Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Niqab and Integration--The Doha Debates Chez Chiara

Image accompanying Gulf News article on the refusal of French citizenship to a man who forced his French wife to wear the niqab

This Doha Debate was originally held on February 19, 2007, and primarily refers to the situation of Muslims in the UK, but also in Continental Europe in general, and with applicability to current trends in Quebec, Belgium, France, and Spain against the niqab. These place have all proposed bans on the niqab, or in the case of Spain refused school entrance to a girl wearing a hijab. The previous post on Quebec's proposed ban elicited a number of comments, as did the one preceding it on the niqab and the two solitudes of Quebec/Canada. It seems to me that this Doha Debate, focused specifically on the issue of the niqab as an impediment or not to integration, fits very well with some of the issues raised by thr proposed ban which emphasizes "Quebec values" and the themes of the discussion we had on that post. Remember, too, that different countries have different models of integration: the melting pot (US), mosaic (Canada), multi-generational (France), etc.

Another aspect, the politics of banning the niqab, is one I will address soon in a new post, so I hope the discussion will focus here on the issue of integration. 

For more information on The Doha Debates generally, which follow Oxford Union debating rules, see the website of  The Doha Debates, for more information on The Doha Debates and The Doha Debates Chez Chiara see the introductory post, and the blog Category Doha Debates (DohaDebates) on the sidebar. The following includes excerpts from the panelists' biographies, the debate transcript, and the final result. A summary statement precedes each of the dialogues with a particular audience member whose photo is included. Full information for this debate is here. The full transcript may be read here. The full debate may be viewed here, and the podcast link is available on the main site for this debate.


The Motion
This House believes the face veil is a barrier to integration in the West


TIM SEBASTIAN
Ladies and Gentlemen, a very good evening to you and welcome to the latest in our series of Doha Debates sponsored by the Qatar Foundation. A piece of black cloth known as the niqab or face veil is now being seen by some as a symptom of the failure of Muslim minorities to integrate into Western society. Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair called it a mark of separation. His Italian counterpart Romano Prodi told a news agency 'you can't cover your face; you must be seen. It is important for our society'. So, is it simply a question of the freedom to wear what you want, or do mainstream Western societies have legitimate concerns about the niqab? Tonight's debate seeks to answer those questions. Our motion is that 'This House believes the face veil is a barrier to integration in the West', and it's a topic our speakers know well.

Speaking for the motion


Lord Ahmed of Rotherham was the first Muslim to be created a Life Peer in the United Kingdom and is an adviser to the British Home Office on Muslim affairs.

Nazir Ahmed entered the House of Lords in 1998 as Baron Ahmed of Rotherham in the county of South Yorkshire. He is President and founder of the All-Party Parliamentary Inter-Faith Group. He is also Vice President and founder of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Entrepreneurship. He led calls for the law against religious discrimination.

Before entering the House of Lords, he was a local councillor during the 1990s as well as serving as a Justice of the Peace on the magistrates' bench. He chaired the South Yorkshire Labour Party for four years and founded the British Muslim Councillors' Forum in 1992.

As well as being involved in politics, Lord Ahmed is also an entrepreneur. He ran a chain of fish and chip shops and mini-markets when he first came to the UK and then became involved in mining marble in Kashmir. He is also involved with numerous charities including the British Heart Foundation and the Yemeni Development Foundation, UK. He is Patron of the Kashmiri and Pakistani Professional Ass ociation; British Hajji Association and the Young Pakistani Doctors' Association among others. He also supports a large number of charities including Muslim Aid, Islamic Relief, International Disability Network, Human Appeal International, Sahara Foundation, Save the Children Fund and the Eve Appeal.

Born in Pakistan in 1957, Lord Ahmed moved to the UK at the age of seven. He gained a B.A. in public administration from Sheffield Hallam University. Proud of his British-ness, Lord Ahmed also keeps close contact with his Pakistani heritage. Following the earthquake in Kashmir he visited the area several times, donating from his own funds as well as raising money for rebuilding work and helping organise several millions in donations of resources.

LORD AHMED
I support the motion because I believe that the niqab is seen as a mark of separation, because Muslims who wear the niqab cannot take part, cannot participate or integrate into European or Western society, whether it comes to working in the courts, immigration service, customs or banks or shops or as receptionists. I believe that Muslims are part of the British society and they need to be in every sphere, in every arena within the British system. I don't want the state to ban the veil like in Holland and in France and in Germany. I want a sensible debate, a sensitive debate. I don't want the veil to become a symbol of Muslims or Islam like Abu Hamza and Omar Bakri, the fanatics who became the voice of Muslims. I want the Muslims to be part of the European society. When I went to the United Kingdom long before them, during the Second World War, Muslims fought for Britain, they fought against the Fascists. They contributed in British society, in rebuilding the countries, France, Britain, in the steel industries, in the textile mills, in the infrastructure. Britain is the fourth richest country in the world today and I'm proud that Muslims have made that contribution. So I don't want no-go areas for Muslims in the United Kingdom. When I went to Britain, my identity was, I was a Pakistani Kashmiri. Then I became British Pakistani, British Kashmiri. Then I became a British Muslim. I am a British citizen, a European citizen, who has a faith of Islam. When I went to the United Kingdom, our national dish was fish, chips and mushy peas. Today Alhamdu Lillah (praise be to God) it's chicken Tikka Masala, and that's how Britain has evolved. Britain has 300 languages, for instance. We have 13 major religions, 1400 mosques. I want these mosques to continue to grow, and also I want Muslims to participate. I want Muslims to build bridges. Islam is about peace, it's a religion of peace, it's a religion of moderation and not extremism. Islam encourages engagement and not segregation. 9/11 and 7/7 have changed our world. It has put fears and suspicion and intolerance in many Europeans and Western people, but you know, we also have a problem with Muslims who have identity crises, radicalisation and extremism. This does not help in integration and that's why I believe that a veil, on the question of veil, we need to use wisdom, as the Prophet Mohammed salla Allahu alaihi wa-sallam (peace be upon him) taught us, that we need to have wisdom and that's the way we will integrate in the Western European societies. Thank you.


Reem Maghribi is founder of Sharq, the premier English language British-Arab culture and lifestyle magazine.

With a background in IT and graphic design, Ms. Maghribi founded Sharq in 2004. As the magazine's Editor-in-Chief, she saw Sharq's transition through from a UK-based print publication to an International online magazine, at SharqMagazine.com, in 2007.

Ms. Maghribi calls herself a nationalist who is devoted to promoting pride and progress among Arabs both in the Arab world and outside it. She is a Trustee of both British Muslims for Secular Democracy, a foundation set up by British Muslims who support a clear separation between religion and state, and New Generation Network, an organisation seeking a new approach to tackle discrimination and prejudice in Britain by encouraging the under-represented to speak out against misinformation and scaremongering.

