Muslims surprised veiled women passed air security checkpoint
By BRIAN DALY, QMI Agency
MONTREAL – Canadian Muslims were as surprised as anyone else that veiled women have been allowed to board flights without having to remove their face coverings.
Islamic organizations and Muslim travellers all agreed that security must trump personal freedom at all airports.
As QMI Agency reported Sunday, a British passenger posted video on Youtube showing women boarding an Air Canada flight at Montreal’s Trudeau airport with their faces covered. The federal transport department is investigating.
Nermine Barbouch of the Canadian Muslim Forum tells QMI that if there are security lapses, it’s likely the fault of the agents, not Muslims.
“As for women who wear the niqab, they never had problems identifying themselves when security is stake, whether it be at airports or anywhere else,” said Barbouch, whose umbrella group represents nine Muslim organizations across the country.
Alia Hogben, a spokeswoman for the Canadian Council of Muslim Women, said she was astonished to hear that women were able to board a plane without identifying themselves.
“Normally, women who are completely veiled are brought into a small area where … they’re asked to show their face,” she said.
That level of security was seen as completely acceptable by Muslim women who landed at Montreal’s Trudeau airport Monday morning on a flight from Amman, Jordan.
“I would say they (Muslim women) have to respect the rules,” said one woman who wore a hijab, which covers the hair.
A veiled woman said she shows her face at airport security points whenever she’s asked, but with one condition.
“If there is a woman who will do the inspection, then I can,” said the passenger. “But if it’s a man, it’s against the religion. I cannot, and I would refuse.”
Security expert Claude Sarrazin said there can be no exceptions to security rules at airports, adding that passengers will have to weigh the right to express their faith with the right to travel.
“If they refuse to uncover themselves, it’s their right,” said Sarrazin, who heads up a private security firm. “But at this point, what should be done is to refuse to let them board.”
For Ottawa-based Islamic scholar Abourahman Kahin, the security breach highlights the importance of separating religious and cultural norms.
He says head-to-toe coverings are not mentioned in the Koran. He adds that Canadian law must be paramount at airports.
“It’s crucial to show one’s face when passing through security,” said Kahin, who also fears that the breach could stoke anti-Muslin sentiment.