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Tuesday
Mar022010

Burqas Grow As Global Hot Topic | Riots In India

An opinion piece by Olivier Guitta, posted in the Ethiopian Review and first published by the Global Post, expands our ongoing discussion of burqas with new information. 

For the first time in my reading, a writer has said that many Muslim women were unhappy when President Obama said three times in Cairo that he supported “the right of women and girls to wear the hijab”.

He implied in so many words that it’s cultural imperialism for countries like France and women like me to believe that the majority of women wearing hijab, niqab and burqas have no choice in the matter. My heart hit the floor and never recovered after his speech.

What President Obama was supporting is the same patriarchy that has covered women for thousands of years. Women were veiled before the Quran was written, and all but a few Muslim experts agree that the Quran doesn’t mandate burqas or niqab, only modesty.

Gamal al-Banna, the Egyptian brother of the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, says: “Neither the Koran, nor the hadith require women to wear a headscarf.”

Writer Guitta says that some French Muslim families, for instance, are paid 500 euros (about $680) per quarter by extremist Muslim organizations just to have their daughters wear the hijab (head scarf). To be consistent in my writing, I am neutral about hijab, honestly believing that many educated women choose to wear it of their own volition.

Hijab is not my affair, and I don’t believe that my communication and interaction with a hijab-wearing woman would be impacted negatively, except that I understand clearly that she takes her religion seriously. I respect her for that decision.

Being paid to wear hijab or full-coverage burqas and niqab (eyes seen) is another matter and new news to this writer. It makes sense, of course, because the religious patriarchy is fully vested in keeping women under their control.

For every moderating move that supports women in one country, we have tighter laws restricting them being put in place elsewhere in the world. I’m no Polyanna on the subject of forces in America devoted to constricting women’s moderate freedoms. Of course, they are equally determined in other countries.

A survey conducted in France in May 2003 found that 77 percent of girls wearing the hijab said they did so because of physical threats from Islamist groups. A series in the newspaper Liberation in 2003 documented how Muslim women and girls in France who refuse to wear the hijab are insulted, rejected and often physically threatened by Muslim males. Muslim women who try to rebel are considered “whores” and treated as outcasts.via Ethiopian Review

Women wearing niqabs in Marseille, December 24, 2009/Jean-Paul PelissierWe know that the men of Sudan screamed ‘prostitutes’ to Lubna Hussein and her supporters, as they made their way to court in Khartoum, where she faced flogging for wearing pants last summer.

Supporters of no burqa ban imply that women wear burqas out of choice and people like me are thwarting their religious rights, and corrupting them with Western immorality. Ninety percent of the time, the writers of these op eds are men.

You read few educated Muslim women criticizing France for a burqa ban and many openly supporting it. Perhaps men stick together on these topics, dressing the arguments under religious freedom, when the goal is actually keeping women in their place.

Guitta writes that veiling women is one of the only precepts that Sunnis and Shia extremists agree on and that some Shiite militias in Iraq have actually started forcing women — Muslim or not — to wear the veil.

Tunisia is another Muslim country actively going after the hijab. In 2006, President Ben Ali, feeling the growing influence of Islamists in Tunisian society through the rapid increase of hijabs, reactivated a 1981 decree banning the wearing of the hijab in government offices, schools, universities, and public places in general. via Ethiopian Review

(Note about article. I find the statements that ‘In Sweden, Italy, Luxembourg and some Belgian cities, the burqa is theoretically banned altogether’, to be not true. Googling all the rest of information in the article, I find no inconsistencies.)

According to the poll publshed today by the Financial Times, 70% of French respondents favor banning the burka in public, followed by those in Spain and Italy, with 65% and 63%, respectively. About 57% of Britons and 50% of Germans support such a ban, as do 33% of Americans. A minority of respondents said they would support a similar ban on other religious symbols or clothing, such as crosses and yarmulkes.

The comparatively low number of Americans supporting a burqa ban isn’t as reflective of our support of freedom as it might seem.

Yes, a burqa-wearing woman in France would inherit French freedoms — theoretically. I say as long as her husband allows it, but without testimony from women, freely given or surveyed, no one knows. There are exceptions but you will not convince me that the majority of women wearing burqas have any significant freedom to choose their lifestyles.

Our own preference for an openly religous society is driving the 33% group that makes the indefensible argument that women around the world want to wear burqas, if only immoral Westeners would leave women to their own choices. 

Over the weekend a newspaper in India published an op-ed piece against wearing the burqa.

Marches by protestors who claimed the article hurt religious sentiments turned violent Monday with mobs burning vehicles and looting shops in Shimoga, about 280 kilometres north-west of the statecapital, Bangalore, the PTI and IANS news agencies reported. Two people were killed, one by police gunfire and the other from injuries in an assault, police said. via Earth Times from India World

I want men who write op ed pieces in favor of burqas by choice to explain to me that the women who wear them make the decision freely. Imagine announcing in Shimoga, india that you were giving up your burqa.

These are not the arguments that Americans made to end apartheid in South Africa. We never argued that the South African blacks were free to choose their lifestyles. South African laws were racist. Similar laws against women represent restrictions again religous freedom.

If that’s not a double standard against women, I don’t know what is.

Muslim women in India are LOSING rights as they are in Sudan and many other countries. Any woman not complying with the orders to get under her burqa runs a high probability of being killed. This is the ‘religious freedom’ that people are defending.

Frankly, the argument insults my intelligence, even when it comes from the mouth of the president of the United States.  Anne

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