CNN: Hebah Ahmed, MuslimMatters Blogger, Debates Mona Eltahawy over French Niqab (Burka) Ban Amad S April 12, 2011 458 Comments Please note that the following are my (Amad's) views on the debate and don't reflect MM or Hebah's views. MuslimMatters blogger, Hebah Ahmed, went head to head with prominent commentator Mona Eltahawy on the issue of the face-veil (niqab) ban in France on CNN. Even while getting far less speaking time, Hebah pretty much pwned (excuse the lingo) Mona. Hebah's confident and composed appearance surely won the day against a somewhat shrill Mona. This happens when you argue reason (Hebah) against pure emotion (Mona). There are many lessons that all Muslims, regardless of view on niqab, can learn from Hebah's TV appearance: composure, succinctness, drawing out themes and buzz-words that average audience will latch onto, etc. Also, you can't discount the importance of sounding more American than the other (yes that includes accent)! It was refreshing to watch a Muslim woman making her own case for what she believes (or not), instead of some talking-head. Well done Hebah, we are all proud of you! Dear readers, pls do take a moment to leave a kind word if you agree with us on Hebah's performance (regardless of your stance on her argument). TRANSCRIPT SPITZER: Debates over integrating devout Muslims into society are not unique to the United States. Effective today it is illegal to wear a burqa in France or a niqab like this. A Muslim veil that reveals only the eyes. The new law drew protest and confusion on the streets of Paris. Two women stepping out in their niqabs and drawing the crowd were arrested for staging an unauthorized protest. The French government has called the veils, and I quote, “a new form of enslavement,” and, quote, “not acceptable on its soil.” Many Muslims are enraged but not all. I am joined by Hebah Ahmed, a writer for the blog, Muslim Matters, who's against the ban. She's in Albuquerque. And Mona Eltahawy, a columnist on Arab and Muslim issues who wants to see the ban extended everywhere. She's joining me from Washington. Welcome to you both. HEBAH AHMED, BLOGGER, MUSLIMMATTERS.ORG: Thank you. SPITZER: Let me begin by — if I might, by quoting the President Sarkozy of France in his justification for the law. It's kind of a remarkable statement. He says, and I quote — this is the president of France. “The burqa is not a religious symbol. It's a sign of enslavement of debaseness. I want to say this solemnly. The burqa will not be welcomed on the territory of the French republic. We cannot accept in our country women imprisoned behind a mask, deprived of all social life of their identity.” So, Mona, let me start with you. You want to extend this ban across the world. Do you agree with President Sarkozy that merely because somebody wants to dress like this, they choose to dress like this, they shouldn't be permitted to do so? MONA ELTAHAWY, COLUMNIST ON MUSLIM ISSUES: You know, Eliot, I detest Nicolas Sarkozy. I consider him right wing and racist but I also detest the niqab and I detest the face veil. And I say this as a Muslim woman. I think that it represents an ideology that does not believe in Muslim women's rights to do anything but choose to cover her face. And I find that — I believe that the niqab dangerously equates piety with the disappearance of women and so I support banning it everywhere because I don't — it's not in the Qur'an, it's not an obligation for a Muslim woman to cover her face, and my talk with you now with you seeing my face is going to be very different than if I were sitting here with my face covered. I believe that the human face is central to communication. SPITZER: OK, Mona, the only thing I would observe and I want to give Hebah a chance to jump in of course but I heard you used single personal pronoun I many times. I have no doubt you believe that, but why should your belief ban other people from wearing what they want to wear. That's what I don't get. Hebah, explain to me why you think the ban is a bad idea. AHMED: I think that it's a bad idea because I think it's yet another example of men telling women how to dress, how to live their life. It's another way to try to control women. And to take it to a government level and to try to legislate the way that a woman dresses is not just wrong and against human rights, but it really violates the whole basis that the democracy in democratic countries are based. This is a free choice. This is something that I choose to wear. I disagree that it's some right-wing ideology. It is something that is permitted in Islam. I have a masters degree in mechanical engineering and I'm free to do whatever I want, and this is choice that want to make. And just because somebody doesn't accept my interpretation of Islam or personally like it doesn't mean that we can use laws to violate people's freedom of expression and freedom of religion. SPITZER: Hebah, let me just ask you this. When you go to the airport, you understand they're going to be obligations, they're going to have to check you for security like they check all the rest. When you get a driver's license, they take a picture with or without your veil on? AHMED: Absolutely. I want everyone to know that as a Muslim woman, as a Muslim in America, I am just as concerned about safety and security as everybody else. And I have no problem whatsoever accommodating any security issues that come about. When I enter a bank, when I go to the airport, when I go to the DMV, I show my face and actually in Islam we are required to show our identity when we're in a court system giving testimony. This is absolutely something that is essential for the security and identification of people, but it doesn't mean that I should be banned completely from what I choose to do. SPITZER: OK, Mona, let me jump in here. There are lots of type of dress that I look at and I don't like them. I think they're degrading. I think they're oppressive. You know, a lots of things that I see teenagers wearing that, you know, I'm now viewed as old- fashioned by my kids perhaps. I don't go around saying we should pass a law banning it. Isn't that fundamentally violative (ph) of the First Amendment? What possible reason can there be legally to say to somebody you can't dress the way you want to dress. MONA ELTAHAWY, COLUMNIST ON MUSLIM ISSUES: Actually, Eliot, the government does tell people how they can and can't dress all the time. You cannot walk outside naked. There are many states here in the U.S. where three or more people cannot be together in public wearing a face mask. So the government actually does legislate over our wardrobe, but everybody conveniently forgets that. I would like to ask Hebah, you know, once I'm done talking, if she works. Because we've been on media shows together where we've been on opposite ends of this argument and I know from what she said before that once she started covering her face, she stopped working. So my argument is — and this is not just about “I.” I understand the point that you were making earlier, Eliot. Feminist groups, many women's rights group have made the point that what the niqab goes in a society, especially for Muslim women is that it creates a spectrum where that is the pinnacle of piety and that is the good Muslim woman and so, of course, it has — it affects me. In France, where this ban is going in effect, Muslim women's rights group there support it because they find that Muslim women who live in the French housing projects have been put under tremendous pressure by the Muslim right wing to give into the niqab, and when they speak out they are told it's basically become these political pawns. SPITZER: But, Mona — ELTAHAWY: That's why I said I oppose Sarkozy but I oppose this on women because what choice do women have besides covering their face. This ideology doesn't recognize Muslim women's rights. SPITZER: Mona, I just have to push you on one thing here. There are certain prohibitions on the way people dress, or you mentioned nudity that don't dress that are in fact imposed upon us by law but none of them that I'm aware relates to a specific religion and says if you are a devout member of a religion you cannot dress in a way that you are obligated to to practice your religion, your choice of faith. Can you think of any example like that? Because I can think of a thousand other laws if this were upheld that suddenly we would limit all sorts of things that people do for their religious beliefs because we don't agree with it. Wouldn't that be a very dangerous thing to do? ELTAHAWY: See, this is I think where these right-wing interpretations of religion get a free pass because everybody says well, it's my religious obligation, it's my religious right do this. Let's look really at what we're talking about here. We're talking about the disappearance of women justified in the name of them becoming closer to God. So the closer you want to become to God, the more — the less of you, the more you disappear. SPITZER: But, Mona — AHMED: I don't feel that I have disappeared at all. SPITZER: One at a time. AHMED: I totally disagree. SPITZER: Guys, one at a time. Hebah, jump in. Tell us, does anybody forced you to do this? Is this something you're doing with your own free will? AHMED: Nobody has — nobody has forced me do this and I really have to disagree with the statistics that Mona is trying to put forth because studies have shown that there are only 2,000 women in France that wear the niqab. The majority of them are converts who converted to Islam and are voluntarily choosing to do it. This is my choice. Nobody can force me to take it off. I would not take it off even if you paid me to do it. And the fact of the matter is that there's never — I have never met a single Muslim woman in all of my travels around the world that is being forced to wear it. She — I understand Mona does not like it and does not want to wear it personally. But she keeps talking about her own feelings about it and she wants to use the law to support it. If she wants diversity and Islamic belief, then she has to accept my version just like she wants me to accept hers. SPITZER: Mona, let me ask you this question. Do you have any evidence to support your statement that women are forced to wear this? And let me ask you this. If women are being forced to do something they don't want to do, there is recourse other than banning this entire motive dress that has chosen as we just heard from Hebah by people who do choose to wear it of their own free will. ELTAHAWY: Well, you know, I lived in Saudi Arabia. I have a sense that she's traveled the world and she's never met a woman who has been forced to wear it. I lived in Saudi Arabia where millions of women are forced to cover their face. But now that the argument will be, well, that's in Saudi Arabia not in France. What choice does a woman have when she's told she will burn in hell if she doesn't cover every inch of her body? What kind of a choice is that? So, of course, she's going to convert to this ideology. AHMED: I've never heard that. I've never heard anybody say that. ELTAHAWY: But the women who convert to this ideology who are then told that this is how to be a good Muslim woman, to be close to God, to avoid hellfire, is there really a choice in that? And I believe when you have a law like this, you know, I told you I detest Sarkozy. I consider him racist, but I will not sacrifice Muslim women's rights in order to uphold the Muslim right wing which I believe is misogynist. With a law like that, a woman can tell her husband or any male relative who is forcing her to dress like this, the law says I don't have to dress like this. SPITZER: Mona — Mona, let's not deal with Saudi Arabia, different customs, different laws. We have the First Amendment. AHMED: Thank you. SPITZER: I was talking about France. I was talking about France. SPITZER: Mona, wait, hold on one second. In the United States, we have the First Amendment that gives people the right to practice religion as they wish. Do you not think that a law in the United States that would ban this form of dress would violate the First Amendment, permission to practice religion as each individual sees fit? ELTAHAWY: Well, this comes back to religion again. Everything is allowed, just because someone says it's their religious belief. You know, what I think — SPITZER: No, no, no, Mona — I'm going to jump in. Hold on one second. It's banned or permitted until there is some compelling state interest on the other side, but it's got to be an overwhelming interest. What is the overwhelming interest that would justify us in banning a type of dress that people choose as a result of their religion? ELTAHAWY: Well, all the reasons I just gave you but I will repeat. I believe that this is genuinely harmful to Muslim women because it creates this pinnacle of piety in which a Muslim woman is told, this is the closest that you can get to God and she's disappeared. I'm no longer here. You don't even know who I am. The face is central to communication. SPITZER: Right. ELTAHAWY: And not just that, it objectifies women. SPITZER: Mona, Mona. ELTAHAWY: The pinnacle of objectification. SPITZER: Look, I agree with much of what you're saying but not as the matter of law. You know, you get the last word. You haven't gotten a fair time in this one. Give it the best 15 seconds you've got. AHMED: Thank you. Basically, I want people to know that when I choose to cover this way it's because I am fighting against a systematic oppression against women in which women's bodies are being sexualized and objectified. This is a different perspective and a different form of empowerment in which I think when I'm in public, my sexuality is in my control and people have to deal with my brain and who I really am and not judge me by my body. And if we want to really talk about the oppressive situation of women, let's talk about all the eating disorders, all of the plastic surgery, all of the unhealthy diets that are being done, all in the name of having the perfect body. To me, this is liberating and this is empowering. Mona keeps saying I believe, I believe, I believe, well, we don't make laws based on what Mona believes or what anybody believes. SPITZER: All right. Guys, well — AHMED: It's based on whether or not — SPITZER: This is clearly not an issue we're going to resolve in the will resolve in the next 10 seconds. I want to thank you both. Hebah Ahmed and Mona Eltahawy, clearly a passionate and important debate. AHMED: Thank you. 458 Responses Amatullah April 12, 2011 Great job Hebah, mashaAllah! Reply Noura menem April 13, 2011 Hebah Ahmed said no one forced her to wear the hejab, but the way she was rised like thousands of Muslim girls scare the hell of any one dares not to wear, so it looks lioke a choice but it is the fear that grew up due to teachings Reply Umm Reem April 13, 2011 Most girls, at least in the West, wear hijab voluntarily and many times against their families expectations… It is not the fear that is the driving force of such a major decision rather the confidence in the faith and the realization of the “submission” to a Supreme Being… I didn’t have hellfire in mind when I started wearing hijab. I was 14, and I was 18 when I started wearing niqab. It was my love for our mothers and the female companions that initially made me wear niqab, I wanted to look like them. abu nabeeha April 14, 2011 Allahu Akbar! My day couldn’t have started better! I pray to Allah that he give us, like He gave you, the eloquence and strength in our communication skills to preserve the dignity of islam. Aameen. However, sister hebah, there might come time when you will under perform. Don’t let that cause even a single second disappointment. Be strong! We are always with you. May Allah always help you, guide you. Hebah Ahmed April 14, 2011 Jazak ALlahu Khair..that was actually something I worry about. Next time the interviewer may not be as friendly and the words may not come. Only Allah is in charge. Your words are very comforting! Ameen to all your duaa. Layla April 15, 2011 I agree.. when I started wearing hijab it was MY choice. And it was against my family’s wishes. But my love for the deen and fear of Allah is what made me choose to wear it. Alhamdulillah for everything Sagal April 13, 2011 Actually the niqabi sisters (i know) wear it because they want to get closer to Allah. They know that going that extra mile is to get extra rewards. Not because they fear hell. Once you wear hijab that covers upto one’s chest, only showing face and hands, that usually suffice the obligation of modesty in the Quran and the sunnah. I really do admire the ladies who wear the niqab, Such courageous sisters, MashaAllah. n May Allah make everything easy for them. It cant be easy. On a side note They are feisty sisters though. The once I know never back down from when thrown insults at them in the streets. That usually shut people up cos they never expect her to speak. Hebah Ahmed April 13, 2011 Why make assumptions you cannot prove? My parents were actually against me wearing the Niqab when I first put it on and we had many discussions before they supported me. I used to own a clothing store in which women would come in and try on the niqab but never buy because their husbands refused to let them wear it. What is oppressive is when others try to force their projections of my choices onto me rather than give me a voice. Let’s stop touting the buzz words and start getting to know each other. Haleema Braun April 13, 2011 It is not the Flesh that reaches Him nor the Blood but it is the Piety… Whether you wear a Niqab, or a hijab or nothing at all, Only God can individually Judge a person, and our individual spiritual development towards Him. Therefore this claim about the being subjected to the Hell fire for not wearing Niqab is absolutely Baseless… My mother wears Niqab and has her own store, my sister has a Masters Degree in Theology, the Niqab has never prevented them from doing what they want to do. And the reaction from Non-muslim aquaintances have been amazing. As for cultural oppressions, there are many forms of oppression against women in all cultures whether we are aware of them or not, the worst form being sexual abuse, go to world health organisation and you’ll find the highest number of rapes and molestation being committed in sexualised countries in the west.Suprise Suprise…. If you (France and Mona) really want to stop oppression on women…why aren’t you making Laws for other female minority groups…why target Islam for the past ten years..??? Stop oppressing us, give us our human rights instead of trying to degrade us and deprive us from Our privileges…. Hena Zuberi April 13, 2011 and banning it further pushes the women who do wear out of the public sphere- some may give it up because of the ban but many may resign to staying at home forfeiting education, healthcare- Some may leave France but others especially who are born and raised in France or are converts what will they do? And because it is a fine that only the rich can pay-what about the poor? so in turn only the privileged get to hang on to this expression of their faith while the poor niqabi women are left to either remove and lose the connection they feel with God when they wear it or chose walking down the street, entering shops, using public transport or attending doctors offices. I don’t wear the niqab but many in my family do and I know it would break their heart to be forced to make that choice. If someone forced me to take of my hijab, I couldn’t, I would feel naked and that is what niqabi sisters are feeling. May Allah have mercy on them and soften the hearts of the people in France. ivoryTower April 14, 2011 I keep on constantly hearing claims about the high level of rapes and molestations that happen in Western countries compared to Muslim countries. DUH!!! That’s because women are able to *REPORT* these instances in Western countries without fear of shame, reprisals, death threats or honor killings. The statistics show the # of instances that are reported, not the # of instances that actually *OCCUR*. So please Muslims, use some common sense!! mohamed April 13, 2011 if u r the actual hebah on CNN may allah reward you for defending Islam and increase your knowledge u r amazing. if u r another hibah may allah reward u. asslamu alaykum. Abdur Rahman April 14, 2011 Sister Heba, JazakAllahu Khairan for speaking up as a niqaabi. We have a lot of niqaabis that have the knowledge but are not out there in public ‘holding it down.’ If the sisters who wear niqaab don’t step up, then no one really will. I know they don’t care what brothers think about niqaab…after all, we are supposedly the ones who force you to wear it. lol let the haters hate. islam will always triumph. Muslimah June 2, 2011 MashaAllah, Hebah, when i grow up, i want to be like you inshaAllah Bismillahfille June 30, 2014 I live in Canada Quebec and I started wearing hijab after the Quebec value charter that wanted to ban the hijab in the public function for muslim women. You could say I wore it out of fear, of fear to lose a GOD-given right that the government wanted to take away from me. And I realised I love wearing it for my Lord and that it is really a gift from Allah to women. Husnain April 13, 2011 Sister Hebah, great job masha’Allah and may Allah reward you for the courage with which you defended your position. Jazak’Allah khair. Reply naila April 13, 2011 mashaAllah sis you were brilliant alhamdulillah Reply Dawood April 15, 2011 “This happens when you argue reason (Hebah) against pure emotion (Mona).” So a sister you disagree with is dismissed as being emotional? Sexist much? She laid out points how dare you dismiss her with ad hominems. Reply J April 15, 2011 Except that even people I know who previously liked Mona a lot, found her quite emotional and not as intellectual as she could have been. How is it is even sexist, when Hebah is also a woman? I personally even disagree with people who think like me yet go emotional. Had Hebah been emotional, I would have found her a lot less appealing, because while she is speaking my points, she’s not there to win *me* over, she’s here to explain her point to those who disagree with her. Amad April 16, 2011 pls learn the meanings of ad hominem and sexist, because neither’s application makes much sense here, sorry. Michele April 29, 2011 I think both sisters gave good answers and both are entitled to their opinions. Why is it that some Muslims are so intent of silencing progressive Muslims? What are they afraid of? I find it sad when women say they wear niqab because they “fear Allah”. What type of merciful God punishes someone for something so trivial? Allah never asked them to cover their faces. What about the fact that the Prophet (pbuh) himself warned is from taking the “extreme” path and advised moderation. It seems that Ms. ElTawhy is more in line with Islam in this respect. I find that many who wear niqabi’s walk around with a “holier than thou” attitude and constantly pass judgment on other sisters. There absolutely is pressure in the Muslim community in American to wear the hijab. In fact I know many arab/pakistani women who did not wear it before coming here and felt compelled to do so to be able to fit in the social circles within the Islamic community. I also find it odd that those who are constantly demanding their rights to wear a niqab/burqa are never heard defending the rights of those women who would like to have the choice of how to cover in Saudi, Iran or even our own Islamic schools that require young girls and teachers to cover their hair. You can’t have it both ways. The niqab/burqa IS a security issue, it’s also a safety issue. Wear it if you choose, Reply Fulan May 12, 2011 @ Michele: “I find it sad when women say they wear niqab because they â€œfear Allahâ€. What type of merciful God punishes someone for something so trivial? Allah never asked them to cover their faces” -Allah did say: “And tell the believing women to lower their gaze and guard their private parts and to not display their beauty/ornaments except what is apparent…” So, the face of a woman could very well be a display of her beauty. Scholars differ on the interpretation of the general topic but most agree that if she is young and very beautiful, that she should cover her face in front of men as that is definitely a display of beauty. -As for our relationship with Allah we should have a balance of hope/love and fear. Otherwise, we will get too comfortable with our sins thinking He forgives everything and thus, we are going to heaven. “There absolutely is pressure in the Muslim community in American to wear the hijab. In fact I know many arab/pakistani women who did not wear it before coming here and felt compelled to do so to be able to fit in the social circles within the Islamic community” -I don’t deny that, however, pressure exists everywhere. They still have a choice. And I’m sure the pressure, odd stares and racist comments are just as much, if not more, than their peer pressure… so, again, it’s a choice of which pressure to give in to. Which is sad because they would be doing either one for the wrong reasons. May Allah help us all. “I also find it odd that those who are constantly demanding their rights to wear a niqab/burqa are never heard defending the rights of those women who would like to have the choice of how to cover in Saudi, Iran or even our own Islamic schools that require young girls and teachers to cover their hair. You canâ€™t have it both ways.” -Allah commands us to enjoin / command good and forbid evil. Good and Evil are defined by Allah. So, if Allah tells women to conceal their beauty from the public (and reserve it for the special few) why should we speak out against Allah’s orders? That would be wrong indeed. -Islamic schools have a responsibility, among others, to provide an Islamic environment for the kids. They should indeed teach and train kids (and enforce rules) to comply with the commands of Allah. That is the whole point of an Islamic School… to teach Islam… and when the kids grow up, they can decide whether to comply or not. As Adults, they will be accountable for their actions. Byby April 2, 2012 Exactly the problem — the extremist would define zeenatuhun as “their beauty”, where the word is not ‘beauty’. Give me one example in any Arabic where the word “zeena” is means natural beauty! In poetry, in texts, in ANYTHING. Go ahead and try it in Arabic. “Ennaha mutaziyina” means she is wearing ornaments or has MADE herself beautiful. Try using that word by saying “she is beautiful”… “ennaha zeenah…”? Does NOT WORK. We know the Arabic language, we are not idiots. Zeenatuhun means what woman add to themselves to make themselves beautiful. The woman has a face FROM GOD, and she has HAIR from God. Now, she can wear makeup — that IS “zeenah”. She can wear jewelry — that IS “zeenah”. Hair? That is NATURAL.. nothing added. The same for the face! God commanded modesty and covering the body (chest!). People keep on trying to FORCE meanings where they see fit. Muslimah October 9, 2012 I guess no one here has read the OFFICIAL Saudi hajj guide which says this practise of Niqab and wearing gloves is bidat? Also you are twisting the meaning of the holy words of the Quran and taking them out of context. The sura about keeping adornments hidden is much misquoted. It is Allah elaborating on how women should cover their bosom – it DOEs not mean the face. Allah in the Quran warns us that in the end of days there shall be many false preachers and people practising extreme piety and sort of showing off their