Thursday, 27 October 2016

BBC's Hard Talk with Romanian FM about the Niqab and Burqa

LETTER TO BBC, For Hard Talk's Stephen Sackur. 
Stephen Sackur should read something about what moderate Muslim women and ex-Muslim women say about the Niqab and Burqa before talking again about the "freedom"'for Muslim women in the west to wear the horrid garb. (As he did recently in a Hard Talk with the Romanian Foreign Minister). 
Wearing body bags or masks is nothing to do with freedom and pretty much all to do with the oppression of Islamic patriarchy spreading to female Muslim immigrants in western societies. 
Eiynah, a Pakistani-Canadian ex-Muslim talks about being abandoned by western liberals in the battle of reforming Muslim women to ditch medieval garb. 
She criticises  western liberals for siding with conservative Muslims (those championing the niqab and burqa) as opposed to supporting reformist Muslims who want to do away with an oppressive uniform. 
Quote from her article, via Professor Jerry Coyne of Chicago Uni's blog in which she decries the championing of niqab/burqa by well meaning western liberals (link below):
During last year's federal election and the controversy surrounding Stephen Harper's veil ban, Tabatha Southey of the Globe and Mail tweeted"By fighting a veil ban, Ms. Ishaq schools us on how to be Canadian" with very little regard for what the face veil represents to many other Muslim women – like those who are forced into veils and are fighting to be free of them. Around the same time, The Huffington Post Canada declared, "someone made a 'Niqabs of Canada' Tumblr and it's Great, comparing them to hockey masks, helmets, scarves and hoods shielding from the cold – all of which have other purposes than to shame women into modesty.
The Guardian touts headlines like "My hijab has nothing to do with oppression, it's a feminist statement" with seemingly no appreciation for what kinds of strict modesty guidelines lay behind the wearing of hijabs. Yes, some women in the west have the privilege of choice, but many, many of the women wearing face veils or headscarves in the Muslim world do not have such a choice, especially when it is mandated by the state. Even in the west, there lies the threat of being shunned by your family if you reject religious dress code. Articles glorifying this are doing women in vulnerable positions no favours at all. Yes, we must oppose anti-Muslim bigotry, but we must keep in mind that this doesn't mean glorification of modesty codes that target women.
My social media feeds are inundated with well-meaning liberal friends sharing article upon article praisingcelebratingglorifying religious garments like the hijab/niqab. But it's a garment used exclusively in its original form to ensure women cover up lest they provoke the lust of men. Ironically, even Playboy has jumped on this trend. The Muslim girls who want to be ballerinas, athletes or models and aren't hijabis simply aren't given very much coverage. All this achieves, is that it synonymizes Muslim with "conservative Muslim," which is incredibly unhelpful to our community in this political climate.
As someone who immigrated to Canada from Saudi Arabia, who was forced by morality police to cover her hair, threatened with a cane, I cannot stomach the fetishization and praise surrounding these practices that are primarily used to control and hold women back.

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