Category Archives: Veil

Removing the Veil Is Not As Easy As You Think

— By Alexandra Kinias —-

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Photo copied from the Internet

Salma was getting ready for her wedding day. The date was set. Invitations were sent. Wedding planner hired and cake ordered. Her designer dress glittered in the fitting rooms and the romantic honeymoon destination was the perfect spot to bring this fairytale to life. Salma’s joy was replaced with disappointment when her fiancé objected to her wish to remove the veil on their wedding night. And while she wanted to have her wedding photos taken with her veil off, he rejected the idea of starting their life together committing a sin, by disobeying God and having men see her hair. Salma was torn between her desire to take the veil off and the fear that he might leave her if she did so.

What Salma went  through is not an isolated incident. There is a noticeable growing number of Egyptian women who are discarding the veil, and there are many others who wish to do so, but are unable to because of domestic and social pressures.

When Egyptian journalist Cherif Choubachy called for a rally to discard the veil, he was fiercely attacked by Islamic scholars. Short of an inquisition, Choubachy’s call was fought with aggression, sarcasm and personal and professional slandering. Naturally, his call for the rally died within days. The argument against this campaign was that veil is not enforced on women, but freely practiced and thus he has no business to advocate for removing it. Veil is not enforced by law in Egypt, but claiming that women freely choose to wear it is a false assumption recognized by observers of the changes that took place within the Egyptian society in the last several decades.

The global campaign to cover the heads of Muslim women has successfully been orchestrated by magnifying veil as the core of Islam. And by boiling down the entire faith to women’s head cover, the fruitful results of political Islam, with veil as its symbol, is seen across the Middle East and in western capitals worldwide. With the fall of the Muslim Brotherhood’s rule in Egypt, the removal of the veil was the normal reaction by many women whom have worn it in the first place not for religious purposes but rather due to social pressures. And while some are going smoothly through the transition, many others like Salma are facing resistance from their spouses to remove it.

The intense campaigns, over the years, that have been drilling in women’s minds that neglecting the veil is sacrilegious, refute the statement that women freely choose to wear it. And while many were left feeling guilty for disobeying God, hordes of women veiled to escape His wrath. Thus the free choice is in fact a choice made out of fear not conviction. Simultaneously, it was also drilled in women’s minds that obeying their husbands is equivalent to obeying God.

Men were also made to believe that virtuous women are the conservative ones with veil, and that covering their women’s heads is a manifestation of their manhood. And while women were convinced that obeying their husbands is equivalent to obeying God, men were also convinced that as guardians to their women, they are responsible in front of God if their women are not veiled. As a result, men pressure their women to wear the veil or as in Samla’s case, make sure it is kept on. It has also been drilled in men’s minds that women’s bodies are their possessions that should be protected from predators’ eyes. Who doesn’t remember the posters that compared unveiled women with uncovered candy that attracts flies?

hajab-propaganda

Or worse, who can forget  the Australian Muslim cleric who blamed immodestly dressed women who don’t wear the veil for being preyed on by men and likened them to abandoned “meat” that attracts voracious animals?

Because of the psychological manipulation by Islamic scholars to control both men and women, veil became a condition for men seeking a wife. It ultimately became a ticket for many women to guarantee a spouse. A substantial number of women wear the veil to secure a husband or as requested by their suitors, but eventually find themselves in a dilemma when they realize that by wearing it, they have surrendered their right to remove it. To avoid confrontation, many reluctantly keep it on with the hope that they could convince their husbands to remove it someday.

And to close the loop in case husbands allowed their wives to remove the veil, religious scholars wasted no time in spreading fear among women that God’s wrath with those who remove it is even greater than with those who never wore it.

Veil has expanded from being a personal matter between women and God to become a social issue that involves many spectators; religious scholars, family members and friends who are either pro or against removing it.

Salma never removed the veil on her wedding night, but as a compromise, the couple hired a female photographer to take pictures of her before the wedding without the veil. These photos would only be shown to her female friends and family members. Salma knows that keeping the veil merely to please her husband defeats its religious purpose, but for someone who never committed to it for its religious value, she helplessly has no choice but to keep it on. She can’t risk the consequences of removing it.

