To Veil or Not to Veil?: Hijab and Muslim Women's Rights in Afghanistan and France  Part I

Part II: France

In 2004, a law passed in France that prohibited the wearing of religious symbols in public schools (Wing & Smith 2006: 745). Although this law “affected Jewish yarmulkes, Sikh turbans, and large Christian crosses, its main effect was to ban the wearing of headscarves, or hijabs, by young Muslim girls” (745). Private schools in France were not subject to the ban, nor was the ban targeted towards adult Muslim women at large – those in the street or university students (Scott 2007: 106). Furthermore, this law was not as strictly enforced against Jewish boys wearing skullcaps or Sihks wearing turbans (107).  The principle behind this legislation was France's “commitment to secularism” and the interpretation that “separation of church and state no longer accommodates the wearing of religious head coverings in its secondary schools” (Wing & Smith 2006: 745). In order to understand if the French ban on headscarves infringes upon freedom of religion for women, it is critical to examine the principle of French secularism, which ironically was initially set up to protect freedom of religion.

In the French Constitution of 1946, the principle of the separation of church and state was instituted and implied that “France is an indivisible, laïque (secular), democratic and social republic” (Laborde 2005: 308). France's secularization has come about after centuries of dispute between the Catholic Church and the state. According to Political Scientist Cecile Laborde, the principle of religious freedom was first adopted during the 1789 Revolution where “in the wording of Article 10 of the Declaration of the Rights of Man, 'no-one should be persecuted [inquiété] for their opinions, even religious ones'” (309). After a century, in 1905, the Law of Separation was adopted in order “to embod[y] a classical ideal of liberal separation between state and religion, underpinned by an individualistic and egalitarian conception of justice as best pursued through state abstention from religious affairs” (308). One component of the separation law is the libertarian principle (Laborde 2005: 308). The libertarian principle asserts that “the state permits the practice of any religion, within limits prescribed by the requirements of public order and the protection of basic rights” and that the state should not be involved in promoting, combating, or interfering in the religious beliefs of an institution (309). With freedom of religion embedded in the French constitution, then under what justification was France able to ban the headscarf?

According to Laborde, there are five different ways in which the headscarf violates the neutrality of and “civic purpose” of schools (327). One claim is that the headscarf introduces religious identity into public schools, which should be a domain protected by secularism (327). Under this concept, the headscarf “can be considered an illegitimate act of propaganda and an aggressive act of proselytism” (327). A second reasoning that constitutes the ban is that the headscarf symbolizes the refusal of Muslims to separate their identity as citizens from their identity as religious adherents (327). Thus, the ban on headscarves would be a signal to the French Muslim community that they, like other religious communities have done, need to put their faith in line with French secularism (327). The third justification is that the headscarf infringes upon the equality between individuals, by automatically dividing individuals as “believers and non-believers…'good Muslims' and 'bad Muslims', and men and women” (327). Fourthly, proponents of the ban claim that the headscarf “undermines the civic mission of schools” (328) because it is accompanied by other requests such as exemption from participation in physical education courses or biology (327). And finally, proponents of the ban cite that “headscarves undermine the overall scheme of religious freedoms” because “Muslim pupils infringe on the liberty of conscious of others” (328). Laborde explains that “it is crucially important that children, at an age when they are particularly vulnerable, not be exposed to the ostentatious religious behavior of others, lest their freedom of conscience be infringed” (328).  Besides Larborde's explanations, another justification was that the girls were forced by their male relatives and the community to veil, thus it was the governments duty to intervene for girls who had no ability to resist. It is peculiar how despite the fact that some Muslims girls considered the veil to be liberating, the National Assembly study group insisted that the majority of the girls felt it was oppressive (Scott 2007: 129). To reach the conclusion of banning the headscarf, there were no statistics used to back up this claim, only the “opinion of 'experts'” who already agreed with the government proposal (129). Now that the background on the origins of freedom of religion in French law has been provided and the peculiar arguments advocating for the ban have been examined, it is next critical to evaluate why this ban constitutes an infringement on French Muslim women's human rights.

