Lookout Links: June 29

A Toronto private school is being sued by a Muslim student for defamation, as a result of the school’s response to a fight in which racial slurs were made against the student:

A private French school run by a former Liberal MP defamed a 15-year-old student during an assembly and did not treat alleged racial slurs made against him seriously because he is Muslim, a lawsuit alleges.

Omar Elgammal is suing the Toronto French School, headmaster John Godfrey – who was first elected to the House of Commons in 1993 – and principal Heidi Gollert over alleged remarks at a school assembly denouncing the teen after a fight apparently sparked by racial slurs.

In the defamation lawsuit filed in Ontario Superior Court, Elgammal alleges that on Oct. 23, 2008, a student from another private school was at Toronto French School and insulted Elgammal.

The student “seized” upon Elgammal’s Muslim heritage, calling his father “bin Laden,” calling them terrorists and saying, “What are you guys going to do, call out, `Allah, Allah, Allah, Allah, Allah?” Elgammal alleges. (Read more)

The Canadian government has decided not to pursue legislation that would have forced niqab-wearing women to show their faces when voting in Canadian elections:

The federal government has no plans to move forward with proposed legislation to force veiled women to show their faces when voting, the minister of state for democratic reform said Thursday.

“We have other priorities as far as increasing voter participation and with the expanded voting opportunities legislation,” Steven Fletcher said in an interview.

“And that is our focus. That obviously will affect a lot more people.”

Dmitri Soudas, a spokesperson for Prime Minister Stephen Harper, confirmed the government still supports the idea of forcing voters to reveal their faces, but said the bill doesn’t have opposition support.

“The bottom line is even if we were to proceed with legislation, it would be voted down immediately,” Soudas said. (Read more)

More on Adil Charkaoui’s cross-Canada speaking tour, this time from Vancouver:

“The purpose of this Canadian tour is simple,” said Charkaoui at a news conference this morning. “I want to talk directly to Canadians, to show them that I was treated unfairly by their government, by our government.”

Charkaoui arrived in Canada from Morocco as a permanent resident with his mother, father and sister in 1995. On May 21, 2003, he was arrested after the federal government signed a security certificate against him, and later accused him of being a threat to national security. Charkaoui was jailed for 21 months and released under the strict conditions of a security certificate in 2005. Today, he wears a GPS tracking device and must alert the Canadian Border Services Agency 48 hours before leaving the island of Montreal. As well, he is not allowed to associate with anyone with a criminal record or use the Internet outside of his home.

“Never has the federal government been able to prove the so called ‘reasonable character’ of the security certificate issued against him,” said Fernand Dechamps, who travelled to Vancouver with Charkaoui. (Read more)

The Ottawa Citizen reflects on a Canadian magazine’s portrayal of Jordan’s Queen Rania:

As it happens, Queen Rania does have very strong ideas about Jordan and its place in the world, although you’d never know it from that Hello Canada article. On her dedicated YouTube channel, you can hear her speak in a intelligent way about the education of girls, for example.

She’s at her most inspiring when she’s talking about the need to eliminate the suspicion and mistrust between the West and the Arab world.

And, as much as I hate to admit it, her personality is her most powerful tool in that project. She’s a high-profile Muslim woman who wears jeans and lets her long hair hang loose and uncovered because that’s her choice. She talks about her relationship with her husband as an equal partnership. She is Queen, and she calls that a “mandate” and takes it seriously, especially given the state of the Middle East. “We live in a tough neighbourhood,” she told Hello Canada. (Read more)

Haroon Siddiqui

Haroon Siddiqui

Recently journalist Haroon Siddiqui tried to answer the question “Why is it “politically toxic” to say that the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario be scrapped?” In his piece in the Toronto Star entitled Why Tories are worrying about rights tribunal” Siddiqui presents an eye-opening, yet seemingly obvious, role that Muslims have unwittingly played in scaring Canadian policy makers into doing things they may not have done otherwise, had they not been so damn terrified of us “big, bad Muslims.”