* Bride’s name has been changed for privacy …

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The Virtual Revolution of Iranian Women

— By: Alexandra Kinias —

In defiance to the rule of the Mullahs that hijacked their liberties and rights and has been keeping them hostage for the past 35 years, women in Iran have finally been given a global platform and an opportunity to share with the world their stolen moments of freedom. Thanks to the young exiled Iranian British journalist Masih Alinejad who created ‘My Stealthy Freedom’ [1], a Facebook page that became the voice for Iranian women to share their photos without their headscarves and to reveal their true sentiments about Hijab and how it has shaped their lives.

It all started when Alinejad shared her photograph on Facebook that was taken while she was running down a London street without a headscarf, and which she accompanied with the comment, “Every time that I run in London, feeling the wind in my hair, I remember that my hair is like a hostage in the hands of the Islamic Republic government.” [2]

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Masih Alinejad running down a London street without a headscarf. Photo taken from Facebook

“I was sure that most Iranian women who don’t believe in the forced hijab have enjoyed freedom in secret,” she says [3]. She asked her friends and followers if they would too like to share their experiences of stealthy freedom from their headscarves. However, she had not anticipated that this invitation to share their stolen moments of freedom would create such a global buzz. With the scores of photos she received from Iranian women who responded to her call, the page attracted the attention of the world and exposed the realities of the conditions that these women are living in. And within less than a month, her post had ignited a movement that gained enormous momentum and sparked a virtual revolution that exceeded the expectations of Alinejad herself. The page was followed by more than a quarter of a million people from every corner of the globe, and counting. They joined to support these women who are fighting a battle to achieve their basic human right and to applaud their bravery and their act of rebellion against the status-quo, and a tyrannical regime. What was even more compelling was the encouragement that these women received from Iranian men who supported them in their battle. Many of the photos were taken with or by husbands, fathers, sons and often boyfriends. Yet with their hands tied there isn’t much they can do, for they too suffer under this theocratic rule.

On her Facebook page and in various interviews, Alinejad explained that she had not created ‘My Stealthy Freedom’ with a political intent and neither is she against the veil that her mother is still wearing back home in Iran, – but [rather to support] the right of Iranian women to choose either way. “I have no intention whatsoever to encourage people to defy the forced hijab or stand up against it,” she said. “I just want to give voice to thousands and thousands of Iranian women who think they have no platform to have their say.” [4]

And as agreed by many contributors to the page, their objection is not to the veil, but to its compulsion. On the contrary, many attributed their dismay with the veil is because of their lack of choice. Had they been given the free will to choose, some women confessed that they might have considered to be veiled.

The rigid dress code imposed on the women in Iran doesn’t allow them to choose what they wear in public. And walking the streets without the proper Islamic attire that consists of a chador and a headscarf subjects them to punishments that may vary from a fine to verbal warning, and often detention that can last for few hours, after which a male relative; a brother, father or a husband has to collect them in person from the police station.

The smiles of the women enjoying their stolen moments without the headscarves and their testimonials captured the hearts of people worldwide. ‘My Stealthy Freedom’ posted photos of women of all ages standing in green fields, on snow summits, on the beach, at work, on sand dunes, in the streets, driving their cars and wherever they got a chance to steal these moments away from the eyes of the morality police. With their headscarves held up high and billowing in the wind like colorful banners, some faces were concealed with dark glasses; some women gave their backs to the lens while others gazed daringly to the camera. But none-the-less they all had their hair flaunting on their shoulders, dancing in the wind, as many wrote.

In a photo, where three generations of women from the same family smiled to the camera, the grandmother who stood next to her daughter and granddaughter wrote, “We wish that the new generation tastes this most basic freedom before their hair goes gray. Is this too much to ask?”

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Three generations in one frame at a corner of the street. Photo from Facebook

The heartwarming testimonials of those joyful moments are memorable, yet it is still painful to read what it feels like for these women to be denied a simple pleasure that is taken for granted elsewhere. All they want is the right to choose what to wear. Their stories reinforce the belief that theocratic regimes are out there to steal people’s rights of choice, and happiness. It is not just a head cover, but a sign of control enforced by the government. “[The] hijab is about control,” Alinjejad says. And the “Iranian regime would never want to lose control. [5]

In one photo a woman is standing on the beach with a wide grin on her face and holding the scarf in her hands above her head. “I’ll let the wind blow away the darkness of my scarf. I’ll let the blaze of hope of individual freedom shine in my heart and keep my soul bright and vivid.”

