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South Asia: Reactions On The Burqa Ban In France

The recent ban imposed by France on burqa (niqab), the Islamic face veil, has created a lot of buzz across the different blogosphere of the world. The law does not say anything explicitly about the burqa and it is called the “law forbidding the covering of the face in public space”. But in effect it is all about Muslims and Islam.

Some South Asian bloggers have been discussing this issue.

Bangladesh

Sadiq Alam at Technology Of The Heart provides some background of banning of face veils in France and the the 2004 law banning the wearing of religious symbols and clothing in public schools. He argues:

Majority of Islamic scholars agree on the point that Full Face Veil is NOT something which is a requirement of Islam or mandatory to observe (even though some observe it believing it as part of their religious observation). Many Muslim leaders have said they support NEITHER the veil nor the ban. [..]

Thanks to various culture from where people came and accepted Islam, various pre-existing dress code and idea of modesty became part of Muslim culture and they must be viewed as cultural element than religious. Dressing modestly is possible independent of culture, race, or existing practices of any other land or nation.

He comments on the French burqa ban:

While its understandable that full face veil is not necessarily a religious obligation from Islamic point of view, but an age old cultural practice, yet banning it creates a very different situation for it. From the point of individual freedom this becomes some what disturbing. A state or country telling its citizen what to wear and what not to wear contradicts with democratic, civil values – the very values French republic so high upheld.

A group of Muslim women protest France's ban on full face veils outside the French Embassy in London. Image by Sinister Pictures. Copyright Demotix.

Bhutan

Journalist and blogger Dipika writes after weighing on several issues:

Perhaps there are women who want to be freed of wearing a veil at all times throughout their lives- and are secretly happy that now they can.

But on thinking about this for a while, I come to the conclusion that this law is still wrong. Because my leaning towards this law is based on the assumption that the women actually don't want the veil, but are being forced into wearing it by their men. But this is an assumption. I am sure there are a lot of muslim women in France. Some may not want to wear the veil, but are being forced to by their family. Some, however inconceivable it may seem to us, may want to wear it! And if a single woman in France wants to wear a veil, she has every right to do so. Having a law that denies her this right is wrong.

She concludes:

All bans are wrong when they tread on your personal freedom. The ban on veils in France, and the ban on sale of tobacco in Bhutan.

Pakistan

Raza Habib Raja writes at Pak Tea House:

The ban opens a whole new philosophical debate on concepts like religious tolerance, freedom, the meaning of secularism and even liberalism. It is the ongoing debate between those who take liberal and secular positions which interests me and there is a lot of merit in discussing the issue in liberal and secular context. [..]

Secularism has to blend in with religious freedom and tolerance and only then it can be a true liberal version of secularism. The French brand of secularism will not make the concept of secularism popular and will not work in a pluralistic society. It will rather defame and further intensify the confusions surrounding the concept of secularism.

To conclude the debate Sadiq is hopeful that this ban may have a positive effect:

The sum effect of banning of Burqa most probably going to have positive effect because it encourage integration, it forces even Muslims (in Europe they have tendency to live in their own bubbles) to understand their own customs, educate themselves and separate cultural baggage from authentic teachings or practices. This also offers opportunity for Muslims to educate non-Muslims about their beliefs and the fact that those who practice Islam do not belong to a Mono-Culture.

  • haneefah

    I wear the Burqa of my own free will. So there. Also, if these women were ‘opressed’ then why are they protesting. I would’ve thought men who ‘force’ women to wear would’ve wanted to avoid paying any fees and keep their wives/daughters at home?? So why are there protests? Haneefah. I think it’s ridiculous. France is a hypocrisy now to me and to the whole world, I presume.

    • Zahra

      Haneefah, I was wondering, why do a small amount of Muslim women in France wear the burqa or the niqab? I don’t understand why you would want your face and mouth to be covered. How can you claim freedom of speech if your mouth is symbolically covered? You even wear gloves! Even in the hot months, why would you deprive yourself of wearing normal modest clothing? I don’t see any logic in that, especially if men are not required to do the same thing! Allah has made us all unique, and human. We are not to live in this world as covered pieces of fabric

  • http://libalel.wordpress.com/ Suzanne Lehn

    “the only crime I’ve committed is to show myself as I am”, says a niqab-clad woman quoted in the NYT story. Doesn’t it sound somehow ironical? (Btw, why are omments no longer being accepted on the NYT story (is 371 enough? & none on their tough column on this issue?)
    The English language makes it easer to word the issue as a “people” genderless freedom issue. The French grammar compels to be more specific.
    Besides, no family nor wife pressure for men’s dress code nor men modesty.

