Saturday, July 31, 2010

Burqa - Panipat to Paris

We need to be pro-choice, i.e., respecting the right of woman to make that choice and not impose on them or ban them for wearing. Who are we do that? We must honor every one's freedom to wear what they want to wear, as long as it is not obstructive to some elses' functioning. French commies want to force women not to wear whereas the Talibans force them to wear, who the heck are these idiots - Mike Ghouse

From Panipat To Par
is: Muslim Women And The Veil
Dr. Syeda Hameed

In 1947, my mother and other women of the family decided to shed the 'burqa' (veil). Our family comes from Panipat, which was at the time a flourishing district of Punjab, with a large population of Muslims. The distinguishing feature of this erudite, sufi-dominated town was the primacy of women. Our homes were known by the name of the woman of the house, for example 'Bi Maimuna ki Haveli' (much later I was pleasantly surprised to see in Marrakesh [Morocco] the same formulation: 'Riad dar Maimuna'). Their decision to remove the veil was accepted and respected by the men of my family.

The Panipat women were agents of their own fate. When several of these women reached Pakistan (per force they had to migrate) they did not revert to the veil. In either case, no one asked them to wear or remove; neither the State nor the family.

Sixty three years later, on July 13, 2010, France's lower house of Parliament voted to ban the wearing of face covering veils in public places. The vote was passed, 336 to 1, with the left parties abstaining. In its report, the French parliamentary committee said that requiring women to cover their faces was against the French Republican principles of secularism and equality - "It is a symbol of the repression of women and of extremist fundamentalism."

What is the link between Panipat and France on the issue of Muslim women and the 'burqa'?
France is the classic upholder of human rights. I, as many of my generation, grew up on stories of the French Revolution, Storming of Bastille, 'Liberty Equality, Fraternity', Montesquieu, Robespierre, Louis XIV, Marie Antoinette, and the ubiquitous Guillotine.

Panipat was the place where caravans of Sufi scholars migrated from Afghanistan and Iran to spread their teachings among a populace, which was ready and willing to learn. Many schools of Islamic jurisprudence flourished there; people openly debated religion and followed their own maslak, each according to his or her light.

Today, Panipat is a flourishing town where all the obvious signs of development hit you in the face. But the very fact for which it was distinctive has become its greatest bane; its neglect of gender issues has given it some of the lowest sex ratios in the country. From the high regard in which women were held, it has become the district with one of the worst CSR (Child sex ratio) in the country.

And France, the upholder of the rights of the marginalised has decreed that of the quarter million Muslim women, the 1,900 who wear the face veil will be fined $190 if they emerge in public wearing the veil. Men who force women in their family to wear full face veils will be fined $37,754 and a one-year jail term. If this Bill is cleared by the senate, it will become law of the land. In this manner, it will irretrievably 'disempower' at least some French citizens

In the 1960's when their economy was booming, France waived all visa requirements and opened its doors to immigrants from its erstwhile colonies. These immigrants contributed cheap labour to France's service industry and as is convenient and customary, were concentrated on the outskirts of the capital in ghetto settlements. They were relatively few opportunities for social and economic integration. Many of these immigrants were Muslims. It is the women from these areas, the poorest, who will be hard hit by the ban.

Muslim women in France will thus be caught between two hardships; hardship at home, where they prefer to adhere to 'traditional' dress codes for a variety of reasons, and hardship outside, where the State requires them to throw off the very same dress code. This fallout is certainly not going to fulfill the avowed objective of the French government of empowering and dignifying Muslim women.

The assumption is that Muslim women wear the 'burqa' always as a result of coercion. Such a construct strips women of all agencies. Sometimes, Muslim women choose to veil themselves not as a symbol of their religious identity (nor in protest against Western Imperialism) but because they want to become more pious. The body becomes a site for action. Is it not possible that the act of veiling is reflective of an inner dialogue with the self (whether we agree with the finer points of the dialogue is quite another matter)? Is it not a coercive State, which quells that inner dialogue? Is it also not a rather ignorant State, which interprets bodily embodiments in such simplistic ways? If a Muslim woman's conscience impels her to wear the veil as an act of piety, the veil is no longer a symbol; it becomes an integral part of her. What role does the State have in violating her integrity?

There is the story of the Muslim doctor in Amsterdam (The Netherlands). She is one of the thousands of veiled women of Europe. After she donned the 'burqa', she noticed that everyone around her became more patronising. Shop attendants spoke to her slowly, repeating words as to a child. If she went to return a faulty gadget to a shop, she was scolded by the manager for her inability to operate something 'modern.' While the manager's Islamophobic attitude will remain untouched, it is the woman who, if she stays true to herself, who will be unable to go to the shop. One of France's few Muslim politicians, senator Bariza Khairi fears that some of the women, thus targeted will withdraw into themselves, stay in the house. "Instead of doing education projects, we are doing a ban, which I regret," she said.

