Saturday October 21, 2017
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Ottawa’s ‘Hijab Day’: Is it even necessary?

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Photo: http://drrichswier.com

Jews do not have a ‘Wear a Kippah Day’ to support Jewish men. Sikhs never demanded a ‘Turban Day’ to support Sikh males. So why have a ‘Hijab Day’?

By Sima Goel 

An organization in Ottawa called the City for All Women Initiative (CAWI) is asking Canadian women in the nation’s capital to offer support for the hijab, the head covering worn by many Muslim women. On Feb. 25, the group is holding an event as part of Ottawa Hijab Solidarity Day, and is asking non–Muslim women to wear the hijab at Ottawa’s city hall in a show of solidarity with their Muslim sisters.

As a non-Muslim woman who was forced to wear a hijab, this event brings back terrible memories for me. I was born and raised in Shiraz, Iran, and after the rise of the Islamic government, I was forced to wear a hijab. I was neither a supporter of the new regime nor a Muslim, and I bitterly resented having to hide my hair and comply with the new restrictive policies. But disobeying the rules was not an option for me. All women had to adhere to the same policy, without debate, and disobedience was met with severe consequences, such as arrest and the fear of being assaulted by acid-tossing vigilantes.

Although not all Muslim women wear the hijab, those who do wear it because they believe it is a religious obligation. I have yet to meet a non-Muslim woman who wears the hijab as a form of cultural expression in Canada. However, I have met many devout followers of Islam who say that the hijab is not a required tenet of their faith.

Canada is a diverse, multicultural society, where many religious and cultural groups live together peacefully with mutual respect for each other’s customs. Indeed, when Quebec’s provincial government first proposed its controversial Charter of Values, I spoke out against the clause that limited the right of individuals, in specified circumstances, to wear symbols of their religion. Even so, I cannot abide the idea that non-Muslim Canadian women should demonstrate support for our Muslim sisters by wearing a hijab. The hijab is a reflection of religious beliefs – it is not a fashion statement.

Jews do not have a “Wear a Kippah Day” to support Jewish men. Sikhs never demanded a “Turban Day” to support Sikh males. So why have a “Hijab Day”?

Any Canadian woman can wear the hijab if she sees fit, just as any Sikh male can wear a turban. Canada is a free country, and Canadians have the right to live according to their own dictates, religious beliefs and social customs. Our laws have clearly established this. In this context, I cannot understand why we should gather and demonstrate our solidarity for a garment that is guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. I have many Muslim friends and I am eager to know their customs but they never asked me to cover myself in solidarity for them.

New immigrants and refugees come to Canada for many reasons. Many find themselves caught between the traditions and culture of their homeland, and liberal Canadian attitudes. There is no question that coming to a new country can be difficult. I know. I have stood on both sides of the immigration line myself.

As Canadians, it is crucial that we remain faithful to the rights that are entrenched within our Charter of Rights and Freedoms. All forms of religious expressions are equal and none require special treatment. I am grateful that in Canada we have the freedom to express ourselves as we please, in contrast to the countries that make it mandatory for woman to wear religious symbols, regardless of their belief.

My personal history with the hijab makes it impossible for me to accept covering my hair. I will forever identify the hijab with the repressive tradition of the Iranian Islamic government, which used its dominance of religion to control its people. I encourage Muslim women all over the world to promote their culture and identity – and I will gladly eat at their table, sing a song of celebration, and rejoice at their success. Nonetheless, to suggest we endorse their religious beliefs by wearing a hijab is unreasonable in this country, which has so clearly promoted the rights of minority members to lives as they please.

I welcome my hijab-wearing Muslim sisters. But I refuse to wear the hijab as a prerequisite for their solidarity. And for the same reason, I would never dare ask them to remove their hijab in solidarity with non-Muslim Canadian women. In the end, my values are no more important than theirs. And after all, isn’t that the Canadian way?

