Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Jason Kenney: New Grand Mufti of Canada

Dear Mr. Jason Kenney,

Thank you for informing the entire nation that you have nominated yourself Grand Mufti (Islamic scholar) of Canada, and have already dispensed your first fatwah (religious ruling)!

Your arrogance and your ignorance in assuming that you know Islamic law well enough to state that "Muslim women don't wear veils during Hajj" and therefore are allowed to remove them for the citizenship ceremony (without realizing that Islamic law states that there is a very special exception for removing the veils during the pilgrimage), is both laughable and insulting beyond belief.
Oh, and let's not forget that you also feel that you have the right to publicly call my belief and practice of wearing the veil as "bizarre." Can I expect you to say the same about the kirpan, turban, and Jewish skull cap next?

Similarly, the attitudes assumed by many journalists - ranging from "we are liberating Muslim women from their own oppressive beliefs!" to "how dare Muslim women have beliefs different from ours! We must stop this outrage immediately!" (accompanied by broadly generalizing statements such as "Muslim women who wear the veil keep themselves aloof and don't believe in gender equality) - are patronizing, offensive, and display a deliberate lack of knowledge regarding why some Muslim women wear the veil.

I wonder what Mr. Kenney's real reasons are for banning the veil - is it really about gender equality, fundamental Canadian principles, and "an open society"? Or is it just a public expression of our government's increasing xenophobia against all that is not white and Judeo-Christian?

Many years ago, my mother took the oath of citizenship while wearing her veil. So did my mother-in-law. It's a good thing that I was born a Canadian citizen, because otherwise I suppose that Mr. Kenney would like to stop me from being an equal member of Canadian society as well (no matter that I have lived in Canada all my life and consider it my true home). Then again, who knows - with the freedom-loving Mr. Kenney at the helm, he may one day decide that I am too much of a threat to Canada's "open society" and that I should be stripped of my citizenship due to my outrageous decision to wear the veil.

Thankfully, there remain some conscientious, courageous journalists who have rightly criticized Mr. Kenney's creation of and solution for a nonexistent problem. If Mr. Kenney is so concerned about actually hearing veiled Muslim women reciting the oath of citizenship, why not simply have them speak into a microphone? Ah, but that's too simple, and gosh darn it, we have to get those veils OFF somehow!

Reading the comments on the veil-related news articles online breaks my heart. Canadians, my fellow citizens, the people I grew up with, live next to, and smile at everyday (yes, you can tell I'm smiling even though I'm wearing a veil), are vilifying me and telling me in no uncertain terms (and with quite a few racist Islamophobic epithets thrown in) that they do not care about who I really am, how I contribute to society, or how much I love Canada. Instead, they have turned me into a stereotype - a threat, a victim, to be obliterated or liberated depending on how they view me. They are also telling me that I am not welcome, not unless I sacrifice my spiritual beliefs and conform to what THEY believe is "right." So much for welcoming diversity, for celebrating multiculturalism, for freedom of religion.

No, this is the new Canada. This new Canada tells us that any expression of "difference" is bad; that if you publicly display your faith, you are a threat; that there is only one way to be Canadian, and that is to behave exactly as the government demands.

This new Canada scares me.


A letter I sent to reporter Dan Gardner of the Ottawa Citizen, reproduced here on his website:

Full text below:

Hi Dan,

While reading your column "The Canvas of Emotion," I felt the annoyance that usually comes over me whenever people start talking about how the niqab (veil) is this, that, or the other.

That annoyance has not faded. Though I appreciate your honesty about how you really feel about the veil, and what you think it really is, I remain frustrated that you have not taken the time to research more deeply why some Muslim women wear the veil, and the reasons given for its practice within Islamic Law. At the very least, could you not have contacted a Muslim woman who wears the veil? After all, you do live in Ottawa, where the veil isn't entirely uncommon.

In any case, since you didn't take the time to learn more about the veil from someone who wears one, I have taken the time to come to you.