The French government has determined that the best way to integrate Muslims into society is to focus on schools as the place where French citizens are created (Wing & Smith 2006: 756). France's focus on schools as a means to “Frenchify” individuals goes back to Frenchification efforts in the colonies where the French focused on educating young girls “as a way to pass on the French republican values to their future sons and husbands, as well as their fathers and brothers in the present” (756). So this ban on headscarves in 2004 was nothing new in light of France's history. According to Human Rights Watch, “international human rights law obliges state authorities to avoid coercion in matters of religious freedom, and this obligation must be taken into account when devising school dress codes” (Human Rights Watch). So in this regard, France has violated international law by enforcing the removal of the headscarf by underage school girls. Human Rights Watch goes on to state that “the proposed prohibition on headscarves in France, as with laws in some Muslim countries that force girls to wear headscarves in schools, violates this principle” (Human Rights Watch). This statement adds significant weight to this argument, as this respected organization is clearly stating that both extremes – enforcing veiling or unveiling – constitute a violation of human rights. Furthermore, Human Rights Watch explains that under international law, states can only inhibit a religious practice if it is detrimental to public safety and if it “impinges on the rights of others” (Human Rights Watch). This organization concludes that any religious garment “do[es] not pose a threat to public health, order or morals; they have no effect on the fundamental rights and freedoms of other students; and they do not undermine a school's educational function” (Human Rights Watch). As a violation of the anti-discrimination provisions of international human rights law, this ban fell disproportionately on Muslim girls, forcing many parents to withdraw their children from school. Despite the non-binding nature of international law, spectators in the international community have not kept quiet about these violations.

Claims of human rights violation have come from the European Parliament of Human Rights and Civil Liberties Committee, with one member asserting that “'banning the wearing of religious symbols is a clear human rights violation'” (Wing & Smith 2006: 757). Furthermore, the United Nations' human rights experts have criticized the ban as being intolerant towards Muslims (757). Reactions from Muslims around the world resonate these sentiments, an example being that “Saudi Arabia's highest religious authority called the headscarf ban “an infringement on human rights” and rebuked France “for being more concerned with the rights of nudist than of Muslims” (757). At the end of the day, despite these charges against the French government, French legislators ruled overwhelmingly in favor of the state, which also enjoyed a 70% approval from the public to instate this ban. However; it can be argued that the headscarf ban is part of a larger problem with Muslims in France, and the possible motivations behind this law affirm this claim.

In order to discuss the issue of the banning of the headscarf in public schools in France, it is critical to understand underlying motivations that may have catalyzed this violation of international law. France has the largest population of Muslims in Europe, with about five to ten percent of the entire population ascribing to this faith (Wing & Smith 2006: 752). The influx of Muslim immigrants from predominantly Middle Eastern countries has alarmed some of the French public, who often view these groups as foreigners, even after they gain citizenship (752). Thus, in the years prior to the ban, the Muslim population in France had been politically and culturally rejected, with some French fearing that the building of mosques and Islamic calls to prayer “represent a 'clash of civilizations'” (753). These fears of the creation of a “Eurabia”, meaning the further Islamization of Europe, have only spiked after 9/11 and the War on Terror, with many governments perhaps choosing to vilify the Muslim community as a response to the terrorist attacks done in the name of Islam. Yet, policies such as the ban on headscarves, the total ban on niqab, and the banning of building minarets in Switzerland have pushed some members of the Muslim community to the fringes, sometimes fueling religious fundamentalism and radicalism (753). Overall, fears of immigration and the rise of Islamophobia in Europe may be plausible explanations for the motivations behind the ban. Regardless of motives, this legal action has undoubtedly touched off a vigorous conversation in Europe about the place of religion in a secular society, and without a doubt these issues are not yet resolved.

Conclusions

Through out the ages and in every inhabitable land on this earth, women's human rights have frequently been violated. The issues within women's rights are huge, but as these articles have demonstrated, something as simple as the clothing worn by a woman can be used to violate her rights as a free agent. This has been the case in Afghanistan and France, two countries that reside on the extreme ends of this issue. In Afghanistan, the protectionist law of veiling that is enshrined in Islamic law has been employed by some in the Taliban as a tool to subjugate women. Some factions of this regime, which controlled Afghanistan prior to 2001, strictly enforced the veil over the women in that country, with punishment exacted on those who violated this dress code. In France, the decision to enforce a ban on headscarves in public schools negates the freedom of religion that is embedded in French law and international law. Under the pretext of protecting these girls from their families or the community that may be forcing them to wear the garment, the French government  expressed its supposed good intentions for Muslim girls and its desire to maintain secular schools. Regardless of its intended good, by passing this law, France has violated international law on the freedom to practice religion and it may have inadvertently contributed to the further radicalization of a vulnerable population.

Diversity of opinion and pluralism should be embraced by all nations of the world, but both France and Afghanistan have opted out of this calling by limiting women's rights in their countries. Currently, the Taliban is technically out of power in Afghanistan, but they still hold influence in the country and improvements on women's rights to education, and employment have yet to occur even under US occupation. With Europe being evermore gripped by the rise of right-wing parties, and with increasingly radical policies towards Muslims being adopted, it does not appear as if France will reverse its ban any time soon. The increase in these anti-Islamic laws leads one to question whether Europe will be an accommodating place for Muslims in the future. Needles to say, this contentious issue occupies an integral role in the struggle for women's rights around the world.

References:

Human Rights Watch News (2004) “France: Headscarf Ban Violates Religious Freedom,” Human Rights Watch, http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2004/02/26/france-headscarf-ban-violates-religious-freedom (accessed 9 November 2010).

