Monday February 18, 2019
Home Opinion Ottawa’...

Ottawa’s ‘Hijab Day’: Is it even necessary?

1
//
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.

SHARE
  • 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

In the Name of Kabaddi, Punjab Youth Stay Back in Canada

"Misrepresentation and fraudulent documentation are of concern. Fraudulent documentation, including photo-substituted evidence of applicants playing kabaddi, have been encountered among the supporting documentation submitted with applications," it added

0
A Kabaddi match (Representational image). Wikimedia

By Jaideep Sarin

Traditionally a tough, rural sport practised by ‘pehlwans’ in villages across the length and breadth of India, kabaddi has been flying high in recent years due to the money and glamour brought in by the Pro Kabaddi League (PKL).

This new-found professionalism has certainly helped the top-level players and turned this typically ‘desi’ sport into a lucrative career option.

But going by a longstanding trend in Punjab, the benefits are yet to trickle down to the average athlete at the village level in the state.

Generally considered to be one of the traditional powerhouses of kabaddi in the country, players from Punjab are making news in faraway Canada for the wrong reasons.

Nearly 47 per cent of the youth going to the country in the name of participating in Kabaddi tournaments have failed to return, a confidential report of the Canadian government has pointed out.

“In 2015, 2016 and 2017, visas were issued to 261 kabaddi players. Forty seven percent of them failed to report back to the migration office in Chandigarh, 26 per cent obtained work permits after entry to Canada and 1 per cent made refugee claims,” the internal report of Canada’s Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship (Ministry), which is with IANS, has stated.

“While the rate of return increased from 42 per cent in 2015 to 62 per cent in 2017, the rate of persons obtaining work permits unrelated to Kabaddi has also increased from 21 per cent to 30 per cent,” it pointed out.

The youth are invited to Canada by kabaddi federations based there to play matches organised by the strong Indian community residing in the country.

“The rate of players who obtained work permits after entry to Canada (26 per cent) in 2015, 2016 and 2017 suggests that they intended to enter Canada primarily for long-term work unrelated to playing Kabaddi,” the report said.

Abhishek said it was all due to the league getting bigger and better every season.
In the name of Kabaddi, Punjab youth stay back in Canada. Wikimedia

Selection by a Canada-based kabaddi federation for visa facilitation effectively allowed the players to circumvent the conventional examination of work permit applications at a migration office outside of Canada.

With an increasing number of youth applying for Canadian visa in the name of kabaddi, the Canadian ministry, in 2017, had invited kabaddi federations in Canada to participate in a pilot programme related to the sport.

Players and federations were informed of the requirement to report back to the migration office at the conclusion of the season in Canada in December 2017. That year, 78 kabaddi players’ applications were approved for the four inviting federations. Of these, only 62 per cent reported back while 30 percent stayed back and obtained a work permit by presenting themselves with a labour market impact assessment at a land port of entry as “visa exempt” clients.

Among the four federations, according to the report, players of two federations had a rate of return of 29 per cent only. Players of the other two federations had an 88 per cent rate of return.

When contacted by IANS, officials at the national kabaddi federation refused to comment on the issue.

“The federation has nothing to do with this issue. These players go abroad on their personal initiative and at the behest of tournament organisers over there,” an official said on condition of anonymity.

Earlier, rate of refusal of visa applications for Kabaddi players was as high as 65 per cent (in 2014).

Also Read- Anti-inflammatory Drugs May Put You at Heart Attack Risk

Canada’s Chandigarh visa office receives the vast majority of temporary resident applications from kabaddi players wishing to play in Canada.

“Kabaddi players applying through Chandigarh are typically young, single unsalaried males with limited economic prospects in their home county. Most belong to rural agricultural families with modest land holdings which may be held in common with several persons. Most applicants play for their village club which is usually supported by local patrons. It is difficult to gauge a player’s skill or standing in the sport as there is no formal structure at this level,” the report pointed out.

“Misrepresentation and fraudulent documentation are of concern. Fraudulent documentation, including photo-substituted evidence of applicants playing kabaddi, have been encountered among the supporting documentation submitted with applications,” it added. (IANS)