Why is it that what the dominant culture perceives as oppressive or degrading MUST be accepted as law by all other cultures?
What exactly is Cultural Appropriation? This term that is not commonly used at your dinner table, means essentially that the dominant narrative imposes their values on the minority. If the minority refuses to see the world through the same lens they are then labeled as – yes, I am going to use the term fundamentalists.
This happens because the ‘more powerful’ culture, and by this I do not mean more civilized, I only mean the culture that has more money/weapons takes ideas/concepts from a ‘less powerful’ culture and stereotypes them. The dominant culture forces its understanding of right and wrong, freedom and enslavement etc… on the minority culture. This results in 5 types of people/reactions within the minority narrative:
1. Those who are the assimilationists, who are ashamed of their culture – they will rationalize their cultural ‘wrongs’ to conform and be accepted by the Alpha Society. They will rant and rave about how outdated and barbaric their culture is and how it is in severe need of reform. They can never entertain the thought that this particular value they are arguing about might be a temporary human fad. It might not be a core value like honesty, it might actually change in a decade and be acceptable to the dominant culture – just like many other core values we thought were unchangeable. Example, gender roles, they have changed dramatically in the last 30 years.
2. Those who are progressive, they take generalities and make them specifics to extrapolate a rule. They do not delve into the complexity of their culture, they force and twist their culture to fit in with the dominant culture. Hence, they are the ones who deny controversial values and shape them to conform with the majority opinion.
3. Those who are reformists and have no inferiority complex – they will adopt only those things from the Alpha Culture that do not conflict with their own values. They are not dismissive of new influences as long as they are positive and make them better people. They adopt elements of the dominant culture and contextualize the pros and cons, to fit their lifestyles. They talk about a new identity that is true to their roots, yet representative of where they have chosen to make a home.
4. Those who are traditionalists – they adhere to their interpretation of values and do not want the Alpha Culture to interpret their choice of dress/rituals etc… through the Alpha Scale. They fear losing their way of life and will not tolerate any kind of cultural exchange. How do they protect themselves? They codify their values as being the only legitimate interpretation of how to live. They are afraid, but harmless and mostly older.
5. Those who are fundamentalist, a minority within the minority culture but the ones who get the most press and whose voice is heard the loudest. Their values are essentially used by the Alpha Culture as representative of the entire minority culture. Even though 99% of adherents of the minority culture reject them as being representative of anything they believe in or practice.
It is not too implausible to think that every culture has good in it. There is nothing wrong with developing an organic amalgamation of what Canadian Muslim values should be. Multiculturalism, tolerance, diversity are all very complex concepts, but when someone who should be practicing these values uses national media to vent about their personal bias against someone’s freedom to dress the way they want, regardless of that person’s feelings or values it is shameful and oppressive.
I am a Muslim woman who has never been forced by my father/brother/husband to do anything that I do not want to do. I CHOOSE to wear a hijab. I CHOSE to wear a niqab for a few years, and I am proud that I had that choice. I had that choice in Dubai, in India, in Pakistan and in the US, but it pains me, it rips my heart out to realize that I might not have that choice in my homeland Canada. Why must my choice be judged through the eyes of the dominant narrative? How is it that my choice to wear or not wear something becomes a national issue?
I chose to create a new paradigm, not one that assimilates blindly but one that educates and creates sensitivity among all of us who have chosen Canada as our home. I chose to create this new model for my children, for them to become an important part of the Canadian landscape.
If David Cameron can say that the UK is a Christian country on national media, why can I not be proud of my religion and cultural values? Why can my autonomy not be respected as long as I do not hurt anyone else?
If we can teach our children that some families have two moms or two dads, and that they are not evil, why can our kids not be taught that if a woman chooses to cover her face, she is not inherently oppressed? She is also Canadian.
If a person on the radio morning show can say about the niqab, ‘I say NO to the Niqab because I don’t want women jailed by uniforms that represent everything that this country is not about.’ Why can’t I say, ‘STOP looking at my culture, my dress from your perspective, take time out to learn mine, and not from apologists of my culture but from people who are proud of it.’
I agree that Islamic scholars do not have a unified opinion about the niqab, but the choice to wear it should be the woman’s. Canada to me represents home, peace, respecting the rights of others and caring for the environment. THE NIQAB IS NOT A UNIFORM THAT JAILS WOMEN!
By creating bans and legislating the niqab, Muslim women are being marginalized. Banning it will not help those women who are forced to wear it, it will only confine them and isolate them further from society at large. So the question remains, what exactly is this niqab debate about? Certainly not freedom and women’s rights. Open your eyes, challenge the dominant media narrative and befriend a Muslim women to get her viewpoint.
The types of people described above have always existed, the game remains the same. Take a minute to think what the goal is and what is at stake with this debate.