The niqab and toying with women

This is a translation of an article by Badria Al Bishr that was published in Al hayat newspaper yesterday:

It seems that Muslims and, Arabs specifically, want to turn the veil to a case similar to the cases of Female Genital Mutilation, FGM, and child marriages. By that analogy, I mean convert cultural habits to acts of worship. For example the use of the issue of women rights in the battlefields between the fundamental Islamists and the British government. Some Arabs circumcise their daughters in secret and with the help of unregistered midwives, risking the lives of their daughters, and depriving them of a normal life. They consider FGM as a form of obedience to God, and some Muslims who hold British citizenship remove their daughters from Britain and force them into marrying while not being of legal age. They do not see anything wrong in lying and fraud, and depriving girls of their rights. All of this is justified by their desire to follow Islam.

Then when such issues come to light and are exposed to public opinion, the Islamic world begins to discuss whether or not Muslims have a right to practice these worships as citizens. This is done without the world understanding that these practices are cultural practices and do not reflect the essence of Islam. Just as when France banned the veil in the streets and Sarkozy would sometimes give security issues as a reason and other times that the ban preserves the identity of women as a human because her face is her identity. No one stood up to say that Sarkozy’s reasons are compatible with Islam, where the human face, male or female, is its identity and should not be obscured. This is an opinion stated by the most fervent Salafist Muslim scholars, such as Alalbani in his book «Muslim women’s hijab in the Quran and the Prophet’s tradition». The protestors to the burqa ban also did not go back to Sheikh Mohammed Tantawi, the previous head of Al-Azhar and one of the most important religious entities in the modern Muslim world, when he announced that the veil is not religion, but custom. They instead searched out for extremist fatwas as these were the only ones that would satisfy them. They insist that the removal of the veil, even in such illegal circumstances is a sin, even if it forced women to stay at home, abandoning their interests and the interests of her family, or forced them to pay a fine equivalent to almost two thousand riyals.

Recently, the issue arose again, but this time in Egypt, where the decision was made to prevent female students wearing the niqab to sit examinations at Egyptian universities since the niqab obstructs identifying the student. Although I am with the right of people to express themselves, I would like to point out that the Islamic movements that resort today to defend themselves by claiming a democratic right forget to either take all the truth or leave it whole i.e. that the application of democracy is inseparable from liberalism. Democracy does not warrant you to exercise what is inhumane under the pretext of freedom of cultural practice and personal freedom of belief and expression just because of your Muslim or Arab culture. practices and beliefs such as FGM, child marriages or intimidating women into believing that if they don’t wear the veil, then they have renounced the religion.

The protection of human rights even if the majority opposed, is not subject to a vote. If I had a hand, I would say to them to go play your games far away from our women’s rights which have always been a political toy. I would ask them to direct their games toward men’s rights. The closest parallel to the veil is the shaving of beards, which most Salafi schools agree is prohibited. Despite of this we don’t see anyone banning licenses for barber shops. People are not stopped in the streets or in the universities and chased with advice and discipline. Only the Taliban do this with their men.

23 Comments

Filed under Fatwas, Gender Apartheid

23 responses to “The niqab and toying with women

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention The niqab and toying with women « Saudiwoman's Weblog -- Topsy.com

  2. Coolred38

    Excellent article. How long until she’s on someone’s shit list?

  3. Fantastic article. Thanks for the translation!

  4. thank you for putting into words what I have so often wanted to express

  5. Ahmed Fouad

    (CNN) — “France’s law banning the burqa and other Islamic face coverings in public places is legal, top constitutional authorities in France ruled Thursday, clearing the final hurdle before the ban goes into effect……”

    http://edition.cnn.com/2010/WORLD/europe/10/07/france.burqa.ban/index.html?hpt=T1

  6. countrygirl

    Kudos to the author….she said everything.

  7. Yes, yes, and yes. It’s all about the choice of the woman, ultimately. This is a truly refreshing, challenging and oh-so-necessary article – thank you for posting!

  8. Toran

    I don’t hold any respect to Eman Al-Najfan because she want to destroy the vail while she is not appling that. we need to see your photos on your blog first, then you can talk.

  9. I agree wholeheartedly that women’s rights should not always be the battlefield. Women’s rights should be a given. I also disagree with most Muslims about the requirements for women’s dress in Islam.

    At the same time, however, I oppose any policy that prevents women or men from following their individual conscience in lieu of some harm caused to the greater good. This applies to France as much as Iran or Saudi Arabia.

    People should be upset about France banning Niqab because some women believe it to be an essential part of their religion. In the end, it doesn’t matter if they’re right. What matters is that the French government is forcing them to choose between their individual beliefs and participation in society.

    Whether a government forces women to cover up or prevents them from covering, they are subjecting women to the mainstream (mostly masculine) ideal of femininity, and that is wrong.

  10. Also, I understand that my opinion really doesn’t matter. I am not Saudi, Iranian or French. It is not my place to tell anyone what to do. It is, however, my obligation to add my point of view to the conversation, whatever its worth.

  11. Toran

    Eman, did ever heard the proverb “The dogs barking and the caravan is moving”
    that’s applied on your situation. you are barking, our society is moving with steady and solid belief. No vehicle driving, No women/men mixing and No vail removal as well. Go to adjacent country to practice your demands or go to the West where green places, friends of both sexes, driving not only a car but a plane also, speech freedom, money, wesky, bears, relationships, real estate, shopping, night clubs and so more advantages. Live your life and please leave us to live ours here as well. Thanks

  12. Eman… as Mr. Toran eloquently put it… “The dogs are barking and the caravan is moving”… The Caravan of civilization is indeed moving and it is just a matter of time when all those fanatic oppressors will disappear and could only be found either in trash cans or in a cage in a zoo.

