Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Follow the Burugaa

Egypt Wants to Ban the Burqa, France and Italy Too

Follow the burqa. Where she goes, you will probably find normalized wife-battering, serious child abuse, including honor killings too—as well as polygamy, and a pathological hatred of Jews, Israelis, Hindus, Americans, and all other infidels. There you may also find terrorist cells or supporters of terrorism. From this point of view—ban the burqa, and it may lead to an exodus of terrorists back to their fundamentalist-friendly home countries. But there is another point of view which interests me more, namely, the human rights/woman’s rights argument as grounds to ban the burqa. I have made that argument in these pages. I have found support from Muslim feminists, first at an international conference in Rome, and now in a new book on the subject.

I have been reading the most elegant and excellent book on the subject of the Islamic Veil. Written by Marnia Lazreg Questioning the Veil. Open Letters to Muslim Women.It is carefully reasoned and beautifully written. Lazreg is an Algerian Muslim feminist academic and her mother once wore the veil. She is respectful of Muslim women’s own feelings and of their religious desires. She argues that the veil (face, head, and full body covering) is not commanded in the Qu’ran; that it is harmful to women’s physical and mental health; and that it is mainly a political statement about fundamentalism and misogyny. She has little patience for feminist academics who themselves are not forced to veil and who “play” at imagining or de-constructing the veil as “liberatory” or as a statement of “resistance.” Of course, she is also on record as having objected to the “manner in which Muslim women have been portrayed in books as well as the media,” namely, in ways that focus on them only as oppressed victims.

In her last letter, Lazreg implores Muslim women to stop wearing the veil. “It is a symbol of inequality…it undermines faith… it objectifies women for (reasons of) political propaganda just like advertising in Western society does: one by covering, and the other by exposing womens’s bodies.” Lazreg also views the veil as harming Muslim women’s employment because “hijab symbolically inserts her into a virtual domestic space” and affects how she is viewed and treated at work. She re-defines “modesty” as related to behavior and character rather than to appearance and opposes “the straitjacketing of a woman’s body. Removing or refusing to veil does not mean that a Muslim woman has succumbed to the West. She writes:

“Not wearing the veil is not a victory of the ‘West,’ it is women’s victory over a custom that inflects their thinking about themselves as human beings. Wearing the veil is not a strike against anti-Muslim prejudice…As long as states mandate or prohibit veiling, as long as political movements advocate for it, as long as organized networks with books , lectures, DVDs, and course packets promote it far and wide, a woman can never be sure she takes up the veil freedly…Ultimately, there is no compelling justification for veiling, not even faith…No one is entitled to turn the veil into a political flag.”

Continue reading here at the Chesler Chronicles


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