faith – I have no doubt those days are here. MR April 12, 2011 God is great. Reply Hebah Ahmed April 13, 2011 Allahu Akbar indeed! Allah truly answered my frantic duaa to give me the words and somehow they came. May Allah allow us all to accurately represent Islam and protect us from ever speaking falsehood. Ameen. Reply harris April 13, 2011 Very articulate and calculated comments sr.Heba, job well done. Angel April 13, 2011 Masha Allah sister Hebah, wonderful job, may Allah guide Mona Ahmed and all Moslem women to the right path.. Ali April 13, 2011 Mashallah sister, very well done, and though you weren’t given an equal amount of time, you definitely not only won that debate but as the article says u “pwned” Mona. Jazak Allah khair for representing a moderate side of Islam to the public. My favorite part was using a feminist argument against the “feminist”, saying that the ban is just another way of allowing a man to tell you how to dress. Brilliant. Abdus Sabur April 13, 2011 Your closing statement was brilliant. AlhamduLillah! very efficient use of 15 seconds. :) Jazakullahu khair for representing the ummah in a very positive way, Aisyah April 14, 2011 Hebah thank you you’re awesome masha Allah! Al-hamdulillah! Mohamed Safras April 18, 2011 May Allah Almighty strenthen my sister Hebah, and make her heart firm and flow her tongue with haq and piety. by Allah our Dua’s are with you my Sister, Michele April 29, 2011 Wow – sad when Muslims sink to this tactic of trying to “out-Muslim” another. You alone are the one with the “truth” and the ability to accurately represent Islam. If so this is a sad commentary on Muslims and the reason so many have such a negative view of Islam. Even my 4 year old son who has been raised around women in hijab all his life is scared of women in niqab, how do expect non-Muslims to feel. A piece of cloth doesn’t make you pious. Umm Ahmad Aminah June 24, 2011 As salaamu alayki Hebah! Alhamdulillah and I pray that Allahu ta’ala allows you to continue to stand firm upon that which is correct and grant you the highest part of jannah. Ameen. UhibuKI fillah. LAA HAWLA WA LAA QUWWATA ILLA BILLAH WA TAWFEEQU BILLAH!!!:)) ( I love you for the sake of allah. THERE IS NO MIGHT NOR POWER EXCEPT WITH ALLAH AND THE SUCCESS IS WITH ALLAH) Mohammed Lamine (DZ) January 9, 2013 I am proud of you Heba and if I would write an article on that debate I would say exactly what it is written above, because it’s very objective and that’s what I’ve noticed by my self even before I read the article, baraka ALLAH fiki touseef khan December 29, 2013 summa ameeen but u speak in front of all men ur debates r going on its nt gud R April 12, 2011 Good points and I especially loved that Heba was calm. Mashallah! Reply Yousuf April 12, 2011 Salamalikum Sister Heba. Alhamdulliah. You did an amazing job on CNN.. May we see more sister like you who speak for themselves. I can see mona Elthawy going crazy and abusing you on her twitter page.. But seriously it just show her character.I think she still cant believe that you owned her .. May Allah(swt) guide her & and all of us. & yes Allah(swt) in enough for us.. JazakAllah Khayr, Yousuf. Reply Hebah Ahmed April 13, 2011 Jazak Allahu Khair to you and ALL of the amazing MM readers! I am overwhelmed with the unbelievable support and positivity I am receiving from throughout the Muslim Ummah. Niqab is always a tricky topic but Masha Allah we are all coming together to protect our rights. PLEASE send your appreciation to CNN and encourage them to keep allowing Muslim voices to be heard. E-mail the producer, Ana Bickford, of the show “In the Arena”at: Ana.email@example.com Reply Amad April 13, 2011 Added to post. I join Hebah in encouraging everyone to say thanks to Ana for giving an opportunity for diverse voices on the program. Thanks. Faeza June 10, 2014 Assalamualaikum Warahmatallah, Sister Hebah. I just wanted to tell you that before I saw your debate, I was considering to wear a niqab when I enter high school Insha’Allah this year. Since we live in a small city, it isn’t very common for this type of thing. So my mother showed me your debate to help me and it was very inspiring. It opened my eyes on how to deal with the security and protection and all that while wearing a niqab. I was very impressed by how calmly and confidently you handled the debate and the eloquence of your words and quick wit. I hope that I will have those qualities and characteristics too Insha’Allah. Personally, I always think of the best answers too late when my classmates try to make fun of my burqa and hijab. My mother said that when you have the intention of doing something for the sake of Allah, then He will help you in every way and that was quite evident because the anchor appeared to be on your side; your respect and manners also had a very powerful effect. Kinda like how our Nabi’s (S) qualities had on the kuffaar and they would accept Islam just looking at his manners. I was very happy to see your debate, and when my family and I have a meeting regarding my wearing a niqab with the high school principal and counselor, I will Insha’Allah use the reasons you pointed out to support my cause and try to handle everything as respectfully, calmly, and with confidence as you did. Insha’Allah, Allah SWT will help me as he helped you. Jazakallah Khair :) Abdullah April 12, 2011 Masha-Allah Sister Hebah…amazing job! Reply Amad April 12, 2011 “You know I really don’t like Mona’s hairstyle… it makes her look unimportant, undignified. I think we should ask the government to ban that hairstyle.” No, I am not getting personal… making a point. It sound ludicrous, doesn’t it? Just change Mona to Hebah, and hairstyle to niqab, and you get the point. It doesn’t matter what you think Mona. When you go off the slippery slope of legislating opinions and feelings, then the majority may not want Muslims in France or even America one day… and their argument will mirror yours. I also saw this intense inferiority complex that Mona feels towards women who cover. The same case she makes for piety and niqab can be made for piety and hijab. Must all Muslim women come to her level of not following the clear consensus opinion on hijab (minus niqab) before she feels “comfortable”. Reply Omar April 12, 2011 In my experience, most of those who vehemently oppose the niqab (including members of my family) do so because of a visceral revulsion they have to it, mainly since they feel it is only used in oppressive contexts and represents a backward closed minded version of Islam. The way to overcome this revulsion is for niqabis with no accent to talk to people, and even have regular TV appearances or youtube channels. Excellent job sister Hebah. I think you should start a regular vlog on youtube focusing on women’s issues, targeted at mainstream America, not just Muslims. Reply Uzair April 12, 2011 I completely agree with brother Omar. And great job sister Hebah, if ever you do read this at all (which i doubt) – we’re proud of you! :) Hebah Ahmed April 13, 2011 We Alaikum Asalam, Of course I read these! Subhan Allah we all need this kind of encouragement and support to keep doing it day in and day out. How wonderful is the body of believers that we not only ache when a part is in pain but we also rejoice when Allah allows one of us to succeed! Jazak Allahu Khair again to you and everyone who has been so complimentary and especially for all the duaa! Please make duaa for Allah to put more baraka in my time so that I can do more. Hebah Abu Hamza April 13, 2011 Mashallah Sister what an inspiration , I feel so proud of the way you handled the whole situation especially the last part where you made it clear that this in fact has liberated you , inshallah many who watched this episode will reflect and understand better our religion . Jazakallah Khair for standing up for the muslims . Omar April 13, 2011 seriously sister pray istikhara and think about it. Put some time into nice concentrated thought-provoking vlogs, may be 5 mins long, about just general women’s issues … sexual harassment, parenting, women in the workplace, and of course Islamic issues. A weekly 5 min video – of high quality content – would do wonders in the long run. They will reach a larger audience than written articles on MuslimMatters that have an element of preaching to the choir. Especially since MashaAllah you are an excellent speaker, shattering the image of the timid oppressed Muslim woman. I once heard of a niqabi sister presenting a paper on women’s rights in a feminist conference! That must have gotten them thinking. Azhar April 13, 2011 If you are the Hebah Ahmad in the interview, two thumbs up on the way you concluded!!!!! These so called modern people do not know the meaning of freedom and neither do they have a clue on the necessary requirements of a prosperous society. If anyone wants to see what secular extremism is, take a trip down to France and its a free show! In the 21st century, most people forget but we bring together the good points of all cultures and mix them together to run a healthy society. Sadly, the prejudiced secular mind is overlooking the strength of the culture of niqaab and modest dressing! They are people of the information age, only in name! They are only programmed bodies who are products of the few people trying to drive the trends of the world for their own profit. Get free will people!!!!!!!! Amad April 14, 2011 If you are the Hebah Ahmad in the interview, No, she’s the ghost writer for her :) Just kidding. Yes, she is the “real” one and she has been blogging for MM for a while. You can see more of her posts here: muslimmatters.org/author/Hebah/ Abubakar April 15, 2011 Hebah sister Masha”Allah! I really like how you did not got angry whatever Muna was saying but instead you present better and clear argument. I like your closing when you said, “she saying I believe, I believe, I believe but do not make laws on her believe” That kills her senseless argumnet. Please, keep up the good work and belive me you were far better than someone who has inforiority complex and trying to disrespect others in order to gain acceptance by others that is how Muna comes a cross to me. May Allah guide you into right path here and after dear sister of Ummah! Ameen! Ahmad AlFarsi April 12, 2011 Amazing, mashaAllah! Reply Kanika Aggarwal April 12, 2011 right on, mashaAllah! Reply Najia April 12, 2011 Welldone Sr Hebah. Reply Rabia April 12, 2011 Thought it was a win-win for both sisters, in that two articulate, educated sisters showed that not all Muslims think alike. FWIW, I disagreed and agreed with both Mona and Hebah’s various statements, and came away re-evaluating my own ideas on niqab and the ban. Well, done, both Hebah and Mona. It’s a good thing when we are provoked to think. Reply Amad April 12, 2011 From a pure debate perspective, Mona while being eloquent in many of her other debates, didn’t have the plot on this one. And again, this is purely an opinion on the mechanics of it. Reply Idil April 13, 2011 strongly agree with Rabia well done both Reply Umar April 12, 2011 Hebah 1 – 0 Mona Very well expressed by Hebah. (Cheap shot by Mona about Hebah’s job situation!!) Reply Umar April 12, 2011 Since was this progressive/feminist/pro-objectification/anti-Islam/anti-textual-evidence/illogical/anti-freedom/anti-niqab/anti-American-constitution/(anti-sarkozy)/pro-mouth-expression/pro-exposure/pro-skin-publication/anti-female/anti-umm-ul-mumineen a respectable spokesperson for Muslims and Islamic fiqh issues, such that she should be invited to a national television interview? Actually it’s kind of obvious: Her own community do not respect her views, but putting her on tv will give the fake impression that she is a spokesperson for Islam, thereby sublinally making Muslims and non-Muslims alike believe that the hijab and niqab are not part of Islam. (But they are! – and this mystic movement is getting quite annoying!) Reply Hebah Ahmed April 13, 2011 Asalam Alikum brother, I really dislike debate format because it pits one against another. Mona is my sister in Islam and even though I must disagree when she misrepresents Islam and Muslims, she still should be protected from the tongue of her fellow muslims. Many Muslims are subjected to very harsh, judgmental attacks and it only serves to push them far away from Islam. Our manners with each other can make or break someone’s teetering Iman. Mona has defended the Muslim community in other aspects and she deserves credit for that. Let’s show her better treatment than what she has experienced before Insha Allah. May Allah keep all of our hearts on the right path Insha Allah. AMeen. Haleh April 13, 2011 Masha’Allah Heba! I was cheering for you the whole time: You Go Sista! You were so confident masha’Allah & spoke so logically that you won over the moderator. Your parting words were so powerful about women being oppressed by their obsessions of looking good. What I am most impressed with is the comment you made above: “Mona is my sister in Islam and even though I must disagree when she misrepresents Islam and Muslims, she still should be protected from the tongue of her fellow muslims. Many Muslims are subjected to very harsh, judgmental attacks and it only serves to push them far away from Islam. Our manners with each other can make or break someoneâ€™s teetering Iman. Mona has defended the Muslim community in other aspects and she deserves credit for that. Letâ€™s show her better treatment than what she has experienced before Insha Allah.” It is very easy to be divided and judgemental, but it takes true character to remember to be united. May Allah continue to give you strength and tofiq to be a voice of reason. Your sister in Islam, Haleh AhmadLobo April 13, 2011 May Allah reward you and your family Hebah – we’re proud to have you guys in our community. I wanted to second your comment about 1) the debate format, it’s not the best way to go about it…, and 2) even though we disagree with Mona Eltahawy on this issue, we should still uphold our manners towards her, as well as give her credit for the many good things she has said for Muslims (for example, just recently at a “J Street” conferance) —— salam Ahmad SW May 15, 2011 Well put, Haleh, jazakillah khair. And again, jazakillah khair to you too Hebah for your wise words :) Umar April 13, 2011 Point taken. Your non-judjmental nature towards Mona is quite humbling, and I’ll be less harsh in future. May I ask, what did you think about the job jibe by Mona, and is it a problem widespread among those who wear the niqab? Bushra April 13, 2011 She has already answered the question here. Mehnaz Qasim April 13, 2011 Way to go Hebah Me and my 8 year old daughter watched the debate yesterday, my daughter kept saying that Mona is not saying the right thing, and she gave you two thumbs up.Great job, May Allah give you strength to keep it up. Great MashaAllah Emma Apple April 13, 2011 Hebah, Mashaallah you outdo yourself in eloquence and grace, may Allah reward you for it. You did a wonderful job and I am very proud of you. I will be emailing Ana to thank her and CNN for the opportunity to see someone like yourself debate with Mona and for the wonderful moderation on Spitzers part. Pam April 14, 2011 Assalamu Alaikum Hebah, I just got this clip in my inbox and wanted to say Jazak Allah. Masha’Allah, you weren’t given as much speaking time, but you presented your viewpoint beautifully. May Allah (SWA) reward you for all that you are doing in putting yourself on the frontline to make a strong Muslimah’s voice heard. May Allah strengthen His ummah and give us all the courage to work our hardest to please Him. Nabeel April 14, 2011 As’salamu alaikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh May Allah subhanahu wa ta’aala reward you for your taqwa, humility, good manners and good opinion of others. I find your answer very strange. So a person can commit the worst of transgressions against the rights of Allah subhanahu wa ta’aala, brag about them in public, invite others to take part in said transgressions and still be considered a brother/sister in Islam? La hawla wa la quwwata illah billah. This is a matter for the Western shuyookh to make clear. Are they doing their jobs when all and sundry can claim the title of Muslim no matter the level of heresy, hypocrisy, or blatant kufr? Allahu musta’an Your Bother April 15, 2011 We can disagree with someones views but we shouldn’t push someone out of Islam for it. As long as she believes in Allah and that Muhammad is the final messenger, Allah is most forgiving but who are we to push someone further away, out of Islam and to the eternal punishment of Allah. Being rude and harsh with people only pushes them away. We are commanded to treat everyone with the best of manners, so who are we to alienate our fellow Muslim sister. And Allah knows best May Allah guide us All, protect us from Hell, and enter us into Jannah with our families and loved ones. someone April 15, 2011 I love the comment you made about mona elthawy and manners… that is just beautiful, manners and etiquette . May Allah(ta’al) reward with jannatul firdaws and may we all have the courage to be outspoken on theses issues that relate to our everyday lives. NAS April 13, 2011 I thought that writing for Muslim Matters constitutes a job, and credible job at that! The Way to Truth April 12, 2011 After seeing the video,I can myself say that I was looking to Monia’s hair style and earings,specs,nail polish etc rather than to her words..I have to pause in between to rewind wat she said ..but Hebab’s voice and words are the only attracting thing..so i cudn’t pause myself for hearing her words in between..dat says d role of Niqab in short..a simple example…[The Way to truth] Reply Azurah April 12, 2011 exactly that was what i did too when i was watching the debate. That caused me to rewind the video a few times. I think this is the reason of why one should wear niqab. People ill listen to you rather than watching you. Reply Umm Reem April 13, 2011 exactly what happened with me…i was noticing mona’s stylish glasses, her oriental jewelry and blue nail polish :) And when hebah spoke, I was forced to listen to her words :) Reply Siraaj April 12, 2011 Dudes, seriously, Eltahawy made a mockery of herself with those arguments, and then Hebah articulately trounced her in both argument and presentation style. Who really gives a flying fiqh newton if someone thinks niqab is the way to attain piety while you don’t – it’s up to them to decide! It’s their life AND their choice (whoa, pro-life and pro-choice at the same time!). Siraaj Reply mofw April 13, 2011 “flying fiqh newton” I would never be able to pull this off out loud. Reply Siraaj April 13, 2011 What if we added qalqala to the qaf? ;) Siraaj Haytham April 12, 2011 Mona Eltahawy tweeted something really interesting on her twitter account… she said: Many most vehemently defending “rights” & “freedom of choice” re niqab wld shut you down in a minute if you brought up gay, lesbian rights That is not true! I speak for myself here and I say… gays and lesbians under the constitution should be given the rights to do whatever they want. However, I dont have a problem saying that I “and I represent myself here” dont agree with act itself! Last I checked, I am free to do that! Reply Siraaj April 12, 2011 Are you having a tweet-off on our comments section? Reply F April 12, 2011 Good job sister Hebah! Reply Ify Okoye April 12, 2011 Hebah, well done! Freedom of religion and expression are ideals worth fighting for, not only for ourselves but for everyone. Reply Amad April 12, 2011 Unfortunate that Mona is going personal in her tweets… she is having one bad day after another… one round lost to Tariq Ramadan and now this one to a first-time-on-CNN blogger :) Feel free to send Mona a piece of your mind esp on her personal attacks …. twitter.com/#!/monaeltahawy Reply AbÃ» MÃ»sÃ¢ Al-á¸¤abashÃ® April 12, 2011 Well done Hebah. Reply Iesa Galloway April 12, 2011 Masha’Allah Sr. Hebah! Mona only had two arguments, “I believe niqab makes a women’s role in society become diminished and that women are forced through soft power (ideals of religious piety) to “choose” to wear it. Both of these are failures in a intellectual setting as ones beliefs should not be able to restrict another person’s freedoms and that if women who choose niqab are doing so for the reasons Mona claims then what she is really saying is that she believes these women are intellectually weak… that ultimately is just as condescending as most misogynistic views/measures. Sr. Hebah’s accent (lack of a foreign sounding one) really helped. However, many people in CNN’s audience may not be able to actually listen while viewing you, here is a comment from their site (only 8 so far and none supporting the freedom to wear niqab): “derp Is that reporter debating with a ninja?” In my view it would have been better to have a non-niqabi sister debate Mona, BUT that does not detract from the fact that Sr. Hebah owned Mona on this one! I have to say Kudos to Spizter he really was objective and fair on this one… most non-Muslims may actually view it as him taking Hebah’s side but he really was simply addressing obvious contradictions. May Allah bless you Hebah! Iesa Reply Siraaj April 12, 2011 Nah, I liked that a niqaabi sister came out and defended niqaab, otherwise the next statement following is, where’s the niqaabi to defend the practice? PR is important, but it’s not the only thing, and often our attempts at over-choreographing backfire and get us nowhere. Siraaj Reply Iesa Galloway April 12, 2011 I like that a niqabi defended it too. It is a part of PR to focus on who or which part of your audience you are going to message to. However don’t equate a personal opinion to “PR” and “over-choreographing.” Another view could be that even sister’s that don’t wear the niqab are defending it. See the strongest argument is the freedom of choice or personal freedom argument. When someone doesn’t wear it and still defends it, it shuts down Mona’s fear-mongering of the “Muslim right-wing.” This “Muslim right-wing” is Mona’s trump-card on a sister’s choice. There is a big difference between shallow choreographing and hit and run PR hacks and real rhetoric based strategic communications. Developing a strategy for this paring would be easy as both sides already debated each other and laid out their positions. BTW – I said it would have been better, i did not say that Hebah shouldn’t responded or that it was bad. Iesa Siraaj April 12, 2011 Yeah, see, when I look at our orgs, I think they attempt “real rhetoric based strategic communications”, but because they’re both such noobs and sticking to textbook definitions, they end up looking like shallow, over-choreographed PR hacks. Just my 2 pence, I am just a layman shaykh ‘iesa ;) Siraaj Iesa Galloway April 12, 2011 Agreed, I really don’t think many of our orgs. try strategic messaging at all, in fact I’d be happy if some of them would realize they have and message to an audience other than their immediate funding base. Some of course do and everyone has ups and downs in performance, the issue for me is that as individuals we should be pushing Muslim organizations that are not leading toward better performance. Again, Sr. Hebah did a outstanding job masha’Allah… Siraaj and I have drifted a bit on this conversation. Iesa Umm Reem April 13, 2011 Br. Iesa, I think it is high time for niqabi sisters to become more vocal and out going to show that niqab is not a barrier, it will not cause any communication hazards and if a woman choses to wear niqab it will not diminish her from the society, as Mona fears. And, perhaps, by allowing niqabis a more active role in PR/Media will be a head start, inshaAllah. Just something I observed as a niqabi myself, of course as br. siraaj said, we are laymen you are the “shaikh” of this field! Reply Hebah Ahmed April 13, 2011 Jazak Allahu Khair Br. Iesa for your kind words. I do agree with Umm Reem and Siraj that we have to start challenging Americans revulsion and prejudice against the Niqab by challenging them. This can only happen if a Niqabi speaks. I agree there is a benefit to seeing women of all covering support each other as well. If enough of us are out there, then INsha Allah in a few years we will become a normal, accepted part of society and then we can move on to other issues. :) Iesa April 13, 2011 Asalaam Alaikum Sr. Hebah, I agree with you and Sr. Umm Reem. We really do need more diverse represention and MORE sisters period being empowered in the media. In fact I’ll take it a step further, having a niqab as your reason to be a spokesperson in my view can work to limit how viewers see you. What I mean is to normalize our niqabi sisters we need to not shy away from featuring them when their expertise can be featured in the public realm on any issue… (don’t limit them to defending niqab) this can play in the mind of a non-Muslim that niqab alone defines the sister. Recently, I arranged a niqabi sister as the Islamic authority at a presentation for a interfaith event including representatives from many faiths to educate Jewish high school students on other religions. This was at one of the largest conservative synagogues in America and she was fantastic, well received and built bridges that would have never been built if a non-niqabi or a brother was the presenter. (the request was for a male and a female perspective, my response was to just send a sister who is knowledgeable and of the sisters I reached out too AND that had certifiable Islamic knowledge – a degree, ijaza and/or positions of authority the one that was available happened to be niqabi) We have to have a long view of our media strategy in that we build on successes as well as being aware of our resources so we can highlight what Tariq Ramadan calls “symbols of Islam” in ways that will normalize them. For a little while Rush Limbaugh was calling the president “Imam Obama” and many Muslims got all upset, however in the long run he really just helped add an Islamic term to the public discourse. Sr. Hebah, just reading your responses on this post demonstrates that you are light years ahead of many “seasoned” Muslim spokespersons… (you recognize that a fiqh discussion will lose the non-Muslim audience, that conflict between you and the person advocating the opposite view comes off as a negative and etc…) as MM grows lets not forget that we are blessed with a talent that we can have address other topics too. Iesa Na'ima April 13, 2011 Bismillah Asalaamu alaikum, going to jump in right in the middle here! First, I’d like to say ‘Kudos’ and ‘JazakAllahu khairan’ to Heba who handled herself very well in what was quite an emotional and frenetic debate situation! Heba – thumbs up and keep talking and letting people hear the voice ‘behind the veil’. It is only through knowledge and understanding that fear and mistrust can be conquered. To that end, I would like to second Br. Iesa’s suggestion to have women who wear niqab truly taking part in discussion and debate on a range of issues, not just to defend the niqab as that adds to the sense of women who wear niqab as one-dimensional: they are their niqab, which is not the case. JazakAllahu khairan, that’s my 2 cents worth! Na’ima B. Hebah Ahmed April 13, 2011 THANK YOU! You make an excellent point and something that has been kind of frustrating me lately. I have no problem discussing the niqab but would love to be seen as more than a piece of cloth on my face. I have so many aspects to my personality and knowledge and feel very pigeon-holed that I am