Ottawa Centre MPP and Labour Minister Yasir Naqvi is working overtime to position himself as a champion for women’s rights after a letter from his office appeared in the ‘reviews’ section of a book on Islam with a chapter endorsing wife beating.
“I strongly condemn violence against women,” Naqvi, who is Muslim, said in a statement Tuesday.
“I believe that abuse of any kind is unacceptable and I do not share the views expressed in this book.”
The letter appears in the latest edition of Islam: Balancing Life and Beyond by Suhail Kapoor.
The Qur’an, Kapoor said, permits a husband to physically reprimand his wife if she behaves in a “lewd” or “disobedient” manner but the “light strikes” are to be used only as a last resort after discussion and the man leaves the marital bed.
Naqvi maintains he hasn’t read the book, doesn’t endorse it, and didn’t authorize his name being used.
“In 2009, I received a letter from Mr. Kapoor regarding a book he was writing on Islam,” said Naqvi.
“I responded, as I do to all letters received at my community office, acknowledging his efforts on this project, which were ostensibly to promote values of tolerance, understanding and respect.”
But Kapoor told QMI Agency he asked to reprint the letter and was given the green light by Naqvi’s office.
Naqvi has introduced two private member’s bills to help break down barriers for victims seeking help.
Canadian Council of Muslim Women executive director Alia Hogben weighed in on the passage in Kapoor’s book.
“There’s so much new interpretation, new thinking about that particular verse in the Qur’an, and people don’t agree that you hit lightly or don’t hit — it’s still violence against women and still would be considered against the law,” said Hogben
“There are things in the Bible as well, and one has to read it carefully. You look at the context, you look at when it was said, and look at what whether it fits with what’s going on nowadays and with human rights.”
Regardless of the circumstance, “women should not be hit, no matter how annoyed the husband is or whether, in his opinion, she’s been difficult or whatever. It’s just not done,” said Hogben, noting politicians should be careful.
“Muslim men have a responsibility — as much as anyone else — to make sure that their religion and the teachings of Islam dignify and honour both men and women,” said Hogben.
“You know, women aren’t stupid people who should be disciplined.”
The debacle was a hot topic Tuesday.
“It’s very disturbing that any member of the assembly, let alone a cabinet minister, would endorse this kind of garbage,” Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak told reporters at Queen’s Park Tuesday, adding Naqvi should apologize.
Premier Kathleen Wynne, though, backed Naqvi.
“I have no tolerance for anyone advocating violence against women or anyone else,” Wynne said.
“Minister Naqvi’s letter said, ‘I look forward to reading your book.’ He had not read it, he did not know what was in it.”
Naqvi was elected to the Legislature in 2007 and is married to Christine McMillan, a Liberal party vice-president.
– Files from Shawn Jeffords and QMI Agency