Monthly Archives: February 2015

Woman asks to be sworn in as citizen as soon as possible after overturn of policy requiring her to remove niqab

National Post

A Muslim woman is asking to be sworn in as a Canadian citizen as soon as possible while wearing a niqab, even as the Harper government considers appealing a court ruling overturning its policy requiring women to remove face coverings while reciting the oath.

“I hope my wait [to become a citizen] is not very long,’’ said Zunera Ishaq, the 29-year-old Toronto resident and mother of three who challenged the policy.

Kevin Menard, a spokesman for Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander, said Wednesday “all available legal options” are being kept open in the wake of a new Federal Court ruling that found the policy violated the government’s own regulations.

“New citizens are obliged to confirm their identity when taking the Oath of Citizenship, which is sworn or affirmed in public,” he said in an email. “It is simply common sense to require the removal of facial coverings or other items…

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Harper vows to appeal court ruling allowing women to wear niqab during citizenship oath, calls it ‘offensive’

National Post

The federal government will appeal a court ruling allowing a Muslim woman to wear a niqab while taking the oath of citizenship because it is “offensive” to shield your face at the moment you are being sworn in, the prime minister said Thursday.

Zunera Ishaq, the Toronto woman who challenged the government’s policy forbidding the wearing of facial coverings during the swearing-in part of citizenship ceremonies, said Thursday she was upset by the prime minister’s remarks but vowed to continue fighting through the court process.

“I’m not frustrated,” she said. “I’m determined.”

Just a day earlier, Ishaq, the mother of three, had expressed how excited she was at the prospect of becoming a citizen after a federal judge had deemed the niqab ban — introduced by former immigration minister Jason Kenney in 2011 ­— unlawful.

Judge Keith Boswell said the policy didn’t jive with the government’s own regulations, which require…

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Kelly McParland: Stephen Harper may be wrong about Zunera Ishaq. But he’s right about Canadians

National Post

Stephen Harper’s remarks regarding the Muslim woman who wants to wear her niqab while taking the citizenship oath are so Stephen Harper.

He may be wrong on the underlying insinuation, but in a foxy political sense he is 100% correct: a lot of Canadians – if not “most” as Mr. Harper suggests – probably do think it’s offensive that someone seeking to become a new citizen of the country would refuse to show their face.
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As he said, “This is a society that is transparent, open and where people are equal.” For a person requesting the privilege of Canadian citizenship to insist on following a practice that is the antithesis of “transparent, open and equal”, and at the very moment the privilege is being granted, strikes a lot of people as patently nonsensical.

Zunera Ishaq, the Toronto woman who started the kerfuffle by insisting she has a right…

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reading an article in vice today (dutch edition) and i stumbled across this rather fascinating article on skateboarding in Afghanistan. surprisingly almost half of visible skateboarders in Kabul and masseur – -sharif are girls – who are being educated through  a series of non profit skate schools. since skateboarding is an unknown sport in the country it appears that it is not restricted by taboos – so those that apply to cycling, football, and kite flying do not appear to apply to girls. Now that is a productive counter image of girls and women in Afghanistan.

well worth the reading article below:

link: http://www.vice.com/nl/read/skateboarding-makes-afghan-girls-feel-free-881skateboarding-makes-afghan-girls-feel-free-881-body-image-1422548751 skateboarding-makes-afghan-girls-feel-free-881-body-image-1422548797 skateboarding-makes-afghan-girls-feel-free-881-body-image-1422548662

Alle foto’s met dank aan Skateistan.

Zeven jaar geleden zorgde de Australische skater Oliver Percovich voor ophef op de straten van Kabul. Zijn skateboard trok de aandacht van de Afghaanse kinderen, waarvan de meesten nog nooit een skateboard hadden gezien. Er was iets dat hem opviel: ook meisjes waren erg geïnteresseerd.

Skateistan is begonnen in 2007, nadat Percovich een perfecte plek in het hart van Kabul had ontdekt om in het weekend te skaten: de Mekroyan-fontein, een verlaten relikwie uit de tijd dat de Russen nog in Afghanistan zaten. Toen steeds meer kinderen uit de buurt kwamen kijken en mee wilden doen, besloot Percovich dat hij zijn bezoek aan zijn vriendin in Kabul wel kon verlengen. Hij besloot er de rest van zijn leven te blijven.

