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The official blog of Fausta's Blog Talk Radio show.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The Veil Controversy

Via Nidra Poller,
The Veil Controversy: Islamism and liberalism face off
But the country whose government is currently going after the hijab most vigorously is Tunisia. The wearing of the hijab has been spreading rapidly in Tunisian towns, prompting President Ben Ali recently to reactivate a 1981 decree banning the wearing of the hijab in government offices, schools, universities, and public places in general. His government views the hijab as one more sign of the unwelcome but growing influence of Islamists in Tunisian society. This past Ramadan, in a reversal of the standard pattern for Muslim religious police, Tunisian police were seen tearing headscarves off women in the streets.

The authorities consider the hijab unacceptable in a country that enshrined women's rights as long ago as 1956, with the banning of repudiation (male-initiated casual divorce), polygamy, forced marriage, and the granting of women's rights to vote and sue for divorce. Ben Ali sees women "as a solid defense against the regressive forces of fanaticism and extremism."

Interestingly, the Tunisian author and feminist Samia Labidi, president of A.I.M.E., an organization fighting the Islamists, recounts that she personally started wearing the veil before puberty, after Islamists told her the hijab would be a passport to a new life, to emancipation. After a few years, she realized she had been fooled and that the veil made her feel like she was "living in a prison." At first, she could not bring herself to stop wearing it because of the constant psychological pressure. But the 1981 ban on the hijab in public places forced her to remove it, and she did so for good.

Labidi's experience suggests that in both Tunisia and France the recent banning of the hijab has actually helped Muslim women who are subject to Islamist indoctrination.
When indoctrination is not enough, try bribery:
For Islamists, the imperative to veil women justifies almost any means. Sometimes they try to buy off resistance. Some French Muslim families, for instance, are paid 500 euros (around $600) per quarter by extremist Muslim organizations just to have their daughters wear the hijab. This has also happened in the United States. Indeed, the famous and brave Syrian-American psychiatrist Wafa Sultan recently told the Jerusalem Post that after she moved to the United States in 1991, Saudis offered her $1,500 a month to cover her head and attend a mosque.
And then threats,
But what Islamists use most is intimidation. A survey conducted in France in May 2003 found that 77 percent of girls wearing the hijab said they did so because of physical threats from Islamist groups. A series in the newspaper Libération in 2003 documented how Muslim women and girls in France who refuse to wear the hijab are insulted, rejected, and often physically threatened by Muslim males. One of the teenage girls interviewed said, "Every day, bearded men come to me and advise me strongly on wearing the veil. It is a war. For now, there are no dead, but there are looks and words that do kill."
Why the sudden emergence of the veil? Because it's in-your-face:
Given the Islamists' ferocious determination on this point, it is worth asking: Why exactly is covering the female so important to them? The obvious answer is that it is a means of social control. Not coincidentally, it is one of the only issues on which Sunni and Shia extremists agree. It's not by chance that use of the hijab really took off after Iran's Islamic regime came to power in 1979. Some Shiite militias in Iraq have actually started forcing women--Muslim or not--to wear the veil or face the consequences.
Not only in Iraq are women forced to veil themselves - in France, women are gang-raped at the banlieus if they're not wearing veils, whether or not the women are Muslim.

It has nothing to do with women choosing to become Marie Claire's Mecca Stars

Update: Hijab, Violence against Women, and Profiling
One solution to this debate may be profiling of women who wear hijab for investigation of domestic or other abuse. If [Olivier Guitta, writing at] Weekly Standard [see above] is right, then wearing hijab is a sign that a female has been intimidated and possibly beaten. If so, then not investigating the possibility of such abuse where it occurs, i.e., failing to implement hijab-based profiling, discriminates against women. Those who would oppose such investigation would be arguing that they favor physical abuse of women.
(technorati tags )


At 9:19 AM, Blogger Juan Paxety said...

The wearing of the hijab reminds me of the wearing of the KKK hood in my native US Southeast. Both are used to hide identities for the purpose of social control.

At 1:46 PM, Blogger Alixianna said...

