Muslim women sound off on ‘stupid’ niqab debate

CCMW does good work in research, engagement and participation:

The Canadian Council of Muslim Women held an event Sunday in Toronto to hand out awards and discuss concerns in their communities. There was also an opportunity for debate between political parties on where they stand on issues affecting Muslim women in Canada.

But the debate continued to focus on wedge issues rather than major themes affecting all Canadians. That did not sit well with some Muslim women, who say the topic is “just a way to gain votes” ahead of the Oct. 19 election.

“Right now, the federal government is talking about women and [the] niqab, which is not an issue, even for Muslims,” said Zarqa Nawaz, the creator of Little Mosque on the Prairie.

“We’re in a recession, what is the plan to go forward? Those are the things I want to talk about. Not about women in [the] niqab and why she can’t sing the national anthem with her face covered. That’s just stupid.”

Shaheen Ashraf says there’s a negative stigma associated with Muslim garb, which hinders employment opportunities for Muslim women. (CBC)

Maryam Dadabyoy, community relations officer for the National Council on Canadian Muslims, appeared annoyed with the niqab conversation. She says the federal government should be inclusive of all Canadians.

“It’s an issue that won’t go away and it’s not even that important,” Dadabyoy said.

“We need to see a government that just makes us feel more a part of the community and not being ostracized,” she continued. “Not very many women do wear [the] niqab, but it’s being thrown in everyone’s face.”

Muslim women say they feel ‘demonized’

Shaheen Ashraf sits on the national board of the Canadian Council of Muslim Women, which hosted the event. She lives in Montreal and says the hotly-debated topic is being heard in her province even though it doesn’t affect her community.

“The whole niqab issue is not an issue for us,” Ashraf said. Instead, she’d like candidates to focus on how Muslim dress affects their ability to move forward in society.

“If you are wearing a scarf, or, for instance, the niqab, you’re not going to get a job. Your credentials don’t count. [Employers] think that if you have a scarf, you don’t have a brain.”

Ashraf states firmly that Muslim women have the right to choose how they dress, just as any other Canadian.

“[Muslim women] feel like they’re being demonized,” Nawaz said.

The upcoming election should be an opportunity for Muslim women to have their real issues heard, the women say.

Source: Muslim women sound off on ‘stupid’ niqab debate – Toronto – CBC News

Why Stephen Harper owes Canadian Muslims an apology – The Globe and Mail

Following the accusation by the Prime Minister’s Office that the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM), and its predecessor organization CAIR-Can, were associated with banned terrorist group (Hamas), the NCCM launched a lawsuit. Will be interesting to see how the lawsuit turns out.

Given the Conservative government’s strong support for Israel and its closer relationship with the Canadian Jewish community than with the Canadian Muslim community, no surprise with the following comment:

Prime Minister, the Canadian Muslim community is tired of being a political punching bag. And in case you have any doubt, we will neither be intimidated nor will we be silenced.

Canadian NGO: Why we are suing the Prime Minister’s Office | Toronto Star.

More nuanced commentary, but with the same fundamental message, is by Omer Aziz:

There is a broader issue here, and that is the sheer ease with which one can tarnish Muslims – not just foreign ones, but fellow citizens – and get away with it. Canadian society rightly isolates and condemns racists, homophobes and anti-Semites. The excommunication of racial supremacists has been so effective that even a false charge of racism or anti-Semitism can ruin a career or, if assiduously repudiated, discredit the mudslinger. Being called a terrorist-sympathizer, a Hamas supporter, an al-Qaeda apologist, or whatever potentially libelous charge someone throws at you to exploit your Islamic faith can also ruin your career, but comes at little cost for the alleged libeler if it is false.

During a brief stint as a Parliamentary intern I had the opportunity to meet Mr. Harper on a few occasions, and I do not think for a moment that he harbors an ill thought toward Muslims. He is doing what he thinks best for the country that elected his party three times to government. Whether he realizes it or not, however, his office has smeared a national organization established to represent Muslims, making mere punching bags out of citizens, dehumanizing them, and debasing the venerable Prime Minister’s Office. He owes the NCCM and all Muslims an apology.

Why Stephen Harper owes Canadian Muslims an apology – The Globe and Mail.