The burqa is quickly becoming the greatest foe of the Western society. But this tussle with the ‘Muslim woman’s attire’ is not new.
Rudyard Kipling, who was born and raised in India amongst Muslims who were the last Mogul kings, describes a boorka in his short story Beyond the Pale as an ‘evil-smelling’ garment ‘which cloaks a man as well as a woman.’ The main character, Trejago, dresses in a burqa to meet his Indian lover and symbolically throws it away at the end of the story.
No matter how I personally feel about the burqa, I think it is not anyone’s right to ridicule the garment and its wearers.
Two articles against the burqa have left me speechless not because they are insensitive in tone but because of their writers’ innate lack of knowledge about the religion they seem to target with their vile words. One is by the Bangladeshi ex-Muslim Taslima Nasrin titled “Let’s Burn the Burqa” and the other is “Death Before Burkas” by Kyle-Anne Shiver.
There are two popular opinions on hijab by Muslims; one is that it is required in the Quran and the other opinion is that it is not required and only modesty is emphasized. Ms. Nasrin claims that Quran requires niqab because of “an individual’s personal reasons” and “since then millions of Muslim women all over the world have had to suffer it.” Nasrin suggests that women
“should protest against this discrimination. They should proclaim a war against the wrongs and ill-treatment meted out to them for hundreds of years. They should snatch from the men their freedom and their rights. They should throw away this apparel of discrimination and burn their burqas.”
It was amusing to read Nasrin’s words because her knowledge about Islam, a religion she consciously abandoned, is extremely weak. A few examples:
- She calls Hadith, “Quran Hadith.”Then she quotes from Surah Al- Ahzab and calls it “Surah Al – Hijab”! There is no Surah in the Quran called Al-Hijab.Nasrin uses a South Asian translation of the Quran and even that version never once mentions that a woman must cover her face. The emphasis is always on hiding and covering the female parts like chest. I wonder how she bases her argument on the ayahs that never say that a woman must cover her face? In her argument she says, “Frankly, covering just the hair is not Islamic purdah in the strict sense.” That is exactly it. Face veil is “strict” and therefore a vast number of Muslim women do not cover their faces. What’s the premise then?Muslims are supposed to know how hijab was prescribed for the Prophet’s wives but Nasrin does not. She writes, “Prophet Mohammed’s wife Ayesha was very beautiful. His friends were often found staring at her with fascination.” The reason behind asking Prophet’s wives to speak to strange men from behind a curtain, as we know, was the rumour that had spread about Ayesha (pbuh) and not because men used to stare at her.
Then there is Shiver who begins her hate-filled rant with the following:
‘Anyone who thinks I’ve spent the last 40 years of my life learning how to properly apply makeup and avoid bad-hair days, only to end up donning that hideous black thing at the command of some foreign guy with a severe case of Male-Chauvinist-Pig syndrome, is in for a fight. Give me death before burkas!’
Fair enough! No non-Muslim woman who has spent 40 years of her life learning how to apply makeup should be asked to hide that face, but Shiver does not stop there:
‘And in my opinion, the ultimate oppression of our age, no matter how one cares to cut it, slice it, dice it, whatever, is hands-down the subjugation of females – from birth to the grave – in places ruled by this cockamamie Sharia law. Liberals may be scared to call a spade a spade, but I’m not. So, I’ll say it again, Give me death before burkas!’
Again some people may find her words tolerable. The infamous Saudi rape case has stirred Shiver so one can understand where she’s coming from until she writes:
‘In my book, a gang-rape victim deserves a whole heck of lot more peace and blessings than the Prophet, who continues to inspire such barbarism in the name of his religion.
In 2002, again in Saudi Arabia, a mob of very “religious” followers of the Prophet surrounded a girls’ school that was engulfed in raging flames, and refused to permit firefighters to save the young girls, or even to permit the ones that could to flee the building.’
Many Muslims have already spoken out against the punishment awarded to the Saudi rape victim. The 2002 incidence disturbed not only me but many other Muslims. However, how does Muhammed (pbuh) fit in here? I never read one hadith awarding punishment to a rape victim. I cannot recall the Prophet asking any firefighter to let an uncovered woman burn to death.
Later Shiver goes on to talk about the Taliban, the Turkish Muslim immigrants in Germany, the mutawa (religious police) of Saudi Arabia, and cases of barbaric female genital mutilation. I have never liked or supported the Taliban or anyone else who abuses Muslim women in the name of Islam so I could be seen nodding, although Shivers information on the topic is flawed, once again:
‘The type of FGM specifically practiced and taught by the Prophet is the milder form, and limits mutilation to the removal of the clitoris. On the other hand, other forms practiced by Mohammed’s followers today are so grotesque and cause so much permanent damage, that only a truly monstrous God could possibly condone them.’
First, the hadith on female circumcision is a weak one and second even in that weak hadith the Prophet (pbuh) is said to have supported trimming of the clitoris and not its removal. Majority of Muslims do not accept the hadith as genuine which is why female circumcision (which has its roots in Pharaonic times) remains today a culture-specific practice.
Also, just for record, there is no Muslim God. The God of the Jews is the God of the Christians who is the God of the Muslims. And no “the God” is not monstrous, thank you very much. I am a Muslim woman and I am not “mutilated.”
Somehow somewhere down the line Shiver loses it again and begins lashing out at Islam:
‘Whenever I see a woman wearing one of those hideous symbols of oppression — the burka — I just wonder how many beating scars or bruises or disfigurements she is covering. I don’t blame her for being brainwashed into submission, or even for identifying with her oppressors. She is, in my view, to be pitied, not scorned.’
Let’s be honest, I am no fan of the burqa, and I am a Muslim living in a Muslim country so I know exactly what all can happen to a woman (unlike Shiver who reports gossip) but I would never be stupid enough to claim that Muslim women who choose to wear the burka do so to hide a black eye. Save yourself further disgrace, Shiver, majority of Muslim women who wear the burka are not “brainwashed into submission.”
After another crazy story of domestic abuse in a Muslim family (as if domestic abuse only takes place in Muslim households!) Shiver issues some truly classic statements:
If a Jewish or Christian man beats his wife, or otherwise abuses her, he does so against his religion, and his worship community. When a Muslim man does likewise, he does so in full obedience to the Prophet himself. It’s in the Koran. (There is enough woman-bashing fodder in the Koran for many future columns, but one of the specific admonitions to men to beat their wives is 4:34) … As an American woman, blessed by God and the Constitution, that is all I need to know about Islam. [Emphasis mine]
This just tells any reader that Shiver is just as poor at Christian and Judaist theology as she is at Islamic theology. For the interpretation of the Quranic verse 4:34, read this. As for the Bible – one may be interested in reading Deuteronomy 25:11 or Numbers: 511-21.
To conclude, I’m not arguing here whether or not hijab or niqaab is required by the Quran. This is not my place to argue that. My argument and criticism is that if a person decides to write on a topic and worse argue on a topic on a public forum then s/he should do their homework.
I am also not trying to prove Islam’s superiority over the other two Abrahamic religions. I have deep respect for all religions and special love for Abrahamic religions. All I am trying to say is that in essence many religions are not different from each other. Several years of interpretations and filtering has given rise to modern Christianity and Judaism. While Muslims cannot dare to re-write the Quran, we are trying to reinterpret it, do ijtihad, and fit traditional theological concepts in the modern world.
Give Muslims a chance. One can wish death before the burka for all I care, but please leave Islamic theology out of your rants because you clearly do not know what you are talking about.