Sima Goel has been a practising chiropractor in Montreal since 1994. She is the author of Fleeing The Hijab, A Jewish Woman’s Escape From Iran. The article was originally published in The Canadian Jewish News

1 COMMENT

  1. I am a hijab-wearing Ahmadi Muslim. Our community is one that supports the separation of Church/Mosque and State; as such, I can understand why many Canadians may be weary of this hijab solidarity event. I agree that in Canada, an event such as this is not necessary as the right to wear a hijab is protected under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. That being said, I can also understand why CAWI may have decided to hold this event and that is because in recent history, out of all overt religious symbols, the hijab is the one that seems to have come under the greatest scrutiny what with the debate over whether Muslim women should be allowed to wear face veils in citizenship ceremonies. Added to this was the attacks on a few hijab-wearing Muslim women. An event like this one that may raise awareness about the hijab might therefore not be such a bad idea. After all, it is only for those who want to participate–it’s not mandatory for anyone. However, if such an event will only foster feelings of resentment and greater prejudice against hijabi sisters, then I would not recommend it.

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Popular Indian Family Sitcoms ‘Hum Paanch’, ‘Bhabhiji Ghar Par Hain’ All Set to Go West: ZEEL

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Hum Panch and Bhabhiji Ghar Par Hain
Hum Panch and Bhabhiji Ghar Par Hain

Sep 21, 2017: Hugely popular Indian family sitcoms “Hum Paanch” and “Bhabhiji Ghar Par Hain” are set to get a British and Anglo-Spanish adaptation respectively, Indian entertainment conglomerate Zee Entertainment Enterprises Limited (ZEEL) announced on Thursday.

ZEEL has set up ZEE Studios International in Canada to produce global content for audiences across the world.

A few of the initial productions that are in the pipeline include adaptations of “Hum Paanch”, which is being produced in its British version as “Lala’s Ladiez”, and an Anglo-Spanish sitcom adapted from “Bhabiji Ghar Par Hain”. Its working title is “Love Thy Neighbour”, read a statement.

Based in Vancouver, the studio will create global content and formats for international markets in their local languages, many of which will be based on successful Indian ideas and concepts.

It will initially focus on developing content for television and digital platforms as well as original formats and homegrown remakes, with a plan to venture into film production at a later stage.

The content developed will have scripted and unscripted formats across an array of genres, ranging from reality, game and dance shows to shows in the fictional crime drama, sitcom, sci-fi, horror and paranormal space.

Also Read: Where is Indian Television Steering? ‘Pehredar Piya Ki’ Shows a Young Boy and Mature Girl in Wedlock

Commenting on the new initiative, Amit Goenka, CEO at International Broadcast Business, ZEEL, said: “ZEE has always been a cultural ambassador of India, taking its rich and engaging content across the world. In yet another major milestone, we are now set to launch our production company, ZEE Studios International, in Canada.

“Canada is known as a large production hub for various Hollywood companies, as the country offers the requisite infrastructure, talent pool, scenic locales as well as a favourable government incentive scheme. After a series of discussions with the government of British Columbia, Canada, we were invited to set up a production company in Vancouver. Our endeavour through this venture is to produce global content for mainstream audiences across various international markets as well as take care of our domestic requirements.”

The studio will be led by Subhadarshi Tripathy.

(IANS)

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Article Published by Muslim Website based in Canada Defends the Medical Benefits of Female Circumcision

The WHO has explicitly maintained that there are absolutely no medical benefits of FGM and circumcision

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Female Circumcision
The barbaric practice of genitalia mutilation has been banned in developed nations. Wikimedia
  • An article published on a Muslim website based out of Calgary, Canada has defended the medical benefits of female circumcision
  • The article is authored by Asiff Hussein, a journalist who is also known for defending his pro stance on female genitalia mutilation
  • Calling female circumcision as part of Islamic culture, the author claims that is the contemporary feminists that have “denigrate” the practice

September 06, 2017: Female Genitilia Mutilation (FGM) is one of the biggest gender issues in the third world nations. It is defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as, “all procedures involving partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.”

The WHO has explicitely maintained that there are absolutely no medical benefits of FGM and circumcision.

Also Read: “The Restorers” : Kenyan Girls Use Technology to Combat Female Genital Mutilation

Asiff Hussein, a journalist who is popular for his pro-FGM beliefs, partially accepts the WHO definition, but turns away from it claiming that there is a lack of knowledge in public domain regarding FGM. He blames the controlled media and propagandists for the lack of research in finding out the medical benefits of the practice.

