By Shamila Ghyas
March 03, 2015
Non-Muslim women are made to wear a Burqa in Saudi Arabia.
-You can’t even take a Bible there.
-Non-Muslims are treated poorly in Muslim countries.
-First Muslims need to treat non-Muslims better if they want to be treated better.
-She should move to Saudi Arabia
These are some of the arguments coming forth in defence of Quebec court Judge Eliana Marengo who told Rania El-Alloul that she would not hear her case as she refused to take her Hijab off in court.
First of all, when you state that you are a tolerant nation/people then you are supposed to act it. You don’t give examples of intolerant nations and justify your own actions like a kindergartener by saying, “See? But they do it!” No. You are better. Act it.
As Robert Ingersoll wisely said once “Tolerance is giving to every other human being every right that you claim for yourself.”
If you want the right to wear what you want, then that right has to be extended to others too. (As long as it does not come with a security risk.) Whether it comes in the shape of a mini skirt, kilt on men or a Hijab, that right has to be extended to everyone equally. Everyone’s personal level of modesty differs and granted wearing a hijab is more religiously driven, but the person still has the right to decide for herself if she wants to wear it or not.
Back to the case – Rania, a single mother of three on welfare, desperately needed to get her car back as she had money issues. She needed the car in order to be able to provide for her family. However, Judge Marengo refused to hear the merits of the case.
I am still trying to figure out how her scarf was a hindrance to justice and how it would have stopped the Judge from doing her job. How could a scarf distract the judge so much that she would be unable to reach the correct verdict? I would understand how it would be distracting, and also be a security issue amongst other things if Rania’s face had been covered with a full or even half a Niqab/veil. Her face, identity, facial expressions, everything was visible.
Judge Marengo stated a regulation to justify her decision, “Any person appearing before the court must be suitably dressed. The courtroom is a secular place and a secular space. There are no religious symbols in this room, not on the walls and not on the persons.”
I do wonder now if Judge Marengo asked everyone who ever wore a cross necklace to take it off. I wonder if the judge ever asked a Sikh man to remove his turban. And if he did, did she then ask him to cut his hair before appearing in court, as that too is a religious commitment rather than a fashion statement. I wonder how many Kippas were quickly stuffed in pockets before a case commenced.
Rania was not forcing her religion or beliefs on anyone else. Religion becomes a choking issue when it is imposed and shoved down someone’s throat. She was doing neither. It would have been one thing had she interrupted the proceedings to say she needed to go pray, etc but there was no such thing. She simply needed her car back to get back to her life.
She was then told to get a lawyer to sort this through. Correct me if I am wrong, but aren’t judges there to help the people? What part of her not having money, did the judge not understand? This is not Pakistan, surely where judges take bribes from the guilty and make the innocent run around like chickens. Or Iran where women are made to wipe their faces clean of makeup before entering a courtroom or Saudi Arabia, where the verdict is decided before a hearing.
The judge belongs to a civilized nation, I believe.
Secular and secularity comes from the Latin word ‘saecularis’ which means “of a generation, belonging to an age.” Christianity states that God exists outside time; that was what brought about the initial separation between religious affairs and temporal ones.
Thus secularity does not mean that one has to be against/hostile towards religion or God, but rather in fact neutral towards religion.
“Neutrality!” Not “Hostility!”
I may be wrong, but the judge’s supposed stand on secularism seemed more of a personal bias and an example of anti-Muslim bigotry and it should not be tolerated, what with her being from a civilized nation that treats everyone equally, and all.
Shamila Ghyas is a fantasy fiction author, blogger, freelance writer, satirist, chocoholic and geek.