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Canada’s Groundbreaking Battle Over the Burqa

Posted on June 9 2010 2:00 pm
Christine Williams is a 9-time international award-winning interviewer. She is Host and Producer of the Canadian National TV program “On the Front Line with Christine Williams” aired on CTS TV. She is also a Senior Advisor to the Hudson Institute in New York.
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The Ontario Court of Appeal is now considering whether a sexual assault complainant should have to remove her niqab to face her accusers.  The Canadian case of an alleged rape victim that is pitting religious freedom against the right to a fair trial under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.  At least that is how this groundbreaking, precedent-setting case is being described.  Religious freedom? not quite.  Nowhere in the Q’uran is a woman required to wear such garb.  It is a degrading cultural tradition that is insulting to the dignity of women.  The complainant is known as N.S. and now she’s being compared to the legendary Rosa Parks.  Imagine that.

“Henrietta Muir Edwards just wanted to sit in the (Canadian) Senate. Rosa Parks just wanted to sit at the front” of the bus, David Butt, a lawyer representing N.S., says in a written argument filed with the Ontario Court of Appeal.

“N.S. just wants to sit in the witness box wearing her niqab.” – Toronto Star

What an insult to the memory of Rosa Parks, an acclaimed historic figure fighting for racial equality used to defend a woman’s right to be oppressed under a niqab.

A recent Angus Reid poll found a majority of Canadians support a proposed Quebec law that would refuse government services to women wearing a niqab, a point I blogged about here.

Lawyers for the two men charged with sexually assaulting N.S. identified a key element in our judicial system: the ability to confront one’s accuser and assess that person’s demeanor during cross-examination as a right to the defense.  But a women’s organization intervening in the case–The Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund–argues:

forcing N.S., who is Muslim, to remove her head covering is a form of “undressing” at the request of the accused and amounts to a symbolic “re-enactment” of the crime.  – Toronto Star

The implication here is that N.S. is being re-victimized.  This is an unfair and inappropriate context to say the least.  It is more accurate to say that this poor lady is a victim of her own cultural misogyny which marginalizes women and keeps them on the fringes of the mainstream. So here she stands on public display as an alleged rape victim and the victim of female discrimination, backed by illogical leftist women’s groups and their ilk, arguing for the wrong cause.

The Muslim Canadian Congress wants to see N.S. testify without her veil because the group says it is a political symbol of oppression of women.  “Why are we indulging in making a fool of the Canadian judicial system and values of gender equality?” congress founder Tarek Fatah said outside court.  She has already demonstrated her willingness to show her face to police officers, customs officials and has a driver’s licence, he said. – CBC

Another group intervening is the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, the sad sister of the American Civil Liberties Union.  If such groups are interested in genuinely promoting the rights of women, they should begin with encouraging women to be proud of who they are by showing their faces, instead of further assisting them to be subjugated by a patriarchal culture, and using a sex assault trial to promote this.

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