Monday, March 22, 2010

Watcha Think?

I like to think that I tend toward toleration, but for quite some time I have had a problem with the veil, whatever form it takes. I see the veil as an unfortunate hangover of the worst aspects of patriarchy: men controlling their property. Although I intellectually understand that all sorts of women choose to wear the veil for religious reasons, my heart tells me that religion, or at least such aspects of it, are man made. And when I say man, I really do mean MAN.

I am thinking about the veil right now because there have been at least two recent newsworthy cases in Quebec, the province next door to ours. Each case involves an immigrant Muslim woman. In one instance, she withdrew from a French immersion class because the instructor felt that s/he needed to see her face in a language class. After complaints, that decision was upheld by higher authorities.

In a second case a woman applying for her health card was asked to remove the niqab from around her face long enough for the registrant to verify her identity. When she appealed, somewhat surprisingly, the Human Rights Commission upheld the decision concluding: “It is not a significant infringement of freedom of religion.” I say the decision was surprising because we tend to be almost over-tolerant up here.

Of course, it is wonderful and desirable to be tolerant and understanding, but any desirable trait can almost surely be pushed past the limit of common sense. Sometimes tolerance goes so far as to become ironic: for example, when supposedly tolerant people become intolerant of those whom they deem to be not tolerant enough. (You may have to read that over. )

To wit: I once followed a blog devoted to religious understanding and tolerance. The writer explored and wrote about other religions (I specifically remember a series on Islam) in a very tolerant way, which I hasten to assure you, I think is a rather fine thing. However, after she once wrote about how wonderfully American it was to see a Muslim man dressed in Americana (shorts and ballcap, I think it was), while his accompanying wife chose to wear the traditional veil (a niqab or burqa in that case, I think), I couldn't resist offering my opinion: something to the effect that I would be more impressed if she were wearing the shorts and he was wearing the veil.

However, apparently my opinion wasn't to be tolerated by that tolerant blogger because she never acknowledged me further, even though I continued to visit her blog and make really nice tolerant comments for quite some time.

Ironic, eh?

Does dear reader wish to weigh in on this topic? However, I understand that it is a sensitive issue that you might wish to avoid, and perhaps I should have done the same. Oh well; it's done. (Note: if you comment, I must say that in an if-you-can't-beat-em-join-em sort of way, I am becoming somewhat better at replying to comments. Please bear with me, however: it's a work in progress. )

25 comments:

Donna said...

Hahahaa...after what happened HERE last night...I'm NOT feeling the "tolerance Love"...My feelings about the coverings are simple...

(I've tried 3 different times to "say" it kindly...the words Just won't come...What I'd Really like to do to such men...)

See? I'd best get to work...I've got 30 million extra guest coming for dinner...and they need money...(healthcare bill passed last night)

Hughugs

Anvilcloud said...

I would doubt most, Donna, but not your ability to handle a few extra for dinner.

Murr Brewster said...

Yeesh. Just the thought of the man in shorts and baseball cap and his draped woman...

I've always felt a little yeeshy about the very common practice here of women hyphenating their names while their husband gets off clean with his original. Then again when I was a little girl I used to think how lucky I was that my father met someone else named Brewster and that she got to be my mom. Even then I thought the name-changing bit seemed off.

Anvilcloud said...

MB: In neighboring Quebec, as I understand it, women are not permitted to change their names. Kids may take either or a hyphenated version -- I think.

Holly, the Old Western Gal said...

Oh boy, I could have some fun over here, AC!!! Before you ban me and maybe even put a mysterious Canadian hex on me (involving a slow incantation of "eh" and a cauldron filled with lots of snow, no doubt, and maybe even a hockey puck throw in) --

A lot of people want to control other people. They want to control their very thoughts -- then you don't have to control their actions. Okay, fine for those who want to play. Lotsa things go on between men and women. I'm thinking of the burka thing here. My dog ain't in that fight.