am not contacted to speak about Muslim issues in general. Maybe insha Allah this will change. Many times other Muslims sabotage my attempts because they do not believe I truly represent Muslims because the niqab is a minority. I hope this will change. I recently did a round table on the local public access about the situation in Egypt and it was exhilirating to use my intellect in a political discussion. Come on ladies, let’ s show them what we got (intellectually!) J April 14, 2011 I also have to commend sister Hebah on her amazing composure and awesome comments. Although I no longer visit Muslim Matters much anymore, just seeing that on CNN made go wow mashaAllah! It’s so nice to see Muslim Matters there, and doing such a great job. I’m glad that Hebah got in the final word and that she was so intellectual about it. @ Iesa, there was also a non-niqaabi sister, sister Sarah Joseph, who also defended the right to wear niqaab, up against Mona Eltahawy on CNN International. You can check on her Facebook page, I believe she has a link to a clip of it. She was pretty good to, although I didn’t see it in its entirety. Reply Abu Ziyad April 12, 2011 MashAllah!! Tabarakallah!! Sr. Heba did an excellent job in the debate. Its not about who won the debate rather who was upon the truth. May Allah keep us on the right path. Ameen. Reply Hebah Ahmed April 13, 2011 I could not agree more. The point is not who won, but whether we have been effective in bringing about a positive change for the sake of Allah and maintained our manners in the process. Reply Ezzat Jawish April 12, 2011 Heba, Good Job. Reply Kara McCarty April 12, 2011 Well put Sr. Hebah, you articulated your points clearly, did not get upset and everyone is very proud of you! Reply Hebah Ahmed April 13, 2011 I was too nervous to get upset! Too busy trying to prepare my rebuttal while the others talked! :) Reply umm yusuf April 12, 2011 Masha’Allah sister Hebah- well done!keep it up! Reply Nahyan Chowdhury April 12, 2011 excellent mashaAllah tabarakAllah, extremely well done by sr.Hebah. Also, gotta give it to the moderator for managing the guests well. Reply Liajul April 12, 2011 Assalaamu ‘alaikum, I don’t know how people can see this as a debate. Sister Heba is the clear winner. there’s no argument Reply Atif April 12, 2011 Reading the news on the niqab ban made me very sad, but watching this video made me very happy. MashaAllah, may Allah reward her. Reply Hebah Ahmed April 13, 2011 Ameen and AlhumduliLah! We all need hope…Allah is truly in control. Reply Tareq April 12, 2011 Assalamu alaikum I have seen your interview video on youtube, mashallah it was good. I think it would have been better if you had replied to mona’s claim on “no quranic verse” on the niqab by giving the references (Surah an-Nur ayah 31 and Surah al-Ahzab ayah 59). Yes there is a difference of opinion among the scholars about it but given the time we are living now, i believe a women will do good to others if she wears the niqab. Surprisingly, the anchor/host was fair towards you, wasnt expecting that but it could have been much better if he allowed you to finish your final comment properly. Because I thought that could have been making a decisive point by you. Jazakallah Keep up the good work Reply Hebah Ahmed April 13, 2011 I personally try to avoid getting into a fiqh argument over niqab or anything else for that matter, especially on national tv. It gets nowhere and honestly, non-Muslims don’t care about our internal Islamic debates. They care about how we behave, whether they should fear us, and whether or not they should support our rights. These are the points I tried to address. Reply Safiya Outlines April 14, 2011 Salaam alaikum, Mabrouk on your tv appearance and I’d like to add that I totally agree and support your stance on not fiqh throwing in debates. Very wise and I wish more would follow your example. sakina April 14, 2011 you are right. there is no need to present internal differences of opinion. Most ppl will not understand what this means and it will just confuse them more. You handled it beautifully! I wished you had been given more time to address mona’s claim that if you’re a woman and wearing niqab or just a woman who’s at home, that means you don’t have rights or “disappear” as her choice of word. thats a stab to stay at home mothers or women who don’t work! it was such an ignorant statement. Chocolate Addict April 12, 2011 Well done Sister Hebah..you did us all proud :) Reply Aliaa April 12, 2011 Great job sister Hebah Mashallah….Keep going and we will all be talking against this law in different countries Reply Sara April 12, 2011 MashaAllah, excellent job by sister Heba! It’s very much apparent how she clearly and articulately refuted Mona’s points, which were based on personal opinion (emotion) and not rational arguments to begin with. I was glad to see fair and balanced moderation as well. May Allah reward Heba immensely for this. Reply Cucumber09 April 12, 2011 MashaAllah, this was uhh-mazing! You go Sister Hebah! =) May Allah reward you abundantly. “Well we don’t make laws based on what Mona believes” lol. Reply Hamna April 12, 2011 Assalamalaykum, I loved it. MashAllah sister Heba is one of those people I’d like to see representing Muslim Women who wear Niqab more often in the media as compared to the likes of Mona El Tahawy who has a personal grudge against the Niqab. Reply NAS April 12, 2011 MashAllah great job Hebah, I really like the points of Spitzer too! we should send him thank you letters! Reply uclabro April 12, 2011 mA. loved it! Well done sister Heba! Reply Suzanne April 12, 2011 Dear Sister Hebah, You cannot imagine how much I appreciated your representation of Muslim women. I am glad we have such articulate and sincere women to speak for the rest of us. May Allah (swt) reward you with the highest levels of heaven among the prophets, martyrs, and scholars. Suzanne Reply Hebah Ahmed April 13, 2011 AMEEN! Jazak Allahu Khair ya ukhti! Reply ZARI April 13, 2011 Dua seconded! Ameeeeeeeeen! Reply Amman Abdul Adl April 12, 2011 “I believe that the human face is central to communication.” Mona Eltahawy Spitzer obviously understood everything Sr. Heba had mentioned. So Ms. Eltahaway was proven wrong in this matter. Masha’Allah Sister Heba, May Allah reward your for your work (AMEEN). One the other hand, I’m sad to see that this post has become a “Mona Bashing Thread”. Mona actually mentioned somethings that were common within the Muslim World. Even though muslim women in the western world choose to wear the hijab/niqaab, its clearly not a matter a choice when looking at it from the Islamic perspective. And even though the niqaab was a matter of choice for Sr. Heba, it is not a choice for many women in the Muslim world. Now as muslim, I don’t think this is wrong but that does not refute Eltahaway understanding about hijaab/niqaab. (The reason I mentioned hijaab/niqaab because Eltahaway is obviously against both). I think it is dishonest on our part when we say that women have a choice to wear hijab/niqaab. Because, if they don’t adhere to it, women will be criticized and condemned for not doing so. So either they will give in, or they will fight against it just like Eltahawy and other women who have the same point of view. Allah Knows Best… Reply Olivia April 12, 2011 I agree with you that there are women out there who are forced to wear and it has been used in some places as a tool against women, but the problem lies within the usage and not the thing itself. Many things can be used to good or evil ends, depending on who is utilizing it, but just because some people might use it for the wrong reasons doesn’t mean you eradicate it completely, when overall its application is good. For a progressive, Mona should have a little bit more an in-depth look at male-female dynamics in the Muslim world. If so many women are freely choosing to wear it in the West, then perhaps the problem is not with niqaab but with something else going on in the east…like, oh, i don’t know…lack of education, poverty, abuse being viewed as acceptable, rogue implentation of shariah…niqaab is not the problem. people are the problem. and frankly, i think that’s a weak smokescreen over Mona’s true reasons for not liking niqaab. Niqaab doesn’t fit into Mona’s image of what the “ideal, pious Muslim woman” should look like. Seeing women in niqaab makes Mona feel inadequate. frankly, i don’t wear niqaab, but seeing women in niqaab doesn’t make me feel less pious, because piety is within far many more actions than whether or not you cover your face. i dont know why Mona is so touchy about it. which brings me to my point, progressive Muslims are not like true American progressives. American liberals believe in everybody’s freedom, even if they don’t agree with that persons message. they may hate their opponents message, but they still believe they have the freedom to get out there and express themselves and do what they want to the same degree as anybody else (ask my uber-liberal cousin whose sister is a hardcore tea-partier). but progressive Muslims are not true to their “values”–they have a chip on their shoulder against conservative Islam, so they have very emotional arguments and want freedom for everyone except conservatives. they want conservatives restricted in the name of freedom, which is ludicrous. it’s innately hypocritical. mona, if she is a true spokesperson of freedom and fairness, should be the first to support it if evidence has clearly shown that so many women do it out choice. honestly, when i hear her talk, she sounds like a radical right-wing non-Muslim. (Uphold our values and freedom! Except for these guys…) then they have an emotional tirade which they scramble to cover with weak, seemingly logical arguments. Reply Amman Abdul Adl April 12, 2011 Salaam Sister, By watching the interview we can conclude that Ms. Eltahaway did not make her point across. And yes it looked like she was not keeping her cool while she was expressing herself. But, I feel uncomfortable in making assumptions about her intentions. Unless she has said it directly in some interview, only Allah knows if she feels insecure around niqaabis or not. I know of the hypocrisy that most progressive show when dealing with “conservatives”, because I’ve dealt with them personally. But I don’t look down upon them because In my opinion we created them. The Muslims abused and have misused the deen for heinous acts and thats why most these progressives exist. I’m not denying that some progressives just want a “do as you please” religion to live in the modern world, but I can’t chastise them for what they’re doing. I’m looking at the bigger picture. What does Islam have to say about it? I agree that the hijaab/niqaab has been used for abuse, but women still have to wear it. Even if it was used for its right purpose, a women technically does not have choice in the matter. So when I hear Muslim women saying that they had a choice to wear it and its not something that could be forced, then they’re being (intellectually) dishonest. Yes, women in the western world are choosing to wear it, but that does not mean that had a choice from an Islamic perspective. And that is what I think most progressive Muslim women (Mona Eltahaway, Asra Nomani, etc) are trying to point out. If they don’t want to wear hijab/niqaab then they should be given the right to do so without criticism from the Muslim World. Allah Knows Best Michele April 29, 2011 While I find my views lie somewhere between Mona and Heba, I do support the right to wear niqab as a matter or choice (not religious requirement) when it doesn’t constitute a security issue, I would like to make the point that having been a convert of over 20 years, every single American convert I have known who wears niqab eventually quit wearing it, EVERY ONE!! Just as many male converts start to relax a little after some time on the path of Islamic knowledge and insight (i.e. Hamza Yusef, Yusef Islam, etc.) My guess would be that if you re-visit most of these women in 10 or 15 years they will not be wearing niqab. Hebah Ahmed April 13, 2011 I don’t think possible criticism and condemnation nullify choice. A woman still has a choice. Yes, hijab is the minimal requirement in Islam but the test of this world is our choices. Punishment and reward come from Allah. I was referring to the fact that I am not aware of women being physically forced to wear the Niqab. If it happens I do not believe that is Islamic and Allah knows best. Reply ilyas ismail April 15, 2011 salam anlaikum sis hebab I appreciate ur courage” jaza’a kum lahi ” n which other educated moslem women wt intellectual status n position could step up n defend their religion like u did. In diplomatic negotiation, u need 2 speak d language of d other parties if u r 2 reach an agreement. so when when women of credence n intellectualism can step up like u did, d oppressors will have no other options than accept defeat. There is also d need 4 us 2 let them know that we undstand our religion n nothing can make us deviate from it teachings n practices. Wa anlaikum salam Al Madrasee April 12, 2011 Mashallah Sister Hebah. You were dignified and so calm. We definitely need more ambassadors like yourself. May Allah exalt you and grant you ever more Barakah. Wassalam Al Madrasee Reply fugstar April 12, 2011 you americans talk too fast. Reply Olivia April 12, 2011 sounds like seeing women wearing the niqab makes Mona feel bad. poor Mona, ban it so she can feel better. Reply hannah April 12, 2011 Heba. I just love you for the sake of Allah. <3 <3 <3 You are amazing. Your family must be proud. I'm proud and inspired. May Allah protect you and preserve our rights! Reply life is a test April 12, 2011 Assalamualaikum wr wb! Alhamdulillah! MashaAllah! Sister Hebah, may Allah S.w.t bless you and accept your efforts! Mona, the little kid, needs to know that religion and its commanmends is not about how she ‘feels” about… And oh my! what?!! did she think she is the one who will get to decide which act will or will not lead to the Pleasure of The Almighty One!! Allahul Musta’an! Reply Mohammad Arif April 12, 2011 MashaAllah, may Allah keep you in good health, increase and strengthen your Iman ans save you from all evil, Ameen. Reply ahlam April 12, 2011 MashAllah, Hebah all the points were mentioned in a very clear-cut,straight-foward manner. BarakAllahu feeki. Reply Aya April 12, 2011 MashaAllah Hebah, JazakaAllahu Khairan for this. You did an excellent job and stayed cool and collected. I can only imagine how frustrating this might have gotten at times. May Allah reward you immensely. Reply Ahsan Sayed April 12, 2011 Hebah totally swept the floor with Mona. MASHALLAH! Reply Umm Adam April 12, 2011 As`salaamu alaykum wa rahmatullaah sr Heba! just wanted to say barakallaahu feeki for the awesome job :) i`m so proud to have a sister who stands up for us! may Allaah SWT keep you steadfast upon His deen and reward you endlessly, aameen. your sis fillah, Umm Adam Reply Suhaib A Mohammed April 12, 2011 Amazing Sister Hebah!!!!!!! Reply Ruth Nasrullah April 12, 2011 Masha Allah, Sr. Hebah – so proud of you and of MuslimMatters! Who would have predicted four years ago that we would see a caption on CNN referring to a guest as a “blogger for MuslimMatters.org.” So impressive! Reply Amad April 13, 2011 you are a founding father (mother), so this is your family that has just grown with everyone’s dua’ Reply Hebah Ahmed April 13, 2011 Jazak Allahu Khair Sister Ruth for your vision and support! Reply DiscoMaulvi April 12, 2011 I personally know scores of women who wear the Hijab, Niqab, Burka. Some are extremely successful career women. However, some of those who choose to wear Niqab choose to be stay-at-home moms; just like some of those who choose not to wear it choose to be stay-at-home moms. A veil does not kill a woman’s personality nor does it make her any less eloquent. I have never found any difference in the intellectual capability of a woman who was veiled over one who was not. Mona came across as wishing she had the will to cover herself and become pious. She just doesn’t have the courage to do it maybe. May Allah help her muster the strength and increase her faith to reach this “pinnacle of piety”. -Aly Reply Nadia April 12, 2011 Masha Allah she rocked it! Reply hiba Ahmed April 12, 2011 ALHAMDULILAHI RABIL ‘ALAMEEN without Allah swt our Muslim Sister wouldnt have the strenght MashaAllah Sister Hebah May Allah swt make u more firm on your deen im a niqabi Also, I lived in Montreal/Canada and left it because they wanted to Ban the niqab Now I live in toronto/Canada and Alhamdulilah there are A lot of Muslim Sisters who wear the niqab Also MashaAllah ur answers were Amazing! May Allah increase you in Knowledge Ameeen Reply Hebah Ahmed April 13, 2011 May Allah give you strength and make it easy for you and all Muslim women! Ameen. Reply Bint A April 12, 2011 Jazakillahu khairan for your efforts sister Hebah! *Truly* you are an inspiration for us. May Allah grant you ithbaat in your arguments for the haqq, and grant you firmness and steadfastness in all that you do for His sake, ameen. -a humbly inspired sister Reply Halima April 12, 2011 Heba! Heba! Heba! Wow Mona got toasted! Daaang! I love how even the CNN anchor could see the flaws in Mona’s arguement. Sisters like Mona should be speaking for us muslimahs! So cool and composed! Awesome job Heba! :D Reply Ahmed H April 12, 2011 As-salamu alaykum warahmatullah, I would like to first just say a HUGE JazakiAllahu khayr to our Sr.Hebah for the great job that she did, May Allah(swt) reward her. We need more sisters who are well versed, and articulated to give this perception of the Niqab that is most of the time ignored. No matter how knowledgeable a male scholar may be people will always look to the opinion of a female as this is something that she is practising directly. Remember brothers and sisters, whether you believe Niqab to be the stronger opinion or not this is a systematic way that the kuffar have made in its attempt to attack Islam and they have started with a topic that the muslims themselves are divided upon. May Allah make us amongst those who stay firm on the truth, Ameen. Wassalam Reply Yahya Ibrahim April 12, 2011 Bismillah, Great job alhamdulillah! Only suggestion is to address the natural instinct of the average listener: 1-why do you cover and others don’t? Many people wonder? I liken it to a vow of silence that nuns make…no one condemns a monk or nun who abstains from speech to attain spiritual enlightment 2- I also think its important to establish monotheistic precedent for hijab in general by pointing out that our cousins in faith the jewish woman shave their head and veil with a wig or a scarf and their laws of interaction between the opposite sexs are very close to us. Great job though. Reply Hebah Ahmed April 13, 2011 Jazak Allahu Khair ya Shiekh. Your points are excellent and I use them in all my Dawah talks. Relating to what people are familiar with is the best way to give them an “Ah-Hah” moment of understanding. Unfortunately time was tight and I had a million talking pts in my head that could not come to fruition. Next time Insha Allah (if there is one!) Reply HenaZuberi April 13, 2011 There better be, I am making dua that they have you on speed dial! Love how calm and composed you were. Allah used you in a great way especially the ending 15 seconds were awesome. Fierce!! Nouman Ali Khan April 13, 2011 Assalamu Alaikum. It is high time we have intelligent, articulate, calm and collective female ambassadors of our Deen in mainstream media. I’m proud of our Sister Hiba’s work and pray for her continued success and courage. In Mona’s arguments the idea of women being told that niqab is connected directly with salvation was brought up more than once along with the accusation of self righteousness and disconnect from functioning society. The absurdity of both of these ideas must be brought to light and I really do believe that our young daughters and sisters should be made aware of these discussions across the country in our Muslim communities. Reply Hebah Ahmed April 13, 2011 Jazak ALlahu Khair and I totally agree. It is unfortunate that a few harsh, judgmental Muslims will try to tell a women that she will go to hellfire for not covering. It is wrong to equate a single act with damnation (like the kawarij) or piety or to pretend we can take Allah’s place as the Judge. It is also totally pointless to say such things because rather than motivate a woman, it usually turns her away. Many women come to the hijab only after their Iman has been built, their love of Allah has swelled, and they have access to correct knowledge. This is how it was for me. Reply Laura April 13, 2011 Go Mona! You spoke well in a clearly biased debate. The only purpose of the burqa is to eliminate women from the public sphere. Reply DrM April 13, 2011 @Laura Who made you an expert on the burka? The debate was “clearly biased” in your distorted reality because Mona Eltahawy lost. How many people even know that Eltahawy supported the Danish hate cartoons and desecration of the Qur’an by American fascists at Gitmo? -Edited. Pls no personal attacks on Mona, it dumbs down the discussion. Laura has a right to her opinion and to express it. Reply Laura April 13, 2011 The debate was biased because the the host asked far more critical questions of Mona than he did of Hebah and he made clear his opinion that the ban is wrong. No one made me an expert on the burka. Mona supported the right of Danish cartoonists to do their work without having their heads cut off. So do I. DrM April 13, 2011 @Laura, Wrong again. Guess you missed the part where the host tells Eltahawy he’s on her side. The “bias” being that for once a controlled debate didn’t come out in your favor, i.e. being your neocon puppet, feminut bimbo Eltahawy came across more style then substance, a shallow propagandist. That what happens when to liars when place in the hot seat. No one made you an expert an burka, you just made yourself one like the typical white western supremacist you are. Well too bad, we’re not colonial subjects and won’t accept your patronizing lies and cliched rubbish any longer. Just like Eltahawy lied about those racist Danish scumbag cartoonists and their repeated attempts to provoke(3 times) the Muslim community. You have no right whatsoever to denigrate 1.6 billion people. Don’t scream fire and complain about getting trampled in the process. You don’t know the first thing about that subject, so spare us your free speech hypocrisy. Don’t even get on some high horse about beheadings considering the amount the mass murder and terrorism your kind brought to the Iraq and Afghanistan to name a few places. You want adversarial relations with Muslims, you got it. Bushra April 14, 2011 In all honesty, Spitzer DOES say that he agrees with Mona (read the transcript and watch the video again), but he doesn’t agree with it being based on her feelings. He’s trying to ensure that the debate between Mona and Hebah is based on logic, statistics, and what have you, NOT personal feelings. Just as we on MM try to avoid debates from digressing, Spitzer was doing the same and unfortunately, Mona was not adhering to those rules hence he had to point that out. Of course, this comes across as being biased. But that’s to an already biased viewer. Hebah Ahmed April 13, 2011 Okay so then how can you explain me being in a clearly public sphere such as CNN? I just want to understand your train of thought here? Reply Laura April 13, 2011 You were present but no-one could see you. We saw a black piece of cloth. Islamic fundamentalists want all women behind a piece of black cloth. Amad April 13, 2011 But you could hear her right Laura? Do you listen to radio? I find NPR fascinating and I have no idea how any of the presenters even look like. If you want to discuss the issue, pls do it in a reasonable manner. Our new policy for comments is to disallow drive-by trolling and distractions. thanks. Laura April 13, 2011 I was reasonable – unless you think that disagreeing with Hebah is unreasonable. Yes, radio is a wonderful aural medium. But Hebah was participating in a televised debate, something that is both aural and visual. Mona had the courtesy to show her face to the viewers, the host and her opponent in the debate. Hebah did not. How would you feel if I sat with my back to you during a conversation? Would you consider that rude? Amad April 13, 2011 She wasn’t sitting back. The main point of contact are the eyes and when someone’s paying attention to you, the eyes are sufficient. Whether it is TV or radio, you heard Hebah’s points loud and clear, and that is what matters. Finally, it is really isn’t about whether we like the niqab or not, whether we agree with it or not… it’s her choice to wear it. Even if we agree on the arguments about facial expressions being important, it’s her right not to share them with you, and your right not to talk to her. If you didn’t like watching her, you could have turned your face away and listened, or even shut the TV off. We can’t legislate to help you with your feelings. Seeing her face is not your right (may be right of police officer or an immigration officer, etc.), I think you have a fundamental misunderstanding of rights if you think otherwise. I’ll let Hebah answer the rest of your questions… Hebah Ahmed April 13, 2011 I was actually wearing green. :) Seriously though, I do not believe a person’s presence is in their face….otherwise telephone calls and internet chats like this one would be impossible. A person’s presence is in their thoughts and values, their manners and treatment of others. You know, “Don’t judge a book by its cover” and “See the inner beauty”. Can you please name these Islamic Fundamentalists you refer to? The majority of Muslims, including myself, do not believe the face veil is required and would never dream of forcing it onto someone else. It is a very personal choice for the individual. Laura April 13, 2011 I have some (genuine) questions for you. 1) Do you think the face is just another body part? Ist it just like a knee or a hip? Or is the face something special? 2) Do you consider the feelings of other people (ie colleagues, friends, passersby) in your decision to wear a niqab? I’m not saying you necessarily should, just wondering. You talk of your right to cover your face, but I believe I have the right to see who is coming towards me on the street. I have many other questions, but just these for now. Hebah Ahmed April 13, 2011 Dear Laura, First let me thank you for coming to the source and sincerely wanting to understand. I commend you. I also understand that Islam and Niqab is such a foreign thing to you and the Islamic perpective with which we approach life is also foreign. I think the best solution is exactly what we are doing, have a dialogue and educating each other. The point is not to get you to agree with my position but to help you understand that things are not black and white and that maybe you can at least respect our beliefs. Onto your questions: 1) Do you think the face is just another body part? Ist it just like a knee or a hip? Or is the face something special? I believe the entire woman’s body is special and the face is of course unique. In Islam we believe the entire body is to be valued and protected from abuse, mismangement, and neglect. We actually believe the body has rights on us and we will be called to account for how we treated ourselves. My covering is my form of protection and dignity. We do not over-expose the thing we value the most by allowing every tom, dick, and harry to take it, touch it, abuse it, and throw it away. Let me emphasis that this is a different perspective but nonetheless a valid one since we know that many women are victimized, exploited, and harrassed on a daily basis. This is my solution. If men did what they were suppose to and lowered their gaze, controlled themselves, and respected women for their minds, we would have the perfect balance since the onus is on both sexes. I also believe that when I wear the niqab, I have a constant reminder in my face to behave in a good way, avoid bad speech, and remember my life purpose. 