In answering his question Siddiqui explains that the “subtext here is Muslims.” In other words, in many controversies, in many controversial and difficult decisions, there has been an undercurrent of fearing Muslims. The Ontario controversy of funding religious schools would not have occurred had there not been the prospect of funding Islamic schools. The decision to not allow religious arbitration in Ontario would not have been made had it not been for Muslims asking to be allowed to religiously arbitrate.  This fear of Muslims hurt not only Muslims, but other religious groups who had already been using religious arbitration but were now not able to.

And now the fuss over human rights tribunals has been sparked because Muslims accused Macleans of printing Islamophobic content. Otherwise, before that, human rights commissions were going about their same business with very few complaints. It was only when Muslims got involved that accusations of silencing free speech and freedom of press were thrown around.

Siddiqui’s piece reveals an underlying fear of Canadian Muslims which is based on the  false and harmful belief that Muslims are somehow not really Canadian. The assumption, if one looks at Siddiqui’s examples, is that Muslims living in Canada, do not understand “Canadian values” * like freedom of speech, religious freedom, or the law.

In the Sharia debates, which lead to the outlawing of religious arbitration, the detractors of Islamic religious arbitration were up in arms worrying about Muslim women. The fear was that if Muslims were allowed to decide for themselves on certain civil matters we would most certainly fail in any attempt for justice. Muslims, unlike the Christians and Jews who had been arbitrating for years before us, were not deemed capable of meting out fair and equal justice. That was something only the Canadian courts  and Christian and Jewish arbitrators could do – not Muslims ones. It was assumed that somehow Islamic forms of justice, unlike other religious forms, were inferior to secular Canadian ones and thus had no space in the Canadian arena.

With the religious schools kerfuffle we saw a similar uproar when funding for all religious schools was suggested. Funding Christian schools for some reason has been and still is fine. And funding other religious schools would have been fine. But it’s those damn Muslims again. Governments could not fund an Islamic school where they teach God knows what kind of un-Canadian stuff.

And finally, the recent fuss over human rights tribunals has been spurned by Muslims using the tribunal to fight Islamophobia. This regardless of the fact that other religious groups have used (and probably abused) the human rights tribunal in the past without a peep from others (with the exception of a few).

There seems to be an “understanding” among non-Muslim Canadians that there is something inherently pathological about Muslims and Islamic beliefs. Therefore, Muslims and our beliefs cannot be allowed  into the public arena. The “understanding” that Muslim values counter and clash with Canadian ones further others Muslims. What are Muslim values and what are Canadian values? Are they really distinct from one another? And aren’t the values of Canadian Muslims also Canadian? And where in this debate between Canadian versus other values do our indigenous populations come into play?

A “Canadian versus Muslim” dichotomy creates the illusion that somehow there exist distinct value systems that are at odds with one another and cannot co-exist. Consequently, a hierarchy is created in which one “set of values” (Canadian) is deemed superior to the other. Those whose “set of values” are deemed inferior are themselves seen as inferior and less Canadian. Additionally, this dichotomy leaves no room for a discussion of Canada’s indigenous peoples pushing them out of “Canadianness” altogether.

* Very arbitrary and subjective phenomenon. I am not using in the sense that distinct Canadian values exist. Rather I am using it as many use it to other certain people.

Image by Rick Westhead via Toronto Star

Image by Rick Westhead via Toronto Star

Before the semester ended, a fellow classmate at York University had informed our African Studies class of a new project concerning children and technology in Africa. Similar to the Bike program where a store donates a bicycle for each child in (particular country), laptops were being given to very young children. After an hour of debate and discussion, I left the class thinking that laptops were the last thing a kid needs for a chance at a normal life. Basic needs have to be met first.

So when I came across this article on the Toronto Star website, I was immediately interested. I am one of those people that hates to hear news about wars or violence anywhere, especially Muslim countries. So I have not been keeping up with developments of any kind concerning in Iraq or Afghanistan. The little that I do hear tends to be notions of decay and lack of progress. Although I wasn’t too keen about laptops in African children’s hands, I didn’t mind, and was actually pleased, to hear about the skateboarding program.

