"Freedom to wear hijab" must include the freedom to reject it


Muslim French Intellectuals Criticize Obama’s Statement on the Hijab

“We seem to have forgotten the blood-soaked days in my country of origin, Algeria, when women were slaughtered for [choosing not to wear the veil]

in his June 4, 2009 Cairo speech, U.S. President Hussein Obama emphasized that Muslim women in the U.S. are free to don the hijab. He said: “…Freedom in America is indivisible from the freedom to practice one’s religion. That is why there is a mosque in every state of our union, and over 1,200 mosques within our borders. That is why the U.S. government has gone to court to protect the right of women and girls to wear the hijab, and to punish those who would deny it.”

Obama’s statements triggered strong criticism among Arab intellectuals in France, where for the past few years there has been an ongoing debate about the permissibility of wearing the veil in public.

Following are excerpts from some of their reactions:

Reformist writer Dr. Abdelwahab Meddeb, a professor of comparative literature at the University of Paris X in Nanterre and author of the books The Malady of Islam (New York: Basic Books, 2003) and Counter-Preaching (Contre-Prêches, Seuil, Paris, 2006)  wrote: “Obama’s pertinent speech in Cairo was wrong in at least one respect. Let us say [for the sake of the argument] – though I find it difficult to do so – that women should be free to wear the veil. [Still, Obama] should have added that they must [also] be free to remove it.”

Related Links

Leila Barbès, a professor of religion and sociology at the Catholic University of Lille, also referred to the hijab issue, though not in direct response to Obama’s speech. She explained that, in the context of the veil, “free choice” was an illusion: “The moment [wearing] the veil is presented as a divine duty, the issue of free choice is no longer valid, [and] all Muslim women are exposed to [this religious] propaganda. How can we pretend they have a choice when they are told that [their] religion obligates [them to wear a veil]? The women [who wear] a full veil [i.e. a niqab, which covers everything but the eyes,] do so in order to comply with what is requested and expected of them by their husbands or their sect.”

Sihem Habchi, president of the feminist organization Ni Putes Ni Soumises [“Neither Whores nor Slaves”], said: “We seem to have forgotten the blood-soaked days in my country of origin, Algeria, when women were slaughtered for [choosing not to wear the veil]. And what about the Afghan women [under the Taliban], who were denied education and suffered from the [negative] effects of wearing that portable prison [the burqa]?

“To think that Mr. Obama reached out to fundamentalists in Cairo, trying to buy them with [his statement about] the veil! He did not say a word in Cairo about fundamental freedoms… or about all the women who are currently fighting around the world to launch a debate [about the veil] in their country! We must support these women… What are we afraid of?”

Philosopher Abdennour Bidar, author of numerous articles on modern Islam, expressed sorrow that Obama had been more concerned with image than with other, more important considerations. In an interview about the issue of the niqab, he said: “[It’s a pity that] politicians, and especially Obama, seem to sacrifice the truth for the sake of appearance, and [choose] a mode of communication that consecrates image [above anything else]…”

3 thoughts on “"Freedom to wear hijab" must include the freedom to reject it”

  1. I wonder if the US Government has gone to court to protect the right of people to put up Christmas trees, nativity scenes, red & green tinsel, US flags in their gardens, hanukkah lamps, piggy banks, eat during ramavan, stand on the city-owned grass outside a thug mate’s house …

  2. Freedom to reject the hijab?

    Cover women heads according tothe word of Allah, Quran 24:31!

    fatwa No. 11059 “… to draw their veils all over Juyoobihinna (i.e. their bodies, faces, necks and bosoms) [al-Noor24:31]

    Tafsir on Quran 24:31 “… and let them draw their veils over their bosoms, that is, let them cover up their heads, necks and chests with veils, …”

  3. In Obama’s book “Drams of my father”, he is listening to his half siter in Kenya about FGM, that they only should do this in a hospital, since girls died of bleeding. NO reply from Obama. Why did henot say, that should be stopped compleetly.
    With his speech in Cairo, only pleading a certain group of men?
    What did he mention about womens right? NOTHING.

Comments are closed.