Thursday, March 12, 2015

An Open letter to Niqab-Supporting Western Media

Dear 'liberal' Western media, 

As a woman born and raised in Islam, Saudi Arabia to be precise, I have seen more forced modesty, oppression and caning of women over their bodies than you can imagine.

I had hoped my family would escape at least one disturbing visual symbol of female subjugation, when we immigrated to the secular country of Canada. That symbol being the niqab, a full face veil. It's a complete erasure of women from the public sphere, a prohibition on the basic human right of having a face when relating to others... 

It is a blatant reminder of how some men view women as a possession, something to be hidden away from public gaze and ‘kept’ for their sole enjoyment. That is the niqab’s only purpose.

The pushback I’ve seen in light of Prime Minister Harper’s comments, about the niqab being rooted in an 'anti-woman culture', is offensive. Yes, the pushback is offensive. It's a total disregard for many, many women’s plight. What else do you think the niqab is, other than a tool to control and shame women? Please don’t let your political correctness get ahead of your common sense. Whatever his motives may be, and though I do not agree with his political agenda & opportunism,  I do wish the world would recognize this *specifically* female face-shaming for the oppression it is. 

'Could there be a more ignorant, cringeworthy caption from a Western publication? "Reality check"? Really Toronto Star? Do you know what the 'reality' surrounding the niqab is? What you a reality check to see how many women are oppressed using the niqab. Shame on you for trivializing their suffering.

If men were coercing women to rip out body hair it might be comparable. If we were disallowed from being seen in public without high heels, then it might be comparable.

Does anyone stop to think what they are parodying these days?
Would they also 'parody' a govt. stance on being anti-slavery? 

This wilful blindness from Western ‘liberals' is truly what privilege looks like, when you are so far removed from the oppression that you cannot possibly empathize with it, despite its sinister and stark visual presence. I have always considered myself a liberal and stood up for one basic liberal principle - equality for everyone. Yet it shocks me to see liberals and feminists naively support a woman’s ‘right' to a face-veil during the few minutes of the citizenship oath. That is all that is being asked. It is not a complete ban, it is just requested that while you pledge your personhood to the secular country of Canada that you not ask for the *special* privilege that no one else gets. That you at least be identifiable while becoming a citizen. Surely you can see that citizenship and identity go hand in hand? This is not excusable by having a special identity-check beforehand, that no one else gets. This is about not being able to wear a mask during oath.  

I see a hashtag that has turned millions of women’s suffering into a joke, again - this is not about your distaste for our conservative prime minister. There is obviously a larger, more important problem at hand. Don't be so self-centred and refuse to see beyond the local politics. I see too many Canadians coming to laugh at something that is in truth torturous for many - people unable to speak out for fear of consequences, yes even here in Canada. Your laughter and jibes on the topic are cruelly insensitive, detrimental to women’s rights and progress. Oh sure, you are laughing *with* other Muslim women, so you can't possibly be laughing *at* Muslim women. 


You are jumping on the bandwagon with the severely indoctrinated, the apologist, misogyny-supporting..and perhaps a few privileged Western Muslim women who do have the option of semi 'choice'.

The fact that the hashtags #dresscodePM and #doyouapprove are being framed in a ‘feminist’ narrative, is perhaps one of the most manipulative and deceptive things I have ever seen. Are you really on board with (and applauding) turning something used to actually police women’s bodies into a joke? 

Because this face mask obviously has no other purpose than oppressing this woman. Sure. Completely comparable, thank you for taking our suffering so seriously.

Again, does this face-covering out in the cold have a purpose other than objectifying and oppressing women? Think. 

Ridicule him all you want, but who you are also ridiculing is the women that suffer through this, the women who have no choice. Step on them, sure, as long as you get a good story out of it right? Shame on you. 

Can you see her face through that veil? Are you able to identify her? Do you think she was coerced into it? Think about how offensive and cringeworthy your mockery of this issue is? 

Does her face covering have a purpose other than hiding her away so as not to provoke lust? Is this comparable? You decide. Also, is she asking to wear this in court? During a citizenship oath? I don't think she'd be allowed. 

People, women even, are using the argument of bodily autonomy to frame this female-humiliation as a question about ‘choice'? What do you think the percentage of women is that have the privilege to ‘choose’ this? No one listens to us, the women that have lived around this, with this and survived it. Who will make hashtags for us? The media does not celebrate us, sadly. Will Ben Affleck go on TV shows and stand up for us? We are silenced by fascist religious fundamentalism as well as by liberals who find it uncomfortable and not-politically-correct to hear our voices. We want to move ahead, many of us want our culture to evolve like others, but apologists like yourselves do not make it easy.

How does it make you feel knowing that you are allied with ISIS and Taliban on this? That you are actively fighting for this treatment to continue? That you won't give an inch, for a few that the process of change may get a foothold. 

You fail me and millions of other women struggling with this, by celebrating misogyny. I find it incredibly naive and irresponsible. Are you not supposed to be on our side? I see that we who speak out despite fear of consequences are indeed a minority within a minority, and I suppose you are all about pleasing the larger numbers… about the 'illusion' of standing up for the underdog. They have fooled you into believing this is a worthy thing to fight for, a cultures right to erase the face of women from the public realm. 

Did anyone threaten you with hellfire for your choice of shoes? Did your family shun you? Did your husband force you to wear those? Do not mock the suffering of those you are obviously too far removed from to understand. Shame.
The hashtags need only to be glanced at briefly to see how perverse the mockery is. 'Feminists' manipulated into believing they are on the right side of this, by comparing high heels, lip gloss, surgical masks that clearly serve a function, (other than the oppression of women) to the niqab. This is not about 'choice' or ‘policing’ women’s bodies (believe me I know what ‘policing’ women’s bodies looks like, I’ve dealt with actual morality police), this is about asking for everyone to coexist with some basic rules of humanity in well as the fact that you cannot hide your identity in a government office for the few minutes while pledging your personhood, your 'identity' to the country of Canada.