I believe Oliver Percovich, originally from Australia, is doing the right thing by introducing skateboarding as a sport to Afghani children. In the Skateistan School in Kabul he has established, kids do not only learn the art of skateboarding, but learn about general health and language and music. Kids are also hired as skateboarding instructors and paid to teach younger kids or lower levels basic moves, thus enhancing their self-esteem and allowing them to get off the streets.

“Look at Fazillah,” Percovich says to the reporter. “I remember the first day she came here in January. She was walking through the park with a pile of sticks on her back. Her family had her quit school and she was selling chewing gum in the streets for $2 (U.S.) a day. Now she’s far more confident, and we pay her the same as she made on the street to stay in school and come here afterwards and teach skateboarding to the younger children.”

Even when I look around Toronto or Chicago, families from every sort of ethnic background are putting their children in athletic camps and team sports. At the YMCA I belong to, kids have their own gym times, classes and playground so parents are more than happy to buy them memberships and bring them along. Many spend weekends there as a way of getting in quality family bonding time.

No doubt sports have countless benefits. Team sports encourage fitness, peer interaction, leadership qualities, and discipline that comes with practicing a certain skill and working with a Coach.  Individuals who practice non-team sports often admit that they feel fresh and attentive and stress-free. Therefore, many students are encouraged to participate in various sports. However, in a country that is recovering from war and where schools are still being built and where many children must help out their families, kids often struggle to find other forms of recreation.

So far, the Canadian government has donated $15,000, “the German embassy has invested $140,000 and Denmark has contributed $125,000.” From the proceeds, a 1,750-square-metre indoor skate park with a steel-roofed building that costs $200,000 will be completed this August.

Along with spaces for language and music classes, there will be segregation along “the skate park’s concrete surface and ramps so girls can continue to skateboard after they hit puberty – when they begin to wear head-to-toe burqas.”

Unfortunately, many critics have raised concerns over Western cultural influence even though none of the students have adapted the Western skateboarding outfit of baggy jeans and none of the kids know Tony Hawk.

There have been reports that some girls have been beaten by their brothers and some of the student employees have been threatened. To be safe, Oliver and his family moved across town. He insists that his aim is not to bring Western culture to the kids. From time to time, he holds girls-only sessions to include younger children and females who may not get as much of a chance to practice their skills.

The kids just skateboard because of the physical enjoyment of the sport. “This is really fun,” says Fazillah, who has two brothers and six sisters and plans to be a doctor some day. “Why do I like coming out skateboarding?

“It’s just a great time passer.”

I look forward to hearing more about this project and I hope that all cultures will be open and accepting of new ideas before shunning them in fear.

Originally published at Muslimah Media Watch

Kamala Das. via Jaihoon.com

Kamala Das. via Jaihoon.com

I wrote last week about a positive portrayal of a Muslim woman who had recently been voted president of a mosque.  I’m going to stick with the positive stuff for at least another week (although, considering the state of global media portrayals of Muslim women, this probably won’t last too much longer) and talk about a recent Toronto Star article about Kamala Suraiyya, a Muslim poet and writer from southern India, who has recently passed away.

Cleo Paskal, the journalist, who knew Kamala Suraiyya as a family friend, remembers her as

an award-winning writer and poet who was famous for unflinchingly, and controversially, writing about every aspect of being human, including love, sex and religion.

Her honesty, beautifully packaged in elegant turns of phrase, combined with her social activism to make her an icon.

Paskal describes Suraiyya as a popular and gracious figure who was constantly receiving visitors:

They came from all over the world: editors from New York wanting to include her poems in their anthologies, village women wanting to talk about their hardships, TV producers wanting to serialize her short stories, politicians wanting endorsements, believers wanting blessings.

They were all looking for something. And what they found was Kamala. I watched as she gave and gave and gave. Time, bangles, tears, laughter, advice, admonitions, poems. She held court in the grandest tradition, welcoming each and every one with honour and respect.

