And that, I think, is what those Canadians who don’t like the niqab don’t like — our sinking sense that it’s an old-world misogynist tool, meant to keep women and girls in line, and that it more times than not isn’t the choice of a free-thinking young Muslim woman, but rather a choice that has been imposed upon her.
I don’t want the damn thing banned. I’d rather imagine that Muslim women fleeing repression could find help from the Canadian institutions and social services that are meant to help them. I’d like to think that when the woman whose husband threw a fit at the citizenship ceremony this summer went home, he didn’t whack her around and that if he did, she told him to blow it out his backside and went somewhere safe.
But then I remember: When Zainab fled to a shelter, when Sahar and Geeti told officials at their school they were afraid and had no freedom, and when child-welfare was called in, their parents wept and raged about their rights and lied through their teeth, the investigations were bungled, and nothing happened. The girls weren’t helped, but failed.
Institutional ineptness and cultural sensitivity won the day, and the kids and Rona paid with their lives. Their new country couldn’t save them at the back end. Perhaps it’s worth a shot trying to do so at the front.