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The Burqa—Modern Views in the Arab World, Islamist Views in Europe

Posted on October 18 2010 10:00 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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Should the West ban the face veil and the burqa?

Wouldn’t it be religiously intolerant, racist, even “Islamophobic” to do so?

Let’s hear from some Arabs and Muslims on the subject.

Quite simply, many Arabs and Muslims oppose the Islamic veil.

In October of 2009, Sheikh Muhammad Sayyid Tantawi, perhaps the foremost spiritual authority in Sunni Islam and grand sheikh of Al-Azhar University, was reportedly angered when he toured a school in Cairo and saw a teenage girl wearing a face veil. He asked her to remove it. He told her that “niqab is a tradition, it has no connection with religion.” He subsequently issued a fatwa against its use in schools.

Every Arab, Muslim, and ex-Muslim feminist and dissident with whom I have worked, and who grew up in Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, Egypt, Iraq, Yemen, Gaza, Turkey, Morocco, Tunisia, and Algeria, has criticized the face veil (niqab) as well as the burqa (the full face and body bag). Some have called for state bans; others have implored women not to voluntarily surrender the rights for which their own grandmothers and mothers once fought, rights which they won. Some Muslim feminists wear hijab (the headscarf); some do not.

Earlier this month, on October 7, 2010, Rashid al-Marar, a high ranking member of parliament in the UAE, backed France in its ban on the burqa.

Wearing the niqab shocks the majority of citizens, and every time one comes across people wearing the niqab, it is additional votes for extremists. The burqa has nothing to do with Islam, it predates Islam. Wearing the burqa is not a religious practice.

As Zeyno Baran has shown, the western media continues to disappear the true face of moderate, secular, and dissident Muslims. Instead, it glorifies (and hires) the Islamists, calls them “moderates,” and handily silences the true Islamic dissidents and moderates.

The burqa is the face of jihad; the disappearance of a woman’s face is a public statement of normalized Islamic gender apartheid. It is not a religious requirement. It is not the best way to take a stand against Western racism.

Nevertheless, the West is torn, guilty, confused, enraged about the subject of the burqa. Recently, in a British report, Alveena Malik, an advisor to the former Labour government, suggested that “we in Britain need to take a different direction…and to accept the veil as a part of the modern British way of life.”

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