Don’t be mistaken, I am not a fan of Harper, but he is absolutely not incorrect about this. There are few people in power, even in the Western world who will risk going against political correctness and appeasing a large majority of voters to stand up for better treatment of women. I do not claim that this noble intention is all Harper has in mind, or that he does not have an underlying agenda - what his motives in this instance are... I do not know, and do not care…because the end result is a huge win for women, for the future of women. Hiding us away as objects of a sexual nature is not ok. Is that really so hard a concept for everyone to get behind? 

Do not conflate the niqab with hijab either, that is not the issue at hand. We are speaking about allowing women to be identifiable.

Please know the issue before jumping on the hashtag. This is not about a headscarf, this is about a face veil during oath. 

I work to bring awareness and critical thought to these issues in my community, and even risk my life in doing so. I couldn't count for you the amount of threats I've received... speaking out on such issues being a woman of Muslim background.

If NOT telling people what to do with their bodies trumps everything done for the greater good, then we wouldn’t be encouraging people to vaccinate their children, we would not stop people from public nudity. We would indeed also allow people to take their oath in KKK hoods and whilst wearing swastika armbands. Would you be ok with hiding away homosexuals lest their very existence be provocative to those who systemically oppress them. If not, then why women? Why is it ok to laugh at and minimize our misfortune? 

Dear liberal media, I did not expect to be betrayed on such a basic level….I thought the concept of gender equality and working towards it was something firmly entrenched in the Western mindset. Clearly I was mistaken. I see your 'humorous' articles about the wonderful ‘snarky’ hashtag mocking PM Harper, but what you don’t realize is that you are trampling on us for your story…

And please don't misunderstand me, do stand up against anti-muslim bigotry, but learn to recognize it first. My family is Muslim, my wonderful loving parents are Muslim and it hurts to hear that some bigots will burn mosques to hurt our community, they will tell us to go 'home', when this is home....that is bigotry. Asking everyone to abide by the same rules is not. Inclusivity and diversity do not include misogyny. Tolerance of other cultures does not include tolerance of intolerance. 

Please think about what effects your countless pro-niqab articles are having. Please think about the world we are creating for our future generation. I do not want my future daughters to live in a Canada that sides with the oppression of women. I do not want them to come across articles that sting like this, that reduce our pain to something laughable. I want a better world for everyone, which includes Muslims and Muslim women. I want my community to join the rest of the world in the 21st century, please do not assist in holding us back, do not infantilize us. Expect us to grow like everyone else. 

I know you do not want to hear from women like me, because this disturbs the comfortable narratives that have been set up. But I ask you to listen and use your voice to further progress. 

In Saudi I have seen women caned by the morality police for having a single strand of hair escape their cloth prison. This is what you are celebrating, laughing about and perpetuating. Get some perspective please.

How can you stand up for women in any other way if you refuse us this basic right? How can some of you call yourselves ‘feminists’ whilst supporting something that goes against the very basic premise of it? 



Can an adult 'choose' to be nude in playgrounds? During the oath? No. We have *some* basic codes. Would this person also be defending 'freedom of choice' if someone demanded to take the citizenship oath in a Mohammed cartoon T-shirt, next to them? Somehow, I think not. 

Please do share in the comments below, your experiences with forced modesty. It could do some people a world of good to hear the other side of this. A *real* reality check... 

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For more on my views about niqab, go here


  1. As always, while reading your blog, I leapt out of my seat numerous times yelling YES!! It IS offensive and belittling and extra hurtful that women, supposed fellow feminists, would make cheap and ignorant jokes at our expense in the hopes of sending their tweet viral. Hardy har har, it's so funny that my niece was forced to wear a hijab at THREE. Her father would have preferred a niqab, but that would have to wait until she was 5. Until she was old enough to understand her place in society. Yes, funny jokes. Choice indeed. But who cares about the truth or about the fact that you are supporting misogyny? LOOK HOW MANY LIKES IT GOT!!

    1. Yup, it is all about the likes and RTs these days, who cares about actual issues. :/

  2. You are a hero. Please keep on thinking freely!

  3. [Commenting as "Anonymous" because I can't use my Disqus account.] Thank you for this very thoughtful, well-written, and definitely to-the-point argument. It must be so frustrating to see the ignorant replies to your twitter feed, especially when they come from feminists. Here is one feminist in your corner. As you say, we must not allow people to believe that it's OK to "erase the face of women from the public realm" because of freedom of expression -- it's a totally false argument, as you so cogently explained.

    1. Thank you so much for taking the time to leave a comment! Much appreciated, and I really hope more people will start to see that the choice argument doesn't really have much to stand on esp when you consider the percentage of women who are coerced vs. the percentage who think they have some form of choice...the coercion and opression outweighs any semblance of choice *some* western muslim women may *think* they have ..why would they not want to stand up for the majority of women who are oppressed via forced modesty....when they have a 'choice' - stand up for those who dont.

  4. Thank you for this explanation. I had not understood. I think that, like many others, I have been schooled to leave people to make their own decisions. Discussions in the hijab have been quieted, because there was an element of "condescending westerner telling women they are oppressed because you do not understand their choices." I think that many of us were looking at the niqab in the same way. Unfortunately, what I now see (from your writing) as mockery is a pretty misguided attempt at solidarity.

    But what is the solution? If we create more spaces where the niqab is banned, there may be those who would abandon it entirely, but there might also be those whose isolation would increase - not allowed to take part in the citizenship ceremony, not allowed to testify in court, not allowed to obtain public services.

