Canadian medical journal to retract letter calling hijabs 'an instrument of oppression'
Letter from pediatric surgeon in Canadian Medical Association Journal drew immediate pushback
The interim editor-in-chief of the Canadian Medical Association Journal on Thursday said the publication is formally retracting a letter it ran about hijabs that many have slammed as Islamophobic.
Kirsten Patrick's announcement comes days after she posted on Twitter, apologizing for the letter, which called the religious head scarf "an instrument of oppression."
"I sincerely apologize on behalf of the CMAJ for my error in publishing the letter," Patrick said in a statement on Thursday. "I take full responsibility for the inadequacy of editorial process."
The letter in question, written by pediatric surgeon Dr. Sherif Emil and published on Monday, argued that a recent CMAJ cover that featured a young girl in a hijab was misguided, and that it perpetuated an often traumatic and harmful practice.
"Many of my trainees, colleagues and patients' parents (and some adolescent patients) wear the hijab … I respect each woman I interact with, as well as any woman's choice to express her identity as she desires," wrote Emil.
"But respect does not alter the fact that the hijab, the niqab and the burka are also instruments of oppression for millions of girls and women around the world who are not allowed to make a choice."
Islamophobia is a serious health issue. It kills. The letter's title suggests that the hijab is unequivocally an instrument of oppression; that is wrong, hurtful & offensive. I take full responsibility for the headline. As an editor I know the power of words & that is my error.—@KirstyPatrick
CMAJ is formally retracting the letter by Dr. Emil, which did not contain appropriate subject matter for publication by the CMAJ.<br> <br>Read the full statement from <a href="https://twitter.com/KirstyPatrick?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@KirstyPatrick</a>, interim editor-in-chief, CMAJ: <a href="https://t.co/EBVTaSenXb">https://t.co/EBVTaSenXb</a> <a href="https://t.co/t9eH6NL2Jv">pic.twitter.com/t9eH6NL2Jv</a>—@CMAJ
Emil goes on to cite the resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan and their many reported abuses toward women and girls as examples.
"So many women have been traumatized by such an upbringing, which, I believe, frankly borders on child abuse."
The letter drew immediate pushback, with many, including the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM), calling the letter Islamophobic.
"This article falls short of the Canadian Medical Association's Code of Ethics and Professionalism standards and contributes to dangerously harmful stereotypes about a demographic that has been targeted by some of the most violent forms of Islamophobia in this country," said the NCCM.
Huda Idrees, founder of Dot Health, also said on Twitter that the letter fell short of the CMAJ's standards.
"It's one thing for people to have dangerous xenophobic views that equate women's clothing to extremism. It's another for a publication like @CMAJ to run it," said Idrees.
In earlier tweets, Patrick acknowledged the Islamophobia concerns and the publication's editorial failings.
"Islamophobia is a serious health issue. It kills," she tweeted,
"The letter's title suggests that the hijab is unequivocally an instrument of oppression; that is wrong, hurtful & offensive. I take full responsibility for the headline. As an editor I know the power of words & that is my error."