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I’ll let the wind blow away the darkness of my scarf. Photo from Facebook

In another photo where the caption shows that it was shot in 2003, a woman in dark sunglasses stood on the beach with her 6 years old next to her in her bathing suit, her head tilted and her blond curly hair falling on her shoulder. “Despite the fact that there were many police officers there and my family did not think it was a good idea to take my scarf off, I did it; because I really felt like letting my hair feel the wind a little bit. I yearned to turn into a drop of water in the sea. I hope my 6-year old daughter will never have to enjoy her freedom stealthily.”

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I did it because I really felt like letting my hair feel the wind a little bit. I hope my 6-year old daughter will never have to enjoy her freedom stealthily.” Photo from Facebook

A woman giving her back to the camera and looking at extended green meadows wrote, “This is Iran. The feeling of the wind blowing through every strand of hair, is a girl’s biggest dream.”

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“ The feeling of the wind blowing through every strand of hair, is a girl’s biggest dream.”

Another woman wrote, “It felt like God was caressing our hair with his own hands.”

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“It felt like God was caressing our hair with his own hands.” Photo copied from facebook

Alinejad came under attack from conservatives and fundamentals in Iran who accused her of working with foreign governments to promote promiscuous behaviors. She had also been exposed to smear campaigns and would be arrested if she returned to Iran for spreading immorality, “I’m a journalist, I’m doing my job,” she said. “I’m reporting about what exists in Iran, I’m not creating anything.” [6]

In response to her Facebook page, hardcore Islamists rallied the streets of Tehran to call on the government to enforce the country’s strict Islamic dress code for women and to take actions to stop the influence of Westernization that is invading the country. “The youth should be vigilant and be aware that the same enemy that has blocked our access to nuclear science is trying to drive us towards abandoning the hijab and towards corruption,” said one young protester, adding, “It is the same enemy. I ask all my good friends to do a little bit more thinking first, and then do whatever they want.” [7]

Ironically, it was the voice of women who joined this rally that demanded the government to take actions against other women who don’t want to comply with the enforced dress code and warned that they will start another revolution if the Hijab situation does change. And while women pro-hijab are given the right to demonstrate, those who are against it are denied such right.

Even though President Rohani has taken a less strict view of the dress code, allowing looser clothing to be worn in the hot summer months, saying the emphasis should be on virtue rather than fashion [8], yet, his voice is silenced by the conservative Iran’s Revolutionary Guards who have more power than the president when it comes to enforcing the country’s Islamic laws, including the enforcement of the dress code.

In Iran, where demonstrators are crushed and opposition in hunted down, ‘My Stealthy Freedom’ gave women an opportunity to rally against their oppressor from behind their computer screens and their voices echoed worldwide. It is too early to predict how this movement will unfold or what the fate of these courageous women who stood in the front lines exposing their lives to danger would be. No one is immune from the consequences of their actions when governed by tyrannical oppressive regimes, especially the ones that are concealed under the religious cloaks. What this movement had succeeded so far to accomplish is that it has exposed the lies and the fake image that the Islamic government has been projecting to the west. The news about women’s rights in Iran has always been portrayed from one side. Thanks to the cyber age and the social media for playing a viable role in making the voices of the oppressed women heard. ‘My Stealthy Freedom’ is a drop in the ocean for these women who put their lives in the crossfire to pave the road to the future generations to be able to enjoy their freedom.

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“Hoping for the day when all my nation’s women can taste freedom with their whole bodies and souls.” Photo from Facebook

“Hoping for the day when all my nation’s women can taste freedom with their whole bodies and souls,” one woman wrote.

