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Niqab cartoon fuels debate on Muslim woman’s status in Canada

Last Updated: Wednesday, March 17, 2010 - 00:02

Toronto: A cartoon in a Canadian newspaper
depicting a woman in niqab, with the slit near her eyes
represented by prison bars and a lock, has triggered a debate
on the rights of Muslim women under Constitution of Canada.

The editorial cartoon, which appeared in `Montreal
Gazette` last Friday, is based on the incident where a Muslim
woman from Quebec was asked to leave a French language school
after she refused to remove her niqab.

The cartoonist Terry Mosher said his intention was to
argue against the woman`s stance.

"In the Gazette on Monday, there is actually an editorial
in support of the woman, and yet my cartoon is against it," he
said. "So that is part of the discussion and I think that`s
a very healthy thing."

Nama Atef Amed, a pharmacist of Egyptian-origin, has
twice been asked to leave provincially-administered French
language classes after she refused to remove her niqab, that
covers her head and face and leaves only the eyes exposed.

"For the teacher it was more difficult to hear her,
and it was more difficult for all the people to understand
what she has to say," Paul-Emile Bourque, the director of the
school, said.

Amed filed a complaint with the Quebec`s human rights
commission after she was thrown out of the first class at the
CEGEP de Saint-Laurent in Montreal.

Montreal Premier Jean Charest defended school`s decision,
saying that people who expect to receive public services must
show their faces.

Today, the province`s Immigration Ministry said Amed had
subsequently enrolled in another French class at a
publicly-funded centre in Montreal. There she was initially
permitted to wear the niqab, until the province stepped in.

"As we did last time, we told her that we have
pedagogical objectives to meet in our French immersion
courses, that they have to be taken with her face exposed,"
Luc Fortin, a spokesman for the province`s immigration
minister, said. "She refused to take off her niqab and she
left the course."

Salim Momin, a noted lawyer, said that it was in breach
of rights and freedoms. Canadian Constitution, that provides
religious freedom to all communities, must be respected by the
government, he said.

President of the Muslim Council of Montreal, Salam
Elmenyawi said that he was not shocked. "But it is a
distasteful way of showing the cartoon and of showing the lock the woman is locking herself," he said.

Tarek Fatah, founder of Muslim Canadian Congress,
defended the cartoon, saying "It`s quite appropriate."

In October, the congress had sought a ban on wearing of
masks, niqabs and burkas in all "public dealings."

"Not only is the wearing of a face mask a security
hazard and has led to a number of bank heists in Canada and
overseas, the burka or niqab are political symbols of
Saudi-inspired Islamic extremism," the congress said in a


First Published: Wednesday, March 17, 2010 - 00:02
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