Ban the Muslim Veil, Any Covering, for Women
Trends in covering the female are reflective of extremist trends in Muslim areas. Beware it will happen in Europe and the West, unless – unless something is done about it. Strange as this may seem, this symbol of male dominance, control using Allah as an excuse, man demanding correct actions, men blaming women as seductive suggesting their sexual desires are due to a woman’s appeal (not man’s own lack of control), and societal acceptance of a rule of law requiring woman to cover, in part or entirely, is questionable. But it does show what is taking place in a given culture or country. Follow the trend.
Phyllis Chesler, Middle East Quarterly writes, “The Islamist resurgence throughout the Middle East and the Muslim world has triggered a mass migration to the West; Muslim and ex-Muslim dissidents and feminists as well as Christians have exited Muslim lands. (Such resurgence can be seen, not just theorized, by the imposition of dress on females.) Still, it has taken Westerners decades to understand that the battle for Muslim women’s freedom as well as for Western Enlightenment values also has to be fought in the West.” She also writes, “During the 1920s and 1930s, in this new international environment, kings, shahs, and presidents unveiled their female citizens, and Muslim feminists campaigned hard for open faces in public. They were successful in Egypt, Lebanon, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Turkey, Pakistan, and Iran, to name but a few countries.”
A book written by Egyptian intellectual Qasim Amin, The Liberation of Women, (1899) argues that the face veil was not commensurate with the tenets of Islam and called for its removal. There was a trend from the mid-twenties until the late 1950’s when the veil was all but gone in Egypt.
In Afghanistan the Burqa all but disappeared in the early 20th century.
“Turkey banned the Islamic face veil and turban in 1934, and this prohibition has been maintained ever since by a long succession of governments that adhered to Atatürk’s secularist and modernist revolution,” according to Chesler. This has been the case until only recently, after 2008 “women wearing both hijab and burqa have been seen on the streets of Istanbul.”
Iran changed for women under the Shah, but than is ending under the new constitution and the advent of Khomeinism.
Lebanon is relatively veil free, was historically a Christian and Westernized country. No longer dominantly Christian, with the influx of Palestinians and the presence of Hezbollah, there are more fundamental tendencies being observed.
Tunisia is interesting and bucking the trend, from Chesler’s article, “Since 1981, women in Tunisia have been prohibited from wearing Islamic dress, including headscarves, in schools or government offices. In 2006, since this ban was increasingly ignored, the Tunisian government launched a sustained campaign against the hijab. The police stopped women in the streets and asked them to remove their headscarves; the president described the headscarf as a “sectarian form of dress which had come into Tunisia uninvited.” Other officials explained that Islamic dress was being promoted by extremists who exploited religion for political aims.”
Malaysia – no hijabs for public servants. The Malaysian Supreme Court in 1994 ruled that the niqab “has nothing to do with [a woman’s] constitutional rights to profess and practice her Muslim religion” because it is not required by Islamic law
The source of cover for woman is the Quran – misinterpreted more often than not – Qur’anic verse (7:26) states, “We have sent down clothing to cover your shame.” Certainly, this applies to both men and women, but patriarchal customs have almost exclusively targeted women. Ironically, this verse also says that “the clothing of righteousness is the best”—a point lost on Islamists and their unwitting sympathizers in the West. It is not the dress, but the mind, the heart and the soul for God. Cover yourself in your faith and belief and the life you live accordingly. Dress is but a façade, and unnecessary when it comes to niqab, burqa and the like. And this applies to the men so ready to blame a woman for their own failings.
We are Progressing in Reverse
Now, per Chesler, “after decades of attempted modernization in Muslim countries, the battle to impose the veil was launched again by resurgent Islamists.” The trend should be noticed.