As for tolerance, yes, it's tricky. Just using the burka thing as an example, well, that's THEM playing. Okay, play. But don't drag me into it. I don't give a durn about their interpretation of their religion. That goes for ALL religions. Don't try to bring religion into it, in this country and I think also in Canada, although I'm a bit fuzzy about exactly what's in the Canadian constitution.

Tolerance is a slippery slope. Are they going to play by MY rules? Must I play by THEIR rules? It's a battle of wills, a battle of cultures. It's not really about tolerance. There is a danger in rule of law, when manipulation of the law is too easy. If manipulated too much, it becomes mind control and ruined countries and anarchy results.

Ha ha that's why I live out West and have a survivalist mentality. But a kindly one. I believe in having as much freedom as people can handle.

Anvilcloud said...

Dear Holly

May a triple dose of ehs infest the remainder of your days.

AC

Mara said...

I am not against religion, nor outward religious signs (like veils), however I do believe it should always the choice of the person wearing it and not the choice of anybody else.

On the other hand, anybody could be hiding under a veil...

Anvilcloud said...

I have a feeling there's a lot of coercion, even if unintended, behind some "choices." Jonestown for example.

PipeTobacco said...

Hello Anvilcloud:

I especially enjoyed your statement:

"In a second case a woman applying for her health card was asked to remove the niqab from around her face long enough for the registrant to verify her identity. When she appealed, somewhat surprisingly, the Human Rights Commission upheld the decision concluding: “It is not a significant infringement of freedom of religion.”"

To my way of thinking, this is exactly right. To allow the niqab to reduce the ability for state required identification is a bit preposterous. Do you know if there has been any instance of a female trying to have a driver's license photograph taken with the naqab? If so, how did the case turn out?

Driver's Licenses here in the US are so universally used for ID, it seems a woman wearing a naqab in her photo could then be just about anyone.

Thank you for the post. I enjoy reading about all things Canadian, as I think your nation, probably more so than just about any other nation on the planet, gets "things" mostly right. Your nation is generally tolerant, polite, and civic minded. We south of you would do a helluva lot better if we tried to adopt much of your nation's attitude and actions.

PipeTobacco
http://frumpyprofessor.blogspot.com

Anvilcloud said...

Wow PT: I don't know what to say -- except that we are a long way from being perfect. Thanks though.

Bernie said...

A/C I have an opnion of course, I'd be a fool not too but I think I will quietly close the door and slip away as your wonderful followers express their feelings on this subject......:-) Hugs

Diana said...

Quite honestly AC I haven't given this issue much thought except that I don't think that anyone should dictate what an adult is to wear.
There are days in the winter while walking my dogs that I look veiled with my hat and scarf wrapped around my face! Love Di ♥

Mary G said...

AC, I wrote a long, long post about this very issue, about two years ago. Link is: http://themsmysentiments.blogspot.com/2007/09/veiled-comments.html
I think your take on the matter is very reasoned and very fair. The veils bug me too because I can't convince myself that any woman with a real choice would opt to wear one. So when I see one, I imagine the woman underneath to be either brainwashed or coerced. What I read of things that the women who wear them say does not change my mind.

Anvilcloud said...

Mary, your full blown essay puts my paltry piece to shame. I have a feeling that I've read it before. Have we been together that long? ;)

Garnetrose said...

I have felt that for some time that it was time the veils came off. If I walked into get my id photo taken they want to see my face, I have to have the face so the camera can see it. A woman in Fla was told to remove her veil and she refused. She went to court and won the right to keep her veil on. I have to show my face and she should have to do the same.

I do think that if most of these women could chose, they would throw those veils in the trash.

Lorna said...

I think Mary and GarnetRose have come closest to the feeling I have myself, but since I only have my own experiences to draw on, I feel sadly uninformed and can only make my Lorna-centric statement that it is hard to believe that women prefer to wear a symbol so strongly held to be demeaning.

Woman in a Window said...