2) Do you consider the feelings of other people (ie colleagues, friends, passersby) in your decision to wear a niqab? Iâ€™m not saying you necessarily should, just wondering. You talk of your right to cover your face, but I believe I have the right to see who is coming towards me on the street. Of course I consider the feelings of the people around me. I am actually a very sensitive person and feel hurt when I think I have upset or offended anyone. If we were to meet and there were no men around, I would uncover myself as I often do to make you more comfortable. If we were in mixed company and I could tell you were agitated, I would tell you to come to a private place so we could talk face to face. Now, if you ask me to uncover in front of men because they are uncomfortable, I would try to explain in a polite way why I can not. I have no problem accomodating others as long as it does not compromise my beliefs. I would never ask that of someone else and I would hope others would respect my conviction. life is a test April 13, 2011 Laura, this is a very immature statement. “You were present but no-one could see you.” So did you watch the debate to understand the views or what? Most of them say that women are “oppressed” by wearing niqab. Let me make it crystal clear to you that my sister Hebah and other sisters who wear it out of choice are not being oppressed. I myself had to fight for this right to wear niqaab with my family and community. “Islamic fundamentalists want all women behind a piece of black cloth.” Wrong. Islam only wants women to dress modestly. In Islam women are as precious as jewels and she is to be protected from filthy hearts throwing lustful glances! Black cloth? that’s a misconception. Laura April 13, 2011 I disagree with you, but I’m trying to understand so let’s be civil. “Islam only wants women to dress modestly.” There is nothing more attention-seeking than wearing a niqab in the West. You said yourself that people stare at you everywhere you go. Why should the woman have to cover herself completely to escape unwanted attention from men? It is the man’s responsibility to control himself in the civilised world. Burqas are the physical embodiment of the idea that women, not men, should be held responsible for male sexual digression. I believe you when you say you and your sister chose to wear the niqab. But most women who wear it have no choice ie all the women in Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Afghanistan. Think about it – surely it’s not just a coincidence that the main places wear women wear the burka are the places where women have next to no rights, where they are basically considered sub-human. And even in free countries like France, women are forced to wear it. I recommend you look at the work of French Muslim feminist group Ni Putes Ni Soumises (Neither Whores Nor Submissives) to see tale after tale of girls who dressed modestly and even wore hijab, but were still treated as sexually available simply because they dared to show their face. Laura April 13, 2011 i disagree with you, but I’m trying to understand so let’s be civil. “Islam only wants women to dress modestly.” Wearing a niqab is just about the most attention-seeking thing you can do in the West. Hebah herself says that people stare at her wherever she goes. Siraaj April 13, 2011 Hey Laura, There are different types of attention one can attract – the kind that results in men checking them out, and then there’s the type that doesn’t (but nonetheless attracts attention). The point of the attire is to keep away the former, not the latter. Siraaj Laura April 13, 2011 “In Islam women are as precious as jewels and she is to be protected from filthy hearts throwing lustful glances!” Um, how about, instead of putting women in sacks, men just learn to control themselves? Love your idea of the sexes – men are perverts who go into rape mode at the sight of a female cheekbone, women are so precious that they need to be wrapped up and hidden away all the time. Husnain April 13, 2011 Laura, of course, you won’t understand why some Muslim women would wear a veil because you don’t know anything about Islamic culture and probably don’t care much about it. It’s an alien culture to you and understandably because of media’s constant Islam bashing, you are probably averse to it.Let me ask you this, how come the Catholic Nuns habit not come in for criticism, because she is dong God’s work and a Muslim woman is not? Why is it that the west feels like picking on Muslim women. In Afghanistan, the western media was amplifying the burqa worn by the Afghani women whereas the bigger concern for them was basic necessities of life such as food, shelter and education. As a final note, there is an obvious reason why women have to dress up more modestly than men owing to the physical differences. Saying that the onus is on men is control themselves is sort of silly. I suppose by that logic, it should be fine for a woman to walk around half naked. sajid kayum April 13, 2011 @ Laura: “It is the manâ€™s responsibility to control himself in the civilised world.” Please have a look at: english.aljazeera.net/news/americas/2007/03/2008525115517488691.html english.aljazeera.net/indepth/features/2010/12/2010122182546344551.html Omar April 13, 2011 Hi Laura, The Quran actually orders men to control themselves and “lower their gaze”, before it tells women to cover themselves. The responsibility is on both sides, and probably more on the men. I will tell you as a man, it is very difficult to speak to a woman that has her beauty on display without thinking of that beauty and seeing her to some extent as a object of lust, even when one tries not to. This is simply the nature of almost all men, and you won’t fully understand it. On the other hand, speaking to a woman who dresses modestly or wears the proper hijab, these ideas are usually not even a factor, since she does not trigger the lust or object part of our brain. Islam is a religion that recognizes the nature of both man and woman, and controls desires, channeling them in the right direction. Anyways just sleep on it :) peace Laura April 13, 2011 Muslims always start off talking about the niqab as something spiritual, but it becomes clear really quickly that it is all about sex. Y’all are completely sex-obsessed! Women can’t show her nose in public in case a man becomes consumed with lust. Men can’t even even talk to a woman unless she’s wearing a bag on her head. The burka/nikqab turns women into a walking piece of genitalia. But let’s talk about something else. Quite a few of you have said that I, and all other non-Muslims out there, don’t understand Islam and Muslim culture. Just wondering how much you know/care about French culture? France is a strictly secular state and has been for more than a century. The secularity applies to EVERYONE – many Christians and jews would like to bring their religion into the public sphere but can’t. Muslims benefit from the secular state because it allows them to freely worship in the home and mosque. If France wasn’t secular, the Catholic Church would still be all powerful and French Muslims would not have the rights they do today. Why shouldn’t French Muslims respect France’s laws against bringing religion into the public sphere they way everyone else does? Faatimah April 13, 2011 yayyyy heba! mashaAllah you were able to stay so calm! I wanted to clock that woman just listening to her! I can’t stand ignorant people. You did a great job. You were very to the point and carried yourself well mashaAllah. Great representative of Islam :) Reply Ibrahim April 13, 2011 Brilliant.. mashaAllah. Reply Brother April 13, 2011 May Allah grant success to Sister Heba in this world and the hereafter, ameen. Mona did bring up one point which got my curiosity about the work and niqab issue where she said that Sister Heba stopped working when she put the niqab on. How does that work? Other than that, Mona didn’t really provide much substance to back her position; rather more of an emotional position. Reply Hebah Ahmed April 13, 2011 Yes, Mona clung on to that from an NPR interview I did with her before. I was working as a Mechanical Engineer for an Oil company when I decided to wear Niqab. It involved ALOT of travel(including to offshore oil rigs), grueling hours, and alot of physical work in the lab with tools and heavy machinery. I started wearing Niqab and abaya on the weekends but obviously could not wear it to work. I also experienced a large amount of sexual harassment. One day I decided I was compromising my values and my beliefs for my job and I did not want to do it anymore. I also was tired of helping a large oil corp increase its bottom line but rather wanted to commit myself to social activism and educating others about Islam. Therefore I gave my 2 week notice and the day I quit, I put Niqab on full time. Since, I have had many jobs (something Mona does not know) including being a first grade teacher, a documentarian, and lecturer on Islam and Muslim women to churches, synagogues, and HS and University classes. I also opened up an Islamic Clothing store with my sisters and did some engineering consulting through a company I started with my husband. After having children, I slowed down to homeschool my kids, which is a full time job. Now I write for Muslim Matters. Mona’s point is that since I did not continue at my engineering job after wearing Niqab, I must be oppressed and that the niqab has limited me from my career, which is of course totally incorrect. Actually the company told me they had no prob with me wearing Niqab and they wanted me to continue working there. I no longer wanted to be in an environment that I believe compromised my modesty and my Islamic beliefs so I turned them down and have never looked back since. Reply Hamna April 13, 2011 Assalam Alaykum, I’m glad you cleared that up Heba. Mona’s claim sounded more of an attack then a need to understand. I’ve been wearing the Niqab for more then four years now too and it hasn’t kept me back from pursuing the things that I want to do. I’m double majoring in Journalism and Public Relations, I drive, I’m involved in a lot of social and humanitarian work and I’m working in the summer in a news agency. The thing is, if the environment is right a lot of Sisters who even wear Niqab still choose to pursue a career. I live in the United Arab Emirates and things are a lot easier for me. However, at the same time, there is absolutely nothing wrong if a Muslim Woman chooses to not work. It’s a choice with which she is more comfortable with regardless of the fact that she wears Niqab or not. It’s a choice. There are so many Women who make this choice, regardless of the fact if they’re Muslim or Non-Muslim for different reasons, should we start criticizing them all? Cartoon M April 13, 2011 I remember seeing Mona on the news about the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions and she seemed cool, but this was plain ugly. May Allah reward you sis Hebah! You made us proud! Reply Safia Farole April 13, 2011 That’s exactly what I was thinking too. When she was on tv talking about the revolutions, she actually seemed appealing to me. But get her in a conversation about religion, and she transforms into something else. Unfortunate. Reply Bushra April 13, 2011 OHHHHHHH…no wonder she seemed familiar. I thought I’d seen her somewhere. Cartoon M April 13, 2011 I remember seeing her at the protest against Peter King’s hearings. I guess its important to remember that everyone has their faults, but everyone has good in their hearts too. Although Mona handled this issue very badly, there are many issues involving Muslims where she did the right thing. May Allah guide us to the truth. Reply Brother April 16, 2011 I agree with you Cartoon. I think I for one have been too judgemental on Mona. Yeah, I might have some serious issues on her thinking, but at the end of the day she is still our Muslim Sister. May Allah give her hidaya. Juli April 13, 2011 assalamualaikum Hebah, you rock, mashaallah! May Allah bless you and your family here and in the hereafter. ameen! Reply Ismail Kamdar April 13, 2011 Mashaa Allah, we need more sisters like Hebah to speak out in public like this. It just doesn’t have the same effect if a man speaks in favor of Niqab. Reply Safia Farole April 13, 2011 Excellent job sister Hebah! I’ve been waiting for the day when a practicing Muslimah can contend with the likes of El tahawy and Ayan Hersi Ali on live TV – this is the start, inshallah. Reply sajid kayum April 13, 2011 May Allah reward Sister Hebah, increase her in courage and steadfastness. Reply Heena April 13, 2011 Kudos to Hebah! Reply Noha April 13, 2011 Jazaky Allah khayr Hebah! Keep up the good work! I wish she was given some more time. Reply Um Yusuf Ebtehal April 13, 2011 MashaAllah Hebah..very well put. You made us all proud!! JazakiAllah Khair! May Allah bless you and your family and keep you steadfast! Ø£ØØ¨Ùƒ ÙÙŠ Ø§Ù„Ù„Ù‡ Reply Hebah Ahmed April 13, 2011 May the One you love me for Love you! Ameen. If you are who I think you are, may Allah give you sadaqa jariya for anything I do since you were one of my greatest inspirations and teachers! Jazak Allah Khair! Reply Sana April 13, 2011 Henah you are an amazing woman! I sent the producer Ana Bickford a thank you letter for inviting you to CNN. Please continue to make appearances in the media! Reply Sheen April 13, 2011 Mash’Allah sis. Well said. Allahu Akbar! Reply Umm Ibraheem AShmin April 13, 2011 Alhumdulilah that Allah had loosened your tongue you were able to stay calm with all that crazy talk. As emotional as I am I know I couldn’t do it. Jazza kallahu khayran for representing us well. We are going over the 10 INVALIDATORs of Islam in one of the class I am taking…..all the rant reminded me of one of them. Whoever hates anything that the Messenger (salliallahu allihi was’salam) came with, even if he acts upon it, then he has disbelieved That is because they followed that which angered AllÃ¢h, and hated that which pleased Him. So He made their deeds fruitless. (Muhammad 47:28) Reply Muslimah April 13, 2011 Salaam alaykum Masha Allah! Sister Hebah, it is indeed wonderful to see a woman defend the right to our belief and expression. Insha Allah, on the Last Day, may you be presented as someone who defended the honor of Ummuhaat al-Mu’mineen. Aameen However, just a suggestion for everyone here to move ahead [after the cheering, which is well-deserved] onto bigger roles and responsibilites. Let’s try to emulate Sis Hebah’s example instead of only hailing the debate… The sister has made a start and it is up to all of us to support her and CARRY ON. Wa Allahu ma’ as-Saabireen Wassalam Reply Hebah Ahmed April 13, 2011 We Alaikum Asalam, I second your suggestion! Let’s all get out there and represent! Reply Nahdimbarak April 19, 2012 Assalam Alaikum. Mashallah and Mabrouk 3lesh for what you have achieved. You represent the perfect islamic woman of the 21st century. Inshallah God make Men like me living in America get a wife educated both for Dunya and Akhera. Ameen. keep up the Good work. I am proud of you. Samsad April 13, 2011 amazing amazing mashaa Allaah. May Allaah reward you for this. you will be in my prayer always inshaa Allaah Reply Mohammed Riyas April 13, 2011 Sr. Hebah, beautifully done. Even though you say you were nervous, you were calm, composed and level-headed. We need more sisters like you to come on TV and speak. Personally, I don’t prefer the niqab and nobody in my family wears it, but I will defend to the end the right of a person who chooses to do so. Again, EXCELLENT job!! Wassalam. Reply Seher April 13, 2011 MashaAllah! All I can say is that you’ve made us hijabis proud. May Allah reward you! Reply alom (frm london) April 13, 2011 YO SISTER HEBA SMACKKEDD IT ON DAT SHOW….BIGG UP ALL DA NIQABI SISTERS.. ALL AROUND DA WORLD!!!! WOOOOP WOOOOOOPPP//// (i only heard about this web-site when they said sister Heba was a blogger here, so ‘muslimmatters’ better give da sister a percentage) : D Reply Amad April 13, 2011 A percent of what :) We are a not for profit site…. all volunteers. Reply alom (frm london) April 13, 2011 MashAllah. Kashif Dilkusha April 13, 2011 Masha ALLAH Sister May Allah give you barakah and reward for such a great debate. May Allah give us all this courage. Surely your debate is a source of inspiration for me. ALLAH U AKBAR. Reply Ollie April 13, 2011 Well said sister Hebah! Reply kishwar April 13, 2011 well done sister hebah. the entire ummah is proud of u and u spoke out what our hearts feel Reply Amal April 13, 2011 Sister Hebah you really made us proud. You spoke so calmly and intelligently mash Allah, walhamdulillah. And actually knew what you were talking about and stuck to Islam. mash allah tabarak Allah Love you for the sake of Allah. jazaki Allahu khayr! <3 <3 <3 it made me so happy to finally have someone like you in the media! alhamdulillah Reply Megan Wyatt April 13, 2011 Masha’Alah Habah, great job!!! You were so calm and well spoken. I think what was really REALLY lost in this discussion from Sr. Mona’s comments, was that while she did make some valid points, like the fact there are women forced to cover, whether a niqab or hijab somewhere in the world, there is indeed strong cultural pressure to be a certain way no doubt in some places – what was lost was that the solution wasn’t to take AWAY something that thousands of other women wear, and I’m expanding this argument to be the niqab AND the Hijab, because both have been forced as well. The solution should reference the lack of manners/knowledge/dysfunctional family systems from those who oppress, and are indeed oppressors, and such people exist in all societies, not just Muslim ones, and how shallow to think we can solve the problem for these women by supporting a legal ban on niqab. There are Muslim families who also oppress their daughters for choosing to cover at all as well…. We all know that there are places where Muslim women are not being given their full Islamic rights, and in some places, but this fabric isn’t the problem, and I find it really frustrating that someone would insist it is!! Also Hebah thank you SO MUCH for the comments on security, because many people simply have no clue how that is supposed to work, and you did a beautiful job explaining the notion of showing your face when needed matter of factly. Reply Hebah Ahmed April 13, 2011 Your welcome…I was SO happy they finally gave me a chance to explain the security thing because it is a very important misconception. I agree with what you have written and want to point out that women in all religions and all cultures are pressured by the men and others in their lives to do things they may not like. Plenty of women in the US get beaten by their Christian husbands. I know non-Muslim women in my homeschooling group that constantly tell me about all the things their husbands will not let them do. The solution is to increase women’s self confidence and educate men on the rights that their wives have over them, not begin legislating the marital relationship! Reply Bushra April 13, 2011 There were only 10 comments on this when I went to sleep last night. I wake up and find that the comments have multiplied tenfold, masha’Allah. And all very positive comments! Hebah, I’m really REALLY impressed with your arguments, masha’Allah. Br. Iesa is also quite right that non-niqabi sisters strengthen the argument by defending it as a point of choice, but there are many of those sisters doing that on other TV channels around the world, and I was yet to see a sister in niqaab defending it and openly opposing the burqa ban. Sis, you are, masha’Allah masha’Allah, a true example that other sisters, whether they wear the niqaab or not, should look upto as you were very eloquent and rounded off the debate very nicely within ten seconds. I don’t think you were given enough time to speak but concluding with brevity is a skill in and of itself. Allahumma baarik!! Reply Yahya April 13, 2011 Assalamualikum Sister, you have done a great job. This is by far the best debate I have seen on the French Burqa Ban and I must say, it is shocking how people like Mona Eltahawy can act like they are the sole representatives of the all the Muslim women. Had I not been told that she is a Muslim, I would not have believed. How can you call yourself a Muslim and yet be so ignorant to the Islamic values. Once again, I would like to thank you for your amazing effort. May Allah bless you. Reply umi April 13, 2011 Mashallah! May Allah give u the best in this world and the best in the akhirah,ameen So proud of u! Love u for the sake of Allah swt. Reply Sameeh Uz Zaman April 13, 2011 May Allah give you strength and confidence. May all these very hard times for our Muslim sisters end. May Allah’s wrath show on those who still want to be steadfast fighting true Islam. May Allah give us all Hidaayah, May Allah never let us fall in despair. May Allah give us victory soon. SubhanAllah. Reply Hebah Ahmed April 13, 2011 Ameen Ameen Ameen and AMEEN! Reply Seerah April 14, 2011 Amin Reply Sister April 13, 2011 Mashaallah.Tabarakallah.Jazakillahu khairaan kaseera sis.May Allahtaala bless you with more courage and steadfastness.You did an excellent job .You were so cool and composed .Mashaallah. Reply R April 13, 2011 There are already a truckload of comments here but I can’t refrain myself from adding another load in that truck. 1. Congratulations, subhanAllah He made everything go well for you. Your points were explained in such a short time yet with heart piercing conciseness. 2. More importantly than the debate though (don’t get me wrong, it is very important), your attitude towards Mona is something that must be injected into our Ummah. I myself developed a slight feeling of… hatred (I wish there was a less violent term) towards her at the end of the debate, but to quote your comment earlier on, “Mona is my sister in Islam and even though I must disagree when she misrepresents Islam and Muslims, she still should be protected from the tongue of her fellow muslims.” Now this is what makes Islam beautiful, it is this sort of akhlaq that the Prophet PBUH exhibited throughout his life which attracted so many people to Islam. Thank you for your amazing effort and bravery. May Allah bless you. Reply Hebah Ahmed April 13, 2011 Jazak ALlahu Khair for your extra load…very kind and sincere and greatly appreciated! Reply Good suspicion is nice.. But April 14, 2011 Good suspicion is nice sister Hebah, but.. Given there is a balance between understanding what is disbelief and not blaming people irrevocably that they’re not muslim etc, and between truly understanding what are the the principles in disbelief. These people, to their own admittance, do not fall in the fold of what we call orthodox islam. Overt pacificism is just as detrimental as overt takfir-ism. I know (giving good suspicion to you of course) that you say this to bring these people’s hearts closer and not draw them away etc… I will say though it’s a serious harm if people believe that her views are acceptable – when in fact, they are of course, real disbelief; she was not coerced to believe what she says, neither is she re-interpreting islam, she is stating that entire shar’i principles are not valid, again nothing new for the progressive side. I commend your akhlaq though sister. barakAllahufiki. Muslim April 14, 2011 good point but I suspect it might be ignorance more than rejecting a shar3i legislation after it has been clearly understood, and I say this after dealing with family members who echo many of the same points of Sister Mona. Zeemar April 13, 2011 You did really well Sister Hebah, may Allah reward you. Reply Sagal April 13, 2011 Salaam aleykum sister Hebah May Allah reward you for your efforts and for your kind demeanor. It is shame that Mona couldnt do the same, having read her tweets. It is not nice when she accused you of being obsessed with sex and giving people links of your radio interview and NY paper article of how niqab made a kid cry and that you couldnt work because of the niqab. I always though that she did great job most of the time, but I was surprised by her personal attack to you, despite her acknowledgment that you sent her a kind letter. You are maashaAllah for reaching out to her. May Allah guide her. Some muslims calling her a disbeliever isnt a way to encourage her to get close to her faith. I wish our muslim brothers and sisters would be kind to those who seem lost. Reply Fadi April 13, 2011 Sister Hebah, You make the whole muslim nation proud! Keep up the good work! Fadi Reply ahmad April 13, 2011 great job sister!!!!!!! Alhamdulillah Reply Abdul-Qadir April 13, 2011 @ Amad Assalamualaikum, Besides these three you mentioned: “composure, succinctness, drawing out themes and buzz-words that average audience will latch onto” Are there other principles of speaking in public that you feel are absolutely necessary? Reply Amad April 13, 2011 Abdul-Qadir, I am hardly a public spokesman… just made some observations (arm-chair critic ;)) I would refer you to a guide we had on MM on “Tips on dealing with the Media“. Reply Name (required) April 13, 2011 Salam to the believers, Masha’Allah, Sister Hebah done a brilliant job! Reply Shireen April 13, 2011 BarakaAllah feeki Hebah for fighting for women’s rights everywhere…I’m reminded of my love of Hijab – it is liberating and empowering! â™¥ May Allah bless you immensely! Reply umm imran April 13, 2011 aslam wa alikum jazak`allah khair to sister hebah for standing up for the right of our sister … i myself am a niqabi and have been since ramadan last … i`m a revert who`s irish …. and i wear it for my own sake and to be closer to allah … i`m living in a muslim country wear i see alot of sister starting to wear niqab and no one forces them …. i myself had the problem that my dh didnt want me to wear it and it took alot of years to convince him so jazak`allah khair sister may allah reward you and help you in the future to continue this way in defending our deen and our women umm imran Reply Rula April 13, 2011 Great job sister Heba .. I loved everything you said .. you were calm and straight to the point .. baraka Allah feeki .. All the best to you Reply carimah April 13, 2011 As’salaamu’alaykum Heba, I want to applaud you for your excellent response Masha’Allah ! May Allah reward you abundantly. Reply Medinah April 13, 2011 Assalamu Alaikum: I commend you Sister Hebah….you spoke on what most are afraid to talk about and spoke your mind, alhamdullilah. You got your point across very well and may Allah continue to keep you steadfast, ameen! Reply Arif Kabir April 13, 2011 Masha’Allah, great job, Sr. Hebah! “Surely after hardship comes ease”. SubhanAllah, it’s beautiful to see how there can be positive works coming right after a blow to our sisters’ civil liberties. Keep up the great work! Reply Juli April 13, 2011 subhanallah Hebah, I love you for the sake of