Categorized | Society

Banning Hjiab, Niqab, Burqa – Oppression or Liberation?

Posted on 14 October 2009 by .

In recent days the issue of wearing Niqab and Burqa as a form of oppression has been raised in the media. The argument that has been used is: if women are being pressured and being oppressed by it, then it’s better to ban it in all public spaces, so that these women can be protected.


As a Muslim Canadian Hijabi, I believe that it’s a matter of choice; freedom of choice that every Canadian has a right to have under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom. Hijab, Niqab and Burqa are all forms of religious expression that many women choose to wear, as a part of their identity, while trying to work on finding a happy medium between Islam and Canadian culture.  

The hijab and Niqab are supposed to be a way of protecting women from being looked at as sexualized objects, so that they don’t have to conform to what society considers to the “ideal woman”. It’s a form of liberation for women.

In Canada, when choosing to wear any form of religious attire, we have to accept that there will be some discrimination; it comes with the territory. Sure some people don’t agree with the niqab, but it’s not a question of whether you or I disagree with it, it’s a question of a woman’s rights to live freely and dress however she wants. Even if some scholars feel that the burqa or niqab (face veil) is not a religious obligation and it’s more of a cultural practice (which is still debatable, even in that situation, banning something just for the sake of reducing oppression against women is completely against what Canada stands for.)

As a Muslim hijabi and an abaya (long dress similar to the burqa) wearer for many years, I can tell you, that I, like many other women wear it by choice; a personal choice that I have made between myself and my Lord (Allah). There was no religious compulsion by parents or family and moving forward, the choice will continue to be mine.

In a country where multiculturalism and diversity are celebrated, how can such an argument even be considered? What makes us any different than our  European neighbours who have already taken steps to ban all forms of religious identity in public places? Familial pressure is one thing, banning it for the masses on the state level, is that not oppression in a much larger way?

Organizations such as the Maytree foundation as well as others, are working hard to integrate diversity into this Country. They are working hard to push people out of their comfort zones and accept diversity, to develop more than just a tolerance but a level of inclusion that’s surpasses what we have ever done before.

The real question we should be asking ourselves is, what is it that is preventing us from reaching out to these women who are being pressured to dress or behave a certain way? How do we get them to actively participate and engage in the community?

Finally, it was also said in a recent interview by Mr. Fateh that by not agreeing to such a ban, we are supporting extremism. I disagree with this point completely. It’s completely hypocritical to think that we should ban the niqab to save women and liberate them, while you end up oppressing the masses of women who actually are doing it by personal choice and feel that it’s a part of their identity. Hijab is my choice, my identity and a part of who I am. And no one should have the right to dictate who I am!

Farheen_Khan  Author:Farheen Khan is South Asian consultant for United Way. She has also authored the book called “From Behind the Veil; A Hijabi’s Journey to Happiness.”

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