Arts &
  Arts Culture Analysis  
Vol. 8, No. 2, 2009
  Current Issue  
  Back Issues  
Robert J. Lewis
  Senior Editor
Mark Goldfarb
  Contributing Editors
Bernard Dubé
Sylvain Richard
David Solway
Marissa Consiglieri de Chackal
  Music Editors
Diane Gordon
Serge Gamache
  Arts Editor
Lydia Schrufer
Mady Bourdage
Marcel Dubois
Emanuel Pordes
  Past Contributors
  Noam Chomsky
Mark Kingwell
Naomi Klein
Arundhati Roy
Evelyn Lau
Stephen Lewis
Robert Fisk
Margaret Somverville
David Solway
Michael Moore
Julius Grey
Irshad Manji
Richard Rodriguez
Pico Iyer
Edward Said
Jean Baudrillard
Bill Moyers
Barbara Ehrenreich
Leon Wieseltier
Nayan Chanda
Charles Lewis
John Lavery
Tariq Ali
Michael Albert
Rochelle Gurstein
Alex Waterhouse-Hayward




Farzana Hassan is the President of the MCC (Muslim Canadian Congress), and the author of Prophecy and the Fundamentalist Quest. Please visit her website at:

Secular Muslims are welcoming the decision of the Constitutional Court of Turkey to disallow the lifting of the ban on hijabs as a significant triumph for secularism over repressive Islamist practices. The court recently ruled that amendments to the constitution by the ruling AKP to permit hijabs in universities, would amount to rendering “nonfunctional the basic features of the republic.”

At the core of this decision is the realization that the hijab continues to be a tool of oppression for Muslim women, severely restricting their right to express their faith in their own unique and personal way.

Faith and its expression must be a matter of personal choice rather than a “categorical imperative” handed down through a system of belief that might be deemed by some as repressive and outmoded in its various manifestations.

While the decision of the Constitutional Court of Turkey might restrict the rights of women claiming to have adopted the hijab of their own free will, one must question the authenticity of such claims through a process of unearthing some of the religious undercurrents of such decisions. In the same suspicion over the validity of such claims, European lawmakers have chosen to restrict the use of religious headgear in public institutions.

One would need assurances for example, that women who rejected the hijab would not be subjected to coercion in the matter; simply because the orthodoxy considers it a religious requirement. The lifting of the ban in Turkey would have empowered the fundamentalist Islamic forces, resulting in the almost certain marginalization and oppression of women, reducing their role in society to one of subservience and subjugation. This would be tantamount to providing leverage to the religious right in their ceaseless attempts to enforce compliance for the practice where it is not voluntary.

Traditional Muslims often bristle at such criticism by downplaying the societal pressures faced by women who reject the hijab This, however, is a gross misrepresentation of reality. Even women who supposedly choose it, do so because they are rarely if ever exposed to an alternative analysis on the issue, which does not consider the hijab a religious requirement.

Women’s “choice” in the matter can be considered authentic only if they are exposed to alternative narratives on modesty, which do not prescribe the covering of the hair or face.

Turkey as a modern state and last bastion of secular Islam, must continue to uphold its tradition of the separation of religion and state. The headgear or hijab is a political tool and a threat to Turkey’s long secular tradition. Currently, there is tremendous pressure on secular women to cover up according to orthodox requirements, even in large cities. The present government has also attempted to eliminate the secular dress code in government offices. It has taken a slower, steadier path, careful not to jolt the establishment too quickly while at the same time floating an occasional trial balloon for social reforms to advance the Islamist agenda.

Islamism, quite distinct from Islam, is a fascist ideology that needs to be countered with equal force at each step of its numerous incursions into civil society. It strikes at the foundational principles of liberal and secular democracies such as Canada as well, seeking eventually to undermine cherished values of freedom, pluralism and egalitarianism.

At the same time the Islamists are brandishing the pluralism card to advance their religious agenda, they are making plans eventually to suppress any competing worldview.

And it is important to mention here that left-wing dalliance with multiculturalism as a social construct allowing the spread of Islamism is misguided to say the least. These people are barely aware of the Islamists’s long-term agenda to establish a radical form of Islam which will ultimately allow no inter-religious ore intra-religious dissent.

Proponents of multiculturalism must recognize that the two philosophies are mutually contradictory at practically every step of the game, and cannot possibly forge a genuine relationship based on universal humanistic principles.

Related articles:
Situating Honorcide
Onward Muslim Soldiers
Tariq Ali: Letter to a Muslim
Irshad Manji: Faith Without Fear
Secular Islam on the Rise
Rawi Hage's Long Day's Journey into Secularism
The Shape of Rape in Pakistan: Muhktaran Mai
Being Woman in Iraq: Judy Rebick
Edward Said: Chronicle of an Infitada Foretold

Female Genital Mutilation
Christopher Hitchens Tariq Ali Debate

 = shared webhosting, dedicated servers, development/consulting, no down time/top security, exceptional prices
Montreal World Film Festival
Couleur JAZZ 91.9
CINEMANIA(Montreal) - festival de films francophone 1-11 novembre, Cinema Imperial info@514-878-0082: featuring Bernard Tavernier
2007 Millennium Summit, Montreal, Nov. 8-9, info =  1.866.515.5009
Armand Vaillancourt: sculptor
Care + Net Computer Services
Available Ad Space
Valid HTML 4.01!
Privacy Statement Contact Info
Copyright 2002 Robert J. Lewis