  • Pingback: American Muslim women speak out on French burqa ban – Tehran Times | WHAT TO WEAR

  • Alison

    I often wonder how this conversation would go men started appearing in public with their faces covered. Would people feel comfortable with the ban then?

  • http://realitytvarmchair.blogspot.com/ Alex Cap

    France implemented the burqa ban on Monday, declaring it to be about secularism & equality amongst men and woman. Laudable sentiments that I support, but an not sure I believe. The law didn’t mention women, the burqa or any religious symbols. It’s fair to say that neither men or women of any religious persuasion will be permitted to wear a balaclava in public anymore – burglars will doubtless be outraged…Britain is a society that preaches freedom of choice/religion etc. Whilst I don’t disagree with the proposition that many women who wear the burqa don’t choose to do so, there ARE women who do. Passing such a law removes their rights. The correct way to deal with the problem would be to address the situation of women who are being forced. My take on the issue http://j.mp/eW09Op

  • sk

    Muslim scholars have different opinions over this matter i.e. whether a woman should cover her face and palms before alien (marriageable) men or not.
    According to the Hanbali and the correct opinion of Shafi’i school, she should cover her face and palms before alien men, since they are Awrah (Any object that should be covered).
    But in the Hanafi and Maliki schools they are not Awrah.
    On the other hand, Hanafi and Maliki scholars have been confirming their statements from a long time that a Muslim woman should cover her face and palms as long as there is a risk of temptation. The temptation means if a woman is beautiful or if immorality is common or unchaste people are wide spread.
    Therefore, covering the face and palms is the preponderant viewpoint according to the correct opinion of the four schools of thought. So, uncovering the face would be considered a kind of unveiling.
    Allah Says (Interpretation of meaning): (O Prophet tell your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers to draw their cloaks (veils) all over their bodies. That will be better that they should be known (as free respectable women) so as not to be annoyed).[33:59].
    Most commentators of the Holy Qur’an established that this Ayah (verse) shows that covering the face is compulsory because the “Jilbab” means a loose garment which is used to cover the head, and covers the face when it is lowered.
    The Ayah (verse) of Hijab: (And when you ask (his wives) for any thing you want, ask them from behind a screen that is purer for your hearts and for their hearts).[33:53].
    The purity, which is mentioned in this Ayah is not peculiar to the prophets wives. But every Muslim woman is in need of it. In fact, Muslims women are more in need for this order than the wives of the Prophet.
    Allah Says in Surah al-Noor (Interpretation of meaning): (And tell the (believing women) to draw their veils over their bosoms).[24:31].
    Imam Bukhari narrated from Aysha (one of the prophets wives) When (the verse) (… And to draw their veil all over their Juyubihinna (i.e. their bodies, faces, necks and bosoms etc) .. was revealed, (the ladies) cut their waist-sheets from their margins and covered their heads and faces with those cut pieces of cloth “.
    Ibn Umar narrated that the Prophet Muhammad (Blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) said: “A pilgrim woman must neither cover her face nor wear gloves in the state of Ihram”(State of consecration into which Muslims enter in order to perorm the Hajj or Umrah (lesser pilgrimage).

  • http://www.londonschoolofislamics.org.uk Iftikhar Ahmad

    In the past French women were considered a Chattel, a property of men to be used any way they can.
    In some socities women are forced to wear the Burqa, where as the French President is forcing women not to wear it. Are women a play thing for these men ? We have to defend the woman’s right to wear what she chooses. We must uphold the liberties of people and not force women to do anything against their will; to make them wear the Burqa or force them not to wear. We have to be pro-choice.
    You cannot ask a Nun to wear lesser garments or even those who are from conservative families to wear Bikinis on the beaches. A Muslim woman visiting France will not and should not comply with the demands of the French dress code in public places.
    Women have come a long way forward to find freedom from primates and now, are we going to let Neanderthal Sarkozy reset the clock? Who is he to tell a woman what to eat, drink, wear and believe?

