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The Hijab: A form of liberation or a sign of oppression?
The hijab, worn by Muslim women, consists of a veil, worn in different ways, generally covering the head and exposing either the eyes or the entire face. Over the past decade, the hijab has generated controversy around the world. A school in Montreal banned the hijab as a means of adhering to the schools dress code. Feminists argue that the hijab is a sign of oppression that contributes to the inequality that exists between men and women. Whereas, the majority of Muslim women argue that it is a personal, religious choice and a powerful form of female liberation. Banning the Hijab:
In 2003, two students were expelled from Ecole Charlemagne high school in Montreal for refusing to remove their hijabs. The school administration claimed that their hijabs were in violation of the schools dress code. The administration announced, “she would not be allowed back unless she removes her hijab” (Elmenyawi). Therefore, both students were refused access to a free education because they would not remove a piece of clothing that represents their religious beliefs. The expulsion violates the Canadian Multiculturalism Act, which states, “persons belonging to ethnic, religious or linguistic minorities shall not be denied the right to enjoy their own culture, to profess and practice their own religion” (Canadian Multiculturalism Act, 3 [a]). The hijab is a strong symbol of religious devotion and prohibiting students from wearing this symbol is an infringement upon their personal rights. The Code of Ethics of the Education Profession, which defines the educator’s commitment to the student, protects the rights of students within the school environment. The code claims that the educator “shall not on the basis of race…political or religious beliefs, family, social or cultural background…unfairly exclude any student from participation in any program” (Strike, and Soltis ix). Based on the Code of Ethics, banning hijabs is a violation against the students’ personal right of religious expression. The school administration could argue that section 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights allows “limitations for the respect of the rights or reputations of others and for the protection of national security” (“Global Campaign for Free Expression” 16). The covenant supports students right to legally express religious symbols as long as they do not pose a threat towards the safety of others. I am unable to make the connection between a religious scarf and a threat to public safety. The school administration did not provide a public comment on the situation and the students’ expulsion was removed. The organizations that have attempted to ban hijabs have been met with objections, especially among activist groups that support individual rights to personal expression. Feminist Perspective:
Many feminist groups view the hijab as a symbol of oppression between males and females. Even if women choose to wear the hijab for personal or religious purposes, it is interpreted as a sign of female compliance. Author and feminist, Diane Guilbault, wrote a book entitled Democracy and Sexual Equality, which attacks feminists groups that support women’s decision to wear the hijab. In an interview, Guilbault defines a feminist act as “something that aims for emancipation, both of oneself, as an individual, and as a group. It’s not a feminist choice to choose the veil” (Montreal Gazette). According to Guilbault, women who choose to wear the hijab endorse the inequality that exists between men and women. This feminist perspective has become less popular with the rise of literature that approaches misconceptions about the hijab. For example, in 2005, Randa Abdel-Fattah released the young adult novel, Does My Head Look Big in This? The novel explores the difficulties that a sixteen-year-old girl experiences when she decides to wear the hijab. The main character Amal...
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