Allah. Reading yr reply is making me all teary. HUGS. May Allah put barakah in all of our times so we can all do more for Allah. Ameen. Reply abu Rumay-s.a. April 13, 2011 Allahu Akbar! May Allah ta`ala reward you abundantly sister and bless you with continued success and steadfastness.ameen… People’s weak and emotional arguments typically do not go far, its usually a desperate attempt to draw public sentiment on such issues. Just to add my $0.02. – mass media dissemination is crucial if we want to be represented accurately..therefore, this is a great step, but more proactive projects need to be initiated, masha`Allah tabarakAllah, with all the talent here, I don’t think that will be much of a problem.. An example from a few years ago is: (FX for the episode of ’30 Days’ called ‘Muslims and America,'” in which Dave Stacy, a Christian, spent 30 days living with a Muslim family) – publicized round table discussions with different specialists on the topic – although the type of arguments brought forth are somewhat easily refutable by any layman with intellect, a legit and credible debunking / measured response to these type of arguments is required not only for the general public, but for Muslims as well.. if it is available, alhamdulilah, if not, then its just a suggestion. Reply UmmZayn April 13, 2011 Hebah, may Allah SWT reward you and grant you happiness and success in both this world and the next, Ameen! You did a great job Masha Allah!! Reply anna April 13, 2011 Wearing a hijab, niqab or whatever does not solve the problem if the person is actually following the true Islam. Dresses are something that we put on with our choice if we are in North America. The two extremes are niqab and bikini, and nobody can enforce a dress code as French government is trying to do. I have repeatedly seen women with big hijab’s doing things that are forbidden in islam (actually by the definition of quran are in the category of zina – extra-marital relationships etc.), obviously, this indicates choice of dress is not related to (the strength of) the faith. Dress does show the will of the person to make a statement in the public, and how people should perceive the person. The first duty of a devoted muslim woman is her family and staying in the security of her house unless absolutely necessary for her to come out. Apparently, the debate on the TV about what you want to wear in public was “absolutely necessary”. May Allah give all of us (the muslim women and men) true understanding of islam. Reply Bilal April 13, 2011 Jazaak Allahu Khairan Sr. Hebah. mA you were concise, articulate, confident… and you did totally do some pwning. May Allah make all of us able to represent our deen in the manner it should be with confidence, grace, and rahmah. Reply Sami April 13, 2011 May Allah reward you Hebah. One point I enjoyed was moving the conversation away from “Saudi Arabia” to the USA. This is a very important paradigm shift that people need to see. We are talking about freedoms here, not in KSA or Afghanistan. Hebah ftw! Reply Riyas Valiya April 13, 2011 Excellent work done by the sister… this is exactly what happens when hard logic meets fluffy hype… Many people would fervently argue that it is COMPLETELY AGAINST dignity to force a woman to wear the niqab or the burqa (and I agree) but the same fervor seems to be lost when its the other way around. By the same principle, we should also be COMPLETELY AGAINST forcing a woman to not wear it if she so chooses… Reply Usama April 13, 2011 As Salamu Alaikum, I don’t mean to start a debate or anything, but I know in some Arab countries the nikab can be a problem where men put it on and it makes it easier for them to surprise people and rob them and in some cases rape unsuspecting women. I agree that it is a woman’s right to wear the niqab, but don’t matters of security pose a problem? I’m interested in reading what sister hiba, any niqabi or any person thinks of this. Jazakum Allahu khairan, Usama Reply Umar April 13, 2011 Rape rates are 100x less in Saudi than the USA. Robbery rates are 50x less in Saudi than USA. (source: nationmaster) Reply Anne April 14, 2011 Salaam Umar, Not to question your stats, but what is the liklihood of a victimn of sexual assault telling anyone in the KSA? Lashes anyone? It is fine to be all pollyanna and think the fully sheathed sister is free from harm, abuse, or discrimination but we all know that isn’t true. Mona is definitely passionate about this (perhaps to a fault), but I see it moreabout her perception of women being coerced into fully veiling to be righteous. From what I remember of Heba’s path to niqab it was more of a “in your face” response to the negativity towards Muslims that arose after 9/11. I understand she doesn’t even believe it is required. Financially she is able to chose to not work outside of the home. There are sisters, often converts, who put it on to prove they are righteous muslimas. Just look at article after article on this site about women not being accepted into Muslim communities. If these women are single and must find work? – well let me know those who work in the public sector in the US while in niqab. I would love some numbers about the range of possibilities for the fully veiled sister to find work here. I knew a nurse who didn’t wear the face veil but did wear only black abayas. The only job she could get was answering phones for a pharmaceutical company. She hated it but wouldn’t modify her dress. The continuum of covering is also laden with degrees of piety (Mona mentioned this also). For my own personal reasons, I stopped covering my hair. I still wear clothing two sizes two big, no make-up, etc and yet I am the lollipop waiting to be devoured, yum! From pious to man candy in one small piece of cloth missing from my graying hairs. It makes me sad how many men in this thread couldn’t listen to Mona because of her hair or her silly nailpolish. I feel for them navigating the world in the West, every minute of every day must render them unable to get anything done. I am all for modesty in both sexes but truly I am embarrassed by some of our dialogue about these issues. Heba, you carried yourself well in the interview. I would have been nervous as heck. Bushra April 14, 2011 Sr. Anne, thanks for your comment. I think the reason Mona is being lampooned here is because she went on and on about HER feelings and HER thoughts, instead of dealing with the real issues at hand. Women being fear-mongered into wearing the hijab, jilbab or niqab simply doesn’t make sense, as for a woman to even start the process of covering or dressing modestly (such as you and me) comes from an admission of faith and love for her religion and her Lord. The one thing that bugged me about Mona’s dialogue was that she was repeating herself about women being coerced into wearing niqab because they are told they will go to Hell. She is doing a disservice to the female sex as, being Muslim women, we research the evidences before we decide to take a step of affirming our Muslim identity in the name of Allah. We look into the matter, dig deep, ask questions and really build our knowledge to gain an understanding of Islam and its rulings. By suggesting that we take every ruling/fatwa at face value and are happy to say ‘OK, I’ll do whatever you say’ is just as good as saying that women have no brains. Also, I love how you referred to the oft-forwarded email of the lollipop with and without hijab. Artfully thrown in :-) I think the concept of hijab is a whole package. Hijab ranges from what a woman looks at to the way she carries herself. The legislation of hijab, jilbab and niqab are there for for protection and identity. Colours, fabrics, etc are all subjective to the modes and customs of society as well as the individual. As for the job issue…yes, I know what you are saying, but being a Muslim woman, I know what it is like. One of the wonders of being dressed in this way is that you become an ambassador for the Ummah in the workplace and so, when such things occur in the world, such as the burqa ban, people turn to you for words of wisdom. It makes you even more conscious of who you are and your identity. I know many sisters who work and wear niqab. Some of them don’t wear it at work as they are doctors, dentists and other client-facing professionals. If sisters are covering themselves to convince the world that they are righteous muslimahs, then they need to re-check their intentions, because that is NOT why they should be wearing it. However, I suggest you delve deeper into the issue and ask them yourselves for their reasoning behind it. Amad April 14, 2011 I don’t disagree with all of what you are saying, but this: It makes me sad how many men in this thread couldnâ€™t listen to Mona because of her hair or her silly nailpolish. The only people who mentioned this were two women and one gender unknown. Most men I know usually don’t notice such stuff! So, I wouldn’t be too sad about it. inqiyaad April 15, 2011 Salaam sister Anne, Want to point a few things about the feeble ‘what is the likelihood’ card of last resort that is brought up by ‘pundits’ whenever this positive statistic in Muslim societies is shared with them. What is the likelihood? What is the likelihood of alcohol being involved in the crime being discussed i.e rape? What is the likelihood of proximity and access to women in a vulnerable situation being involved? What is the likelihood of false cues (read as date rape) being involved? Statistics after statistics show that these are involved. My point being that, and forgive me for framing it as a question, what is the ‘likelihood’ of these co-factors to rape being found in Muslim societies? Alhamdulillah, Islam cuts access to all these evil and sources of evil. Now, to answer your question about the likelihood of rape being reported. Above, Sajid Kayum, has shared a link to a couple of reports on al-jazeera related to this topic. The stigma attributed to women is no less in western societies. What do they say over here? she was (is) a slut!!! Perhaps, the ‘pundits’ miss the horror of ‘blame the victim game’ because of the succinctness. How many of the reported rapes are passed of as consensual sex? I believe there was an article about UK conviction rates on bbc. The rate, I remember, was pathetic. A common defense is that it was consensual. Muslim societies recognize one form of consent and that is called marriage. Yes, the victim in such a scenario could still be blamed but, the perpetrator cannot go scot-free. He is at least charged with adultery or fornication. Lashes anyone? And please don’t call me an ostrich. I and others over here are in no doubt about what the evil in men can do to devour their ‘man candy’. Even when it is not offered on a platter. Just that the rate of consumption goes down with decrease in supply. Usama April 14, 2011 Brother Umar, I think you missed my point. What I am referring to is the issue of security. Ok, maybe rape and robbery rates are that much less in Saudi than they are in the US, but what I spoke of may still be a phenomenon in our countries that presents a security dilemma, and which we need to look at and address. Like I said, if the niqab did not present such an issue, than I would support the right of women to wear it. Even though I do not agree with it, it is their right. Nowadays when a niqabi walks by as soon as she is out of sight Muslims begin ripping into her, ‘what is she doing to herself’, ‘that is not an appropriate appearance’, but if a woman walked by and she was scantily clad, spreading around fitna, you wouldn’t hear a word. But going back to the security issue, like I said, it seems to be a growing problem, and so I do not know. houssam April 13, 2011 mashallah good job heba. Reply firoz85 April 13, 2011 The BEST 15 SECONDS MASHALLAH MAY ALLAH BLESS YOU SISTER HEBA Reply mariya April 13, 2011 ASSALAMUALAIKKUm, MASHAALLAH it was gr8 listening 2 u v muslimas really need such ppl sply women who can speak for hijab n niqab n mak them realize dat we r proud on wearin it ALHUMDULILLAH, vry well said MAY ALLAH bless u Reply F April 13, 2011 Truth stands on it’s own, but it seems I need to clarify. What we need to learn from this video is to be logical above emotional. France’s ban on the Niqaab is cultivated in it’s history against the Church, which is the opposite of Americ…a’s foundation of liberty and freedom. The irony in that is while France supresses its freedom at home, it gets involved in Libya “to fight for the people’s freedom”. Population of France is 65 million, 10% Muslim (6.5 million), half are Muslim women (3.25 million), 2000 women wear niqaab (2000/3.25 million) = .000615%. Assume very generously 10% are forced to wear it, that’s .0000615%. Comparatively about 35%+ of women in most nations including Europe face domestic violence and some type of sexual abuse. Ripping the niqaab off a woman is just as oppressive as forcing her to wear one, as in Afghanistan. No one has a right to enforce on anyone, doing so is oppressive as you’re taking away their right to choose. Saudi Arabia doesn’t enforce women to wear a niqaab but has strict abaya laws, and the population is disrespectful to women that showcase their beauty. Although we’re indirectly affected in our choices, it’s not imposed as a law. Even in Islam, there is no compulsion, and although Imam Hanbali makes it recommended, Imam Shafi and Imam Hanafi only consider the niqaab wajib in the case of excessive indecency in society, but in America the niqaab does not maintain the same function as it has in the past Muslim world. Note, however the niqaab is not bidaa (innovation), as it was part of the diverse expression of modesty during the salaf and because of that must be tolerated at the least. The core of it is modesty and Mona Eltahawy represents what happens when you loose modesty. She is not fighting against pornography, the fashion industry, women’s rights. Mona represents fascist liberalism, buying right into a certain demographic of Western feminist thought that liberation is only through their means, hence wearing nothing and having sex freely is “liberation” while covering up and modesty is not. On top of that, her logic is totally unsound, it’s like if I can’t read and it makes me feel bad that others can, I would pass a law banning the alphabet. She does not realise this ban is as good as testing the waters to extend this law to the hijab and any other form of freedom and expression. Her question about Hebah’s employment condition is a low blow, she’s a mechanical engineer! Enough said. Btw note he called Hebah, “Habib” lol. Reply Nabeel April 13, 2011 “I moved to the U.S. 10 years ago after marrying an American, but when we divorced two years later I got into my car and spent 18 days driving alone to New York City. It was my American pilgrimage. My reward was a community of like-minded Muslims together with whom I prayed behind Amina Wadud, an American Muslim scholar, in the first public female-led mixed-gender Friday prayer. Without a head scarf and on my period, I prayed next to a man â€” sacrilege to many but a delight to me.” – Mona El Tahawy I would like to know why people like this are engaged and taken seriously like they are equal to Muslims who have to struggle everyday to follow Islam according to the Qur’an and Sunnah. Reply Nabeel April 13, 2011 I forgot to add- Jazakillahu khairan sister Heba. You did a wonderful job. May Allah subhanahu wa’tala have mercy on you and your family and may He continue to use you to benefit His Deen. Reply kylie April 15, 2011 err…how can u pray when u have your period?…. ;) mona is so weird for saying that Reply Amad April 15, 2011 off-topic. This post isn’t about Mona, its about the debate. UMUMTAZ April 13, 2011 Excellent job Hebah. It takes a lot of courage and confidence to speak like that. Perhaps, Allah was with you when you spoke. However, I do agree with Mona that there are several Muslim countries where, out of ignorance, men use niqab/hijab, among several other ways, to oppress women (e.g. Afghanistan and Pakistan). But, that is not relevant here because we are talking about US and not those countries. Also, we are talking about Hebah, who won’t let anyone control/oppress her :) . Who is well educated and KNOWS what she is doing! Reply Sarah April 13, 2011 MashaAllah, I was extremely impressed :) You’re a definite inspiration to all Muslim sisters mashaAllah! May Allah swt preserve and protect you Hebah! Ameen <3 Reply Rafa April 13, 2011 Masha Allah, incredible job sister Hebah, truly. You spoke for every Muslim sister out there who feels the exact same way, whether niqabi, hijabi, or whatever else. Jazak Allah and may Allah preserve you, sis! Reply Seerah April 13, 2011 Thank God one individual doesnt make up a government, Mona would have taken a more drastic decision because of her obvious detest of the Niqab. May Allah forgive her Reply Bint Alam April 13, 2011 Alhamdulillah, may Allaah increase you in beneficial knowledge, taqwa, good actions, sincerity and eloquency in speech to express the truth, ameen. Jazaakillaahu khairan sister Hebah, we really need the Islamic way of empowerment for women to speak up for their rights with proper Islamic knowledge as well as how to speak publicly. We need sisters to be educated about their deen so that they can truly represent the deen of Allaah without any compromise. No matter what people try to demean the deen of Allaah, their plans are all like spiders’ web, very weak and will soon be destroyed. Our work is to propagate the truth, be sincere in our hearts, and want the best for those who oppose the deen of Allaah that they be guided to the sweetest thing on earth. What I always find very contradictory is, why do women who can imitate the men, whether in speech or action feel so proud and smart? Are they ashamed of their feminine qualities and find success in only being like a man? Men and women are simply created in different physique and psychology. A complementary effort from both sides fulfilling the responsibilities they each have is what is going to produce the real fruit of a successful society. Even if sister Hebah left her job and served as a mother, why does it make others feel that this had degraded sister Hebah, shouldn’t she be appreciated for serving the position of a mother, or is being a mother and fulfilling the duties of a mother also seen as something inferior? SubhaanAllaah, Allaah has just the perfect way for us, He has bestowed on us responsibilities and obligations according to the blessings He has given us, beauty of women is a blessing from Allaah therefore she has a responsibility to not use it to harm the society in any way, and thus she wears the hijab, because we not only believe in physical purity we also believe in spiritual purity. And at the end, there will be some people who will never realise the truth, let’s carry on our job and expect the reward from Allaah and help each other in goodness biidhnillah. WaAllaahul Musta’aan. Reply Rafa April 13, 2011 Are they ashamed of their feminine qualities and find success in only being like a man? Agreed. I always thought that was strange. Anything that is unique to a woman is regarded as somehow low on the value scale–take motherhood for instance. Many women themselves take this natural, and quite beautiful, role and turn it into something revolting by calling it something like ‘popping out babies.’ Reply Umm-Ayoub April 13, 2011 MashaAllah, Sister Heba you made us all proud! Thank your for stating the position of Islam on face veiling. May God bless you and increase your knowledge. This is what CNN needs to do more of bring forth a true believer instead of bringing a Muslims who does not know much about Islam. Take care. Reply WAJiD April 13, 2011 Asalaam Alaikum, Like most people in the comment section I’d like to commend sister Heba on the concise and articulate rebuttal she gave to the views of Mona. However, I would also like to make a point: Brothers & sisters – the best way we can thank sister Heba is not by hundreds of virtual high-fives but by getting out there and defending Islam and Muslims, articulating our stances, clarifying misconceptions and helping reunite the Muslims upon Islam. There are literally thousands of problems that the Muslim Ummah is facing. The Niqab ban is one of them and it is heartening to see that the youth still have an affinity for the symbols of their faith & their fellow brothers and sisters. But so much more is possible. If even 10% of the people who commented here would take the time to write something for their local paper, organise a talk in their community, educate the next generation of young Muslims… then we’ll move a step closer to the day when we are united as one Ummah… and such oppression becomes impossible, not merely unjustifiable. (I know I am generalising as many of you are already active, but to those who just need that little kick-start… consider yourself kicked.) Reply Maryam April 13, 2011 Alhamdulilahi Rabbil Alameen. Hebah jan this was beautiful mashaAllah. May Allah ta’ala reward you in both this world and the Hereafter ameen. Mona, you are very talented mashaAllah, but to me you seem like a milder version of Sarkozy. ‘Milder’ because if you were in his place, you would make arbitrary laws too. Reply Sister April 13, 2011 Asa Wr Wb, SubhanAllah, before I saw brother Amad say it, the first thing that came to my mind when I saw the video was “Mona got pwned!” Dear Hibah, WaAllahi, I love you for the sake of Allah. Your appearance on CNN is such a blessing from Allah swt. Every person who watches that will come away with a different outlook insha Allah. You made it easy on the women who wear Niqaab, really, may Allah bless you and reward you. Keep us in your du’aa, you are in mines <3 Wa Salaam :) Reply Zulander April 13, 2011 asalamu alaikum, masha’Allah that was great. I’m glad sisters are defending themselves in the media, it really tackles the stereotypes people have. Reply Muslima April 13, 2011 For women who wear niqaab? do u believe it is also haram for a woman to work? makrooh? it just doesn’t make sense in my head how a muslima can cover her face and still be a doctor, lawyer, dentist. (unless she works with only the same gender) Islam did not start out segregated. men and women prayed in the same masjids next to each other (not women in the back). Why are we so obsessed with gender separation…? this is why homosexuality is rising so strongly is saudi arabia. (a taboo subject, but a realistic one) Im not against sister Hebah and her choice, im against how muslims are making burqa an islamic symbol…it shouldn’t be…its a cultural one. islam shouldn’t be difficult, lets stop making it difficult. Reply Inqiyaad April 13, 2011 1. For women who wear niqaab? do u believe it is also haram for a woman to work? makrooh? I guess Sister Hebah has answered that already with her post about her job(s). 2. it just doesnâ€™t make sense in my head how a muslima can cover her face and still be a doctor, lawyer, dentist. You got to experience it, to believe it. I and others have, so it makes complete sense to us that this is possible. Care to tell us why it would not be possible? 3. Islam did not start out segregated. men and women prayed in the same masjids next to each other (not women in the back). Perhaps you wanted to say, “not in a different room.” Next to each other? Again, would you care to tell us where you got that from? 4. Why are we so obsessed with gender separationâ€¦? this is why homosexuality is rising so strongly is saudi arabia. (a taboo subject, but a realistic one) I would flip that to ask, “why are we so obsessed with intermingling?” So why is homosexuality rising in the west, where the women are free to go bare-breasted and half naked, and not to mention intermingle and cohabit with men. Would you care to give us reliable statistics and reliable studies correlating the two, at least, if not proving it the way you want us to believe. My hypothesis, if indeed the rates are increasing, is that the insane increase in the cost of marriage (Mahr and sundries) might be a factor. 5. Im not against sister Hebah and her choice, im against how muslims are making burqa an islamic symbolâ€¦it shouldnâ€™t beâ€¦its a cultural one. Again, care to tell us how you have come to this conclusion. But, before you respond, do make it a point to read Surah Noor (Chapter 24) and a reliable commentary. 6. islam shouldnâ€™t be difficult, lets stop making it difficult. Islam is not difficult for one simple reason and that is Ù„Ø§ÙŽ ÙŠÙÙƒÙŽÙ„Ù‘ÙÙÙ Ø§Ù„Ù„Ù‘Ù‡Ù Ù†ÙŽÙÙ’Ø³Ù‹Ø§ Ø¥ÙÙ„Ø§Ù‘ÙŽ ÙˆÙØ³Ù’Ø¹ÙŽÙ‡ÙŽØ§ AllÃ¢h does not burden a person beyond his scope Believe me, it is far easier than being modish. To paraphrase what sister Hebah mentioned in the last 15 sec, if you were listening, ‘it is easier than being an object, a sex object, that is why some of your sisters chose to wear it.’ May Allah guide us to all that is good and right. Reply Umm Reem April 14, 2011 Dear Muslima, I wear niqaab and I used to work with my niqaab. My sister wears niqaab and she used to work. To be quite honest, there is nothing that we ever wanted to do and couldn’t do because of niqaab, alhamdullilah. Siraaj April 14, 2011 Salaam alaykum Muslima, Can you cite any references for your claims? I can cite the books of hadeeth which state otherwise. If you don’t believe in hadeeth, that’s your business, but for the vast majority of sunni muslims, the books of hadeeth inform and interpret our understanding of the religion, from how we pray, to the life of the Prophet, and the details of how men and women prayed (such as men in front, women in back, and so on). Siraaj Reply Amad April 14, 2011 To be honest, its really irrelevant what our belief is on the niqaab. Or whether we believe that it doesn’t allow you to work. Because people can choose to have that lifestyle! You can’t legislate that they don’t do niqaab so they can work (for instance). The perceived benefits or harms of the niqaab are not overwhelming for the society to force it over an individual’s legally protected rights. Umm Raabi April 13, 2011 MashaAllah ukthi you handled that very well. may Allah reward you Reply DrM April 13, 2011 I don’t see much separation of “Church and State” when the French President was holding a menorah flanked by rabbis. Enter Nicolas Sarkozy, a Hungarian Jew pretending to be a French gentile, and all around alcoholic womanizer. Recently the Mossad midget was ranting about banning the burqa. Ho hum, yet another feeble attempt to pander to the extremist vote. One would think that the President of France would have more urgent matters to tackle, like the pathetic state of the French economy instead of worrying about the clothing a few dozen Muslim woman CHOOSE to wear. Let’s get a few things straight : the burqa is not a religious form of dress hence it in no way infringes upon the bogus “secularism” of the state. Grow up and stop behaving like a bunch of spoilt hypocritical brats, we don’t live our lives to please the likes of you. If you really believe in freedom, you would let people go about their business instead of forcing your inferior sad excuse of a culture upon them. That’s right, I said it. Putting aside wine, cheese, a 35 hour work week, selective hygiene, braided armpits, the French really don’t have much of a culture. Instead what we have here are a downright nasty bunch, no longer having an empire. These days the cheese eating surrender monkeys get their kicks bullying minorities. Poll after poll shows that it is most racist country in Europe. Now I don’t want to come off as mean spirited but this obsession with Muslim woman’s clothing has gone far enough. Its time to highlight some harsh truths. Some may consider marinating in a puddle of one’s own vomit at 2 A.M outside of pub “culture,” we don’t. We also don’t think its civilized for grown men to go around stabbing each other in the buttocks after a soccer match. Call us party poopers but we don’t think decriminalizing incest, beastiality, pedophelia is healthy for society. Rest on your faded laurels like an aging has been if you want to, but the rest of the world realizes that not everyone wants to eat slugs, diseased cirrhotic goose livers and raw mince meat ….. sorry that would be â€˜escargotsâ€™, â€˜pate de foie grasâ€™ and â€˜steak tartareâ€™, saying it with a French accent doesn’t make it any less repulsive. Now here’s the bottom line, don’t tell us what to wear, and we won’t tell you go jump in a lake full of crocodiles. No integration or assimilation with Nazi and fascist scum. Est-ce que vous me comprenez? Reply Alhamdulillah :) April 13, 2011 Masha’Allah tabarak’Allah Sister Heba, jazakAllahkheir for representing us Muslim women well alhamdulillah may Allah (SWT) reward you for it generously. I can imagine how nerve racking the whole experience was but alhamdulillah Allah listens! He is sami’ al duaa :) Alhamdulillah! Even if Sister Mona still doesn’t agree with the choice of niqaab, at least she had the opportunity to actually speak with someone who wears it, and insha’Allah may Allah guide her and increase her imaan. I love you both for the sake of Allah, may He preserve you and increase your imaan insha’Allah, and help you to continue to make da’wah to others around us. Alhamdulillah! x1000 Reply Hodan Ibrahim April 13, 2011 Salam Sr. Heba I watched the interview twice. Although we have never met(in shaa Allah, perhaps in the future).I wanted to tell you how proud I am of you. Well done. May Allah bless you in everything you do. God Bless. Reply Azhar April 13, 2011 If the French think that women are forced to wear hijaab then they should quit double standards and think about all the girls and women who come under the influence of peer pressure and become victims of the thirst of lust of immoral men. Why are they turning their faces away from it and accepting that as part of life? Why are their hearts not crying out for that mistreatment to women happening more often than that of niqaab, if it is mistreatment at all? The truth is women are being forced day by day into becoming customized for the lust of men! The cases of men forcing women into undesired activities and making physical contact via peer pressure are countless! Only an insignificant amount of these actually fight back; the rest don’t because they are scared of the dire consequences they may have to face in the men dominant society. If not dire, at least a “social outcast” or “uncool” would be the label they would have to bear the burden of if they dare to resist such advances. So we should first ban men from coming within a certain distance of women, and enforce heavy fines if they do. Sure, that would be unnecessary for decent men, but that would take care of the creeps! Just like you are now trying to take care of the women who are really oppressed into wearing the niqaab, by usurping the right of those women that wear it wilfully! There is no such thing as a lawless society or a free society; where ethical and proper leadership or laws go away, corrupt culprits trade places and rule the society with their own double standards, selfish and immoral rules. This is the ground reality of all the societies today, even though laws exist on the surface, but behind the scenes there is free exploitation, especially of women. So deal with that by shutting down all night clubs and burlesque houses that sell the dignity of woman kind; ban seductive/attractive clothing in public; encourage modest clothing without the niqaab first!!!! Then you will have earned the audacity, which you are now undeservingly expressing, to raise your fingers at those who are properly combating the falling image of womankind by the use of niqaab. The niqaab and modest dressing for both men and women bring both the genders to a common level to converse from. If both express their charms to each other then no matter what time of the year it is, it will be the mating season for those two individuals. This is human nature, and Islam has addressed it perfectly. The core reason is the same as why governments prohibit naked walking in the public: that they don’t want their citizens turning into mindless mating cells; they want more productivity! So Islam saves its followers from these obstacles by giving them a code of conduct that would eliminate many of the occasions that would result in unnecessary interactions, which on the long run would result in a society of mindless freaks. We must remember that it has not been more than a 150 years that we have begun to allow attractive/seductive clothing, we are still experimenting on what the outcomes can be of this lifestyle, and thus far, the results are not very good! An increase in diseases; a decline in men’s concentration; a collapse of womankind’s dignity is only a few of flaws this new lifestyle of attractive expression to unconcerned persons has given to us. If a person is truly naive enough to imagine that attractive clothing and free intermingling of the genders has given the successful nations, like America, the boost to get them where they are, then that is the height of ignorance as it was the disciplined society of the British rule, the ancestors of today’s most successful nations, that packed up all the riches for them to inherit and to use to build forward. The British women used to cover their heads, elbows, hands and their entire body while just leaving the face visible; they had discipline on the type of relationships a man and woman can have. So stop creating the illusion of attractive/seductive fashion of dressing and intermingling of men and women as the way to success! Moreover, living in the 21st century, the argument that the niqaab does not allow a woman to express who she is is bogus! Today, typing and speaking is the way to communicate! People do not have time to read another person’s facial expressions just to have a jolly morning conversation, wake up! Time is more important than ever before! You, making this lame argument, are giving proof of how much you are aware of what is going on in the 21st century! Maybe, you are capable of packing down a whole bunch of facts in your system, but sadly, your level of wisdom is stuck back somewhere in the stone ages. Then, you, making this argument, as the self claimed representative of the 21st century’s modern society, makes the sight all the more pathetic! As if, the rest of us are just breaking bread at home and have no clue what is going on around us. Indeed, you, entertaining this thought, gives those more intelligent of us proof of what a tool you are! It tells us you are just a programmed human subject of repetitive propaganda that was delivered to you since you were a child. It is big corporations that try to control the trends of the world so that they can control the economy and pack more $! And people who force others to such trends, fashions, and lifestyle need to live and let live! Yes I am a Muslim, and I go by that rule of living and letting other people live because that is what my religion teaches me: “There is no compulsion in religion” The Holy Qur’an, chapter 2 verse 256! -Azhar Khan Reply Safiyyah April 13, 2011 Assalamualikum Sr. Heba, Very, very proud of you, masha Allah. You did an excellent job, by Allah’s will, Alhamdullilah. Incidentally, Sr. Mona’s argument of people being “forced” to wear the niqab because of the fear of hell if they do not, simply does not stand. Every religious act out to be banned then – often people, pray, fast, give zakah, refrain from stealing, etc. etc. simply because of a “fear of hell”. Religion itself would need to be banned for people to not be “forced” into doing or not doing things, out of a fear of hell. Once again, congratulations Sr. Heba, great words spoken under the pressure of being on mainstream media! Reply Niqabi April 13, 2011 I posted this comment on Mona El-Tahawy’s blog. I encourage other sisters who wear niqab, or even hijab, to tell her how they feel: Hello Mona, I find your stance on the niqab to be quite a misogynist one. Here you are, debating one of many Muslim women(myself included, living in the US) who choose to wear the niqab because, as you insist, she is forced to do so out of a fear of castigation from the â€œright-wingâ€ Muslims who preach fire and damnation. Well, I can tell you that women like us who wholeheartedly defend our choice to wear the niqab do so after an INTELLECTUAL and SPIRITUAL arrival at the conclusion that it is what will liberate usâ€“freeing us from the enslavement of a society that is predisposed to judge us by our beauty or lack thereofâ€“and essentially proclaim to the world that we are creatures of modesty, intellect, and strong-will. You will argue, well what about those women who do not have that choice, who are threatened into humiliation by the men in their lives? The answer to that is simple: the niqab is not a tool of oppression. It is only those with evil souls who would use it as such, much like a gun can be used to defend oneâ€™s property and honor, or it could be used to commit murder. It is unfortunate that you were easily refuted by this articulate woman who clearly blew away your argument with her simple yet profound logic. Let me make something very clear to you: we are not afraid of the scorn of men. We do this for the sake of Allah and NO ONE has the right to intervene with that. We are not women who â€œdisappear,â€ as you put it, into the background under the pretense of piety. Are we a society of simpletons that we are to really believe this? I do not know any woman who would be willing to and endure the ridicule, stares, and hushed whispers of the ignorant every time she goes out unless she has tremendous courage and a heart of steel. In short, stay out of our business. You donâ€™t like it, that is your problem. Perhaps you feel you cannot arrive at such liberation that we Niqabis feel when we step out of our door knowing that we donâ€™t give a damn about what people think of us, because we are not doing anything for the sake of people. Perhaps it would suit you best to humble yourself and learn a thing or two before you speak out to the world about something you clearly do not comprehend. Reply forever a student of Islam April 13, 2011 EXACTLY! well said sister Reply forever a student of Islam April 13, 2011 You did a GREAT JOB ukhti! Alhamdulillah ya Rab. He has indeed answered your prayers. And I wish more and more Muslimahs would be as open minded as you are, because really that is how I view you. The way you speak and reasoned shows that YOU are the one who is open minded not Mona. Mona was attacking you and the belief you stand for (as well as all niqabis around the world) while you were counter attacking her arguments, which is really how a debate should go. MashaAllah. The truth is yes, while many scholars argue that the Niqab is NOT mandatory in Islam STILL no one has the right to COMPLETELY ban it. I think this is what Mona was trying to say but again her reasoning was faulty. She was trying to say that Niqabis have an different view on what the full hijab should be BUT she made the mistake of agreeing that the Niqab should be banned. First of all, if you have a different view that DOES not harm anyone then who cares what someone else wants or thinks? Who cares if YOU are bothered just because I have a different view on Islam? Why does it bother you so much? No one is forcing women to wear the Niqab, except maybe in some places and that is wrong as it should only be done with the intention to please Allah only. So WHY should people like Mona have to come up and talk on behalf of us “oppressed women” when the majority of us don’t have a problem with the Niqab, jilbab or hijab? Sometimes I feel that there is a larger plot to brainwash us to hate the Hijab so we’ll abandon it altogether. And it is really sad that some Muslimahs are involved in this plot. I am not a Niqabi myself and I don’t believe it is mandatory in Islam HOWEVER I would never stop my sister from doing it as this is her right! She wants to get close to Allah and seek His pleasure, why do I have to butt in?? Why do people like Mona have to feel jealous because some women are closer to Allah?? Once again, mashaAllah ukhti and may Allah reward you immensely for what you said and your overall efforts in this endeavor. InshaAllah I also plan to wear the Niqab one day even though my parents are kind of against it. Still I believe it makes complete sense to wear it. I just started wearing abayas so I don’t want to shock them haha! Reply forever a student of Islam April 15, 2011 I just saw this video. would like to share it with everyone. it’s about the french Niqab ban and how this very smart woman got around it. if you’re a niqabi living in France, this would help you immensely inshaAllah youtube.com/watch?v=ZAMx5yomJXg&feature=player_embedded Reply Saifullah April 13, 2011 Assalaamuwalaykum I watched this little debate yesterday and mashAllah, you did a beyond wonderful job!!! Jazakallahu Khair for letting people REALLY know what niqab is all about! Reply Abu Musab As-Somali April 13, 2011 Sister Hebah Ahmed May Allah swt truly reward you with whats good in this life and in the hereafter! Ameen I randomly came across the cnn video and you were speaking with haqq and inshaAllah ta ala more sisters such as yourself begin to arise and speak up. The media usually asks everybody but the sisters that wear niqab on the issue of niqab. They need to stop asking random folks and need to reach out to the sisters directly. Very articulate and thought provoking hopefully inshaAllah people put aside the differences and begin to look at the virtues and benefits. May Allah protect you and strengthen your dawah and iman! Reply Sarah S. April 13, 2011 Assalaamualaai’kum warahmatullah, May Allah make you smile in jannah for making us smile, you are an inspiration in both modesty AND manners! I love you for the sake of Allah <333 Reply mohammed haque April 14, 2011 AA, Sister Heba mashallah! Fatahallhu alayk. Reply Fahmy April 14, 2011 Great Job Sr Hebah! May Allah accept it from you… Ameen. Reply faezon April 14, 2011 salam Hebah!! You did a great job Hebah. Im a muslim woman from Malaysia and I.m not wearing niqab and still trying to perfecting my hijab. As I watch the video, I cannot keep myself from be proud of you Sis. The way you answer the question in calm. May Allah bless you. As for Mona, I think she’s been raise in family where the parents keep saying negative things about Islam, such as ” you will burned in hell if you do this and this instead of saying God will loves you more if you truely follow His rules, if you perfecting your hijab, and Insyallah you will go to heaven and of course we all want to go to heaven so that’s why we should do this and this.” I think that’s why she have such distase over wearing niqab. it’s th eemotional stuff. Really, I dont judge her as bad Muslim just because she didn’t put her scarf as I believe, all that lies in our heart, and the matter of Hell and Heaven is in Allah hands and we as mere human didn.t have any says in that except by doing our best to be a good Muslim. But, as you said, just because she thinks by not wearing hijab she will not feel oppressed doesn’t mean people that wearing niqab or hijab have the same feeling as her. People should be free to wear whatever they like and that goes for both. Mona is free to not wearing proper hijab just as Hebah is free to wear the most proper niqab. At my country there’s a lot of people dress like Mona and dress like Hebah but we all can live in peace. After all it’s our choice to practice what we believe will make us closer to God . Even the Non Muslim have no qualm about it and I think, it’s ridiculous and will be new kind of oppression for woman if that ban were to extend to all countries. I’m doing my masters in biology, I can do sport, I can drive a car. Whoever says Muslim has been opressed is definately dont travel of know enough about other parts of the wolrd. Reply Amad April 14, 2011 Welcome to MM Sr. Faezon I was in Malaysia with family last week for vacation and all I can say it’s a beautiful country with beautiful (mannered) people. A must-visit! Reply faezon April 14, 2011 Thanks Br Amad.! ;) Fayed April 14, 2011 MONA you have been SPIZTERED !!! Reply Hebah Ahmed vs Mona Elthahawy on ban of Niqab | faezon dot com April 14, 2011 […] sources : Muslimmatters.org […] Reply chuck hird April 14, 2011 What a wonderful discussion. I want to learn more from Muslimmatters so I can be more welcoming. I do believe that in America a woman should have the right to wear what she wants. But I am uncomfortable with the niqaab or the full covering burka. However, that is my problem. I just wish we could have more interaction between the faiths, because if we don’t, we will continue to have mistrust between our communities. Reply Amad April 14, 2011 Thanks Chuck. Communication is the key to resolving misunderstandings and mistrust. You are not alone in being uncomfortable with niqaab— even many Muslims are. There are people out there who uncomfortable with plain Muslims too… just have to know one to understand. Reply Emma April 14, 2011 Hebah, we can all learn from your grace, intelligence and patience. No matter anyone’s opinion on this debate, you are miles ahead of your competition in terms of composure and attitude. You are incredibly inspiring. Reply Umm Ahmad April 14, 2011 To those who claim that we as niqabis are forced to be so…I’m an Egyptian lady..Alhamdulillah I’ve worn niqab since 1984 ..it was quite rare to see a niqabi anywhere even in a muslim country like Egypt…nobody forced me and none could do ..it was my free choice..I forget to mention that I went through a severe war aginest the whole family except my brother..he was the only one who supported me after Allah…I had to be exposed to mock on everywhere inside and outside home ! By the way I was almost twenty ;) I got my university degree BS of Commerce. Finally I don’t know what’s wrong if I choose to imitate our role models as muslim women ,the Mothers of the Believers..Why do anyone like to be such a nosey???????????? Thank you Sister Heba ;)May Allah keep you,me and all the niqabi sisters steadfast and firm our hearts on the straight path (Ameen). Reply jafar April 14, 2011 Dear Habah: very well spoken …may Almighty bless you for what ever u r doing Reply Starlight April 14, 2011 MashaAllah, dear sister!! JazakiLlahu Khairan! :-)) Reply AnonyMouse April 14, 2011 As-salaamu ‘alaikum wa rahmatullaahi wa barakaatuh, First off – barakAllahu feeki, sis Heba, for your AMAZING presentation. May Allah increase you in strength of faith, knowledge, and eloquence, ameen. Secondly – I wonder, has Mona EVER met or spent time with niqaabi women outside of Saudi Arabia (where, according to her, they only wear niqaab because they’re forced to)? Has she actually sat down and had coffee with someone like sister Na’ima Robert, who is well-known for her books and SISTERS magazine – who happens to be a convert, educated, a businesswoman and a family woman, and not afraid to say her piece? I highly doubt it. Mona seems to speak from an emotional background of bad experiences, whether it has to do with “forced veiling” in Saudi or overly harsh, judgemental Muslims who condemn women to hell for not wearing niqaab. I do think Mona should spend more time in non-confrontational gatherings with other Muslim women – those who wear niqaab and those who don’t! – to better understand what WE, practicing Muslim women of the West (and elsewhere) are really like… how we can be, and are, businesswomen and intellectuals, stay-at-home-mothers and content housewives. Just as she accuses the “religious right-wing” of creating “pinnacles of piety,” so too is she guilty of creating her own standards of what is oppressive and what is not, what is acceptable and what is not. Reply suhail April 14, 2011 Sister, It is not just about her being not knowing things about muslim woman. She constantly attacks things in Islam and makes a mockery about it. Not doing hijab is one thing but making a mockery of it in the public is totally different thing. This is not a difference of opinion at all. I think Hebah was too nice with her. She makes public mockery of hijab, prayer conditions and other Islamic injunctions. This is like making a mockery of deen. She is playing with her deen as if it is based on her whims and desires but in the course she is mocking the deen of Allah(SWT). I think you guys are too nice with her. -Edited. We aren’t going down the “Is she Muslim” slippery slope. We are not in a position to judge her Islam, esp. not on this site. Reply Bushra April 14, 2011 I believe we are being nice to her because of the way the Prophet (salallahu alayhi wasallam) was with his adversaries. And they weren’t even Muslim. So we should show her that, as our sister in Islam, she is more than welcome here as long as she doesn’t mock us and our interpretation of Islam. As Sr. Hebah said…we are happy to accept her version as long as she accepts our version. Simple as. suhail April 14, 2011 So we are ready to accept her version of Islam? Sister i do not understand that. What she is saying is not even debatable it is clear munkar. suhail April 14, 2011 -Comment removed. Again, we are not discussing Mona, the person, here. Hebah Ahmed April 14, 2011 Just to clarify, every Muslim is free to do as they please, Allah is the Judge. Many of the progressives’ arguments are that mainstream Muslims are intolerant and unaccepting of other Muslims who do not follow their exact same religious opinions and practice. The fact is there is great room for difference in Islam. Once the differences go outside of Islamic rulings, we must call them for what they are–unIslamic. The point is to focus on the incorrect words and actions, not the person. So if someone says La Illaha Illa Allah, then according to my understanding, they are Muslim and I must give them their rights. The Prophet (SAWS) knew the names of the hypocrites and he did not expose them or treat them badly…it is for Allah to judge. And we know that the worst enemies of Islam can end up being the best Muslims because the Truth stands clear. For me, bad manners will only dim the light of truth and good manners will brighten it Insha Allah. Muhammad Bin Arshad April 14, 2011 Assalam o Alikum, I am neither knowledgeable enough to argue the way discussion went along nor intelligent enough to look into this debate critically. However, the discussion brings a strange kind of satisfaction for me. Its not only strengthen my believes regarding Niqab but also make me feel proud for being a Muslim. A bundle of thanks for dear sister Hebah who represents the true spirit of Islam on an international platform with such great confidence. Reply Ali Pak April 14, 2011 PARIS – The world’s first ban on Islamic face veils took effect in France. President Nicolas Sarkozy’s government defended it as a rampart protecting France’s identity against inequality and extremism. whenever i see “women’s lib” and that mullah’s are against the “modernization” makes me laugh ….. lets see whose behind the so called liberation of women by following the trusted rule who benefits the most and who gets to become bankrupt if the self respecting ladies decide to make their home and the family… a centre of attention …and be beautiful just for their husbands let us have a glimps of just a small business … a business that is condemned by ALL the socities throughout the human history….. the business of PORNOGRAPHY ….These figures are of 2003 Pornographers get a business of $57 billion of which $ 12 b in the USA alone … $ 20 b worth videos are sold …. not including renting business thereof …. there are telephones services where u can talk dirty with some one’s daughter/mother/wife/sister … they get $ 5 b for that … porn mags worth $ 7.5 b are sold … from internet porn sites they earn $ 2.5 b … while for such cd’s they get $ 1.5 b the most horrible part is where they sell pics of girls less than 13 years of age …. selling em for $ 3 b …. there are 325,000 such girls in USA only …while in other parts of the world they are much more than that …. there are about 100,000 child porn sites on the net there are more than 4.2 million porn sites containing 37 million women showing thier private parts …. annually 2.5 billion e-mails containing porn pics r sent …… the world population is about 6 billion but the people opening such sites are 7.5 billion ….. anyone from a child to an elder has the access to such sites … the mean age of people opening them is 11 years … while 80% of them are from 12 to 17 yrs of age ….. i have just pointed out the MOST GRUESOME business … who push the women to “open up ” ….. i havent even touched the business of cosmetics … fashion …. clubs …. cinema …. models …. IN ALL THAT BACKDROP… imagine a person telling them ” God wants the women to cover themselves when going outside thier homes” ….wont the hearts of all those women selling businessmen tremble at the thought of it ….? …. they would all gather to label that person as an “uncivilised” and “terrorist” ….. they’ll use whatever they’ve got to eliminate him ….. either by dropping daisy cutters …. or coming in a form of “donor agencies” and persuade the women to hate thier homes and getting out of it ….. by giving her the slogans of “women’s lib” and ” out of the slavery”. Reply Farhan April 14, 2011 I respect Sr. Mona and her last name is AlTahawy (the ‘Aqida tract) so I’m obligated to respect that…but she’s dead wrong here. I find it odd that someone can be for womens’ rights…yet oppose womens’ rights. The message I get from Mona’s camp is “shut up woman, your freedom is getting in the way of your liberation”. Reply Farhan April 14, 2011 I just want to add that she did a lot of good work for the people of Egypt. She’s wrong, but I don’t want to vilify her. She’s still our sister in Islam. Reply Mohamed Hussein April 14, 2011 thanks alot sister Heba, Wonderful role she played in support for Niqab, my prayers for you and for all muslim women, may allah give you support in defending islam. Ameen. Reply Aisha Ali April 14, 2011 MashaAllah, well done sister Hebah. Hope you get more opportunities to voice all our female voices. Love u for this. <3 Reply Reza April 14, 2011 Masha’Allah, Hebah tore her to pieces in that debate, what a great job! Jazak’Allah Khair! Reply Hafiza Khatun April 14, 2011 Though i am a great fan of Mona and very much against face veil, still i do not support any ban on any dress either by religious fundamentalist or secular fundamentalist. Rather i will argue with Heba and others- the religious sanctitiy of wearing face veil with civility and dignity. But i will never impose my views about my interpretation of my religion on others by legislation. What i believe is that we should honour plurality of readings until it infringes others’ rights, like al qaeda or Sarkozy. I support Mona on female led mixed gender prayer while i honor other point of view on this issue without being apologetic or confrontational. This space should be kept for all of us to live and practice our religion with our understanding of religion. We should have more intra religious debate and discussion on different issues like one in here. May Allah keep us in right path. Reply Hassen April 14, 2011 As long as you can support your views with legitimate understanding of the Quran and authentic/wholistic understanding of the sunnah- go for it. But to be straightforward, not sure if this is possible with the issue of women leading mixed-gender salaah. Reply Radhia April 14, 2011 As salamu aleykum. Sr. Hebah Ahmed, I have to say “Jazakallahu khairan for putting Miss. Mona in her place.” LOL. I could see the hate in her eyes in the end. You should speak out more, Sr. Hebah – put more of these ‘moderate’ Muslims in their place. I mean, they are really extremist themselves. They are extremely unreasonable! Everything goes. Even Mona was once on CNN and spoke about abuse that Gaddafi’s men did to her – in explicit detail. Aoudhubillah! She aint no pious woman and she’s right – she is far from piety. Even a man with half of decency wouldn’t say that on TV. Barakallahu feek Sr. Hebah Ahmed. Preach on! Reply Aisha April 14, 2011 Sr Hebah.. 