Defending the indefensible:
Its a stoopid thing to do, but the believers are eager to do it…
- Not all of the paper’s readers are convinced. Some online comments here
Fatima Burkatulla clears up “misconceptions” about the niqab.
1.The niqab is a symbol of female subjugation.
None of the niqab-wearing women who I know, wear it because they have been forced to. They see it as an act of devotion to their Creator: the culmination of a spiritual journey. In fact most of them are women who were born and brought up in the UK; many are White or Afro-Caribbean Muslim converts to Islam who have chosen to observe it. The hijab, niqab and abaya are outer garments and are worn only when outdoors or in the presence of men who are not close relatives and so, contrary to popular belief, underneath their robes, in family and female-only settings Muslim women are often very fashion conscious and outgoing. They dress in everyday clothing; they get their hair done, go on holiday and even buy lingerie!
2. Women who wear the niqab cannot possibly contribute to society
People are surprised to hear that niqab-wearers come from varied vocational backgrounds. They include doctors, teachers, dentists, authors, social workers, university graduates, lecturers and more. They usually prefer to work in a female environment and so would not wear the face-veil all the time. Other women say that wearing the niqab actually makes them feel more comfortable when they are working with men. It is ironic that the very women who are the subject of debate are far from being a burden on society: they don’t get drunk and disorderly, don’t smoke and are likely to be very good citizens. Many of them are full-time mothers who take pride in raising well-educated children who will be an asset to British society.
3. The niqab isn’t in the Qur’an
The Qur’anic worldview presents a complete system of living, which permeates the daily lives of observant Muslims. This includes everything from rituals of personal hygiene, advice on neighbourly behaviour and animal rights to regulations for dress. Some women see the niqab as a religious obligation, others, as an act of worship following in the footsteps of notable Muslim women of the past. Numerous verses in the Qur’an contain directives for Muslim women’s dress, amongst them:
“O Prophet! Tell your wives and your daughters and the women of the Believers to draw their outer garments all over their bodies. That will be better, so that they may be known and so as not to be annoyed, and God is Ever-forgiving, Most Merciful.” (33:59)
The Qur’an was interpreted by the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and his disciples and their teachings form the basis of Islamic law. There are two orthodox schools of thought with regards to the interpretation of this verse. One orthodox interpretation is that it means covering the whole body including the face. The other school of thought is that, though not obligatory, covering the face is a virtue.
4. Wearing the niqab implies that all men are predatory
Just as locking our doors at night doesn’t imply that all members of society are burglars, wearing the niqab doesn’t imply that all men are predatory.
The Islamic worldview recognises that attraction between men and women exists and, if left unharnessed, has the potential to break down the moral fabric of society. It also acknowledges the physiological and physical differences between men and women and therefore Islamic legislation for dress and behaviour reflect these differences and aid adherents to avoid situations that could lead to extra-marital sexual relations. Hence both men and women have been commanded to lower their gazes and given directives on dress.
5. The niqab poses a security risk at banks and airports
By simply going to the side and showing their faces and ID to female members of staff, Muslim women who wear the niqab, have been, for decades, passing through airport security in major airports all over the world without cause for security concern. The same sort of arrangement can be made for any situation where ID needs to be checked.
6.Niqab wearers can’t possibly be teachers.
There are many highly qualified and experienced Muslim teachers. A Muslim teacher, who wears the niqab, would not need to do so if men were not present, therefore many female Muslim teachers choose to teach women or children and uncover their faces whilst teaching.
7. Banning the niqab will free those Muslim women who are coerced into wearing it.
Banning the face-veil would be totally counter-productive: it would cause many Muslim women to feel targeted and persecuted and is likely to cause many talented women to withdraw from society. The majority of niqab-wearing women in Europe, wear it out of personal choice, so if, for the sake of a suspected minority, the niqab was to be banned, this would be clear discrimination against the majority. If we want to empower women from any community who are oppressed or abused, effective public services where such abuse can be reported need to be made more available and accessible to the women involved.
Fatima Barkatulla is a regular columnist onÂ SISTERS, the magazine for ‘fabulous Muslim women’
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- The war jihad on Australia
- Caught in the crossfire
- Massachusetts company hid fact that the firm is part owned by a Saudi jihad terrorist
- CAIR rep throws out red herrings on Fox News about Islamic supremacist group
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Salma & “Georgeous” Galloway/”Respect”
The canker is making its way to the core
The election of two BNP MEPs has removed the cover on a political sewer that should have been sealed for all time.
Nick Griffin, a man with a history of antisemitism and Holocaust denial, now calls for “chemotherapy” against the Islamic “cancer” in Europe. The echoes of the past are deliberate. The choice of words is chilling.
Griffin’s election has given the BNP unprecedented access to the media, and he is using it to promote the most vicious racism.
His genocidal rantings towards Muslims followed his call for the sinking of ships carrying migrants from Africa to Europe – in other words, the premeditated murder of men, women and children on a desperate voyage to escape poverty and oppression.