First of all, let me tell you a little about myself. My name is Zainab. I'm 21 years old, and although I currently live overseas, I was born a Canadian citizen and spent every year of my life there (except for the last two). I am a passionate believer in social justice and a fierce feminist. I've been writing since I was 14 - fiction, poetry, and articles for newspapers, blogs, and magazines. I am both independent and outspoken.

I am a Muslim woman, and I started wearing the veil when I turned 17, after years of begging my mom (who also wears it) to let me (shocking, huh? A teenage girl being forbidden from wearing the veil, not being forced into it!).

I do not wear the veil to segregate myself from society; I do not wear it to "smother my identity"; I do not wear it to remain aloof from others or assume that I'm better than them, or any of the other theories that so many journalists have been sharing within the last two days.

No. I wear it because first of all, I believe that God commanded it. In the Qur'an, the veil has three purposes: to test just how far you'll go to obey God; to identify yourself as a Muslim woman; and for the sake of modesty. (Specific Qur'anic verse:

To expand a little upon the last point, it has nothing to do with Islam considering all women to be wicked seductresses bent on luring innocent men into frenzies of lust. Instead, it has to do with Islam's concern for societal welfare.
Men and women are allowed to interact in any number of settings, whether it be for business, education, or otherwise, but there are certain limits placed on those interactions.
By restricting men's ability to physically assess a woman's face or body and treat her according to how attractive he considers her (a human-nature practice studied and proven extensively in psychology), they are forced to deal with the woman on purely intellectual terms: her ideas and her actions.

In this kind of setting, no man can ever make judgments about a woman based on her physical features (like, oh, I don't know... how about promoting a woman just because she's got bigger boobs than the competition? Don't tell me this doesn't happen in the corporate world.)

Now, with regards to the claims you make about the veil - that it cuts off one's identity; that communication is hindered and restricted; that the ability to emotionally connect disappears - I can say with full confidence that while it might make sense theoretically, in reality none of those things take place.

I went to school, to the mall, to the park, to every place imaginable while wearing the veil. I hiked, I debated, I studied, I smiled and said "good morning" to passers-by... and they were all able to recognize that I was interacting with them and reaching out emotionally. My teachers, classmates, and neighbours never saw my face, but that didn't mean that they didn't trust me less; that they felt cut off from me or separated from me.

I built both short-term and long-term relationships - whether with the librarian or the grocery store clerk; my favourite teacher or the mailman.

Identity, emotions, and expressions of the two are not limited to facial features. In a society which is no longer tribal but cyber-connected, this is evidenced in the popularity of web forums, text messaging and more, we have effectively proven that there are practically no more barriers that hinder communication. When walking around veiled, people could easily tell if I was happy or sad, smiling or frowning. That's because body language involves more than just facial expressions (which, by the way, you can detect on a veiled woman because you can still see her eyes).

Muslim women may cover their faces; but that doesn't stop us from talking or taking action. And as I was taught in kindergarten, we deal with people based on how they act, not how they look.

You may be interested in taking a look at thiese webpage (video, article, and comments) to get a better idea of the issue of veiling amongst Muslims (and especially how it does not stop us from being normal, functional, friendly human beings!):

(Yes, I wrote this one.)
I sincerely hope that you are able to consider the reality of veiled Muslim women over psychological hypotheses (which might sound fancy and all, but don't actually translate into real life), and realize that there's more going on behind the veil (as though this pun isn't overused already... *sigh*) than what you think.
-Zainab bint Younus (aka AnonyMouse)


Anonymous said...

dear sister,
although i am not a Canadian and in my personal opinion i should not comment on a matter that is of another country( it is your personal matter w.r.t country) yet your writing and word some how forced me to break my rules and comment being a Muslim. trust me that prayers know no boarder. and after reading your post i can guaranty 1 duaa all the way from Pakistan that may you and my other sisters in the European countries facing the same problem be in the amman of ALLAH and gain success in your fight against the evil.....
requesting prayers,
P.S. i mean seriously pray for me that may ALLAH bless me with hidayaa

Anonymous said...