Born and raised in Britain, Ms. Maghribi is the second of three daughters to a former Libyan diplomat, who grew up with his family in Palestine before 1948, and a Syrian mother.

REEM MAGHRIBI
I am for the motion. I do believe that the veil is a barrier to integration. We certainly have the right to practise our religion. However, like most rights, that is not absolute. There are five fundamentals of Islam, and the British government has ensured that we have the ability to practise those beliefs and those rights. In fact they have undertaken many initiatives to promote integration through legislative and cultural activities. The veil is not in the Koran, it is not a requirement of Islam. It was practised centuries later and is more of a custom. With regards to human rights, there was a case recently of a teacher who wanted to wear the veil. She taught five-year-olds. She wanted to wear the veil in front of her male colleagues while teaching. Well, what about the rights of those toddlers? Do they not precede the rights of the teacher? Do they not have the right to communicate openly with that teacher, to not have to worry about concerns of sexuality? They're too young to understand that, as is the 12-year-old now fighting for the right to wear a veil in an all-girls' school. We should ask what are her motivations for wanting to cover up in front of the male teacher and that's what the British welfare system is there for. They are concerned with her interests as a pupil and the pupils in her school. We also have to understand that Britons fear the unknown. After 9/11 and 7/7, they do not have an understanding of Muslims, and we have become 'the other'. So it was a few unrepresentative people who carried out those attacks, but if we as Muslims are to represent ourselves and our religion as the pragmatic and peaceful religion that it is, then certainly fighting for a right that is not required by Islam, that instils fear in others, that hinders communication, and under the banner of Islamic rights, then ultimately we're hindering integration, and this in fact is mentioned in the Islamic doctrine, The Abuse of Rights.

Speaking against the motion


Ayshah Ismail is a British teacher who wears the face veil (niqab).

Ms. Ismail teaches science at a Muslim girls' secondary school. She had been wearing the headscarf (hijab) for the past eight years and started wearing the niqab a year ago.

Ms. Ismail is a community activist who works with several organisations to break down barriers between the Muslim and non-Muslim communities. She is an active supporter of the Stop the War Coalition and has spoken at a number of their rallies. She says she became an anti-war campaigner after seeing what she describes as a rise of Islamaphobia in the aftermath of the London bombings of 7/7.

Ms. Ismail is aiming to set up a charity which specialises in providing relief for children around the world, affected by war, poverty and natural disasters.

Born in the northern English city of Preston, she graduated from Liverpool University with a Bachelor of Science in Pharmaceutics.

AYSHAH ISMAIL
Assalaam alaikum (Peace be upon you). First of all, thank you. I mean, it's an absolute delight to be here. First of all, let me just ask and I might be reiterating Tim's point there, what is integration? Let me define what integration is. It's the behaviour towards an individual that is actually in harmony with society. Now, the question is, how does someone decide when you or myself are in harmony with society? Are there particular check boxes that we have to have in order that we are in harmony with society? Let me make this personal. I am sat here and as you can see I'm a veiled Muslim woman. I took it up a year ago voluntarily, and I reiterate that, of my own choice. It wasn't done because I was asked to do it. I believe that in my understanding of Islam that I have to cover and that's why I've done it. Since then, I have found no change in my lifestyle. I am Alhamdulillah (Praise to God) by profession a teacher. I work, I drive to school. I shop at the local supermarket. I go to the gym, although not too recently I haven't been. My lifestyle is just as similar to my non-Muslim colleagues and friends as a veiled Muslim. Now, can anyone say to me that I'm not integrating into my British citizenship? I am a proud British citizen and I do everything that I can do within my power to integrate into that society, and I don't allow this simple piece of cloth to stop me from doing it. What I find with regards to the motion is the face veil a barrier to integration, no. Is it an excuse for those who want to use it as a barrier to integration? Yes, it is. The only barrier I can see with the face veil is not a particular piece of cloth, it is the lack of understanding, it's ignorance on the part of those who don't understand what the veil is for. Now, I don't want to go down to a debate as to what the veil represents or why we wear it, but if people understood, if non-Muslims or other Muslims as well, if they understood why we cover, I think they wouldn't find it as hard to communicate with me or to actually be direct with me, and I think I have to underline that point, in fact. It's not the veil that is the barrier, it's ignorance surrounding the actual veil. As a veiled niqabi in Western society, I live my daily life, like I said, living a normal life. However, the way I choose to display my personal relationship with my Allah, I don't impose on anyone else. Walking down the street, I'm minding my own business, I'm not harming anyone else, and surely is that not a matter of my choice? For me to wear the veil as a badge of my belief, should that not be within my realm, if I believe that I am fully integrating into society? So I ask you, and I just want to finish off, just the fact that I am sat here, the fact that I have flown over from the UK, is that not proof in itself that I am integrated into society?


Ahmed Ahmed Younis is the former National Director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council in the US and will shortly take up the post of advisor to senior US government officials.

He is the author of 'American Muslims: Voir Dire' (Speak the Truth), a post-September 11 look at the reality of debate surrounding American Muslims and their country, which has also been translated into Arabic.

Mr. Younis served as National Director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) from 2004 to January 2007. During his tenure he lectured in Barcelona, Brussels, Kuala Lumpur, Madrid and Rome at academic and non-governmental institutions.

He is a member of the US Muslim World Advisory Committee of the United States Institute of Peace (USIP). He is also a regular speaker at government conferences, briefings and events covering topics such as terrorist financing, public diplomacy, identity/integration and issues affecting the Muslim American community.

Recently, he joined Ambassador Dennis Ross at the Search for Common Ground event to launch a bipartisan "US-Muslim World Initiative." In 2006 he was invited by the State Department to tour Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Kyrgyzstan where he met with government, community and religious leaders and visited madrassas across the region.

Mr. Younis is a frequent guest on numerous television and radio shows and his work has also been featured in several leading newspapers, including The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Associated Press and Los Angeles Times, as well as newspapers in 14 countries.

Before joining MPAC, he worked as an intern at the Office of the Legal Counsel of the Office of Legal Affairs of the United Nations. He was assigned to the Office of the Special Advisor to the Secretary General on Iraq.

Mr. Younis has studied and lived in Egypt and Saudi Arabia and is fluent in Arabic. He is a graduate of Washington & Lee School of Law.