    I apologize for having taken the simple view, that the support for the niqab-wearer was a mark of solidarity.

    1. I think if we appeal to people's reason and sense of equality.. if we take baby steps rather than an outright ban we can actually get the world to see what an awful tool of oppression the niqab is, not at comparable to the Hijab...which allows a woman to have a face, to have a personality, to dress it up how she wants, etc...

      I don't think this request for equality in citizenship court is so ludicrous... we should all be able to get behind it. No one else gets to wear a mask after for niqab in general... well we can tackle that one step at a time... this instance it is just about the few minutes in court.

      Thanks so much for taking the time to read and leave a comment!

  5. It's amazing people just bypass the absurdity of it all and stand up for women's 'right' to wear niqab.
    Just by plain common sense,one can see that it's not a good idea to take on the federal government instead of showing your face for a moment. That's what dogmatization does to you,removes common sense.
    Without actually studying the ideas behind the niqab,people support the 'right' of women to wear what they want. The whole idea of niqab fuels the myth that it's a woman's fault for getting raped.
    "Didn't wear niqab and got raped? Shame on you! You made those poor,innocent men rape you by wearing clothing too provocative for them to handle".

  6. This was a truly enlightening post. I am glad I found it (via Twitter), and thank you for writing it.

  7. Glancing around Twitter, and not being Canadian, I admit to confusion by Margaret Atwood's stance, which seemed to be supportive of the #dresscodepm mockery of Stephen Harper.

    1. I saw that! And I am so disappointed by Atwood... :(

    2. There's a good novel about the subjugation of women I'd recommend her to read: The Handmaid's Tale by... oh

  8. Our neighbours wife was an American convert, rumours of domestic abuse circled the neighbourhood. We could not see anything obviously, because she was completely hidden under the burqa and niqab. She kept to herself, did not mingle and generally seemed very unhappy. But no one could gather much clues from her non-verbally or via body language.. but she seemed completely isolated and unhappy. No one would approach her either because she was so separate, so unapproachable and othered by this cloth wall. We eventually moved, but I wondered what became of her...It is hard to stand by and watch this stuff happen. If only more people would have intervened in the cases of honour killings.. rather than leave it because 'culture' ... Seeing someone's face allows you to make some connection with them... you can share smiles, nods, eye contact... this way it is hard to make any connection and isolating for the women involved too I would imagine.

  9. As always, you've nailed it! Thank you for writing this and explaining the issue so well.

  10. Thank you for speaking out. Somehow we must take back "liberal" and "left" to their original meaning of equality and freedom for all - rather than PC apologists for the oppressors.

    1. Absolutely agree! Thank you for reading! :) Its sad to me that increasingly i don't identify with the left anymore.... I've always identified with the left... but these days its a bizarre place ... more accommodating of extremists than rationality.

    2. I fail to see how imposing your views in Law is "freedom for all." I completely support your right to criticize the misogynistic, oppressive history of the Niqab but that doesn't mean I support passing a law to ban it, even in Citizenship Court.

      What's next? What other personal choices are you going to ban? We have laws to protect women from actual, real, lived coercion and domestic abuse. If your analysis is true, and I am not saying it isn't, those laws need to be strengthened and better enforced while respecting our Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

      And no, I am not accommodating extremists, despite your repeated accusations. If you want to support Harper's "rational" hate and fear campaign, go for it. Just don't claim to be a small "l" liberal while doing so.

      Finally. the "PC apologist" accusation is mostly a rationale for bigotry. It's a way of justifying prejudice. That may not be your intent but that is how it actually plays out in the public discourse, a truly "bizarre place."

    3. I would certainly agree that there are existing laws against coercion and domestic violence, and I would support strengthening them and providing more resources towards their enforcement and combating these problems in general. But women in devout religious families, especially immigrant women in devout religious families are extremely vulnerable. Yes, supporting the Niqab is is accommodating extremists.

      If I or anyone started a religious sect that demanded its women go nude at all times, even out in the Canadian winter, it would rightly be seen as a human rights abuse. If these women were kept safe from the elements, they'd still be prosecuted for public nudity because (right or wrong) we view nudity as obscene. And even if they never left the house, and thus were never publicly nude, there'd be a public outcry, because the demand that women be reduced to their bodies would be rightly seen as being fundamentally dehumanizing and obscene.

      The Niqab itself is just an article of clothing, but what it represents is just as obscene. How precisely is the Niqab distinct from Hate Speech? (Qualifications for the prosecution of hate speech from a Globe and Mail article in January) BTWs, Hate Speech is another way that Canadians are totally fine with restricting personal choices in the interest of protecting real live people.
      1. The hate speech must be the most severe of the genre;
      2. The hate speech must be targeted to an identifiable group;
      3. It must be public;
      4. It must be deliberate, not careless;
      5. Excluded from hate speech are good faith interpretations of religious doctrine, discussion of issues of public interest, and literary devices like sarcasm and irony;
      6. The statements must be hateful when considered in their social and historical context;
      7. No prosecution can proceed without approval of the attorney-general, which introduces political accountability because the attorney-general is a cabinet minister.

      THIS is how you are an apologist: You are saying that the right of individual women to freely wear specific personally meaningful attire is a greater good than the right of women to not be oppressed by a misogynistic culture. Do you see how that's woefully misguided? That the rights any given individual out-rank the rights of an entire class of person?

      Civil Rights are a Liberal Issue, and so are Human Rights. But historically, we've known better than to argue that giving women the vote or homosexuals protection from discrimination infringes upon the rights of women to obey their husbands and abstain, or the rights of homosexuals to live in the closet.

