with this particular expression of religious affiliation?
      Am i to understand that nuns will henceforth be stopped from covering their hair? Or that priests no longer wear crosses? Should all believers everywhere censor their speech to exclude any religious remarks?

      What it boils down to is that there is a xenophobic element in the protestations against Niqaab that is not manifest when it comes to the religious practices of others in society. IF there was truly a law against it for some other reason already then I understand this, but to concoct something to outlaw it in particular does appear to be more in line with the trend of Muslims bashing.

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      • Concerned Canadian

        Why isn’t the politicization of Islam an issue of relevance in this specific discussion? Does everyone’s mind become a tabula rasa when they hit Canada’s borders? And do ideas have no way of spreading from one place to another? Has there ever before in the history of Canada been any practice that included covering one’s face at all times in public?

        Below, why would it be anyone else’s business if someone refuses to see a doctor because of their gender? Isn’t this a personal choice that the patient is free to make and accept the consequences?

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      • RCHOUDH

        Dear Concerned,

        You’re right that choosing a doctor is a very personal choice; I was just giving a hypothetical scenario where this personal choice could become very political in light of the bans against public expressions of one’s faith. Since many of these niqab (and even hijab) bans around the world affect Muslim women’s ability to access public services (public schools, universities, jobs in the public sector) I was just providing a possible future ban on Muslim women accessing Canada’s public health care system. The lawmakers making these bans could try to create a ban whereby a Muslim woman who refuses to be seen by a male doctor for religious reasons is banned from using Canada’s public health care services, which means discriminating against these women for public services that are supposed to be provided to everyone (similar to how in France they ban Muslim schoolgirls from having access to a public education because of the hijab ban). While these same services can be found in the private sector, not everyone can afford these services and besides what about the sense of equality that the West always extols upon? Why are some people allowed such services and others not? Likewise in light of this particular ban why are some people easily able to access Canadian citizenship and others not?

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      • Concerned Canadian

        Why speak of hypothetical situations as if they’re an imminent reality? How does wearing a niqab promote equality? Why do you see Canadian citizenship as a right and not a privilege?

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      • RCHOUDH

        Concerned Canadian,

        Even though I’m speaking of one hypothetical situation my point is similar to what the author of this post says, which is that once you allow one ban to occur without opposition it’ll be harder to stop future bans from occurring. The individuals who support these bans will feel emboldened enough to start banning all manner of public expressions of one’s faith (the faith primarily being Islam but the ban could be extended to apply towards members of other faiths too).
        When I referred to equality I was talking about equal access to public services. And I never said citizenship is a right; I understand that it’s a privilege usually extended towards those of legal immigrant status and who are able to pass the citizenship test. What I’m talking about is again equal access to even this privilege, why are some individuals being made to jump through more hoops just to obtain citizenship?

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      • Concerned Canadian

        Since there’s no reply button for the last comment I’ll answer here. If we’re now dealing in hypotheticals of one behaviour leading to another, couldn’t I argue that the niqab can be adopted as a disguise by bank robbers and other thieves to get away with crimes because they will not be able to be identified?

        Sorry, you said, “besides what about the sense of equality that the West extols upon.” So this last was not about services but a general statement. However, if you want to now apply it to services, does requiring service providers to always make exceptions for a certain group mean equality?

        In the same vein, why should the government jump through more hoops to grant citizenship to some individuals?

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      • Rifaie

        “Why isn’t the politicization of Islam an issue of relevance in this specific discussion?”

        Could you tell me why its relevant? There is, to the best of my knowledge , no attempt being made to ” hijack” the political process in Canada with any strain of Islamic theocracy. What goes on outside the border is not the focus here.

        “Has there ever before in the history of Canada been any practice that included covering one’s face at all times in public”

        And before the Europeans got there , were their customs and religious beliefs reflected by the locals? Didn’t much care about their objections, I’m sure. The power that grows from the barrel of a gun has its own charm at times no doubt.

        Anyways, the point is that whether Niqaab is a religious symbol , or not, is not anyone’s business in this society.If someone decides to don a trash can as part of their religious conviction and it doesn’t violate any existing laws of the land , then it doesn’t matter what you or I think about it. But to quickly come up with regulations to outlaw that specific dress code for no logically coherent reasons… that’s what appears a bit hypocritical.

        It is rather clear that this is a politically expedient move for some and that’s what explains it best probably.

