Why I oppose ban on burqa?

New York Times recently published an op-ed article supporting French President Sarkozy’s attempt to ban burqa.

In the article, Mona Eltahawy, an Egyptian-born commentator on Arab and Muslim issues says, “As a Muslim woman and a feminist I would ban the burqa”.

This made me wondering. Was Sarkozy’s remark justified? Was I wrong in publishing a post against Sarkozy’s attempt to ban burqa? Let me see the arguments of the writer in NY Times and decide. Her points in blue and my thoughts in black.

I am a Muslim, I am a feminist and I detest the full-body veil, known as a niqab or burqa. It erases women from society and has nothing to do with Islam but everything to do with the hatred for women at the heart of the extremist ideology that preaches it.

She hates burqa and hates the Islamists who try to make women wear it. No difference of opinion here. Is it Islamic or not? Actually that is not my botheration as I do not follow that religion, but I feel that religious traditions will change from time to time and place to place. One will say it is Islamic while other will say it is not. Let the believer decide what is Islamic and what is not as long as it do not harm another person.

We must not sacrifice women at the altar of political correctness or in the name of fighting a growingly powerful right wing that Muslims face in countries where they live as a minority.

By saying that women should decide [and not French Government] what she should wear in any way sacrifice them at the altar of political correctness? Right wing Conservatives are always anti-women whether it is in USA, [anti abortion activists], France [Le Pen] or in Iran. So fighting the Right Wing is always pro-women.

But the best way to support Muslim women would be to say we oppose both racist Islamophobes and the burqa. We’ve been silent on too many things out of fear we’ll arm the right wing.

Yes I agree that we should oppose both racist Islamophobes and compulsory wearing of burqa but should never ban either of them. We should oppose Islamophobes politically. Muslim women scholars like the author of the article should be able to convince Muslim women that burqa is not compulsory and is demeaning to women. Actually supporting Sarkozy is like giving away the right of women to wear what she likes.

It is sad to see a strange ambivalence toward the burqa from many of my fellow Muslims and others who claim to support us. They will take on everything — the right wing, Islamophobia, Mr. Straw, Mr. Sarkozy — rather than come out and plainly state that the burqa is an affront to Muslim women.

There is no ambivalence here. I feel the correct liberal view should be opposition to compulsory wearing of burqa. Women should be able to decide everything about themselves with out any interference by Men, Mullahs or Presidents. .

Is burqa an affront to Muslim women?

May be more than the burqa the second citizen status given to women, as a whole in a male dominated society throughout the World, especially in some Islamic countries is an affront to women. Burqa is a part of that. We can propagate that idea but the final opinion should be from the women concerned.

I blame such reluctance on the success of the ultra-conservative Salafi ideology — practiced most famously in Saudi Arabia — in leaving its imprimatur on Islam globally by persuading too many Muslims that it is the purest and highest form of our faith.

Saudi-style Salafi ideology got maximum support not from liberals but from conservative Right wing Governments in the West due to Oil interests. Liberal political movements were destroyed in the name of Cold War. Also the blame should be on the Liberal Muslims who is leaving everything related to religion to be decided by Mullahs.

It’s one thing to argue about the burqa in a country like Saudi Arabia — where I lived for six years and where women are treated like children — but it is utterly dispiriting to have those same arguments in a country where women’s rights have long been enshrined. When I first saw a woman in a burqa in Copenhagen I was horrified.

Actually it is Sarkozy who is trying to impinge on women’s right to choose her attire. You have the right to get horrified and write about it.

As a Muslim woman and a feminist I would ban the burqa.

As a Muslim woman and as a feminist she cannot ban burqa. Only Government can ban burqa.She can oppose it verbally and in letters and by legally allowed agitations. But she cannot tear up the burqa off a woman she meets in the street.

The whole point of discussion is not whether burqa is good or bad or whether it is Islamic or non Islamic. The point of discussion is whether a Government has the right to ban Women from wearing a particular outfit in public places. You can have reasonable dress codes in factories, offices, schools, religious places etc, but not in public places.

The sad part of this controversy is both Sarkozy and Mullahs will be happy with this. Sarkozy will get the anti-migrant racist votes while the oppressed Muslim women may turn more and more to burqa as a protest against the West’s ‘Islamophobia”.


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