Ok, not trying to be a troll and for the record I sympathize with your reading of the government's motivations here. However, to play devil's advocate why not just make an exception and take the veil off for the oath?


AnonyMouse said...

Hi MattK!

The point is that Mr. Kenney doesn't respect the true reason behind women wearing the veil (he implies that wearing one prevents us from being part of an "open society"), and that he is abusing his power to force us to do what *he* believes.

If it was a matter of confirming identity, such as for voting or getting a driver's license or testifying in court, it would be another issue entirely wherein there would be some justification for removing the veil (temporarily).
In this case however, Mr. Kenney just wants to "make sure" that the women are taking the oath! (Because of course these wicked veiled women could try to be sneaky and not say the oath.) In that case, why not have them speak into a microphone?

The alleged 'reasoning' behind Mr. Kenney's demands, and the possible (and not improbable) implications it can have for the future make it an issue that we cannot let slide.

I was born a Canadian citizen and began wearing the veil in my late teens; will Mr. Kenney one day decide that I can't function in an "open society" and decide to take my citizenship away, or make me take the oath in front of him, unveiled?
Will some other "liberator of Muslim women" come along and decide to ban the veil entirely? Strip any veiled woman of citizenship?
I can go on and on, but I'm sure you get the point.

Anonymous said...

Ok, thanks for the response!


Anonymous said...

It scares me that even a Muslim thinks a face-covering veil is part of Islamic faith. It's not.

Anonymous said...

Dear Sister;
I'm a Muslim-Canadian, female. I would like to know if it bothers you at all that I get scared by people near me wearing a face mask? Does it bother you that other Muslims/Non-Muslims, your fellow Canadians, CHILDREN,... get scared too? You're a good writer. You might want to consider using your skills to better use and write some articles about all the abuses taking place against women worldwide and how the burqa/niqab has, and is being used to oppress women worldwide.

AnonyMouse said...

As-salaamu 'alaikum wa rahmatullaahi wa barakaatuh,

Thank you for reaching out, sis :)
Yes, I do feel bad that there are people whom I across who may be upset at the way I dress. However, just as it upset people when I wore the hijab by itself, I remind myself that I am wearing the niqaab in obedience to Allah; therefore, the only thing that matters to me is that He is pleased with me, and not whether or not others are afraid of me.

Also, while I empathize with others' fear, I also remember what I learned about fear in my psychology class - fear stems not necessarily from a sense of genuine danger, but rather from being exposed to the unfamiliar and unknown.
So, to me, the solution to others' fear is not to stop wearing the niqab myself, but rather to help those people become familiar with me and my choice of dress - hence my attempts at reaching out via this blog, and in real life of course :)

Finally, I recognize that the niqab may be used as a tool of oppression; but that does make it evil in and of itself. Oppression and violence against women takes place all over the world and has a million forms; it doesn't mean that every single object of clothing related to it - whether a burqa or a bikini - must be made illegal or that every other woman in the world must stop wearing them.


Anonymous said...

I like how you are blowing this up into a huge issue to try and an agenda that is obviously about how terrible of a place Canada is, or is becoming for Muslims. I say if it's that bad, then you can stay in your great countries and not enjoy the FREEDOM that you have here.

Shira Law is upon Belgium and I'm not about to let that happen here. This is about an oath into Canada. There is NO ban! Quit acting like this is an attack on your faith, and using it as a tool to attack this great country in which you are fortunate to live, and you should thank GOD everyday that you have the right to speak up.

The way it is under Shira law, you wouldn't have the right to have this blog. However, you don't want to mention that part do you? Wake up CANADA!!

moray watson said...

Yes. Even the hijab reminded you of your obedience to allah. And guess what it reminds everyone else about your obedience to allah as well.

For those of us who are infidels, and not dhimmis, your obedience to allah is repugnant . We know your obedience requires that you strive for the submission of all non-believers. And we know that your, hijab, your niqab and your burqa, are not requirements of your religion/cult, but rather that you make up baseless reasons for imposing your cultural "norms" on us in order to exercise your supremacist attitude.