      "PC apologism" accusations aren't a rationale for bigotry every time. Sometimes it's just a reasonable response to self-righteous people trying to be the best little non-racist ally in the world and taking a shallow understanding of a given issue and running with it to prove how totally not-racist they are, even when it serves to hurt vulnerable members of a minority culture, even at the EXPENSE of the most vulnerable members of a society.

      And saying "hey, we've already got laws against DV" in this context is not unakin to saying "hey, why make men feel better with all the Rape Culture talk? We've already GOT laws against Rape, right?"

  11. What I find hilarious (and maddening) is how the feminists and (white) women over-analyze this issue with their "professional" opinion - mentioning things like "white ethnocentrism"... wtf?? Why does this always come down to it being the white person's fault? I mean - I'm predominately white, I know my ancestors did some awful things - but how long do I pay for this? How do I also pay for the "sin of Eve"? Because I'm a white female, does this mean my opinion means nothing? Thing is - most of these people pushing for the Niqab (that don't wear one) have never had to live in a political Islamic region, have never had this sort of thing forced on to them, they've never truly witnessed female oppression because women already fought hard to become persons back in 1929 and way earlier - they have these lovely and educated opinions, but they haven't done any research. And for the women who wear the Niqab for God - well what comes out most when I hear your reasons is that you are not comfortable showing your face; you have an anxiety to show your face! This has nothing to do with God in my opinion.

  12. It's really smart to push liberals because they already are trying to distance themselves from the fringe. However, wouldn't a real left-winger oppose a mandatory oath in the first place?

  13. Thank you for this blog. I have been getting into multiple arguments online about it in the past weeks because I have a very bad feeling that the rest of my fellow liberals are just afraid to be called "racist" (something that obviously was thrown at me) than really analyze the situation (what choice is and how social pressure can influence it for example. just like christianity pressured homosexuals to hide their identity and "choose" living straight. etc) . It really fits with an essay by Michele Wallace I just read a few days ago. She describes her beginnings as a black feminist and says that one problem was that the liberal white feminists had a problem to acknowledge black males as anything but victims themselves which was a barrier to see specific issues of black women. I think same goes here, people are just able to see the privilege of race, but not looking at different layers of privilege a person has.

  14. Congrats on a great and much needed piece of sanity in this circus of moral failure. I can't stress enough how wonderful is to read such a cogent view of this issue. It really repulse me the way liberals and especially feminist suddenly go blind and dumb almost every time woman's rights in muslim cultures or communities is at hand. Cultural relativism - and its dumb cousin, the specter of racist accusations - are really a toxic mix of obfuscation that mess with people's moral and ethical codes every time. Liberals and feminists in western societies are failing bad on this issue. Shameful.

    1. Pablo, that is REALLY well said. Especially "Cultural relativism - and its dumb cousin, the specter of racist accusations - are really a toxic mix of obfuscation that mess with people's moral and ethical codes every time." which I may have to tattoo somewhere on my body.

  15. Though I agreed with nothing (in fact your article raised my blood pressure!), I respect that you have an opinion.

    If it wasn't hard enough having men tell women what to wear, now we have women telling women what they cannot wear.

    Also, the niqabi woman's identify has already been testified prior to the ceremony. As the article below mentions, most niqabi women are willing to have their identification reverified privately by another woman prior to the citizenship ceremony. As a country that supports "freedom" and "liberties", why should we ban them to from being "welcomed" into the Canadian family while wearing a garment in which they feel most comfortable and most like themselves.

    Eiynah, please read the article below.

    1. "Though I agreed with nothing (in fact your article raised my blood pressure!), I respect that you have an opinion." LOL why thank you for allowing me an opinion.

      LEt me guess, you're a muslim male... as your naive and pompous comment almost identifies you in an instant. Jumping to defend misogyny... thats what our MEN do best. I did read the ludicrous article you mentioned and I would have deleted your comment as I don't appreciate ppl posting spammy links on my blog. However your ignorant comment was too good at proving my point, so i let it stay. The article you mention below is the niqabi in question reframing the niqab as some sort of tool of female empowerment and rebellion. If you would just think of the sole purpose of the niqab's existence - you could perhaps stop yourself from looking like such a fool.

      When looking for an objective view of a cult's practices, would you ask the indoctrinated how wonderful their practice is, or would you ask someone who has lived through it? Sorry, to look to a niqabi's explanation of how wonderful the niqab is , is a truly silly way to look at things. Would you ask ISIS how wonderful ISIS is? Give me a break. But thank you for further proving my point, that the defenders of such a practice indeed do not know what they are talking about.

    2. Eiynah, I'm glad you left his comment, and I'm even more glad that you dissected it so thoroughly. ;)

  16. Thank you for sharing this. I totaly agree and regulary speak out against the self proclaimed 'feminists' or 'liberals' who confuse these terms with political correctness and usually I just end up with a 'preaching alone in the desert feeling'. I'm not Canadian, but in my country we have similar arguments about secularism and niqabs. When I grew up and critisised aspects about christian religion (such as the whole Eve heraditary sin issue), nobody called me a christianofobe. Speak out against muslimrelated female oppression and suddenly you're a racist, intolerant and islamophobe. In an argument I usually end up saying this kind of 'sticking your head in the ground' reasoning is most offensive to people - especially women - who have fled from countries like Saoudi Arabia or Iran where 'modesty' was defined for them and imposed upon them.

  17. Its the simple task of recognizing that which is evident. NIQAB: erasing the face from the body.
    SELF-PROCLAIMED POLITICALLY AWARE: Deluded into twisting feminism, insulting it and all the while coming up with new ideas to troll on Harper.
    CONCLUSION: The plight of the numerous women ignored.

