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Syria Bans Face Veil, British Minister and American Feminists Defend the Burqa

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Posted on July 19 2010 6:00 pm
Phyllis Chesler is an Emerita Professor of Psychology and Women's Studies at City University of New York. For extended biography visit The Phyllis Chesler Organization.

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Syria bans the veil as American feminists continue to paint it as a liberating choice.

Syria—yes, Syria—Bashar Asad’s Syria–has just banned full face veils in their universities.

According to Syria’s minister of higher education, “All female students wearing the full face veil will be barred from Syrian university campuses … the niqab contradicts university ethics and compromises the government’s secular identity.”

Amazingly, the Minister confirmed that “hundreds of primary school teachers who were wearing the niqab at government-run schools were transferred last month to administrative jobs.”

Other Arab, Muslim countries with long and hard-won secular identities are now also under attack by fundamentalists and Islamists who want to face-veil women or at least to have them wear headscarves. Thus, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey are now also at risk. Jordan’s government has tried to discourage face veils by “playing up reports of robbers who wear veils as masks. Turkey also bans Muslim headscarves in universities, with many saying “attempts to allow them in schools amount to an attack on modern Turkey’s secular laws.”

Whoa, Nellie!

So, Syria, Venezuela’s and Iran’s partner—Syria!—is banning the female Islamic face veil.  And yet  just today, none other than British Minister Carolyn Spelman, the Environment Secretary, indeed, the second most powerful woman in the Cabinet, giddily described the burqa as “empowering.” Furthermore, she said: “I don’t, living in this country as a woman, want to be told what I can and can’t wear. One of the things we pride ourselves on in this country is being free, and being free to choose what you wear is part of that, so banning the burka is absolutely contrary I think to what this country is about.”

She goes further. Based on a visit to Afghanistan, she says that she better understands why Muslim women want to wear the chaudry/burqa/niqab: “For them [in Afghanistan], it confers dignity.”

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