Veiled women challenge "code of norms"

The women, bearing pastries and books about Islam, "appeal for changes" in H

By Catherine Price
Published February 13, 2007 7:46PM (EST)

Remember how a couple of weeks back we wrote about Hérouxville, a town in Canada that passed a "declaration of norms" telling potential immigrants what to expect if they moved there? (For example, stoning women is not allowed, and no kid can bring a weapon -- ceremonial or not -- to school.) The declaration was a reaction against what its writers think of as "unreasonable accommodations" being asked for by religious groups.

Anyway, according to Canada's Chronicle Herald, six Muslim women (and a couple of other people) showed up in Herouxville wearing traditional head scarves to "appeal for changes" to the code of life.

"It's apparent there is a misconception and a wrong view of Muslim women, so we want to open a dialogue to let them know us and, of course, we want to know them," May Haidar, one of the women, is quoted as saying. Hillary Clinton then appeared out of nowhere, sat the two down on a cozy sofa and encouraged them to "chat."

Kidding. Actually, it doesn't seem as if too much happened -- especially since the town had already toned down its declaration by taking out references to stoning women and burning them with acid. What's more, according to the Ottawa Citizen, the women and the town worked together to coordinate the visit to make sure it was cordial on both sides. The women brought pastries and books about Islam for the town's library and, except for one feisty townsperson who grabbed the microphone and demanded to know how they had the "audacity" to come with their veils on, it apparently went pretty smoothly.

That is, until Andre Drouin, the town councilor, made the following statement (and no, this one isn't a joke): "It doesn't bother me," said Drouin of the hijab. "I think [the women] are pretty cute in them, don't you?"

Catherine Price

Catherine Price is an award-winning journalist and author of Vitamania: How Vitamins Revolutionized the Way We Think About Food. Her written and multimedia work has appeared in publications including The Best American Science Writing, The New York Times, Popular Science, O: The Oprah Magazine, the Los Angeles Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Washington Post Magazine, Salon, Slate, Men’s Journal, Mother Jones, PARADE, Health Magazine, and Outside. Price lives in Philadelphia.

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