“Two Niqabs”

This editorial cartoon by Tim Dolighan was featured in the “Comment” section of the Peterborough Examiner (print edition) on Thursday, March 19, 2015:

dolighan_cartoon_mar1915What do you think: is the niqab a symbol of oppression or a symbol of freedom?

12 thoughts on ““Two Niqabs”

  1. False dichotomy in the headline! But I digress.

    We have to decide this as an issue of culture and ask if it fits with western culture. While a niqab might be a sensible thing in a society that values arranged marriages over love marriages, as many ME countries do, over here it would unequally limit choices for such immigrants, and serve as a visible and ubiquitous social and cultural barrier that would not fit with western ideals of multiculturalism.

    If it turns out that the niqab can be compatible with western culture, then we just have to disallow it in courts and where ever personal identity is an important issue relevant to public services or civic obligations.

    • Re Digression: So you don’t buy the Hugh MacLennan reference?

      Let’s try it on…if French language and culture can be compatible with the dominant English-Canadian culture, then we just have disallow it in courts and where ever personal identity is an important issue…..

      I’m leaning toward validation of the reference…relevant decades “notwithstanding”.

  2. Any prescribed item of clothing that distinguishes between genders is, by definition, a symbol of oppression. I also think that it is a symbol of oppression when fundamentalist Christian women are forced to wear long dresses and not cut their hair, and that it is a symbol of oppression when ultra-Orthodox Jewish women are forced to wear long dresses and wigs to cover their own hair.

    However, I would (reluctantly) defend a woman’s right to choose to wear these things. I maintain the position that people should be allowed to wear as much or as little clothing as they choose*, and that government restrictions should only be imposed for reasons of health and safety.

    * And yes, that does mean that I support the right of people to be naked in public, if they so choose.

  3. Rob said: “While a niqab might be a sensible thing in a society that values arranged marriages over love marriages, as many ME countries do…”

    Because women’s senses of comfort, freedom, hygiene, etc., are all secondary, and because their purpose is just to get married (and not ‘dishonor’ their families)?

  4. sub

  5. It is only a symbol of oppression, if someone is forcing you to wear it, and it is only a symbol of freedom if someone is trying to prevent you from wearing it.

    Otherwise it is just a silly looking hat.

  6. Surely if someone is actually forced to wear a niqab it goes beyond being just a *symbol* of oppression, and becomes an *instrument* of oppression?

    • Not sure what you mean…. an instrument of oppression, in my view, would be a gun pointed at your head, or the club they beat you with…. or even the ostracism (bully tactics) associated with in-group disapproval.

      A hat doesn’t oppress anyone, it’s the hat ‘being forced’ on someone that is oppressive. Similarly, if we lived in a society that forced women to walk around naked, the instrument is the ‘force’, not her body.

      But we may be sliding into pedantic word choice here… people are required by Canadian law to cover their genitals, but I can’t really see ‘pants’ as an instrument of oppression.

      • Perhaps this is just a matter of semantics: As I see it, forcing someone to cover up is can be an *act* of oppression, if done for reasons other than health or safety, and particularly if applied differentially with respect to gender, race, social status, physical appearance etc. The niqab itself is the *instrument* of oppression – the thing that is forced on the wearers. So, one could argue that niqab is always a *symbol* of oppression, but only an *instrument* of oppression if the wearer would prefer not to be wearing it. (I dislike that women wear niqabs, but I don’t think they should be banned.)

        (As for pants, that opens a whole other can of worms, raising questions about what constitutes appropriate covering, whether there should be gender distinctions allowed for what needs to be covered, etc. It could be argued that it is oppressive to force girls/women to wear skirts/dresses and not allow them to wear pants, which is less pervasive than it used to be, but perhaps a topic for another dicussion.)

  7. The niqab (full body-covering sheet, typically black, with tiny slits for the eyes) is:

    1. A symbol of submission. While it is not a requirement of Islam, and most Muslim countries do not require it, it is OF Islam, whose essence is not “peace” but rather “submission”.

    2. A symbol of superiority. It identifies the wearer as being more valuable than other women not similarly garbed. The garment is designed to protect the female wearer even from being viewed, and immediately places everyone (male, female, or otherwise) with whom they interact at a disadvantage.

    3. A symbol of exclusion. It is a constant statement that Canadian values of community, friendliness, politeness, openness, are all rejected not just intellectually, but in the wearer’s minute-by-minute living.

    4. A symbol of misandry. It exists because for men to view women in any way is to encourage rape. After all, the theory goes (shared by some on the left in this country) all men are rapists just waiting to be triggered into raping.

    5. A symbol of victory. If countries based on so-called equality and freedom are willing to allow people to wear, at all times in public, an identity-erasing disguise which is simultaneously a hateful insult to at least half of the population, the fundamental hypocrisy and weakness of these countries has been exposed.

    Of course, people should be allowed to wear clothing symbolizing whatever they want, but they should equally be prepared for the public backlash it ought to generate, instead of whining about it.

    Veering off the topic of symbolism, what people should NOT be able to do is wander around in an identity-erasing disguise, full time. In other words, in public, you can be visually pseudonymous (make-up, wigs, prosthetics, sunglasses, a ski mask), but not visually anonymous (niqab).

  8. It is just as acceptable as a nun’s garb. Would you say someone raised in a catholic family didn’t have a choice, or their culture didn’t permit them to do otherwise? Most would say yes. We know stories (and most here seemed to have lived stories) of leaving the church. We don’t here the stories of the people that have left Islam. (I’m not saying people should or shouldn’t, but they exist). But, this is not the discussion people want to have today. They want to keep this discussion going to further distance ourself from “the other” and/or the things we don’t understand and are afraid of.

    Anyway, if you care so much about what people are wearing and bring this into Canadian commentary again and again and again your priorities are in the wrong place. There are many more important societal and scientific issues we need to really be focussing on (poverty, education, etc. etc.).

    Symbolism is for English majors, not the secular and scientific world. Freedom of religion > you being uncomfortable and uninformed.

    From,
    another Atheist.

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