    The proposed French law banning Islamic headscarves and other visible religious symbols in state schools would violate the rights to freedom of religion and expression. Under international law, states can only limit religious practices when there is a compelling public safety reason, when the manifestation of religious beliefs would impinge on the rights of others, or when it serves a legitimate educational function (such as prohibiting practices that preclude student-teacher interaction). Muslim headscarves, Sikh turbans, Jewish skullcaps and large Christian crosses—which are among the visible religious symbols that would be prohibited—do not pose a threat to public health, order or morals; they have no effect on the fundamental rights and freedoms of other students; and they do not undermine a school’s educational function.

    The new French law banning Burqa is a new manifestation of an ongoing clash of civilizations. This is another step of new crusader behavior facing Muslims everywhere and is the start of a dangerous battle. It runs counter to human rights principles that France claims to endorse.

    This law is wrong, unjust and contradicts the values of the French Revolution,
    Whether you are a practicing or a non-practicing Muslim, no one will accept such treatment of Muslims.

    According to French authorities, between 2,000 and 3,000 French women regularly wear the niqab. Why France would put itself in risk for such a minuscule group.
    Women wearing full veils constitute less than 1% of France’s Muslim population. The government would implement such a problematic law for such a small group.”

    The full veil may not be as popular among North African Arabs, who constitute the bulk of France’s Muslim population, but it is commonly worn by rich Gulf tourists who frequent the chic boutiques of Paris. The new law was sure to damage the relationship between France and Gulf states. Now a Gulf tourist will have to account for a 200 euro fine in addition to his hotel costs for taking his wife down the Champs-Élysées.

    Why can’t westerners believe that some women wear burqa because they believe they are following God’s words. I know several friends whose husbands/fathers HATED the burka but they wore them anyway despite their family’s objections. They didn’t care what their husbands/fathers/brothers thought because they thought they were following God’s words. If a Christian woman can devote herself to God by not marrying and becoming a nun, why can’t muslim women do it as well by wearing a burka? Sometimes they wear it because of religion, traditions, etc.

    When I read opinions from Westerners about how every woman who wears a Burka or Niqab must be oppressed, the first thing that comes in my mind “they must be SO shallow” Why can’t Westerners understand some people show their devotion to their God in different ways. Female muslims chose to wear Niqab or Burka, Christian women become nuns, and the list goes on, etc. I hope you all can respect muslim women’s the right to devote themselves to God by wear what they want.
    The ban is a victory for fascism. In the 1930s we had fascism against Jewish women in the street, now we have fashion fascism against Muslim women.
    Welcome back to the Nazis.
    Better to ban shell suits and tracksuit bottoms which are much more offensive in my opinion.
    Iftikhar Ahmad
    http://www.londonschoolofislamics.org.uk

  • Dean Fox

    Regardless of the rights and wrongs of Islam and religion in general as someone who believes in the right to protest anonymously I am against banning face covering. If a woman wants to wear a Burqu she should be able to. If she doesn’t she shouldn’t be made to. A state ban on face covering is fundamentally wrong.

  • http://watanomaymen.maktoobblog.com,http://omaymen.wordpress.com Rothena aymen

    full face veil is not necessarily a religious obligation from Islamic point of view. woman has to cover her hair and neck to the chest according to holy book Quran:

    Allah Says in Surah al-Noor (And tell the (believing women) to draw their veils over their bosoms).[24:31].

    If it is part of Islam to wear Neqab why a pilgrim woman must neither cover her face nor wear gloves in the state of Ihram.

    In my point of view that matter belongs to freedom of choice. I don’t understand how a country like France preaches freedom of choice and in the same time ban Burqa.

    “Any existence deprived of freedom is a kind of death.” Gen Michel

    There is no such thing as a little freedom. Either you are all free, or you are not free.”
    Walter Cronkite

  • http://www.amanavoice.com Sofian Abdelaziz Zakkout

    Why we are not looking at the bigger picture! France first they worked against the regular hijab in public schools. Now they ban the Niqab and allow regular hijab in public places! What a hypocrites! Now they are looking for more laws to impose against Muslims in France. While their French women walking tall at the Muslim country’s beaches without clothes and without any restrictions and any fines! Is that fair? NO IT IS NOT! If the French get respect by the Muslims the Muslims must respect the French Muslims. http://www.amanavoice.com

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