    Best regards

  13. a

    Interesting article.

    In my opinion, if women must unveil their face in Mecca then there is nothing Islamic about wearing a niqab. Regardless the niqab originated in Yemeni culture.

    @Toran there is a plethora of things you could do other than raise awareness like saudiwomen. For one consider my lawbreaking family.

    One of my female cousins drives in Saudi on her yearly road trip to Lebanon. At the borders she switches places with her dad. She has never been caught but has been noticed by drivers on the street. My other cousin, who wears a hijab, dresses in clothes she would normally wear in Kuwait whenever in Saudi (I’m kuwaiti). I’ve only been to Saudi once. It was in 3ar3ar and we stopped at a park. I stepped out of the car wearing a pair of skinny jeans a t-shirt with open hair. Sure I got plenty of stares that scared me to an extent but it was hilarious especially because my parents were with me. That confused people lol.

    I have strong beliefs and I will apply them Saudi law or not. If these sights are more common people would not be as surprised or shocked. Also, I hate anyone that misinterprets Islam along with misogynists.

    I don’t think Saudi&co (the extremists found elsewhere) have realized oppression is the biggest sin in Islam.

  14. ali

    Eman, by far the best post you have written. For many reasons!.. the beard thing is very true.

    The bottom line in Islam is: the Quran.
    And, the Quran has ONE verse that cancels out ALL acts of force by the “religious” today:

    LA IKRAHA FID DEEN…
    NO COMPULSION IN RELIGION!

    Note: It says DEEN. This means ” way of life”.. Niqab, hijab, beard or no beard, or EVEN following other tenants of Islam CANNOT BE FORCED ON ANYONE BY ANYONE.. it is a matter of choice. If a person is not able to exercise their choice and will on earth, then why shall they be JUDGED?
    What has happened here is that these people are controlling the right of choice of others, so then they should be held accountable for other’s actions too, right?

    Cant wait to see the results.. one day/

  15. I wear the veil

    Why don’t we all just work together? How come we allow other countries to belittle us Muslims, but we overlook their problems? By banning the veil, France is taking away freedom, little by little. So if we don’t speak up now against oppression of any kind, that hinders our freedom, what will be left of us Muslims?
    Furthermore, some Sheikhs require the veil because they base it on the story of Aishah (RA), the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) story. When Aisha (RA) was believed to be in the caravan, but she was away doing her personal business. This was after a war and the troops were coming home to Medina. So by mistake they left Aisha (RA). So she stayed put in her spot waiting for someone to come back for her. As time passed, a man, who usually comes after the troops to make sure that they have not forgotten anything, passed by. As Aisha (RA) saw the man, she covered her face with the scarf she had.
    As a result, some Sheikhs see this act that the ladies at the time of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) used to cover their faces. And we woman of Islam try to follow the pious ladies examples and actions.
    This is what I believe:

    Consider this life as a test that someone would take at school. And we Muslims do believe that we are being tested in this life based on our actions. We also believe that in heaven there are different levels, so the more good deeds one does in this life the higher they go up. On a test at school, the teacher would put in extra credit so students can try and get a higher grade. There are those who are able to do it, and there are those students who do not know how to do the extra credit. Furthermore, Allah gave us extra credit in this life. I believe that the veil is like an extra credit for those who want to go on the next level in heaven. And there are those ladies who need or want that extra credit, so why should anyone take away their right?

  16. Really good stated. Well said. Democrasy is the right to speach, to have a free mind and tell your mind, freely express oneself in thoughts, talk, art, writing, clothing, makeup, and whatever, it is to have the possibility to those, and the right to it. It is to be able for ALL citizens, both men and women, to vote for the those who should rule the country for them, and those people should work for the people and not him/her self. Democrasy is good thing.

    And I think it is nice to hear that hijab and whole covering clothing for woman is only a cultural thing and not a actually a religious thing. At the same time it is disturbing that people use it for pushing their methods and whants and push it for being a religious thing and then give people bad consciensce for believing they are going against their God. It is a great deal for many people this with religion. And they responsible should be shamed of exploiting this.

    And again, well pointed out the double standards.🙂

    • I wear the Veil

      Get your facts right. The hijab is mandatory and religious. It is not any way cultural..

      33:59 O Prophet! Tell thy wives and daughters, and the believing women, that they should cast their outer garments over their persons (when abroad): that is most convenient, that they should be known (as such) and not molested. And Allah is Oft Forgiving, Most Merciful.
      ‘A’isha radi Allah anha used to say: “When (the Verse): ‘They should draw their veils over their necks and bosoms’, was revealed, (the ladies) cut their waist sheets at the edges and covered their faces with the cut pieces.”(Hadith-Shahi Bukhari 6:282)

      • Fact was that the women apparently went out at night to do their loo-business in their underwear. Some men who molested women made up the excuse that they didn’t recognize Mohammeds wives as being elite women. Only elite Jewish women veiled (cultural custom). Only elite women were allowed to veil. Common women and slaves were prohibited from veiling.

        The verse also seems to suggest that women did not habitually cover their breasts. Maybe they wore long skirts, like ancient Egyptians.

        And the hadith were written down 200 years later. As they have a lot of contradictions they should be taken for what they are: stories about the prophet written down 200 years later. With all the changes and embellishments inevitable over such a long time.

  17. Pingback: Plädoyer einer Muslimin: Macht die Burka nicht zum Schlachtfeld | tazblogs

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