AHMED YOUNIS
Well, I'm exercising my Muslim values in clapping for the other side. And dear brothers and sisters, it seems to me that the most reasonable thing to do here is to turn down this motion. It seems that symbols alone cannot be a block of integration but concepts themselves can. For example if a Muslim believes that voting in a Western society is haram (forbidden), that seems to me to be a fundamental block in his or her ability to integrate into a society. But for a person to go to their congressman or senator, to go to their Member of Parliament and say, 'You represent me, I have problems in my district, I need you to come and talk to the community, we need to find solutions together,' you're telling me that this is someone that is not integrated? You're telling me that this is someone who is not part and parcel of a society that is built upon comity amongst a group of people. To be quite frank with you, I think that much of this debate is not about the identity crisis of Muslims. It is about the identity crisis of the United Kingdom and many European societies. What is British identity? I can surely tell you what American identity is. It is founded upon a specific set of principles that the founders came to put to fruition, and that many communities, be they at the hands of oppression or be they the people that had the power, have found a way to bring those values to their daily life and to their lives on a regular basis. And finally I would say this analysis, it enables a clash of civilisations. It supports and legitimises those that say there is a fundamental disjunct, there is a fundamental friction between the world of Muslims and Islam and the world of the West. And I would humbly pose it for all you that this will simply increase the violence and the extremism, it certainly will not decrease it at all. And at the end I would just like to say, many a right has been taken away without a law that says that you do not have that right, and I surely worry when we are expected to believe in the good faith of governments to allow us to exercise our rights. Thank you, sir.


Audience Input


Freedom of choice for punks, hippies, freaks, why not the niqab wearers
AUDIENCE Q (F)
Good evening, Mr. Sebastian. You're as provocative as ever tonight, so I recognise you immediately. I must say that the four of them have really discussed their points very well, but I think that freedom of choice is freedom of choice. We have to bear up with punks, we have to bear up with hippies, we have to bear up with a lot of, you know, freaks in the society. So I think that the person herself or himself will eventually decide when to give it up. I personally, when I teach, it puts me a bit ill-at-ease to find some of my students with a niqab.
TIM SEBASTIAN
So it's a barrier?
AUDIENCE Q (F)
No, it's not a barrier.
TIM SEBASTIAN
If you're ill-at-ease, it doesn't assist then, does it.
AUDIENCE Q (F)
They put me ill-at-ease because, well, I think that their eyes have much more mischief than their hair.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Lord Ahmed.
LORD AHMED
in a society where a veil is probably seen as alien, as I said earlier on, where people fear, there's nothing wrong with those in a free society, if you're a punk or if you're wearing a short skirt or a niqab, there's nothing wrong with that, but can all of those people participate fully in a society, can they get a job? People with punk hair, can they get a job as a receptionist, in the banks, in the police service? Well, I'm afraid they don't. Actually in reality, what you're actually doing, you're restricting. We're not talking about religion, if it's a religious symbol like the hijab, this (niqab) is not a religious symbol. This is a sign of defiance and some of it has happened because of the American policies, the great values that Mr. Ahmed has been talking about. The Asian young people who have been doing it, their mothers wear the burqa, they don't wear a niqab and they've do ne it now just to ...
TIM SEBASTIAN
All right, let Ahmed Younis reply to that.
AHMED YOUNIS
What's so problematic here Nazir is that you are defining integration as being able to sit comfortably in every nook and cranny of Western society. I promise you I am fully integrated into America, I am not interested in walking into bars, I am not interested in supporting any kind of prostitution, I am not interested in supporting any injustice, but I am fully a part of Western society. There are many women that do not wear a veil that are not interested in becoming pirates or not interested in becoming police officers, so this zero sum game, all or nothing, you either fit everywhere or you fit nowhere, this is a double standard. It's not a standard that you make for any white Westerner.


GCC countries supporting  conservatism and petro-chemical spying/subversion vs moderates
AUDIENCE Q (M)
My question is that GCC countries (Gulf Cooperation Council - a grouping of six Gulf states) are involved in supporting those radicals who are promoting the veil. People like me who are moderate are not welcome to go to conferences, seminars etc. So in regards to security, how do I know that a niqab wearer is not a man wearing a veil going make some trouble somewhere in our petro-chemical industry?
TIM SEBASTIAN
I'm not sure that any of our panel particularly can respond to your question.
AHMED YOUNIS
Allow me to just pick up on one point, and that's the word 'moderate'. In the West, we are forced as Muslims to define moderate as a point on the spectrum between Conservative and Liberal. But of course for us as Muslims, we know one can be religiously conservative and a moderate, and one can be religiously liberal and a moderate, because the litmus test for moderation exists in the Koran, they do not have to do with one's political ideologies. A moderate is not someone who goes to the West and tells those governments what they want to hear, because then Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden and Muammar Gaddafi were moderates. A moderate is someone who follows the sunna (traditional social and legal custom and practice that constitutes proper observance of Islam) of the prophets of the law in the Koran.
REEM MAGHRIBI
The question of the veil is not in the Koran, and it was only practised centuries later, the face veil was only practised centuries later, after Islam's birth. It's not a requirement of Islam.
AHMED YOUNIS
And we are in full agreement on that. And this is not a religious discourse. I am not arguing that the veil is a part of Islamic law.
REEM MAGHRIBI
But when we present it, we present it as an Islamic right. People now think ...
AHMED YOUNIS
It's not an Islamic right.
REEM MAGHRIBI
But that is how it's presented. I am a Muslim and I practise the five fundamentals, and I believe I am a Muslim, but I do not belong to the image that Muslims in Britain have given themselves by fighting for something frankly so irrelevant compared to what's happening in Iraq and Afghanistan.