(All pictures are copied from the Facebook page, “My Stealthy Freedom” and its creator’s Masih Alinejad’s page. The property and copyright are of their respective owners)

References:
1- My Stealthy Freedom
2 – Iranian women defy law, shed hijabs in public for ‘Stealthy Freedoms’ campaign
http://www.ctvnews.ca/world/iranian-women-defy-law-shed-hijabs-in-public-for-stealthy-freedoms-campaign-1.1824491#ixzz32lNgfuIG
3- ibid
4- ibid
5. The Facebook page where Iran’s women are unveiling on line
http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/05/18/the-facebook-page-where-iran-s-women-are-unveiling-online.html
6- Iranian women defy law, shed hijabs in public for ‘Stealthy Freedoms’ campaignhttp://www.ctvnews.ca/world/iranian-women-defy-law-shed-hijabs-in-public-for-stealthy-freedoms-campaign-1.1824491#ixzz32lNgfuIG
7- Iran women’s “stealthy freedom” dress code backlash
http://www.euronews.com/2014/05/17/iran-women-s-stealthy-freedom-dress-code-backlash/
8-ibid

 

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The Evolution of the Harem

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By: Alexandra Kinias —–

During the golden age of the Abbasid Dynasty (750 AD – 1258AD), with its capital in Baghdad, the Islamic conquests reached their peak. The lands of the Islamic Empire extended from the Chinese boarders in Asia to Andalusia in Europe. The Arabs controlled the lands from Mount Sinai to the shores of the Mediterranean in North Africa and all the way to the Atlantic Ocean.

The knights who fought under the banner of Islam conquered these lands for dominance, land expansion and spread Islam. These worriers were rewarded by receiving their shares from the spoils of war. Slaves were among these spoils. And the streets of Baghdad were flooded with slaves who were captured from every corner of the Islamic territories; Caucasia, Georgia, Circassia, Europe and Africa. Men were sold to be used as laborers, farmers or soldiers and women were used for domestic help or for sexual pleasures.

Slavery and concubinage were known and practiced since ancient times, thousands of years before the rise of Islam. Laws and rules were drafted to regulate and control their lives. However, with the rise of the Islam and with the vast Islamic expansion, slavery and concubinage underwent a dramatic evolution that dictated and shaped the lives of millions of women for centuries later. Their residues are still felt as the blue prints of this system are still used as guidelines to control and abuse women in modern times.

In the lands of the Islamic Empire, and even after the sack of Baghdad by the Mongols in 1258, slaves were a commodity traded in the markets throughout the Islamic territories. Slave trading became a lucrative business and slaves were auctioned to the highest bidders. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that while men cost few hundred Dinars, women and girls were worth tens of thousands of Dinars. [1]

And like any business, merchants competed to market their merchandises. A new art was developed to polish these women to generate attractive prices. The value of the slaves increased if they acquired artistic talents. To increase the value of the slaves, merchants bought young girls, from markets or from slave captures. There young girls were brought up in special homes, similar to the Geisha Houses in Japan. Under the supervision of older and experienced slaves, these young girls were groomed and polished. In these homes the girls were taught to sing, dance, and play musical instruments. They were also taught to read, write, languages, grammar, science, painting, embroidery, and to recite poetry to their lovers,. Their knowledge didn’t stop at that, but they were also taught to discuss politics, science and arts. Female slaves didn’t depend simply on their beauty to attract their clients, but similar to today’s Call Girls, they were also judged by their intellect, knowledge and culture.

After receiving their training, these girls were either sold to wealthy clients or worked in Singing Houses, similar to today’s brothels. These houses were built by the merchants to entertain the wealthy customers and as a place to display their merchandises. There was fierce competition between these Singing Houses, which were built throughout the lands of the empire, to attract the customers. Caliphs, Emirs and wealthy businessmen were regular customers in these Singing Houses, to enjoy the performances or to buy more slaves.

Slaves became more intellectual than free women and moved in the inner circle of the policy decision makers and eventually became very powerful in the palaces of the Caliphs. With their soaring popularity and their influence, they became role models for the free women who looked up to them and some men demanded from their wives to follow the way these slaves talked and dressed. [2]

Amidst this moral corruption that invaded the society, the situation was reversed. And while men enjoyed their extreme sexual freedoms with their slaves, who also lived without any societal restrictions, the free women were secluded, kept in confinement in their homes and were forced to wear the veil on the rare occasions when they went out. They were segregated from all strange men and were forbidden from playing any role in the society.

