Why the French should be commended, not condemned, for spearheading a ban on Islamic veil, a fundamentally criminal and oppressive Islamic tradition, as substantive step toward liberation of Muslim women...
A different version of this article, entitled France and the Burqa, appeared in Hudsonny.org.
The Islamic veil, called hijab, niqab or burqa etc., seen by critics as a sign of religious fundamentalism and a tool of suppression of Muslim women, has been banned by various institutions in France, Denmark, Netherlands and Belgium. The move was spearheaded by France in 2004 by banning the wearing of headscarves by Muslim girls in schools (also Christian Cross, Jewish skullcap & Sikh Turban) in order to keep state institutions free from religious symbols.
Taking a step further, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, in a rare speech to lawmakers of both Houses on June 22 this year, kicked up a further controversy by declaring the head-to-toe burqa “not a sign of religion” but of “subservience”, which will not be welcome in France, pointing to his intention of banning it in France.
Sarkozy’s comment ignited condemnations all over the world. Muslims claimed the comment ‘stigmatized’ Islam. Even President Barack Hussein Obama had, weeks earlier (June 4), indirectly condemned the limited ban on Muslim headscarves in various public institutions in certain European countries in his famous Cairo Speech, as thus:
“…it is important for western countries to avoid impeding Muslim citizens from practising religion as they see fit, for instance, by dictating what clothes a Muslim woman should wear. We cannot disguise hostility towards any religion behind the pretence of liberalism.”
Ignoring criticisms, which have even divided the French society, the Sarkozy administration has pursued an intended burqa ban by forming a parliamentary committee, consisting of 32 lawmakers, to investigate whether the wearing of burqa tramples Muslim women’s liberty and how the ban can be enacted.
The committee, after protracted investigation involving Muslim community leaders and intellectuals (including Tariq Ramadan), is about to deliver its verdict. And recent statements by leading French politicians suggest that a recommendation banning the burqa in public spaces is on the way.
President Sarkozy reaffirmed his commitment to banning the burqa in his November 12 speech on French national identity, saying: “France is a country where there is no place for the burqa, where there is no place for the subservience of women.”
The French immigration minister, Eric Besson, said on Wednesday, 16 December 2009, that he wants the head-to-toe Muslim veils to be grounds for denying citizenship and long-term residence to Muslims in France.
“I want the wearing of the full veil to be systematically considered as proof of insufficient integration into French society, creating an obstacle to gaining (French) nationality”, he said.
Meanwhile Jean-Francois Cope, a lawmaker and the Mayor of Meaux with a large Muslim population, belonging to Sarkozy’s conservative UMP Party, laid out the ‘rationale’ for the impending burqa ban in an article in La Figaro, saying that the measure should be understood as “a law of liberation”.
Islamic veil liberates women? Muslims
think so but only in their twisted logic.
What is striking in Cope’s assertion is his terming the impending ban on burqa a “law of liberation”, which completely contradicts what Muslims and their non-Muslim apologists claim: that is, Islamic veil is a symbol of liberation, not suppression, for women.
Even Naomi Wolfe, a leading American feminist, affirmed this Muslim argument, saying: “Indeed, many Muslim women I spoke with did not feel at all subjugated by the chador or the headscarf. On the contrary, they felt liberated from what they experienced as the intrusive, commodifying, basely sexualising Western gaze.”
She herself, having donned a headscarf in Morocco to experience its exhilarating liberation, which she described as thus: “…I moved about the market – the curve of my breasts covered, the shape of my legs obscured, my long hair not flying about me – I felt a novel sense of calm and serenity. I felt, yes, in certain ways, free.”
Wolfe quoted a Muslim woman: “When I wear Western clothes, men stare at me, objectify me, or I am always measuring myself against the standards of models in magazines, which are hard to live up to – and even harder as you get older, not to mention how tiring it can be to be on display all the time. When I wear my headscarf or chador, people relate to me as an individual, not an object; I feel respected.”
And Wolfe empathized: “This may not be expressed in a traditional Western feminist set of images, but it is a recognisably Western feminist set of feelings.”
What is surprising is the ridiculous way Muslims frame their arguments, and, surprisingly, the brightest feminists of our time are most eager to subscribe to it.
Every argument in this defence of the Islamic veil is ridiculous, but I will, here, address the central argument, namely wearing of veil as a means of avoiding men’s stare at the liberally-dressed women. I have come across other Muslim arguments as to how liberally-dressed women are “eye-raped” by men, how men make indecent gestures at them, or even how they may get carnally aroused to commit sexual violations, including rape.
It is bewildering to hear well-educated Muslims may think a woman can be eye-raped by men. However, the highest absurdity of this argument lies in the fact that men commit an unbecoming, indecent, even criminal, act and the women have to bear the consequence of it by taking responsibility of covering themselves up.
To a rational mind, men are at fault here; they should bear consequence. If at all, restrictions, veil or other such measures, should imposed on men, not on the well-behaved innocent women.
A woman’s body is her own property; she should have right to display it in the way she wants. Others, particularly men, must learn to restrain them from coveting, snatching, or touching other’s property, the body of a woman, in this case.
This is the ethos on which an ideal liberal civilized society must be based on. Islamic veil is a contravention of this central ethos of the modern liberal society. The French, or any other nations, would, therefore, be perfectly justified in banning the burqa.