Laborde, Cecile (2005) “Secular Philosophy and Muslim Headscarves in School,” 13 The Journal of Political Philosophy 305-329.

Scott, Joan W. (2007) The Politics of the Veil. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Wing, Adrien K., & Monica Smith (2006) “Critical Race Feminism Lifts the Veil?:Muslim Women, France, and the   Headscarf Ban,” 39 U.C. Davis Law Review 744-790.

37 Responses

  1. Mantiki

    Nice summary Safia

    As an Australian, most Aussies I know support religious freedom and tolerance and have no problem with girls and women willingly wearing headscarves as a sign of faith and convenience. I recall as a youngster that scarves were commonly worn by women in Australia during the 1950s and early 60s.

    You have neatly summarised the reasons why there is broad support for a ban. Probably it would be around 50% for and 50% against here. The reasons being that Australians hate authority. Thus we hate the idea that young girls are forced to wear the veil – even if the force is social and parental disapproval. Secondly, we feel uneasy and threatened by the sight of burqua clad women in our streets walking meekly behind their (Western clad) husbands. It looks to us oppressive in our warm climate and as a form of inequality verging on slavery. We shudder to think that adherence to 7th century tribal culture of no importance to God would one day become the socially enforced norm in Australia as has happened in Egypt between the 1950s and today.

    Given the choice between the evil of oppressing religion and the evil of oppression by religion, I reluctantly support the former.

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  2. muslimah

    what happened to all the author-bashers frm pt. 1 of this post? seems like they have nothing to complain about when France is being criticized as opposed to the Taliban – complete double standard.

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      • chemaatah

        all i hear is crickets. i’ll be the first to rail against the hypocrisy and outright bigotry perpetrated by the french, but a little perspective is badly needed.

        last i checked, the niqab ban involves receiving a petty fine. a far cry from thugs roaming the streets with weapons at the ready to dispense violence towards anyone for any arbitrary infraction, ala afghanistan in the 90s. there’s certainly been no reports of french muslims receiving death threats on a constant basis, though various human rights groups report persistent streams of women coming forward with threats against themselves and their families for teaching school or sending their kids to school or working so their family does not starve to death because the men in their family are all dead or disabled. these are human rights groups adamantly opposed to violence, and adamantly opposed to the us occupation of afghanistan. they’re not reporting these incidents as part of some conspiracy to justify any war, anywhere.

        some french bigots whining in the national assembly about muslims doing muslim-ey things like fasting during ramadan or exerting their preference for same gender drs is a far cry from having one of the most wretched maternal mortality rates on the face of the planet, ala afghanistan. last i checked, there’s been no reporting of muslim women in france dying on the roadside trying to seek medical aid in delivering a baby, or muslim women in france left to die in a ditch because the only dr around was male, and even though it were a matter of life or death, and even if she wanted the assistance of that dr, the law of the land prohibits it.

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  3. Maclean Scott

    you have written a very nice summary about Hijab and Muslim Women’s Rights…your blog contains an effective information about rights of Muslim women….

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  4. Nadim

    I disagree with the comparison of Afghanistan vs France. In Afghanistan, there is a long tradition of wearing burka and the Talibans have just enforce it to every women. In France, you have to put things in perspective. The issue is not women but Islam itself, which is seen as a threat to Western way of life. When you want to attack a religion practiced by 10% of the population, you have to find the weakest point because you don’t want all of the Muslims to feel being oppressed. This is not a guess from my part. I listened to most of the National Assembly sessions lead by the groups who proposed the laws against the hijaab at school and the new law against the Niqaab. You will hear people talking about the difficulties of dealing with kids who fast during Ramadan, kids who don’t want to eat pork or non-zabiha meat at their cafeteria , woman who want to see a female doctor at the hospital, men who don’t want to shake hands with the opposite gender, etc.

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    • F

      I agree with you. The attack is on Islam not the niqab. The niqab was chosen because it is a decisive point even amongst the Muslims and an easy target.

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      • Swarthmoor

        Isn’t it OBVIOUS that this is an assault on Islam? The fact is that the (observant) Muslims have different values from those promoted by the corporate consumer culture secularists. Muslims start from a totally different set of assumptions about the raison d’etre from the secularist. We see the purpose of being as to worship God–for these secularists, they talk about so-called “human rights” (that they gave themselves)–but don’t want to recognize the rights of the One Who created the humans.

        Also, regarding the gender thing, if the secularists are so interested in alleged gender “equality,” why don’t they start with their sports teams–and their prisons? Why are these institutions SEGREGATED on the basis of gender, when all (i.e., both) genders are supposed to be treated equally (according to the secularists)? One could say the same about parental visitation rights, as well. They are hypocrites, who arbitrarily assign themselves “rights” that they don’t have in reality, and then they attack Muslims for not accepting those arbitrary “rights.”

