Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Much Ado About Niqab

In case you haven’t heard, Canada announced Thursday that it would allow niqabis* to vote with their faces covered, prompting everything from voter fraud concerns to xenophobic comments from lawmakers.

Since this has been such a big deal lately (it’s all over Google’s news search), reporter James Mennie from newspaper The Gazette had a bright idea: his article is titled, “Hey, here's an idea: Let's ask Muslims what they think.” The article is basically a conversation between Mr. Mennie and Salam Elmenyawi, the head of the Muslim Council of Montreal, in which Mr. Elmenyawi denies the idea that niqabis have a right to remain with their face veils on at the election polls: “‘Islam dictates that in the case of necessity, a woman must identify herself,’ he said, adding that while ‘preferably’ the identification should be made in front of another woman, the identification nevertheless has to be made. ‘It's very clear. ... When she's asked for identification, she has to uncover herself.’”

I’m not going to comment on Mr. Elmenyawi’s comments in order to remain neutral. The real issue I have with this article is that Mr. Mennie’s idea was a good one, but he carried it out totally wrong.

Apparently, Mr. Mennie’s idea of asking Muslims (plural) what they think really translates into asking one male Muslim what he thinks, instead of asking a lot of Muslims (male and female) what they think, or asking any niqabis what they think of the issue.

Has anyone asked the niqabis what they think of this?! Why aren’t their voices important in a debate that is about them? Why is the debate about them instead of including them?

Here’s another interesting story from The Gazette about this. But this time, they actually talked to Muslim women! But still no niqabis.

*For our readers who aren't familiar with the term, niqab is the face veil that some women wear that allows only their eyes to show. Niqabis are women who wear niqab.