Newsletter #149 – What “Minority Practices” Should We Value?Posted: November 3, 2014
A lawsuit was recently filed against Canadian government policy that anyone being sworn in as a Canadian citizen do so with their faces fully exposed. A Pakistani woman, who covers her face with a niqab where only her eyes show, is challenging this policy.
It has been noted by the government lawyers that the woman “had removed her veil to get a driver’s licence…[and that she also]… declined an offer to take the oath at the front or the back of the citizenship court,” so that no one could see her face.
With regard to women’s coverings, there is a spectrum of styles as well as interpretations about whether it is an Islamic religious mandate. In Tennessee, Islamists that claim the exclusive right to definitively answer questions like this also say there is no single mandate about how women cover themselves, if at all.
Members of the Muslim Canadian Congress say that the “hijab has nothing to do with morality” but has become a tool for both political and religious operatives.
CAIR lawyer Zahra Billoo says:
Mohammed Khan, a naturalized U.S. citizen trying to join ISIS, was arrested two weeks ago at Chicago O’Hare airport. What does his mother’s picture below communicate about the ideology that may have informed Mohammed’s decision?
During a television interview, the lawyer suing over the citizenship ceremony open face policy said that the policy reflects the government not valuing a minority practice. So, which “minority practices” should we value and who and what determines that?
Cultural vs. religious
What some Muslims claim are religious mandates others in Islam say are simply cultural practices. Should cultural practices yield to public policy?
For example, there has been plenty of debate about whether female genital mutilation (FGM) is a cultural practice or Islamically sanctioned. The same question has been asked with regard to child marriage, polygamy and treatment of women under Islam.
If FGM is, as some Islamic scholars say, religiously permissible but not obligatory, should that determine whether it can be outlawed? What if religious scholars hold that FGM is obligatory? A Gatestone Institute report notes that:
“[among] the four recognized Sunni schools of Islamic jurisprudence, we find that FGM is now considered obligatory by adherents of the Shafi’i school of Islamic law, including many Arabs as well as Sunni Kurds…FGM is seen as virtuous but not required by the fundamentalist Hanbali school… as a custom acceptable according to the desire of the husband by the Hanafi school.. an implied but not a specified practice in Maliki religious law…”
Head scarf or fully veiled? Genitally mutilated or not? Cultural or religious? Either way, it represents only one ideology and everything that goes along with it.