funeral and a wedding
Hijab in France: Battle for Islamic political
By Saeed Keramat
February 11, 2004
The heat of debate concerning the issue of hijab
and religious symbols in France has already reached Canada as well.
to the French government's decision to introduce a law banning
conspicuous religious symbols in state schools and state institutions,
Islamic groups such as Canadian Islamic Congress (CIC) are seeking
the support of social activists in Toronto to launch a demonstration
against the move of the French government.
In response to this
attempt, Judy Rebick, one of Canada's most respected feminists
and political commentators seems to be seated on the edge of two
seats. Expressing her sympathy to CIC's anxiety, at same
time, Judy raises other concerns regarding Saudi and Iranian laws
which impose hijab on women.
Judy goes on to say, "I think
if we are going to protest against a state forcing women not to
wear the hijab we should also protest forcing women to wear the
Unfortunately, in my mind, Judy's opinion seems
confused. It is like asking to hold a funeral and a wedding party
at same time in the same house. The root of this confusion is the
misunderstanding of the philosophy behind the hijab.
Two critical misunderstandings have forced Judy to
give up the right seat. First, she thinks that hijab is part of
values that should be respected. Second, she distinguishes political
Islam in power and without power.
The Islamic veil is not culture. It has been a political
construction. Not all members of a particular community want to
wear the hijab.
In many cases not all members of a family wear hijab, and this
is because hijab represents a political stand, and not all members
of a family share the same political view.
These days, hijab operates as a political uniform.
It is a symbol of a political philosophy. Among adult members of
families those who are not concerned about politics they also do
not care about hijab although they might have fundamentalist religious
relatives. But those who are concerned about politics and social
developments and pursue their goal though an Islamic outlook do
Cultural symbols are usually carried by ordinary
people. However, in the case of the hijab, ordinary people do not
with it. On the contrary, if one asks any veiled women they will
most likely find that this woman has a strong viewpoint on political
The Islamic Code dress for "political Muslim women" is
a means to convey a message to the public. By this means they are
stating: "I reject secular values of Western societies: the
civil rights that Westerners are enjoying has not been achieved
by progressive social movements - they have been given by states
to corrupt their citizens.
What John Stuart Mill, Jean Jacque Rousseau
and other Western political thinkers have said are 'corrupting
human society". Veiled women are reinforcing patriarchal view
of Islam and saying: "I believe women are the source of corruption.
In order to reduce the degree of corruption in society, I have
taken a responsible position and have tried to cover the feminine
features of my body".
Hijab has been chosen by many adult
women to express these differences with secular women.
Many people do not see the mission of hijab therefore,
they are not able to see the values and goals that Islamic states
groups share. All Islamic groups, in power and with out power,
should be examined based on their fundamental philosophy. They,
for example, preach Islamic values and Koranic law.
those values and laws, Muslims are superior to non-Muslims. Men
are superior to women. Punishing those who disobey Koran laws,
including murder, as espoused by some, is a fundamental duty of "true"
In practice, all Islamic tendencies implement these
Islamic laws and values to some degree, depending on their degree
to social and political power. For example, in places like Saudi
Arabia, Iran, Afghanistan, northern Nigeria, the Sudan, etc.,
where Islamists have the whole political power, discrimination
against non-Muslims, women, children, and flogging, torture,
execution, stoning, etc., of citizens are praised as services to
In Western and North American countries, however,
the power of Islamists is mostly limited to the inner life of their
and private institutions. As a result, they are unable to play
a determining role in our societal life. In such cases members
of their families and their fellow Muslims are the target of
For example, abusing women, forcing their wives
to cover themselves in the Islamic veil, depriving them of
basic activities such as sports activities, imposing forced marriages
on the young, and so on, are the values they proudly practice
in Western societies.
In Islamic schools of Toronto, sexual-apartheid
is as systematically practiced as in Saudi Arabia and Iran.
any doubts? Ask any Imam or Mullah how he would, for example,
if he found out his daughter loved a Jewish, Christian
or Atheist man. Simply visit an Islamic school in your neighborhood.
I think Judy has not seen these communality between Islamic
states and their organizations abroad therefore she is unable
a clear position.
Regarding the issue of hijab, secularists
must have a clear position. One cannot, as I said, organize a
a wedding party
at the same time in the same place. Either we are supporting
or we are for secularism.
Those who support hijab for
women in Western countries would boost oppression against women
ways. First of all many young women living in Canada
not want to follow
Islamic traditions; they reject forced marriage; they
want to enjoy freedom of dress, to socialize with others freely
their sexual desires.
These are great sins according
the Islamic philosophy. In fact many females in western
the victim of honor killing by their male relatives.
Providing any support for Islamic groups or Islamic values
the anti-women, and patriarchal forces in our society.
Second, supporting Islamists will decelerate the
effort of those women who are fighting against stoning and honor
killing and forced
Islamic dress code. When the media shows that a prominent feminist
such as Judy Rebick is supporting Islamic Code dress in Western
countries, it will give the upper-hand and boost the moral
of Ayatollahs to unleash their virtual police forces on women.
The issue of hijab today is totally a political issue.
It has divided the society into two sharp camps: secularist and
our secular forces in the Western country are so confused that
they cannot make their mind. Instead the Right Wing French
government has taken lead on this issue.
Although under the leadership
a Right Wing government, any degree of set back of political
Islam will ease the struggle of women under Islamic states
around the world. Further, from a secular point of view banning
hijab in public schools and state institutions is not enough.
Hijab and Islamic schooling for children under 16 in society,
private institutions, should be banned.
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