As a believing practicing Muslim woman, I choose not to wear the 'burqa', 'hijab' or veil. It is my choice. Islam is very clear in its injunction 'La ikrafiddin'. There is no compulsion in religion. There is no dress code in Islam. Its only injunction is that woman and man should dress in a dignified manner. I, therefore, protest any edict imposed by any body or organisation about my practice or dress code.

If a Muslim woman chooses to practice Islam within the 'hijab' she should be free to do so; if she wants to practice without the 'hijab', there should be nothing preventing her. Hazrat Ali, the 4th Caliph of Islam said: "Be wary of him/her who has nothing to lose". These women who are being deprived are the poorest Muslims; they have nothing to lose. Their sensitivities are being needled by such discriminatory legislation. The State needs to engage with those who wear the 'burqa' as well as with those who abhor the 'burqa'. A culture of engagement might be more empowering than a decontextualised recourse to human rights and secularism. The example of Panipat, that place of religious engagement and debate, is before us.

Related articles:

Burqa to no Burqa

Sick of French commies, Talibans and Iranians

Burqa Ban on Hannity and Fox News

Bikini to Burqa, which offers more

Burn the Burqa

Lifting the Veil on the Niqab

Me without my Hijab

Canada should not ban burqa

No comments:

Post a Comment


Email to:

Voice of Moderate Muslims

Voice of Moderate Muslims
Voice of Moderate Muslims

Moderate Islam Speaker

Moderate Islam Speaker
Moderate Islam Speaker

quraan burning

Planned Muslim Response to Qur'an Burning by Pastor Jones on September 11 in Mulberry, Florida

August 19, 2013| Dallas, Texas

Mike Ghouse
Text/Talk: (214) 325-1916

Mirza A Beg
(205) 454-8797


We as Muslims plan to respond to pastor Terry Jones' planned burning of 3000 copies of Quran on September 11, 2013 in positive terms.

Our response - we will reclaim the standard of behavior practiced by the Prophet concerning “scurrilous and hostile criticism of the Qur’an” (Muhammad Asad Translation Note 31, verse 41:34). It was "To overcome evil with good is good, and to resist evil by evil is evil." It is also strongly enjoined in the Qur’an in the same verse 41:34, “Good and evil deeds are not equal. Repel evil with what is better; then you will see that one who was once your enemy has become your dearest friend.”

God willing Muslims will follow the divine guidance and pray for the restoration of Goodwill, and on that day many Muslim organizations will go on a “blood drive” to save lives and serve humanity with kindness.

We invite fellow Americans of all faiths, races, and ethnicities to join us to rededicate the pledge, “One nation under God”, and to build a cohesive America where no American has to live in apprehension, discomfort or fear of fellow Americans. This event is a substitute for our 10th Annual Unity Day Celebration ( held in Dallas, but now it will be at Mulberry, Florida.

Unwittingly Pastor Jones has done us a favor by invigorating us by his decision to burn nearly 3000 copies Quran on September 11, 2013. Obviously he is not satisfied by the notoriety he garnered by burning one Qur'an last year.

As Muslims and citizens we honor the free speech guaranteed in our constitution. We have no intentions to criticize, condemn or oppose Pastor Terry Jones' freedom of expression. Instead, we will be donating blood and praying for goodness to permeate in our society.

We plan to follow Jesus Christ (pbuh), a revered prophet in Islam as well as Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) – that of mitigating the conflicts and nurturing good will for the common good of the society.

We hope, this event and the message will remind Muslims elsewhere in the world as well, that violence is not the way. Muslims, who react violently to senseless provocation, should realize that, violence causes more violence, and besmirches the name of the religion that we hold so dear. We believe that Prophet Muhammad was a mercy to the mankind, and we ought to practice what we believe and preach. We must not insult Islam by the negative reactions of a few.

We can only hope it will bring about a change in the attitude of the followers of Pastor Jones, and in the behavior of those Muslims who reacted violently the last time Pastor sought notoriety – We hope this small step towards a bridge to peaceful coexistence would propel us towards building a cohesive society.

Like most Americans a majority of Muslims quietly go about their own business, but it is time to speak up and take positive action instead of negative reaction. May this message of peace and goodwill reverberate and reach many shores.

Lastly, we appreciate the Citizens of Mulberry, Florida, Honorable Mayor George Hatch, City Commissioners, police and Fire Chiefs for handing this situation very well. This will add a ‘feather of peace’ in the City’s reputation. We hope Mulberry will be a catalyst in showing the way in handling conflict with dignity and peace.

We thank the Media for giving value to the work towards peace rather than conflict.


Thank you.


The people in Dallas are making an effort to understand and clean their own hearts first, when we are free from bias, it would be easy to share that with others. Islam teaches us in so many ways to "respect the otherness of others" and it is time we find simple practical ways of doing it.