By this point, when I was reading the article, I had assumed that Suraiyya was not Muslim, so I was surprised to get to the part where Paskal mentioned that Suraiyya had in fact become Muslim in 1999, at the age of 65.  I had to ask myself, why had I been so quick to assume that she was non-Muslim, especially because the whole reason that I was reading the article was that my Google News search had indicated that the word “Muslim” appeared in the article?

I think one of the reasons I was surprised is that Muslim women are so often talked about as if the “Muslim” part overtakes all other facets of our identities.  To go more than half an article before specifying that its main subject is Muslim seems pretty unusual.  Granted, the article was written by a friend of Suraiyya’s who knew her before she was Muslim, so it makes sense that the focus was on other things (and that the journalist obviously saw her as more than just “a Muslim woman.”)  However, given how rare it is for “Muslim” to be represented as only one facet of a person’s identity, instead of the overarching label that dominates the portrait, it was good to see this description emphasize the multiple identities that any Muslim woman may happen to have.  Even the fact that she had embraced Islam after coming from a Hindu family isn’t made into a big deal.

Suraiyya passed away on May 31 of this year, and Paskal’s description of the multi-faith memorials for her is especially powerful:

The burial was at Palayam Mosque in the state capital, Thiruvananthapuram. It is one of the most conservative in Kerala and was chosen in part because it shares a wall with a temple, and is close to a church – symbolizing Kamala’s universal importance.

In keeping with the spirit of Kamala, the Islamic community made sure that all were welcome.

I was privileged to be there, and it was remarkable. Women, including non-Muslims, were allowed to participate in preparing the body for burial. Hindu and Christian leaders, and one of the city’s oldest Jewish families attended. It was accepting, emotive and powerful. Like Kamala. Already the unprecedented coming together of so many faiths on the welcoming grounds of the mosque is having a resounding, rebounding, positive effect.

Mosques throughout the world held prayers for Kamala, and prayers were said for her in churches and temples.

This description provides a welcome contrast to images of Islam and Muslims as intolerant of other religions and incapable of existing peacefully with followers of other faiths.  This isn’t even portrayed as something out of the ordinary, but as a normal way that one woman related to the members of her community.

I am not at all familiar with Kamala Suraiyya’s work, so I can’t comment on her as a writer; however, the positive and loving portrayal in this article shows that Muslim women fall into many different categories besides “Muslim” – writers, activists, mentors – and that it is possible for Muslims to exist in close and respectful relationships to people of all different religions.  It is, perhaps, sad that we should have to celebrate this fact (since this image may seem obvious to many of us), but considering all the representations out there of Muslims as inherently violent and intolerant, descriptions such as this one, of alternate possibilities, are always nice to see.

Image via The Toronto Star

Image via The Toronto Star

“Pride parade ‘microcosm of anti-Semitism happening globally’” headlined the Jewish Tribune last month, outlining lawyer Martin Gladstone’s and Jewish advocacy organization B’nai Brith’s concern with the “anti-Israel political advocacy going on” at the parade. The objection Gladstone and B’nai Brith raised to the inclusion of Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (QuAIA) in Toronto’s upcoming parade embodies several leitmotifs in the North American discourse around Israel/Palestine (and regarding Muslims and Muslim-majority countries in general): the suppression of dissent and the silencing of critical perspectives in forums that traditionally challenge the status quo; the conflation of legitimate criticism of Israeli policies with anti-Semitism; and the co-optation of the language of human rights to justify colonial and imperial projects. It is this last trend which constitutes the subject-matter of this analysis.

Executive vice-president of B’nai Brith Canada Frank Dimant considers it

the height of irony to single out democratic Israel in this fashion [by protesting Israeli occupation of Palestine in the Pride Parade] when it is the only country in the Middle East that guarantees the fundamental freedoms of all its citizens without distinction. In stark contrast, the rights of the LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender] community in neighbouring Arab countries are routinely trampled on. Members of Canada’s LGBT community who are constantly battling discrimination should be mindful not to become part and parcel of the anti-Israel machinery that continues to churn out hateful and divisive propaganda.