I could be wrong. But you wouldn't even buy into removing the veil for our citizenship ceremony. So I know I am not wrong.

Canada will never be more important to you than your obedience to allah.

Anonymous said...

These comments and point of views are really disguisting and filled with so much ignorance and "forced" hate thats caused by propaganda. It left me at a loss for words and all I simply managed to do was reread everything, because somehow it didnt make sense. It is so much easier to just plainly and bluntly say the truth, that these comments are idiotic and filled with ignorance, written by people who define intolerance and bigotry. But that wouldnt be nice. Its also not true. Because I dont think people wake up one day and decide to hate on a certain group. Fear is a powerful emotion, dangerous when manipulated. So I think that the way the media portrays the veil is as oppresive to women and a threat to the democracy and liberation of our sisters is the problem.
I really am in a loss for words. I am, however, grateful that our sister wrote a great article addressing the issue. May Allah grant her more knowledge and patience.

MoCo said...

Assalamu alaykum,

I loved how the grand mufti of canada bit. +1 for the sarcasm.



raoule said...

Assalamu alaykum,

Tell me, girl. Is what Watson said true? Will Canada ever be as important to you as Allah?

Al Masoodi said...

I am seriously confused at these comments here, now why would Canada, a country, a nation, be as important as Islam? Rather, why would it even come close?

Islam is not just a religion, and it is most definitely not a cult (Cult pretty much meaning a small religious group), Islam is a Way of Life. Everything from Politics to Cleanliness is addressed in Islam, and should be followed.

Muslim Mouse, your replies are really well thought out, and I agree wholeheartedly with what you say. The people will always be the people, just listening to propoganda and thinking every single terrorist out there is a Muslim, and completely ignoring what the religion itself is preaching.

shafaq said...

kindly join the facebook page : "Random writing" and enter your blog address on the wall.
Result: More followers

Anonymous said...

I'm a proud Canadian, born and raised in Canada, work for a global Canadian company, went to an international powerhouse Canadian university, and have lived in Canada all my life. I travel all over the world and represent Canada to different countries. The only people who think I'm not Canadian are the ones who don't want to know me - like moray watson or raoule. Oh yeah... I'm Muslim.

The statement "Canada will never be more important to you than your obedience to allah" (with the cleverly disrespectful non-capitalization - I see what you did there) is, let's face it, completely ignorant. Here's why:

If you believe in any religion with a supreme deity at the top, that being is pretty much all-knowing, all powerful, all that and a bag of chips. That being not just crosses, but surpasses in every imaginable and unimaginable sense, any type of boundary or artificial division. The sheer power, grandeur, and importance of the being that brought the entire freakin' universe into existence... well... it's big.

And you want to compare that being to a line in the dirt created by a bunch of dead white European men in 1867?

It's the wrong question. The very fact you can ask that question means you don't understand what you're asking. They're just not on the same planes of existence.

A country is a division. Belief in a supreme being that is responsible at a fundamental level for the existence of *everything* is a truly uniting idea.

A sensible comparison might be "where does your loyalty lie - Canada or that other country?" We didn't trust the Japanese Canadians last century to answer this to our satisfaction; we're finally understanding and admitting how ignorant and barbaric our actions were. We didn't trust Jews; now they're great people. When JFK was running for election, we didn't trust Catholics; now we see how dumb it was to hate them. We didn't trust the Russians; now they're our star hockey players in "Canada's game". Oddly, we never question the loyalty of white people who come from good countries, like England. Even when they have incomprehensible accents, like my cardio trainer. (Hmm... I wonder how many people and lives have been destroyed by the British Empire? In Canada?)

(Huh. Turns out there's a 4096 chr limit for comments. Thanks for telling me in advance, Google.)

Anonymous said...

But wait! There's more!

