Niqab ruling in Quebec shows shred of sanity

Here's hoping Quebec's human rights commission agrees and that the rest of Canada follows Quebec's lead.

Burqa interdite

By Licia Corbella, Calgary Herald, March 20, 2010 - On Tuesday something remarkable happened. A human rights commission actually made a good decision.
Quebec's human rights commission ruled that niqab-and burka-wearing women must uncover their faces to apply for a medicare card and cannot insist on being served by a woman.
Salam Elmenyawi, chairperson of Montreal's Muslim Council, told the Montreal Gazette that the commission's stance was fair, but his reasonings for saying so are troubling.
"In any Muslim state, a woman has to remove the face panel (in circumstances like voting or obtaining government services). I don't see this as a rejection," he said.
With all due respect to Elmenyawi, why on earth would Canadians fashion our society after what's done in any Muslim state? This is Canada, and we have our own customs, traditions and laws that include gender equality. Most Canadians don't want our country to emulate Muslim countries, which are, according to human rights NGOs like Freedom House and Amnesty International, among the most repressive countries in the world, particularly to women.
Marc-Andre Dowd, vice-chairperson of the Quebec Human Rights Commission said: "It is not a significant infringement of freedom of religion" for a woman to uncover her face for the short time required for a clerk to confirm her identity. Alas, some common sense.
Dowd added: "One cannot choose the gender of the employee serving us." In other words, it's not OK to discriminate against men. En fin! And discrimination against men is what took place in another face-covering brouhaha recently in Montreal. Naema Ahmed has lodged a complaint with the Quebec Human Rights Commission stating she was kicked out of a French class in Montreal because she was wearing a niqab.
Tarek Fatah, founder of the Muslim Canadian Congress, congratulated the commission for standing up for Canadian values and hopes it will do so again in Ahmed's complaint.
Fatah points out that news stories that claim Ahmed was kicked out of French classes for new immigrants because she was wearing the niqab are not entirely correct. Ahmed, a 29-year-old Egyptian pharmacist, was accepted into two separate college French courses while wearing the veil worn by fundamentalist Muslim women that leaves just a slit for their eyes. What got her kicked out of one of her classes was her unreasonable demands that were discriminatory and insulting toward male students in her classroom.
When she was asked to make a presentation to the class, she insisted that the three male students be forced to look the other way. When that sexist request was denied, Ahmed -- who was, remember, completely covered except for her eyes -- made her presentation facing away from all of her classmates.
"We tried certain arrangements, but the demands just became too great," Paul-Emile Bourque, the principal of one of the schools, told the Globe and Mail.
"In my view, cases like this are done to provoke a clash," states Fatah. "The whole objective is to portray western society as hostile and at war with Islam."
The real irony, however, says Fatah, is that Canadians tend to view women wearing niqabs and burkas as subservient, vulnerable women when, in fact, other than those being forced to wear niqabs by their male family members or because it is mandated in some Muslim countries, many of the women (though not all) who wear them by choice tend to be very fundamentalist, outspoken, "radical haters of the West."
"The doctrine behind niqab (where it is not mandated) is fundamentally anti-West," says Fatah. "It says to the West, 'f--k you'."
How does he know this? "It is well known in Muslim circles," he says. Consider the women in the infamous Khadr family, who wear the niqab. In a CBC documentary, they very openly expressed their contempt for the West and their hope for their male relatives to die martyrs while killing infidels.
Then there are the now exposed e-mails of some of the wives of the so-called Toronto 18, who conspired to blow up Parliament, behead the prime minister and explode enormous bombs in downtown Toronto. Several men have been convicted and pleaded guilty to the charges against them in that case.
Nada Farooq, the wife of Zakaria Amara -- who was sentenced in January to life in prison for his leading role in the plot -- for example, referred to Canada as "this filthy country" and considered adding a clause to her pre-nuptial agreement that would allow her to file for divorce if her husband didn't pursue jihad.
In Egypt, the government has banned women from wearing the niqab at universities because it says the niqab is a symbol of radicalization and fundamentalism tied to al-Qaeda.
Fatah says Quebec's immigration minister, Yolande James, is a hero for saying recently, "There is no ambiguity about this question. If you want to assist at our classes, if you want to integrate into Quebec society, here are our values. We want to see your face."
Here's hoping Quebec's human rights commission agrees and that the rest of Canada follows Quebec's lead.

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