Tuesday September 24, 2019
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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

  • Tahira Tahir

    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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  • Tahira Tahir

    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.

Next Story

3 Billion Fewer Birds in United States, Canada and Mexico than 1970

A report in the journal Science says there are 3 billion fewer birds in the United States, Canada and Mexico than 1970 — a 29% drop

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Birds, United States, Canada
FILE - A western meadowlark sings in the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge in Commerce City, Colo., April 14, 2019. According to a study, there are 3 billion fewer wild birds in North America than in 1970. VOA

If the skies above North America seem quieter, it’s because of the massive drop in the bird population in the past 50 years. Birds.

A report in the journal Science says there are 3 billion fewer birds in the United States, Canada and Mexico than 1970 — a 29% drop.

Conservationists call it a widespread ecological crisis.

“One of the scary things about the results is that it is happening right under our eyes. We might not even notice it until it is too late,” lead author of the study Kenneth Rosenberg of Cornell University says.

Birds, United States, Canada

If the skies above North America seem quieter, it’s because of the massive drop in the bird population in the past 50 years. Pixabay

More than 90% of the losses were among 12 species with the common house sparrow at the top of the list.

The experts blame the disappearance of natural meadows and grasslands in favor of farmland for the drop.

They also say pesticides are killing the insects that many birds use for food.

“We see fields of corn and other crops right up to the horizon. Everything is sanitized and mechanized. There’s no room left for birds, fauna, and nature,” Rosenberg said.

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The study also cites free-roaming domestic cats and birds slamming into windows that reflect the sky.

But the study says the duck and goose population has actually grown since 1970 because of less hunting and more protective measures.

Ornithologists say the drop in bird populations can be reversed by simple measures including keeping pet cats inside, window treatments that can prevent birds flying into them, and avoiding pesticides and insecticides. (VOA)