Since you didn't understand to ask that question, but one about comparing lines in dirt against love at the deepest level, let me reframe it to illustrate how I could ask you the same fake question that's meant to lead and entrap Muslim Mouse.

"Canada will never be more important to you than your love for your baby daughter."

Oh, the horror! Our guilty anti-hero, moray watson, has the unmitigated *gall* to love a baby child more than a flag! What a Canada-hater! The uber-un-patriot! There's a fresh new prison cell, funded by the Harper Government, just waiting for you. (Hell, crime rates are going down. Gotta fill these new prisons with something.)

(At this point, moray is thinking "I don't have a baby daughter. Your argument is invalid." I really can't help you there.)

"We know your obedience requires that you strive for the submission of all non-believers."

What a load of crap.

I've been Muslim all 43 years of my life. My parents are both Muslim. My wife became Muslim as an adult and is one of the strongest feminists I've ever met. (If she wasn't, I wouldn't have been interested.) I've met literally *thousands* of Muslims from all over the world. I'm willing to bet (even though gambling is haram) that you haven't. (Haven't what? Been Muslim, had Muslim parents, met thousands of Muslims from all over the world, have a *spectrum* of Muslim friends - hey, there are self-hating Muslims too, like Tarek Fatah - and on and on.) The only thing I can possibly imagine your twisted little fantasy could stem from, is the idea of dawah (invitation). EVERY time I've heard Muslims talking about dawah in our secret mosque meetings where we plot the overthrow of the world (oh damn, I've said too much already - just unread that last part please), the context is the same. Be a good example. By being a good example, you intrigue others and you become a living invitation to Islam.

I hear you though; the actions of 1.2 billion people can't possibly be representative of the true thoughts of 1.200000007 billion people. It's clearly those 7 people who represent True Islam (tm), and we can ignore the other 1,200,000,000 who are clearly putting up a front anyway. You're right. You really are that stupid.

In case that wasn't clear - that wasn't dawah to Islam. That was dawah to logic. With that kind of bile running through your veins, we don't want you.

(Can you tell I'm more than a little sick of the ignorance?)


ali said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Pixie said...

I honestly got tired of other Canadians (and I am born Canadian, a really old settler family of Canada--- not recent immigrants) telling me to take my veil off (face and headscarf). I met with the same fear and ignorance wearing both. I had men threaten to rape me if I didn't take it off, I got told I couldn't work wearing (the headscarf), and I had people throw things at me. I wear it because I believe in what it stands for, that a woman BELONGS in society and is more than her appearence and that it is pleasing to God/Allah that people understand this.

I am still Canadian, although I am not [you can call me a coward for tiring of trying to just avoid the abuse rather than be an exampled sufferer] living in an Arab country far away now, where I have to fight to change different ignorances. I will always be that. I thought Canada stood for defending the rights of the oppressed? Islam also stands for that, whether they be Muslim or non-Muslim. But it makes me so sorrowful that the tolerance I thought should be afforded to all people even when I thought the scarf and veil were jokes and nuissances as a non-Muslim, was not afforded to me when I wore it just to see (as a non-Muslim) if Muslims were pulling cards to get attention. What I encountered made me sick, because these were my OWN PEOPLE. My own nation, behaving like this. Later I became a Muslim and found there were alot of great people out there, Canadians, who didn't like the veil but understand freedom of belief.

Selfishness, dear others, is not asking others to hear what one belives or live the way one wants to live, selfishness is forcing others to live the way you want them to, and that goes for non-Muslim and Muslims, Canadians and Saudis ect.

And guess what, that quote about selfishness is derived from Oscar Wilde, a gay man, and I as a Muslim can quote that, as much as I might disagree with the choice to live one's life as someone who is gay. Because truth is truth, no matter who says it.

And telling a Muslim woman to dress just so others will feel comfortable is just as repressive as Saudi telling women they HAVE to cover. Only I guess, that is worse from Canada's end, since Saudi never pretended to care about human rights or freedom of religion. Canada does [and I love it for that, before and after Islam]. Hypocrisy is always worse.