This is a blog dedicated to a personal interpretation of political news of the day. I attempt to be as knowledgeable as possible before commenting and committing my thoughts to a day's communication.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

The Naivete of Empowerment

"I wore it [niqab] in the first place because I thought it was a religious obligation. I was also going through a lot of soul-searching -- trying to find more meaning in my life and showing my gratitude to God."
"At first, I found it empowering and was hoping that along the way it would help me to grow spiritually, but ultimately it was just a burden [though she encountered little hostility other than the simple reminder on occasion:] You're in Canada now [remark from a stranger]."
"Eating outside of the house -- trying to get food inside your mouth was one of the biggest challenges. And the simple concept of going outside for fresh air. You're never really outside. You're always contained within."
"I love helping people, and I love learning about other religions."
"The niqab is foreign to my parents. It isn't part of their culture and they are also very well aware of what's going on in the world with radicalization and extremism. I probably should have done it differently, but when I decided to wear the niqab I didn't consult my parents. It was a complete surprise to them. My dad thought I was being radicalized and he was almost ready to call the police to say people were radicalizing his daughter."
"All these years I had been wearing the niqab thinking it was beloved by God and bringing me closer to God. So if it wasn't bringing me benefit I decided I wasn't going to pursue it."
Naima Sidow, Ottawa resident
Video thumbnail for Life behind the niqab
Still from video interview, Ottawa Citizen

Ms. Sidow gives credit to Ottawa imam Mohamad Jebra for informing her that the niqab is a reflection of cultural not religious practise. Although it is popularly conflated with religious obligations for Muslim women. When Muslim women live in majority-Muslim countries where patriarchal custom calls for strict control of women as possessions, those cultures call for women to withdraw from public view. Not merely not to appear in public unescorted by a male family member, but even then to wear fully-concealing garments.

When Ms. Sidow was 19, she surprised her parents, immigrants from Somalia who arrived in Canada when she was three years of age, by suddenly hiding her facial features behind a veil. One of seven siblings, all now mature, she was raised within a fairly religious family setting, but not one, it appears, that subscribed to inequality between the genders. She herself has volunteered her services at regional charitable institutions, including churches and synagogues.

She adopted what she describes as a "black and white" idea of Islam popular among religious conservatives. During classes she took in Islamic jurisprudence with the Ottawa imam, she turned away from that fundamentalist view of Islam. One might not think of a child raised in Canada, attending public elementary and high school, where she studied health science at the University of Ottawa hoping to attain a medical degree, would seek to distinguish herself by extinguishing her visible personality.

That she did so, represents an example of the struggle within Islam itself between people who emigrate from their countries of origin and who seek to meld into the prevailing culture of an accepting society where Islam does not predominate, and Muslims who migrate to the West with a view of altering the cultural mores and laws of the land to better reflect their mission as Muslims to proselytize, rejecting the prevailing national culture, other religions' rights, and gradually transform society to their own mould.

"I don't see the niqab as beneficial", she now says, "but at the same time if it's what somebody wants to, I don't know if it's the right approach to prohibit them from expressing themselves. For the most part their intentions are sincere and they are regular people like me. They aren't doing it for malicious reasons. Hopefully, along the way they will educate themselves and come to change their minds. Prohibiting them might result in them finding more radical ways to express themselves", she said.

If she only examined her own statements and conclusions she might realize that those who take to wearing the niqab but not for 'malicious reasons', would hardly be susceptible to expressing themselves 'radically', other than if those reasons to wear the niqab were indeed malicious. To go in one fell swoop from niqab-wearing to 'radical' expression through resentment at rejection, more than adequately describes the issue, if unintentionally.

The very fact that Muslim associations in Canada are agitating among their followers to vote in the upcoming federal election as a bloc to reject the current Conservative-led government which has distinguished itself to the Muslim community by issuing legislation to protect Muslim women and girls from misogynist threats against their well-being, and other Canadians along with Muslims from the threats inherent in Islamist jihad threats -- which they interpret as "Islamophobia" speaks volumes of the divide.

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