Madinat al-Muslimeen Islamic Message Board
|An Identity Reduced to a Burka|
|01/21/02 at 23:51:46|
|as salaamu alaykum,|
Laila Al-Marayati is yet another awesome albany sister (before she moved to cali!) :) May Allah reward her for her efforts.
se7en de la familia 8-)
An Identity Reduced to a Burka
By LAILA AL-MARAYATI and SEMEEN ISSA
A few years ago, someone from the Feminist Majority Foundation called the Muslim Women's League to ask if she could "borrow a burka" for a photo shoot the organization was doing to draw attention to the plight of women in Afghanistan under the Taliban. When we told her that we didn't have one, and that none of our Afghan friends did either, she expressed surprise, as if she'd assumed that all Muslim women keep burkas in their closets in case a militant Islamist comes to dinner. She didn't seem to understand that her assumption was the equivalent of assuming that every Latino has a Mexican sombrero in their closet.
We don't mean to make light of the suffering of our sisters in Afghanistan, but the burka was--and is--not their major focus of concern. Their priorities are more basic, like feeding their children, becoming literate and living free from violence. Nevertheless, recent articles in the Western media suggest the burka means everything to Muslim women, because they routinely express bewilderment at the fact that all Afghan women didn't cast off their burkas when the Taliban was defeated. The Western press' obsession with the dress of Muslim women is not surprising, however, since the press tends to view Muslims, in general, simplistically. Headlines in the mainstream media have reduced Muslim female identity to an article of clothing--"the veil." One is hard-pressed to find an article, book or film about women in Islam that doesn't have "veil" in the title: "Behind the Veil," "Beyond the Veil," "At the Drop of a Veil" and more. The use of the term borders on the absurd: Perhaps next will come "What Color is Your Veil?" or "Rebel Without a Veil" or "Whose Veil is it, Anyway?"
The word "veil" does not even have a universal meaning. In some cultures, it refers to a face-covering known as niqab; in others, to a simple head scarf, known as hijab. Other manifestations of "the veil" include all-encompassing outer garments like the ankle-length abaya from the Persian Gulf states, the chador in Iran or the burka in Afghanistan.
Like the differences in our clothing from one region to another, Muslim women are diverse. Stereotypical assumptions about Muslim women are as inaccurate as the assumption that all American women are personified by the bikini-clad cast of "Baywatch." Anyone who has spent time interacting with Muslims knows that, despite numerous obstacles, Muslim women are active, assertive and engaged in society. In Qatar, women make up the majority of graduate-school students. The Iranian parliament has more women members than the U.S. Senate. Throughout the world, many Muslim women are educated and professionally trained; they participate in public debates, are often catalysts for reform and champions for their own rights. At the same time, there is no denying that in many Muslim countries, dress has been used as a tool to wield power over women.
What doesn't penetrate Western consciousness, however, is that forced uncovering is also a tool of oppression. During the reign of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi in Iran, wearing the veil was prohibited. As an expression of their opposition to his repressive regime, women who supported the 1979 Islamic Revolution marched in the street clothed in chadors. Many of them did not expect to have this "dress code" institutionalized by those who led the revolution and then took power in the new government.
In Turkey, the secular regime considers the head scarf a symbol of extremist elements that want to overthrow the government. Accordingly, women who wear any type of head-covering are banned from public office, government jobs and academia, including graduate school. Turkish women who believe the head-covering is a religious obligation are unfairly forced to give up public life or opportunities for higher education and career advancement.
Dress should not bar Muslim women from exercising their Islam-guaranteed rights, like the right to be educated, to earn a living and to move about safely in society. Unfortunately, some governments impose a strict dress code along with other restrictions, like limiting education for women, to appear "authentically Islamic." Such laws, in fact, are inconsistent with Islam. Nevertheless, these associations lead to the general perception that "behind the veil" lurk other, more insidious examples of the repression of women, and that wearing the veil somehow causes the social ills that plague Muslim women around the world.
Many Muslim men and women alike are subjugated by despotic, dictatorial regimes. Their lot in life is worsened by extreme poverty and illiteracy, two conditions that are not caused by Islam but are sometimes exploited in the name of religion. Helping Muslim women overcome their misery is a major task. The reconstruction of Muslim Afghanistan will be a test case for the Afghan people and for the international community dedicated to making Afghan society work for everyone. To some, Islam is the root cause of the problems faced by women in Afghanistan. But what is truly at fault is a misguided, narrow interpretation of Islam designed to serve a rigid patriarchal system.