It is quite staggering to see that in many societies today, history has not progressed since then. The stagnant medieval mentalities that exist in these societies are still controlling the lives and fates of women. And while men are enjoying their sexual freedoms, they are still treating their women as commodities, and are insisting to imagine that protecting their honor is achieved by veiling their women, holding them captives in their homes and depriving them from education and life.

Reference:
1.Encyclopedia History of the Arabs page 220
2.Modern Vision of veil – Ikbal Baraka page 64

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Is veil an Islamic requirement, or not?

Article written by Sheikh Mustafa Mohamed Rashid and published in Rosa-Al-Youssef magazine in 2009: Veil is not an Islamic requirment.

By: Alexandra Kinias

When the Egyptian newspaper Al-Massa published on May 25th, 2012 an article about Al Azhar’s endorsement to Sheikh Mustafa Mohamed Rashid’s PhD thesis on Sharia and Law, which stated that veil is not an Islamic requirement (fard), not much reaction to this controversial news was reported. Ranked at the bottom of the government publications that had lost credibility with the public, Al-Massa newspaper is hardly read by Egyptians. In May, the news media and Egyptians were already tangled with the presidential race and an article in Al-Massa was the last thing anyone would pay attention to. Rashid had previously written an article for Rosa Al Youssef magazine in 2009 where he had explained the reasons behind his arguments. Since Rosa-al-Youssef’s main audience are seculars, not much attention was given to Rashid’s article. They already knew it.

The World Muslim Congress blog translated Rashid’s article on which his thesis was based:

In his thesis, Rashid stated that hijab is not an Islamic requirement (fard), and that the interpretation (tafseer) of the verses (ayat) and the circumstances during which they appeared had led to the widespread misunderstanding about the so-called ‘Islamic Hijab’, denoting covering the head, of which there is absolutely no mention in the Quran.

Yet some have misconstrued the intent and correct interpretation of the Sharia, refusing the logic and sequence of its appearance, abandoning the proper methods of citing and interpreting of the verses (ayat), their historical background and reason for them. They have done so either intentionally, or with good intention but with lack of the essential analytical savvy.

This hijab issue imposed itself on the Islamic and non-Islamic psyche, and thus becoming the defining factor, meaning, and nature of the Islamic faith to non-Muslims, which led some non-Islamic nations to consider it a divisive political statement. In consequence to the resulting friction, some female students have been expelled from universities and jobs, only due to their adherence to this false belief, thereby attaching to Islam a non existent requirement.

So inconsistent and misguided have the proofs of the supporters of the hijab theory been, that it would sometimes take the form of khimar or jalabeeb, which distanced them from what they meant by head cover, which is indicative of their restrictive set of mind.

‘Hijab’ was mentioned in verse (ayah) 53 of Al Ahzab, where it signifies ‘wall’ or ‘what prevents view’ and it was in regards to pure “ummuhat al mo’mineen” where a “hajib” is to be placed between them and any men.

As for verse (ayah) 31 of Al Khimar – Sourrat al Noor, that is also a redundant claim, as the intent here is the cover of the breast and neck – the background here is the covering of the breast whose exposure is un-Islamic, and not what is now understood by hijab for the head.

And in regards to the historical background of verse (ayah) 59 of Sourrat al Ahzab was to distinguish between the pure and the promiscuous whores and slaves.

Finally, in the mis-use of the Hadith about Asma’a, daughter of Abu Bakr, when she walked in on the prophet (pbuh)s gathering, and he ordered her to not expose her face or palms – this Hadith is not a binding Hadith, as it is one of al AHaad and not one of the consistent, or the connected confirmed.

Exactly two months after the article was published, and with Mohamed Morsy the Islamic candidate elected president, the article was once again revived. Not only has it started a heated argument, but when an official from Al Azhar was confronted he denied that the institution had ever accepted such thesis, not to mention that it had awarded its researcher a PhD.

The argument that the veil is not an Islamic requirement is not new. It had been previously discussed by scholars, but naturally views from secular scholars are always discredited. This was the first time that a religious scholar from Al Azhar openly discussed it. With the re-emergence of the article, sited by multiple newspapers, this time it caught the attention of the readers and created a controversy between those who believe in it and those who don’t. The battle that has been going on for a while is now taking center stage.

