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Muslim TV Anchor Faces Backlash in India Over ‘Uncivilized’ Veil Comment

A female anchor for a popular Malayalam-language television channel in the southern Indian state of Kerala is facing a firestorm of criticism after she called the Muslim practice of women wearing a veil “uncivilized” and a form of oppression.

Fousiya Musthafa, a Muslim woman herself, talked about the general plight of Muslim women on an India Vision TV program on April 9, 2013 saying the purdah, or practice of veiling and segregation of the sexes, is oppressive, especially for women who have been married living their lives like widows as their husbands are away from home working in the Middle East. She added:

Even with all the modern facilities, in this hot summer here, these women have to wear the uncivilized purdah.

About a quarter of the population in Kerala are Muslim and more than half are Hindu. The editor for India Vision has issued a hazy explanation that there was a misunderstanding with the script, with the editorial board overlooking some unnecessary lines in it.

A group of Muslim women rallying with placard in Kerala. Image by Aji Jayachandran. Copyright Demotix (8/12/2011)

A group of Muslim women rallying with placard in Kerala. Image by Aji Jayachandran. Copyright Demotix (8/12/2011)

Muslim women in Kerala, who claims the highest literacy rate among other Muslim women in India, began to wear a veil only recently. Some 20 years ago, even though the dress of Muslim women had differences in color and method from other religious groups, it never was an all-covering purdah. Some observe that the influx of Kerala workers into the Middle East on their return has influenced this rise in purdah as a fashion wear in Kerala. Also, famous Kerala writer and poet Kamala Surayya's conversion to Islam during her later years and praise for the purdah may have given the veil a boost in popularity.

However, the rising trend has been met with resistance from some quarters of Kerala's Muslim women who did not want to adhere to such dress codes. Jameela K, mathematics teacher at Sullamussalam Oriental High School in Malappuram district was suspended because she refused to wear the purdah or the green overcoat as prescribed by the school.

And aeronautical engineer Reihana Kazi sought out protection from the court after some of her relatives pleas for her to wear the purdah escalated to death threats.

After Fousia Musthafa's declarations on the veil, Facebook was flooded with virulent comments and posts against her, attacking her with expletives and verbally assaulting her. An Facebook post supporting purdah was written showering the journalist with verbal abuse and defaming her character, which was shared by 1,986 users.

Sreeja Neyyattinkara protests [mal] against such attacks:

ഒരു കാര്യം അതു തെറ്റായാലും ശരിയായാലും ഒരു പെണ്ണ് പറഞ്ഞു അങ്ങനെ പറയുന്നവരെ ഇങ്ങനെ തെറിയഭിഷേകം നടത്താന് ഏത് പ്രവാചകനാണ് നിങ്ങളെ പഠിപ്പിച്ചത്

Even if something is right or wrong, just because a woman said it, did any prophet give you the right to abuse her?

Latheef Arinjira [mal] who shared the same post that has attacked the journalist pleads support:

sahodara vayikkuka…thalkalika labathin vendi samudayathinte acharangale publicil avahelicha indiavisioneyum athile curspondenna chettayekkethireyum prathshedikkuka

dear brother, please read this post. For temporary benefits our culture has been tarnished by this channel (India Vision). Please protest against this.

Most of the comments on FB were pure vitriol and cannot be reprinted. But, there were lone voices too defending purdah which took a more objective approach towards the issue,

Ahmed Niyaz writes as a comment [mal] pertaining to a discussion of the same issue in G+:

ഹിജാബ് മുസ്ലിം സ്ത്രീയുടെ സംസ്കാരമാണ്, കേരളത്തിലെ മതബോധമുള്ള മുസ്ലിംകള് തലമറച്ചിരുന്നു. കേരളത്തിലെ മുസ്ലിംകള് സാംസ്കാരികമായി കൂടുതലായി മതവല്കരിക്കപ്പെട്ടത് ഈയടുത്താണെന്നത് യാഥാര്ത്യമാണ്, പക്ഷേ അതൊക്കെ ഭരണഘടനയുടെ ഉള്ളിലുള്ള കാര്യം മാത്രമാണ്. രണ്ട് ജോടി വസ്ത്രം മാത്രമുള്ള അവസ്ഥയില് നിന്ന് വസ്ത്രത്തിന്റെ ആര്ഭാടത്തിലേക്ക് വന്നിട്ടും അധികമായിട്ടില്ല.