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      • Concerned Canadian

        I rather think that our society responds so viscerally because we understand that it erases one’s identity. I was inspired and had my hope restored when I found this video of a Saudi newscaster express the same idea here:

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      • guest

        and you are under guest what is the difference…..let the discussion go on. that way we can all understand all of this better Concerned Canadian is fine.

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      • Aly Balagamwala | DiscoMaulvi

        Dear Kisha

        The “Guest” status was due to an error due to which my Disqus account got deleted while testing & all my previous posts got disassociated. When the original comment was done it was under my name.
        -Aly
        Comments Team Lead
        MuslimMatters.org
        *** Sent Via BlackBerry ***

        Muhammad Aly Balagamwala
        Associate Writer & Comments Team Lead
        MuslimMatters.org: Because Muslims Matter

        http://MuslimMatters.org/ | http://facebook.com/MuslimMatters http://twitter.com/MuslimMatters | http://twitter.com/DiscoMaulvi

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    • RCHOUDH

      I think the separation of the private from the public is not so clear-cut. Since we’re talking about Canada here with its public health care system, I wonder if the next ban will be against Muslim women (both niqabis/non niqabis) from accessing public health care if they refuse to be seen by male doctors? Here you have someone being barred from an essential public service to take care of an extremely private affair (one’s body). Do you see what I mean here about things not being so clear-cut? BTW I know right now there’s no such ban but it’s not out of the realm of possibility; if these bans continue that could very well become the next step in preventing Muslim women from participating in public life.

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    • adil

      Dear Concerned,

      I understand your point of state regulation of public religious behaviour, but the regulation should only occur if there is a legitimate concern. The existence of a legitimate concern is what is being challenged in this case.

      If you say that the legitimate concern is the politicization of Islam, may I kindly point out that Judaism is politicized in Israel, Evangelical Protestantism is politicized in the United States, and Catholicism is politicized in the Vatican? I don’t understand why that should warrant a clamp-down on the religious freedoms in the public sphere of those religious groups. And does secular society have an issue with those religions due their being politicized? Politicized Evangelics have their stronghold right next-door to Canada, but they don’t seem to be a cause for concern to Canada such that their public religious expression is threatened. Is there talk of barring Christians from wearing the cross in public?

      May I suggest that you look through history to compare the results of the political manifestations of Christianity to the results of the political manifestations of Islam. If you are concerned about the politicization of Islam, you should be even more so of Christianity.

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      Reply
      • Concerned Canadian

        I’ll let a sister speak for me: http://sisyphe.org/spip.php?article3638. See closer to the end with the paragraph starting “The reality is that honour killing, polygamy … ”

        Where is the similarity between the ever-growing implementation of Sharia (political Islam) globally and the other religions you mention?

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      • RCHOUDH

        Concerned Canadian,

        I really doubt bank robbers will resort to wearing niqab; there are ski masks you know!! Who said the government has to jump through more hoops to provide citizenship (or other public services) to a Muslim woman wearing niqab? I’m talking about EQUAL access, which means the same access for all. If a Muslim woman wearing a niqab passes the citizenship test and qualifies for citizenship in every other way, why should she be banned from citizenship while others going through the naturalization process are not? If the court wants her to show her face for identification purposes at least once, that can easily be arranged there’s no need to BAN her. Also what was the point of posting that article? Are you trying to imply that forced marriage and rape is condoned by Islam? Please don’t confuse the depraved actions of SOME Muslims to that of being from Islam. If you’d like to read more about Islam and marriage take a look at this article from here on MM: http://muslimmatters.org/2011/12/22/arranged-marriage-is-not-forced-marriage/

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      • Concerned Canadian

        The title says it all: The effects of globalization of political Islam on Women’s Rights…

        Ms Arjomand makes clear the link between political Islam and the condition of women, and how the niqab plays a role.

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      • RCHOUDH

        Concerned Canadian,

        You seem to be insisting on Islam being something that it is not. Here’s a suggestion: Since you’re here, try browsing the Muslim Matters website in order to try to better understand Islam.

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      • Concerned Canadian

        Not at all, not insisting on anything. I’m learning from those who have experienced it first-hand; for example, Salim Mansur, Tarek Fatah, Homa Arjomand, Raheel Raza, Buthayna Nasser, Azar Majedi, Mona Eltahawy and on and on.