Hussein’s recent article, published by Canadian based Muslim website in Calgary, defends these “medical benefits.” The author believes that the contemporary feminists are responsible for “denigerating” the practice.

The author claims that Islam justifies the practice of the removal of a layer on the skin of women’s genetilia called the prepuce. This practice, as the author claims, is circumcision rather than genetilia mutiliation!

FGM has come under fire for its cruelty against one gender. While many Islam scholars have clarified that there is no association between FGM and the religion of Islam, the article on the Muslim website says that the Hadith clearly talks about the practice.

The barbaric act of FMG is banned in Canada and other developed western nations, however, UNICEF has reported that 200 million girls are still suffering from forced circumcision all over the world.


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Triple Talaq verdict is a small victory. But there are more battles to be won

Are the divorced Indian women getting their due?

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Triple Talaq was a harmful practice faced by Muslim women
Triple Talaq was a harmful practice faced by Muslim women. Pixabay
  • Women are asked to compromise for the sake of family honor, children, not being financially independent and many such reasons
  • It’s a tough decision for Indian women to file for a divorce even if their marriages have been exploitative, oppressive or unhappy
  • The problems are most dreadful for women whose marriages have not been formally ended

 New Delhi, September 3, 2017: Supreme Court’s verdict on Triple Talaq case is like a ray of sunshine. The verdict has been welcomed, applauded and celebrated all across India by the people who advocate for women’s rights. Judgement on Triple Talaq has been possible because of courage shown by strong Muslim women to change the course of their lives and a long struggle of groups such as the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan who did not put their foot down in spite of having to face pressure, threats from the Muslim community and outside of it.

Reactions women in country face when they consider getting a divorce

There are many other societies where higher rates of divorce are often equated with an expression of choice that women possess and the liberation of women. But, sadly this is not the case with India as divorce evokes dark, shameful reactions, taunts, rage, and pity from the society, often a woman is blamed for it. It is not considered as a suitable option for women suffering from unhappy marriages, they are asked to work it out, to solve the differences even if there’s no easy solution to it. They are asked to compromise for the sake of family honor, children, not being financially independent and many such reasons.

Why do Indian women hesitate from taking a Divorce?

It’s a tough decision for Indian women to file for a divorce even if their marriages have been exploitative, oppressive or unhappy. One reason for this could be the low status of women or not enough respect and value given to them in the society, especially rural India. Another reason is that the women who have low income don’t spend their independent share on themselves out of guilt, they utilize most it in taking care of their homes and save the rest. Also, some regressive and unequal practices are still going on like inheritance, asset ownership which means that no matter which religion a woman belongs to they are denied access to owning assets.

It means that most often than not an end of marriage leaves women with a financial crisis, along with emotional pain, on top of that they not only have to manage their own life but also their children’s without much financial aid.

Divorce Percentage

According to 2011 census on Indians marital status, “among divorced Indian women, 68% are Hindu, and 23.3%, Muslim.” This implies that more Hindu women are getting divorced than Muslim women.

The State governments have failed to empower Muslim women, issues related to their rights and needs are hardly addressed by politicians. Thus their social and economic conditions are degrading- they have unequal access to job, education and other opportunities in life.

More failed marriages were recorded in rural India with 8.5 lakh divorced persons and in urban India, the number is 5.03 lakh divorced persons. Maharashtra has the highest number of divorced citizens which is 2.09 lakh persons. The state which holds the record of lowest failed marriages has 1,330 divorcees.

Negatives of Triple Talaq

A Muslim man being able to end a marriage by a means of disrespecting and utterly irresponsible manner of triple talaq (uttering the word talaq 3 times, it can be oral, written or electronic). The practice of triple talaq was gender biased and gave unequal rights to Muslim women. So, it’s a victory worth celebrating that this shameful practice has culminated legally.

Why is Separation more harmful?

More dissolved marriages in India happen through separation and not a formal divorce. It’s a growing concern as separation (abandonment by a husband) is more common for women in all religions than a divorce. It puts women in a more dangerous spot as they can’t ask for alimony as there is no legality connected to it, which further weakens their financial status. Also, their husbands take away their freedom to remarry. According to census data, “More women than men in India are separated (out of a marriage without a formal divorce).”