Iran, Syria, Algeria, Lebanon, Afghanistan and Egypt – Since the early 1970’s – with the presence and influence of Khomeini, the Muslim Brotherhood, extremists, Hezbollah, Hamas, civil war, and the resurgence of the Taliban (Al Qaeda) woman are being forced to veil. It is as a reflection in the mirror of the face of terror when the female contingent is hidden by their dress. Even in Chechnya woman are attacked for not wearing head-scarves, their President, Chesler informs her readers, allows polygamy.
In Saudi Arabia, under the influence of Wahabbism, the most extreme form of the Sunni element and 7th century Muhammad Islam, woman are completely covered. It is archaic, strange, and demeaning, in my personal view, but that is the nature of fundamental Islam – possibly the example of its worst form. It is so bad that in 2002, when teenage Saudi schoolgirls tried to escape from a burning school without their headscarves and abayas (black robes), the Mutawa, or religious police, beat them back. Many died.
Where the veil, or covering, is required many woman comply, wear the hijab (or what is required), so as not to be called ‘prostitutes’, or feel ‘guilty’ of tempting men or whatever, their innocence challenged if not covered, or otherwise insulted and harassed. This is not a free choice.
This statement from Chesler’s article is quite informative, “Many children who are brought up within fundamentalist religions or in cults are trained, by a system of reward and punishment, to obey their parents, teachers, and religious leaders. As adults, if they wish to remain within the community (and the opportunity for leaving did not and still does not exist for most Muslim women), they must continue to conform to its norms. Most are already socialized to do so and thus, some Muslim women will say that they do not feel that anyone is forcing them to wear the headscarf; they will, in a private conversation, denounce the face veil, the burqa, the chador, and the Saudi abaya.”
A migration to the West may not solve the problem, totally, as the trend must be observed. It is a means to escape required, imposed, coverings. The women are free in terms of choice. There are woman, however, who wear what they consider customary dress, doing so in protest of those that disagree with Islam as a rebuttal to their claims of Islamaphobia, according to Chesler.
This may be Chesler’s most compelling statement, “the West, the Middle-East understand that the battle for Muslim women’s freedom as well as for Western Enlightenment values also has to be fought in the West.
A less tolerant view of Islamic practices, most noticeably the veiling of women, has surfaced in many countries – from France to Sweden to Belgium to Switzerland to Norway, and so on. The US still may not get it, as political persons such as Pelosi and Clinton have donned the hijab in Muslim areas, while visiting female dignitaries do not wear Western dress when visiting the US. What are they trying to prove?
Phyllis Chesler makes the case for banning the veiling of woman, Muslim or otherwise. Not as a threat to freedom, but as a protectionist means, with a host of reasons such as theft prevention, health and disease prevention (Vitamin D deficiency), use as disguises, safety – seeing, hearing, breathing, movement, communications – not seeing eyes or hearing properly, an attention grabber more than prevention, isolation, lower self-esteem on the part of the wearer, frightening to others, demoralizing, cause for concern and pity by observers, a cover-up for hidden items – to include weapons or bombs, and general sensory depravation by the wearer. Ban them for the sake of the wearer, the viewer, society and the fact it serves absolutely no religious purpose – Qur’anic or otherwise. More can be found in an article by Daniel Pipes – The Niqab and Burqa is a security threat.
Let this not surface in your area as it will be a certain sign that the gates to Sharia have been opened, your local or national government is overlooking the real problem, and your freedoms will be mitigated by the constant outcries, as now too often heard from C.A.I.R. that an objection to Islam is ‘persecution’ or ‘hatred’, even though not directed at any individual but at this ideology masked under an ill structured religion. Islam, the constraints on woman, the demand on society, Sharia Law is only useful in the efforts of misogynist males to dominate their Muslim culture. Beware!
Thank you Phyllis for your excellent and well researched article. (See footnotes for access to the complete article via the internet)
Grace and Peace,
Follow the History of the Burqa, the Niqab
 Fall 2010, pp. 33-45, Ban the Burqa? The Argument in Favor
 Ban the Burqa? The Argument in Favor, by Phyllis Chesler, Middle East Quarterly, Fall 2010, pp. 33-45