Muslim Women’s Clothing: Alia Hogben

Good piece by Alia Hogben of the Canadian Council of Muslim Women:

We would agree that clothes are a form of non-verbal communication as they can transmit social signals and identify a person’s class, income, beliefs and employment.

In addition to this kind of cultural norm, they may also communicate religious beliefs. For example, the Amish, the Mennonites, Hasidic Jews and many Muslims express their ideas of modesty by the attire they wear. The rules affect both genders but more emphasis is on women’s dress. For all these women, modesty includes covering their head and their hair, and being physically segregated at certain times or places.

We don’t have to like or agree with the different ways women choose to dress, but surely we can accommodate these choices about clothing as long as they don’t impinge on others, or require onerous accommodation, or become obligatory for all of us.

For example, there is no consensus among Muslims about whether women’s head coverings are mandatory. So any state or country which mandates women’s dress, especially Muslim women’s, is wrong. In the same way, no state should decree that these women should be uncovered.

The burkini is a bathing suit that covers all of the female body except the face. Some communities in France, the land of liberte, egalite et fraternite, have decided that the burkini is incompatible with the values of France. The bikini is now considered more consistent with French values. The burkini apparently threatens French secularism.

However, the bikini has not always illustrated French values. There is a 1957 photograph of a woman in a bikini who is being given a ticket by a policeman for her indecent attire.

A point of interest is that the woman who dons the burkini may still displease the more traditional Muslim males. This is because they would tell her that the profile of her body can be seen and thus her burkini is still not acceptable. She is caught between the “secularists” and the “religious.” Best that she dress as she wishes!

I would plead with the French to pay less attention to women’s clothing and instead deal with the far more serious issues that they have, including immigration, integration, discrimination and identity.

In Canada we are relatively tolerant and accepting of diversity, so that the hijab under the RCMP hat has now become part of the uniform. It became official policy this year. I think the reasoning is that if it does not impede safety or security and does no harm to the wearer or those around, then we can make these accommodations.

However, in Canada, there are some demands for accommodations that I think are unreasonable and to which we should not acquiesce.

The majority of Canadians are willing to accommodate issues around modesty of dress. but related to the attire of women is the demand for gender segregation. Enforced gender segregation as an extension of modesty should not be condoned by any of us, Muslims or non-Muslims. It can be damaging to both men and women.

In my view, that’s accommodation too far.

Why?  Gender segregation can also mean gender stereotyping. For example, women are seen as emotional, men as rational and also more highly sexed. Women, therefore – so goes the rationale – must hide their own sexuality and cover up so as not to “tempt” men. This is patriarchy at its worst, laying the blame and responsibility on women and girls.

There is a false assumption that gender segregation will protect men and women from licentiousness. I don’t think so!

How wise is Einstein: “If most of us are ashamed of shabby clothes and shoddy furniture let us be more ashamed of shabby ideas and shoddy philosophies.”

For Muslim women, Liberal victory a rejection of divisive politics

No surprises here:

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper was not subtle about his use of cultural differences as a trigger for fear during the election campaign. His government pressed its case against a Muslim woman fighting to wear her niqab during her citizenship ceremony — and lost. It unveiled a “barbaric cultural practices” tipline for Canadians to report on their neighbours.

He made a debating point of his position that he’d never tell his daughter to cover her face, a moot point unless she converts to Islam. For Muslim-Canadian women the fact that those tactics backfired in the end is a validation of a particular view of Canada.

For Alia Hogben, the executive director of the Canadian Council of Muslim Women, it shows that Canadians “are rejecting all the divisive and racist and hate mongering that the Conservatives were doing and they’re showing who we really are. It gives me a huge amount of hope.”

Hogben said that for almost every single Muslim, Harper’s vocal opposition to Muslim women wearing the niqab at citizenship ceremonies as the case of Zunera Niqab, who had taken the government to court over the issue, made its way successfully through then legal process during the campaign, was a source of anxiety.

“During that period it was nerve wracking, depressing and discouraging,” she said.

Hogben said she was worried about these new values that were being propounded by the Conservatives.

“We couldn’t tell if Canadians would lean that way or not and now it’s a huge amount of relief that its been rejected,” she said.

“We’re not saying one party is any better than another, but we’re hoping that they will learn from what went on during the election and the kind of feelings that aroused for and against a group of people and that they will learn from that and make everybody welcomed back into the family of Canadians rather than dividing us.”

In a powerful speech to a crowded room of cheering supporters in Montreal, prime minister designate Justin Trudeau said a woman wearing a hijab told him she would vote for him because she wants to make sure that her little girl has the right to make her own choices in life.