        Peace out.

        :-D

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      • RCHOUDH

        Concerned Canadian,

        I guess since you want to view Islam from a one-sided point of view and not from the source itself there’s nothing left to discuss here.

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      • Concerned Canadian

        I guess since you want to view political Islam from a theoretical point of view and not from the practice/experience of it, there’s nothing left to discuss here.

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      • RCHOUDH

        Concerned Canadian,

        If you want to understand Islam (both spiritually and politically) from a REAL practical point of view you have to learn about it from its source, which is during the time of the Prophet Muhammad (SAWS).

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      • Derek Bauer

        I have read of many instances of bank robbers wearing niqab, one of them being here in Ottawa.

        *Kindly cite some sources – Comments Team*

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      • NoMas

        I know that most bank robbers are white males without niqab. Your “point” fails.

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      • Derek Bauer

        I read a book that implies that forced marriage and rape are condoned by Islam.

        *Who wrote this book and what sources did they use to justify this claim. Islam does not condone forced marriage and certainly does not condone rape – Comments Team (Aly)*

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      • Umm Sulaim

        ‘Political Islam’ is a rather futile term considering Islam is a way of life. That’s right; we are ALL to live according to the Sharee’ah whether we wear niqab or not.

        Umm Sulaim

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      • Concerned Canadian

        Well, the problem is that wherever Islam is political, i.e., where the state laws are based on sharia, EVERYONE has to live according to it, whether you’re Muslim or not. In those states, non-Muslims are persecuted, discriminated against, attacked, killed, beaten, etc., etc. Not only that, even for Muslims, religion becomes coercion. And these attitudes towards religion and non-Muslims spread; they don’t live in a vacuum, as evidenced by the spread of anti-Western sentiments right here on this site. Then there’s the problem of loyalty to non-Islamic states if first loyalty is to Islam. There’s inevitable pressure to get sharia into the legal system and social fabric so it’s easier to live by it. This was almost successful in Ontario but for the blessing of Homa Arjomand, who led a campaign against Sharia courts. So, you see, it is a political problem.

        There are many Canadian Muslims I have great admiration and respect for. They’re all secular. Their faith is a personal, private matter. This is the only route to cohesion in a secular, pluralistic, liberal-democratic, human-rights-abiding society. This is the only way for people to get along anywhere in the world. When religion gets further and further into the public domain, more and more problems happen. In the same vein, contrary to a comment, I do have great concern about Evangelical Christianity in the U.S. In fact, I find it totally unacceptable for anyone to even discuss the faith of any politician. That’s nobody’s business but their own and, accordingly, one’s faith shouldn’t be on display for all to see and have to deal with. It is then political.

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      • Umm Sulaim

        ‘Anti-western’ opinions on this site? You must be referring to a different site, as I think it is the other way round.

        You will have to provide me with instances where the Sharee’ah – not culture, veiled as the Sharee’ah – was implemented and the outcome was as you allege.

        Any Muslim described as secular, well … It does say a lot about that Muslim.

        Why not carry out an experiment and interact with MUSLIMS to discover the reception you will get? The feel I get from this site is they are dying to show you their love.

        It is curious that despite all the love emanating from practicing Muslims in the west towards non-Muslims, the only ones you respect are secular. That throws love out of the window. Seriously.

        If you wish, I do not mind contacting you outside MM. But note, I am neither secular nor an apologist.

        Umm Sulaim

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      • Concerned Canadian

        “Any Muslim described as secular, well … It does say a lot about that Muslim.”

        And your saying this tells me everything I need to know about how you think.

        No love there. And no love in these excerpts from comments on this very page:

        “In the West they like to say that they’re all for campaigning for Muslim women to have the right to a life free from harassment and from not having access to an education and career … Is it that they secretly don’t want Muslim women to compete for the same jobs/college slots as their kids? I have a feeling that’s part of the issue here too.”

        “I don’t know why muslims think that they are so special in kuffar land.”

        Re: European settlers: “The power that grows from the barrel of a gun has its own charm at times no doubt.”

        I can love you, Umm, but no your ideas. It’s some ideas that I have huge problems with. Not least of which is the idea that women’s sexuality creates chaos (fitna) and it’s, therefore, a good thing to cover ourselves from head to toe and that we should bear all or most of the responsibility for morality–our own and that of men. This is the idea that the niqab is based on. It’s anathema to me and I can never defend it. I wouldn’t want to ban it, but nor would I want to accommodate it.