മാറ് മറക്കാനവകാശമില്ലായ്മയില് നിന്ന് ജീന്സും ടോപിലുമെത്തിനില്ക്കുന്ന ഇതര സ്തീകളുടെ ചോയ്സിലിടപെടാനവകാശമില്ലാത്തത് പോലെ ഇതിലും ഇടപെടാനവകാശമില്ല.

പര്ദ്ദാവിരുദ്ധരുടെ ആത്മാര്ത്ഥതയില് സംശയമുള്ളത് കൊണ്ടാണ് അസഹിഷ്ണുത കാണിക്കേണ്ടി വരുന്നത്.

Hijab is just the culture of a Muslim women. In earlier Kerala Muslim believers used to cover their heads. Its true that purdah is new and Kerala Muslims are trending more towards Islamic icons and cultures. But its within the constitution. From two pairs of clothes, we have now come to a point of many choices.
Once women in Kerala couldn’t cover their upper torso and now they have reached a point of wearing jeans. Just like that, we cannot manipulate a women’s choices of wearing a jeans or purdah too. The sincerity of the anti-purdah supporters is very dubious and maybe that’s why believers are suspicious of the intentions and hence virulent.

But Shahina Nafeesa, [mal] a Muslim journalist in Kerala, challenged the notion of choice which is usually espoused by Muslim men and women alike for wearing purdah:

ആരെങ്കിലുമൊക്കെ പർദ്ദ ധരിക്കുന്നതിൽ എനിക്ക് പ്രത്യേകിച്ച് വിഷമമോ സന്തോഷമോ ഇല്ല .പർദ്ദ ധരിക്കാനുള്ള സ്ത്രീകളുടെ ‘ചോയിസിനു വേണ്ടി പോരാടുന്നവരെ കണ്ടു ,നല്ല കാര്യം .എനിക്കും ഒരു ചോയിസ് ഉണ്ട് .എനിക്ക് പർദ്ദ ധരിക്കാൻ ഇഷ്ടമല്ല.ചൊമല ഷോട്സും ലൈറ്റ് മഞ്ഞ ടീ ഷർട്ടും ആണ് എന്റെ ചോയിസ് .എല്ലവരും വരി വരിയായി വന്നു എന്റെ ചോയിസിനെ സപ്പോർട്ട് ചെയ്താട്ടേ

I don't have any issues if someone is wearing a purdah or not. I wont be happy or sad. I am noticing many supporting the “choice” of women wearing purdah. Good. I too have a choice. I don't like to wear purdah. My choice is to wear a yellow tee and a red shorts. Please come and support my choice too.

Another FB post from Rejesh O Positive questioned [mal] where exactly is the choice in wearing religious attire:

സ്ത്രീകള് എന്തുധരിക്കണം എന്തുധരിക്കരുത് എന്നൊക്കെ നിർദേശിക്കുന്ന മതങ്ങൾക്കുള്ളിൽ. അവർ ചെയ്യുന്നത് അവരുടെ ഇഷ്ടമാണ് എന്ന് പറയുന്നത്. ജയിലിൽ കഴിയുന്നവർ ജയിൽ അധികൃതർ വരുമ്പോൾ മുണ്ട് ‘മടക്കികുത്ത്’ അഴിക്കുന്നതും , തോളിൽ കിടക്കുന്ന തോർത്ത് കയിൽ എടുത്തു പിടിക്കുന്നതും സ്വന്തം ഇഷ്ടപ്രകാരം ആണെന്ന് പറയുനതിന് തുല്യമാണ്.

If someone is telling women that they have choices for clothing inside their religion, it's like telling people inside a jail that they have choices when it comes to wearing the clothing endorsed by the jail authorities.

