Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Love Me, Love My Veil

Zainab Bint Younas is a chick who describes herself as a "Salafi feminist," an oxymoron on the order of "jumbo shrimp." She also takes umbrage at a Jonathan Kay piece, and demands in no uncertain terms that he stop presuming to speak for her and other Muslimas who adore masking their faces (whether via the niqab or the burqa) in public.

Here's the letter I just dashed off re Ms. Bint Younas's rant:
Zainab Bint Younas chooses to see her niqab as a symbol of her empowerment as a strong Muslim woman; indeed, on her website, she bills herself as a Salafist Feminist. And yet, it seems clear to those who do not share her beliefs that her self-description is an oxymoron. For, to be a Salafist is to subscribe to one of the most rigid forms of Islam, one which grants women as second-class status and which allows their husbands to punish them physically for, say, refusing to have sexual relations on demand. To be a feminist, on the other hand, is to reject male chauvinism (and Salafists are nothing if not that), to insist on equality before the law and in the eyes of society, and to make one's own choices without being subject to the approval of one's husband and other close male family members.
Thus, putting a Ms. in front of her name does not make Bint Younas a feminist. And covering her face such that nothing shows saves her eyes is certainly not feminist in any way that makes sense to those who cherish Western freedoms. In fact, Ms. Bint Younas's assertions to the contrary, it is possible to see her as someone who is suffering from a form of Stockholm Syndrome in that she identifies with an Islamic symbol of oppression--a facial covering that, rather than "liberating" her, renders her a nullity, a void, a blank.
The niqab champion may have convinced herself that her facial covering amounts to a sort of "in your face" activism. To me, however, it looks like she's bought into a particularly regressive and repressive ideology that conflicts with Canadian values of freedom and equality.

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