        Bless you.

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      • Rifaie

        Just because you are ignorant when it comes to what Islamic teaching entails , did you think that linking the nonsensical conclusions of a secular minded Muslim means anything to us?It really is more a reflection of your own biases that you cant or don’t want to sift through what is cultural against what is religious.Given your secular outlook , not all that surprising though.

        If you are so worried about honor killings, forced marriages , and other aspects of what you are confused is Shariah, what does Niqaab have to do with it? Is a piece of cloth that women don by choice in this society magically going to make all these problems appear? And if it did, since they are already outlawed in Canadian law why is it an issue?

        And that is the reason this whole sidestepping into political Islam is not relevant here. Islamic law , to the extent that it be allowed in Canada, would have to be a subset of what is permissible under Canadian law.

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      • Concerned Canadian

        I gather that you think secularism is a bad thing. That’s a problem for a secular society, if you live in one. If there are many like-minded people, and I think there are, secularism is in trouble. And this is one of my concerns. The erosion of secularism will certainly lead to religious strife, which is the case in non-secular societies.

        Nothing magic about it. It’s all very logical. Ideas travel and ideas lead to actions. These problems have already appeared. They add a more pernicious layer on top of the problems that already existed for women. Plus, cultural relativism in Canada helps some crimes happen. This is something that Homa Arjomand has taught me because of her first-hand experience with same.

        Many Muslims themselves don’t distinguish between cultural and religious practice, so everything gets lumped together, as is said of the niqab, for example.

        I have no doubt whatsoever that some do not choose to don this “piece of cloth.” But what really matters is what it represents, not whether it’s a choice.

        I’ve read the Quran. Let’s just say this didn’t produce the result you would have wished for.

        Please note that I’ve been trying hard not to offend Islam itself or Muslims in general. Being insulting to me won’t lead anywhere good for you. It might cause me to be hateful. God forbid.

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    • Abu Sumaiyah

      Hi Concerned Canadian. It seems that many people dont understand that Canada is not a secular country. You see, as Canada retains the British Monarch, the highest office in Canada is the Church of England as per the Act of Settlement of 1701. What this means, is that anyone who is not a Protestant can not be head of state of Canada. As a result, the Governor General; must be a protestant and a member of the Church of England.

      I am wondering are you a Catholic, if so, it is illegal for you to be the Governor General.

      I hope you learned something about a document you have never read. Have a good life.

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      • Carlos

        Dear Abu Sumaiyah,

        Many modern secular governments retain ceremonial vestiges from their less secular pasts. This does not mean they are theocracies.

        Even the US has some such vestiges (unfortunately). For example, sessions of Congress are still opened with a prayer, although it has become interfaith, even Muslim and Hindu clerics participating. The funny thing is that evangelical Christians fight like heck to incorporate such religious ceremony into government functions, their lawyers and sympathetic politicians and officials arguing that it is a constitutionally allowable and harmless nod to tradition. But then, when they succeed, for example, by getting “In God We Trust” printed on all US currency or “Under God” inserted into the Pledge of Allegiance, the evangelicals point to those official governmental acknowledgements of religous tradition as support for the argument that “This is a Christian country.” The Constitution makes it abundantly clear that government must be secular, but evangelicals keep trying to chip away at that secularism. Getting socially conservative Republican presidents elected is an absolute priority for evangelicals, primarily so they can get socially conservative judges and justices into the federal courts; judges and justices who will find a million legal excuses to allow further eroding of the separation of religion and state.

        You should not assume Concerned Canadian has not read the foundational laws of his/her country. That is prejudice.

        Carlos

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      • Abu Sumaiyah

        First, you can not compare the American style of government to that of Canada. Namely because we have a much different political history and political traditions. As a Canadian, I am fully aware that the majorty of Canadians do not understand how our government functions. I also understand that the majorityof Canadians have not read what makes up the Canadian constitution.

        The constitution in Canada is made up of various documents and traditions. Both written and oral. The Canadian constituion also incorporates British laws prior to that of the implementation of the Statute of Westminster and the Patriation of the Constitution. Therefore it is extremly difficult and time consumig to sit down and read up on Canadian constitutional law. Therefore, I can comfortably state that Concerned Canadian has never read the Constitution.