Traditional Muslim populations will be more receptive to change that is based on Islamic principles of justice, as expressed in the Koran, than they will be to change that abandons religion altogether or confines it to private life. Muslim scholars and leaders who emphasize Islamic principles that support women's rights to education, health care, marriage and divorce, equal pay for equal work and participation in public life could fill the vacuum now occupied by those who impose a vision of Islam that infringes on the rights of women.
Given the opportunity, Muslim women, like women everywhere, will become educated, pursue careers, strive to do what is best for their families and contribute positively according to their abilities. How they dress is irrelevant. It should be obvious that the critical element Muslim women need is freedom, especially the freedom to make choices that enable them to be independent agents of positive change. Choosing to dress modestly, including wearing a head scarf, should be as respected as choosing not to cover. Accusations that modestly dressed Muslim women are caving in to male-dominated understandings of Islam neglect the reality that most Muslim women who cover by choice do so out of subservience to God, not to any human being.
The worth of a woman--any woman--should not be determined by the length of her skirt, but by the dedication, knowledge and skills she brings to the task at hand.
Semeen Issa, a schoolteacher in Arcadia, and Laila Al-Marayati, a Los Angeles physician, are the president and spokesperson, respectively, for the Muslim Women's League.
|Re: An Identity Reduced to a Burka|
|01/22/02 at 01:05:01|
|Wa Lakum Salam,|
I like the article, until it makes some precarious statements about having the choice to cover.
"The word "veil" does not even have a universal meaning."
Actually, I thought that the word hijab or jilbaab, universally meant modesty in dress, or to cover what is apparent. The interpretation of what parts of the body need covering or modesty is what's not universal.
"But what is truly at fault(in Afghanistan) is a misguided, narrow interpretation of Islam designed to serve a rigid patriarchal system."
Now who are we talking about here, the NA or the Taliban? If it is the Taliban, I am so sick of hearing people talk down about them, as if there is misguidance in at least trying to establish Shariah, forget about accomplishing the task. The fault lies with those who fight against Shariah and any kind of rigid Islamic society. The article would have doubled in credibility had it left out this statement.
"Choosing to dress modestly, including wearing a head scarf, should be as respected as choosing not to cover."
Okay, I was willing to give the benefit of the doubt up to here. So what this article is summing up, is that choosing to not obey the commands of Allah SWT should be as respected as obeying Allah SWT? I could not disagree more. Obviously in a non-Muslim country there is very little that can be done in the way of keeping a woman from going out naked in public, but in an Islamic country, I cannot believe that women have the audacity to ask that the laws bow to their choice to refuse to be obedient to Allah SWT's commands. Get real!
"Muslim scholars and leaders who emphasize Islamic principles that support women's rights to education, health care, marriage and divorce, equal pay for equal work and participation in public life could fill the vacuum now occupied by those who impose a vision of Islam that infringes on the rights of women."
So are these scholars who champion the rights of women, the ones to fill the vacuum, the same ones who agree that a Muslim womens 'choice' not to wear hijab, should be as respected as the choice to wear it?
I don't believe that women's rights has a place in traditional Islamic education and study, and I think rightfully so. A women's rights are just as valued and protected as a man's, or child's in a hypothetical Islamic society. But when we are speaking about a time when Muslim's rights are lacking, even in Muslim countries, I think that our brothers are suffering just as much, if not more so. With a rigid, narrow, guided interpretation of al-Islam, everyone's rights are guaranteed and protected and there is no need to campaign for any particular strata within the community, except maybe foreigners. To rally for 'womens' rights at this time, is selfish, narrow minded, and unfocused on the real goal that both men and women are constantly making sacrifices for, sacrifices that include personal rights.
I think that because crimes against women play upon the heartstrings of the public more readily than men being tortured in prisons, caged for life, publicly humiliated, or murdered outright, one issue draws more funding and infrastructure from the international and domestic community. If we can manage to agree that the limelight must be set upon the most needed and immediate changes, such as Muslims rights, and the establishment of an Islamic society, we could be certain that a success in that area would be a success for women as well. However, even if we were to put all of our efforts, and succeed in an enforceable womens rights charter for the world, this would not guarantee any rights for Muslims, or the brothers and in fact it would most likely cost more of our lives but for a narrower cause.
From Islamic Q&A regarding women in public without hijab:
His wife does not want to wear hijaab and he fears for his young daughter
My wife is not wearing Hijab although she is a strong beleiver and practicing all Salats on time etc. We are both Engineers and we have 2 young daughters (2 and 5 Years. I am worried that my children will also go away from wearing hijab if they see their mother not wearing it as well. I've tried many times to convince her to put it (she has read the relevant sourates) but I've stopped doing that when I felt that she would reject whatever she was already on.
