Wednesday, 24 June 2009

On Banning the Burqa

"The veil restricts women. It stops them achieving their full potential in all areas of their life, and it stops them communicating. It sends out a clear message: 'I do not want to be part of your society.'"

Saira Khan (a contestant on The Apprentice, apparently), a British Muslim woman herself, has written a piece in the Daily Mail today, endorsing French President Sarkozy's recent call for the burqa to be banned in Western countries. The following are extracts from the article, accompanied by my own comments and analysis.

In London, I see an increasing number of young girls, aged four and five, being made to wear the hijab to school.

Which, of course, explodes the myth that Muslim women only ever choose to wear the burqa, and are never coerced into it.

Shockingly, the Dickensian bone disease rickets has reemerged in the British Muslim community because women are not getting enough vital vitamin D from sunlight because they are being consigned to life under a shroud.

Indeed. Here is more information.

Thanks to fundamentalist Muslims and 'hate' preachers working in Britain, the veiling of women is suddenly all-pervasive and promoted as a basic religious right. We are led to believe that we must live with this in the name of 'tolerance'.

And yet, as a British Muslim woman, I abhor the practice and am calling on the Government to follow the lead of French President Nicolas Sarkozy and ban the burkha in our country.

The veil is simply a tool of oppression which is being used to alienate and control women under the guise of religious freedom.

It is telling that only a Muslim can get away with saying something like this is a British newspaper (although don't be surprised if the Muslim "outrage" comes pouring in soon). Such is the stultifying and damaging effect of political correctness and multiculturalism.

I have read the Koran. Nowhere in the Koran does it state that a woman's face and body must be covered in a layer of heavy black cloth. Instead, Muslim women should dress modestly, covering their arms and legs.

Actually, Qur'an 24:31 says: "And tell the believing women to lower their gaze and be modest, and to display of their adornment only that which is apparent, and to draw their veils over their bosoms, and not to reveal their adornment save to their own husbands or fathers or husbands' fathers, or their sons or their husbands' sons, or their brothers or their brothers' sons or sisters' sons, or their women, or their slaves, or male attendants who lack vigour, or children who know naught of women's nakedness."

This verse is not very specific about what should be covered, but contrary to Ms. Khan's claim, nowhere does it rule out a full-body covering.

So what should be covered? Muhammad made this clear in a hadith: “Asma, daughter of Abu Bakr, entered upon the Apostle of Allah wearing thin clothes. The Apostle of Allah turned his attention from her. He said: O Asma, when a woman reaches the age of menstruation, it does not suit her that she displays her parts of body except this and this, and he pointed to her face and hands.” (Abu Dawud b.32, no.4092)

In another tradition, a woman with a veil over her face came to see Muhammad, looking for her son, who had been killed in battle. Muhammad asked her: “You have come here asking for your son while veiling your face?” She responded: “If I am afflicted with the loss of my son, I shall not suffer the loss of my modesty.” Pleased, Muhammad told her: “You will get the reward of two martyrs for your son,” because “the People of the Book have killed him.” (Abu Dawud b.14, no.2482)

The classic Qur'an comentary called the Tafsir al-Jalalayn agrees that verse 31 means that when in public women should cover “all that is other than the face and the hands.” The modern scholar Said Ramadan al-Buti also states confidently that “Muslim teachers unanimously agreed in every generation that the woman should cover all her body except her hands and face, that is without any make up, from strangers.”

So covering the entire head and body is a requirement for Muslim women. Then again, other scholars mandate full face covering, as well. The Hanbali jurist Ibn Taymiyya, often referred to by Muslims as the Sheikh al-Islam, or learned elder of Islam, says: "Allah commands women to let the jilbab come down (over their faces) so that they will be known (as respectable women) and not be annoyed or disturbed...‘Ubaydah al-Salmani and others stated that the women used to wear the jilbab coming down from the top of their heads in such a manner that nothing could be seen except their eyes, so that they could see where they were going. It was proven in [the hadith] that the woman in ihram [making the pilgrimage] is forbidden to wear the niqab and gloves. This is what proves that the niqab and gloves were known among women who were not in ihram. This implies that they covered their faces and hands.”

Finally, Ahmad ibn Hanbal, the founder of the Hanbali school of jurisprudence, believed that "every part of a woman is awrah, even her nails. It was narrated in the hadith, ‘The woman is awrah,' This includes all of the woman." Awrah refers to the parts of the body that are not meant to be exposed in public.

The veil restricts women. It stops them achieving their full potential in all areas of their life, and it stops them communicating. It sends out a clear message: 'I do not want to be part of your society.'

Good point.

Every time the burkha is debated, Muslim fundamentalists bring out all these women who say: 'It's my choice to wear this.'

Perhaps so - but what pressures have been brought to bear on them? The reality, surely, is that a lot of women are not free to choose.

Another fair point, although it is difficult to gauge how many British women are truly forced into wearing the veil. But we do know that sometimes Muslims make even non-Muslim women wear the headscarf. That's out in the open, so imagine what goes on in private.

And behind the closed doors of some Muslim houses, countless young women are told to wear the hijab and the veil. These are the girls who are hidden away, they are not allowed to go to university or choose who they marry. In many cases, they are kept down by the threat of violence.

All of this is a product of Muslim cultural norms, derived from the Qur'an and Islamic law, and there is plenty of evidence that many Muslims are bringing such attitudes with them into Britain. The latter ("the threat of violence") derives directly from Qur'an 4:34: "Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because Allah has given the one more (strength) than the other, and because they support them from their means. Therefore the righteous women are devoutly obedient, and guard in (the husband's) absence what Allah would have them guard. As to those women on whose part ye fear disloyalty and ill-conduct, admonish them (first), (Next), refuse to share their beds, (And last) beat them (lightly); but if they return to obedience, seek not against them Means (of annoyance): For Allah is Most High, great (above you all). (Qur'an 4:34) The word "lightly" in there, by the way, is not in the original Arabic, but was added by the translator, Abdullah Yusuf Ali, to make the verse seem more palatable to Western eyes.

Precisely because it is impossible to distinguish between the woman who is choosing to wear a burkha and the girl who has been forced to cover herself and live behind a veil, I believe it should be banned.

I am in agreement.

Two years ago, I wore a burkha for the first time for a television programme. It was the most horrid experience. It restricted the way I walked, what I saw, and how I interacted with the world.

It took away my personality. I felt alienated and like a freak. It was hot and uncomfortable, and I was unable to see behind me, exchange a smile with people, or shake hands.

Does this mean that if Muslim women choose to wear this oppressive garb, they are masochistic? It would appear that way. They have certainly been indoctrinated by a culture that denies them the freedom to express their sexuality, and they have come to believe that they deserve to be denied this freedom.

My message to those Muslims who want to live in a Talibanised society, and turn their face against Britain, is this: 'If you don't like living here and don't want to integrate, then what the hell are you doing here? Why don't you just go and live in an Islamic country?'

Amen. I have come to suspect that part of the reason is because many (but by no means all) Muslims have come to Britain with the express intention not of assimilating, but of imposing Islamic laws and customs on their host country. Islam, after all, is not a religion that allows for compromise.

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