A Bilingual Condemnation of the Niqab

by | November 17, 2015

On November 9th 2015, Alban Ketelbuters’ article, “Zunera Ishaq, le Canada et le niqab” was published in the Huffingon Post Québec. It is possible that John McCallum, Minister of Immigration and Jody Wilson-Raybould, Minister of Justice didn’t read Ketelbuters’ article or they chose to ignore it.

On November 16, this statement from the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship and the Minister of Justice was posted on the Government of Canada website:

Niqab Appeal

Ketelbuters’ article, translated into English and posted on the Atheist Freethinker website as  “Zunera Ishaq, Canada and the Niqab,” is a convincing argument against the Canadian government’s decision to cancel its application to appeal Minister of Citizenship and Immigration v. Ishaq.

Ketelbuters begins by pointing out,

If the niqab were promoted by fundamentalist Catholics, the vast majority of progressives and feminists would have condemned it. Many of those who are intransigent when it comes to macho violence orchestrated by white males from a Christian background—violence which normally meets with immediate and unanimous condemnation—suddenly become much more discrete, nuanced and comprehensive when citizens from a Muslim background are involved.

While Ketelbuters’ article “Zunera Ishaq, Canada and the Niqab” presents a convincing argument against the niqab, one paragraph is especially vivid and persuasive:

Why do feminists celebrate each year the memory of the victims of the École Polytechnique massacre in Montreal, and yet remain silent about the ordinary despotism which continues to operate through the Islamic veil? Must Islamists walk their women like dogs on leashes before male politicians finally do something about it?

Those of us who consider the niqab “archaic and demeaning” are waiting for an answer.

9 thoughts on “A Bilingual Condemnation of the Niqab

  1. dusttodust

    I also disagree with the use of these garments and what they symbolize. But I vehemently disagree with using the power of the state to tell people what they can or can not wear. We already have laws telling us what we must at least wear. That’s not freedom either. But this is all another manifestation of a form of tribalism or us vs them separation. I don’t like it. And I’m ashamed as a Canadian that this has become such an issue.
    Education and enlightenment sure. I’m all for that. But not force.

    1. Veronica Abbass Post author

      “I vehemently disagree with using the power of the state to tell people what they can or can not wear.”

      The niqab is a symbol of the power of states (which do not include Canada) that tell women what they can and cannot wear.

      1. dusttodust

        Yes. That’s there. This is here.
        Here…if any of these women decide they’d rather not follow that aspect of their “culture” because here they’re free to choose and if they then get any kind of retribution from anyone for doing so then we have an issue we can deal with…criminally…against those that would like to force them to do something against their freedom.
        But, in the meantime, like with this case, if women are choosing to follow this idea then who am I (the state) to tell them not to.

        I also disagree with the freedom-limiting laws of what we’re supposed to wear at a minimum. If it’s 35° out, why can’t people wander around naked if they want? If it’s 5° then I would hardly think people would be interested in doing so. But they should be free to. Same thing. Wear a tent. Don’t wear a tent. We can all have our opinions and thoughts of why would people want to cover themselves. Why would some people want to wear their pants hanging at the knees (to exaggerate)? I don’t legally care. Nor should the state. The state will want to know who covered people are on occasion and that can be accomplished respectfully.

        How about another extreme example? Abortion. If you’re opposed to abortions then don’t have one. But don’t be telling others not to just because you’re opposed to it.

        1. Indi

          > How about another extreme example? Abortion.

          You could make that comparison even more impactful by pointing out that there are states that force women to have abortions. And some of them are explicitly secular states. If banning the niqab makes “sense” because it is forced on women by some states, then by the same logic abortion should be banned too.

          But of course, it wouldn’t make a difference. After all, this is not really about “the power of states” and never has been. The real reason for this obsession with the niqab is plain as day.

          1. dusttodust

            I’m not focused on what other states do. I’m only focused on this state…Canada…where I currently have some singularly minuscule electoral sway over what powers the state might want to have. It would seem that perhaps a sufficient amount of other people thought similarly and so put this issue to rest electorally. I do so wish it would go away. Unfortunately, that last government tapped into a group of people that got emboldened by that last governments actions and came out of the woodwork.
            How’s that for managing to not say those 2 words Veronica 🙂

  2. Veronica Abbass Post author

    “The real reason for this obsession with the niqab is plain as day.”

    Really? You are not usually so reticent about speaking your mind. Spell it out, and try not to use words like “bigot” and “racist.”

  3. Veronica Abbass Post author


    “try not to use words like ‘bigot’ and ‘racist.’” was for Indi, but you avoided them as well.

  4. Shawn the Humanist

    I believe that all people should be free to make their own choices. And yes, that includes women. And that means sometimes they make choices I don’t like.

    I believe the world will be a better place without the Niqab.

    However, as an atheist I think it’s just some clothing. There are no magical powers to them. Every argument against the niqab works against the hijab, wedding veils, the veils nuns DO where, crosses on necklaces and many other things. They are all symbols of very real oppression, both from the past and around the world today.

    The question toward the end of the article reads to me like: why don’t people who want to FREE women join us in RESTRICTING what women can wear. That is literally what I think is being asked. Though I don’t think the authors frame it that way in their own minds.

    They very correctly point out that it’s something that is harming women around the world. This is true. By their hypotheticals of what feminists would and would not argue against is just their own impressions, I think. I mean, to make their points they have to compare women who choose to wear a head cover to white men performing violence.

    Funny thing about attacking one’s metaphoric tribe by taking away their rights. (Religious ideology, political ideology, however they define themselves.) It makes them cling to it, even the bad parts, stronger. While I support removing religious privileges (like council prayer) I do not support taking away people’s rights. Like, restricting what people are allowed to choose to wear in their own home. Or getting groceries.

    Those are the two reason I don’t support restricting what women wear in their day to day lives.


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