How can democracy be celebrated when denying the personal freedom to wear a niqab
AUDIENCE Q (M)
My question is to Lord Ahmed. Sir, you have reported that 57% of the British community believe that Muslims and their society are not doing enough to show a sign of good faith, and you say by removing the niqab that's a step in that direction. But I say we celebrate diversity and freedom but how can you celebrate democracy when you are forbidding an individual's choice and a person's right? That's my question.
LORD AHMED
Thank you. Integration is a two-way process. I think you're absolutely right that British society also needs to reach out and make sure that Muslims feel part of British society, and that's why I'm saying that we need to also enjoy the wealth of our nation. We need to be participating. These are some of the faults that we have. You see, with all due respect, Ayshah, when she talked about her role in integration in a school, she teaches in an Islamic school, she goes to a supermarket probably run by a Muslim and in the community ...
AYSHAH ISMAIL
Lord Sainsbury. (former chairman of the British supermarket chain Sainsbury's)
LORD AHMED
The point is, we have parallel communities in Britain today, and that's not helping the society.
TIM SEBASTIAN
All right, Ayshah Ismail, you want to come back on this.
AYSHAH ISMAIL
It's fair to say, Lord Sainsbury is not a Muslim, he's a Jew.
AHMED YOUNIS
And the getto-isation of Muslims...
LORD AHMED
But the school that you teach is that a Jewish school as well?
AYSHAH ISMAIL
No, no, no, I'll come to that. I have chosen to work in a Muslim school and that was actually before I took up the niqab. Yes, it is easier for me to teach without my niqab.
LORD AHMED
Would you have gotten a job in a mainstream school?
AYSHAH ISMAIL
No. Personally speaking, from a teaching perspective, I don't feel I could teach with a niqab. However, for me that's not ...
LORD AHMED
I rest my case.
AYSHAH ISMAIL
No, no, let's not rest my case. For me, I don't see that as taking a step backwards. What I actually see is, yes, I have taken a step sideways. There are particular niches in the community that I will fit in a lot easier. That does not necessarily mean, like Ahmed said, I don't have to put a tick in every box that I should be viable for everything. There are particular things that I will fulfil a lot better and I can do at the same time being at ease with my deen (religion).
TIM SEBASTIAN
But you pay a price, don't you, for wearing the niqab?
AYSHAH ISMAIL
Yes, I do. But does that mean that I'm not a fully contributing member of my society?
REEM MAGHRIBI
I think it's wonderful that you work in a Muslim school and you want to represent and help your community, but unfortunately you've put yourself, you've given yourself a barrier that when British people want to hear you, automatically they see you as 'the other', so however wonderful, whatever your words are going to be, they've already downgraded you. It's an awful feeling, and we have so many big issues to talk about that it's in our own benefit not veil ourselves, not to put a barrier between ourselves and those in whose society, whose country we now belong.
AYSHAH ISMAIL
I'm an active member of the Stop the War Coalition.
REEM MAGHRIBI
That's preaching to the converted, they already believe, they already are fighting for the same cause.
AYSHAH ISMAIL
I'm just talking about getting my words across, and I've got a rally to speak to on Wednesday night. I have no problem whatsoever in conveying my message about my anti-war stance, that yes, the war in Iraq was wrong, and I don't want to go down that road by the way, but ...
LORD AHMED
But would you stand for local elections and stand as a candidate?
AYSHAH ISMAIL
And the non-Muslims in the audience and the Muslims have no problem in listening to my words, and I have a good effect on them. I don't want to stand for local elections.
LORD AHMED
But how can you represent your people if you were no t in a place where you have power? The Stop the War Coalition is good, but it is only a campaigning organisation. You have to be working as a councillor, as a Member of Parliament. You need to be in power, in places of power where you can help people.
TIM SEBASTIAN
All right, let her answer.
AYSHAH ISMAIL
But Lord Ahmed, we're not talking about representing people. Reem made a point that I will find it difficult getting my words across. No, I don't.
REEM MAGHRIBI
You're preaching to the converted in the Stop the War Coalition. They do fabulous work, but you actually have become a representation of me, and that's not fair, because I want to be heard, and when people hear that I'm Muslim, they automatically assume, 'Oh, radical, they want to wear a veil.' This is an image that has been put on and it doesn't represent me.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Ahmed Younis, you want to come in.
AHMED YOUNIS
You want to super-impose your perspective upon her perspective.
AYSHAH ISMAIL
Should I as a Muslim be represented by someone who's not veiled?
REEM MAGHRIBI
I think as Muslims it's in our interest, if we want to be heard by the West and we all agree they misunderstand us completely, we have big issues to fight, and they refuse to listen to us because they see us as backward because we sexualise women by making them cover their face. I am not a sexual object. I want to be involved in politics, I want to be heard.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Okay, very briefly, let me just ask Ahmed Younis to make a point very briefly and then we're going to move on.
AHMED YOUNIS
I must humbly ask Nazir, did the chicken come before the egg? Was it not a parallel society? Were Muslims in Europe not living in a parallel ghetto-ised society before the face veil ever came around? Are we not blaming ourselves for the oppression that has been brought upon us because of the lack of an ability to be part and parcel of society? I mean, you are a member of the House of Lords. It seems to me that you would take responsibility initially for this parallel life, this ghetto-ised existence before you are to ask a Muslim sister to take away something that defines her identity.
TIM SEBASTIAN
All right. Briefly. We have a lot of questions out there.
LORD AHMED
You have to understand, Muslims have been making progress in British society. There are no no-go areas. There are 10 members in the House of Commons and in the House of Lords, and I have to say, the first one has just entered in the (US) Congress and I welcome that. You need a lot of work to catch up with the British society, the way British has embraced Muslims and Islam in the United Kingdom.


Why make a big deal of the niqab as opposed to other religious/cultural markers
AUDIENCE Q (F)
Just listening to the debate, I was just wondering how come the niqab is such a big deal. I mean, there are other religious groups who have identifications. It could be a dress or a ring or any of those kinds. Why do we always sit and debate about this and not about any of the other kinds of coverings.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Well, actually this in fairness to the Doha Debates, this is the first time we've debated this issue. Lord Ahmed.
LORD AHMED
Well, in Britain people wear the hijab, people wear the salwar kameez (a traditional dress worn by both women and men in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India and Pakistan), they wear all sorts of dresses. We don't have a problem with that. People can wear whatever they like. We have a society that allows that. We have as I said 13 major religions, 300 languages that are spoken in London, we have no problem with people wearing turbans, the hijab or even their religious dress. The niqab, for all the points that have been made earlier on, is a sign of separation because there's a fear of the unknown, because it's a new phenomenon within the young radical people within Britain, because people think that those who become radical will become extremist, they may lead them into even further extremism like those who were involved with 7/7, God forbid, or anything else. My worry is that a person wearing the niqab will become a symbol of Muslims and Islam, and will exclude me and many others from representing my point of view.
AYSHAH ISMAIL
Lord Ahmed, can I just say one thing. When we're talking about niqab wearers, we're talking about a minority within a minority. The Muslims are already a minority so we're talking about the hundred, the hundreds, of women actually covering. But can you please tell me, of the niqabi-clad women, how many have committed any crimes? How many have actually been a threat to society? We're the most if anything peaceful, law-abiding citizens of the country.
TIM SEBASTIAN
I don't think that was the issue actually, was it?
REEM MAGHRIBI
I want to remind people what this debate is about. It's not about whether we have the right to wear the veil, it's about whether the veil hinders integration, and it does, and it's been proven to do that in Britain at the very least because they see us as 'the other', and they don't only see people wearing a veil as the other, because people wanting to wear a veil have fought under the right of Islamic rights, and therefore they've hindered integration for all Muslims.
AHMED YOUNIS
Let's say that we could clearly articulate that the veil, the niqab, is not a barrier to integration in other Western societies such as the United States and Canada, would you still support this position which is that the niqab is a barrier to integration in the West? I am telling you this conversation is irrelevant in the United States, and that leads me to believe your position is born out of your context.
LORD AHMED
In America, Muslims are second-class citizens anyway, my friend, since 9/11 and the way they've been treated, Abu Ghraib and ...
TIM SEBASTIAN
I think before this breaks down completely, we'll move on [...]