We should remind ourselves that almost one million people voted for the BNP in the European elections. If there is a cancer in Europe, then it is the cancer of racism.
Yet the response from the political establishment to Griffin’s remarks has, so far, been less than overwhelming.
Defensiveness and political compromise has marked the response of mainstream parties to the rise of the BNP. It should be clear enough by now. This is not a temporary blip before we return to business as usual.
Ignoring the BNP or playing down their successes will not make them go away. It is time for the anti-fascist movement to go on the offensive.
Griffin’s nazi-style outbursts cannot be dismissed as an irrelevant excess by a marginal figure.
He knows what he is doing. He wants to make legitimate what was once illegitimate. He aims to shift the centre of gravity of political debate sharply to the right.
He knows that his more extreme rhetoric is in tune with his party’s membership and large swathes of his voters.
But he also knows that, every time mainstream politicians bend to his agenda in an attempt to occupy ground he is staking out, the racist argument is strengthened.
It is a pattern we have seen all too frequently in recent years.
Faced with a rise in racism, politicians seek to ride both horses at once – deploring racism while conceding ever more political ground to the far right.
Isn’t this exactly what Gordon Brown was doing when he called for “local homes for local people?”
“It is not legitimate to blame immigrants for rising unemployment. They did not close our factories and devastate our manufacturing base”
Concerns about housing are undoubtedly genuine. There are too few affordable homes. But that is because successive governments have relied on the market to provide what it patently cannot do.
Tackling this policy failure would provide affordable homes for all those in need.
Furthermore, the Equality and Human Rights Commission has revealed that nine out of 10 social housing residents were born in Britain, giving a lie to the BNP myths bout “local people” losing out to immigrants and asylum seekers.
Instead of focusing on these realities, voters are told that their prejudices are justified and that the government will do what the BNP cannot.
It is a tactic that is both cynical and ineffective.
Let us be clear. The response to Griffin’s call to “sink the boats” cannot be one of pledging to do everything possible to keep out immigrants short of launching missiles at defenceless people.
His call for “chemotherapy” against Muslims must be met with robust challenge and not by conceding that fears of Islam in Europe are justified.
The alternative is to accept that ever more extreme and dangerous fascist rhetoric will define the nature of political debate in our society.
Those who promote fear and hatred of African immigrants knocking at our door, or of the Muslims already within the gates of Europe, have to be openly and directly confronted. Their arguments have to be dealt with head on.
It is not legitimate to blame migrants or refugees for the recession. They were not the ones who became rich beyond anyone’s dreams while gambling away our economy.
It is not legitimate to blame immigrants for rising unemployment. They did not close our factories and devastate our manufacturing base.
It is not legitimate to blame “outsiders” for the housing crisis. They are not the ones who passed legislation that strangled the ability of local councils to build new housing on the scale we need.
And it is not legitimate to scapegoat Muslims, who represent just 3 per cent of the population, for any supposed threat to British identity.
The recent Gallup poll on Muslim integration revealed that, while only half the UK population very strongly identifies with being British, 77 per cent of Muslims did so.
And only 17 per cent of British Muslims wanted to live in an area consisting mostly of people of the same religious and ethnic background as themselves, compared to 33 per cent of the population as a whole.
This is the positive side of our multicultural society. Being “different” is not a sign of alienation from society as a whole.
Yet, while Muslims increasingly identify with Britain and value its mix of people and faiths, more and more people conclude that Muslims are a breed apart. There is a gulf between the reality of our lives and the perception that is created by a constant stream of horror stories.
Today, it is anti-Muslim racism that is at the cutting edge of the fascist strategy. It is effective because it feeds on the suspicion and prejudice that is the theme of so much mainstream discussion of our lives as British Muslims.
Its consequences are real. Already, there are signs that attacks on mosques and individual Muslims may be rising. The police are warning of the danger of far-right terrorism.
And, earlier this month, we saw an openly racist provocation in Birmingham city centre, under the guise of a protest against “Islamic extremism”- a label that the organiser made clear applied to all Muslims.
We, as British Muslims, have a direct and immediate interest in defeating this fascist threat. The anti-fascist movement must reach out to Muslim communities who are at the sharp end of BNP attacks.
But the rise in racism is not only a threat to Muslims. The BNP may be playing down their anti-Semitism and anti-Black racism in order to drive a wedge between Muslims and the rest of society.
But to the BNP we are all “racial foreigners.” Our very existence as British people is denied.
Our task is not only to unite all those targeted by the BNP, with every possible ally who rejects racism and fascism.
We have to also positively assert our multicultural and pluralist society. It is a message of hope that is in tune in an increasingly interconnected world.
It is a source of strength and vibrancy. We are one society and many cultures. And we will only remain so if we are prepared to stand up and be counted.
Salma Yaqoob is councillor for Birmingham Sparkbrook, Leader of the Respect Party and chair of the Birmingham Stop the War Coalition.