Farzana Hassan lecture at UBC generates backlash from B.C. Muslim Association representative
A tense exchange erupted last night at UBC's Chan Centre for the Performing Arts between two Muslim women over the hijab and niqab.
Writer and women's-rights activist Farzana Hassan had just delivered the annual UBC Laurier Institution multiculturalism lecture. Hassan, former president of the Muslim Canadian Congress, wants Parliament to pass a law denying public services to women in burqas, which are full-length gowns that conceal everything.
She stated in her lecture that this infringement on individual choice can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society. Hassan, who lives in Ontario, also maintained that there is no language in the Koran that requires Muslim women to cover themselves head to toe. Rather, she argued that the Islamic holy book calls for "modest" attire, which has been interpreted in an extreme way by members of the Wahabi sect.
During the question-and-answer period, the education director of the B.C. Muslim Association's board of women's affairs objected strenuously to what she had heard.
Najma Mohammed told Hassan that she was "very insulted" by her remarks. Hassan used the word burqa interchangeably in her lecture with niqab, which is a veil that a small number of Canadian Muslim women use to conceal their faces. Hassan also spoke disparagingly about Muslim women being forced to wear a hijab, which covers the head but which doesn't obscure a person's face.
"I am a Muslim woman standing right here in front of you," Mohammed said. "I am wearing my hijab. Nobody is telling me—nobody is oppressing me—to wear this hijab.....I know that you are talking about burqa but you also touched on hijab when you said even that is objectionable to you. Why is it all your opinions, I would like to ask."
Then Mohammed went on to accuse Hassan of "inciting differences" so that she can make money selling books, DVDs, videos, and CDs.
"I am standing right here right now and nobody has told me—not my father, not my husband, or any of my religious leaders—'Here, go ahead and wear a hijab to hide.' Nobody has told me that," Mohammed declared.
Next, Mohammed accused Hassan of not having done her homework about Islam. "So I challenge you to sit with me and discuss this once again,” she added.
At that point, Hassan asked, "Do you have a question?"
To that, Mohammed replied: "I’m not giving you a question. It’s a statement. I don’t think you are worth a question."
Next, Hassan asked Mohammed if she had heard of Aqsa Parvez. Parvez was a 16-year-old Muslim teen who was strangled to death by her father and brother in Mississauga in 2007 after she refused to wear a hijab and chose to don western clothes.
Mohammed sidestepped the question about Parvez and told Hassan that she was merely citing her opinions. "I represent all the Muslim community here," Mohammed claimed.
Hassan responded by saying that any debate on burqas shouldn't be based solely on her opinion. "I’ve said that time and again, we need a debate on this," she added. "We need a public debate on this."
Mohammed replied by accusing Hassan of "doing things against women, against Muslim women". In addition, Mohammed criticized Hassan for choosing a "secular place" to convey her message rather than discussing this within the Muslim community.
The lecture will be broadcast on CBC Radio's Ideas show, likely on June 24. The moderator, CBC Radio host Paul Kennedy, interjected and decided to give Hassan the final word.
That's when Hassan bluntly stated that she will not retract anything she said.
"I very strongly believe there are women who are being forced into wearing the niqab and hijab," she said, to loud applause from some in the crowd. "I know four-year-olds who are being coerced into wearing the hijab because, you know, the philosophy is they need to get into the habit of wearing it so that when they attain puberty—when this becomes mandatory according to them—they will not object to it. So four-year-olds are being made to wear the hijab to school, outside of school, and I’m not lying about this. I’m not exaggerating about this."
Hassan closed her discussion by telling the audience about the murder of Parvez, who died in Mississauga "because she refused to wear the hijab and she wanted to integrate more into Canadian society".
"Her father and brother, in a case of domestic violence, they murdered her. And this 16-year-old lost her life because of it," Hassan said. "So I am not going to go back on what I said. These women are being forced, and no matter what you say, that’s the simple truth about it."
Related article: Activist Farzana Hassan wants a law to ban burqas in public in Canada
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Apr 17, 2011 at 4:00pm
'Hassan closed her discussion by telling the audience about the murder of Parvez, who died in Mississauga "because she refused to wear the hijab and she wanted to integrate more into Canadian society".'
Maybe we could prioritize enforcement of the ban on murder?
Then later we can put all our effort into criminalizing scary foreign-looking hats.
Apr 17, 2011 at 4:50pm
Funny how Farzana Hassan can be verbally assaulted, yet no one stands up for her rights. I think she is 100% correct. Islam treats women like property. Read "Infidel" by Ayaan Hirsi Ali to get the real facts!!
Apr 17, 2011 at 4:54pm
There seem to be two motives for doing anything: fun or fear. And it's easy to confuse the two, either deliberately or ignorantly.
This matter seems to be one of fear.
Apr 17, 2011 at 8:00pm
burning bras to burning burkas.................. it is about time that muslim women stand up to the male dominated societies that they live in!!
Apr 17, 2011 at 11:11pm
Documentary - "Muslim Women: The Bill & Us" reveals about Muslim religious and political leaders across party lines, nearly all men, are deeply divided over women's rights. That's why there is huge opposition to the women's reservation bill. But poor women from the community, especially those from Dalit and backward castes, want the opposite. To do something more with their lives than their mothers were able to or allowed to do.
To watch please visit - http://www.cultureunplugged.com/play/4074
Check your facts
Apr 17, 2011 at 11:45pm
@bobo if you read Hirsi Ali's "Infidel" be sure to check out her political allegiances to the American Enterprise Institute, think tank for the Bush Administration. She paints all muslims with the same brush - extremist, misogynists. A lot of her facts about Female Genital Mutilation are just plain wrong. As a self loathing muslim/secular defector she is the perfect poster-girl for conservative wing nuts intent on portraying the muslim world as barbarous and good for nothing but colonization. Read anything BUT Hirsi Ali for the facts.
@VanZorge - most women in France, where wearing the Burqa has been banned, are actually WESTERN converts to Islam who wear the Burqa voluntarily as a symbol against the oppressive sexualization of women in western media. We have to look beyond the rhetoric that uses single party issues like Women's rights as a guise for Islamophobia. Check out this debate on CNN if you want another similar debate...
Yoda (Read it in my voice!)
Apr 17, 2011 at 11:56pm
Birdy: "Maybe we could prioritize enforcement of the ban on murder?"
How do you "enforce" a "ban" on murder after it's happened? We have every capability to discourage one particular circumstance for murder.
Hassan is a wise woman. I'm glad the left is finally siding with reason... instead of the knee-jerk alignment WITH religious bigots, as is still common on related issues..
Apr 18, 2011 at 1:39pm
Just on the face of it, wearing such apparel is no different than the chastity belt. A bunch of grown men and women subscribing to anything that tries to ensure women don't screw around or that men see yours as an object is so pathetic. Its all about controlling women, its all about sex and its all about male control, not religion, that's just the excuse. Those oppressed women that support such nonsense are nothing more than Stockholm syndrome sufferers.
Apr 18, 2011 at 1:42pm
Porn is the western cultural opposite to the burka
Apr 18, 2011 at 1:55pm
... wants Parliament to pass a law denying public services to women in burqas, which are full-length gowns that conceal everything.
Is this a serious proposal? It's lunatic fringe stuff.