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The Veil: To Be or Not to Be

The Veil: To Be or Not to Be

Nuzhat Aziz, Editor Mid DAY, Pune, India

It is strange to see how people react when you talk about the imposing or banning of the veil in Islam. In most cases either they defend it passionately or attack it with ferocity. And here there is no middle path. After France decided to ban the veil or the hijaab, there have been questions raised on whether this was the right thing to do for a country. Discussions by radicals and extremists veer on whether the veil is imposed on women, whether it is acceptable in a civil society, whether it should be banned and none really have a plausible explanation.

Recently, while having an animated conversation over the rights of women in Islam, a friend of mine got very vocal on the banning of burqa in France. However, I must point out here that his working wife does not wear a hijab but he did make a point. “I see hijab as a choice an individual has made to lead her life. A state here is trying to rule by force and not by educated consent…doesn’t this amount to tyranny?” he asked.

So is it that we are affected because a ban is being imposed by a country who probably does not really know the reason for the veil. And sadly enough this precedent might be followed by other western countries soon enough.

Ziauddin Sardar, a renowned author in his book ‘Reading the Quran’ has appropriately explained that in none of the verses in the Holy Book is hijab used in the sense conventionally understood by Muslim societies. It would be interesting to note here that Sardar has quoted verses from the Quran on how the veil is not part of the Islamic culture to ensure women are subjected to humiliation or domination. On the contrary, women’s right in a Muslim society is far more stronger than anyone can ever imagine.

The entire objective of the veil in a Muslim society is to achieve modesty. It has been clearly stated in Quran but interpreted differently, in various translations, that a woman needs to cover herself sufficiently so as not to attract undue attention. And this as Sardar rightly points out that “to understand what it means in terms of apparel, we need to know more about the conventions in Medina at the time of the Prophet. …”

It is rather unfortunate that a piece of cloth has become so controversial. The reason for banning the veil also has no base. No country has the right to impose restrictions on what or how one chooses to wear. It is an individual’s choice. And it most definitely is not a threat. Wonder how many burqa clad women have been a cause of terror.

You practice sexual liberation and legalize prostitution but ban the burqa? This is unfair. Grossly unfair. I personally do not endorse the hijab. But I would not want my country or any other country to impose a ban on what I want to wear. Most definitely not.

Photo by Beth Rankin. Some Rights Reserved.

1 Comment

  1. What the French govt has done is unfair and obviously out of ignorance. For some countries it is part of their culture to be completely covered i.e. Saudi Arabia…even before Islam was introduced. Now how many people know that? We are told as Muslims to dress modestly…to some that means covering with the hijab and to others not to wear one. When France imposes this ban how are they any different from Saudi Arabia that bans women from driving?

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