I haven’t written much lately. In November my world narrowed down into an internal journey that at once was extremely rewarding and soul wrenching. Nothing life shattering happened, I just wanted ... well, it is somewhat ludicrous to use the word "wanted". I find when the call comes it’s more like a compulsion. Anyway, I ended up exploring the meaning of love, compassion and service through a maze of need, expectation and sorrow. Not a lot of time for writing a blog when you are in the lost within a labyrinth of guilt and blame; want and desolation. But I made it out and glad for it, the trip and all its meanders, that is.
What pulled me back into writing, however, was this recent controversy on the niqab. I am outraged.
I am outraged at Prime Minister Harper who stated that wearing the veil is rooted in a culture that is anti-women; I am outraged with the MP Larry Miller who, in response to the niqab issue, stated that women who chose not to reveal their face at a symbolic public ceremony (not the actual granting of citizenship) to “… stay the hell where you came from”; and I am outraged at myself who for years did not take the time to understand the issue.
When did Canada start infusing doubt and hate towards Muslims while hypocritically touting itself as a multicultural and peaceful society?
How can we consider ourselves inclusive and tolerant when we demand females dress to western standards? I listened to a young woman, born and bred a Canadian, tell why she chose the niqab … even against her family’s wishes. She said she was on a spiritual path. She said she wanted people to judge her not on her looks but on her actions and her mind. She said she was now scared to walk the streets.
This controversy has also revealed the depths of my own ignorance. I, too, thought the niqab was anti-woman. But what was behind that ignorance was fear. I feared the not knowing. I couldn’t see, both metaphorically and physically, beyond the veil. I chose to judge these cloaked women as victims of their religion. Out of ignorance, I chose to believe that these women had no power.
It is true that some Muslim women are forced to wear the veil against their wishes. Much the same, I imagine, as some western women are forced to dye their hair, wear revealing clothes or put on makeup to get a job or please their mates. Yes, we live in a relatively free society but try wearing bright colours to a funeral or black to a wedding and see what happens. And, yes, while some Muslim families do control the lives of wives and daughters with physical threats, so do some western ones. Or did I just imagine that “on any given day in Canada, more than 3,300 women (along with their 3,000 children) are forced to sleep in an emergency shelter to escape domestic violence". www.canadianwomen,org/facts-about-violence
I encourage you to read Stephen Hume of The Vancouver Sun who is a strong and clear voice on this issue. We have much in stake here. Not only with how we see ourselves as Canadians and how we want others to see us but how we navigate this, at times, troublesome planet. Hatred, bigotry and exclusion have no place in interdependent living. Peace will only be achieved through understanding that how we treat and respect others is a direct reflection of how we treat ourselves.