Talking head coverings at the Muslim-Jewish Dialogue
Article mis en ligne le jeudi 10 juin 2010
Imam Moin Ghauri, formerly with the Islamic Centre of Quebec in Ville Saint-Laurent, spoke about the niqab at the May 25 meeting of the Muslim-Jewish Dialogue (MJD) at the Cummings Building in Snowdon. His message: Muslim women must cover their bodies, hair and faces except when state legislation, employment and studies require otherwise. The Koran, he noted, allows for these exceptions.
“[When] the law requires you to show your face, then, in that case, you are allowed to do that. According to Islam…you do not stand up against the country’s laws where you are. It is on their conscience.” The imam linked this Koranic permission to Bill 94. If Quebec bans the niqab in certain places then Muslim women will have to remove it, he argued.
Diversity in Islamic interpretation and practice
Ashraf told the dozen people around the table that she only began wearing the hijab (head scarf) after her pilgrimage to Mecca. To Ghauri and others, she asked: “So why is all this big issue about women’s clothing being made? I think it’s a big joke that all the time the men or the imams or the sheikhs are concerned about how women are dressed and their behaviour and their attitude. I think we are all responsible for ourselves and the Koran says so: that we are each answerable to God.”
Ira Robinson, professor of Judaic Studies at Concordia University, questioned the idea that one person can speak for a singular Muslim community. In the Concordia district, he noted, women wear hijabs, niqabs and burqas. This, he argued, shows that there are multiple ways of practicing Islam and of covering oneself. Freedom of religion, he added, makes the subject of a ban on the burqa all the more complicated.
Echoing mainstream discourse on Muslim women, Cote St. Luc resident Bernard Tonchin argued that a covered woman is a public security risk. “She could be a bank robber,” he suggested. When Ashraf insisted that Muslim women– veiled, covered or not – have rights, Tonchin replied: “The woman, a man, everybody has a right … but for a woman to cover her face is wrong. It’s definitely wrong … all the way!”
In an interview with Les Actualités, Ghauri explained that niqabs and other body coverings are also ways of ordering relationships among members of the opposite sex. These cloaks help Muslim women and men “purify their hearts.”
Theology and politics