        While the daily affairs of Canadians are not being dictated by a theocrat, that does not mean that leaglly Canada has a seperation of Church and State. We as a nation are legally and constitutionally chained to the British Monarch, who also presides over the Church of England.

        I am a Muslim. It is legal for me to ever sit as the Governor General. I was born and raised in Alberta. I am as Canadian as anyone else. However, by virtue of my choice of religion I can never take the highest political office in my country. However, some journalist born in Haiti can actually become my Governor General.

        Moreover, Canada is not legally a democracy. The elections that we have in Canada can be stopped by the GG. The GG can assume political authpority can pass whatever he/she likes. As the GG has sole authority vested by the Queen,the royal peragtive. While the PM governs the daily affairs, that does not mean that the GG cant stop him and or due away with him.

        In addition, both of these individuals can pass any laws that they wish. Can be in complete violation of the Charter of Rights. All the governments needs to do is invoke article 32 the notwithstanding clause. Then all the rights given in article 2 A of the Charter are erased.

        It is for this reason Muslims in Canada should be concerned about what happens. Concerned Canadian, as demonstrated by his/her posts, has opinions based upon misinformation and predjuces. So to lable me as being predijced is laughable.

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  12. Hassen

    Definitely we should be taking a strong stand on this issue, but in terms of a long-term solution to changing the misconceptions surrounding the niqaab, we need to engage the public somehow and not just stop at asserting our rights. Understandably, the niqaab is very alien and scary to most people.

    So how do we reach out to them and show them that the niqaab really isn’t that scary and that our sisters freely choose to adopt it, and that the values underlying niqaab are honorable? I think it’s pretty simple- we have to interact with those around us (specifically our neighbors) and bridge the major gap that exists between our community and everyone else. Even if we ‘agree to disagree’ with them on issues like niqaab, at least in building relationships and discussing these issues with our neighbors we will have addressed their fears surrounding the niqaab and other aspects of Islam.

    If our community really did this I think that would be the key to a long-term solution to all manifestations of Islamophobia.

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    • Amal

      Most “sisters” do not freely choose it, unless they’re converts. Yemeni and other women are generally forced/coerced into wearing it whether they want it or no. Let us not pretend that all, or even the majority of women who wear it are doing so out of free choice.

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      • Olivia

        Even if that is true, having a ban against it isn’t going to ban male chauvanism. Even if those women dont wear it, it doesn’t mean their husbands are any less oppressive in the 99 other parts of married life in which niqab constitutes 1 out of 100. If you look at the people who propose these bans they are by no means concerned with the well-being of Muslim women.

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      • Rameez

        What has hijab got to do with male chauvinism ?

        Oh , I remember now . Generally held perception of muslim men (mostly from east) = wife-beater , oppressor and male chauvinist .

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      • Umm Sulaim

        Those who hold such views are those who believe the hijab oppresses women.

        Many of the women from that region who make headline news for being battered or murdered DO NOT WEAR HIJAB.

        Umm Sulaim

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  13. Umm Sulaim

    I do like it when Muslims refer to the niqab as extremism.

    The last one to make that statement in my presence in my professor’s office promptly retracted his words when I gave him a piece of my mind and asked him whether what the spouses of the Messenger of Allah and his Companions wore was extremism.

    And the issue of living in a Muslim nation is redundant; such countries still exist because people before us stuck out their necks and took a stand in favour of Islam.

    Umm Sulaim

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    • Rameez

      The last one to make that statement in my presence in my professor’s office promptly retracted his words when I gave him a piece of my mind and asked him whether what the spouses of the Messenger of Allah and his Companions wore was extremism.

      Either that man , didn’t know how to defend himself or he deliberately chose to ignore arguments with you .

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      • Umm Sulaim

        And you do know how to defend yourself, do you?

        Umm Sulaim

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      • Umm Sulaim

        I read the link. My comments are three-fold:

        1. The article does not tell me anything new. I may be new to MM, but I have been aware of ALL the horrors practiced in those communities.

        2. The niqab discussion is merely a scare tactic to mislead people. If you are familiar with my comments on MM you will have learnt I wear a niqab AGAINST the wishes of ‘men’. In fact, the situation came to a head last year when I single-handedly fought a three-month battle against the indigenous people of the so-called seat of the khaliphate. At one point, I asked them why men were telling me to take it off when a man did not order me to put it on in the first place. (Note: They actually used christians to fight me.)