        Lastly, it should be noted that the globalists see Islam as the last obstacle to their Dajjalian system. They are trying to break up the family (which they pretty much have done in the West), by forcing women in the workplace, so that the children can be propagandized in day care and in those institutions they pretend are “schools.” This has NOTHING to do with protecting the “rights of women” (if they were concerned about that, they wouldn’t have strip clubs in every city and an internet awash with pornography), but it is an effort to try to attack a weak link in the chain of Islam. The formula is simple: divide the Muslim women against the Muslim men, and then the Muslim women will turn to the non-Muslims for protection (and a job). This thing is so formulaic, no Muslim should fall for it.

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      • Mantiki

        “The formula is simple: divide the Muslim women against the Muslim men, and then the Muslim women will turn to the non-Muslims for protection ”

        Niqabs, veils and burquas do this quite effectively. The thousands of women murdered and maimed by religious zealots in the name of family “honour” deserve the protection of society. The veil is a first step in ensuring shame in the female form. Closely aligned is that her family controld her sexuality under the guise of “honouring God”, How easy it becomes then to punish women in the name of Allah for spurious offences of no importance or relevance to our Creator.

        “for these secularists, they talk about so-called “human rights” (that they gave themselves)–but don’t want to recognize the rights of the One Who created the humans.”

        What a disturbing comment! It seems to deny that as humans, we can give ourselves rights in society. No one denys that there should also be responsibilities but to invent or imagine that God is somehow offended or harmed by our human rights is a fantasy dreamed up by religious bigots who wish to control society.

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      • Omar

        Actually, I have yet to see, or hear of, a Muslim women in the West who wears a niqab or veil against her will. Almost all of them do so of their own accord. Just go up to the next one you see and ask why she wears a veil, I can guarantee she will not mention her father or any male. This is simply a fantasy.

        As for the other point, that God is not offended by our behaviour or sexuality, that is only in a secularist worldview. How is it that the creator who gave you everything you have, your faculties, sense and thoughts, does not care how you use them? Do you think we were created with no purpose, to play around with no law to govern our existence?

        Modesty is a fundamentally human characteristic. It is the animals that have no shame.

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  5. Swarthmoor

    Mantiki,

    You do not know what is considered grave offense against the Creator and what is not. You have no idea what will be to your soul’s benefit or detriment after they dump your corpse into that pit in the ground. The secular law, to put it in the vernacular, “doesn’t even go there.” Now, modesty and family life are essential to the well-being of the society. If you doubt me, then you are welcome to go drive– with the windows down–through your typical black American ghetto on a hot Friday night in the summertime and see the consequences of the lack of modesty and the disintegration of the family.

    Regarding your claim of “shame for the female form,” you are just mindlessly regurgitating tripe from Feminism 101 over at the Frankfurt School indoctrination center. For one, women tend to be vain–and men tend to look at women lustfully. So in Islam, men are commanded to lower their gaze and women are commanded to cover themselves. This contributes to the moral well-being of both males and females. In the West the female form is ruthlessly exploited, and women are degraded to the level of objects only meant for men’s ocular and physical satisfaction. So in the West, perhaps, the women don’t feel ashamed of their bodies (although, i am being generous in that concession… i won’t go into the issue of all the kinds of plastic surgery these women have because they are ashamed of their forms)–but they are encouraged to be SHAMELESS. Again, another vice not healthy for the well-being of the society.

    Now do some men violate the Sacred Law regarding how they treat women? Yes. Do these men implement capital and corporal punishments when there is none due? Yes, and that is indefensible. But then, why don’t the women simply stop the men from abusing them? Why don’t the women beat the men up when the men violate Sacred Law? When the men step out of line, why don’t the women just give the men thrashings? Give that some thought, and then you’ll see why your enthymeme about “equality” crumbles.

    Lastly, let’s say: “To imagine that people have the right to invent laws that disregard the Divine Commands of the Creator is a fantasy dreamed up by secular zealots who wish to control the society.” The war against religion–and Islam, in particular–by your cultural Marxists and the usurious overlords is to eradicate all possible worldviews that run contrary promoters of global corporate consumer culture. These secular-consumerists/cultural Marxists usually try to undermine the morality of the society. These people try to pass off the acceptance of deviant and aberrant behaviors under the guise of tolerance… but these secular-consumerists aren’t “tolerant.” They won’t accept any way of life that doesn’t cherish their usurious system of consumerism–and we can see that in the propaganda campaigns these secular-consumerists are waging to attack the last system on earth, namely Islam, that questions the core assumptions of their fanaticism and zealotry.

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  6. Hazara

    What I want to know is, how come so many people support the Taliban while living amongst the ‘kuffar’? You people really honestly believe that the West will somehow warm up to the Taliban while endorsing ethnic cleansing against people who did not want to live under Taliban’s brand of Islam?