In the Quran, it would appear that the Prophet had foreseen all this controversy:

After my disappearance there will be no greater source of chaos and disorder for my nation than women.

It's true, considering the recent debate surrounding religious morals and women. Europe and the rest of the world is still smarting from feminist group FEMEN's fiery “International Topless Jihad Day” to raise awareness about Amina Tyler, a 19-year-old FEMEN member who sparked a massive uproar in Tunisia by posing topless with the slogan “Fuck Your Morals” written across her chest.

The group's method has been controversial, with some Muslim women even rejecting FEMEN's support by counter protesting that they do not need nude protests and imperialistic approaches to solve their own problems.

Muslim Feminists such as Qasim Amin to Fatima Mernissi have written extensively about the moral dress codes on women and linked it to the the suppression of women by the patriarchal nature of religion.

Activist and writer Arundhathi Roy wrote in an essay for Outlook India last year:

Coercing a woman out of a burqa is not about liberating her, but about unclothing her. Coercing a woman out of a burqa is as bad as coercing her into one.

Daly, a blogger [mal], linked this cultural sensitivity issue as a form of patriarchy itself in a discussion about purdah in a blog post seven years ago:

ബൂര്ഖയെ വെറുമൊരു സാംസ്കാരിക ചിഹ്നം മാത്രമായി ഗ്ലോറിഫൈ ചെയ്യുക. പാത്രിയാര്ക്കിയുടെ എല്ലാ അപ്പസ്തോലന്മാരും ചെയ്യുന്നതത് തന്നെ. എന്നീട്ട് അതിനെ സംരക്ഷിക്കാനെന്നപേരില്, അധിനിവേശത്തിനെത്തിരെ എന്ന പേരില് ഉപയോഗിക്കുക. അങ്ങനെ മനസ്സിലാക്കുമ്പോള് “സംസ്കാരത്തിന്റെ ദുരഭിമാനം സംരക്ഷിക്കാനുള്ള ബാധ്യത സ്ത്രീയ്യ്ക്ക് മാത്രമോ എന്നത് കൂടുതല് കൂടുതല് പ്രസക്തമാവുന്നു. ഒരു തിന്മയെ എതിര്ക്കാന് മാറ്റൊരൂ തിന്മ ഉപയോഒഗിക്കുന്നതിലെ അപഹാസ്യതയും പ്രത്യക്ഷപ്പെടുന്നു. അധിനിവേശം ഇല്ലാതായാലൂം ഇല്ലാതാകുന്നതല്ലല്ലോ സംസ്കാരിക ദുരഭിമാനം. പറഞ്ഞു വന്നത്, അധിനിവേശത്തിനെതിരെ പോലും ഇത്തരം അടിച്ചമര്ത്തല് തന്ത്രങ്ങള് ഉപയോഗിക്കപ്പെടുന്നതിന്റെ അപഹാസ്യതയാണ്.

Burqa is glorified as a cultural symbol, which is done by the patriarchal systems. After it is glorified it is then said to be used as a tool against imperialism. Then we need to ask, why only a woman’s dress is used a symbol against imperialism and why only women needs to protect this culture. To deflate an evil, another evil is used. Even if the imperialism is done and over with women in burqa still exist.

  • Pingback: Muslim Woman TV Anchor Faces Backlash in India Over ‘Uncivilized’ Veil Comment | OccuWorld

  • http://twitter.com/malcolm2607 Malcy Lyndsell

    God must laugh his socks off at all this piffel bout religeon. The source of consiosness is so unlike mulims or many christians commprehend. Do you really believe in all this division?. Grace is not earned through dress code.or binary code.or any code made by humans.

  • Black Heart

    Clothes are a shield from the eyes of the unclean. So when a women must cover herself from head toe, what does that say about the society she lives in.

    • Azia

      They’re all dirty savages.

  • Azia

    End trade with savage regimes until these people either embrace science, peace, human rights, and a future without starvation and disease and abuse, OR, let them die.

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