By Adnan R. Khan - Tuesday, January 8, 2013 - 0 Comments
Zahida Kazmi has survived deadly roads, a fatwa and family abandonment
When it comes to rating her driving skills, on a scale of one to 10, Zahida Kazmi considers herself an 11. “I’m a better driver than most of the men on the road,” says the 57-year-old. “That’s why I get all the good fares.” Kazmi’s confidence is the product of two decades of doing what no other woman in Pakistan does: drive a taxi. In such a deeply patriarchal society, surviving so long in an industry run by men—and in a country notorious for its deadly roads—is a cause for celebration.
Becoming a taxi driver never frightened her, Kazmi says, sitting upright in her modest house in Rawalpindi, 15 km from Islamabad. “I was a widow with six children. They were my only concern. I wanted to give them a good life and a good education. I had a gun and, being a Pashtun, I knew how to use it. Sure, it was tough at first. The male drivers didn’t accept me, and the taxi drivers’ union refused to help. But once they realized I was serious, and they understood the position I was in, they accepted me.” Continue…
By Scaachi Koul - Thursday, July 19, 2012 at 11:11 AM - 0 Comments
A street preacher’s remarks about the way Canadian women dress fuels a tired debate
In Toronto’s Yonge and Dundas Square, street corners are crowded with religious buskers, preachers, end-of-lifers. They’re often ignored until they make statements so foolish that you have to stop and stare.
A Muslim street-preacher in Toronto recently stated in a letter to the Toronto Sun following a string of sexual assaults that he believes women should be forced to cover up in Canada if they don’t want to get raped. Al-Haashim Kamena Atangana believes that Canadian laws “give too much freedom to women” and that Canadian women should adhere to a dress code to avoid being raped.
It’s an old narrative that suggests women who dress provocatively are going to be treated accordingly. It’s a warped argument to make; victim-blaming at its worst. “She was asking for it,” is perhaps the laziest rape apology out there.
Such beliefs, which inspired the city’s SlutWalk movement, matter. Atangana may be a no-name street-preacher in downtown Toronto, but he represents the views held by some men—not all, but enough that it matters—that women deserve what they get. Which is nonsense. What we need is not more blame for girls and women who are victims, but more education and accountability for boys and men to prevent them from becoming perpetrators.
It was heartening, at least, to see that responses to Atangana’s words were exactly what they should be: bewilderment and the refusal to accept that as a reasonable solution to sexual assault. It was irresponsible from the get-go for the Sun to publish the comments of a radical who sent them an email. Once those statements are publicized, however, it’s important to counter them.
After the Sun published Atangana’s comments, former president of the Muslim Canadian Congress, Dr. Farzana Hassan wrote a reply. She argued that the blame for rape should be placed on the perpetrator, and not on the victim. But she also noted, “While rape is more often reported here, it occurs with equal if not greater frequency and ferocity in the Middle East and South Asia.”
In other words, dressing conservatively is unlikely to dissuade sexual assaults—in Middle Eastern countries where women dress more modestly, there are still rapes with little consequence for the perpetrator. The rules of rape are different there, but it’s clear that a rape is a rape, regardless of a woman’s dress.
The trouble with Dr. Hassan’s argument is when she claims that Atangana’s point of view is more widespread in Islamist communities.
“Many Islamist men do not understand the imperative of consent in a sexual relationship,” she writes. “They believe rape is a normal rather than a criminal reaction to female physiology, and assume that this would be every man’s response to a glimpse of skin.”
True enough, Islamists are fundamentalist and extreme conservatives, and their views aren’t the norm throughout Muslim culture. But this argument does nothing for the conversation we’re having about a woman’s ability to feel comfortable in any neighbourhood, regardless of what she wears.
Instead of examining why finding men with victim-blaming beliefs in any community is easy, we can instead blame the Qu’ran. What an easy out.
Atangana’s statements reveal the extremities of Islam, not the moderate middle. In matters of religion, it’s always the smallest minority that screams the loudest. The wide majority of people—of Muslim men and women—are too busy living their lives to be fundamentalists. That’s where the majority lives, but they’re not as sexy a headline as “crazy Muslim guy is crazy.”
“This mythology that there are some religions that are religions of the sword and that some are not is, I’m sorry to say this, but it’s bullshit,” said religious scholar, Dr. Reza Aslan, who is an actual scholar and not a street-preacher who was inexplicably elevated to cleric. “It’s not religion that’s violent or peaceful, it’s people who are violent or peaceful.”