With the rise of political Islam, veiling is used as an indicator to monitor the infiltration of the Islamic ideology into the societies where the Islamists are pushing to dominate. It is obvious from the way women are using the veil that, as long as the number of scarves adorning the heads of women are increasing, it doesn’t really matter whether women wear it for cultural or religious reasons.

By preaching to the masses, who are mostly illiterate and uninformed, that hijab is a religious requirement and wrongly including it as the sixth pillar of Islam, the more women cover their heads, and that brings them closer to the Islamization of the society, which in turn will hand them the keys to the gates of their resurrected Caliphate. Women are being threatened and warned about God’s punishment for keeping their heads uncovered. They wear the veil not knowing that they are in fact being manipulated by the Islamists to accomplish their objectives.

Indeed covering the head is embedded in many cultures and women are free to choose whatever dress is suitable for their traditions and circumstances in which they are living in. However, it is not correct to enforce it on women as a religious duty. Women should not be threatened to wear it. They should not be warned of divine punishment that by uncovering their heads they are committing a sin against their creator.

More articles about Islam and the veil:

History of the veil: Part One
 : Veil in the ancient world
History of the veil: Part two : Veil in pre-Islamic Arabia
History of the veil: Part Three: Early days of Islam

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To Veil Or Not To Veil

Caption:   The first Egyptian women’s study mission, departing for England in 1926

By: Alexandra Kinias

The deplorable situation of women in Egypt at the turn of the twentieth century was accepted as the status quo for most people, but not for women’s rights advocate Qassim Amin who exhausted tremendous efforts for their emancipation. In his two books: Liberation of Women and and The Free Woman he addressed the practices that kept women subservient. The books sparked fierce controversy and came under attack, but his endeavors not only fell on deaf ears, but were also resisted by decision makers and religious scholars. Meanwhile, the women whom Amin fought for remained silent. For those who could read and may have had a chance to react remained in seclusion, while the majority who were uneducated remained uninformed. It was not until 1921 that the first government secondary school for girls was opened. Unfortunately, Amin never lived to see his dreams come true.

When women finally came out of their seclusion, they began their battle to remove the veil. They fought very hard with the limited means they acquired then, but didn’t succeed until the courageous Hoda Sha’arawi and her colleague Ciza Nabrawi removed it in a spectacle in 1923 upon their return from a feminist meeting in Rome. Later that year Sha’arawi formed the Egyptian Feminist Union and headed it until her death in 1947.

After centuries of intellectual deprivation, women for the first time quenched their thirst for knowledge and education. In 1926, a group of female students were sent to England for their advanced studies and three years later universities opened their doors to women.

When the requests of the women’s political party that was formed in 1948 were not met, three years after its formation, its members stormed the parliament and demanded representation for women. By then, the snowball had started rolling and the feminist movements didn’t rest until women were granted the right to vote in 1956. A year later women were elected in the parliament and in 1962, the first Egyptian woman became a minister. Women had come a long way and were enjoying the fruits of their efforts. By the end of the sixties, and with their eyes on progress and advancement, the veil became a part of their history and almost disappeared from the heads of the Egyptian women.

However, in the seventies, the winds of changes blew in Egypt. With the new developments that happened in the society after the 67 war, ascend of Sadat to power, signing a pact with the Muslim brotherhood and releasing their leaders from jails, and with the return of thousands Egyptian workers from Arabia after being exposed to the Wahabism ideologies, veil surfaced again on the heads of women.

Four decades after the revival of the veil that had started as a practice of choice by few women, it became the norm of the society and was given the label of the Islamic dress code.

This Islamic dress code when worn by several state television presenters resulted in taking them off the air. These presenters took their cases to court and filed a case against the former Information Minister Safwat Al-Sherif. They claimed that Al-Sherif was the reason for their ban from appearing on television because they wore the veil. Although the minister never made the ban decision official, the court ruled that it was proven that the three presenters were dropped from their programs after wearing the veil, and the court rejected the ban on that basis. The court’s decision, however, did not mean the three presenters were able to resume their on-screen programs. The government’s defense team challenged the court decision by appealing to the Higher Administrative Court. When the final decision was made, the presenters were allowed to continue working at administrative jobs but not appear on screen.

