by Arwen McKechnie
I am a long time reader of the Toronto Star, and like many progressive Canadians, I see it as the only major paper that consistently reflects at least some of my views and politics. Admittedly, I don’t agree with every piece or editorial, but with few exceptions, I can usually respect the conclusions that are drawn and I admire the Star’s stated goal of working to advance the cause of social justice and their commitment to ethical reporting and coverage.
I have always particularly enjoyed Haroon Siddiqui’s column, and the elegant way in which he punctures the seemingly well-intentioned rhetoric used to promote anti-Muslim bigotry. But reading his column of September 29th, I noted with considerable dismay that he had fallen into the same trap he accuses “feminists” of: painting an entire group with the same brush. Those who identify as feminist are no more a monolithic bloc than adherents of Islam.
As the #solidarityforwhitewomen hashtag and better authors than me have amply covered, white feminism frequently has a problem with race. White feminists too often use their relative privilege to make blanket statements about “all women”, assuming that their experience is the universal one, and erasing others from the conversation. Siddiqui’s article plays into that narrative fairly seamlessly.
Quite evidently some people are raising the banner of feminism to support their prejudice against the hijab and niqab and, by extension, Islam. But those people do not speak for all of us.
There are many feminist individuals and groups that absolutely support a woman’s right to determine how she should practice her faith, and which cultural markers to choose to adopt. I am one of them. I believe absolutely in a woman’s right to choose, and that choice extends from if and when to have children to whether or not to wear a niqab. Otherwise we fall into a paternalistic trap of assuming “we” know best. But that kind of assumption is not limited exclusively to white feminists, nor to non-Muslim feminists of colour and there are people within both groups who are more self-aware than Mr. Siddiqui seems willing to credit. Read more