  18. Thank you for writing this. I hope you continue the fight against western Islamist apologists who think they're standing up for human rights but really only support institutionalized misogyny. Good for you.

  19. I'm wondering whether any comments that voice their disapproval get deleted, or if everyone is actually in agreement with what you wrote. I agree that the niqab is a SYMBOL of female oppression. And I respect your reasoning of why allowing such a symbol would be offensive to women who fight hard to end the oppression. As far as symbols go, the swastika is offensive to MOST yet we would not deny someone's right to taking the Canadian citizenship oath if they were covered head to toe in swastika tattoos (or would we? I don't know). It has been established that from a legal stand point, the logistics of wearing a niqab during the oath ceremony have been dealt with, so it comes down to people simply being uncomfortable with the idea of allowing such a symbol at such a symbolic ceremony. Because the ceremony itself is a symbol of our devotion to this great nation, with it's freedoms and tolerance. I understand why it makes people uncomfortable. I mean, don't people come to Canada to escape oppression? At the same time, consider for a moment that this woman, and many like her, though they understand the symbolism of the niqab, feel strongly about wearing it in public. Not because " some men view women as a possession, something to be hidden away from public gaze and ‘kept’ for their sole enjoyment" but because THEY do not want other men looking at their faces. That THEY get to decide who sees them "naked" so to speak. You say that "feminists naively support a woman’s ‘right' to a face-veil during the few minutes of the citizenship oath. That is all that is being asked." Now for one second imagine that the woman does, in fact, feel naked without the niqab covering her face. Imagine this scenario (and I know this is an extreme example, but it's the only one I feel will make my point). Imagine you told someone who always covers her body that all she has to do is be completely naked as part of the ceremony. It's okay, it's just for a few minutes. And don't worry, everyone else partaking will be naked, too. Would you be okay with it? It may seem like an absurd argument, but consider the fact that some women would feel violated if their face was seen by strange men. Given how strongly some women feel about never going out in public without make-up masking their face, I can at least appreciate why a woman might actually CHOOSE to wear a niqab.

    1. Please see my next post. And please know what you are talking about before you accuse me of censorship. I absolutely post all the comments I receive unless they are death or rape threats, which i get plenty of from the religion of peace.

      Comparing full nudity to uncovering your face is an absolutely ridiculous example, and shows you have no iea what niqab wearing is like. We absolutely would not allow people to take their citizenship oaths while wearing a bike helmet or a KKK hood. Equality for all. Is that so hard to understand? EVen the guy in the KKK hood would be happy to be pre identified, but no, he would not get that privilege because that is a recognized symbol of oppression.. whereas ppl defending the niqab continue to hold on to a double standard... where its ok to denounce one form of oppression but politically incorrect to do so.

      Could the overwhelming agreement to my piece be because my work is circulated in rational freethinking circles as opposed to religious fundamentalist circles?

    2. If you follow my work at all you should know how i truly enjoy and engage with critique i receive, because it usually demonstrates my points perfectly. Best not to make assumptions of people before you actually know anything about them. I go out of my way to especially share the negative comments I receive.

    3. My apologies if my question has offended you. I was not implying you were censoring comments. I was honestly just curious.

      I think you make very valid points about the KKK hood. Thank you for that. It does shine an interesting light. Though I will argue that the KKK hood is and always was intended to hide someone's identity. I believe the niqab is different in that respect.

      I only know what I know for speaking with Muslim women living in my community or those who come to me specifically for my photography services. I am very much the white liberal feminist you are voicing your opinions against (though I have lived in many different cultures and have personally had a chance to see how ethnocentric view points can cloud one's judgement.

      You are quite correct that this issue puts me into a weird double standard conundrum. On the one hand, I very VERY much am against any kind of oppression of human beings (men and women) and insist on equality for all. Yet at the same time, I VERY much support a woman's right to choose what is right for her, even if sometimes the roots of that choice come from a place that took place in what my culture considers oppressive circumstance.

      In this particular instance, I stand firmly in support of a woman who has clearly fought for what she feels should be her choice. In this particular case, given her unwavering stance, I feel she is fighting for her right to choose what she wears rather than fighting for acceptance of continued oppression of women. From a legal stand point, she has won the fight (twice!). So, in my opinion (which isn't worth much) this boils down to people's discomfort with the symbolism of the niqab.

    4. I highly encourage you to listen to these women

    5. That is on my list of things to listen to! :) But again, if they are truly religious, I wouldn't listen to the indoctrinated for accurate descriptions of the vehicles of oppression. Like scientology or other 'religions' ... the amish maybe, would u take seriously a person in the faith ..and expect them to objectively describe the practices without any bias? Its best to listen to those that lived it and got out, and yet love the culture and the people. We have a vested interest in not inciting hatred towards our families, as well as describing what we experienced without faith based biases. Some may fear hellfire and so won't call out the niqab for the oppression and subjugation that it is.

    6. Thank you for your honesty Mamique, and your opinion is absolutely worth a lot. I wouldn't discredit it simply because of your pigmentation!

      "You are quite correct that this issue puts me into a weird double standard conundrum. On the one hand, I very VERY much am against any kind of oppression of human beings (men and women) and insist on equality for all. Yet at the same time, I VERY much support a woman's right to choose what is right for her, even if sometimes the roots of that choice come from a place that took place in what my culture considers oppressive circumstance. "

      Thank you for acknowledging the double standard.... this is at least a start. And the purpose of niqab is to hide women away from the lust they may provoke in men, which feeds directly into the rape culture we fight so hard against here. It is absolutely meant to conceal identity and shape, so not dissimilar to the KKK hood.

