Home Bill 94 spawns discussion on freedom of Muslim women

Bill 94 spawns discussion on freedom of Muslim women

by admin November 23, 2010

Bill 94 spawns discussion on freedom of Muslim women

by admin November 23, 2010

If Bill 94 is passed in Quebec, women will be required by law to reveal their faces in public institutions under the rights of gender equality and religious neutrality.

The departments of political science at Concordia and UQAM took the initiative to host a conference last week to debate the passing of this bill.

“Why is there a preoccupation with this piece of cloth?” said Wendy Brown, the opening speaker of the conference.

Brown, who works in the department of political science at the University of California, is the author of several books examining Westerners’ fear of the Muslim community and of women’s rights. She pointed out that the issue is not about gender freedom but about co-habiting a place where some people may have different religious beliefs and customs.

Brown gave examples of women in Western societies baring their skin, having plastic surgery and wearing high heels. She said women are not choosing these attires because they are free. Rather, they are trying to attain a certain image dictated by a Western male-dominated society.

“There is an assumption that bared skin means equality,” Brown said as she posted a picture of Hugh Heffner with three of his girlfriends on the screens behind her.

She added that she was not defending the use of the burqa nor was she condemning the way some Western women dress. She said she was addressing the issue of Western governments using the dress code of Muslim women as a scapegoat.

She said that by stating that Muslim women are not equal, it is implied that Western women are. Therefore, she said it means the government feels it does not need to examine the treatment of women in their own country.

Not all audience members were convinced of her argument. During the question and answer period, one audience member asked her if the Western model was flawed and if she had a better model to follow. Another audience member asked if there was a limit to how much Western societies should accept.

“Does that mean we cannot ask questions about who we are?” asked Daniel Salée, the event’s organizer.

Brown said she understands that it is difficult to accommodate differences into people’s lives, but she advocates the importance of trying to understand each other so different communities can live peacefully together.

She pointed out that it is important that all cultures reflect and question. Westerners need to stop believing they have a monopoly on adjusting to different communities, she added.

“Tolerance is not the same as equality,” Brown said.

She said tolerance sets boundaries and rules on societies that are thought of as “others.” Brown encouraged people to self-reflect on their biases and try to be curious about differences instead of fearful of them.

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If Bill 94 is passed in Quebec, women will be required by law to reveal their faces in public institutions under the rights of gender equality and religious neutrality.

The departments of political science at Concordia and UQAM took the initiative to host a conference last week to debate the passing of this bill.

“Why is there a preoccupation with this piece of cloth?” said Wendy Brown, the opening speaker of the conference.

Brown, who works in the department of political science at the University of California, is the author of several books examining Westerners’ fear of the Muslim community and of women’s rights. She pointed out that the issue is not about gender freedom but about co-habiting a place where some people may have different religious beliefs and customs.

Brown gave examples of women in Western societies baring their skin, having plastic surgery and wearing high heels. She said women are not choosing these attires because they are free. Rather, they are trying to attain a certain image dictated by a Western male-dominated society.

“There is an assumption that bared skin means equality,” Brown said as she posted a picture of Hugh Heffner with three of his girlfriends on the screens behind her.

She added that she was not defending the use of the burqa nor was she condemning the way some Western women dress. She said she was addressing the issue of Western governments using the dress code of Muslim women as a scapegoat.

She said that by stating that Muslim women are not equal, it is implied that Western women are. Therefore, she said it means the government feels it does not need to examine the treatment of women in their own country.

Not all audience members were convinced of her argument. During the question and answer period, one audience member asked her if the Western model was flawed and if she had a better model to follow. Another audience member asked if there was a limit to how much Western societies should accept.

“Does that mean we cannot ask questions about who we are?” asked Daniel Salée, the event’s organizer.

Brown said she understands that it is difficult to accommodate differences into people’s lives, but she advocates the importance of trying to understand each other so different communities can live peacefully together.

She pointed out that it is important that all cultures reflect and question. Westerners need to stop believing they have a monopoly on adjusting to different communities, she added.

“Tolerance is not the same as equality,” Brown said.

She said tolerance sets boundaries and rules on societies that are thought of as “others.” Brown encouraged people to self-reflect on their biases and try to be curious about differences instead of fearful of them.

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