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    • Swarthmoor

      Hazra,

      Do you have any stats on the percentage of Muslims in the West who support the Taliban? I am also curious about what percentage of Muslims would support the Taliban being engaged in ethnic cleansing.

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  7. Mantiki

    Omar and Swarthmoor

    I agree that in the West, that secularism has gone too far. In denying the existance of God and the possibility of relationship with God, relativism has left society without a rudder and left individuals with an incorrect sense that life is meaningless. Secularists see no evidence for God, and so make up their own rules based on rationalism and evidence.

    Where I disagree with Islam and fundamentalist Christianity is this obsession with sex. For all your respect for a tribal religion, we see that the result of repressing God given urges to socialise and mix as equals with the opposite sex, leads Muslims into a miserable cycle of pornography usage on a par or exceeding the West, but accompanied by guilt. It is well known that wealthy travellers from Islamic countries are foremost amongst brothel and escort clients in the West and I have a belief that many terrorists are driven emotionally to their destruction because of sexual frustration.

    What is needed is not false “holiness” but “wholeness”. Recognise that we are spiritual beings incarnated in flesh and blood with biological needs and natural responses. Finally, to lay down laws and rules based on what you think God wants is an insult to God and Man. Our purpose here is to love each other and to love God. Nothing less and nothing more.

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  8. Mantiki

    Also re “go drive– with the windows down–through your typical black American ghetto on a hot Friday night in the summertime and see the consequences of the lack of modesty and the disintegration of the family.”

    I assume the point you are making is perhaps the dysfunctional Afro-American families, crime and drug use as well as unplanned illegitimate children. These things are in no way the result of immodesty. Rather they are a result of a number of harmful historical social influences. Off the top of my head and in no particular order they would be:
    . The past lack of educational and employment opportunities which resulted in generational unemployability which in turn fuels a survival lifestyle based on gangs and crime.
    . Financial disadvantage resulting in marital breakdown and the lack of responsible male authority and example in the household.
    . A victim mentality which is blind to the positive ways of escape from the above lifestyle.
    . The lack of moral values – especially the secular / spiritual value of the “Golden Rule” – treat others as you would like to be treated.

    Immodesty on its own has nothing to do with anti-social human problems. Unwanted pregnancies are preventable through proper sex education and life classes teaching mutual respect, along with appropriate protection against pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease. The ancestors of Afro Americans lived in a semi-naked state with no religious indoctrinated shame. They managed to create strong family and tribal bonds without dressing their women in stifling black tents and treating them as objects of temptation.

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  9. Swarthmoor

    Mantiki,

    More secular drivel. Islam is not a tribal religion–it is the religion God has commanded for all of humanity. The problem in the Muslim world today is a general lack of learning traditional knowledge–and the implementation thereof. In other words, the Muslim Ummah lacks God-fearingness. Also, many of the Muslims are suffering from deep identity crisis and infatuation with the West. Regarding the sex thing, the global secularists want to abolish marriage and family life–they want to fill the society up with filth and fornication; hence, people who are most in need in marriage, that is, young Muslims, find it difficult b/c of the nature of the global economic situation. That’s not an excuse not to get married, but it is a contributing factor.

    Observant Muslims follow what God revealed–hence, they are not doing what they think God has ordered. They are doing what they know God has ordered. There’s a big difference between the former and the latter.

    Regarding your assessment of black ghetto kaafir culture, like i said, i suggest you drive thru the slum on a hot summer Friday night–not read about slum-life in some cultural marxist sociology book. Or even easier: just look at the content of the typical rap video. You say: “Immodesty on its own has nothing to do with anti-social human problems.” But… uh… Tiki… the prisons are FILLED UP with adult bastards. Those bastards are the result of people who lack modesty and shame and glorify fornication. Aside from their disbelief, their sexual immorality is the ROOT of their problems. Regarding the other stuff about the African pagans, you’re talking about folks who could have dozens of wives, performed total clitorectomies, worshiped statues and demons… and were eating each other. Certainly, those folks were not paragons.

    The problem for you here, Mantiki, is that you operate from a series of false assumptions (which you have largely adopted from the engineers of the mass media/diseducational institutions) about the nature of human existence . You have no “proof” for your assertions (other than they tend to make you feel good). On the other hand, Muslims–observant Muslims, that is–strive to implement what God has commanded, regardless of what the producers of MTV and “Desperate Housewives” or the Rockefeller Foundation promote.

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    • Mantiki

      ROFL!! There is so much rubbish in your assertions Swarthmoor that there is no point in replying to you. You are totally brainwashed by your infatuation with returning to a mythical past. Go out into the real world and learn about life from observation and critical analysis.

      There is NO proof that God has revealed himself through your prophet – only what has has been coerced into Islam’s followers by fear of ostracisation, fear of a mythical hell or fear of death or injury at the hand of fanatics.

