Muslim group urges gov't to ban burkas, niqabs in public
By: The Canadian Press
Date: Wednesday Oct. 7, 2009 10:44 PM ET
TORONTO ó Middle Eastern garments designed to cover a woman's face are "medieval" and "misogynist" symbols of extremism with no basis in Islam, a Canadian Muslim lobby group said Wednesday as it urged Ottawa to ban the burka and the niqab.
The Muslim Canadian Congress called on the federal government to prohibit the two garments in order to prevent women from covering their faces in public -- a practice the group said has no place in a society that supports gender equality.
"To cover your face is to conceal your identity," congress spokeswoman Farzana Hassan said in a telephone interview, describing the issue as a matter of public safety, since concealing one's identity is a common practice for criminals.
The tradition of Muslim women covering their faces in public is a tradition rooted more in Middle Eastern culture than in the Islamic faith, Hassan added.
There is nothing in any of the primary Islamic religious texts, including the Qur'an, that requires women to cover their faces, she said -- not even in the controversial, ultra-conservative tenets of Sharia law.
Considering the fact that women are in fact forbidden from wearing burkas in the grand mosque in Mecca, Islam's holiest site, it hardly makes sense that the practice should be permitted in Canada, she said.
"If a government claims to uphold equality between men and women, there is no reason for them to support a practice that marginalizes women."
The proposed ban would include the burka, an iconic head-to-toe gown with a mesh-like panel over the face that allows the wearer to see and to breathe, as well as the niqab -- a veil that leaves only the eyes exposed.
Hassan said the ban would not extend to the hijab, a traditional headscarf that does not cover the face.