      Don't let me stop you from standing in support with what u think is a choice, it is well intentioned. But do at least extend these rights to others....and do hold muslims to the same standards as everyone else. No one else is allowed to wear masks in court... so why change for muslims? This is seen as a racism of lower expectations.... please do not infantilize us... expect our communities to fit in and grow, at least expect us to obey the law, as u might do for other muslim practices like FGM or polygamy. A woman could absolutely be ex[ressing her right to 'choose' such a lifestyle, but thankfully the govt forbids it, and you should not stand in support of it. I understand how confusing this may be when u just want to show solidarity... please try not to show solidarity with the oppressors.

    7. Eiynah, thank you for your post. For me, it explained much about the Niqab as a symbol of oppression in parts of the world (to the point of actually having morality police who monitor, enforce, harass, arrest and even punish/cane people for not wearing it.) I too, disagree with the Harper government on the great majority of their policies and approach, but not in this instance. I fully support people's right to wear a niqab in our society if that is their choice, but agree that at a citizenship ceremony or other times when you must step up as a citizen and be identified, that the niqab should be set aside (e.g. taking the citizenship oath, when crossing a border, in a court proceeding, etc.) I found this blog through a comment posted on the FB page of the 2-niqabs-and-a-hijab-3-muslim-women-talk-about-the-face-covering radio episode of the current which Mammique suggests people listen to above.

      In the radio interview, the people who were interviewed discuss issues about why they have worn a niqab (one has now taken to wearing hijab instead). In the interview, a couple of them indicate they took to wearing it later in life, they claim it wasn't really familial pressure that led them to do it and that men in their life (father, husband) actually argued against it to a certain degree because they thought it reflected back on them to a certain degree that they were then men oppressing women.

      The women in the interview also stated that they had no problems taking off the niqab when asked to for identity photographs, when traveling, etc. so I am assuming that they would not have a problem doing it for a citizenship oath. From the interview, they indicated that they adopted the niqab freely to deepen their faith commitment; but as Eiynah pointed out, they have the luxury of great freedom to do this in our culture and don't seem to connect their wearing of a niqab with the forced oppression of others having to wear it in other countries or cases where it is forced on people here in Canada by families or social pressure. The luxury of liberal freedoms is a wonderful thing.

      One other item that I'm trying to understand; what does the niqab say about how these people view men in our society. My simple and very uniformed understanding is that it is to cover up as a sign of modesty and even protection - that men exposed to seeing women's faces may cause lustful thoughts. This implies the belief that men can't control themselves around women. Is this also a belief that we want to promote in our society that says it values equality?

      Eiynah, thank you again for being such a clear, articulate and well-reasoned writer on this topic It really has helped me to gain a clearer understanding of the issue. I think many have jumped on the bandwagon to oppose it without fully examining or grasping the implications. Your quote sums it up well "I understand how confusing this may be when u just want to show solidarity... please try not to show solidarity with the oppressors."

  20. You are spot on and it was a pleasure reading this post. Yes, it is easy to make fun and ridicule PM Harper. I ridicule him most of the time I speak about him. He's the leader of a party of right wing Christian fundies. He is a Christian fundie himself. But he is not stupid and he is sometimes right. Like in this matter. It is intellectually dishonest not to recognize it, a trap far too many people have fell into in this debate.

    1. Yes. I agree. People have become too used to thinking in binaries and bundles. This is probably the ONLY topic on which I agree with Harper. It certainly will not make me vote for him, and I despise the way he has turned this issue into a "dead cat".

  21. Eiynah, I am so proud to read this. We need more people like you to talk about this realistically rather than from the standpoint of western privilege. This is exactly what I have been trying to point out to people. I also used the KKK example, but somehow it's okay to to be against subjugation through racism in our society, yet when it's subjugation through religion it gets a pass and we are not allowed to discuss it. Those arguing that allowing her to wear it during the ceremony makes the ceremony more inclusive need to look up what inclusive means. It means that the laws and rules apply to everyone regardless of race, religion, gender or sexual orientation. Asking for an exemption is the very definition of exclusivity.

    I've also tried to point out that there are real people, fighting against this oppression and dying. There are real people like you speaking out about it and putting huge targets on their backs for doing so. That their flippant remarks about freedom of choice show how little they truly understand and make an absolute mockery of what freedom really is, and all that you and others like you are fighting to achieve.

    Well said. I applaud you for telling it like it really is.

    1. I wouldn't call defending the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms "flippant." You assume we can't both support freedom and condemn the Niqab at the same time. In Canada, at least so far, we condemn people for what they do, not what they think. Prove she is being forced to wear the Niqab against her will by her family or Mosque, then you have a case. Otherwise you're just imposing your prejudices on her and on all of us.

    2. No one needs to prove force in this issue, because showing your face in citizenship court is required for everyone. Treat muslims like everyone else, and expect them to follow the rules set. Equality is what we are all about , right?

  22. I think that the state forcing women to wear niqab is oppression. I think that the state forcing women to not wear niqab is state oppression. Yes, Canada has freedoms - we can't pick & choose which people are allowed to have them.

    1. I think treating people equally is not oppression. Asking people to show their face during citizenship oath is the bare minimum. People are not allowed to wear other masks.... this is not about freedom. They have manipulated the conversation to make it appear to be about freedom. No one is asking for a total ban. Just ten mins in court. Muslims should expect to follow customs and laws here.

  23. The problem w/ your argument is the assumption/assertion that protesters/mockers are "pro-niqab." But really the protest is not really about the niqab. Our sin is to reduce it to just another piece of clothing, to strip it of the meaning you know and substitute our own. But the protest is necessary: No government should even try to tell us what to wear. This insistence may seem self-centred and insensitive, but in our experience it is an attitude essential to the freedom you seek. Welcome to Canada!