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      • Swarthmoor

        Uh Mantiki… I am a convert to Islam. I attended (and completed) the typical liberal arts college/Frankfurt School programming. I KNOW what they teach in those centers. I was critical of what i was propagandized with, and i embraced Islam, in part, because it was obvious to me something insidious was taking place (and, of course, i ultimately embraced Islam as a result of the proofs for its doctrines). No one compelled me to embrace Islam, and i am not following Islam because my parents allegedly brainwashed me. And i definitely ain’t the kind of person who is going to be concerned about what others think about me.

        Regarding proofs for Prophethood, well for one, we can start with the intellectually invincible belief the Prophet Muhammad taught regarding God. Furthermore, there are the hundreds of miracles that the Prophet performed that confirm his Prophethood. This is why Muslims believe in what the Prophet taught, not only regarding the Oneness and Perfection of God, but also the matters of Sacred Law and eschatology.

        Concerning a mythical past, well, i know the Ummah is not going back to its Golden Age. To the contrary, things are going to get progressively worse–as the Prophet told us, and as we today witness the prophecies he foretold 1,400 years ago. Muslims will face greater levels of persecution and it will be harder to hold on to following the ways of the Prophet (as we can see). Enough about that for now, however.

        The problem, Tiki, is that you are the one operating from a bunch of unchallenged premises that lead you down a path of faulty “reasoning.” You are clueless as to what acts in this life will lead to your well-being in the hereafter. As a result, you don’t have a sound standard by which to evaluate right and wrong. Instead, your values are molded by those who control the popular media and the diseducational centers. Hypocritically enough, you don’t pause for a moment and question: who is behind these ministries of propaganda and what is their agenda? When you are willing to make a critical analysis of your brainwashing and indoctrination, holla back at me, and we can talk some more about the virtues of female modesty.

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      • Mantiki

        “The problem, Tiki, is that you are the one operating from a bunch of unchallenged premises that lead you down a path of faulty “reasoning.”

        Swarthmoor – you’ve encapsulated what Islam is. No one is permitted to challenge your articles of faith because then you are no longer surrendering (your reasoning) to (what you think is) Allah.

        “Muslims will face greater levels of persecution”. What – is the basis for this statement? Cartoons about the Prophet? Christians and Jesus are lampooned and persecuted daily in the West, while it is far easiier to build a Mosque in Western democracies than to build a Church in Muslim countries.

        “You are clueless as to what acts in this life will lead to your well-being in the hereafter.” Actually there are estimated to be around 700 near death experiences DAILY in the USA alone. The vast majority of these people experience meeting a higher power who oversees a judgement and then directs the person to return to fulfil their life tasks. While hellish realms are occasionally reported, they seem to be easily escaped from if the person calls to God for help. The vast majority by far of people returning from near death, become more spiritual yet less religious – ususually abandoning the fundamentalist aspects of Christianity or Islam to focus on living an altuistic life. You should check out the many NDE websites and broaden your knowledge. I’ve known many friends and family members who had similar experiences before dying and they lost their fear. I also had a similar spiritual encounter with God.

        The difference between you and me Swarthmoor is that you fear God while I fear His absence.

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  10. Yamin

    As another Australian who supports tolerance and peaceful co-existence I see the French law as a much-needed step in the right direction. Religion has been given the chance over the last 20 or so centuries and has failed miserably to live up to its (plagiarised) moral standards.

    Muslims have had the chance and blown it!

    Believe in any sort of mumbo-jumbo you like but you have no right to force it, or even make it known to anybody else, especially those who have decided it is rubbish.

    Muslims in particular, out of all the religions I know, are continually talking about violence. Even your moderate leadership are obsessed with it.

    More power to the legislators such as those in France.

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    • Mantiki

      Omar you say, “Actually, I have yet to see, or hear of, a Muslim women in the West who wears a niqab or veil against her will. Almost all of them do so of their own accord.”

      I am aware that many choose to wear the veil in the West. But how can this choice be free if being a Muslim requires an unquestioning belief that Allah wants women to be modest. This is not freedom but coercion out of fear of damnation. I’m acutely aware that not a single Muslim contributor here dares to question the Quran in this regard – despite the implied invitation in the title to this article. Even the Bible story of the Garden of Eden indicates that modesty is of human origin. Originally naked, Adam and Eve flee from God’s sight after their eating the fruit of knowledge of good and evil. God berates them by asking, “Who told you that you were naked?”

      Will any Muslim here say openly that a Muslim woman should not HAVE to wear a veil of some description?

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      • Swarthmoor

        Mantiki,

        Your request is an oxymoron. If a person claims that the “veil” (hijaab) isn’t mandatory, then the person would not be a Muslim; likewise, if a person doubts about the truthfulness of the Qur’an, the person is not a Muslim. Islam means believing an submitting to all that which the Prophet conveyed from the Creator (even if the person fails to implement all the obligations, he or she must assent to the legitimacy and authority of the Revelation–that is simply what it means to be a Muslim).

