Monthly Archives: September 2015

The Niqab issue – A CPPC Statement

The case of Zunera Ishaq, the 29-year old Muslim woman who came to Ontario from Pakistan in 2008 and refused to take part in a citizenship ceremony because she would have to show her face, is in the news again.

The Committee of Progressive Pakistani- Canadians is a secular organization. We stand for the full equality of women with men – in society, at work, in the home – and against subordinating, segregating and secluding women.

We oppose any one – parents, relatives, religious authorities – from compelling women and girls to wear the niqab, hijab (head-covering) or the burqa (head to toe covering which completely envelops women), or attire deemed to have been mandated by religion or traditions, against their wishes.

Yet, at the same time, we are opposed to the efforts of the Harper Conservatives to force Ms. Ishaq to remove her niqab for the citizenship ceremony.

We find offensive statements such as Mr. Harper’s that ‘it is offensive that someone would hide their identity at the very moment when they are committing to join the Canadian family’ or Minister of Defence, Jason Kenney’s that ‘I think it’s entirely reasonable for those thirty seconds, that someone proudly demonstrate their loyalty to Canada’.

In other words, wearing a niqab for the citizenship oath taking ceremony is un-Canadian and disloyal to Canada!

Similar comments were hurled at the first Sikh RCMP officer who wanted to wear his turban instead of the official hat upon being selected for the force.

No law or regulation requires that a woman has to take off her niqab for the ceremony; Ms. Ishaq’s identity is not in doubt, there is no security risk whatsoever in her wearing a niqab for her swearing in.

Are we, a progressive group, in favour of the niqab. No we are not. We are for the liberation of women – in the choice of clothes they want to wear, the life-styles they want to live, the husbands and partners they wish to have and the jobs they want to hold. We are simply saying that Ms. Ishaq and others are entitled to wear the clothes of their choice – so long as they meet genuine security requirements and don’t prevent them from performing their duties required by their employment.

On September 15 the Harper government’s rule banning face coverings at such ceremonies was found unlawful by the Federal Court of Appeal. Rather than submit to the Court’s ruling, the Harper government is taking the case to the Supreme Court.

Women in Canada make 70–80% of what men make; the absence of easily affordable, even free, day care (like public schools), poses a onerous burden on them and their families and is an obstacle in their entering the work-force; many of them live in or at poverty levels because of the high level of unemployment and the low minimum wage.

Messers Harper and Kenney of the Conservatives should work on these issues rather than pandering to their rightwing base by spreading anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant sentiments.
Committee of Progressive Pakistani-Canadians September 25, 2015

Deaths in the Mediterranean

Photo credit: The Independent, UK

The picture of the body of the little Syrian child lying dead face down in the Water after a boat carrying refugees sank in the Mediterranean while trying to reach Europe, has seared the consciousness of people across the globe.

Thousands of others from Syria, Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan – and other African countries – making the same journey have perished in the same way.

Who is responsible?
Mainly the government of the United States and its western allies, including Canada.

How so?
For unleashing war, directly or indirectly, in Afghanistan, Libya, Iraq and Syria, causing indescribable damage to human life, government and social infrastructure, agriculture, houses, hospitals and schools, employment in town and countryside – not in the interests of democracy or protecting human rights, but to gain back full control of the area for its oil and natural resources, a market for their goods and services, and for its strategic value.

The Saudi and the Gulf monarchies, long hating the republican, secular and non-capitalist oriented governments of Libya, Iraq and Syria, have assisted in this destruction by, among other things, financing and arming fundamentalist terrorist groups in these countries.

A popular international tribunal should be set up to see if Western and Arab leaders who have caused this death and destruction are guilty of violating international law and of crimes against humanity.

More generally, while poverty has been the lot of the masses in Africa and much of Asia for long, it has become exacerbated in recent decades due to increased globalization on terms greatly favourable to the west.

The absence of genuinely democratic governments in large parts of Asia and Africa has compounded the problem.

The wars, increased exploitation by western corporations, corrupt governments, fundamentalist violence, have made the lives of hundreds of millions wretched beyond measure. Hundreds of millions suffer from joblessness, hunger, homelessness; tens of millions are refugees or seek a better life in the west. While refugees seeking asylum in the west must be treated humanely and given asylum, it is the reasons for their mass exodus that must be addressed.

The Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, while professing great pain at seeing the picture of the dead child, is calling for more war in the region – the chief cause of the tragedy. All outside interference in Syria must stop forthwith and the Syrian government and opposition allowed to settle their differences themselves by negotiations.

The struggle against ISIS must be conducted in cooperation with the governments of Syria, Iraq and Libya.

Two other steps can be taken relatively speedily to provide relief to the people of the less developed world. World expenditure on armaments was over $1.5 trillion dollars in 2014 – a stupendous amount, which should be halved quickly, and the funds thus saved spent on social needs and development.

Total foreign aid from the richer to the poorer countries is a little short of $150 billion. It should be doubled – without any strings, at zero or nominal interest rates and for genuinely developmental projects – by increasing the taxes on multinationals and large corporations that, as is commonly known, pay hardly any or none at all.

Ending the unfair and unequal relations between the ‘north’ and the ‘south’, for fair trade that benefits all parties must be struggled for.

Last, but very importantly, genuinely democratic government representing the interests of the people, not the 1%, are urgently needed in the south as well as in the north!