coloured socks and
not policy, drive today’s politics.”
October 22, 2017
The Toronto Sun
Just over 11 years ago, then-British foreign secretary Jack Straw wrote about his discomfort with the Islamic face-covering niqabs and burkas his constituents chose to wear while meeting him.
What followed his article in the Guardian was a raging controversy around the Islamic World and the West in 2006-07 that is an illustrative guide to how far western society — led by its liberal and left-wing politicians, feminists and academics — has regressed.
Has the fear of Islamic terror made them all into latter day Chamberlains who dreaded Hitler’s Nazi Wehrmacht?
Eleven years ago, the times were a bit less politically correct. Even the liberal Toronto Star allowed for criticism of the Islamic veil. Its columnist Rosie Dimanno wrote this on Oct. 25, 2006:
“Bible-thumping is repellent, whether applied to women or children or homosexuals or any other group whose behaviour is construed as sinful. Qur’an thumping should be no less unsavoury. So spare me what that holy book has to say about veiling women, especially when even Islamic scholars are divided on it.”
Today, a dozen Islamist MPs in the prime minister’s caucus are in the driving seat while the NDP — under a new leader — has a desire to accommodate medievalism as the new modernism. Both would consider such writing as “Islamophobic.”
Dimanno went on to write:
“(L)et’s not be disingenuous here. There is ample evidence, overwhelming evidence, of religious and cultural pressures, those steeped in a firmly patriarchal code of conduct, for the marginalizing of adult (Muslim) females, practices that are fundamentally at odds with basic concepts of gender equality.”
How could a piece of cloth used as a facemask — declared not to be Islamic and unnecessary by no less a figure than the head of the Al-Azhar University in Egypt — become the rallying cry of white feminists, gay activists, left-wing academics and even Premier Kathleen Wynne of Ontario?
I raised this question with two Muslim women from Quebec, one a Saudi refugee in Sherbrooke, and the other a Bangladesh-born academic in Montreal.
Ensaf Haider arrived in Quebec in 2013 escaping the Arab world and its tyranny hoping to find freedom in Canada. Her Saudi husband, Raif Badawi, is still serving a 10-year jail sentence and awaiting 1,000 lashes on charges of Islamophobia.
Reacting to Premier Wynne’s denunciation of the anti-Burka law of Quebec, Haider said:
“I am shocked that Ontario’s premier and women from Ontario’s NDP and (Progressive) Conservative Party attacked the new Quebec law banning face-covering, particularly the burka that was passed near unanimously by the Quebec National Assembly.”
Haider told me that on Wednesday when she heard the news of the passing of Quebec Bill 62, she was thrilled with joy. “I felt all of Canada had finally recognized the tyranny that is the niqab and burka and would follow Quebec’s courage in standing up to the oppression of women.”
“But listening to Anglophone men and women attack Quebec’s new law shocked me,” she added. “Are Kathleen Wynne and NDP women like Nikki Ashton and Andrea Howarth plain anti-Francophone or guilt-ridden white feminists?” she asked.
Seeking other voices, I got in touch with Montreal resident Professor Roksana Nazneen, a Muslim Quebecker of Bangladeshi origin, who is currently working on her husband’s municipal election campaign in Notre Dame de Ile Perrot.
I asked her if she felt Quebec’s new law was discriminatory against Muslims. “No, not at all. As a Muslim woman, I applaud Quebec’s Bill 62.”
“Niqab or Burka should have no place in a civil society. It is neither religious nor cultural. It is an anti-west political statement introduced by radical Islamists all over the globe,” she added.
But what about the right to choose, I argued.
“Nonsense. burka is not a choice. If a person chooses to be a cocaine addict, will our society sit still and do nothing to stop him or her from the addiction?” she asked. “What next? Will we allow suicide jumpers to jump to their death just because they made the ‘choice’ to take their lives?”
Back in 2007, the doyen of Indian English journalism Khushwant Singh nailed it best when he wrote:
“Burka is (the) single most reprehensible cause for keeping Muslims backward … it is synonymous to ‘jahalat’ — ignorance and backwardness. The sooner it is abolished, the better.”
They don’t make men like Jack Straw and Khushwant Singh anymore. Vote-banks, expensive suits, coloured socks and ethno-religious identity, not policy, drive today’s politics.