        The hypocrisy of you guys is astounding. In Islam, men are not allowed to wear gold or silk. I never hear the secularists getting upset about this prohibition for Muslim men. If you guys believed in “equality” (which we know you don’t–for if you did, you wouldn’t have segregated athletic teams and prisons), then there would be similar outcries for Muslim men to have the (alleged) right to wear silk (or henna or gold). Again, Tiki, you are confused because you have no consistent standard by which to evaluate matters, and that is why you are so “loved” by your programmers and owners–for you are so easy to trick and manipulate.

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      • Mantiki

        There is no hypocracy in my position Swarthmoor. I didn’t realise there were even more silly rules about clothing from the Prophet. Is our Lord God or a fashion policeman? If men want to splash a little henna around, wear silk ties and gold rings etc this is not a matter for religion. I guess its only a minor annoyance though in comparison to being coerced into wearing a black tent in 50degree heat as in Saudi Arabia.

        As to segregation of dressing rooms and sleeping accomodation in prisons, athletics and the like, and oin broader society lets face it, these are merely social conventions designed either to make people feel comfortable or safe. If society changes, the rules can change. But that is a far different thing from imagining that God decrees these things and frowns upon us if we disregard it.

        No one is entirely free of course and we are all influenced by our culture. The difference is that in the West, we recognise this whilst Islamists falsely claim (through their own programming) that God decrees things.

        If Allah really thought such things were important, He would make Himself more obvious by appearing as a massive pillar of fire or some such rather than speaking through the hairy faces of Mullahs whose education is limited to a 1,300 year old tribal rulebook.

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      • greentea

        A Muslim woman should not have to wear a veil of some description in front of her husband or mahram.

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      • Mantiki

        How generous of you greentea. My challenge was to have a Muslim say a woman should not be required to wear a veil in front of anyone. Instead you simply reaffirm the cultural requirement masquerading as God’s rule.

        How sad for all Muslim women that they should fear to be free.

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      • Swarthmoor

        Uh, Tiki, listen: a woman–or a man–who denies the requirement of the hijaab isn’t a Muslim. Period. Stop trying to elicit kufr from Muslims. People are not “free” anywhere. You are not “free” to break the law. The difference between the Muslim and the confused person, such as yourself, is that the Muslims follow the Laws of God. Whereas, you follow the laws/values of your mass media/diseducational institution programmers and owners.

        You operate from the assumption that since the values of Islam are not in line with what happens today to be acceptable (or engineered to be acceptable) in the minds of the dumb-downed masses, then it is not right. But, Tiki, you have NO PROOF WHATSOEVER that your frame of reference is valid (and the numerous contradictory claims you’ve made indicate that it can’t be). You have NO IDEA what acts in this world will be to your benefit or detriment after you are thrown in the grave. And to add insult to injury, you have the audacity to claim that God does not have the right to order you with such-and-such… because your TV told you so.

        The fact is that Prophet Muhammad received Revelation from the Lord of the Heavens and Earth. He called humanity to the intellectually invincible belief in the One, Perfect, Incomparable Creator of the universe. He proved his prophethood by the hundreds of miracles that he performed. His opponents could not match or outstrip his miracles, such as, the water springing from between his fingers, his healing of the blind, his miracles of bounty, his prophecies, and on and on. As a result, Muslims accept all that which he conveyed from the Creator. The Sacred Law the Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) came with is complete. Those Laws are for the benefit of the person in this temporary mundane plane of existence and the Hereafter. Tiki, peep this: the reality of events after death don’t change because people have I-Phones, and the Sacred Laws don’t change because some filthy satanic-sodomite Hollywood moguls claim that they aren’t “cool.”

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    • Swarthmoor

      Yamin,

      Help us understand: who is more violent–the secularists or the observant Muslims? How much money do the secularized Western states spend on their military, and how much do the Muslim majority states spend? Help us understand, how many (of their own) people did the secular communists kill in Cambodia, China, Russia? When the secular states had their big throw down in Europe 60 years ago, how many people did they kill? When the secular American regime incinerated Nagasaki and Hiroshima, how many people did they kill in the matter of a few minutes? While you’re at it, why don’t you tell us what happened to the native folks next door in Tasmania? It’s odd you should talk about religious violence, when the 20th century was filled with destruction and bloodshed in the name of fanciful secular ideologies, such as, fascism, democracy, and communism.

      It’s easy to claim to believe in “coexistence” when you have the power to define the terms of such a “coexistence.” That is why you are willing to coerce people to follow your laws. That’s not freedom, that would be seen by many as tyranny… but then you guys have never been disturbed by your hypocrisy.