What is important to realize is that Prophet Muhammad and Allah applied the same rationale, as Muslims use today, to impose veil on Muslim women 14 centuries ago. Muhammad, in line with the rather liberal Arab society, initially urged women dress modestly (Quran 24:30-31). Later on, he prescribed a complete head-to-toe covering of Muslim women in public spaces in Quran 33:59, which reads Allah’s command: “O Prophet! Tell thy wives and thy daughters and the women of the believers (i.e. of Muslims) to draw their cloaks close round them (when they go abroad). That will be better, so that they may be recognized and not annoyed.”
Now, let us consider the context of this verse. It was revealed in 629 CE or later, when Muhammad had completely cleansed Medina of the Jews, by a combination of eviction and mass-slaughter, while his Muslim brigands were raiding one non-Muslim community after another around Arabia, often slaughtering the men, enslaving the women, and plundering their wealth. As concerns enslavement of the infidel women to be used as sex-slaves or sold, recommended by Allah in the Quran (verse 33:50), Muhammad had already captured the women of Banu Quraiza, Banu al-Mustaliq and Khaybar after slaughtering their men.
So, who were the purported molesters, as pointed to in this verse, from whose molestation Allah wanted to save the Muslim women by imposing the burqa?
The molesters were obviously Muslim men, because non-Muslims would not dare annoying Muslim women, when Islam had gained supreme power in Arabia. Indeed, it is the non-Muslim women, who were living in constant fear of Muslim raids upon their community, their enslavement and rape. Moreover, if non-Muslims were the culprits, which could occur only at a time of Muhammad’s weakness, it was unwise of Allah to prescribe wearing of veils to Muslim women, making them more conspicuous, and therefore, more vulnerable to molestation.
Therefore, Muhammad imposed burqa on Muslim women to save them from his own sex-crazed Muslim men, whose criminal intent toward molesting women was undoubtedly aroused to its height by Muhammad’s inspiration and engagement in ceaseless raids on non-Muslim communities for capturing their women for subjecting them to rape and sexual slavery.
The Islamic tradition of veiling was, therefore, founded as a punishment of Muslim women for the crime of Muslim men: it’s a policy of punishing the victim, not the criminal.
And exactly the same arguments are used by Muslims today, as we have seen. Such institutions, fundamentally criminal in nature, are totally unacceptable in civilized society.
And the French government is perfectly right in banning the burqa; indeed, the French or any other government has a moral and legal responsibility of doing so. It is because the responsibility of a liberal government, as leading liberal ideologue Albert Einstein argued, is “to insure the unhindered development of the individual”.
Burqa is not only a criminal institution at its heart, but also a denial to unhindered expression and development of the Muslim women, a half of the society, for the criminality of the other half, the men.
Burqa almost entirely anonymizes women and reduces them to nonentity in society. Only criminals would seek anonymity, but only partially, i.e. only for their specific criminal actions.
Therefore, fundamentally, behind every burqa resides a wrong incriminated criminal, as well as a nonentity, not a human individual, whose right to freedom and liberty to enjoy every privilege in every sphere of life and society in equal measure with men is ensured in the human rights chartered of the United Nations and the constitutions of liberal Western societies.
President Sarkozy underlined this reality, in support of his intended ban on burqa, saying: “We cannot have in our country women who are prisoners behind netting, cut off from all social life, deprived of identity.”
All conscientious people, foremost the liberals, must support the French initiative to ban the burqa, the first step toward liberation of Muslim women from the clutches of men, lasting 14 centuries since the founding of Islam.
The French deserve kudos, not condemnation as President Obama, the idol of the world’s liberals, has done by saying: “We cannot disguise hostility towards any religion behind the pretence of liberalism.”
For President Obama, as an icon of liberalism and leader of the world’s leading nation promoting liberalism globally, it becomes his foremost responsibility to uphold liberal values. And ensuring unhindered expression of the individual and upholding her/his freedom and liberty, no matter what, lie at the heart of liberalism.
Islamic veil violates the most fundamental ethos of liberalism, not of one or two individuals, but of entire half of the Muslim society, in its grossest form. Obama may ignore his foremost responsibility, but his condemnation or stigmatization of others, for taking up that responsibility, is unacceptable.
Islam subjugated and oppressed non-Muslims, called dhimmis, as well as its women. The West, including the French, spearheaded the liberation of the dhimmis of the Islamic world, in the so-called age of colonialism by direct intervention or through diplomatic pressure (e.g. Iran and Turkey). But the fate of oppressed Muslim women remained largely unchanged as colonial powers avoided intervening in the private affairs of Muslims.
Yet, Muslim women experienced bits of liberation, under indirect influence of liberal thoughts brought to the Muslim world by the colonists and under their protection. The Westernized Shah of Iran, for example, even banned veiling of women in the 1930s. But, it is being taken away from them in the post-colonial world.
It appears obvious that Muslim societies won’t liberate their women, despite so much passive influence flowing in from the liberal West for so long. A direct intervention from without is what remains to be tried. It works or not, the French ban on burqa would constitute a substantive effort in liberating Muslim women. Good thing is that they are not doing it not as a discredited colonial power, but to uphold the human rights of its individual citizens, demanded by its constitution.
written by LASHKAR EI TOIBA , December 28, 2009
written by LASHKAR EI TOIBA , December 29, 2009
written by LASHKAR EI TOIBA , December 30, 2009
written by LASHKAR EI TOIBA , December 30, 2009