There are different kinds of veils.
Hijab covers only the hair, and the purpose of it was not to stop the lust of Muslim men, but to be recognized as a believing woman and not a slave. You see a greater emergance of hijab today because more Muslim women are educated than ever, and we can read our own religious books, and know the context. Almost all women who lived in the time of the Qu'ran covered their hair, and some men too might have even veiled their faces. I personally am Muslim and have studied the Qu'ran, and history, and I believe face veiling is not for the general muslim woman (it was only for the wives of the Prophet who had to live their lives in public and it was for their privacy, much like a movie star's sunglasses). This face veiling is called niqab, or in Afghanistan, chador with mesh (burqa is the wrong word---real burqas don't hide much of the face they just keep sand out of your mouth and are quite comfy though I'd never wear such a silly looking thing). For a woman in the West to wear niqab, she is scaring the genral public, though I have done so myself on occasion, discouraged by the muslim man in my life (who will not walk with me or go out with me if I choose to wear on because people will automatically assume he forces me to). I have worn it because when I wear my simple head scarf people stare, and I get sick of the staring sometimes when everything I else I am wearing you would see on a more modest version of Carrie Bradshaw. I should get over that though, because I love my hijab, and love being recognized as a Muslim woman by other muslims. It reminds me to act in charity and compassion, and not to swear, or be lazy (generally it just reminds me to be the best person I can while wearing it). It doesn't hide my personality, but it makes people take me for my personality and ideals, not my physical form and beauty. I am white, and before I became a muslim, I can tell you the truth, people treat you differently depending on your skin colour and hair colour. Hijab makes me equal with other women, who either might be more beautiful than me, or less so. Then we are simply striving with our soul among eachother, not against eachother. I love my hijab. I am not brainwashed. No man told me to. To be honest, I didn't even start doing it because my religion recommends it. I wore it at first simply because I liked knowing how people would really treat my if I was not the most beautiful woman in the room anymore, or if they are racist whatsoever, I get to see. You are stripped of your whiteness and citizenship when you put on hijab. People assume you are foreign, compliment your english, and refuse to give you the rights of your country and the right to call yourself an American, A French citizen, or a Canadian, even if you happen to be Native American and were there long before the Mayflower landed (like my bestfriend who laughingly calls her son a Narabian) and me, whose Grandfather built many of the houses in the city which I live, and can count his lineage back to the crusades where we Frenchies killed Muslims in Jerusalem. I believe I have a right to wear my scarf (and support american buisiness by buying a Banana Republic pashmina), and I believe anyone who tries to enforce hijab (no or yes) is an absolute idiot. In Islam, you never saw the Prophet Mohammed SAW go around carrying scarves and veiling women LOL. You don't see the sahaba (first muslims) harassing non-muslims like the muttawa in KSA or weirdos in Iran. I would like to add though: there are places in Saudi Arabia that are holy places, and like the Vatican, I would expect any visitors to respect them with loose clothing and the semblance hair coverage. But not all Saudi women cover their hair and veil their faces and wear abaya. Walk around Jeddah. There's a wide variation.

At 12:56 AM, Blogger Rehenuma said...

Fausta, I'm not sure why you choose to use these very xenophobic quotes on your page. I understand that there is something about a woman choosing to cover that doesn't make any sense to a liberal western feminist, but there are many things that non-Muslim women do that make no sense to Muslim women- such as the constant need to beautify and look pretty- dieting, plastic surgery, eating disorders, competing in looks to get men.. these are all signs of the oppression of non-Muslim women.. just because you don't understand another persons way of life is no reason to villify them, especially if these women are not asking you to save them.. this one women who you quote has an obvious bias towards the West so you can't just take her as representative of all Tunisian women.. you who speak of freedom would advocate people pulling off someone's clothing? That reeks of intolerance and oppression.. a women who dons a head covering that has been mandated by all of the Abrahamic faiths and only maintained by one of them in contemporary society should be respected for her choice, not treated as some kind of imbecile who needs YOU to think for her.. we are all the same under our different skins, languages and clothes.. we have minds that think and bodies that function the same as yours do.. just because we don't come to the same conclusions does not neccesitate our stupidity or oppression.. Islam is not the evil you think it is just as Christianity and Judaism before it, it is a message to do good to others- not harm. May you one day be able to recognize that your ideas and thoughts don't come from some rational truth, but are a result of a history of European/American colonial and imperial excuses used to dominate and exploit other people who differ in very small ways from the White Christian (and now Jewish) ideal.. explore your subjectivity and you will see that you are not speaking truth and justice, but another discourse of hate and oppression that will further the cause of Western oppression and domination of the Other.. when will you realize that the Other thinks, eats and bleeds just as you do?


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