Indeed, it’s absurd to suggest that one, or three, or even 20 men speak for the majority of men in their community. We can’t let the fringe control the message.
Sexism and abuse against women happens in every corner of the world. It happens when a Sault Ste. Marie man takes a Kickstarter campaign too seriously and goes for blood. It happens in Topeka, Kansas, where a domestic violence law was repealed because of budget cuts. It isn’t isolated to traditionally Muslim countries—women are devalued across the globe, regardless of culture or religion.
But Dr. Hassan’s suggestion that all Islamist men are the same in their views on women does nothing to fix, or even address the problem. Rape isn’t religious; all that assumption does is make it seem like an isolated problem.
And that, as Dr. Aslan would say, is just bullshit.
By Philippe Gohier - Wednesday, March 24, 2010 at 12:16 PM - 155 Comments
What Naema Ahmed’s expulsion from a French class really shows
UPDATE: The Quebec government tabled a bill Wednesday requiring faces to be in plain view when obtaining or delivering government services.
In August 2009, Naema Ahmed, a pharmacist, mother of three and an observant Muslim living in Montreal, began what is known in French as a cour de francisation—literally, a Frenchifying class—at CEGEP Saint-Laurent in the city’s north end. Apart from being taught the (often confounding) rules of French conjugation, students taking the 33-week, 1,000-hour class learn rhythm, intonation and the practical use of the language: how to shop for groceries and clothes, as well as how to ask for help if they get lost or confused. They also learn the basic workings of Quebec society: that it is French-speaking, secular and considers men and women as equals. In other words, the class teaches integration nearly as much as it does the French language.
At the behest of a school official, Ahmed lifted her niqab—a garment worn by certain observant Muslim women that covers the whole face except the eyes—when registering for the course. When she showed up for class, however, Ahmed refused to remove her veil in the presence of the three male students in attendance in the class of 19. The following 11 weeks, according to a government source, “were one step forward, two steps back”; the teacher often had to halt oral exercises between students to accommodate Ahmed—she didn’t want to speak unveiled to the men of the class. Moreover, the source said, Ahmed at first agreed to remove her niqab for certain exercises, then changed her mind as the classes wore on. “There was no will on her part to compromise,” said the source. (Ahmed was contacted by Maclean’s for this story, but she declined an interview.)
Midway through the second 11-week block of classes, the teacher had had enough. She went to the director of the school, Paul-Émile Bourque. School officials further attempted to have Ahmed remove the veil, which failed; Bourque then called the province’s Immigration Ministry, which runs the classes. (The $4,000-program is entirely subsidized by the Quebec government.) With the consent of Yolande James, Quebec’s minister of immigration, Ahmed was asked to leave the class. It was likely the first time in the program’s 40-year history that a student was turned away on account of a few square centimetres of black cloth.
By Mark Steyn - Thursday, December 10, 2009 at 8:00 AM - 160 Comments
Women forbidden by law from feeling sunlight—hey, that’s a positive message for young girls
The other day, George Jonas passed on to his readers a characteristically shrewd observation gleaned from the late poet George Faludy: “No one likes to think of himself as a coward,” wrote Jonas. “People prefer to think they end up yielding to what the terrorists demand, not because it’s safer or more convenient, but because it’s the right thing . . . Successful terrorism persuades the terrorized that if they do terror’s bidding, it’s not because they’re terrified but because they’re socially concerned.”
This is true. Resisting terror is exhausting. It’s easier to appease it, but, for the sake of your self-esteem, you have to tell yourself you’re appeasing it in the cause of some or other variant of “social justice.” Obviously, it’s unfortunate if “Canadians” get arrested for plotting to murder the artists and publishers of the Danish Muhammad cartoons, but that’s all the more reason to be even more accommodating of the various “sensitivities” arising from the pervasive Islamophobia throughout Western society. Etc.
Yet this psychology also applies to broader challenges. By way of example, take a fluffy feature from a recent edition of Britain’s Daily Mail: “It’s Barbie in a Burka,” read the headline. Yes, as part of her 50th anniversary celebrations, “one of the world’s most famous children’s toys, Barbie, has been given a makeover.” And, in an attractive photo shoot, there was Barbie in “traditional Islamic dress,” wearing full head-to-toe lime-green and red burkas. At least, I’m assuming it was Barbie. It could have been G.I. Joe back there for all one can tell from the letterbox slot of eyeball meshing.