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The niqab ban is a feminist issue

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The province of Quebec in Canada, in all its infinite wisdom (insert witty sarcastic comment here) has decided to table legislation that would ban the niqab -- and any face covering if worn from receiving public services from the provincial government.

Now the rest of Canada is considering making it federal law -- meanwhile Belgium recently moved towards a public ban of niqab and burka after a city banned headscarves.

The alleged grave concerns? Identity theft and impersonation. The likely realities? Racism, ignorance, colonialism, and general Islamophobia.

To quote my best friend Lisa on the legitimacy of Canada's supposed grave concerns, "Let's be honest. The majority of identity theft is done by people WITHOUT head coverings. To date there hasn't been any records of impersonation by someone wearing a niqab."

Now the intersection -- what are feminists saying about this issue?

To me this is an obvious feminist issue through and through, and it goes way beyond a human rights injustice. I'm checking myself as an ally to Muslim women, and supporting their right to bodily autonomy and self-determination.

However I'll tell you this much -- the amount of mainstream feminist response I've read regarding the lack of inclusion of contraception and abortion in maternal child health from Canada's Conservative government in the G8 summit far exceeds the coverage I've seen regarding the niqab ban. In fact, I've barely seen any feminist press at all on the niqab ban. And I'm not surprised -- reproductive rights gets lots of feminist attention, even if not mainstream media coverage. Intersecting race and culture? Not so much.

Is it because many of us don't know about the niqab ban? Or are there lots of you out there who agree with it? What do you think?

(NB: If you don't already know about the awesome Muslimah Media Watch -- be sure to check 'em out!)

This post first appeared in Bitch Magazine.

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