Niqab or not, depending on personal choice that day; Muslims are never accepted anyway
AUDIENCE Q (F)
I don't always wear the niqab. I sometimes I wear niqab. I'm a British-born professional and I do feel that your point of view Lord Nazir, you're just playing your political cards right. I don't feel you're fairly representing the community. As I said, I don't always wear niqab, but I would defend the right of the people that do want to wear the niqab. I would also question you and Reem, you say that if we want to integrate, we have to be like the society. Believe me, I've lived for 35 years in the UK. You will never be fully accepted, as long as you want to call yourself a Muslim, you can integrate but don't assimilate.
REEM MAGHRIBI
But why add to it? If you already feel that you're treated differently, why add to it by also covering your face? You already feel that you're separated or the British society have separated you. Instead of trying to meet them in the middle and encourage them to have a dialogue with you, you're covering your face. I mean, what does that say to them? 'I don't care actually. I don't want this dialogue.'
AUDIENCE Q (F)
There is a very basic point of the people that do wear niqab that I do have to defend, and they do believe it is Islamic, so they're not doing it for me or you, they're doing it for their love of their deen (religion) and for the love of Allah, so you have to respect that.
REEM MAGHRIBI
Islam is a thinking man's religion and it's a progressive one. Abuse of rights, it's very important in Islam, and the abuse of rights doctrine of Islam says that no right exists absolutely if it actually affects the progress and the message of Islam, and if we by wearing the veil are showing that we are not willing to communicate, then we are actually abusing Islam.
AUDIENCE Q (F)
I put on a hijab at British university. That was my own choice through my own education.
REEM MAGHRIBI
I have no problem with the hijab.
AUDIENCE Q (F)
Yes, so why not?
REEM MAGHRIBI
Some people do have a problem with hijab, mainstream British society.
Audience questionAUDIENCE Q (F)
Of course they don't recognise hijab.
REEM MAGHRIBI
We're talking about the niqab. You're worried about the hijab so you add to it by wearing the niqab.
AUDIENCE Q (F)
Why is the hijab all right then? Of course I know when I wear a hijab in British mainstream society, I am looked at as different, so for my sisters who want to wear a niqab, why refuse them that right? It is their basic right.
REEM MAGHRIBI
People feel unsafe.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Let me just ask you a question. Why do you alternate between wearing the niqab and not wearing the niqab? What is the niqab to you?
AUDIENCE Q (F)
The basic reason is a positive barrier, it is as a protection. The whole idea of covering and the hijab is for protection, modesty and most importantly obeying the laws, the Koran and the sunna (traditional social and legal custom and practice that constitutes proper observance of Islam). So it's just the religion, it's just something religious. Now, for some people I know, they really believe wearing the niqab is a religious obligation.
TIM SEBASTIAN
But sometimes you want that protection and sometimes you don't.
AUDIENCE Q (F)
Yes, absolutely. Sometimes when I go down to the souq (market) here in Doha and I'm at the fish market and it's full of men, I enjoy wearing my niqab because I don't want to be stared at by all those men. It depends exactly where I am and at what time. Some people like my sister in the UK, would never take her niqab off. I respect her right. She's not going to be a fully integrated member possibly of society, but she has the right to at least wear the niqab.


Does the responsibility for any of the problem with integration and the niqab lie with the Westerners
AUDIENCE Q (F)
We're hearing a lot about how the veil isn't integration, you're seen as the outsider. I'd just like to ask the question, does any of the fault lie on the other side? Does any of the fault lie on the side of those who are seeing a barrier, those who do not look beyond a simple piece of cloth, to try to get to know what's behind that. Are we valuing an image? I remember personally the first time I saw someone in a niqab. I did not grow up a Muslim, I am a convert, but I thought that they were very different, but then when I saw them without it, I was frankly, I was ashamed at how much I had let a simple piece of cloth be a barrier, so my question is, to all panellists, does some of the blame lie with the other side?

REEM MAGHRIBI
Yes, very much so. However, they have the upper hand, they are stronger. If we are in, we're talking about Western society, we, even if it was three or four generations ago, moved to their country and we want to be integrated, we're putting the barrier up. It is certainly partly their ignorance, but if we want them to listen to us, it's our responsibility then to make the change, to have them listen to us, and your example shows that people, I mean, we live on public image, that's life, that's politics, and that's what happened. If we want to change, if we want to be stronger, then we have to do it, we can't expect them to do it for us. So it's not about the right to wear it, it's about look at our situation, our circumstance now, do we want them to listen to us? Yes. Should we put a barrier, a literal barrier up for them not to listen to us, to have an extra excuse not to listen to us? I don't think so.
TIM SEBASTIAN
What do you think of that? Do you accept that argument?
AUDIENCE Q (F)
I think again you're kind of putting the blame on the other side.
REEM MAGHRIBI
The responsibility, not the blame.
AUDIENCE Q (F)
Responsibility, but is there no responsibility for the other side. We're saying we want to be...
REEM MAGHRIBI
They're stronger, they don't need to.
AUDIENCE Q (F)
We're saying we want to be a multi-cultural society. What is multi-cultural? Multi- cultural is just a hijab and not a niqab?
REEM MAGHRIBI
Let's be realistic.
AUDIENCE Q (F)
Who decides that?
REEM MAGHRIBI
Let's be realistic.
AUDIENCE Q (F)
You and I decide it because we are comfortable seeing someone's face but how about we learn to be comfortable seeing someone's eyes.
REEM MAGHRIBI
How are you going to teach them, how are you going to teach them?
AUDIENCE Q (F)
You tell me. You tell me. We've got brains, we're smart people. Let's share.
REEM MAGHRIBI
Yes, but compromise. The very step, getting somebody, this works in life, business, politics, the very first step to getting somebody to hear you, to listen to you is to move closer to them.
AHMED YOUNIS
So do you feel like in the West when Jewish Americans were oppressed and the Holocaust was happening and people were taking off their yarmulkes and they were changing their names and they stopped eating kosher food, would you support that, you support someone leaving who they are in a society that is supposed to be built on pluralism, in order that they yield to the oppressive majority, so that they can make the oppressive majority feel comfortable? Do I as a person ...
TIM SEBASTIAN
Let her answer that.
REEM MAGHRIBI
Is the Jewish community, based on your argument, you know the US better, is the Jewish community strong in the US? Yes. Did they have to sacrifice to get there? Yes.
AHMED YOUNIS
No, no, no, no.
REEM MAGHRIBI
Do they have a strong cultural identity now? Yes.
AHMED YOUNIS
No, no. It just so happens that that's the example that I used. Let's use a race based example, so let's use a race based example. So does a black American have to act like a white man in order to get a job in a white man's firm?
REEM MAGHRIBI
What does acting like white man mean? What have they given up?
LORD AHMED
What happened in New Orleans during the ...
TIM SEBASTIAN
Can we have just one person speaking at a time, otherwise nobody will be able to understand you.
AHMED YOUNIS
This idea that the person who is suffering oppression has the primary responsibility to alleviate the discomfort of the oppressor is an unjust concept.
REEM MAGHRIBI
We're talking about the real world. We're not talking about what's just, we're talking about the real world. You want justice, you move closer to them. You endear yourself to them, then you bring them to your side, to your side. We're talking about real life, politics, life, religion. What are we going to do, just sit there and say take it or leave it? You know what they'll do, they'll leave it and we'll stay behind.
AHMED YOUNIS
We're not saying take it or leave it. We're saying make a space in the public square for each individual or community that wants to realise their identity in a specific way.
REEM MAGHRIBI
But they're not doing it.


