An editorial cartoon in the Montreal Gazette is highlighting a controversial incident in which a Muslim woman was asked to leave a French language school for refusing to remove her niqab.
The cartoon, by Terry Mosher, who draws under the name Aislin, shows the face of a woman in a niqab. In the space where her eyes would normally be seen, the cartoonist has shown prison bars and a lock. In an interview with CBC News on Friday, Mosher said his intention was to argue against the woman’s stance.
“In the Gazette this morning, there is actually an editorial in support of the woman, and yet my cartoon is against it,” he said. “So that is part of the discussion and I think that’s a very healthy thing.”
Naïma Atef Amed has twice been asked to leave provincially administered French language classes for new immigrants after refusing to remove her niqab, which covers the head and face and leaves only the eyes exposed. The instructor told her it was important to be able to see others’ faces.
“For the teacher it was more difficult to hear her, and it was more difficult for all the people to understand what she has to say,” added the school’s director, Paul-Émile Bourque.
See if you can understand what this woman in a headsack is saying:
Amed filed a complaint with the province’s human rights commission after she was kicked out of the first class, which was at the CÉGEP de Saint-Laurent in Montreal. Premier Jean Charest defended that school’s decision, saying that people who expect to receive public services must show their faces.
On Tuesday, the province’s Immigration Ministry said it was informed last week that Amed, who is of Egyptian origin, (Egypt has banned university women from wearing Muslim veils) had subsequently enrolled in another French class at a different publicly funded centre in Montreal. There she was initially permitted to wear the niqab, until the province stepped in.
“As we did last time, we told her that we have pedagogical objectives to meet in our French immersion courses, that they have to be taken with her face exposed,” said Luc Fortin, a spokesman for the province’s immigration minister. “She refused to take off her niqab and she left the course.”
Reacting to the cartoon on Friday, the president of the Muslim Council of Montreal, Salam Elmenyawi, told CBC News that he was not shockedthat Mosher drew the cartoon. “He has done this before in the past – attacking hijab as well,” said Elmenyawi, speaking of the headscarf worn by some Muslim women. “But it is a distasteful way of showing the cartoon and of showing the lock – the woman is locking herself.” (Yes, the truth about Islam is often distateful) Elmenyawi said the cartoon patronizes women who wear niqabs by “not respecting the fact they tried to be true to the faith the way they understood it and the way they think it’s right.”
Meanwhile, Tarek Fatah, founder of the Muslim Canadian Congress, had a different view of the cartoon. “It’s quite appropriate, isn’t it?” he said. “[Feminists] are willing to allow Muslim women to suffer that and then take the self-righteous attitude that we allow them choice. “I think they should start wearing it and then figure out how does a woman make a choice to imprison herself. Who makes that choice? That person needs to see a doctor then.”
In October, the congress publicly called on Canada to ban the wearing of masks, niqabs and burkas in all “public dealings.”
“Not only is the wearing of a face mask a security hazard and has led to a number of bank heists in Canada and overseas, the burka or niqab are political symbols of Saudi-inspired Islamic extremism,” reads the congress’s statement. CBC
I can only make out about half of what she is saying here: