The Niqab

Of all the very stupidest things to become an election issue, and to even sink the political fortunes of the social democrats, when there are so many other serious problems that need to be addressed, controversies about women wearing the niqab is about the stupidest imaginable. Unbelievable!

The bigotry here is astounding, but the Conservatives, having politicised the issue and even expanded on this “dog whistle issue” so much that even a Red Tory like Danny Williams has dissed Mr. Harper for being “borderline racist“, while New Democrat leader Tom Mulcair, having taken a very principled stand in favour of the woman’s right to wear the niqab, has lost political favour with large parts of the public. This is insanity.

And it’s in this context and mood that you have to appreciate Ira Wells’ observations in The Guardian about the “politics of paranoia” as the political “pornography of the contemporary Conservative” that has become the new normal of Canadian public discourse, which even the Canadian Jewish News finds unsettling and disturbing about the Conservative’s dog-whistle politics surrounding the niqab issue.

The lop-sided view of this is that the niqab is a symbol of the oppression of Muslim women by Muslim men, and that banning the niqab is “emancipation” from “barbaric cultural practices“. So, it comes as a shock to the true believers in the emancipation narrative when Muslim women themselves, like Zunera Ishaq, defend their right and freedom to wear the niqab and even take the Harper government to the Supreme Court over the issue as being a violation of the Charter of Rights.

She won. Good for her.

Let’s try to deconstruct that whole “emancipation” bullshit which, I believe, is really a disingenuous cover-story for bigotry and racism.

The niqab has a practical history and also a symbolic one. For a desert people, it was like the scarf Canadians wear in the winter. In this case, a defence against the elements — sand. Arab men wear them too, or hasn’t anyone noticed that it has become a part of traditional costume? That’s the functional aspect of the niqab.

The other aspect of the niqab is symbolic. It’s an expression of modesty, but in connection with that, a barrier against the pressure of the sexually aggressive and greedy male gaze. Is it any coincidence that the most vocal critics of the niqab seem to be men? The niqab also serves to blunt that aggressive gaze. And as some Arab and Muslim women have said — they feel naked, exposed and vulnerable without their niqab, for that very reason.

This has a very long history, too. As best as I can determine, the niqab, as symbolic form of the veil, began when Mohammad, during his exile at the oasis of Medina, erected veils in his household to protect the privacy of the women, because Muslim men were entering his household — probably a tent — freely at all times of the day and night and catching the womenfolk in various stages of undress.

Niqab, in that sense, means protection. Not only, as earlier, from the desert sands, but from the aggressive and greedy male gaze that wants to sexually possess.

And inasmuch as this is the motive for women wearing the niqab, the “emancipation” narrative is complete bunk, although I’m all for the woman’s right to choose whether to wear the niqab or not to wear the niqab. If the woman feels exposed, uncomfortable, and vulnerable to the sexually aggressive male gaze, by all means — wear the niqab. But it should be the woman’s choice and no one else’s, least of all the State.

It’s really the male ego that needs to be “emancipated” from its lustfulness in terms of the acquisitive desire to possess sexually, isn’t it?

The “barbaric cultural practices” tip-line that Mr. Harper and his Conservative Party are proposing smacks of the political snitch culture of totalitarian states — the network of neighbourhood informants on those who are deemed politically incorrect or ideologically deviant. This is just more wedge politics and “the politics of paranoia” leading towards a snitch culture. There are already laws in place, and report lines for breaking those laws, that cover anything that might be deemed “barbaric cultural practice”.

The whole thing smacks of creeping fascism.


7 responses to “The Niqab”

  1. Scott Preston says :

    Zunera Ishaq receives support important moral support from a 95 year old war veteran, a Sikh who faced similar issues back in the 90s. I love the ironies in all of this!

  2. Scott Preston says :

    More commentary on the niqab issue and the state of Canadian politics from the National Observer

  3. Wendy Dixon says :

    Scotty be all riled up😆we my as well enjoy this crazy ride we be on. Take care. Say hi to Little One.

  4. tony says :

    Hi Scott,

    The issue is rather more nuanced than this, irrespective of current manipulation by conservative politicians. There are women who wear the niqab for personal religious reasons or to ward off the male stare, and there are equally women who would not wish to wear it but have no choice due to pressure from the religious community. Whether it be Cairo or Paris, the number of Muslim women wearing the niqab in urban areas has risen three-fold over the last three decades and it is doubtful that this can be explained by a sudden surge in modesty, or the increasing agressiveness by the male.
    This is a reaction by the religion against secularisation which has been ongoing for much of the 20th century. Watch Nasser 60 years ago on youtube arguing passionately against women being told to wear the niqab – the issue is an integral part of the much wider issue of the to and fro shifts between two conficting perceptions of the world.

    • Scott Preston says :

      As I say, the woman’s choice to wear it or not wear, and it should be no one else’s to decide.

      But more to the issue here, I think, is that I detect the dead hand of the Aussie “ratfucker” Lynton Crosby, who has been retained by the Harperites as a fixer. He’s something of a specialist in xenophobic politics and inflaming the politics of paranoia and divisiveness for political gain.

      Canadians should be ashamed of themselves for being so gullible, and for falling for such wiles and ploys.

    • Scott Preston says :

      Canada has become (for men) an oppressive state, where freedom of opinion is protected if you happen to be feminist.

      That’s just a sample of the kind of rot that passes for thinking in relation to the niqab issue. I read that this morning on a website. Really? Ishaq wins the right in court to wear the niqab and some dolt interprets that as “male oppression”!

      I think behind that statement is the very issue I’ve raised here — the sexually aggressive male gaze and its desire to possess that, being thwarted, becomes an issue of the “oppression” of the male ego.

      This logic is mad, insane. Unfortunately, all to common now. Nietzsche called it “ressentiment”.

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