If diversity of dress by Muslim women is tolerated in Qatar, why not in the UK
AUDIENCE Q (M)
I study in UK and I see many women wearing the niqab in the streets and it's OK with them, even with the British citizens, it's okay. I don't see anything that's wrong with that and I don't know what the problem is, people can do what they want. It's freedom of choice. In Qatar we have some Muslim people who wear short skirts and wear bikinis in the swimming pools, and it's okay with us, so why it's not okay with them.
REEM MAGHRIBI
If this was a theological debate, nobody would win, but the argument, the debate today is, does it hinder integration, and it does and we are the ones suffering, because we're not being heard.
AUDIENCE Q (M)
I don't believe so. If we do this, we will lose our dignity and our values and our beliefs, that's what I believe.
REEM MAGHRIBI
Wearing the veil?


Educated Westerners can handle a piece of cloth, accept the niqab
AUDIENCE Q (F)
Thank you. Good evening. Isn't turning a flimsy piece of material into a physical and psychological barrier further stigmatising women who follow Islam, and I'm saying this as a non-Muslim Westerner. I come from France and I believe that as an educated person, I can accept someone who wears a niqab, and that it doesn't make a difference to me.
REEM MAGHRIBI
Though it's not directly relevant to the argument of whether it hinders integration, I do agree. I think it's unfortunate that we have sexualised women in such a way and that we have been so negative towards men that we seem to say that all they can see women as is sexual objects. We do work both in this community and in the West, we work together, men and women, we have equal rights, and this is a fact, there have been surveys, we now that covering our face is creating a barrier that Western people, particularly British people. In the case that I know, they do not feel that they can relate to us, but we're fighting for that right, even though if they do relate to us, we could fight for bigger rights like the importance of not attacking the next Muslim country.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Let me just ask Ahmed Younis to come in.
AHMED YOUNIS
I'm just going to say, Reem, that it's very problematic to me. I am someone who has no family members that wear the niqab or the hijab, and it is my Western identity that has me sitting on this side of the table, and much of what you're saying sounds quasi socialist or communist, that the individual must give up their own identity, their own freedoms for the benefit of the whole of the community around them. Just leave aside that I'm Muslim, as a Westerner I feel that's not how I run my life. I don't sacrifice an individual's ability to become a part of society for 'the good of the general community.'
REEM MAGHRIBI
But the way it's worked, that's how it is, because they have labelled all Muslims, they have given media time to the more radical or what they call extremists. That's the way it will work. It's intentional because politically they need to suppress us, so they make us look at a whole, they pick the examples that make us look the most fundamental and extreme and so the whole point, concept of Islam is to move us forward.

The Result

The vote is 56.7% for the motion, 43.3 against.
The motion has been carried.


What is your impression of the relationship between the niqab and integration?
What parts of the debate strike you the most?
What questions would you have asked the panelists?
Who is responsible for integration of immigrant groups? the immigrants? the majority community? both?
What happens when the group itself evolves, whether from new waves of immigration (different social, religious, or ethnic strata from the same home country), or new developments within the community (eg greater conservatism, or greater wealth, changed age demographic)? Are the people more or less integrated as a group? as individuals?
If you have worn or do wear a niqab what has been your experience of wearing it?
Does this change depending on what country you are in?
Do you wear the niqab in some countries or regions but not others? Why?
If you are a man, would you prefer that your wife, mother, sister, daughter wear the niqab or not?
Is your preference the same no matter the country?
Have you had problems because a woman you were with was/was not wearing the niqab?
If you don't wear the niqab do you have a different impression of the women wearing it depending on what country you are in?
A man told me this morning that for him unless he can see the person's face they don't exist--do you agree?
How would you have voted, for or against the motion?
Any other comments, thoughts, experiences?

23 comments:

Sana said...

Thanks a lot for posting this. I found the arguments made by those pro the motion quite, overall, weak and all over the place. I love the question posited by the last woman. Rock on.

Chiara said...

Sana--Welcome! Thank you for your comment. I'm glad you liked the debate over all, and took the time to assess the arguments. Yes the last questioner posed a really good question of non-Muslims giving the niqab more power than it has. Thanks for your comment.

As you are based in Montreal I hope you saw the posts here on Quebec's proposed ban linked in my introduction to this one, and will comment on them as well as newer and older posts.

Thanks again!

Wendy said...

"Promoters of a ban denounce the veils as a threat to public security, an affront to women's dignity, a negation of gender equality or an intrusion of religion on public life. Concern over radical Islamism echoes through their arguments."
The above was in an article this morning out of Belgium.

The debate was interesting and I have not changed my views on the niqab. It is a barrier I don't want to see. In fact I don't want to see anybody's face covered unless it is so cold outside that skin will freeze or there is a raging sand storm. Cover your head, wear an abaya but please let me see your face.

The niqab is a small piece of cloth. The burka is a rather large one. Both hide identity and neither are requirements of Islam except in the minds of some. If it's cultural....well, not all things cultural are tolerated either in 'multi-cultural/mosaic/integrated' societies - things like genital mutilation, honour killings, forced marriages. Now the niqab is nothing as serious and certainly nothing comparatively the same but I say this because there are always some cultural activities that will not be legal in all countries. Muslims are not being marginalized or put down or being discriminated against by outlawing the niqab (or burka) in Quebec or in the whole of Canada if such a law were to be put in place. People can't walk down the street nude either and there are some who say it is their 'religion' to be nudists.

