What do Stephen Harper and Islamic State have in common? They both want to dictate how certain women should dress.
Let us be perfectly clear. The niqab is only a symbol of oppression if it is forced on women. Coercion is the oppression. The Muslim scholars who say that wearing the niqab is not a religious requirement are entirely missing the point that, for some women, it is a religious choice. This is what Canada used to stand for – offering choice in matters of faith.
The demeaning, divisive and hateful politics that Steve Harper represents shame us all.
For those who want to be truly inspired, I suggest that you listen here to the October 8th interview by Anna Maria Tremonti of CBC’s The Current with Zunera Ishaq, the woman who had to go to court to preserve her right to wear a niqab at her citizenship swearing-in ceremony (after removing it in private for identification purposes). She was sworn in as a citizen in a ceremony today.
You may be amazed to hear that Zunera Ishaq comes from a liberal Pakistani family who were totally against her decision, at age 15, to don the niqab. They reluctantly went along with it, when they saw how determined she was. Later on, her husband queried whether she should continue wearing it when they decided to come to Canada . He too reluctantly went along with her firm decision to continue to do so. Once it became clear that she would have to go to court to keep the right to wear it at the citizenship ceremony, he queried her again and once again she was adamant.
Frankly, although I could never imagine wearing a niqab myself, I find Zunera Ishaq to be an inspiration. Her courageous actions stand in sharp contrast to the despicable, hateful and racist campaign tactics of Stephen Harper, who has proven himself unfit to govern.