My question is as a husband and father, shall I force her to wear it anyway to preserve the future of the daughters or shall I keep patient untill Allah guides her?
My second question is are we (the husbands) responsible in front of Allah regarding weather or not our wives / daughters wear hijab or not?
Praise be to Allaah.
Strong faith must have effects which can be seen in a person's appearance and conduct. If a person persists in sin, this is a sign of weak faith.
What you have to do is try to plant the seeds of faith in her heart and help it to grow strong. What is meant by that is the kind of faith that will motivate a person to behave in accordance with the sharee’ah. Then try to instill in her a love of the hijaab and of righteous deeds, such as explaining the benefits of hijaab and how good it is, and giving her books and audio tapes, if these are available, which speak about that. One of the most important means which will help to achieve this is to put her in touch – in an indirect manner – with righteous women who wear the hijaab and try to have frequent family gatherings with righteous relatives.
If you do this, you will have tried various means of convincing her. Then you will have to oblige her in an appropriate fashion and NOT ALLOW HER TO GO OUT TO PUBLIC PLACES WITHOUT HIJAB. (It is important to explain to your daughter that hijaab is obligatory and tell her about Allaah’s ruling on hijaab, even if she realizes that her mother is falling short. You have to explain it to her at a level that she can understand so that she will see that there is a difference between the rulings of sharee’ah and the way her mother is behaving. Who knows – perhaps she will advise her mother, in the moving and innocent manner of children – to wear hijaab).
With regard to the second question, there is no doubt that fathers are responsible if their wives and daughters do not wear hijaab and do not adhere to the rulings of sharee’ah, as Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):
“O you who believe! Ward off yourselves and your families against a Fire (Hell) whose fuel is men and stones” [al-Tahreem 66:6]
And as the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said:
“Each of you is a shepherd and is responsible for his flock… the man is a shepherd over the members of his household and is responsible for his flock…”
But if a person does all that he can and strives his utmost, but does not achieve any results, Allaah will excuse him and will not punish him; on the contrary, He will reward him for his efforts, and Allaah does not cause the reward for any good deed to be lost.
Written by Shaykh Muhammad al-Duwaysh
Qamar Akbal Kaan
|Re: An Identity Reduced to a Burka|
|01/22/02 at 03:10:47|
|as salaamu alaykum,|
[quote]"The word "veil" does not even have a universal meaning."[/quote]
Yeah. The premise of the article is very succinctly summarized in it's title: An Identity Reduced to a Burka
The statement above does not refer to hijab as a concept, but to the media's use of the word "veil" with all its vague connotations of subjugation and oppression to characterize all 750 million Muslim women the world over with no regard for their lives, cultures, beliefs, or identities. I don't see how the above statement has anything to do with questioning the obligatory nature of hijab.
[quote]"Choosing to dress modestly, including wearing a head scarf, should be as respected as choosing not to cover."[/quote]
In your interpretation of this quote, you literally twisted the sisters words around. She said nothing about what type of respect is due to one who chooses not to cover, but that at the very *least* one who does cover should be granted the same amount.
but I can see why you would have issue with the statement. Hmm. Maybe I'm being overly-defensive of this article. I just don't understand why it seems people need to tear apart and criticize any effort, however sincere, made for Islam.
[quote]I don't believe that women's rights has a place in traditional Islamic education and study, and I think rightfully so. A women's rights are just as valued and protected as a man's, or child's in a hypothetical Islamic society. [/quote]
I'm assuming you mistyped that first line. Otherwise we'd have to throw down :)
[quote]But when we are speaking about a time when Muslim's rights are lacking, even in Muslim countries, I think that our brothers are suffering just as much, if not more so. With a rigid, narrow, guided interpretation of al-Islam, everyone's rights are guaranteed and protected and there is no need to campaign for any particular strata within the community, except maybe foreigners. To rally for 'womens' rights at this time, is selfish, narrow minded, and unfocused on the real goal that both men and women are constantly making sacrifices for, sacrifices that include personal rights.[/quote]
I understand your point. We live in a time when Muslims are suffering through some terrible conditions the world over.
I don't think the article had anything at all to do with rallying for womens rights though. I think it was an article protesting the media's one-dimensional, completely bias view of Muslim women as forced to be veiled, repressed, and silent.
And as a side note, you cannot expect a handful of people to take on every cause of the ummah. These sisters have chosen to dedicate their lives to one facet of the Muslim cause - that of womens rights. Other people need to step up, and work on other facets that instill a passion in *them* in order to change things.
wasalaamu alaykum wa rahmatAllah.
|Re: An Identity Reduced to a Burka|
|01/22/02 at 03:25:56|
I liked the article, although i didnt agree with ALL the points, i agreed with most.