2 words – YOU ROCK! Alhamdulillah I watched this and was cheering you on. Just love you for the sake of Allah. I had a way too long disagreement on Islamic “Feminism” with another sister one time and I just want to share a quote from another Sister who was chiming in our disagreement – so here it is (I love this): “The criterion for judgement has been set by Allah and His Messenger sallallahu alayhi wa sallam and it is clear like the night and the day. So when a acclaimed muslim woman does not wear hijaab then she is like a walking billboard that says, ‘i am clearly disobeying Allah!’ Sr Aisha Reply nk April 14, 2011 mashallah, I loved it. May allah reward you sister Heba. I know from my experience that muslim attire is hard to wear not beacuse the sister doesnt want to but rather because the family oppose it. I know alot of sister who cannot wear the hijab as well as the niqab simply because their husbands and fathers are against it. This case of forcing them to wear it seems lacking facts. How the heck is this oppression? A simple choice is all it is. Wanna talk about oppression how about the fact that not a single commodity in the west can be sold with out a woman exposing her body in the advertisement as bait. How about the women who cant ge tthe job because they cant look the part? Reply ES April 14, 2011 gAZAKI aLLAH khairan Heba…. I think that Mona and many others just don’t get it right or don’t want to….it is very important for Muslims and Non Muslims to understand that Quran is completed and highlighted by Sunna , not only quran alone /part of it or incomplete verses that makes people get Isalm wrong or misunderstood……. I think that it is all Muslims’role to understand Islam very well to be able to address it right when confronting such situations like you did Heba…That’s one of our messages in life Reply Abu Yusuf April 14, 2011 Heba Ahmed is an ideal representative of niqaabis in the West. Her articulate, composed, intelligent, and respectful demeanour contrasted with the other sister’s rhetoric. More importantly, the nationwide audience of women amongst the kuffaar were exposed to a Muslim’s perspective straight from the horse’s mouth (instead of propaganda). Muslim women are being targeted for assimilation in the name of freedom. Hence we find Ms Pakistan (from Houston), current Ms USA, and Ms Great Britain contestant – all three are Muslim women! (reference: video on religion.blogs.cnn.com/2011/04/14/muslim-beauty-queen-faces-abuse-from-all-sides-she-says/?hpt=C2). It is only a tiny minority of women who understand and embrace the meaning of hijab as a protection, symbol of self-respect, dignity, and empowerment. Reply MW_M April 14, 2011 Mona keeps saying I believe, I believe, I believe, well, we donâ€™t make laws based on what Mona believes epic! Reply Hannah April 14, 2011 Well argued, Hebah! I agree that the burqa should not be banned, although the law will never affect me personally. It was interesting to hear your arguments, which came across as entirely rational and presented an alternate definition of sexuality. Reply The Muslim Voice April 14, 2011 […] You can read the transcript here. […] Reply Sufistan April 15, 2011 Dear Hebah, i admire your stance. You have proved that a woman who covers her face has a head on her shoulders which she prefers to use instead of using her body and face. Not many people understand the significance of haya. Especially the non-muslims. For them haya is an alien concept, because ‘a way of life’ has become obsolete for a lot of those people. And they might not understand the beauty and intricacies of faith when we say ‘al hayau shubbatum minal imani (al-Bukhari)’ . A society that fosters and lives on positivism and one which believes in a minimum content of natural law- not defining what the ‘minimum’ or the ‘natural law’ is and from where it is derived is a society which becomes the victim of its own oppression. It is best that at this stage, instead of targeting women and girls who decide to live a life of their choice, which is the real feminist debate, Sarko focuses on issues which are in dire need of attention and have been neglected and will subsequently help the world become a better place if they are attended to. Issues like- drug abuse, alcoholism, aids and the like. It may be possible, as Mona highlights, some women may be forced into wearing a face veil. But we cannot neglect the fact that women have been forced into a lot of other things like prostitution, rape within marriage (R V R) and abortion (China) etc. Some women choose prostitution as a profession, some are forced to adopt it as one. Some call it a right to have an abortion whereas some term it murder and consider the foetus having a separate existence. Rape within marriage was allowed in the Victorian era but now woman has a right over her body. The Western Society’s hypocrisy has no limits, they will tolerate people with illegitimate children, people with extra-marital affairs, but they will not accept polygamy – >>> masquerading pluralism. I ask you, Sarko, if a woman has a right over her body, doesnt banning of the niqab become another form of oppression. It does and hence (rephrasing the words of the author) Heba has pwned Sarko. The Lord of the Universe never leaves assisting those who walk with Him. This is a victory – one of the many that will follow if He wills . Perhaps many are not aware of the fact that people in France are creating funds to pay off the fines of the women who choose to wear a face veil. History shows us repeatedly that whenever we criticize or ban or lie about the truth, the truth spreads. Curious minds indulge in research [ blogs.forward.com/sisterhood-blog/136982/ ]- and the results are positive, not always but mostly. Its time to give space to people, accept them and live with them in a peaceful manner, as human beings should. Its time to allocate all that money spent on selfish- hatred based wars on the homeless, the destitute, the prisoners of war, orphans etc instead. Its time to act like a human Sarko. Once again bravo Hebah, i commend you and endorse your stance. Reply Muslimchica April 15, 2011 I love what Heba did but I dislike when someone says ‘western hypocrisy’ These hypocrysis exist in the East as well. And at times they are a lot worse there Reply Sadaf Farooqi April 15, 2011 Hebah, I know my comment is late, but my love and dua’s are not. :) I have been feeling an immense joy since I watched you in this video. Subhan Allah, well done and may you continue to do even better in future. I ask Allah to keep choosing you for His choicest work to represent the true picture of women in Islam. Ameen. Barak Allahu feeki!! I don’t know if anyone else mentioned this point, but I thought that in the end, when you stopped speaking in mid-sentence as soon as the anchor asked you to stop, was a great act of patience, masha’Allah. It was a great ending to the debate, because it showed that you had control over your emotions and your nafs, unlike your opponent. Sister Farhat Hashmi said this when she saw this video: “May Allah give her more strength and ayyidha bi ruh alqudus :)” May Allah reward you in both worlds and keep you steadfast. You have the dua’s of hundreds of thousands of your brothers and sisters around the globe. ((a big, big hug)) Reply Hebah Ahmed April 15, 2011 Jazak Allahu Khair dear Sadaf! I love the way you described when I got cut off at the end…it sounds nice the way you explain it. :) Honestly I was a bit relieved he cut me off cuz I was not quite sure where I was going with the last sentence. LOL! Reply Cognitive Dissonance April 15, 2011 Salam, Hebah, you came off very professional and measured, I wish I could say that about all Muslims spokespeople who end up on TV. Small nit, do you really think no women are forced to wear niqab (or hijab for that matter)? I know plenty. By the way, if you do get interviewed again, maybe you can weave in some humor, like saying you save a ton of money on make-up and prep time before going out :-) Regarding sister Mona, she has done much positive work with the media on other issues, and ultimately she is Muslim. So its very disconcerting to see people attacking her on FB as basically a kafir, such talk only helps to push people further away and escalates the tension (thank you MM for not allowing personal attacks on her) . Can I suggest MM’rs (and you Hebah & other niqabis particularly) send her an email, or at least post on her FB letting her know that we do consider her a sister and you do not support the takfiris. This will be a good counterbalance to what she is reading, the takfiris make her even more assured he perspective is correct. If nothing else she was the one who shook Sh Yasir Qadhi’s hand, right? So that should account for something :-) CD Reply Hena Zuberi April 15, 2011 Sr Hebah is in touch with Mona- she sent her a sweet email immediately after the debate. I have tweeted that precise thought to Sr. Mona- that she is a sister and sister have differences all the time. JzkAllah Khair for your thoughtful suggestion and it is sad that people are being so horrendous. This just divides people and is not helpful at all. Reply Azhar April 18, 2011 Asak First of all kudos to Sr Hebah Ahmed for exposing the bigotry of Mona. Hebah is amongst the contemporary Muslim women whom I would recommend my daughter to emulate. May Allah give her the companionship of Rasoolullah(saws) and Ummuhat ul Momineen on the day of judgment for standing up to protect this beautiful deen. Here is my bit about the so called â€œcoercionâ€ When I said â€˜La Ilalaha Illallah Muhammad ur Rasoolullahâ€ I accepted to obey the laws of Allah and His Rasool(saws). My likes and dislikes do not matter. If somebody perceives this as â€œslavery and oppressionâ€, Iâ€™m more than happy to be such slave. I signed up for this when I recited the kalimah. What you see as oppression is liberation to me. Liberation from peopleâ€™s opinion, their rules, their judgmentâ€™s. Iâ€™m content to being a slave to the One who created me, who feeds me, who guides me, on whose mercy lies the air that I breathe. I know in my heart that Iâ€™m in safe hands. Pls get this straight into your heads. No amount of logic can change the laws of my religion. If you really want to change them, go and put your case to Rabb ul Alameen who created them, not me or even my ummah. Wrong number, my dear friend. Was Salaam Azhar Hebah Ahmed April 15, 2011 We Alikum Asalam, To clarify, I said in the interview that I personally have never met a woman who covers that told me she was forced to. Of course it must happen but I was talking from my own experiences. Conversely, I hear plenty of stories of women who are being forced to uncover by husbands, parents, and society. It seems to me like many of the cases where women are allegedly forced to cover come from areas where there is a lot of poverty and lack of education. The men seem to cling to sexist cultural traditions without proper Islamic Knowledge. Allah knows best. Reply Syma kashif April 15, 2011 Great job Sr Hebah, You are an inspiration for all of us! May Allah reward you for your effort and May Allah guide us all to the straight path! Reply Bint Alam April 15, 2011 -comment removed. Offtopic. Reply SisterinIslam April 15, 2011 Assalamu ‘Alaikum, May Allah (swt) reward you Sister Hebah! Ameen. You did a great job. :) Reply be April 15, 2011 salam alaikum dear readers, of course i am going to add my drop to this sea of du’a and supports ..but I can’t help it!! MashaAllah Heeba may Allah reward you greatly!! Ameen. On the side note, I am from France and I see how the debate is totally polluted and hypocritical when it comes to Islam and niqab and no matter what we think of the US (and I do despise a lot about it such as their foreign policies) there is still room for Muslims to speak their minds and make their true positions known after all…I do not believe something like that would have been possible there ..or at least letting a niqabi getting the upper hand and getting away with it on TV. Good Job :) Reply Hebah Ahmed April 15, 2011 Ameen! I will take whatever duaas I can get! We are supporting you my sister in France! Reply ummmanar April 15, 2011 Mashallah sis Heba you spoke so calmly and confidently I am so proud of you.Job well done may allah keep you strong and steadfast. Reply Muslimchica April 15, 2011 Salaam! so happy to see this. I posted this on face book and everyone loved it. Its very educational and I’m so very proud of you! I dislike how Mona thinks she can speak for other woman. Reply Obaidullah Ahmed April 15, 2011 MashAllah! May Allah S.w.t reward you dear Sister. Reply Zahra April 15, 2011 I applaud Sister Heba for her wise and well-chosen words, and putting a “face” to the supposedly faceless niqabi Muslim woman. I think this debate answers all the foofaraw about needing to see a woman’s face to communicate with her and for her to express herself– it seems most of us (including Spitzer) understood her much better than we did Sister Mona. However, I’d like to see more hijabi and niqabi women acknowledging the real reason we cover: simply because it is a commandment from our Lord and Creator, Allah, subhana wa ta’ala. It may seem easier on Western ears to give the reasons as women’s liberation, anti-objectification, and wanting to be heard but not ogled. While all of these reasons are some of the benefits of covering, they are not the real and ultimate reason why we cover, and non Muslims need to know that. Reply tayyibah April 16, 2011 asalamualaikum, I agree with Zahra and was thinking along the same lines the entire time. The REAL reason for why we do hijab/niqab wasn’t mentioned was it? It is because it is a command from Allaah and so we hear and we obey. Mona repeatedly said that in her view it wasn’t part of the religion. I wish Heba addressed that as well. Reply Hebah Ahmed April 16, 2011 We Alikum Asalam, Jazak Allahu Khair Sisters Zahra and Tayyibah for the reminder. I think I implied throughout that I was doing this because of my belief in Islam but yes, I should have stated it more specifically. It is very hard to remember all of the things one must say and try to address every point Mona brought up all on the spot. I also did not want to change the focus of the interview into a fiqh/tafseer fight. I think I did a better job in this ABC’s 20/20 interview Insha Allah: youtube.com/watch?v=Tu9AdvDaLmA Please make duaa that I do better. Jazak Allahu Khair. Zahra April 16, 2011 I had never seen the 20/20 interview before, jazakAllah khair for showing it to us. MashaAllah you explained the reason we cover beautifully! May you reap tremendous rewards in the akhirah because of your dawah, and for making things just a little bit easier for every Muslim girl who decides to cover up in a society that may not be ready to accept her. Najmah April 16, 2011 As salaamu alaykum dear Sister Hebah, readers and other columnists. TabarakAllaah for this remarkable interview Hebah. May Allaah continue to increase you, guide your words and actions towards good and allow others to see the truth in Islam through your actions. Ameen. Your ability to remain calm and collected, stating facts and remaining firm upon the message you were trying to convey assisted in the small victory against the self-proclaimed Muslim “feminist” Mona Al Tahaway. It was clear and present to many that she spoke from emotion, self experience and her bantering was mere conjecture. It is quite a different playing field if a woman is debating an issue amongst men, as with her interview against Tariq Ramadan. The man could easily come out sounding oppressive, chauvinistic and speaking from his own primal, innate male nature. Yet coming against a fair opponent in opposition of her stance that all women are allegedly forced into veiling, it made her stance seem weak. While I can claim none to be pious before Allaah, I also applaud you Hebah for speaking on behalf of the sisters who wear niqab freely, by choice, through religious conviction, seeking reward from our Lord and honorably. Please continue what you are doing dear sister! I have been trying to speak to a few people about developing an official forum where women from both sides respectfully discuss the positions on niqab/hijab and bringing legitimate proof, government imposing political views, assisting the women who are truly oppressed and other pertinent female issues. I’ll see where this leads or if others can round the masses before me to implement this. I’d love to see the outcome of that. Ukhtuki fee deen Najmah bint Burton Reply khalid April 16, 2011 As Salam Alaikum Warahmattullah! Thruth stands out for itself. Well done sister hebba, you have done a wonderful job of dawa. MAssha Allah. Additionally would like to commend you on the last statement, its not about what mona believes. Bravo Reply greentea April 16, 2011 Sister mona is blessed with a beautiful face, but she should get a better hairdo. She reminded me of scary medusa ! check it here :. And why does mona keep rambling about “she is not here” when I can see sister Heba on my HD screen quite clearly. Reply Sameera April 18, 2011 Haha, Thats funny. :D Reply Habib April 16, 2011 Jazakillah khair sister Hebah. For the ignorant who knows not how the Companion women used to dress when they are out in public, they need to review Books of Sunnah as well as Tafseer. Search for their reaction when the verse of Hijab was reveiled. Your opponent, may Allah guide her, is totally ignorant and her argument is based on falsehood. Companion women used to work and live their lives with their hijab on. May Allah bless you, strengthen you and support you in all your endeavors Reply Carlos April 17, 2011 Government does not normally have a compelling interest in legislating how individuals dress. There are some exceptions, such as for security and identification reasons, such as when getting a driver’s license photograph or when boarding an airplane. Otherwise, government should stay out of our wardrobes. I think the French government is wrong on this. As long as a woman is not being forced to wear a niqab, it is not “slavery.” Do I think Muslim women should wear niqabs? No. I think they lose their own identity when they do. For example, I have no idea what Hebah looks like. If one were to show me a photo of her bare face, or if I were to see her bare face in public, I would not recognize her. Why would I not recognize her? Because to be able to identify an acquaintance, I must have been able to see his or her face. Without a face, it is as if I never met the person. The person would always be a stranger to me. What is the point of staying anonymous? And why does Hebah imply that showing her face would sexualize her? Does a man showing his face sexualize him? No, of course not. Are women who show their faces sexualizing themselves? Again, of course not. To argue so would be an insult to women who show their faces. If Hebah were to show me her face, would I be overcome with sexual desire? No, I am sure I could control my lustful impulses. People are who they are. Their faces are part of their identity. If they cover their faces, they hide their identity the world. Covering one’s face is not modesty, it is anonymity. It is a barrier that separates people rather than bringing them together. And, since I have heard, many times, that Islam does not require covering the face, there is apparently not even a religious reason for wearing the niqab. Still, if Hebah and some other Muslim women insist that they absolutely want to always cover their faces, what right do I have to say they should not be allowed? They are as free to dress as they want as I am to dress as I want. Reply Niqab April 17, 2011 Less than a 100 years ago, in Europe, upper class Christian women wore the niqab and fully covered their bodies and faces. Reply Open Letter to Mona | From A Very Visible Niqaabi to Her Self-Appointed Champion | MuslimMatters.org April 17, 2011 […] Hebah Ahmad â€“ the one you debated on CNN â€“ said something really beautiful that I agree with completely: â€œMona is my sister in Islam and […] Reply Samuel April 17, 2011 Hebah Ahmed states that she is wearing the niqab (not forgetting the hjiab too) because she wants, because it is her choice. Yet this is not true in two ways: 1] As stated by a comment on this same website, “The REAL reason for why we do hijab/niqab wasnâ€™t mentioned was it? It is because it is a command from Allaah and so we hear and we obey”, it is because Hebah has to obey God’s orders. This however becomes a problem in the next point because 2] …Hebah is not the one with religious authority in Islam. Mashaaikh and Ulama hold the authority and just have a look at what one very influential Ulama Council in Britain stated recently about women and how they clothe themselves: “The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) said that not covering the face is a “shortcoming” and suggested that any Muslims who advocate being uncovered could be guilty of rejecting Islam. In a statement published on its website the MCB, warns: “We advise all Muslims to exercise extreme caution on this issue, since denying any part of Islam may lead to disbelief. ” Thus, while this statement and even the view that women must wear a hijab (not a niqab) is not concerning just the niqab, it provides a clear example of how women are not the ones who any say over their status in Islam because any woman who denies what these prominent clerics view as Islam (i.e. that a woman must clothe herself with hijab) is open for ridicule in her social circle due to the fact these (male) Muslim spiritual leaders have the authority to condemn any woman not adhering to their views. They even suggest takfeer of such a woman. (telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/8455955/Muslim-Council-women-cannot-debate-wearing-veil.html) The idea that a woman “disappears” is correctly strange and even a bit absurd, but that is because the word ‘disappear’ doesn’t convey what most non-Muslims feel when they see a Muslim woman with niqab. In response to the assertion that women disappear when wearing a niqab, some Muslimahs have stated in defence that the niqab is shielding the woman from immoral men and their lustful gazes, as well as allowing the Muslim woman greater determination in defining her sexual power and control over her sexuality. But what these women who defend against the notion of disappearing niqabis do not realize, is that it is NOT just about the issue of female objectification. It is also critically important an issue of societal interaction. The vast majority of human beings on earth communicate by looking at each others’ faces when they speak because it is part of how humans communicate. We look at facial expressions, the movement of the mouth in conjunction with eye movement. All these subtleties of human interaction are lost because they are not visible. In the same vein, one could also argue that body language is just as important for human communication. However, this is simply not true, as whenever one hears protests over the supposed oppression of women who wear a hijab, one does not hear the issue of human communication rising up. Communication and human societal interaction is a definite, real and very valid issue when it comes to niqab. I don’t have an issue with hijab or niqab, but I feel strongly about the fact that my human neighbour, brother and friend must also consider contributing something from their experience of the universe in order for us to live on an equal of existence. Unless of course I’m not equal to my brother because he is Muslim and I am not. Thank you for taking the time to read my input. I do have a suggestion that would mean women could wear niqab ( Listen up Sarkozy!!!) whilst still being ‘communicatively-accessible’ for want of a better expression. If a woman who wears niqab looks at her diary for the week sees that she is going to have a number of meetings with people (men) in business situations, she could (a) plan to meet in a PUBLIC place like a coffee shop, not at the male professional’s office and (b) only in that case regarding work, businness, etc she could take off the face covering just for that meeting. As soon as the formalities are over, she dons her niqab again, in the coffee shop, and leaves wearing her niqab as she would any other day. Wearing niqab in France should never have been a negative issue, but it became one because the women who wear niqab are not the same in their reasons for doing so. The woman who wears niqab out of religious pressure, societal force and family pressure is not going to produce the same kind of motivation for wearing niqab that a woman like Hebah Ahmed will have. When Non-Muslims see this distinction, they begin to wonder if the niqab is really a sign of female liberation or a sign of female oppression. Reply Hebah Ahmed April 17, 2011 Thank you Samuel for writing to Muslim Matters and voicing your opinion. These types of conversation are very important to build bridges and begin to break down the fear and misunderstandings that are prevalent. I encourage you to visit a local mosque that is near you and begin a dialogue with the Muslims in your community. I daresay you have never spoken to nor seen a Niqabi interacting in society so I ask that you reserve judgement until you are more familiar with the situation. I wanted to clarify a few things for you. Islam is different from “organized religions” in that it does not have clergy or a hierarchical leadership system. We do not have popes, bishops, pastor, or priests who can speak on behalf of God. The Ulamaa and Masheiks that you refer to are religious scholars who have committed their life to the study of Islam in order to advise the rest of us Muslims on matters of religion and life. They deserve our respect and honor, not our blind obedience. There are many of them all over the world, and there are just as many legitimate and acceptable differences among them about the rulings in Islam. Their opinions are not based on their whims but rather based on the study of the evidence and textual proofs of the Quran and teachings of Prophet Muhammed (peace and blessings be upon him). Each Muslim is responsible for educating themselves about Islam and referring to the scholars for advice on issues that are unclear or need in-depth study. At the end of the day, each Muslim is responsible to and answers to God alone about their choices in life. No-one can excommunicate a Muslim or pass judgement on them for God alone is The