The Honorable Mayor Jim Watson
Ottawa City Hall
110 Laurier Avenue west
Ottawa Ontario K1P 1J1.
The Honorable Mayor, Jim Watson,
I hope you will take the time to listen to my concerns about “Ottawa Hijab Day” scheduled in Ottawa, Feb 25th, 2016 and that you will give serious consideration to my request outlined below.
I am someone who believes in information and education. What reasonable person could possibly object to an event which promotes “education, acceptance and tolerance”? Unless, of course, the “education” was disinformation; the “acceptance” was acceptance of a superordinate (according to Islamists) legal system (i.e. Sharia Law) that is contrary to our democratic values and human rights; the “tolerance” was tolerance of an extremist ideology that condones honour killings, FGM and treatment of women that is incompatible with Canadian values.
I would ask that you not discount me as a “racist” or an “Islamophobe”. I am a well-educated, patriotic Canadian, who is a strong proponent of diversity and freedom of religion. I am not anti-Muslim, but I do have serious concerns about extremist Islamic ideology that runs counter to the Canadian values I hold dear. I have known and liked many Muslims, who share my Canadian values, and are what could be called secular Muslims. They or their parents may have immigrated here to escape Sharia Law and to embrace Canadian values. (Unfortunately, not all Muslims who immigrate here do so for those reasons.)
One of the ways in which Islam differs from other religions is that, in addition to the individual, religious component, it also has a political component and a judicial component. As a politician, you are likely to have listened to presentations by political groups (or individuals representing those political groups), whose goal it is to present extremist Islamic ideology in a favourable light, for example, by saying that the hijab is just a sign of “modesty” and that it is worn voluntarily by Muslim women. (What Canadian could be against freedom of choice?) Unfortunately, this is far from the truth. In fact, the hijab is a symbol of adherence to an extremist Islamic ideology and in Muslim countries women who wear it do not do so freely. I am attaching a few links for you to videos, articles, etc., which will present you with an alternate view to that which you have likely been presented by members of activist organizations affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, such as the National Council of Canadian Muslims, the Muslim Students Associations, and many more. I would ask you to watch these videos – none of them are in any way “racist”. They are thoughtful, educational pieces intended to make people think.
First of all, the idea that the hijab or the niqab are in any way “traditional” Muslim dress is absolute hogwash! They are relatively recent adoptions which are the result of Saudi Arabia having exported its extremist, Wahabbist/Salafist brand of Islam around the world. Along with the clothing come the extremist ideas!
Second, I am attaching a video of a speech by the so-called “Pope” of Sunni Islam (the most populous school of Islam and the school to which Saudi Wahabbism and Salafism belong) in which he argues for the wearing of the hijab. You will note that not once does he mention “modesty” as a reason to wear the hijab, but the reasons that he does give are not in keeping with integration into Canadian society.
I am also attaching a video by Bill Warner, Ph.D., entitled “The Political Side of Hijabs“, which I hope you will find interesting and enlightening.
Third, and related to whether or not the wearing of the hijab is voluntary for all Muslim women, even in Canada, I ask you to remember the unfortunate cases of Aqsa Parvez, a Toronto teen who was strangled by her father and/or brother for not wearing the hijab. You will also remember, no doubt, the horrific case of the Montreal Shafia family “honour killings” of 3 daughters and a second wife by the father/husband and the brother, because they did not adhere to his extremist ideology, but, instead, adopted Canadian values.. These Muslim women were Canadian citizens and their killings were not only criminal; they were motivated by beliefs that are contrary to the values of equality of women and human rights.
Request: I would like to request that you advise CAWI that, while they may continue to hold their hijab day as a privately-sponsored event, they may not call it “Ottawa Hijab Day”, as this gives the incorrect impression that it has been officially proclaimed by the City of Ottawa. In future, events which encourage non-Muslim women to try on or wear the hijab may not be held at City Hall. You may wish to give them any or all of the following reasons:
“While City Council fully endorses activities which increase understanding between cultural and religious groups, so-called “Wear the Hijab” events are a sensitive issue and do not necessarily achieve the aim of increasing inter-faith or inter-cultural understanding. Some women feel that wearing the hijab is their choice, while others see it as a religious obligation; still others see it as cultural, not religious. Some feel strongly about the many Muslim women, including Canadian women, who have been killed for not wearing the hijab and believe that to celebrate the wearing of the hijab would be to do them a disservice. Some women believe that wearing the hijab is a private choice or a religious duty which identifies them as Muslim and find it offensive that non-Muslim women should wear the hijab, for any reason. Some view “Wear the Hijab” days as a form of proselytizing. In closing, while people of all religious faiths are welcome to live and practice their faith in Ottawa, City Council will not proclaim individual days dedicated to the wearing of particular items of religious apparel or accouterments of any faith, nor will it approve the use of “Ottawa” as part of the name of any such private event, or the use of City property to celebrate such private events. ”
In closing, I would like to thank you for reading my letter. I hope you will think very carefully about the message that “Ottawa Hijab Day” sends to Canadians and internationally, particularly to those women who do not have a choice, who may be trying to escape a life of oppression, circumscribed by religious extremism, where their human rights are violated and possibly even their lives are at risk. Ottawa should be known as a city which promotes freedom of religion and equality of men and women. Allowing a private group to advertise an “Ottawa Hijab Day” and to hold an associated event at City Hall may do damage to the City’s reputation by appearing to favour one religion over others (possibly even proselytizing on behalf of that religion) and by being seen to promote the wearing (even by non-Muslims) of a controversial item of clothing such as the hijab, which is associated in many countries with an extremist ideology that devalues women and curtails their human rights. Such events are better held at a mosque, without the assistance of public money, either directly or indirectly.
A better alternative would be to hold an Ottawa Women’s Day (for women of all faiths and cultures) or an Ottawa Human Rights Day or an Ottawa Equality Day, all of which are inclusive and promote the values that Canadians and Ottawans hold dear!
Iranian Canadian human rights activist, Ottawa