Dimant’s insinuation is that protesting Israeli apartheid equals a demonstration of support for the homophobia of the Arab countries, and against the equality Israel guarantees to its LGBT community – an argument which implies that Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land is somehow justified by Palestinian homophobia. This logic obviously contradicts that basic, if hackneyed, (in)equation of moral arithmetic: two wrongs don’t equal a right.

Dimant’s framing of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict as one between a democratic, tolerant Israel and an oppressive, intolerant Arab world resonates with a broader discourse which appropriates the language of human rights in the service of colonial and imperial ventures. As Sherene Razack trenchantly observes in her book Casting Out: The Eviction of Muslims from Western Law and Politics,

[Zionist positions] premised on the idea that a Jewish state must be created by force regardless of Palestinian opposition benefits from the companion notion that Palestinians are not entitled to the land by virtue of their refusal to enter modernity.1

The rights of women and sexual minorities serve as markers distinguishing modern societies from pre-modern ones in a Manichean clash between a Western culture “imagined as a homogenous composite of values including a unique commitment to democracy and human rights,” 2 and a Muslim culture characterized by a commitment to misogyny and homophobia. The wars waged to “liberate” the women of Afghanistan and Iraq represent one aspect of this “clash of civilizations”; Holland’s test requiring would-be immigrants to watch a video of two men kissing in a park to weed out illiberal applicants (primarily Muslim) represents another.

The misogyny and homophobia that do exist in the West disappear into the fault line dividing the Western and Muslim worlds in the clash of civilizations fiction. In the case of homophobia, for example: sodomy was illegal in Canada until 1969 and in some American states as recently as 2003; in November 2008, California passed Proposition 8 banning gay marriage; B’nai Brith, ostensibly championing Israel’s gay rights, is “openly aligned with anti-gay rights Christian fundamentalists such as Charles McVety, Canada’s most vocal lobbyist against same-sex marriage, and John Hagee, who claimed God sent Hurricane Katrina to stop ‘a homosexual parade.’” There is no place for these facts in a simplistically dichotomous narrative which juxtaposes the homogenously modern West against the pre-modern rest.

Before closing, it should be noted that the purpose of this piece is not to engage in a tu quoque argument that catalogues North American homophobia and measures it up against its Arab or Muslim counterpart; rather, it is to point out that while homophobia exists in both “Western” and “Muslim” societies, it is only diagnosed as a symptom of fatal pre-modernity (requiring treatment by invasion and occupation) in Muslim ones. Nor is this article an exercise in apologetics: there are grave human rights concerns in many Muslim-majority countries, and they need to be addressed. However, it does no service to the causes of justice and equality to marry the concept of human rights to racist ideologies of imperialism.

1) The contemporary rhetoric of culture clash premised on notions of human rights echoes the earlier colonial concept of terra nullius (no one’s land), which justified the European theft of land from its insufficiently modern indigenous inhabitants. For instance, Theodore Roosevelt defended the violent colonization of North America thus: “The world would probably not have gone forward at all, had it not been for the displacement or submersion of savage and barbaric peoples” (from The Winning of the West).

2) Sherene Razack. Casting Out: The Eviction of Muslims from Western Law and Politics. pg. 88

See also:

“Modern Women as Imperialists” in Sherene Razack. Casting Out: The Eviction of Muslims from Western Law and Politics.

Haneen Maikey and Jason Ritchie. “Queers for Palestine: A Response to an Article in the Advocate.” http://auto_sol.tao.ca/node/3276

Huibin Amee Chew. “Occupation is Not (Women’s) Liberation. http://www.zmag.org/znet/viewArticle/6599

Lookout Links: June 22

Adil Charkaoui, one of five men arrested on a security certificate in 2003, is on a speaking tour across Canada, and has spoken in several cities already.  For those of you in Vancouver and Victoria, see here for the dates that he’ll be in your city this week.  Check out this article too, about his talk in Fredericton:

[O]n June 3, 2009, my students came face to face with the consequences of Canada’s counter-terrorism measures and the realities they create.

