She has done a great job of making this so-called community appear to be a monolithic identity made up of unenlightened women, ravenous men and secretly unreligious, resentful teens.
She then goes on to declare that women who wear the hijab, niqab, or burqa are actually hurting other women. When we wear it out of our own personal choice, we make it hard for oppressed woman to stand up to their evil brothers and fathers.
She says: “It is not patronizing to acknowledge that many Muslim women who wear the niqab… do so not out of personal choice but because they are bullied, tacitly or overtly, into doing so. They must hide their faces so that their men don't lose face.” … “And I care a great deal more about their predicament than I do their Islamist sisters who choose to veil under the rubric of feminism.”
In this second article, she is more irritating. If you’ve ever burned your hand on a hot stove, you will realize that you often get the same sensation when you read Rosie Dimanno’s articles. It stings hard at first, and then becomes a dull pain that lasts for weeks.
"A burqa," she says, “is not just an article of clothing. It's a fetish that demeans and demonizes women.” …“I've never met a female who willingly wore the damn thing.” She congratulates President Nikolas Sarkozy, who banned the burqa from the French Republic. He declares it to be a sign of subservience and subjugation, and thus unwelcome in a modern democracy. Apparently, Muslim women all over the world should thank Dimanno and Sarkozy for giving them the justification they needed to finally throw off these repressive clothes.
Her colleague, Antionia Zerbisias (another columnist at The Star), poses this question in retaliation: "How can a state complain about women being forced to wear something – and then force the same women to take it off?"
Dimanno’s answer is basically this: well, Afghanistan did it first. They’ve been telling people what to wear it since forever, so why shouldn’t we? It appears then, for Dimanno, two wrongs do make a right. So, she’s going to ban the scarf and drag Muslims kicking and screaming into modernism.
Though I agree with Dimanno that many women are brutally forced to wear the burqa, many other people I know were not forced. These women wear it for a variety of reasons (it’s comfortable, it makes them feel closer to God, it’s a statement of pride, etc). Whatever the motive may be; the simple fact that it is often worn by choice reduces the impact of her argument. For if there exist people who “wear the damn thing willingly”, then there must be some significance to it that she has simply chosen to ignore. It is sheer lazy reporting that keeps her from investigating the other side of the coin.
On one hand, she belittles the veil, and on the other hand, she makes it out to be something bigger than it really it is: a square piece of cloth that many women use to cover themselves.
Examine this situation for context: In 1984, James Keegstra, Canadian high-school teacher, was charged with denying the Holocaust and making anti-Semitic claims in his classroom as part of the course material. The case was appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada, where it was decided that the law he was convicted under did infringe on his freedom of expression. But, it was ultimately justified, because teaching hate is a far worse crime. It appears Dimanno is trying to say that forcing women to remove the burqa/niqab is justified infringement of their constitutional rights because the veil is not just a personal choice: it’s a furtherance of evil, oppressive attitudes.
Is this really the case? Is my choice to wear the hijab directly or even indirectly leading to the subjugation of other women? I am not convinced that it is.
If I have learned one thing throughout my education, it is this: correlation is not causation, and appearances are often deceiving. There is rarely one, singular, sufficient cause for any problem. Looking at the Keegstra case, it is possible to see that teaching anti-Semitic material has a direct negative effect on youth. It’s pretty safe to say that though teaching hatred from a position of authority may not be a sufficient factor; it is definitely a necessary factor that could cause young, susceptible students to become racist and intolerant. Conversely, the veil is neither a necessary or sufficient factor. It is correlative, since it often coexists with oppression, but it is not causative in any way.
Accordingly, our energy is better expended on correcting the underlying sources of the problem. It is interesting that the same people who rant about the banning of the veil continue to keep quiet about many poor leaders and poor laws that propagate tyranny and patriarchy. It creates only hypocrisy and confusion when influential people decry a nation’s culture without criticizing the rulers who manipulate and exploit it cruelly. From the Taliban, to Pervez Musharraf, modern industrial democracies have shown their willingness to prop up corrupt regimes. And it is only after the state crosses the line from ally to enemy that democratic politicians come out with guns blazing. Great power politicking seems to have allowed our nation’s leaders to pick and choose when they enforce humanitarian responsibilities.
At the end of the day, the veil is a tool of domination, but not the cause. This certainly does not mean that we should ban it, because it is possible for any “good” thing to be used as a tool for “bad” acts (education, media, religion, etc). So, don’t take your rage out on a square piece of cloth. It’s sometimes modestly decorated, and it’s sometimes bedazzled… but it’s still just a square piece of cloth. There are larger, systemic problems at hand, ones that can only be solved with an appropriate mixture of domestic uprising and international intervention.
If it was really true that the niqab or burqa was the origin of the dilemma, every Muslim girl in the world would willingly take it off her head and burn it. Islam never asks us to do anything that harms fellow sisters. So, before we assume that Dimanno speaks with any authority on this matter, let us ask ourselves this: if the scarf never existed, would downtrodden Muslim women be any freer? Perhaps they would be freer to show and style their hair, but not free in any meaningful sense of the word. Not if the fundamental conditions that have resulted in the problem continue to exist.
Apparently, the French have had distaste for organized religion since the 1789 Revolution, in which the Roman Catholic Church was dismantled. The political foundations built subsequently put a strong focus on Rousseau’s philosophical idea that nothing comes between one’s relationships with the state. Religious affiliations are the ultimate rejection of this. When in conflict, religion is supposed to beat the state. This is a dangerous breeding ground for the bad things people have seen coming out of Islamic communities in the last couple of decades.
For Sarkozy to pretend this situation is all about the women is distasteful and laughable. Andre Gerin, Communist Party legislator and mayor of Vénissieux, a Muslim-populated Lyon suburb in France, began the motion to ban by the burqa in June. He got it signed by 57 other legislators and called for the parliamentary commission.
He expresses the sentiment of the French very clearly, in a way that damns him more than redeems him: “The burqa is the tip of the iceberg. Islamism really threatens us.”