There is the question: why would anyone choose to leave their country of birth, their heritage, their traditions, culture and yes, religious comfort to take up residency and citizenship in another land geographically removed from the original, and where that tradition, culture and religion they hold dear represents the truly exotic, in a way that is foreign to the receiving country's traditions and values. Most particularly when the welcoming country to which the choice has been made to emigrate has itself a tradition of egalitarianism.
Is there any symbol more reflective of a tradition of gender bondage than that of the burqa, the hijab, the naqib? Of the three examples the hijab is relatively unobtrusive, appearing a more than sufficient signpost of a different kind of surrender; that of acquiescing to a modicum of modesty as required by Koranic precepts specifically designed for women. As for the burqa and the hijab, their purpose is clear enough; to remind women of their place in a society stringent with repression.
Femininity must be repressed for it is symbolic of the wicked nature of womankind. A woman's physical presence is too damningly alluring for men who cannot be held responsible for their actions if they view an ankle, a head of hair, a full face, womanly contours. Which is why in some Arab and Muslim countries a woman's lack of attention to her garments may be sufficient for justice practised there to hold her guilty of her own rape.
The wearing of the burqa and the hijab can be accepted in an enlightened society that wants to practise what it preaches; freedom for its people regardless of ideology, religion, gender or orientation. Which is why certain religious/cultural symbols are accepted without question, or even after some heated discussion, as with the Sikh kirpan and turban, and the Jewish kippah or skullcap; needful as symbols of dedication to one's faith and to be respected. But even these can be taken a bit too far in demands emanating from their symbolism.
It would, of course, be best if upon being interviewed by immigration officers would-be immigrants were assessed by the quality of their responses, with respect to their seeming suitability for integration into the prevailing larger society. A commitment to become absorbed to a certain degree, while still claiming one's original background, should be a pre-requisite to acceptance. Extreme rigidity in clasping customs clearly at odds and even offensive to the welcoming country should signal a red light of exclusion.
As it is, there are the occasional and fortunately relatively rare, instances where those of religious conviction insist that their right to wear what they will be respected. And it might be, if it were done discreetly, without interfering in any way with the greater social good and the public at large. In the case of the niqab, a square of cloth that covers all but the woman's eyes, it cannot even be claimed that this reflects a religious imperative, for it is one of regional custom and tradition, not religion.
Women who insist they must be accepted as they are, formless and characterless, yet individualistic are playing a game of idiosyncratic entitlement at the expense of the larger society; using a gameboard of semantics to insist on their rights. They refuse to recognize, or to see their use of total covering as a sign of oppression and that is their right. But while the larger society recognizes oppression where they do not, it becomes another kind of symbol, an offence to the society itself.
For it is abundantly clear that by claiming exceptionality as one's right, and rejecting the norms of the accepting society, the individual is demanding that society conform to their values. This is seen in the example of the Egyptian immigrant who is taking the Province of Quebec's stance in rejecting her as a student in French language classes, as long as she wears the niqab, to the province's human rights commission.
She has her supporters, and in the words of the president of the Muslim Council of Montreal: "To deny a person the chance of integration, just because they follow what they believe is correct for them, is wrong", there is a clear conundrum being expressed. How is the woman being denied integration? She is, in fact, by her very actions, rejecting integration.
As for the Muslim Student Association of Concordia University, supportive of the woman's right to wear a niqab wherever she wishes, whenever she desires, whether or not her doing so creates difficulties and problems for others - including her language instructors, including other men in the classes whom she insists be removed from her presence - this has become a 'cause'.
The simple fact appears to be that any backlash against such traditions which are seen as societally strange and even offensively unacceptable, brings to the fore a matching support from those whose traditions uphold these customs. Women whose mothers had never in their lives worn anything remotely resembling a hijab suddenly think it fashionable, as a sign of being 'different' appealing to them.
These young woman apply eye makeup to increase the fetching appeal of their look, and then feel themselves appearing glamorous because of the mysterious sexuality that is enhanced by the combination. While others consider their garb offensively oppressive to women, they who choose to wear those garments consider themselves to represent a vanguard of religious devotion, defiance and style.
A facade to be sure, with little depth of devotion, but a delightfully insouciant way in which to bring attention to one. Now how perverse is that?
Labels: Canada, Environment, Whoops