Daily Archives: April 7, 2010

The Niqab Debate, 2: Picking on Muslim Women Smacks of Hypocrisy

As part of the Niqab series, we reproduce here an article by Haroon Siddiqui, the Editor Emeritus at the Canadian newspaper, Toronto Star. Haroon is an Indo-Canadian journalist who has been associated with Toronto Star for almost three decades. Toronto Star is widely regarded as a left leaning Canadian newspaper. Haroon is a member of the Order of Canada for advocating “fairness and equality of opportunity” at home and “a broader role for Canada in the global village”. Haroon has also come under criticism for being “Toronto Star’s resident Islamist”, and justifying Islamic extremist atrocities as nothing but a payback for US foreign policies.

Quebec, the French majority province in Canada, is the first North American battleground for the Niqab battle. After a woman refused to remove her Niqab in French learning class, she was removed and the Quebec Minister for Women Affairs called Niqab an “ambulatory prison”.

The new bill in the Quebec Provincial Assembly would disallow veiled women from dispensing or receiving public services. Women will not be allowed healthcare services or to attend universities if they do not show their faces. Jean Charest, the Quebec Premier (equivalent to Chief Minister of a province in Pakistan) summed up the proposed bill in two words: “Uncovered Face”.

There are almost 1 Million Muslims currently living in Canada. The Muslim society constitutes just about 3% of the Canadian population. Haroon points out that it is perfectly reasonable for a woman to show her face for identification purposes when accessing public services, applying for drivers license etc. Yet after women have shown their faces, and their identities are established, is it fair to expect them to stay unveiled against their wishes while they receive public services? Is this where state crosses the line of reasonableness and wanders into unchartered territory of imposing upon someone’s religious beliefs, no matter how radical these beliefs may appear? Particularly when Quebec Government’s own survey showed that less than a few hundred Muslim women prefer to don niqab. Questions are asked: Is the Quebec Government singling out Muslim women in the name of niqab legislation? 

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Filed under Democracy, Pakistan, Religion, Rights, secularism, Women