As for some of your questions:-
I think that integration takes work on both sides but the immigrant needs to understand the rules (both spoken and not spoken) of their new country and expect to follow them. They should not expect to come in and change existing laws or values of their 'chosen' country.

I do not wear a niqab and I was not shocked or bothered to see them worn in KSA. I was shocked to see their increased use in Sudan and was not comfortable with it there.
I can definitely speak for my husband in that he does not like the niqab and absolutely detested seeing the female members of his family in KSA wearing them and was saddened to see more wearing them in Sudan.

I don't agree with the man who said a person doesn't exist if he can't see their face. If I have to converse with a niqab wearing woman in Canada I will do so but I will not be comfortable with it.

Thanks for keeping the topic going, Chiara.

coolred38 said...

cont...

10. I have to say my personal experience with women who wear it is a sense of superiority they have over those that dont. Im sure not all of them act like this...but from my experience..its true.

11. The man who told u people dont exist unless he can see their faces...probably treats women rather badly anyhow..and people in general as well. If you can erase somebody from existance merely because you cant see their whole body...well...you arent one that tolerates very much in life anyhow. People arent there to please HIM...he needs to get over himself.

I would have voted against it. Women should be able to wear what they want when they want where they want. Men should have nothing to do with that decision.

There are so many more important pressing issues in the world today...this is hardly a blip on the radar but its touted time and again as something huge and relevant to the advancement of the ME and its women. Have debates about the mahrem system or the unjust divorce laws etc ...then bring up niqab and intergration

coolred38 said...

1. Niqab represents more than just a womans right to cover her face...for the West as well as the East, it has a meaning..and that meaning is "I dont want u to see me"...coming from the middle east its expected of a woman to not want to be seen by others..so the niqab raises no eyebrows...but then again..alot about what goes on in the middle east is done "under cover"...in other words...alot is "unseen" even when its right in front of you. In the West we prefer things more open and in your face. We like to know what we are dealing with. For sure we have our secrets and privacy issues but for the most part we want to be able to see who we are dealing with and go from there. "Hiding" is a form of deception...so to speak.

As far as intergration is concerned...I think people against niqab or more against the whole ideology behind the niqab rather than the cloth itself. It also doesnt help that usually the niqabi clad woman is walking next to her "Muslim" husband who has abandoned HIS "Islamic" garb in favour of a more western style of clothing...so the blatant unfairness of it is manifested in many ways.

2. Ayshah Ismail states that she chose to wear the veil..nobody asked her too. Thats interesting because according to Muslims, GOD asked her too...or rather..told her too..as well as all other Muslim women. Otherwise this wouldnt even be a debate. Just say its our culture and get on with it...no need to bring religion into it at all. Just a thought.

3. What question would I have asked...Something along the lines of ...why are all of you here today debating this issue when there are so many other ACTUAL HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS going on in your own countries as well as across the globe. This, in comparison, means nothing.

4. Whose responsible? You cannot force intergration..then you will have a very resistant mutiny on your hands so I believe intergration is up to the immigrants with polite encouragement from the community.

5.What happens when the group evolves? Isnt that called life? We complain when people are rigid and unbending then worry about when they change. Just let it happen..cant stop it anyhow. And hopefully the change will be in a positive direction.

6. I tried the niqab on a few times...just to get a feel for it. I did wear hijab for nearly 20 years so had questions about niqab. I personally found it claustrophobic and my breathing was labored. Couldnt get it off fast enough. Im sure not every womans experience is like mine but I just dont like anything covering my face....Im hoping God takes a womans personal capabilities into account when coming up with these supposed rules and orders.

7. Never wore it here there or anywhere. But I know women who do choose when and where they wear it.

8. Not a man. Thank God.

9. Have I had problems cause the woman I was with didnt wear niqab...not so much for that but for the hijab. Those were my own daughters...and to some extent myself. My rigid neighborhood in Bahrain assumed ALL women had to follow the rules that some had made. We got a lot of heat over that...but I encouraged my daughters to wear or not wear what they deemed appropriate for them...in regards to the hijab. For myself...I was the Western Whore so got less heat....nobody expected me to have an ounce of modesty or goodness in me so I got off a little more lightly.

I might add that this was after i divorced pedophile Muslim husband. Everyone assumed it was HIM that kept us all on the straight and narrow...soon as he was gone...we apparently swandived straight into slutty western ways. Whatever.

Usman said...

"well, not all things cultural are tolerated either in 'multi-cultural/mosaic/integrated' societies - things like genital mutilation, honour killings, forced marriages."

The things you listed are not "cultural things". They are crimes, and taken as criminal activities in those countries. Just like there happen crimes in the west and we don't say that it is "western cultural thing."

"They should not expect to come in and change existing laws or values of their 'chosen' country."

When I came to Canada, certain laws did not exist. That does not mean that I would have no say in the law making in this country in future.Your "logic" also fell flat to the reality that some Muslims are born in this country and hence Canada was not their "choice". If they are to go back to their parent's country then you too get a ticket back to Europe!. Also, in multicultural Canada, Immigrants are not subject to adopt the dominate culture. This comes from the literal definition of Multiculturalism.

Your comments and tone reflect more of a person who never ever met anybody outside of his culture and race rather than somebody of having cross culture profile.

Usman said...

"People can't walk down the street nude either"

Yes You can walk topless in Ontario. May be it is not nude enough for you. No problem, get your voice heard for your nudists rights.

Wendy said...

Re - genital mutilation... of course it's a crime but it's done under the guise of "culture" and in some countries it definitely is NOT a crime nor is honour killing.

"When I came to Canada, certain laws did not exist. That does not mean that I would have no say in the law making in this country in future.Your "logic" also fell flat to the reality that some Muslims are born in this country and hence Canada was not their "choice". If they are to go back to their parent's country then you too get a ticket back to Europe!. Also, in multicultural Canada, Immigrants are not subject to adopt the dominate culture. This comes from the literal definition of Multiculturalism."

You think I don't know that??? There are only one group of people here who didn't immigrate and they are the First Nations. One of the oldest mosques in Canada is in Edmonton and it was constructed in 1938. Muslims were in Canada well before that. I certainly am not suggesting that anyone move back to their country of origin once they become a Canadian. Once they are Canadian they are protected to the fullest extent of the law and certainly must participate in all ways within the country as Canadians.
We don't have a law about face covering in Canada and I doubt we ever will so it's all discussion anyway. I'm suggesting that people immigrating anywhere should be aware of laws, customs and cultural issues and should not expect them to change but I am not so naive to know that laws will change and maybe even the niqab will be outlawed. :)

Usman, you know nothing about me, my background, my education, travels or family. What you should know if you don't already is that I'm Canadian, I'm entitled to my opinions as you are yours, I respect all religions and even if I am not Muslim I do know a little about Islam and am in the process of reading an English translation of the Quran.

