Recently, up here in Canada, a news story has brought up surprisingly strong anti-Muslim sentiments that I thought were long gone.
We are currently nearing the end of an election. One of recent talking points was about Muslim women wearing niqabs (face coverings) during their citizenship ceremony. The Conservatives up here believe Muslim women should remove their veils, while the Liberal and NDP parties have similar opinions, stating that the woman’s religion should be respected. One suggestion was to have the Muslim women reveal her face, in private, to another woman, to prove her identity.
Many have voiced their opinions on social media, suggesting face covering be banned out-right, that “these people” weren’t real Canadians. Even our Prime Minister Stephen Harper, head of the Conservatives, hinted at two levels of being Canadian, as if one were more authentic than the other. Is it any wonder why Muslim people coming to this country, or anyone who isn’t white, or don’t worship Jesus, feel like strangers.
The focus of the uproar seems to be about the niqab. The thing is, most people only regurgitate what they hear on the news without actually thinking about it all, without trying to be objective. I’m not overly fond of deep research, but these days, its easy enough to look up the basics.
First off, lets understand what is what…
The “burka” covers the woman’s entire body, including her entire face. The “niqab” covers everything except her eyes. A “hijab” covers her head, but exposes her face. Some that wear hijabs also wear regular clothes that cover the rest of their body, so very little, if any, skin is seen.
While the use of the burka, niqab and hijab varies from person to person, as well as country to country, and even within various branches of Muslims themselves, most non-Muslims see them as forms of oppression, that women are forced to wear them. Sadly, there is some truth to this. But the other night, I saw a news story where they talked to a young Muslim woman who was in school to become a lawyer. According to her, she didn’t mind wearing her hijab. But, she decided to stop wearing it because of other people. The hijab is just a head covering, not as severe as the niqab or the burka, yet she still had to deal with prejudice towards her for wearing it. She mentioned that if people had been more accepting, she would probably still be wearing her hijab. But other people’s attitudes towards her made her feel uncomfortable, so she took it off.
For me, I always believed that this was part of a Muslim woman’s religion, or how they showed their faith. But, any religion who represses people is wrong. Religion, in my opinion, should never be about repression. But many religions, other than the Muslim faith, have various forms of repression. The one example I can think of are priests who can’t marry and have families. Some would say that is showing dedication to their God, and that it is a good thing. So how come a Muslim woman wearing a niqab, showing her faith to her religion, isn’t a good thing? I may be a simple guy, but as long as the woman wearing a niqab, burka, or hijab is doing so of her own choice, that choice should not be violated. If someone is forced to do something, then that idea is out-dated and stupid.
If you’ve read any of my previous blogs where I argue against religion, especially Christianity, I should make one thing clear. Although I don’t always agree with various religions and their beliefs, it is still someone’s belief. No matter what I say against it, I can’t fault someone for believing in that. Hell, I’ve had a few people who consider themselves religious, and agree with some of what I’ve said. Anything I’ve argued about has been my personal opinion, with the hopes of, at the very least, giving others something to think about. I would never presume to change someone’s mind, or force them to change what they believe in. Just as I wouldn’t want them trying to change what I believe in.
So why do we think it’s ok to try to change others? Why do we think it’s ok to belittle someone else’s belief just because we say so? In a truly free country, everyone has rights, so long as those rights don’t negatively affect others. Would we want someone to judge us, or mock us, just because we are living our lives as we choose?
Treating Muslim women differently will only force any of them that are oppressed away from all the potential their new country offers. If we showed them the wonderful freedom available to them, maybe, in time, they will loosen their veils.
We can’t force someone to change, especially someone of faith. Change has to come from a desire for change. Once upon a time, it was a sin for Christians to eat fish on Friday, or to get a divorce. That has changed. So whose to say that, over time, Muslim women won’t want to change as well. Maybe if we made a world for them where they felt safe from persecution and prejudice that they would shed some of the trapping of their faith, and hold onto the important parts, and not what kind of clothes to wear.
Sadly, there are many non-Muslim women out there who don’t feel safe in our world. Maybe it isn’t the women who need to change. Maybe its the world, and those who supposedly run it, that need to change.