During the whole Stephen Harper burqa or nikab (face covering worn by some Muslim women) controversy, friends and acquaintances often asked me my opinion on the matter. I assume this is because I write about political and social issues. But it is likely also due to the fact that I am of Middle Eastern origin and was raised by Muslim parents.
While I do have an opinion on the matter I have purposely stayed away from the topic for a few reasons. The main reason is that I am not a proponent of identity politics and am not really able to comment on, or even think about, single issue politics (in this case, “women’s issues”) without a broader look at the political, economic, and geo-political factors involved. Second, as a staunch critic of Empire, I cannot comment on the issue without eventually commenting on the history of imperialism in the Muslim world, and that may get a bit wordy for some people’s tastes (and for a single article).
Moreover, I would not want my personal opinion on the burqa to be unwittingly used—as some female Muslim commentators’ views have been—to feed or justify some disingenuous imperial pretext of opposing and destabilizing Muslim countries in part to “liberate” oppressed Muslim women. As noted scholar and author Leila Ahmed argued in her work entitled “The Discourse of the Veil,” western imperialists (she was writing about the British Empire in Egypt) do not care about women’s rights anywhere, including in their own countries. They simply use the liberation of veiled Muslim women as part of an excuse to invade, occupy and exploit certain nations.  Continue reading