Monday, June 25, 2018

The Hijab and the Wimple

We stayed at our younger daughter's place in the lovely Roncesvalles neighbourhood of Toronto a couple of weekends ago. We were only a few minutes walk from High Park so we enjoyed a stroll through this urban gem. In one open area a large group of picnickers had gathered, all people of colour, with the women dressed in long clothes and their heads covered with hijabs. Later we realized that it was the end of Ramadan so the group may have been there to break their fast with a celebratory meal. We passed immediately by a number of the women and I noticed that while all their heads were covered there was distinctiveness in the colour and fabric and embroidery of what they were wearing.

Image result for women wearing hijab

Later in the day we hopped on a streetcar as we headed to a concert and at the next stop a Roman Catholic nun wearing a wimple and habit and another woman got on and sat in front of us.In many RC orders traditional dress is no longer required but this woman sounded Eastern European as she spoke to her companion and she may have brought this more identifiable clothing with her.  

Image result for nun on a bus
I wondered aloud to Ruth about how often the nun has been harassed for wearing her head dress and how many times the Muslim women had been verbally challenged or assaulted. I hope the answer is never, but that probably isn't the case, at least for the Muslim women. Canadians are increasingly indifferent to Christianity, except when certain right-wingers want to insist that we are a Christian country regardless of their own religious practice. The hijab is a flashpoint for xenophobia and Islamophobia, sad to say.

We could argue that both the hijab and the wimple are reminders of male oppression of women, a form of enforced modesty. It would be interesting to hear what the women we encountered in passing would have to say about this contention. All I know is that we should treat all women with respect in their choices in a country which has religious freedom as a core tenet of its Charter.

Thoughts? Bye the way, the women in the photos above are not the women we saw in Toronto.


roger said...

I have often wondered what the women who are wearing the hijab, niqab and especially the burka think about doing so. I like to think they are doing it out of their own free will, but I know that's not the case for many.

I travelled to Turkey for work with a Muslim colleague, and we had plenty of opportunity to talk about this issue. His opinion, and I agree with it, is that the government should have no place in enforcing bans on clothing. They should not be involved whatsoever in how someone dresses, although for security reasons identity is important in some situations.

I saw firsthand at Istanbul airport just how they handle identity with a woman wearing a niqab or burka. They simply showed their face to the desk agent for a few seconds. Nothing to it, and nobody seemed upset by being asked.

Turkey is an interesting place - the vast majority of the population is Muslim, however women can wear any of the above items, or have no head or face covering at all - and there is no outcry or resentment for it. It seems like a very accepting country.

My colleague has been to Turkey before, as well as many countries in the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia. He has travelled to these locations with his wife, who does not cover hear head in any way, and Turkey is the only place in which she has not had rude stares or even verbal abuse. Men in Saudi Arabia have yelled at my colleague and his wife.

Clearly there is nothing in the Quran that states women must cover their faces, only that they(and men) should dress modestly. The culture, especially in Saudi Arabia, pushes the clothing issue.

Judy McKnight said...

It is all about control - mostly by men, of women.... and it has been around for millenia, since before our own Biblical times. It is not based on love or protection for women, but on ownership ... and no woman anywhere should be forced to comply with such rigid rules. (Quite often the women in these situations are more intelligent and wiser than the men controlling them, too) I am SO glad I was born and raised in Canada !