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      • Mantiki

        “Help us understand: who is more violent–the secularists or the observant Muslims?”

        How many hundred thousand were killed in the war between Iran and Iraq?

        All wars and violence is inexcusable, but at least secularists don’t falsely claim that God is on their side.

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      • Rifaie

        “but at least secularists don’t falsely claim that God is on their side.”

        The secularists ideology can be their own God – they dont think they need to be on his side(if they even believed in him).

        “How many hundred thousand were killed in the war between Iran and Iraq?”

        A war that was egged on by the west if memory serves. So they(the west) arent off the hook on this one either unfortunately.

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      • Swarthmoor

        Tiki,

        Saddam’s regime was SECULAR BAATHIST–a hybrid ideology of Arab nationalism and Western (communist/socialist ideology). He was encouraged (and supported) by the secular West (US)… well, the US did also sell weapons to Iran as we we know from the Iran-Contra drug dealing scandal. And while we are talking about Iran, feel free to tell us about the torture and terror committed by the American backed secular Shah of Iran. Now that that is out of the way, give us a body count on the deaths committed in the name of secular ideologies and those committed in the name of Islam during the 20th century.

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      • Mantiki

        Swarthmoor even though I have been polite with you, the moderator of this site insists on censoring my posts where I question basic Islamic ideology. Apparantly Muslims fear to engage in jihad of the spirit. (Mantiki, if your version of being “polite” includes mocking Islamic tenets, your comments will be deleted. Spirited debate is fine, mocking is not.)

        Contrary to what you think about me, and although I have personal experience of Gods love and existance, I also know that leading a spiritual life is not all bliss and roses. So returning to topic, when I walk down the street I like to observe people and often our eyes meets. Usually if another man notices me, he quickly looks away, sadly because he fears either violence or is homophobic and mistakes my interest as sexual. Women on the other hand will often meet my gaze and usually smile in return. This is a simple joy that acknowledges the other person as either attractive in body or in spirit. Now sometimes it might happen that the woman or girl is embarrassed and might check to see that she is not showing too much of herself. In these cases, I will in fact “lower my gaze”.

        Now my point is that I don’t need a rule book to instruct me in this way. It is simple courtesy. Perhaps in in the time and culture of your Prophet, tribal society was so violent and people lacked self control such that he needed to make rules about dress and behaviour that protected women from uneducated, violent and selfish men. Those days are past in most places. But within ourselves we do need to struggle for balance between our urges, our selfishness, our spiritual needs and our obligations to the greater spirit.

        If you require all people to follow the same petty rules, you dishonour those who are spiritually mature enough to engage in the struggle with honour. But more importantly you limit God by asserting that He is concerned with petty details of social behaviour rather than how we treat each other as people. You also limit God by claiming that His ability is limited only to communicating with a handful of prophets over many centuries. My perception and logic tells me that the one God is capable of communicating with all people across the Ages.

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      • Mantiki

        Thank you for your direction Moderator. I always respect where people of all faiths engage with their struggle to find God. While I believe the Prophet may have had many meetings of the spirit with Allah, and while I respect his brilliance as a leader struggling to lead his people to both God and to nationhood, I cannot accept that any book including the Qu’ran represents the unchanging and final word on God. Sometimes therefore I may cross the line and cause offence in pointing out something that does not seem to represent what I believe to be the will of God who is wise, loving and just. My purpose is not to mock but rather to stimulate a thoughtful response.

        In reply to Swarthmoor’s comment above – I know this is off topic of the veil discussion but for the record I think that America has acted selfishly and heartlessly in dealing with Iran, Iraq and Vietnam. Most importantly they were just plain wrong! What a different world it would be if the USA had never inserted the Shah into Iran and instead let democracy run its course there, if they had not originally supported Sadam and funded the Taliban and if those planes had never flown into the twin towers.

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      • Yamin

        Swarthmoor,

        That’s right, I set the rules for coexistence and I set the rules for military expenditure and all the rest of what you raved on about. I didn’t think getting you to submit would be so easy. Just shows weakness of will and commitment. You’ve given up everything. So easy, and that wasn’t my goal and still isn’t.

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      • Swarthmoor

        No Yamin, YOU don’t define the terms, but the people you identify with ideologically define the terms. I was using the second person in the general sense and not to you specifically. BTW, i am still waiting for that 20th century body count.

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      • Mantiki

        Swarthmoor

        Did you see this article at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-11997936

        During the Prophet’s time, the nature of society was such that women were quite vulnerable to attack when the men were away on their journeys. In such a society, it is easy to see that women are best advised to remain indoors and hidden, and be kept as secure as possible by their clothing. It seems from the BBC article that this still is sensible advice in Somalia and probably is in parts of Afghanistan as well.

        But that does not mean that it should apply universally. The level of modesty necessary is relevant to cultural and historical necessity, not by theocratic declaration.

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