Canada debates women in 'religious headgear' buying lingerie

By Anisa Subedar
BBC Trending

Image source, Getty Images

How a tweet intended to "celebrate diversity" caused an uproar in multicultural Canada

It started earlier this week when a radio business reporter, Michael Kane, tweeted an observation he made outside a lingerie shop in a shopping mall in Toronto, Canada. He wrote: "I'm just a reporter: saw two modestly-dressed women with religious headgear come out of Victoria's Secret store in the Eaton Centre".

Kane later said his statement was meant to "celebrate diversity" and described it as a "joyful observation" of the complexities of multicultural life. But he was subject to a strong grilling on Twitter. Many questioned whether seeing Muslim women (which many took him to be referring to) shopping for underwear was interesting enough to warrant a social media post.

Mocking uses of the phrase "I'm just a reporter" began to appear.

Image source, @tx5th Twitter
Image source, @Hermit_Hwarang Twitter

Do Twitter storms like this help or hinder debate in a multicultural society? US-based author and media psychologist Dr Pamela Rutledge told BBC Trending that "Kane's intention seems innocent but tone-deaf". However she adds that there's a risk that the widespread criticism of him could shut down the discussion on diversity. "Twitter does not further diversity but makes people shy away from broaching a politically sensitive or "incorrect" sentiment," she said.

Kane responded to some of the replies after he was inundated by the online reaction. To one Twitter user he replied, "your thoughts are to be respected. But you read too much into mine. I observe. Do not judge. I suggest people do not judge". He argued that he was highlighting and celebrating what he described as Canada's diversity.

Image source, @Michael_KaneBNN Twitter
Image source, @Michael_KaneBNN Twitter

Although the original tweet did not name Muslims as the women he saw in the shopping mall he did not correct online users. He was accused of a prejudice in making his observation.

Image source, @jenboudinot Twitter
Image source, @WryAndGinger Twitter
Image source, @farrah_khan

It isn't the first time in Canada that Muslim women and lingerie have caused a stir. In 2012 a Canadian photographer Sooraya Graham, had her photograph removed from public display at a British Columbia university. The photo depicted a woman in niqab and abaya (full face covering and long cloak) holding a flower-embossed bra while folding laundry.

Lingerie shops are, contrary to stereotypes, common in Muslim countries, where sex and procreation for married people are often encouraged by religious teaching. A recent guide to sex was published last month called "The Muslimah Sex Manual: A Halal Guide to Mind Blowing Sex" - written by a Muslim woman for Muslim women.

Michael Kane's Twitter account appears to have been deactivated. Dr Pamela Rutledge adds, "I don't blame Kane for withdrawing from the fray - it was clearly a battle he couldn't win."

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