religion

The Niqab Debate

niqabWhat is a niqab? A niqab is a scarf used to cover a woman’s face except her eyes. Her breasts, hair, ears are covered with a separate scarf. This is different from the hijab which leaves the entire face exposed and burka which covers the entire body and leaves a mesh screen over the eyes to see through.

Ms. Ishaq, of Mississauga, Ontario continues her fight against the government to wear a niqab while swearing an oath of citizenship to become a Canadian. The Stephen Harper government banned this practice but Ms. Ishaq filed an appeal. In the appeal, the Federal court decided to lift the ban on the niqab as it violated government regulations.

Federal Judge Keith Boswell stated that it “interferes with a citizenship judge’s duty to allow candidates for citizenship the greatest possible freedom in the religious solemnization or the solemn affirmation of the oath.”

His decision has resulted in significant debate among some devout Muslims.

Controversy

Devout Muslim and activist Raheel Raza, who currently serves on The Council for Muslims Facing Tomorrow, author of Their Jihad … Not my Jihad and an international activist for women’s rights, argues that the niqab has no connection to Islam. She went as far to state:

They’re the political flags of the Muslim Brotherhood, ISIS, the Taliban, al-Qaida and Saudi Arabia.” (http://tinyurl.com/pplxxll)

Ms. Raza goes on to inform Canadian judges that niqabs are not permitted in Pakistani courts. She supports this with the fact that in 2004, Chief Justice of the Peshawar High Court (PHC), Tariq Pervaiz Khan, had forbidden female attorneys from wearing face veils in courtrooms due to the fact that they couldn’t be identified, nor assist the court properly while wearing veils. He then went further to inform the women wearing niqabs that they are professionals and covering their faces is not a religious requirement.

Supporting these views is a scholar of Islamic history; Prof. Mohammad Qadeer of Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario who informed the Globe and Mail:

“The argument about concealing one’s face as a religious obligation is contentious and is not backed by the evidence. In Western societies, the niqab also is a symbol of distrust for fellow citizens and a statement of self-segregation. The wearer of a face veil is conveying: ‘I am violated if you look at me.”(http://tinyurl.com/pplxxll)

FlagThe foundation for the Federal court decision was banning the niqab didn’t “allow candidates for citizenship the greatest possible freedom in the religious solemnization or the solemn affirmation of the oath.” However, these devout Muslims and activists are arguing no rights would be violated as it is not a religious practice.

Conversely, Muslims who identify with Ms. Ishaq clearly disagree as they interpret the religion scriptures to state otherwise.

The opposing counsel is determined to take the matter to the Supreme Court of Canada in hopes to overturn the appeal.

This decision will be a defining case that will help shape future legislation and Canadian history.

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Points of Discussion:

1. What are your thoughts? What points do you agree/disagree with?

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Vandalizing an Elementary School in the Name of Protest

It’s that time of the year again, when parents take a sigh of relief while children return to school. However, this year returning to school has been different for many students and teachers. Why? Teachers school facility, MPP’s and school buildings are facing the backlash of the new sex education curriculum.

AidsIn the first two days of schools alone, two schools were vandalized supposedly by parents in protest of the newly revised sex education curriculum. The phrase “shame on you” was spray painted on the walls of Thorncliffe Park public school and Fraser Mustard Early Learning Academy. Personally, I found this behaviour to be immature. Canadians have the right to protest but this kind of action is just unacceptable especially in the case of elementary schools.

Students shouldn’t be exposed to vandalism as a means of adult protests. It’s not fair for the children to have what is supposed to be their safe space to learn vandalized. Imagine seeing these words in a space where children aged 4-10 play and learn. Imagine how upsetting it was for parents to explain to their children why that writing was on the wall. Sex-education is a sensitive issue and it is understandable why parents have their concerns. Everyone has the right to protest and follow their beliefs however; I don’t believe vandalism is the way to achieve that goal.

Furthermore, half of the students from Thorncliffe were removed from their first day of classes as a protest to the new curriculum. Thorncliffe is known for having a large Muslim population of students. However, some Muslim community members such as Farrah Marfatiah have chosen to take a unique role by creating a guide to the new guidelines by explaining the changes in accordance to Islamic beliefs. Read more about it here: http://tinyurl.com/qbqpohg. In the past, some parents have protested outside of Liberal MPP offices against the new legislation.

Wednesday, “the day of protest” was put together by the pro-life group Campaign Life Coalition. Some parents went as far to suggest that they are considering removing their child from public school and placing them in Catholic schools or home schooling their children in order to avoid having their child learn the new sex-education material. Other parents are arguing that sex-education should be taught at home. Conversely, some parents are accepting the sex-education curriculum for the most part but object to parts of it including teaching children about homosexuality.

LgbtqDespite the backlash, many students, parents and school boards support this movement and believe that it should’ve been updated much earlier. Some children have stated that they understand the material better and had many of their questions answered. Moreover, parents are arguing that they may not have the time to stay up to date with the new technological threats which have evolved over the years and are glad that schools are taking on this responsibility.

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What does the new sex-ed curriculum include? Find out here:https://thesocialparalegal.wordpress.com/2015/02/23/lets-talk-about-sex-ed-new-legislation/

Law School = Heterosexuality?

When most people consider law school they generally don’t assume that they would be signing up for three years of abstinence but that’s exactly what this school was asking for.

Trinity Western University sought the approval of the Law Society of Upper Canada for opening a new law school. The school was focused on protecting Christian values and went as far to require students to sign a covenant binding them to not to have sex outside of a heterosexual marriage during their attendance at the university. The contract went as for to state that violation of these terms could result in suspension or expulsion.

The Law Society of Upper Canada rejected the proposal and the B.C university took the matter to court. The case could progress and be heard before the Supreme Court of Canada.

Legal implications

The Law Society of Upper Canada rejected this proposal due to a violation of human rights. The university’s proposed contract would discriminate against the LGBTQ community. Individuals belonging to this group would be unable to form relationships they wish to form. If the university was open to LGBTQ students they would have to suppress their sexuality and refrain from forming intimate relationships. Many legal practitioners argue that these rules violate fundamental rights of equality of opportunity.

For

The lawyer representing the universities interests supported his position with a case from 2001. The case was about TWU teaching college graduates being denied accreditation by the B.C College of Teachers for allegedly discriminating against students. The judge found that there was a lack of evidence to support this claim and allowed the graduate students to obtain accreditation.  Consequently, the TWU representative argued that the present case is similar to the case in 2001. He went as far as to argue, that the decision had already been made as the Supreme Court of Canada should continue to protect religious freedoms.

Against

The lawyer representing the Law Society of Upper Canada argued that there are significant differences in the case and attitudes towards the LGBTQ community have significantly changed since the 2001 ruling. He went on to argue that if TWU was to get approval it would not only be seeking to operate a law school to promote its religious beliefs but also only operate if it was allowed to provide its services if it is guaranteed access to the largest market for future law school graduates.  If TWU is successful in its claim the school will only produce Christian heterosexual lawyers. Consequently many minority groups will be denied an opportunity to learn at TWU.

Points of Discussion:

1. How do you feel about a Christian based heterosexual law school?
2. Should law schools dictate who you can have intimate relationships with?

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