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Right to Bare and Cover vs. Bigotry and Hypocrisy


In 1991 a Guelph woman decided to bare her breasts in public and walked bare-breasted through the city streets. She was initially charged based on the complaint of a mother whose children watched her. She was convicted and fined. In 1992 five women and a teenager in Waterloo bared their breasts in public as a protest and several women did so in a similar protest in Ottawa. Later on, an appeal court acquitted her. Even in normal living, there are many women who walk around in ultra-mini skirts, giving the impression that their intention is to attract attention, and not to cover. In the business environment, there are many women who come to work with not only their cleavage but also quite a bit of their breasts on open display.

The arguments that are usually given in favour of exposure are that it is a personal right of people and that if you find it offensive or inappropriate, look the other way.

Then there are those women who want to cover themselves up, especially those who choose to cover their faces. Every now and then their niqaab, face veil, becomes a news item. What I do not understand is that if women have a right to reveal, why are they being deprived of the fundamental right to cover, especially when uncovering a woman’s face is not needed either for identification or security purposes or for whatever she is doing while covering her face? If people around them feel offended, why can’t they look the other way?

I have read some opinions saying that women should not do so because it is not a religious obligation. But whether the religion requires it or not is totally irrelevant to a person’s right to cover, if she wants to. In addition, why is anyone giving the niqaab-wearer a verdict on religious teachings? Have those ladies asked for anyone’s opinion on the matter? What right do others have to decide for them what their religious stance should be? The only opinion that matters is that of the niqaab-wearer and what SHE thinks her religious obligation is.

Some bigots have suggested that such women should not have come to live in Canada if they were going to live in that manner and that they should follow the customs and fashions of this society if they want to live here. Well, if newcomers to this land cannot bring new ideas, new practices and new ways and if that is a valid rule, then we should all change ourselves to conform to the Native lifestyle, fashions, and way of doing things as they were practised before Europeans arrived.

The bottom line is: if you are not a bigot or a hypocrite, leave those ladies alone, recognize their right to make a decision about what they want to cover and what they want to reveal. They will not bite you. If you do not like their looks, you are free to look the other way!

(In case you are wondering, none in my family wears niqaab. This comment is strictly from a civil liberties and human rights perspective. My personal views from a religious perspective are detailed in my booklet “Unveiling the commands – The Truth about Hijaab, Khimaar and Jilbaab”.)

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