Health Canada and the Hijab

by | March 18, 2016

Health Canada

Waleed Al-Husseini posted this photo on his Facebook page on March 10 and commented

Voici le genre de publicité que le ministère de la santé canadien produit . . .

(Here is the kind of advertising that the Ministry of Health Canada produces. . . .)

Today Atheist Freethinkers initiated a press release entitled “AFT Denounces the Irresponsible Complacency of Health Canada with Respect to the Hijab“:

Montreal, 18th March 2016 — Atheist Freethinkers (LPA-AFT), an association which promotes secularism and supports the rights of atheists, denounces the recent publicity of the federal ministry Health Canada which displayed the image of a woman wearing a hijab while using an asthma inhaler. The image appeared on the Facebook pages of Health Canada ( in English and in French) starting on Feb. 21, 2016.

We agree with Waleed Al-Husseini, atheist, ex-Muslim and writer who, on his Facebook page, declares his outrage that the Canadian government could act with such serious complacency and with such contempt for women from an Arab background who are fighting against the imposition of the Islamist veil. The ministry’s action plays right into the hands of Islamists. The hijab is a banner of religious sexism which forces women to hide because they are diminished to the role of temptress. The hijab does not represent all Muslims!

Indeed, the hijab is an emblem of Islamist fundamentalism worn by women who are themselves fundamentalists or who are forced by fundamentalists to wear it. The niqab is even worse. It is unacceptable that the government should endorse fundamentalist religious proselytism in such a manner. If the hijab were a Christian accessory, we doubt very much that it would have been chosen for this advertisement. Furthermore, it would be unthinkable for Health Canada to choose for that image an individual wearing a crucifix similar in size to the hijab—that is, a third of a metre in height!

This image of a hijab wearing woman has apparently disappeared recently from the Facebook pages of Health Canada. Nevertheless, the spokesperson for Health Canada, in an attempt to justify use of the image, declared that the ministry would not tolerate “racist” or “hateful” comments. However, the adherents of a religion do not in any way constitute a race. Furthermore, there is nothing hateful about insisting that publications of the Canadian government refrain from trivializing the symbols of a dangerous ideology such as religious fundamentalism.

The woman in the Health Canada ad is very attractive; however, neither the hijab nor the inhaler is a fashion accessory.

2 thoughts on “Health Canada and the Hijab

  1. Shawn the Humanist

    I’m a strong proponent of getting rid of archaic bigoted hurtful things, including symbols that were once used as such. When some feminists point out the sexist history of things, or point out that regular everyday things are still used by some in a sexist way, there are two reactions. Some agree, and some think they are being silly.

    I think the world will be a better place without outdated symbols of religious and oppression. But some people choose these things.

    Some choose to take their husband’s name. Some choose to hear head coverings.

    While I oppose all these things, I don’t feel I can oppose people who choose to do them. Consider this interview on the Current with women who choose to wear the niqab and hijab, some against their husband’s wishes.

    Should we side with the husband in telling these women what they can and cannot wear?

    1. Veronica Abbass Post author

      Shawn asks

      “Should we side with the husband in telling these women what they can and cannot wear?”

      Definitely not!


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