Burqa ban crosses the Atlantic

The legal banning of the burqa and niqab has once again been in the headlines this last week, but this time beyond Europe, in Canada (or as Tanmit from G.N.E. called it last week at Lahir, “America’s pagh”).

Minister of Citizenship, Immigration, and Multiculturalism Jason Kenney, known for his conservative and anti-immigrant policies, announced that new Canadian citizens will now be forced to remove the burqa or niqab while taking their oath of citizenship.

According to the Associated Press,

Jason Kenney said most Canadians have misgivings about Islamic face coverings and said new Canadians should take the oath in view of their fellow citizens…

The Conservative minister called the issue a matter of deep principle that goes to the heart of Canada’s identity and the country’s values of openness and equality. He said women who feel obliged to have their faces covered in public often come from a cultural milieu that treats women as property rather than equal human beings.

Perhaps it was appropriate that Kenney made the announcement in French-speaking Quebec as his justification for limiting religious freedom is almost identical to that of France, which has outlawed the niqab in public and hijabs and turbans in the classroom (and on government-issued ID). Canada appears to be going the way of Europe in pushing forward an ethnocentric notion of national identity in the name of liberating women.

French Muslim woman Hind Ahmas hardly sees these policies as a means to her liberation, as she currently may face jail time for refusing to remove her niqab. Last Monday she was fined 150 euros and sentenced to a 15-day “citizenship course” for wearing her niqab. Her sentence was given in her absence, as the court would not allow her inside wearing her niqab. She stated to reporters, “This citizenship course, I will not do it. It is the people in the court who need lessons on French citizenship, not me.”

Ahmas could face a fine of 30,000 euros and up to two years in prison if she does not attend the course.

While hundreds of thousands of working people, students, immigrants, and rather ordinary people are rising up throughout the world against corporate greed, political corruption, and growing inequality, our elected officials are apparently spending their time and resources creating and implementing policies that restrict and police religious garb. Priorities, priorities…

As Islam continues to be openly vilified by politicians and media pundits, policies like these targeting the niqab are strategic, political moves used to galvanize support (and votes) via fear and exclusion. Michael Tubiana of the French Human Rights League (LDH) believes Ahmas “was being dragged through the courts because the government wanted to be seen to be acting tough on immigrants and Islamists ahead of next years elections. The government just wants to compete with the National Front for votes at the next election. It used to be a case of the National Front trying to win votes from the centre right UMP party but now it is the other way round. (link)

Indeed, it’s hard to imagine Kenney’s political motivations in Canada being much different. Every (oppressive) society needs its enemy. For Europe and North America, Muslims continue to unapologetically be the target.

So my Sikh sisters and brothers, as the popular union anthem asks, which side are you on?

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8 Responses to “Burqa ban crosses the Atlantic”

  1. deepak says:

    The niqab ban is legitmate in my opinion because the concept of not seeing someones face during a citizenship ceremony does in fact kind of go against what the oath is about, which is unanimity. The Sikh turban is a whole different concept and cannot possibly face restrictions during such ceremonies because it is considered religious head gear, not a face covering and therefore is not looked at upon with scrutiny as much as the niqab is. Our religion is great as i believe we have given both men and women the equivalent oppurtunity and equal ways for practicing sikhism, men and women can keep uncut hair and tie it in a similar fashion,

  2. rmsingh says:

    I personally struggle with this situation and my take on this is somewhat mixed. On the one hand, I would support freedom of religion, but on the other hand, I'm cognizant that Sikhism takes a stand against the requirement of women to cover their faces.

    We should be supporting the liberation and equality of women, but it doesn't make sense to take away the rights of someone and then say you're doing it to promote their rights. And, it's not a far step for the government to then say that turbans, beards (because they cover the "face") and/or kirpans should be banned from the ceremony. So, in that sense, you have to support the freedom of religion argument – especially in support of a faith group that is being vilified like many innocent Muslims are.

    (Also, this new policy by Canada's government is not likely to stand up in court: http://www2.macleans.ca/2011/12/16/an-about-face-

  3. Altorre says:

    Outrageous polices of persons that will one day find themselves before the creator of all that is and have to answer for their Deeds … in the meantime, I will continue to make my voice heard by my words , deeds, and life

  4. Tejinder says:

    Looking at it from this angle makes sense to me. Islam started ~600AD, Guru Nanak came around 1469. So there is an 869 year difference. Keeping it simple the Burqa had ~800 years or so to establish as part of the Islamic culture/religion in one form or another over time. Looking at it from this perspective the burqa at Guru Nanaks time was as common and established into the fabric of Islamic society as it is today. Yet still our Gurus saw this as an oppression of women, and went against it. So if your Guru can go against it, what is the argument here? My guess is the argument comes when Muslim friends are put in front of an individuals faith in Sikhi or parallel to it and God is pushed to Sunday.

  5. manbir singh says:

    We as a Sikh need to understand the sensitivity of other religion attires and respect then just like we like to be respected by others. Lets put water to the fire before it comes towards us.We are suppose to defend not only our rights but also rights of others.Muslim Burka is a clear case to support openly without any reservation. Remember Attack on Darbar Saheeb was not opposed by any other religion.We have to be proactive when it comes to supporting other religion groups otherwise we will be again lonely with no support. Lets take a stand.

  6. rebel says:

    Shoutouts to Jason Kenney and his entourage – Parm Gill, Tim Uppal and Bal Gosal. Puppets of the CONservative Party of Canada – Shameless, racist, bigots.

    Sikhs need to start voting to the left of the spectrum, these right wing nuts will do us no favours.