“Have faith in your fellow citizens my friends, they are kind and generous. They are open minded and optimistic and they know in their heart of hearts that a Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian,” said Trudeau.

Liberal strategist at Crestview Strategy Group, Rob Silver, said there’s no room in Canada for divisive and mean politics.

“I think if anything the niqab issue backfired on Stephen Harper and I think that kind of divisive negative nasty politics will not be seen in Canada for a long time.”

Samer Majzoub, the president of the Canadian Muslim Forum, says by electing Trudeau, Canadians have sent a very strong message to politicians who have campaigned on “hatred and discrimination.”

“They have harvested what they have planted and lost and [were] defeated,” said Majzoub.

“The fact is that Canadians have followed what Canadians believe in—harmony, unity, human rights, that’s why we feel at ease on the subject,” he said.

For Muslim women, Liberal victory a rejection of divisive politics (paywall)

Harper’s silence on anti-Muslim backlash disheartens Muslim groups

They have a point. Silence from the top speaks:

Muslim groups have condemned the killings and the extremist beliefs which apparently motivated them. But they say their efforts to demonstrate that most Muslims do not share those beliefs and to show solidarity with non-Muslim Canadians need to be reinforced by political leaders, particularly the prime minister.

“We are trying to work together with our law enforcement and our authorities to end this what is called radicalization of youth. We are trying to do our utmost to help,” said Mostefa.

But when political leaders denounce Muslim extremists but don’t come to the defence of moderate Muslims, Mostefa said young Muslims will think: “This is my country and you don’t come to my support to stand by my side.”

And that sends “the wrong message.”

….. “Our leaders have a very important role to play,” concurred Amira Elghawaby, human rights co-ordinator for the National Council of Canadian Muslims.

“It’s the leaders who have to set the positive tone.”

Immediately following the 9-11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, Elghawaby noted that then-prime minister Jean Chretien visited a mosque “just to show Canadians that there’s no such thing as collective guilt.”

She said her group expects Harper, “as leader of our country, to speak up for the minorities that live here.”

“He has a responsibility to represent everyone and certainly Canadian Muslim communities are extremely worried about a backlash and I think that needs to be spoken to.”

Alia Hogben, executive director of the Canadian Council of Muslim Women, said it’s “very disheartening” that Harper has not bothered to speak out against the anti-Muslim backlash. But it’s not surprising to her.

“I don’t think he much likes Muslims,” Hogben said.

Canada is a multicultural country with over 1 million Muslims, most of whom are Canadian citizens whose religion is only part of their identity, she pointed out.

“I think it’s absolutely vital that the head of the country, like the prime minister, would accept that and also somehow reinforce it and reassure people.”

Asked why Harper has not specifically denounced any of the recent anti-Muslim incidents, the prime minister’s spokesman Jason MacDonald said: “These acts are obviously unacceptable.

Contrast this to any number of statements and the like on antisemitic incidents.

Harpers silence on anti-Muslim backlash disheartens Muslim groups.

Study dispels stereotypes about Ontario women who wear niqabs

Interesting. I would also be interested in knowing how many were converts versus born Muslim:

A majority of the women who participated said they began wearing the veil after turning 18, and most foreign-born respondents said they only began wearing the niqab after arriving in Canada.

The study suggests concerns expressed by pundits that niqab wearers will use the concealing nature of the garb to avoid being photographed for identification or security purposes, such as boarding a flight at an airport, are unfounded.

“All those interviewed said they understood there were instances where they would be required to show their faces,” the authors wrote. Many interviewees indicated strongly that they would never refuse to reveal their face in an instance requiring they be identified.

The study indicates most women who wear the niqab made the decision based on a personal belief, rather than pressure from spouses or relatives.

“We thought it would be political, but it was more for them an expression of their spirituality or their journey, which we did not think we would hear,” Hogben said.

In fact, several respondents indicated they had been pressured by spouses to stop wearing the veil.

There is an ongoing debate among Muslim scholars as to whether the niqab is obligatory in Islam. The study chose to avoid the “religious or theological basis for the practice itself.”

Study dispels stereotypes about Ontario women who wear niqabs.

Feds take aim at violence against Muslim women | Toronto Sun

While I am not a great fan of changing vocabulary – sometimes it is better to use existing words like “honour killings” that are used in the community and force a discussion about why such “honour” is not honourable than finding a technically neutral term like femicide. However, the organization involved, The Canadian Council of Muslim Women, has a good track record in such initiatives, and work in this area is warranted.

Feds take aim at violence against Muslim women | Canada | News | Toronto Sun.