I wish such women would be invited onto TV debates when they discuss the hijab, as they are the only ones who can shut up those feminits, and those pervy men who want muslim womne to uncover, and those fools who claim the muslim women are oppressed by wearing the veil.
However thiers a comment you made Se7en which i would like to make a comment about
< I just don't understand why it seems people need to tear apart and criticize any effort, however sincere, made for Islam.>
It didnt stop most muslims, even those with "knowlegde" from doing just this to the taleban, i.e looking for any little fault even though they were trying to implement Shariah law. Something i find that was rampant on this board when i first arrived (taleban dissing).
Anyway back to the article, who is the sister who wrote that? Has she ever taken part in TV or radio debates? I'd be interested to hear them, and see how the "ooo your so oppressed" women would respond to this sisters views.
|Re: An Identity Reduced to a Burka|
|01/27/02 at 23:47:24|
A few things:
"The word "veil" does not even have a universal meaning."
>>Actually, I thought that the word hijab or jilbaab, universally meant modesty in dress, or to cover what is apparent. The interpretation of what parts of the body need covering or modesty is what's not universal.<<
They didn't mention the words "hijab" or "jilbab." Remember, they are not speaking to a Muslim audience, they are speaking to non Muslim Americans who are not familiar with these terms, but who use the word "veil," which doesn't have a universal meaning. What they said is exactly right. To some people, a veil is something you wear on your head. To others, it's the niqab. When people are writing these "Misery Behind the Veil" articles, or talking about "veiled" women, they need to be clear as to what *type* of veiling is being talked about. I love it when the people who write these types of things talk about how Huda ash Shaarawi "threw off her veils" in the Cairo train station, leaving the impression that Sr. Huda completely removed hijab. (In reality, she removed the niqab, but continued to wear a black abaya and khimar to the end of her life).
>>I don't believe that women's rights has a place in traditional Islamic education and study, and I think rightfully so.<<
I think you're wrong. The right to worship, the right to an education, the right to life, the right to dignity, the right to inheritance, the right to choose her marriage partner, the right to the mahr, the right to her earnings, these are all women's rights and they are all a part of "traditional Islam." If a government or individual is denying a woman or a girl these basic rights of hers, which the Prophet, aleyhi salatu wa salaam, confirmed, then he is not following true, traditional Islam.
Unless, of course, you think of "women's rights" as things like the "right" to choose abortion or some such thing.
>>To rally for 'womens' rights at this time, is selfish, narrow minded, and unfocused on the real goal that both men and women are constantly making sacrifices for, sacrifices that include personal rights.<<
It isn't selfish or narrow minded. If women do not have even a basic education, then their children are not being properly educated. The child, male or female, has a right to an education, and it is the mother's responsibility to do this. How can the next generation of Muslim women and men come up and live properly if their mothers are kept ignorant? They can't.
I very much disagree with the premise that women should sit back and keep quiet and stop agitating for their Islamic rights just b/c of a greater struggle. Women's Islamic rights should be part and parcel of the greater struggle, they should not be segregated as though they are "special" or somehow seperated from the rest of the struggle to live and implement true Islam.
|Re: An Identity Reduced to a Burka|
|01/28/02 at 02:12:18|
|Sr. Umm Zaid,|
you pretty much summed up my point very nicely in the last paragraph of your response, so I wonder why you spent the majority of your post saying you disagree with my opinion on the article:
"I very much disagree with the premise that women should sit back and keep quiet and stop agitating for their Islamic rights just b/c of a greater struggle. Women's Islamic rights should be part and parcel of the greater struggle, they should not be segregated as though they are "special" or somehow seperated from the rest of the struggle to live and implement true Islam."
Nobody said women should sit back and keep quiet, you said it not me.
