By Sana Ahmad
Can you imagine being made to feel like you do not belong? Can you imagine being made to feel that you are inferior because of a piece of clothing? That your ideals are wrong if they are different from the norm? This is something that people face even today. With time, our society is becoming more and more judgmental and narrow minded. Today, we see various campaigns trying to promote diversity, trying to make people feel comfortable in their own skin. But the moment a yellow flower appears in the midst of red roses, it is plucked out. We are indeed promoting diversity but only vocally, the truth is that tolerance for difference of opinion is scarce. Everyone wishes to be different but is not ready to accept the individuality of others.
Recently, a controversy commenced in Canada regarding the hijab that Muslim women wear. A few days back a Quebec judge refused to hear a Muslim woman’s case only because she was wearing a headscarf. In her defense, the judge recited Article 13 of the regulations of the Court of Quebec. That article states: “Any person appearing before the court must be suitably dressed,” so, leaving it to the discretion of the presiding judge. What this article does is send a message to the people that if a judge decided to discriminate against a certain person then he or she has the right to do so. Basically, the law in this case gives the judge a free hand. This can backfire easily, like it did in this case. Canada is known for its peaceful and tolerant environment, and indeed it is so but here a person of the law tried to abuse their power, while in reality it was not abuse at all. It was actually approved by law.
This sends us a dangerous message. A message that courts can now openly condone discrimination while using the excuse of secularism. The irony is that the first and foremost reason why the hijab is worn by Muslim women is so that they are not subjected to superficial discernment and are not judged by their attire and outward appearances but are rather judged by their character and views. Alas, the western world has objectified Muslim women by reducing them to the garment they choose to wear. It is sad but the fact is that liberals are liberal when it comes to their own use. If it clashes with their own ideals then even the liberals back off.
We have reached the 21st century but the debate over a womans clothing is still going on. What’s mind boggling is that society accept women with revealing and minimal clothes, but if she decided to cover herself up then it must be condemned. Why is it so unfathomable to imagine that a woman might not feel comfortable in exposing herself to the world? What we do not realize is that revealing and minimal clothes are accepted because man feeds off of them while covered clothes are looked down upon because they do not flaunt a womans beauty enough to pleasure a passerby’s eyes.
The thing is, no matter what a woman decided to wear, it is her choice. It is absurd to think that if she decided to cover herself then she must have been forced. While no one considers the fact that maybe she was forced to reveal herself by wearing mini skirts or shorts by her family. Yes, Islam does ask its followers to cover themselves and practice simplicity, but why is Islam always targeted? Why doesn’t anyone question why the nuns cover themselves? A Muslim woman can be asked to take off her head scarf, which to her is not only a garment but a safety blanket while a nun will be respected because of her veil.
In my experience, mostly people appreciate and respect women who wear a head scarf. I have never been targeted because of my veil but to think that in a part of the world, the act of a woman choosing to cover herself is banned is ludicrous. Today, almost every nation speaks of gender equality and diversity. Then why was the ban of the headscarf in France not condemned enough? Isn’t it atrocious to ban a person from following their beliefs? Beliefs that are not hurting or proving to be injurious to anyone. On what basis can you ask a woman or even a man to leave their beliefs. On what grounds can you ask them to stop following the teachings of their religion when they are not hurting anyone.The result is that Muslims and other minorities are being made to feel like second or third-class citizens in their own homes.
The positive outcome from the case in Canada is that many people have condemned this discrimination. There is no logic in banning a piece of clothing other than to impose your will on another person, ‘live and let live.’ The point is not just about a Muslim woman. It is about diversity. A diverse nature and people make our surroundings beautiful and it is the responsibility of those in power to ensure equality and tolerance , only that will make us a more and open society.
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