    1. *Cringe* Referring to an item of clothing and stripping it of its meaning to use it for your own gain is not 'freedom' - its called cultural appropriation, and its pretty awful. Look it up.

      This is not your conversation to have, if u can't even recognize how awful what u just said is.

      "Our sin is to reduce it to just another piece of clothing, to strip it of the meaning you know and substitute our own. "

      How about you substitute the niqab with a native headdress in this quote of yours.

      Don't welcome me to Canada you condescending prick, i've been here for over a decade. Sigh.

      This is clearly an issue you know nothing about, and you have no qualms about speaking inappropriately to an immigrant either. I recommend you read up some more, and then come back and join the conversation.

      The problem with your argument is that you are coming from a condescending position, which automatically rids you of any credibility in this discussion. The governemnt does tell us what to wear in certain instances btw, no one else is allowed to wear masks in citizenship court. So certain groups should not get a special privilege to do so either.

  24. Everything you say about the Niqab may be true, but that's not the point. The question is once we start dictating dress codes, where does it stop. Frankly, as long as someone has identified themselves to officials, I don't care if they wear a Cat Women costume for the actual ceremony. It's none of my business.

    There are many many symbols of oppression allowed to exist in Western liberal democracies. Most of them are Christian so we tend to ignore them because most of us are also Christians or come from Christian backgrounds.

    We allow Mennonites and Hutterites to "force" their women to wear "modest": costumes. We allow them to live in paternalistic communities that oppress women. Where's the uproar? Where's the outrage?

    When I got married 35 years ago the Lutheran minister we chose to officiate, insisted on "counselling' sessions before our big day. He emphasized one main point: A family could not function with two 'heads' and it is the women's 'place' to be subservient to her husband. I guess he never heard of democracy, or equality, or communication. God, the ultimate and omnipotent authority figure, made man to rule over women and that was that.

    Maybe we should outlaw God.

    The Niqab may be an extreme example of Stockholm Syndrome. It is obviously a symbol of oppression to many Muslim women. I stand with them but I cannot condone using the legal system to enforce a dress code. It's a slippery slope.

    Also, telling someone they CAN'T do something, to corner them, is a sure fire way to entrench their position, to force them to dig in and prepare for a long fight. It's counter-productive.

    Yes, we are ruled by secular governments but WE ARE NOT A SECULAR SOCIETY. One of our main rights is the right to FREEDOM OF RELIGION, as long as the practice of that religion does not contravene our Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Secular law, not religious law, not Christian nor Muslim based law, rule the land.

    It's not black and white. I understand your emotional viewpoint. It saddens me that you choose to demonize people like me who believe in tolerance, equality, free choice, and liberty, who believe taking away one persons freedom threatens everyone's freedom.

    Harper is not playing this game because he wants to protect women. He is playing this game to inflame hatred against Muslims, to get votes by scapegoating the most visible adherents of that religion. You are playing his game, falling into his trap, his fear-mongering for votes strategy.


    1. "It's not black and white. I understand your emotional viewpoint. It saddens me that you choose to demonize people like me who believe in tolerance, equality, free choice, and liberty, who believe taking away one persons freedom threatens everyone's freedom"

      I am not demonizing anyone, I am saying that such support and mockery is irresponsible. Please reread the piece if u had trouble understanding.

      As i mention in the piece, I don't really care for Harper, nor do I care why he is playing this particular game. Trudeau is playing the same game btw. But just because it's harper, Doesn't mean he is wrong in saying this is rooted in anti-woman culture. He is absolutely right.

      "The question is once we start dictating dress codes, where does it stop." - this is not about dictating dress codes. This is about not allowing ANYONE mask privileges in court. You may not care if someone wears a catwoman outfit, but they are not allowed to do so.

      People like you are indeed a hurdle to Islamic reform. Whilst Christianity has had its reform because of people speaking up.

      And you compare face covering with other 'modest' clothing as some sort of example? You clearly have not understood any of the piece above, nor have you understood that false comparisons don't help make your point.

      We are a secular society, and that includes freedom of religion, but it does not include giving people privileges based on their beliefs, privileges that no one else gets. I am against it if its Christian or Hindu or Muslim or anything that gives ppl special standing. We are absolutely not perfect in our secularism, but the protest and discussion to get there is necessary.

    2. We have a secular government but we are NOT a secular society. That is the fatal flaw of your whole argument. There's a big difference between 'giving people privileges" and allowing them to express their beliefs any which they choose AS LONG AS it doesn't break any Canadian laws, including domestic violence and coercion. I realize those are often very hard situations to detect in a household ruled by a patriarch.

      Your position is not very much different than the vigilante crowd in Kabul last week who killed and burned a woman for something she allegedly did. No due process. No rule of law. You want to condemn something you see as offensive without considering the postilion of your targeted victims or allowing them to speak for themselves..

    3. Guenther, Im going to leave this up to showcase your stupidity. Thank you for such a textbook example.

      "Your position is not very much different than the vigilante crowd in Kabul last week who killed and burned a woman for something she allegedly did. No due process. No rule of law. "

      Yes because obviously, me demanding that she follow courtroom procedure like everyone else means I want to lynch her, beat her and murder her...right? I mean of course, her demanding *special* privileges in the courtroom is perfectly reasonable....and anyone opposing that by 'writing' a blog is equivalent to a murderous lynch mob.

      Gosh I hope your photography skills are better than your logic.

    4. lol
      Hit a nerve?

      Sometimes there is no appropriate response to hyperbole but more hyperbole.

      When you start promoting hate and discrimination against a tiny,very visible minority, you just don't know where it might end. It could end up with people dying halfway around the world. It could end up helping to justifying drawing Canada into a stupid American war against Islam (to save women from abuse) in Iraq and Syria.