        3. My best wishes goes to Faridha. I wish I could contact her. She has my full support, so long as she distinguishes her culture from Islam.

        From the author’s name, s/he – I believe it is a she, but I shall use both genders – appears to be from the centre of dishonour killings, forced and staged marriages and every other unimaginable abuse a woman can face. S/he should have tackled his/ her cultural sewage and left Islam out of it.

        Umm Sulaim

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  14. Carlos

    This is really quite simple. When necessary for identification or to determine credibility during testimony, the face must be revealed. That compelling state interest trumps any religious rule. Outside of those exceptions, wear a potato sack for all anyone cares.

    *Slightly edited by Comments Team*

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  15. Ummu 'Abdillaah

    Assalamu alaikum,

    I am one of the few sisters that went through this scenario. I wear niqaab and I got my Canadian citizenship in August 2004.

    After arriving at the place of the ceremony, I showed my face to one of the female staff, and she verified my papers (compared my face to the picture etc.) and it was no issue at all. I signed the required forms (the pledge that you are supposed to recite in unison afterwards).

    During the ceremony I kept my niqaab on, and during the recital one of the staff approached me and just asked if I’m saying the words, which I confirmed. In a room of 100 people at least, a lot of them could be just mouthing the words, but I did not mind that she asked me.

    After the ceremony, you are supposed to take your certificate from the presiding Judge, and he asked if my identity had been verified, which another of his staff and me confirmed. He congratulated me and we ended up talking for a bit, because I had just had a new baby days before, and it turned out he knew my family etc. A very pleasant experience.

    I think I spoke better English than half of the other applicants and I scored 100% on my citizenship test, so no reason why I should not be granted the citizenship. There were other applicants in different clothes, Sikh men with turbans, Indian women in Saris, ladies with tattoos and piercings. Where do we draw the line as to what’s acceptable?

    I passed all the conditions (test, paperwork, confirmed my identity etc.) and got my citizenship, so I don’t see why this is a big deal all of a sudden. There have been no incidents reported regarding this issues, and I don’t think that many women are affected. I’ve known lots of sisters who chose not to wear the niqab on the day of the ceremony.

    Now, what I’m more afraid of is the ban of niqaab in hospitals. I work in the health care field, and if I won’t be allowed to enter hospitals, it will be a very difficult time for me.

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    • RCHOUDH

      Wa alaikum salaam Ummu ‘Abdillah,

      Jazakillah for providing an example from your own life experience about how niqabis, like everyone else, can undergo the citizenship process smoothly. And I pray too that all these bans ultimately fail to get passed.

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      Reply
    • Waleed Ahmed

      Thanks for sharing sis. Niqab ban in hospitals would be the height of hypocrisy for Canada; we are setting up hospitals in Afghanistan for veiled women while banning those services to our own women here at home.

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      • RCHOUDH

        Exactly right brother it’s the same sort of hypocrisy displayed by France where it helps set up girls’ schools in Afghanistan all the while banning young female French Muslim citizens from receiving an education within its own nation due to its hijab ban.

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      • Infidelicious

        Canada “setting up hospitals in Afghanistan for veiled women” is hipocritical for respecting the local customs of a religious country and -at the same time – defending the customs of their own secular country? This unbeliever doesn’t get the hipocracy (sp?)…. please enlighten me …..

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      • Waleed Ahmed

        It is hypocritical because you claim to be liberating veiled women from the Taliban and providing them with services which they could not have access to other wise; then you want to restrict these very services to veiled women at home.

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      • RCHOUDH

        I did and it’s not a real ban, just one that I used as a hypothetical example of the government continuing to ban Muslim women in the future from other public services due to their niqab/hijab/Islamic beliefs.

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  16. Nusaiba

    Thank you for raising/ keeping up awareness with this article.

    I agree with some previous comments that there is prejudice against the niqab in the Muslim community. When I attempted to wear niqab several years back, I experienced a strange and hurtful backlash from other Muslim women. It was too much for me to handle at the time.