Wendy said...

CoolRed - you've almost made me change my mind with your final two paragraphs. I am like a dog with a bone but I can and do sometimes drop it. :)

Usman said...

"genital mutilation... of course it's a crime but it's done under the guise of "culture" and in some countries it definitely is NOT a crime nor is honour killing."

Honour killing happens in Pakistan and Penalty of committing this crime is hanging. The reason some killers walk away is because the system is corrupt. More or less is the case in Somalia where female genital mutilation happens in some tribal regions. But since Somalia has one of the most corrupt and broken system in Africa, implementation of the law is not easy. In general, the large majority of population in these countries do not consider it "cultural norm". Of course a criminal always says the otherwise.

"I am not so naive to know that laws will change and maybe even the niqab will be outlawed."

This is pretty much your desire and almost the case in Quebec. It may not take a long time before they get "inspiration" from Belgium.

"and am in the process of reading an English translation of the Quran."

Oh!, the burden lies on us, ma'am, that you put such an effort to know about us.

Susanne said...

Interesting! With the exception of the teacher activist on the panel and the women like her, I do think niqab hinders integration by sending off "stay-away-I'm-hiding" nonverbal cues, but I support women being free to wear whatever they want (within reason.)

countrygirl said...

As I said zillion of time I'm for a total ban of the nijab/burka for a various reason :security how can you tell who's in under it? it's a barrier to integration who is wearing it IMHO doesn't want to integrate for sure she won't mingle with infidel (IMHO) for sure there is a tiny minority of converted who is wearing the nijab, I've visited thier blog and from their own words it emerge that they completely forgotten that once they were western women with their right, they meet only with their sisters and so on.

This ban in Belgium, FRance, Quebec would affect only a tiny minotity of women but I want to point out that several years ago in Egypt there were few womean wearing it and now they are rising...I don't want to see ghosts in my home town.

The rist responsible to integration is the immigrant, when someone imigrate in a foreign country is foremost duty is to learn the language and know that there is some social rules that could be different from his/her home country and respect them. SHe/he must understand that maybe their children will want to change religion/mayy someone from another religion/not wearing hjiab or nijab none force those immigrant to imigrate and for those nijab converted who's their ultimate goal is going to a true islamic country I'm wondering why they don't move there.

I saw those women wearing the nijab as ghosts, they exist only for their
"sisters" or male relatives.


I think multiculturalism here in the western countries is too far extreme now you cna't have Christmas songs/nativities in schools because you can offend the pupils from other religion (code word for muslims) you can't give leaflet about christianity during an middle east street festival (if happened in the US) and so on

Women wearing nijab do so because they want to be modest but by wearing it they are like a sore thumb.

Usman said...

"I think multiculturalism here in the western countries is too far extreme now you cna't have Christmas songs/nativities in schools because you can offend the pupils from other religion (code word for muslims)"

Oh!, the burden on our heads!. Countrygirl, I am so sorry that your country has made some ridiculous rules/laws to "please" Muslims. My apologies to countrygirl. Believe me, It is my wish that Italy, along with a couple of other countries in Europe, outlaw Islam and ban the Muslim immigration to end this headache all at once. There would be some furry initially, but everything will be settled down eventually. Italy belongs to Italians, France belongs to French, No Arab, No Pakistani has no business to stay there. I am not joking here. I am dead serious.

Wendy said...

Are you excluding Hindus, Sikhs, Jews, Rastafarians, Buddhists,and all the other religions in Canada from your little rant? Pity if you are because Islam doesn't rate any higher or lower.

Countrygirl said...

What I meant is that some "PC teacher" thought so THEY thought that christmas carols, nativities could offend muslim kids......I didn't say anything against muslim and Islam. I reckon that the majority part of immigrant muslim is against it....I mean a couple of years ago one muslim father took out his two daughters from a schools where the teacher decided to "ban" Christmas songs and nativities because he thought that a teacher should belive something and guess what he enrolled his two daughters in a catholic school.

What I meant is that Europe, USA and Canada are doing too much to accomodate immigrants meanwhile the latters are doing too little to integrate themselves.

Usman said...

"I didn't say anything against muslim and Islam."

haha.....

Don't you even know what you type?

I mean, seriously!. I came to North America considering it Land of Immigrants. Which it is, anyway. I would never ever imagine myself immigrating to any European country. Why spending life there when a significant majorly don't welcome you? I really don't blame Europeans here. They are certainly right. Who feels comfortable seeing large flock of immigrants from alien culture roaming your street, taking away jobs etc. They got financial problems, so better build their own country.

I personally don't accuse any country of committing bigotry if they make certain immigration laws to reduce migration from relatively incompatible civilizations. I successfully convinced two of my friends who were studying in Europe not to stay there after they finish studies. Either head to NA or go home.

Some people might feel this stance as bizarre and racist. I see it pretty rational.

countrygirl said...

For sure I won't miss you Usman here in Europe.....

Wendy said...

Countrygirl, the Christmas songs/Nativity/etc was stopped my governments who want to be too politically correct. There was never a request by any religious group, to my knowledge, to stop them. In fact it seems that every year some religious leader other than Christian writes a letter asking why Christian celebrations have been curtailed. The last article I remember was in the Vancouver sun written by a Sikh leader questioning why our religious Christmas songs, plays, etc. had been stopped and requested that we celebrate things Christian. I can't think of any other religious group ever who has suggested Christian celebrations/holidays be set aside.

Chiara said...

Thank you all for your comments and thoughts on the niqab and its role in integration/failure to integrate and on whose responsibility that is.

I will comment more substantively tomorrow, and I hope others will also join in the ongoing dialogue here, in the meantime.

Usman and Countrygirl--LOL :)

Susanne said...

Usman, I know we didn't get off to the best start, but if you are ever in the southern US, I'd like to meet you. I can't cook Indian food like Oby though. Sorry. :)

But I do listen pretty well. Really. I'd like to hear your perspective on many issues.

Usman said...

Susanne,

I would like to taste southern food. :) , and sure, I will drop by North Carolina someday, Inshallah. Or maybe if you ever head to Toronto, then let me know.

See you soon!

Susanne said...

Usman, sounds good! One day, Lord willing. :)

Anonymous said...

Just to say one thing to all of you, Niqab IS NOT ISLAMIC Dress its a custom dress in some Arab-land.

Sadly Muslims they can not make differences between what Customs and what Islamic rule which stated in koran

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