2022-10-14, Addendum 2022-10-19
Iranians, especially Iranian women, are currently in revolt against the theocratic and tyrannical regime of their country. The Islamic veil has become the symbol of extreme religious repression and removing this stifling symbol has become the quintessential act of resistance. By removing it publicly, Iranian women risk violence, prison, even their lifes. On September 13th, the young student Mahsa Amini was arrested by the morality police because she was wearing her veil incorrectly. Three days later she died, apparently from a blow to the head. Since then, more than 156 persons have been killed by law enforcement, according to Iran Human Rights (IHR).
Islam is arguably the most misogynistic of all major religions. The Islamic Republic of Iran, established in 1979, imposes a strict version of Islam. Wearing the veil in public is compulsory for women. They are even forbidden to dance or sing in public.
Meanwhile, several Western countries, including Canada, go so far as to spend public funds to promote the wearing of the hijab, even claiming that this despicable outfit is liberating! This policy is not only irrational and irresponsible, it is obscene, especially in the current context where Iranian women are risking their lives to get rid of it.
The Islamic veil is no mere article of clothing. The true nature of the veil is that it is an ambulatory prison for women, a vehicle for extreme misogyny. It is a manifestation of rape culture, holding women responsible for men’s libido and sexual misbehaviour. It conveys the message that a woman who does not wear it, especially a Muslim woman, is unclean and deserves to spend eternity in hell. The Islamic veil is the banner of Islamists, such as the Muslim Brotherhood, who use veiled women to mark and expand their territory.
On October 6th last, Member of the European Parliament François-Xavier Bellamy put forward a resolution, in solidarity with the mobilization of Iranian women, that European institutions stop funding campaigns which promote the Islamic veil. His proposal met with such overwhelming opposition–especially from the so-called “left” (which should instead be called the “Islamoleft”)–that it was neither debated nor voted on. (However, see Addendum below.) According the the historian Pierre Vermeren, “Europe acts foolishly in the face of lobbying by the Muslim Brotherhood.”
Here in Canada, the celebration of the Islamic veil—in commercial advertising, on television, by federal institutions, in the military, at citizenship ceremonies and even when worn by children—is a national disgrace. The hijab in such contexts is already inappropriate. Face coverings such as the niqab are even worse. (See also Open Letter to the CMAJ and Paediatrics & Child Health, 24 #4)
Above all, the question of the veil cannot be reduced to one of choice. The veil is imposed for fundamentalist religious reasons, to stifle freedom, to consolidate the political power of Islamists. If not for such constraints, almost no-one would ever wear it.
One of the most contemptible pseudo-arguments used by some antisecularists (such as those who oppose Quebec Bill 21) is the false symmetry which they attempt to draw between imposing the veil and restricting its use. They want us to buy into the idea that restricting the wearing of religious symbols such as the veil, for the purposes of religious neutrality in the public service, is on a par with the forced wearing in Iran where Iranian women risk prison or death. There is, of course, no similarity whatsoever.
The heroic struggle of Iranian women and men to overthrow the Islamist regime and get rid of the compulsory veil is proof of the necessity of banning such religious symbols worn by teachers and civil servants in positions of authority. As Mona Eltahawy, author of Headscarves and Hymens, has observed, “Western women who wear the veil contribute to the subservience of women elsewhere in the world for whom wearing the veil is an obligation.” Rather than celebrate the Islamic veil, our governments and institutions should instead discourage the wearing of such misogynistic symbols. If some women want to wear such accoutrements, whether out of foolishness, fanaticism or for any other reason, let them do so in their private lives, but certainly not while working as representatives of the State.
In the words of Yolande Geadah, who testified before Quebec Superior Court in support of Bill 21,
“There is no common measure between the obligation of the hijab, whatever the justification (religious, moral or other), and its restriction in certain places in the name of the principle of religious neutrality. It is high time to reject this deception based on false logic!”
Solidarity with Iranians, and in particular with Iranian women who refuse that wretched rag, the veil!
In a recent tweet, the Member of European Parliament Bellamy announces that he re-submitted his proposition and it was adopted! Excellent news!
“Battle won. During the vote on the budget, I re-tabled with our EPP colleagues an amendment to prohibit the European Commission from funding new campaigns promoting the hijab: it has just been adopted by Parliament. An important victory, thanks to your support.”
More Relevant Links
- La vie des iraniennes compte ! (“Iranian Women’s Lives Matter!”), Leila Lesbet, L’aut’journal, 2022-10-07.
- Cool, le voile? (“So the Veil is Cool?”), Christian Rioux, Le Devoir, 2022-10-07.
- Les femmes voilées en Occident choisissent l’oppresseur, la loi du mâle, contre la révolte des femmes (“Veiled women in the West choose the oppressor, the law of the male, against the revolt of women”), Pierre Jourde, Marianne, 2022-09-29.