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I will be looking at the issue of requiring Muslim women to unveil prior
to receiving public services as it is a violation of human rights. I will also
be examining the point of view of Muslim women and the discrimination they face.
Furthermore, I’ll look at the public’s view on niqabs and burqas and the
feelings associated with their culture. In addition, I will also touch on
Quebec’s new legislation passed, dealing with women having to unveil in certain
instances.  

 

Muslim women are
too often the targets of hate and prejudice due to their cultural customs and
because of this, Muslim women define the hijab/niqab/ and their experiences
with discrimination. “A 35-year-old woman was standing outside a Valentino
store in Manhattan on Sept. 10 when, as she later told police, she felt heat on
her left side. Her blouse was on fire, and a man stood nearby with a lighter in
his hand. The NYPD is investigating the incident as a possible hate crime — the
woman is Muslim, and she was wearing a hijab” (Elmir, 2016). The hijab and
niqab are often associated with oppression, loss of freedom, terrorism and
perceptions of the “other” in Western countries (Rahmath, 2016). People often
assume that all Muslims are the same and label them stereotypically when we all
know this is not the case. On top of this to this is the difficulty that women
face in a post 9–11 era. Muslim women are progressively being viewed with
hostility and suspicion and the perception of Muslim women is portrayed as
dangerous in today’s media. “The assumptions that the veil equals “ignorance”
and “oppression” has meant that young Muslim women have to invest a
considerable amount of energy in establishing themselves as thinking, rational,
literate students, both in their classrooms and outside” (Rahmath, 2016). While
wearing a hijab/niqab, women feel the overwhelming pressure of having to act
differently in the public’s eye and put on mask of strength, intellect and establish
themselves ideally as someone else. Not only does this create obstacles for
Muslim women in claiming their identities, but also these women find it that
much harder to achieve their ambitions and goals. In respects to their
clothing, women who have been judged to be wearing too much are often called to
undress as they are seen as interfering with the rights of others or being
oppressed. In comparison, women judged to be wearing too little are urged to
clothe themselves to avoid being seen as inviting sexual assault (Beaman,
2013). Comparing these two situations together, the difference of judicial and
public regulation of women’s clothing becomes more exposed. This is quite the
conflicting message in that what women choose to wear will always be under
speculation whether it’s too much clothing or too little. This plays a part in
women who wear the burka/niqab in that they are told they must uncover prior to
receiving public services, but they do not have a right to request these women
to undress or simply wear less as it is a big violation of human rights.

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Looking at societies views on Muslim women, many have fear and anxiety
when presented with these types of situations, in which a woman is wearing a
niqab.  Many don’t know how to feel or
react while most react in negative ways. In addition, Canada has not fully
escaped the debates and anxieties related to the accommodation of Muslim
immigrants, in particular, these anxieties have been displayed around the
controversies of wearing of the niqab in Canada (Knight, 2016). In a recent
study of public opinion, over half (56%) “prefer if women in Canada did not
wear the niqab in public places”; 33% feel that way about the hijab (Coletto,
2015). Looking at these results, it is clear to see that many Canadians have a preference
in what a Muslim woman chooses to wear and these fears have historical ties in
discrimination due to a post 9-11 era. In the same study, Canadians were asked
whether women should be obliged to bare their faces during the citizenship ceremony
and the results are that 61% agreed they should be required to uncover their
faces while 39% felt it was a personal choice (Colette, 2015). A big issue in
this is that people are voting whether they think Muslim women should have to
uncover their faces not considering the religious factors behind why they wear
the hijab/niqab. The niqab/hijab is just one example of the suspicion that’s
emerged around Canada’s Muslims. The acts of extremist, whether it be bomb threats,
shootings and stories of Canadas youth one by one crossing the border to go
fight with ISIS have ultimately shaken many Canadians. It has also created the
government’s proposed anti-terror bill, which promotes fear against Muslims and
links them to terrorism in the minds of Canadians.

 

On March 24, 2010, Justice Minister Kathleen Weil introduced Bill 94,
called An Act to Establish Guidelines
Governing Accommodation Requests Within the Administration and Certain
Institutions, in Quebec’s National Assembly. (Conway, 2012) If passed, the
bill would limit Muslim women’s ability to wear a face veil when requesting
services from the government. While the bill doesn’t mention Islam
specifically, it would still have a disproportionate effect on Muslim women
wearing a veil. This is very frightening and unwelcoming to Muslim women, as
this bill would require them to unveil, violating not only their religious
aspects but also their natural human rights. This bill would discourage women
from attending public services like hospitals, school, government official buildings
or even daycares where they would be forced to unveil and it is believed that
this is only the beginning of preventing Muslim women from integrating into
Quebec society. This would in fact isolate them from their basic rights as
human beings and create more tension than there needs to be due to
discrimination. While some say Quebec is a world leader when it comes to gender
equality, they aren’t looking into the real issue that is at may, being that Muslim
women are being targeted in this new bill. Fundamentally, the Quebec government
shouldn’t be able to tell people what to wear and what not to wear and shouldn’t
deny Muslim women public services due to their hijab/niqab.

 

In conclusion, Muslim women are having their rights violated when being
asked to unveil prior to receiving public services. While the hijab or niqab is
a sign of religion and cultural customs, Muslim women are facing discrimination
and hate crimes due to Canadians underlining fear and anxiety of something that
is different. With a new legislation into question, forcing Muslim women to unveil
when receiving all public services, their natural human rights are being
directly violated and they are specifically being driven out of Quebec. When
examining all these factors, Muslim women’s right are ultimately being
violated. 

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