Hijab debate a ‘delicate’ issue that needs logic

Hijab debate a ‘delicate’ issue that needs logic
Tahir Aslam Gora
The Hamilton Spectator
(Apr 19, 2007)
Muriel Walker, a French literature professor at McMaster University, did her best to raise awareness and sensitivities on campus about hijabs, and the Muslim women who wear them, by organizing a Wear A Hijab Day earlier this month. All women were invited to wear a head scarf to show support for those who regularly wear it.
“I want this to help sensitize people about Islam,” she said.
I wish some Muslim school in Canada, or at least a teacher in any Muslim school, would have done it the other way around. They could have sensitized hijab-wearing Muslim girls to the skirt-wearing girls of their host society by offering to let them wear a skirt for at least one day.
Religious harmony and understanding another culture is not a one-way phenomenon.
However, academics and organizations working to promote multiculturalism should not overlook the reality that the hijab is not the legacy associated with every Muslim woman.
Promoting the hijab as a sign of a woman true to Islam is an attempt to marginalize the majority of Muslim women in Canadawho don’t consider this Islamic tradition as an essential part of their faith.
Wearing the hijab, or not, should not be a big issue. But the journey from hijab to full veil or niqab should be a big concern in a secular or multicultural society. Concealing one’s own identity should not be accepted in a multicultural society because such hardline thinking ultimately destroys the face of multiculturalism.
Let’s have a look at the debate of the hijab tradition in the wake of the recent controversy in McMaster.
The Muslim proponents of hijab say that wearing it is not due to any suppression of women by Muslim men or by faith itself. According to them, the head scarf is the choice of those who prefer to wear it.
But how did that choice come to be? Surely, through their home environment.
A Spectator reader wrote well in a letter to the editor: “They may say they wear it by choice but their choice has been affected by cultural conditioning.”
Some Muslim activists compare this debate with the lack of controversy over what Christian nuns wear, and accuse the West of showing a double standard. This has no merit, because nuns don’t impose their dress code on Christian society at large. This is a sort of job uniform.
In the case of hijabs, proponents would compel women to wear them.
A Muslim woman at McMaster told a Spectator reporter: “The main reason (for wearing a hijab) is to please your Lord.”
What does that mean? Is the Lord’s pleasure judged through the eyes of one particular faith?
During this struggle to understand other beliefs, racist taunts against Prof. Muriel Walker were spray-painted on her office door.
As a reaction to that, a rally against “Islamophobia” and condemning racist taunts was organized last week.
Of course, such rallies are an important response but the hijab tradition debate is a matter beyond any rally. It’s a very delicate issue and needs to be addressed scholarly and logically. There is not much room at present for being diplomatic.
Tahir Aslam Gora
The Hamilton Spectator
(Apr 19, 2007)

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