Percovich richtte in 2009 een non-profit-skateschool op in Afghanistan. Tegenwoordig zijn er twee: één in Kabul, de andere in Mazar-e-Sharif in het noorden, vlakbij de grens met Oezbekistan. Het doel is simpel: skateboarden gebruiken als vorm van emancipatie, in een instabiel land dat al dertig jaar geteisterd wordt door conflicten. De kinderen komen naar de school om te skateboarden, maar krijgen daarnaast ook onderwijs.

Wat Skateistan helemaal bijzonder maakt is dat van de 800 studenten 45% uit meisjes bestaat. De negentienjarige Nelofar voelt zich “stoer en sterk” als ze op een skateboard staat en een grote ramp pakt, vertelt ze me. En nog belangrijker: ze voelt zich er vrij door.

UNICEF noemt Afghanistan een van de slechtste plekken ter wereld om op te groeien als vrouw. 60% van de 4 miljoen kinderen die niet naar school gaan zijn meisjes. En hoewel internationale troepen zich steeds meer terugtrekken uit Afghanistan, is geweld tegen vrouwen nog steeds aanwezig. Nelofar vertelt dat als ze op een skateboard stapt, ze die bittere tegenstelling tussen mannen en vrouwen niet meer voelt.

Die grenzen tussen mannen en vrouwen worden voornamelijk bepaald door tradities en door strenge familieregels. “De vader bepaalt vaak de regels die de eer van de familie moeten bewaken,” legt Alix Buck, communicatiemanager van Skateistan, uit. “En ja, dat leidt zeker wel eens tot conflicten.”

Skateistan vond een maas in de sociale wetten van Afghanistan, toen bleek dat skateboarden nog een hele onbekende sport was. Fietsen, voetballen en vliegeren zijn taboe voor meisjes, maar niemand weet precies wat die planken met wieltjes eigenlijk zijn. “Mensen zien het meer als een spelletje dan een sport,” vertelt Buck. Hierdoor kunnen Nelofar en zo’n vierhonderd andere meisjes elke week met hun gekleurde hoofddoeken over de ramps van Skateistan rausen.

Nu, achttien maanden nadat ze hier voor het eerst kwam, is Nelofar niet alleen supergoed in skaten, maar werkt ze ook bij Skateistan. Ze is inmiddels gespecialiseerd in studentenadministratie en media en studeert geneeskunde.

Toch is er nog altijd een flinke strijd gaande. Buiten de veilige wereld van Skateistan zorgt het idee van meisjes die sporten nog steeds voor wrijving bij veel Afghanen. Nelofar: “Twee dagen geleden deed ik mee aan een hardloopwedstrijd. Toen we zo’n tien kilometer hadden gelopen begon iemand op straat ons lastig te vallen. Toen besloten dat we voortaan alleen nog in Skateistan gaan hardlopen. Buiten de school is het praktisch onmogelijk voor meisjes om te sporten.”

Veel van de kinderen die naar Skateistan gaan, komen uit een kansarm milieu en werken al vanaf jonge leeftijd op straat. Zo ook de tienjarige Mursal.

“Voordat ik naar Skateistan ging was mijn leven ontzettend saai,” vertelt Mursal me. “Elke dag moest ik werken; de hele dag verkocht ik kauwgum. Op een dag besefte ik me: als ik altijd op deze manier blijf werken, kan ik nooit aan mijn toekomst bouwen.”

Mijn beeld dat Afghaanse vrouwen alleen staan in hun strijd voor meer onafhankelijkheid en een eigen identiteit, dat ik baseer op sensationele krantenkoppen en @UN_Women-tweets, klopt niet, volgens Buck. “Veel mensen beseffen zich niet dat lang niet alle meisjes een extreem conservatieve achtergrond hebben,” zegt ze.

Het lijkt erop dat sportende meisjes heel langzaam aan meer geaccepteerd worden. De vader en broer van Nelofar staan volledig achter haar. “Ze vinden het leuk dat ik skateboard,” zegt ze. “Ze moedigen me heel erg aan en vinden dat iedereen rechten heeft.” Ook Mursal heeft het geluk dat haar familie haar steunt. “Ze denken dat het goed voor me is. Daarom sturen ze me naar Skateistan.”

Als ik Nelofar vraag wat ze hoopt dat 2015 vrouwen gaat brengen, antwoordt ze: “Ik hoop dat iedereen ooit kan sporten, ook meisjes op straat, zonder dat ze worden lastiggevallen. Hopelijk gaat dit ooit lukken.”

