Respect Is A Two-Way Street

So, over the past few months, since November of 2009, a Muslim woman immigrant in Canada, by the name of “Naema,” filed a human rights complaint after being expelled from a college in Quebec, for refusing to remove her face veil.

Of course, at first instance, the story sounds like it is infringing on the woman’s right to wear a piece of cloth that she feels very strongly about, while living in a country that is supposed to be “democratic.” However, as I further delved into the story, I realized that she is at much fault as the college that expelled her for wearing the veil.

Personally, I have no issue with the niqab or face veil, which covers a woman’s face with only a slit for the eyes, as long as the woman wearing it is not forced into it. The only time I have an issue with such articles of clothing is when it is forced on the woman by men, either by her father, brother, or husband; because then she is not choosing to wear it, but rather forced into it through exploitations of fear and threats. And this, as a result, not only violates her rights but also her freedom to express herself.

Indeed, there are many Muslim women who wear the niqab for genuine religious reasons; and that is just fine. However, it becomes problematic when women use the niqab as a means to try to get their own way, by telling people, especially men, how they should act around them. And this is exactly what Naema did, when she was taking a French language course for new immigrants, at the college. During oral presentations, she would order the men in her class to turn their desks/chairs around so that they would not face her. I was shocked when I read that! Who does she think she is to make such demands, knowing very well that she was the one who left her home country to live in the West where, although religious and cultural freedom is encouraged, there are still limits as to how far one can go? Naema, in my opinion, took things a little too far and this makes her equally responsible for her expulsion.

There is a difference between a woman wearing a niqab, who automatically expects everyone to respect her, without discrimination or harassment, and a woman, who may or may not have chosen to wear the niqab, but ASSUMES that every single man is a contender and should be imposed on so that they will not leer at her nor harass her. To me, this is very unfair and rather demeaning. I would understand it if the men in her class tormented and harassed her, but that was not the case at all. They were just merely classmates who wanted to learn how to speak French! Naema had NO right to impose the demands that she did, because she had absolutely no reason to. If she had such an issue with co-education, perhaps she should have considered taking the class on-line or hired a private female French language tutor instead. But to attend a class, knowing very well that there will be men present as well, and then go on making stupid demands is rather futile and pathetic. Here, I would support the college’s decision to expel her, for she, too, was expressing very inappropriate impositions that were extremely ridiculous.

Thus, I personally believe that it is very unfair for Muslim immigrants to move to a Western country knowing very well how the culture is like, and yet, decide to impose their selfish beliefs and practices on others, thinking that everyone will have agree and conform to them. However, that is not how it usually works. As the saying goes, “You cannot have your cake and eat it too.”

There are some things that will not be agreed upon. And besides, when a person moves to the West, she or he should realize that they will need to respect and perhaps even conform to the rules of that country. Countries like Canada and the US, although, promotes religious and cultural freedom and allows people, especially immigrants, the opportunity to express their beliefs and practices as they see fit; they also expect immigrants to respect their rules and be tolerant of their dogmas. It is selfish to come to the West, expecting to take precedence, and then complain that your rights are being infringed upon. And, usually, chances are that such women will never get any positive support, as opposed to those who are actually tormented or harassed, for wearing the niqab; these women will get justice no matter what. But those who showcase intolerance towards everything BUT their personal beliefs and wishes will not!


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