So, though triple talaq was definitely a truly intolerable practice, it is only one of the ways through which married women could be abandoned. There are women across different communities who continue to face problems of abandonment, also called separation without having a proper means to survive or lead a decent life.

Also Read: Ishrat Jahan, a Triple Talaq Petitioner Writes to West Bengal CM Seeking Security After Supreme Court Verdict

Effectiveness of Divorce Laws

Marital dissolution in India comes under various laws but more often than not, the decisions don’t benefit women in a big way.  No matter how strong or secure is the legal framework, the single legal right that an Indian woman has after getting a divorce- the right of maintenance from her spouse or alimony. But maintenance or alimony reaches them much late due to the ‘prolonged legal processes’ and they are sometimes provided with very small and negligible amounts. Another loophole is that the court doesn’t ensure regular payment from their husbands.

Obviously, the problems are most dreadful for women whose marriages have not been formally ended, who are separated and not divorced from their husbands. Even for those women who have a formal divorce, the courts (be it family courts or formal courts) turn out to be grueling and intimidating places to seek justice, especially for the ones who are illiterate, not much educated, or belong to poor families.

Struggles faced during and after a divorce

Taking Divorce is a tedious process with repeated court trips, cases getting postponed, and lawyers charging heavy fees and most important but sidelined factor- to deal with patriarchal attitudes shown by lawyers as well as judges. All these reasons contribute to women feeling helpless with wasted efforts, and even lead to dissuasion of women (by family, relatives, friends, lawyers) to pursue the cases after a point.  Those women, who have taken up employment (for financial security) after the end of marriage, even if their employer pays them very less, they get little sympathy from the courts regarding alimony.

This should be the focal point in viewing the triple talaq judgment by the court. Muslim women have been successful in getting triple talaq scrapped by law but the war is not over yet. Indian women still have to face difficulties in getting some alimony or maintenance which is due to them, on which they have a deserving right.

Also Read: Namaz Offering Mamata Banerjee Remains Silent on Triple Talaq Verdict

Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act

But, there has been a setback for Muslim women, we are talking about the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act 1986, also known as MWA. This was widely seen as a patriarchal response in response to the clamor by the Muslim men to the Supreme Court judgment in the Shah Bano case in which her former husband was forced to pay continued alimony to her.

“The MWA drastically limited the husband’s liability to his former wife. It stated that once a woman’s iddat expenses (covering three months’ subsistence) had been paid and she had received her mehr (dowry) and any other money or property that had been gifted to her at the time of marriage, the husband had no further financial responsibility towards her.”

This law came was criticized by women activists and others who were sensitive towards women’s rights. It was called a discriminatory law that singled out Muslim women and deprived them of maintenance rights which are available to all the other divorced Indian women. They were taken for granted and the act had some harmful consequences. It encouraged a higher rate of divorce in Muslim community as it allowed Men to get away from the marriage without providing any maintenance for their wife’s survival.

Revision of Act

As per MWA, the husband should provide “reasonable and fair provision” during the 3 month iddat period. A clause was further added in 2001 by a Supreme Court judgment that “during the iddat period, a Muslim man is liable to make a payment to his ex-wife that will secure her ability to sustain herself in the future. As a result, courts began to require men to give their ex-wives substantial lump-sum amounts or to transfer some material assets such as land, a house, or gold and jewelry.”

The implementation of the law made divorced Muslim women heave a sigh of relief and will force the ex-husbands to give a substantial lump-sum amount to their wives. This would thus release the divorced Muslim women from worrying over the unreliability and uncertainty of periodic payments (by law) for maintenance.  This might make them even better off than non-Muslim counterparts. But in most other cases of divorce, lack of financial support from husbands remains a big concern for them.

The war is not over

The point we are trying to make is that the problems faced by divorced Indian women are plenty, and they are because of the social, cultural, economic and legal practices that are still present in all religions. This Supreme Court verdict should be reminders for all of us to take note of this small victory, to keep in mind the loopholes present in Divorce rights still and should also motivate us to take up more such battles in future in order to make our country more gender sensitive. So, that both the genders can live a life of peace and dignity.


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