      You are not "demanding that she follow courtroom procedure like everyone else." you are demanding she give up her right to freedom of religion, as you see it, not as the law sees it. The Supreme Court has already ruled in her favour. Your argument is not based on law but on your very personal hatred of what you believe the niqab represents in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. This is not either of those two countries. Our laws are very different. Our societies are very different. I want to keep it that way.

      True. My comment was posted in haste. I didn't complete the thought. I had places to go and people to see. No I didn't mean to equate the two situations except to point out that both are cases of finger pointing leading to nasty consequences.

      (Posting under my old and unused photography blog was a mistake. I'm retired, you'll be glad to hear.)

      Keep up the good work supporting Harper's hate and fear campaign. Canadian soldiers will be marching off to war in Syria in no time flat. One more cliche: The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

      gotta go...

    5. The only nerve you hit was the one that makes me laugh uncontrollably. While your hyperbole is amusing.. I feel sadness for how warped your view of the world is. The people you are viewing as a tiny tiny minority are in fact not tiny, and are responsible for a lot of awful and destruction in this world.

      While I'm flattered that you think my writing has the power to have people destroyed half way around the world, I'm concerned too are incredibly delusional...misguided.. and speak to me patronizingly about a culture which u clearly know nothing of.

      I have no interest in promoting hatred for anyone, only rationality and equality.

      Its too bad that your photography business didn't work out. I am sorry, really... but if it was anything like your debating skills... i can perhaps see why.

      All the best.

      ps- incase u didn't pick on it , I too dislike Harper.

  25. Excellent article. Thanks!

  26. HALLELUJAH! Finally a breath of fresh air. Finally someone who sees clearly what Harper is trying to do AND is not afraid to challenge the cringing, bending over backwards less someone accuses us of racism/Islamophobia etc liberal mainstream. I thank you for validating my original reaction to this whole topic. I have added a link and an excerpt to my blog on the topic.

  27. This comment has been removed by the author.

  28. I agree with the substance and thrust of your article, but because I felt it was far too long and a bit repetitive, it lost much of it's impact.
    Sometimes, less is more.
    *I can't reveal my name or location because it may put me in danger. Thanks.

    1. I don't believe anyone asked you to reveal your name or location. That is precisely why there is an anonymous option. Which you so brilliantly put to use.

      And oh, thank you so much for the writing critique. Clearly that is what I am in need of, and that is why I put this post up here, just hoping that someone would show me how to improve my writing. Thank you for being the one person in 30 thousand people who read this, to be observant enough to take *that* away from the piece. So indebted to you for pointing out the flaws. Will try to write better next time. Thank you very much for your incredibly useful advice.

  29. I feel humbled by your piece. You have articulated what I felt, deep in my heart, to be wrong but had trouble putting into words. Thank you!

  30. Excellent content. You make the same points about the Niqab and "voluntary personhood erasure" as I've been making since the issue came up with the much maligned French ban on it, but those arguments coming from someone who has actually lived with those misogynist dress codes, has much more credibility than coming from just another old white guy. One small suggestion for this website: Red text on colour-discrimination-test background is hard for us old farts to read. :)

    1. Apologies, this is definitely not the first time I have heard that from a reader. I promise, as soon as I can find the time, I will revamp blog entirely. I know it's a pretty awful template. Thank you for taking the time to read it though. xx

  31. I have referenced your article in some fb comment I made. I hope that is ok with you. You have not been on fb, I assume you have given up on them. Please let me know if you do not want me to reference your blog and I will remove my comment.

    1. Hi Anna! Please feel free to share and reference as much as you like! I miss being on fb :(

  32. I dig what you are saying 100%

  33. I'm with you 100% on this. But I will not vote for the so-called Conservatives. I'm in a bind, I don't know who to vote for now.

  34. My question is this. If these women are not allowed to remove their niqab in public because of the fear and oppression they live under from their husbands or the men in their lives, how are they suppose to do that without the danger it seems they would be in for doing so. I would like to know. I realize the one woman has clearly stated that she chooses to wear the niqab but, there are other women in her family that choose not to so she would be safe either way. But, as for the other women that have removed their niqab since 2011, except for two, what has happened to them? This is the answer all of us need. If there is proof that they are being abused after removing their niqabs at the citizen ceremony at the hands of their husbands or the men in their lives, what are we as a country doing about it? I think its a very valid and important question so hopefully, you have an answer. I would never want to be a part of putting any woman in danger no matter what my opinion is.

  35. My question is this. If these women are not allowed to remove their niqab in public because of the fear and oppression they live under from their husbands or the men in their lives, how are they suppose to do that without the danger it seems they would be in for doing so. I would like to know. I realize the one woman has clearly stated that she chooses to wear the niqab but, there are other women in her family that choose not to so she would be safe either way. But, as for the other women that have removed their niqab since 2011, except for two, what has happened to them? This is the answer all of us need. If there is proof that they are being abused after removing their niqabs at the citizen ceremony at the hands of their husbands or the men in their lives, what are we as a country doing about it? I think its a very valid and important question so hopefully, you have an answer. I would never want to be a part of putting any woman in danger no matter what my opinion is.

    1. The answer is to not cower at the misogynistic will of these husbands then, isn't it? Baring your face for 3 mins of the oath , if its official process, the husband can hardly find fault with the woman for that, but can blame the govt. My issue is we continue to let these practices flourish by caving in and giving people special privileges to accommodate misogyny. It'll never end without the support of the world. A complete ban could indeed result in further marginalization of these women, which is why i am not in favour of an all out ban on niqabs. But applying one law to everyone in the court masks.... seems simple enough...and most importantly it is fair to all.