Adil Charkaoui hesitantly entered the class with a book-bag slung over one shoulder. We made our introductions and he seemed very collegial. He began his talk by apologizing for his English, noting it was his third language, and how he was nervous to misspeak due to prior experiences. He was then interrupted by a phone call which he reluctantly answered. Explaining in French, he told the caller he was in the middle of a presentation and asked if he could call back shortly.

“Sorry, it was the government”. Indeed, the effects of one policy were becoming increasingly clear for my class.

As I’m sure many readers are aware, Mr. Charkaoui is one of five gentlemen who have been detained in Canada under the provisions of Federal Immigration Security Certificates. In fact, Mr. Charkaoui was the lead plaintiff in a Supreme Court case which resulted in the certificate legislation being declared unconstitutional and a violation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. […]

Mr. Charkaoui painted a vivid picture of the personal consequences resulting from this imbalance – described through his indefinite detention; threats of deportation to a 3rd party where it was assumed on reasonable grounds (established by the government) he would be subjected to torture, cruel or inhumane treatment; infringements on privacy and impediments to maintaining employment as a teacher.

Although his bail restrictions have been relaxed due to a court ruling, Mr. Charkaoui lamented about the stigmatism of being labeled a terrorist and the difficulties in trying to counter such a label and establish some normalcy in his life. For this reason, he has launched a cross-Canada speaking tour aimed at sharing his experiences and the consequences of such repressive legislation as the certificate policy. The effects of which are still omnipresent. (Read more)

The Edmonton Journal writes about the Africa Centre, a multicultural and multifaith community space for people of various African backgrounds:

A girl in a hijab as bright as her smile plays a game with friends, volunteers quizzing them on math questions as they move pieces around a board. Around her, children who have made the journey from Africa to Edmonton focus on puzzles, and computers, and games, their chatter infusing the old Wellington Junior High School with new life.

Look down this hallway. Young boys in stockinged feet kneel to face Mecca, touching their foreheads to a red prayer rug.

Turn around. Basketballs thump on a hard gym floor. Impossibly long bodies leap into the air.

Open this door. Beans, peppers, and tomatoes grow in a makeshift greenhouse, tended to by immigrants who come from countries where they never knew sub-zero temperatures.

This is the Africa Centre, part community organization, part cultural hub, part leap of faith for a group of community leaders who want to unite a diverse immigrant population that is growing each year. The children who attend the homework club, like the adults who promote it, come from across a continent that stretches from the Mediterranean Sea to the Indian Ocean. (Read more)

Abousfian Abdelrazik will, apparently, be finally allowed to return to Canada from Sudan, after having been repeatedly refused travel documents by the Canadian government, although his story is likely far from over:

Even before the flight arrangements are made to bring Abousfian Abdelrazik home from Sudan, there’s a rising clamour for a full-blown inquiry, an apology – perhaps even a settlement – over the Canadian government’s role in his six-year exile.

“Abdelrazik’s case is far more grave than [Maher] Arar’s in terms of Canada’s involvement,” said the NDP’s Paul Dewar, the Ottawa MP who has championed his case in the Commons. “This has been a form of Canadian rendition, exiling a citizen when there was no evidence against him.”

Justice Minister Rob Nicholson’s terse announcement in Parliament Thursday provided no details about how the government will make good on the court-ordered obligation to repatriate Mr. Abdelrazik.

