Kashif Hafeez Siddiqui

Weiling Veil

In Clsh of Civilizations, Hijab, Uncategorized on April 27, 2010 at 3:25 pm

By Rehan Ali

The entire Muslim world, especially its conservative citizens, is in resentment over the proposed legislation in France and Belgium which prevents women from fully covering themselves in veils. The insistence of European lawmakers on banning the burqa in all forms is surprising because only a couple of thousand women cover their faces. Belgian law makers consider prohibition of naqab or veil a security measure as it will allow the police in identification. The law prevents wearing clothing which hides a person’s identity in public. Critics call it repression of a person’s right to wear what they want.

French president Nicolas Sarkozy is pushing for similar legislation which according to the French lawmakers, repress women in subjugation and prevents social assimilation. They attribute veils to discrimination and social oppression. France and Belgium are not Islamic states, and neither of the two countries have Muslim majority. Their Muslim population consists mainly of North African migrants.

Frankly speaking, what the French or Belgians do is their business. It is their country and they really don’t require our advice on these and other matters. Yet Pakistanis, the self appointed guardians of Muslim Ummah, are furious. There is widespread resentment on these measures among the Islamic quarters. It wouldn’t be a surprise if we observe a rally or two by the women wing of one the rightwing Islamist factions denouncing these laws.

Why all the fuss about European legislatures when in Turkey, a Muslim majority nation, law prevents women from attending government events if they wear hijab. Even in our beloved Pakistan women are inflicted abuses and are ill treated. Forced marriages, honor killings, and domestic violence are the order of the day. The local panchayets are free to do as they please and women are used as commodities in resolving disputes. Instead of catering to issues at home, we are all worried about a certain law involving merely a couple of thousand women who choose to live in these non-Muslim societies.

France and Belgium are outside our locus of control and we should not fret about this and similar issues. Apparently, this argument should suffice; however, for the conscientious individuals, it is a matter of principle contradicting the right of expression. The whole issue is just another form of oppression, the other extreme.

Proponents of law consider veil as a tool which subdues women. Hijab to them is a symbol of oppression which silences, bars and subjugate women. It is deemed a scion of the inferior status of women. They argue that in many situations males exercise coercive powers over women, especially on under-age girls, forcing them to wear the hijab. It cannot be ascertained that the girls are wearing the hijab do it of their own will or because their fathers and brothers are forcing them to. Hence, they should be protected through such legislation.

They say hijab prevents social assimilation, but wouldn’t stigmatization and it’s portrayal as an undesired symbol create or farther disintegration? Women who are forced to wear hijab, and there are a lot of them amongst us take it off, almost immediately, as the stimulus (family members) is removed. Good news for them, but what about women who choose to wear the dreaded cloth.

Opponents argue that such nonsense exclusion will prevent social integration of the women supporting a hijab. The notion that women are forced into wearing a hijab may be valid for a limited number. However it is void for a large number of women who wear the hijab self consciously. Instead of being respected and accepted these women are repressed though such measures. Indeed, by shutting out those women who are trying to better themselves, it will have quite the opposite effect.

Muslim women argue that hijab liberates them from societal and peer pressures. They feel empowered, Elle and Vogue seem to loose their grip on such women. Behind their veils they can be themselves and not some skinny, terrified conformist following the latest trends in fashion. These hijabis are a major threat to gloss merchandisers as they defy tyranny and ask respect and independence.

Surprisingly, the controversy is brewing in societies averse to treatment of women in Muslim countries. They advocate a women’s right to humane treatment, education, social empowerment and independence. They actively fund and appreciate Muslim individuals who toe their line of feminism. These bold and brave volunteers are self proclaimed custodians of woman rights in Muslim majority states. They actively search for the exploited souls and manipulate such situations for defaming Muslims countries, Islam and settling their scores with the so called Islamists.

The unfortunate majority caught between the two extremes – enlightened Islamophobes and labelled Islamists – finds very little space to express its concern. Their voices shunned, their opinion considered a confused ideologue.
Irrespective of their inclination, everyone agree that the decision to wear or not to wear a hijab should rest with women. So in principal hegemonists on both sides should refrain from barging on their (women) domain. Libertarians in their bid to free women are doing exactly what their opponents do. The proposed legislation is nothing but coercion, restricting women from exercising their will.

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