    There seemed to be this weird anxiety that I was somehow trying to “hide” my identity by wearing niqab, and yet every single one of these sisters had marched straight up to me knowing full well who I was and giving me salaams using my name, before beginning their interrogation sessions about why I was wearing niqab. There was particular delight in informing me that they knew who I was because of my eyes. Well, if it was meant as a nefarious disguise, it certainly wasn’t a very good one! :)

    In terms of the whole “hiding identity” issue — i.e. that wearing niqab poses some kind of threat to knowing who is who is out in public — this only seems relevant in highly specific and rare circumstances. How many times does anyone actually ever appear in court during their lifetimes? How many times does anyone become the citizen of a country? For these rare times, certainly review of I.D. papers with a female officer can happen discreetly, effectively and smoothly as shown by Umm ‘Abdillah’s experience in her comment above.

    What about the argument that goes — when the police pull you over, how are they supposed to know who you are if you’re wearing niqab? Do we live in a police state where we expect to be pulled over every day of our lives? Nonsense. I haven’t been pulled over in years, alhamdulillah, and that was my fault for speeding. In fact, as law-abiding citizens, we should have an expectation of anonymity in public — we should not expect the police or any other government entity to keep tabs on us and our fellow citizens!

    Built into the concept that Muslims should always be constantly and readily identifiable to the public and law enforcement is the prejudice that they are inherently inclined towards criminality at any moment.

    Besides those relatively few occasions when stringent ID verification is required, when is there ever any expectation in our society to know the identity of the people who surround us in public? Speaking for myself, I can spend literally years shopping in the local supermarket, going to the local bowling alley, eating at the diner, going to the movies, strolling in the park with my kids, and have zero expectation that I will know the identities of the people circulating around me. Similarly, I can spend years living a full, rich life without anyone having to care or wonder who I am. The people who know me, or wish to get to know me, do so without checking my ID. They get to know me through normal human interaction.

    Women wearing niqab — just like everybody else — are readily identifiable to the people they know and who interact with them on a regular basis. We know them by their height, clothes, body type, voice, the kids who are with them, the fact we hired them and they show up at our workplace and take up space every day, and so many other identity markers beyond the face. I know plenty of women who wear niqab, and I know exactly who they are when I see them at a distance. There is a reasonable expectation that I should know them – because I know them!

    A friend of mine has a Saudi friend who was showing photos of her summer holiday. Photo after photo showed groups of women dressed from head to toe in black niqab, abayas, and gloves against scenic summer backdrops. As she was going through the photos, the Saudi friend was pointing to each sister wearing niqab and saying her name, and telling cute little anecdotes about her. Despite wearing full black cover, these sisters were all individuals who were readily recognizable and distinguishable to the person who knew them!

    In a similar example, we would not think twice at our ability to recognize the characters on Grey’s Anatomy just as easily wearing their surgical masks, scrub hats, gloves, surgical uniforms (i.e. completely covered up except the eyes) as we would recognize them wearing their jeans and t-shirts.

    Does anyone ever card his/her surgeon to make sure it is “really” his/her surgeon under all that material?

    A final aspect of this situation doesn’t make sense to me. People change their identity profiles all the time. They lose weight, they get plastic surgery, they cut their hair, they dye their hair, they wear high heels, they wear hats, they take off hats, they dress casual, they dress formal, they switch between contacts and glasses…. the external markers of identity are in flux all the time.

    How many people have been surprised at a friends appearance after a dramatic haircut? Or have taken longer than usual recognizing someone after he/she underwent a dramatic weight loss?

    It is a fundamental right of people to have significant personal control and freedom over their appearance — what, where, and how they present themselves to the world.

    In terms of action, we need to get over our prejudice against people based on appearance, including niqab. Maybe we can also promote a “wear niqab day” for Muslim women. Subhanallah, if non-Muslim women can wear hijab to promote solidarity with Muslim women, Muslim women should be able to wear niqab to promote solidarity with Muslim women too.

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  17. Mayaahmedkhan

    We are protesting against it, it the true brutality to right off the religious rights of anyone. West is just working on exploitation of women in its society, Islam gives rights and liberty to women on certain limitations that to save its respect.

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  18. guest

    It goes like this……if you cannot live in a country that is not an islamic state you must move from there…….is that not what is said?? why do you guys want to force others that have given you the opportunity to be here a challenge. and most of the time it’s not one challenge but at every turn you guys have a problem with how they try to accommodate you. so take your veil of for the ceremony what exactly do you loose?? i am sure god will understand your position and if you truly believe you are going against him then do what he says…….move!

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