I appreciate what you've written here. I myself am wary to have an opinion as I don't know the religion nor any of the people involved in religion. I can say though that the coercion in religion and in popular culture itself, is veiled. HA! Made a funny. I remember being in highschool and feeling pressure to wear certain things I was uncomfortable with. Even now, I see it happening to younger and younger kids, fashions imposed on them. And while I recognize this as extremely different and not necessarily of a patriarchal society (although at times I wonder) it is of the same skin. I daresay that as I traveled to developing countries we (western women) were often viewed with a kind of sadness, how our society imposes a whorism (I know, strong word but it does sometimes fit) on our girls.

I do play a bit of the devil's advocate. I am mostly curious about the veil and would love to openly discuss this with women who practice, but then perhaps I'm optomistic about the open?

Very interesting opening this discussion.

And still, I send a big XO! Ha!

xo
erin

Ruth said...

We have a growing Muslim population in our community, but I have only seen this veil once. It was a hot summer day and the woman was walking several paces behind her husband at the park. (need I say more)
Our daughters told me that the Muslim girls at highschool came early and put on their makeup and adjusted their clothing in the washrooms before classes, and then reversed things before going home. I doubt the younger generation will uphold these traditions in Canada. There is some "safety" in traditional culture, the Old Order Mennonites being an example.

Anvilcloud said...

To All: I'm not sure about whether they would make a different choice if they could although Ruth's high school girls would seem to be on the path to making one. Meanwhile, there must be a lot of pressure on them to conform.

fumblingforwords said...

My thoughts on this are pretty similar to yours. I believe in tolerance and get pretty annoyed with ethnocentricity (just heard Ann Coulter on the radio this morning and her famous quote that Muslims shouldn't be allowed on airplanes - ugh), but at the same time, I think the veil is less about women's choice and more about the control placed on them. And I could totally understand the language teacher who needed to see the girl's face.

Have you ever read Infidel by Ayaan Hirshi Ali (sp?)? It's a fascinating book about a woman growing up Muslim.

Anvilcloud said...

Sounds like a worthwhile book, Heather. I'll check it our for sure.

Judy said...

I'm just always sooo amazed that learning a foreign language doesn't even bring us close to understanding a culture.

And trying to understand another's religion? Good Heavens! Even those of us who speak the same language and read the same Bible get confused about what it means to love your neighbor. (By the way, my understanding of those words is that it means- now hang onto your hats - love your neighbor.)

I do try to understand people. I do. But I find stupidity to be the hardest thing to be tolerant of.

Even my own.

Anvilcloud said...

Not necessarily a reply to anyone, but sometimes, I would think you have to make some concessions to the dominant culture. When in Rome ...

Tossing Pebbles in the Stream said...

I am away for a few days and you suddenly become very politcal in your blogging. What can I say. :)

I am one of those Canadians who favour acceptance of the widest range of customs within Canada. If we have reservations about them, after people are admitted to Canada is not the time to make them an issue. We owe it to those who want to make Canada their home, temporially or permanently, to tell them when they are deciding to come here. Such things a female circumcision, multiple wives, forced arranged marriage, honour kills etc need to be explained to immigrants as to what is acceptable under Canadian law. They also need to know that their children will be Canadians and they cannot reasonably expect their children to share their old world customs and values.

The veil is not essentials to Islam. Modesty is. Some Muslim women do not wear the veil, others just a simple head scarf and other agree to be totally covered. Whatever a woman choses we should try to accomadate. Exceptions should be made only when there is no other way. I don't think you need to see a person's face to help them learn a language.

Also, a picture of a person is not even the best way to identify someone. Blood tests and fingerprinting are more accurate.

Our discomfort should not be the reason to limit a person's free way of appearing in public. If that were the test we might have those who would deny freedom to many teenagers with peculiar dress, tatoos, piercings, as well a Amish men and women, or evey bearded middle age men like myself.

Anvilcloud said...

Philip, I definitely believe that we should do something about beards. As for the rest, I am not quite as accommodating as thou. I guess I see it more of a gender issue (ie subjugation) rather than a religious one.