You are right, women's rights should not be separated and treated as special with regards to the struggle to implement the din of al-Islam. In the effort and accomplishment of establishing Shariah, one is ultimately establishing the rights that Muslims have upon themselves, each other, and future generations, and the rights that Allah SWT has upon humankind. I look at the whole women's issue as a means of qualifying women's rights above and beyond the real issue of Islamic rights as defined for a society, not just part of it. I look at women's rights violations as a symptom of a greater illness in the Ummah, that cannot be addressed or rectified without curing the illness, not the symptom. I see pressing for such gender specific reforms being like giving tylenol to someone who suffers from a headache, or anti biotics to someone who suffers from a virus. Without addressing the source of the headaches, and cutting off exposure to the virus, tylenol and anti biotics are only going to increase the chances of continuing behaviour that leads to headaches, and helping more resistant forms of bacteria to occur, such that anti biotics will no longer work. I never said that women's issues were not important, that women's rights are not valuable in ensuring the overall health of the Ummah, as the woman's lap is the first school for a child. However, what I do see is a contradiction of terms. Instead of concentrating on issues that would resolve the rights of Muslims, and thereby women, some women would have people believe that solving women's issues is going to make life better for everyone. As far as I know, there is no precedent for women struggling on their own, or as a separate cause, to ensure their rights, especially during times when the rights of Muslims in general are being trodded upon. I could be wrong, I admit, but I believe that the 'women's struggle' as we know of today, was something that is of a relatively recent sociological phenomena, and is symptomatic of a vexing division of interests within societies that only serves to take from momentum on greater issues that effect the society. I wouldn't be surprised if women's movements, along with other labor movements, weren't cooked up by early social scientists, in order to further divide any real impetus for greater changes in society in the West, that has infected much of the world. Effectively drawing away the attention of gender, age, and already conflicting groups in societies was/is a common tactic of Christian missionaries, and would be colonists. Knowing full well the emotionality of women, their determination to the extent of tunnel visionedness in certain circumstances, I totally see how this could be taken advantage of by early American sociologists and leaders, to pacify women by creating 'goals' for them specifically, to give them something to concern themselves with, outside the realms of influence that truly govern and dictate the state of affairs and their real status in society. All conspiracy theories aside, I can at the very least see how the whole women's rights issue has become a rallying cry not just for Muslim women inside Afghanistan, but a justification for destroying the Taliban and waging war against Muslims across the globe. Kaffir are actually taking advantage of Muslim women's angst and rebelliousness and using it against the Muslims cause.
What classical scholars studied 'women's rights' per se, as a separate discipline or science? The answer to that points to my response that 'WOmen's rights' has no place in early historical roots as a separate discipline or cause.
To me, this part of the article basically sums up the women's rights agenda:
"Given the opportunity, Muslim women, like women everywhere, will become educated, pursue careers, strive to do what is best for their families and contribute positively according to their abilities."
You see they WILL become educated, they WILL pursue careers, but they will STRIVE to do what's best for their families...I think the needs of women in countries who really need rights are betrayed by women's rights promoters in this respect. Becoming educated, having independent sources of income, controlling their own lives seems to be something that is one of those goals that is put before women like a carrot in front of a donkey, however when women pursue careers, education, and interests outside the home, their attention must turn away from having children, being married, and maintaining the home. I know their are women who can do all of these things, but that's not the point, most cannot balance them and still remain within what is perscribed by the sunnah and QUran.
It seems to me to be a 'Struggle Olympics' type situation. Whose cause within Muslims society has the most efficacy and is easiest to show surface improvement on? If women's rights can so easily be assuaged by allowing women to wear what they want, go wherever they want, whenver they want to, hold whatever positions they can be assigned or appointed to, make as much money as they want, and consider that their husbands and children have no rights upon their earnings, in fact make them as if they are a totally elevated aspect of society, well then that seems to be capable of being accomplished without al-Islam, and indeed outside of it. Perhaps it would be far more productive to establish what specific women's rights are being denied, where the rights of men and children are not also being denied.
Oh, and another thing, for a non-Muslim group to think that a Muslim womens group would have one burka between them(a garment that completely covers themselves), seems to be a logical and/or honest assumption, as the wives of the Prophet, SAWS, had something similar, however, for someone to assume that a Latino(anyone who speaks Spanish born in Central, South, and North America), say a Argentinian would have a sombrero is not logical but rather racist. In fact calling a sombrero 'Mexican' conveys to me that the author of the statement may in fact be just as presumptous as those she is criticizing, as anyone even remotely familiar with Latino culture knows that sombreros are endemic to Mexico. That statement really did in my first impression of the article and the people writing it.
Qamar Akbal Kaan
|Re: An Identity Reduced to a Burka|
|01/31/02 at 06:49:48|
I'd just like to say that I enjoyed the article and thought it was well-written. It should come across very well to a non Muslim reader and in my opinion does not misrepresent Islam.
something else I'd like to add is that there is no force in Islam. If a woman does not want to wear the hijab, then be it on her head. I can't imagine Rasulullah being so coercive in this case. I'd like to imagine that, through love and good example, he would lead the woman to the decision to wear hijab for Allah, and not because her husband or father or anyone else says so. That's just missing the whole point of submitting to Allah and playing into the hands of the Western Media who declare hijab to be a symbol of oppression.
Thanks for posting the article, se7en. I'll copy and send it to my mother, Insha Allah, who still finds the hijab "demeaning". :(
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