It is quite interesting to note how the role had reversed in less than a century after the veil was removed. While the government is fighting to control this surging controversial phenomenon, some women are fighting to have it back on.

Today, the director and the employees of the Egyptian Feminist Union that was formed by the first women who removed the veil Hoda Sha’rawi, are all veiled. The name of the EFU was also changed to Hoda Sha’rawi’s Association. And cause that it had once fought for is abandoned. The director of the association explained in an interview to the Al-Ahram newspaper that there is no longer need for a women’s movement in Egypt as women have attained all their rights. Based upon that, the building that had witnessed the heated debates and meetings of the Egyptian suffrage movement became a dormitory service for young university women from out of Cairo. The garden of the huge villa became a day care center for pre-school children.

Had Hoda Sha’rawi been alive today, I wonder what she would have said to that.

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The Niqab and the Islamization of Europe

By: Alexandra Kinias

European countries finally woke up from the bad dream that the Bedouin culture, represented in the niqab (face veil), is methodically growing within their societies. Parliament members met, laws were drafted and quick actions were taken to stop this growth, or at least to slow it down before the jinni escapes from inside the magic lamp and transforms the bad dream into an uncontrollable nightmare. Belgium was the first country that issued a ban on the niqab and France followed in its footsteps. Bills banning it are being prepared to be introduced in the parliaments of the Netherlands, Austria and Italy (which already had passed a law to fine women who wear it). Denmark is still debating on whether to pass a law or not and so is Switzerland that earlier in the year passed a law that banned the construction of minarets for mosques built on her soil.

It is so intriguing that this small black piece of fabric is causing so much heated debates, controversies and raising the tensions that already exist between the Islamic countries and the West.  But in spite of all the criticism that European countries have been subjected to from human rights organizations and opposition groups within their own societies, their decision is unlikely to be reversed. The issue of banning the niqab has also contributed to friction between the Europeans and the Muslim immigrants, who are physically living in the western societies but in reality they have not left home yet and are still clutching to their own cultures and traditions.

Banning the niqab in Europe and the referendum against the construction of the minarets in Switzerland have given Islamic Scholars and Clerics the opportunity to attack Europe’s intolerance of Islam. That was quite a humorous accusation giving that the accusers are ignoring the fact that foreign women in countries like Saudi Arabia and Iran have to follow the religious dress code of these countries. And those who disapproved the Swiss referendum for constructing the minarets for the mosques forgot to ask themselves when was the last time that a church was built in Egypt, or when would Saudi Arabia allow churches to be build in the Kingdom.

Women in the Middle East have been governed by Bedouin laws that were drafted in the deserts of Arabia centuries ago. The inequality, discrimination and mistreatment that these women are subjected to because of these laws are dehumanizing and humiliating. The face cover they are forced to wear is a simple demonstration of how women are categorized as second class citizens denied the right even for a breath of fresh air.

And the desert storms blew from the Arabian Sahara. Together with the sand grains, these nomadic cultures and traditions landed in Europe with the Muslim immigrants. These sand storms, sponsored by the petrodollars, are exporting the radical Wahabbism creed to every corner of the globe, with the promise of eternal paradise. Its symbol became the faceless women shrouded in black, which, by the way, has no scripture in Islam to support it. These cultures and traditions are alien to the European values and beliefs especially toward their women, who their laws guarantee equality, respect and freedom.

The vast majority of immigrants who arrive to Europe, from the Islamic countries, seeking a better life hardly integrate into their new societies because they are either unwilling or unable to. And in either case, they despise the values of their adoptive countries, separate themselves from the new society, and drown in the rigorous creed preached in their neighborhood mosques, thus widening the gap that already exists between them and the European natives.

Controlling the women is always a top priority for preachers as that paves the road to the control of societies. What Europe is going through is not a separate incident. It is a reflection to what is happening in Muslim societies elsewhere. The veil and niqab are becoming more of a political symbol than a religious costume. Through it, the Islamization of the world is closely monitored.

There is no doubt that the European awakening to resist its Bedouinization has indeed started. It will spread even further and new measures will be adopted. Europe’s face—integration of the multi-ethnic, multi-cultural society— cannot be completed with faceless women.

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