“The government will comply with the court order,” Mr. Nicholson said, referring to an order by Mr. Justice Russell Zinn of the Federal Court that Mr. Abdelrazik be brought home with a diplomatic escort within 30 days. (Read more)

Reading through Licia Corbella’s  Calgary Herald article “Obama’s Speech filled with dangerous equivocations”, I was filled with a sense of disgust and awe. Disgust because of the assumptions and generalisations she makes and awed because, considering her experience, one would not expect such a shallow analysis of Obama’s speech addressing the Muslim people. Early on in her article she divides the world into a Muslim and a Western world, with the no possibility of overlap between the two. Clearly from her article one is backwards, and primitive, and the other civilised and progressive.
She presents the Western world as being the ideal of humanity and the Muslim world being primitive, ruled by “medieval-minded men” and with human rights “rare to non-existent in these countries”. The amount of generalisation and over-exaggeration in the article is incredible. She repeatedly implies the practise of certain Muslim countries as the practices and laws of all Muslim countries through the use of “Islamic world” and “Muslim world” as a whole, practising certain laws. She states

that women in Islamic world should not be forced to wear a hijab or niqab…

She ignores the fact that only two countries in the “Islamic world” (Iran and Saudi Arabia) enforce a head cover. Similarly she states that the Muslim world is ruled by “brutal dictators” suggesting every Muslim country is a dictatorship. Clearly this is not the case. Although dictatorships may exist in some countries of West Asia, the majority of Muslim-majority countries, are not dictatorships. (Some examples include Pakistan and Turkey, which are democracies; Malaysia, which is a constitutional monarchy; and the UAE, which is a federation.) Before the war, Iraq would have been a dictatorship, though it should be noted that it was supported by the US at some point.

Additionally, all Muslim men in this article are represented as extremely backward people with no individuality and with no hope for progression.

One stunning accusation she makes, without giving any substantial proof, is

…in all of Muslim world beating one’s wife is not just condoned but even encouraged and taught in the mosques.

Such an accusation assumes that all Muslim men beat their wives regularly and their society not only encourages such an act but also teaches them how to perform this act. This implies Muslim women have no freedom whatsoever and all Muslim men at some point in their life will be abusive towards their wife. This accusation is hard to absorb, considering that I belong to a Muslim family and have never once witnessed encouragement of wife battering in any mosque in the west or in the east. As a matter of fact, wife beating and domestic abuse are extremely discouraged and looked down upon by societies and mosques themselves. Domestic violence is part of every society regardless, of whether it is in the west or east, and it can’t be generalized to just one society.

Her constant attempt to not regard Muslim women’s struggle for rights as equal to problems faced by women in the West is quite bleak. She repeatedly suggests that problems faced by western women are minor to the problems faced by Muslim women because western laws protect them and they are literate and aware of those laws. In contrast to them, Muslim women living in the whole of “Muslim world” are supposedly illiterate, unaware of their rights or even unaware of being victimised. Hence the struggle is greater and harder for Muslim women. It is quite astonishing that she fails to recognise, being a Canadian writer, the Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act introduced by Stephen Harper in parliament that revokes the right of Canadian women to demand equitable pay. If revoking a right of a western woman is this easy (and, according to Corbella, minor) then how are Muslim women’s struggles greater than Western women, if even some Western women are illiterate with regards to their own rights?

In addition, she also fails to recognize the continuing plight of non-white women trying to achieve equality in the Western World. By assuming that Western women’s plight is minor to that of Muslim women’s struggle, she undermines the struggle of Native women and women of colour in trying to achieve equality. Native women’s struggle for equality is a continuing and by no means minor struggle. They have to face racism in every aspect of Western law. Hence, they are not even recognized as equal in Western law, contrary to Corbella’s belief that “before the law, all western women are equal citizens.” Western women in this article seem to be only white women who supposedly do not have to struggle anymore for their equality and rights. Maybe Corbella needs to talk to a few Western feminists. I’m sure they would clear up this misconception in a second.

By generalizing and exaggerating, Corbella creates a perception of only a misogynistic Muslim society without acknowledging the reality that Muslims come from a wide variety of cultures and countries practising their own laws. If one were to read this article without having any prior knowledge of diversity of Muslim people, one would probably believe Muslim men as patriarchal, and animalistic, Muslim women as being brutalised at the hands of their male counterparts, without having the ability to think and decide for themselves, and Muslim society as the most primitive of societies in the modern progressive world of today.