There is no requirement in Islam to cover one’s face — the niqab is the epitome of male control over Muslim women
By Tarek Fatah, Citizen SpecialFebruary 5, 2009
Barely a week goes by when my religion, Islam, does not face a fresh round of scrutiny. If it is not a suicide bomber blowing himself up in an Iraqi mosque screaming “Allah O Akbar,” it is news that an imam in Malaysia has declared the practice of Yoga sinful. If it is not a Toronto imam defending suicide bombing on TVO, a Muslim woman writes a column in a Canadian daily, advocating the introduction of Shariah law in Canada.
But the one topic that rears its head in almost predictable cycles is the subject of a Muslim woman’s supposed Islamic attire. Whether it is swimming pools or polling booths there is no escape from the repeated controversies surrounding the face mask, better known as the niqab, or the burqa.
The latest incarnation of the niqab controversy surfaced this week when a Toronto judge ordered a Muslim woman to take off her niqab when she testified in a case of sexual assault.
The woman invoked Islam as the reason why she wanted to give testimony while wearing a face mask. She told the judge, “It’s a respect issue, one of modesty,” adding Islam considers her niqab as her “honour.”
Her explanations were rejected by the judge who determined that the woman’s “religious belief” was not that strong and that in his opinion the woman was asking to wear the niqab as “a matter of comfort.”
But all of these arguments are premised on the acceptance of the myth that a face mask for women is Islamic religious attire.
There is no requirement in Islam for Muslim women to cover their faces. The niqab is the epitome of male control over women. It is a product of Saudi Arabia and its distortion of Islam to suit its Wahabbi agenda, which is creeping into Canada.
If there is any doubt that the niqab is not required by Islam, take at look at the holiest place for Muslims — the grand mosque in Mecca, the Ka’aba. For over 1,400 years Muslim men and women have prayed in what we believe is the House of God and for all these centuries women have been explicitly forbidden from covering their faces.
For the better part of the 20th century, Muslim reformists, from Egypt to India, campaigned against this terrible tribal custom imposed by Wahabbi Islam. My mother’s generation threw off their burqas when Muslim countries gained their independence after the Second World War. Millions of women encouraged by their husbands, fathers and sons, shed this oppressive attire as the first step in embracing gender equality.
But while the rest of the world moves toward the goal of gender equality, right here, under our very noses, Islamists are pushing back the clock, convincing educated Muslim women they are sexual objects and a source of sin.
It will be difficult to pinpoint what went wrong, but most of Canada’s growth in niqabi women can be traced to one development in 2004, when a radical Pakistani female scholar by the name of Farhat Hashmi came to Canada on a visitor’s visa, to establish the Al-Huda Islamic Institute for women.
Maclean’s magazine reported in July 2006 that she had “established a school where she lectures to mostly young, middle-class women from mainstream Muslim families, not only from across the country but also from the U.S. and as far away as Australia.”
In October 2005, the Globe and Mail ran a story on Dr. Hashmi quoting a 20-year-old Muslim woman as saying, “I agree with Dr. Hashmi that women should stay at home and look after their families.” This student was so impressed with Dr. Hashmi’s sermons that she convinced 10 of her friends to enrol in the course that involved wearing the niqab, leaving the work force and embracing polygamy.
In the Globe piece, 18-year-old Sadaf Mahmood defended polygamy and the burqa saying: “There are more women than men in this world. Who will take care of these women? It is better for a man to do things legally by taking a second wife, rather than having an affair.”
While the rest of Canada sleeps, the Islamist agenda, funded by the Saudis and inspired by the Iranians, continues to make its presence felt. The vast majority of Muslims look on in shock, unable to understand why this country would tolerate the oppression of women in the name of religion and multiculturalism.
The woman who was denied her burqa in court is a victim. She is merely a puppet in the hands of those who wish to keep women in their place. First she suffered the trauma of the alleged sexual assault, which was then compounded by the controversy about her niqab. She could have asked the judge to not let her face her alleged attackers, and that would have been a fair request.
But when she invoked Islam and said hiding her face would be an act of religiosity, she became a voice not for justice, but for those who wish to sneak Shariah law into our judicial system. This should be stopped.
Tarek Fatah is the author of Chasing a Mirage: The Tragic Illusion of an Islamic State. email@example.com
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