Niqab ban at citizenship ceremony struck down by court

This story from the Toronto Star 7 February by Nicholas Keung  highlights some of the core points from a Federal court’s findings regarding full face-veiling and citizenship ceremonies.  Successfully halting the ban that probated full face-veils from bring worn during swearing in ceremonies circa 2011.  the 2011 regulation not only prohibited the wearing of such veils during these moments but also during citizenship tests, interviews etc – importantly marking these moments as “public events”

 

The Federal Court of Canada has ruled it is “unlawful” for Ottawa to order new citizens to remove their face-covering veil when taking the oath of citizenship.

The federal government must immediately lift its existing ban allowing Toronto’s Zunera Ishaq to reschedule a new citizenship ceremony unless it appeals the ruling and receives the permission to suspend the order, the Federal Court said in a decision released Friday.

While it is not unusual to have government policies overturned in breach of Charter and constitutional rights, the court ruling is unusual because the decision was based on the finding that the ban mandated by the immigration minister violated the government’s own immigration laws.

“To the extent that the policy interferes with a citizenship judge’s duty to allow candidates for citizenship the greatest possible freedom in the religious solemnization or the solemn affirmation of the oath,” wrote Justice Keith M. Boswell, “it is unlawful.”

Ishaq was sponsored by her husband to Canada from Pakistan in 2008 and successfully passed the citizenship test in November 2013.

She was scheduled to be sworn in at a citizenship ceremony in Scarborough two months later but decided to put it on hold after learning she would need to unveil her niqab under a ban introduced in 2011 by then-Immigration Minister Jason Kenney. Her Charter challenge ensued.

“From the moment the minister announced the policy, many of us felt it’s illegal. The court confirms that it is the case. It is not a requirement in the law for someone to be seen in front of a (citizenship) judge taking the oath. Signing the paper is all (that’s) required,” said Ishaq’s lawyer, Lorne Waldman.

“Clearly, the policy was driven by Kenney himself. All documents found he was the driving force behind it.”

Ishaq, who started wearing niqab since she was 15, had no objection to unveil herself for the purposes of her identification before taking the citizenship test.

However, she objected to the requirement to remove the veil at the citizenship ceremony because it is public and unnecessary for the purposes of identity or security.

Immigration officials subsequently offered to seat her in either the front or back row and next to a woman at the ceremony, but she refused the arrangement since the citizenship judge and officers could still be male, and there could potentially be photographers at the event.

In refuting the government’s argument that the court challenge was premature because Ishaq’s scheduled ceremony had yet to happen, the court said part of the reason policies are published is so that people can know of them and organize their affairs accordingly.

“The policy in this case could be dissuading women who wear a niqab from even applying for citizenship. In such circumstances, a direct challenge to the policy is appropriate,” the 42-page decision said.

While the government also argued that the ban was only a guideline that is not even directed at citizenship judges, and which they were free to disregard, the judge found “no such permissive language” in the policy.

Internal correspondence between immigration officials and Kenney’s public statements, Justice Boswell noted, demonstrates the government’s intention to make the removal of face-covering mandatory, citing an email that read, “The minister would like this done, regardless of whether there is a legislative base and that he will use his prerogative to make policy change.”

Immigration Minister Chris Alexander’s spokesperson said they “will keep all available legal options open.

“New citizens are obliged to confirm their identity when taking the Oath of Citizenship‎, which is sworn or affirmed in public,” said Kevin Menard. “It is simply common sense to require removal of facial coverings or other items that hide new citizens’ mouths from view. The oath, knowledge and language tests, as well as years of residency, are among the basic requirements for joining the family of Canadian citizens.”

Exorcizing Afropolitanism: Binyavanga Wainaina explains why “I am a Pan-Africanist, not an Afropolitan” at ASAUK 2012

AiW Guest Stephanie Bosch Santana.

BinyavangaWainaina Binyavanga Wainaina, writer and founding editor of the Kenyan literary magazine, Kwani?

Traces of Binyavanga Wainaina’s address, “I am a Pan-Africanist, not an Afropolitan”, delivered at September’s African Studies Association UK 2012 conference, have lingered with me over the past few months: the image of invisible digital networks of texts reaching ghost-like across continents, genre-bending “digital pulp,” and a pan-African literature that moves via twitter and sms rather than by printing press and shipping container. If many earlier African print publications—such as popular magazines and newspapers—have been described as “ephemeral,” the new literary world that Wainaina depicts is distinctly spectral.

When I told Katie Reid of AiW that Wainaina’s lecture was haunting me, she suggested that “Africa in Words” might be an ideal space to “exorcise” these spirits. It turns out that Katie’s idea was more fitting than I first realized. Wainaina’s address was a…

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