OTTAWA — Canada’s self-styled feminist prime minister was praised Tuesday by one of the world’s most powerful women for his commitment to gender equality even as he was taking it on the chin from other women for appearing at a gender-segregated event the previous day.
International Monetary Fund managing director Christine Lagarde told reporters at a Parliament Hill news conference she was “appreciative” of Trudeau’s commitment to a government that was “gender-equal.” Trudeau had just told Lagarde the next Canadian representative to the IMF would be a woman, a first for the country.
Yet, Trudeau’s appearance Monday morning at a gender-segregated mosque in Ottawa brought criticism from some of the same women who had admired his work toward gender equality.
“Right now we have these political leaders — ironically, politically liberal leaders — who are just putting blinders on their eyes about their values,” Asra Nomani said in a telephone interview from Washington, D.C. Nomani, a former Wall Street Journal reporter who describes herself as a liberal, is the author of Standing Alone: An American Woman’s Struggle for the Soul of Islam.
“That’s the big differential for liberals, they fancy themselves as honouring the women’s body and yet the segregation by its very definition hyper-sexualizes women’s bodies. That’s the great irony.”
Trudeau was at the mosque Monday to mark Eid al-Adha, considered the holiest of feast days for the world’s Muslims. Three female MPs accompanied Trudeau during his brief remarks, though they had to arrive by a side door and stand with their heads covered. They did not address the mosque.
Worshippers at the mosque are separated by gender. Men were on the main floor where Trudeau spoke. Women and girls were in a balcony or in other parts of the mosque. Nomani said that recent surveys indicate about two of every three mosques separate men from women, but that is up from a decade ago when only about half did.
“I will meet with Canadians regardless of where they are in Canada,” Trudeau told reporters Monday afternoon. “I will speak to inclusive growth, help for the middle class. I will talk about gender equality. I will talk about the rights of the LGBT community. We will continue to promote the values which bring us together.”
While Trudeau, in his remarks at the mosque did indeed speak about growth and the middle class, he made no mention of LGBT rights nor did he make any mention of gender equality.
He did acknowledge the gender separation, though, in his remarks at the mosque, saying, “Diversity is a source of strength, not just a source of weakness, and as I look at this beautiful room — sisters upstairs — everyone here, (I see) the diversity we have just within this mosque, within the Islamic community, within the Muslim community in Canada.”
Patty Hajdu, Trudeau’s minister for the status of women, was not at Monday’s mosque event but said it was important to be respectful of traditions for different places of worship.
“So whether you’re in an indigenous community or in a community of faith or in a military community … there are a number of traditions and cultures and standards that the community upholds and I think the respectful thing is to understand that it might not be your practice but it is theirs.”
Nomani said Trudeau and other politicians who support gender equality should refuse invitations from gender-segregated places of worship including mosques.
“They would be following the precedent of other Muslim men who are bold leaders in our community who are now refusing to go and stand at the pulpits of the mosques that segregate like that.”
The Ottawa Citizen, David Akin
Sept 13th 2016