Judge. A true believer would never care about the ridicule, injustice, or persecution of others in regards to their beliefs and how they live their lives. Their submission is to God alone and His opinion alone is what matters. God has given us free will and does not force us into anything, but He will judge us and there will be consequences on the Day of Judgement for every choice we make in this life. This is my understanding and if any part is incorrect that is from my own human flaws. Hope that helps clear up some of your basic assumptions so you can form a more educated understanding, God willing. Reply Samuel April 17, 2011 Thanks Hebah for your response, although you did not address any of my points relating to your views expressed on the interview on CNN. You stated that you were not being oppressed and that you were wearing niqab due to YOUR CHOICE, NO FORCE applied on you to wear the niqab. You didn’t say anything about the women in Saudi and Pakistan as but two examples of countries where women are legally and socially punished for not wearing hijab or niqab. And did I forget to mention the everlasting punishment meted out in the hereafter?? Hebah, YOU have a choice to wear niqab; But most women in the Muslim world do not. Your views on Islamic feminism are not reflective of the different types of feminism coming out of the Middle East from the various, growing groups of women who do not want to wear even hijab, let alone niqab. And this ability to determine your own religious views is indeed very much affected by the popular views of the Ulama, even if they are just opinions. Your description of ulama as merely “advising” Muslims is also not accurate at all, because who then judges in a Shariah court? A layman? A Qari, the judge, someone steeped in the Shariah and the various intricacies of Islamic rulings, and he has to be a learned man. What chance does a Muslim girl have of surviving in a society where she is forced to wear a hijab, again, not to mention niqab and she decides that she no longer wishes to follow the ‘opinion’ of the Ulama that hijab or niqab is fardh? Even the Shia Muslims in Iran (oh wait, are they even considered Muslim?) are under tremendous pressure to wear hijab or even just headscarves. Societal pressure has a source. And it is not correct to say that authority is relayed to mere informed opinions of scholars, when those same “opinions” of (the vast majority of) Muslim scholars call for the punishment and threat of hellish punishment in both this life and the hereafter, and all of those types of clerical views do affect how people are going to see and even treat women who express themselves differently. Just because Muslims don’t have a Christian equivalent of a pope, bishop, priest,etc, that does not mean in any way that Muslims are going to be able to navigate the Qur’an, the ahadeeth, the books on fiqh and other issues of mathaaib all on their own without getting influenced by the scholars they take knowledge from. Do you honestly believe that Muslims are not going to follow the views of scholars who they admire? It’s the exact same for fools like Pastor Terry Jones and their ignorant followers. Are you going to blame all Buddhists if a certain Buddhist monk decides to car bomb Tianmen Square because his spiritual guide advised him to? And this is the central issue; where do you draw the line when it comes to choosing your religious views as a form of ‘liberated expression’ whilst ignoring the oppression and abuse of those who unlike you, are not in such a privileged position to choose what they want to follow in Islam. I’ve been reading about various religions for years now; I find a very great amount in Islam that I like, but this issue of one section of the Ummah, who are almost all in the West, being able to say things like “I’m not oppressed, it’s my choice to wear hijab/niqab, nobody’s forcing me” while the greater majority of women in the Ummah do not have such luxury of choice. (I engage in this type of discussion because IF I decide to be Muslim, I will have a wife and possibly daughters) Amad April 18, 2011 I’m still looking for any scientific poll or unbiased report that a large number of women are subjugated to wear the veil. It’s becoming an urban myth really. I don’t doubt that there are women like this. But having lived half my life in the Middle East, many vacations in Pakistan and half my life in the West, it is rare to find women who are forced by law or family. I also agree some women wear it out of social norm or peer pressure, but that isn’t oppression, that’s a choice they are making to be consistent with their society. For e.g. I know a US educated Qatari girl at work, brilliant person. She wears abaya due to not wanting to be a misfit in a culture where that is common. Some of her friends don’t care. But she has no pressure from her parents or by law. Secondly, if someone is looking at Islam objectively, Samuel, then what Muslims do or don’t do is irrelevant. If you recognize the fact that Islam, the religion, is not the source of massive oppression, imagined or otherwise, then focus on what should be important to you first. Your relationship with God. I have heard this before and I don’t think it’s a bad saying… Islam is the best religion with the worst followers. So, if you’d like to become a Islam follower, then focus on its intrinsic values. If you’d like to be a Muslim follower, then good luck! tukdin April 21, 2011 Salam Amad, Not related to the topic, but are you a resident in Qatar ? Amad April 22, 2011 Yes, about 2 yrs coming up Hebah Ahmed April 18, 2011 Hello again Samuel, It is obvious that you have read some things on Islam and have some knowledge of terms more than the average person and I commend you on that. I am also happy to hear that you see many good things in Islam and I invite you to continue asking, reading, pondering, and searching until you find the truth. My best advice to you is to ask sincerely and humbly the One who created you to show you the right path and I have no doubt He will answer your prayers. I have no problem continuing this discussion with the following condition. If you are asking questions in order to learn and understand, great! But your 2 messages thus far have been extremely attacking and accusatory and I will not respond if you continue as such. The main flaw in your argument is that you keep telling us Muslims what we believe rather than allowing us to tell you. No matter what we say, you refuse to accept our statements and instead counter with your own limited information which seems to be extremely biased and incorrect. This is the main problem with the West in general. Many want to cling to ugly stereotypes and misconceptions rather than open their minds and listen to the reality. Most of the accusations that you have thrown at me are completely unsupported. I ask that you bring your proof for the statements that you make because I will not deal with hearsay or islamaphobic slander. Have you ever been to Saudi or Pakistan to make such accusations against them? Have you spoke with members of the Ulama to understand their positions and where they derive their rulings? Have you spoken to Muslim women who are complaining about their clothing or claiming they are abused and mistreated? Have you engaged your local Muslim community to observe and communicate and find out what they believe? Muslims are monotheistic NOT monolithic so I encourage you to refrain from generalities. Letâ€™s get some facts straight: 1. There are no laws in Saudi or Pakistan that require women to wear Niqab. (please read the comments under the Open Letter to Mona Eltahaway on the main Muslim Matters page to get the facts from people living in Saudi) 2. The only country (out of over 120 Muslim majority countries) I have ever heard of having laws requiring women to cover their face is in Afghanistan under the Taliban. 3. The majority of Muslim women are NOT forced to cover. In my mosque we have immigrants from over 50 Muslim countries. The ones who want to cover do and the ones who donâ€™t, donâ€™t. I have found the same in Egypt, Pakistan, Syria, Libya, Lebanon, Palestine, and just about any other country you can name. The only hesitations over covering come from the fear of discrimination and harm from Non-Muslims. 4. I have spoken with women from countries in the East and West and have heard MANY stories of women who are fighting against their families and communities to wear the Hijab and Niqab. Why arenâ€™t we talking about this? 5. Oppressive and abusive treatment of women stems from Cultural practices against the teachings of Islam. I read an article in an Ultra Liberal Feminist journal and their research showed that Islamicists in Egypt are educating people in the countryside about Islam and are thereby reducing the incidences of Female Genital Mutilation. Honor Killings are wrong and punishable in Islam. Forced marriages are forbidden in Islam. Killing innocent Civilians is forbidden in Islam. There is a joke I heard in grad school that I think is quite applicable here. When a person gets their bachelors, they think they know everything. Then when they get their Masters, they realize there is more to learn. Finally when they get their PhD, they realize they donâ€™t know anything. Let knowledge humble you and then you will find truth Insha Allah (God willing). Samuel ibn al Arabi April 18, 2011 Actually Hebah, I think it is you who has a lot to answer for. Instead, you’ve flashed the accusatory card of islamaphobia at me due to my concerns that I’ve raised when my style of writing was deemed by you as too strong. Hebah, in life when people, as is their right, disagree with you, they can speak as they like; I have not used any crude or foul language as opposed to one of your guests here who addressed Elliot Spitzer as quote: “SPIT…ZER” (“I dontâ€™ see us judging SPITâ€¦â€¦.ZER”). I asked you twice about scholars (I even provided a link) who are considered an authority and major community influence and who are telling Muslims that if they don’t wear even hijab they are going against Islam and could even be considered as meddling with Allah’s Shariah, thus, excommunicating them. I absolutely cannot understand that you turned a blind eye to this. Instead, you accused me of being aggressive and accusatory and you seemed very happy to mention islamaphobia in the same breath. If someone is expelled from the fold of Islam because they are seen as meddling with the Shariah (because they have a difference of opinion on hijab/niqab) then that means that their blood is halaal for the state, the Islamic state. Now why should I waste my time trying to explain how I know this when with the time I’ve spent in classes at a certain maddrassah, the Alim made it very clear that anyone “meddling with the deen of Allah taa’laa will face punishment fee dunya wal akhirah”. Hebah you know what I am referring to you but you are avoiding this. You still haven’t answered anything I’ve asked, whether it was the scholars from the MCB as but one among many ulama councils, or the issue about you using your freedom of choice as a justification for your wearing of niqab whilst women in Saudi Arabia are subjected to the shouts of the men who “enjoin the good and forbid the evil”. For all your statements from pro-niqab women how many Muslimahs do you know (or have sought out ) who dont want to wear it? And thank you very much, my sister worked in Saudi Arabia and witnessed countless occasions in which a woman without hijab was shouted to “cover awrah!” She was there as a foreign worker and she saw these things. In Dubai they were told, although she was foreign and Non-Muslim, to wear a scarf. Are you going to accuse me of being islamaphobic? I am friends with Muslims who do not want to grow beards, wear hijab, and the pressure they get from the musjid imaams, the maddrassah teachers and other Muslims is very heavy. They are told that they are going to be punished in hellfire, But worst of all, other Muslim youth are told by their parents and maddrassah teachers to avoid contact or socializing with these “upstarts”. This is the type of issue that I so badly hoped you would have addressed. It’s called reality. There is a Muslim lady who wants to represent Britain for Miss Universe title. Ms Bukhari has received threats from Muslim ulama who want her to wear hijab (never mind niqab) because that is how these scholars view Islamic rulings. Is their opinion just a freak accident of a tired mind and a lot of textual reading? Again, I find it amazing how stupid you think I am; You know that the majority view for going against the shariah – and not wearing hijab is going against the shariah – is an inch away from punishments, social and legal. Why have you switched from initially saying that it’s just scholars opinions when they say a woman must wear hijab, to know saying that the issue is in actual fact not the scholars mere difference of opinions, but my own lack of understanding that is the issue here? I have spoken to a number of Muslims clerics. The arguments for hijab, that long ago Christian women covered up, that it stops men from developing lustful gazes, etc are irrelevant: Where is the onus on the individual? It is the same issue with Sarkozy. He abused the principle of individual freedoms. Morality is not controlled by clothing; if it were, why then does adultery still occur where women are completely covered as in Saudi? Which brings me to real issue as I see it: When I asked you about how women are forced to cover themselves in Saudi and Pakistan, you responded that there is no such law. You have views from people in Saudi? So do I. And? I see women who are slandered by ultra-conservative ulama if they work as radio presenters or on TV. They can’t drive a car because the ruling is based on the hadeeth “Keep them back as Allah has kept them back”. So why have I mentioned all of the above? Because you very neatly dance to the tune of freedom of speech when you want to explain why it is that you are able to wear the niqab. But the niqab is in reality a side issue; the main issue is the source of the rulings. And we both know that in Shariah law there is room for difference of opinion. But not on everything. So next time you’re in the class with the shaykh or the mu’alima, why not ask them about the ruling on the woman who doesn’t wear hijab. She wears tight jeans, low tank tops and long loose hair. There IS a ruling for that and if you are open and honest enough with yourself you will hear it from the authority you are taking knowledge from and deal with it internally. I am still searching for proper, open and honest self-debate in Islam; I will find it, even if it is with “evil moderates” and just because I took shahadah doesn’t mean I can’t analyze my deen and be honest with myself about things that are not helpful to all people on earth. The closest I’ve come to that was through Tasawwuf; but I guess their views are too watered down. I can live with that though one step at a time. Siraaj April 18, 2011 Salaam alaykum Samuel, Thanks for your questions, and I hope you’ll not mind if I answer some of your questions instead of Hebah as she’s had to respond to an overwhelming amount of feedback (look at this whole thread). Firstly, I’m not sure when you became Muslim, but mabrook =) Welcome, and asking questions is always encouraged, and the more you know, the better =) I reviewed your link about the statements from the MCB, and Hebah was correct in stating that there was a misunderstanding on your end. The statements are partially quoted and partially the writers interpretation of what the authors meant. Often, Muslim scholars will say something that is lost in translation. I’m familiar with the scholars quoted, and from the views about niqab, there are two generic views – required and not required (preferred). The former view is the minority view among Muslim scholars, and they would consider it sinful to leave aside the practice, while the latter group will say a woman is rewarded for this practice, but are not required to wear it. Hebah mentioned in this thread earlier that her own belief is the second category, that it is praiseworthy without being required. When the scholars of the MCB said in their statement, “Not practising something enjoined by Allah and his Messengerâ€¦ is a shortcoming. Denying it is much more serious,” what is being said here is that if something is considered obliged upon a person, for them to leave it is sinful. For example, if a person leaves aside prayer, this is considered sinful. If a person says, “Prayer is not an obligation”, denying that it is from the religion, then this could be considered leaving it. With respect to what those scholars were saying, they were not saying leaving aside niqab is disbelief – they were saying it’s a shortcoming. What they were saying was potential disbelief was denying that the niqab is part of the religion at all. Huge difference there. The statement by the author Andrew Gilligan opening the article, “The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) said that not covering the face is a “shortcoming” and suggested that any Muslims who advocate being uncovered could be guilty of rejecting Islam,” is his own understanding of the words used, and not the intent of the MCB. I would encourage you to read the original text from the MCB and contact them for more details on that point. As for the hijab, the overwhelming majority of scholars are agreed on the ruling that it’s required. I’m sorry to hear about your friends and family who have felt pressured by people with obnoxious attitudes and behaviors who are trying to force certain outward practices. While some of what they were told is required, change doesn’t happen overnight, it’s an ongoing process of developing a strong spiritual relationship with Allah, prioritizing the most important aspects of the deen first (like the five daily prayers) and working our way out to other obligations as our ability to handle it grows. Unfortunately, many practicing Muslims are so keenly focused on these issues, that a great deal of the religion are these areas, and they forget how to deliver the message, and the priorities in its deliverance. About different countries and their laws and regulations, I’m surprised about Dubai in particular, as my mother works there currently, and my father, who is Christian, visits as well, and perhaps the funniest thing he told me was that it was interesting to see a full niqaab-wearing woman walking down the street side by side with Arab women dressed in short shorts, tight shirts, and hair completely undone, and no one bothering her about it. In fact, most religious muslims I know from that area tend to complain that the dress code is too lax in dubai, and that dubai happens to be pretty liberal (it has gambling, alcohol, and garish opulence). Finally, there a difference between choice according to the rules of your faith, and choice according to the rules of the land you live in. According to our faith, if you believe that Allah is your Lord and that you should be obedient to Him, then you conform to His Law in your life. In secular law, a person is given the right to practice their faith, and they have the right to dress as they wish provided it doesn’t violate decency standards (like walking around with no clothes on, exposing certain parts of the body deemed unacceptable). The discussion of “your right in your religion” vs “your right in the land you live in” should not be conflated, as I’ve seen above – they are two separate discussions, and what Hebah is referring to is her right, given her context, living in a land that champions freedom of religion and freedom of dress code (both in the US and even more so in Europe). Siraaj J April 18, 2011 Samuel, I find it pretty interesting that youth in the masjids your friends are going to are being pressured into growing beards. I hope that there is more to it than that. Personally, I have known of brothers who *want* to grow their beards, and their mothers shave it off, and they come to the imaam asking what should they do and he actually gives them advice that benefits them. They were told they should be wise in growing it and try to soften their parents hearts towards it, rather than doing something that will make their lives miserable and potentially even affect how they feel about Islam later on. I live in Southern California, home to a very large Muslim community that is very diverse. Given the population of Muslims and the amount of ulama we have out here, you would expect to see a lot more bearded men and hijabed women, but that is not the case. That is why I am surprised that you are witnessing so much pressure. Of course, that look is growing, and I honestly do believe it is not due to pressure, but because the youth are more inclined towards listening to lectures about Islam, are proud of the fact that they believe Islam is an awesome religion and they want to be identified as Muslims in the real world. To be quite honest, non Muslims do need to see bearded Muslims and hijaabed/niqaabed Muslims on a regular basis, so that they realize how we look does not determine the people we are. Our men can grow beards, but they still have soft hearts, and our women can wear black hijaabs and still be fashionable underneath and have opinions. I do not deny that there are lot of things that need fixing within the Muslim community as a whole, and we do need to address them. Najmah Umm Ayyub April 23, 2011 in response to your THIRD statement: You said: â€œas opposed to one of your guests here who addressed Elliot Spitzer as quote: â€œSPITâ€¦ZERâ€ (â€œI dontâ€™ see us judging SPITâ€¦â€¦.ZERâ€). â€œ Seriously? Was this a real argument? Or just a ploy of incitement. I actually found this quite funny. I did appreciate Spitzer’s command over the discussion with Mona and seeking fairness near the end after Mona was done with her rantings and ravings of “I”. You said: â€œI asked you twice about scholars (I even provided a link) who are considered an authority and major community influence and who are telling Muslims that if they donâ€™t wear even hijab they are going against Islam â€¦ certain maddrassah, the Alim made it very clear that anyone â€œmeddling with the deen of Allah taaâ€™laa will face punishment fee dunya wal akhirahâ€. Hebah you know what I am referring to you but you are avoiding this.â€ I actually answered this in the first set of comments about making takfeer on another Muslim. They stated it may be an act of kufr, but did not make a definitive statement, rather an advisement to discourage people from that behavior/action. As you noted however, that was in regard to hijab and not specific for the niqab; since there is ikhtilaaf on whether the niqab is mandatory or an additional act of worship. Meddling with the deen of Allaah will face punishment in this world and the hereafter is making reference to making that which is halaal into haraam and making that which is haraam into halaal. Say for example a muslim determines that ALL muslims should eat pork, because â€œtheyâ€ received a message from the Prophet (or Allah) that they are the new Messiah and now ham is halaal. Well there are several verses in the book of Allaah which would contest to that namely attributing something to Allaah which is not from Him. Well there is obvious sin in this because has mentioned so and potentially problems or punishment in this life, from Allaah and the people turning away from that person, isolating them, loathing them. You said: â€œâ€¦whilst women in Saudi Arabia are subjected to the shouts of the men who â€œenjoin the good and forbid the evilâ€.â€ Saudi Arabia does not attribute itself to being a democracy, France does. So France is held to a different governmental standard isnâ€™t comparable to the laws in Saudi Arabia, the same in Dubai and other Muslim countries. France, Belgium and other countries seeking to ban the niqab are using typical â€œscare tacticsâ€ to demolish our values, beliefs and statements to develop a discrimination against the Muslim populous. You said: â€œWhere is the onus on the individual?â€ A woman wearing hijab/niqab does not negate the responsibility of the man to lower his gaze, act morally, and present him honorably. You said: â€œMorality is not controlled by clothing; if it were, why then does adultery still occur where women are completely covered as in Saudi?â€ More appropriatelyâ€¦ morality is not determined solely by clothing. Lets say we place two women in a room, one adorned in hijab and loose clothing and the other in tight jeans and a tanktop. The speculative choice of most of societal perception is the woman in hijab is more modest, even if it isnâ€™t the case. It is notable to mention that rape/molestation occurs everywhere; it is also a globally hidden taboo amongst women in every society, who are often embarrassed and discouraged by the violent, disgusting act. We could go around in circles determining the statistics of whether the percentage of women in Muslim countries being molested is lower than the percentage of women in Western countries; however most society values women who cover themselves as morally and ethically sound. Most people when thought to view a woman who is religious, righteous or pious will choose a Nun or another covered woman, if asked to portray a representation of these women; it is usually in loose, modest attire. These are not obscure, singular thoughts but feelings of the masses. Is the woman who flaunts her private parts in public, uses vile language, showing detestable behavior and constantly seeking the admiration of man seeking God’s favor? Probably not. Partially due to her priorities are possibly altered. Does she deserve God’s forgiveness and mercy if she is repentant? Yes of course… just as the prostitute whom the Messenger said God forgave due to her act of kindness. Veiling for many Muslim women is seeking the continued favor of our Lord, not seeking the validation or approval of man. That is why so many women are continuing to veil regardless of the law passed in France. You said: â€œThey canâ€™t drive a car because the ruling is based on the hadeeth â€œKeep them back as Allah has kept them backâ€.â€ In actuality, Iâ€™ve heard a very different combination of ahadeeth and ayaat in regards to why the women in Muslim countries are discouraged from driving. Never have I heard this used as evidence and Iâ€™d review your sources from this statement. If youâ€™d like specifics, feel free to ask, Iâ€™m sure any of the brothers here could point you in the proper direction. http://www.alifta.net is a good source of fataawa and information that I use for my own personal knowledge. Iâ€™m sure through your studies that you also recognize that most fataawa are specific to an individual unless given as a general rulingâ€¦ since there are many Muslim women in other countries that are single (with/without children) who must have a car in order to transport themselves/their families. You said: â€œI am still searching for proper, open and honest self-debate in Islam; I will find it, even if it is with â€œevil moderatesâ€ and just because I took shahadah doesnâ€™t mean I canâ€™t analyze my deen and be honest with myself about things that are not helpful to all people on earth. The closest Iâ€™ve come to that was through Tasawwuf; but I guess their views are too watered down. I can live with that though one step at a time.â€ If a woman CHOOSES to veil, then it is her choice and should be left alone. If a woman is FORCED to veil, then indeed she is oppressed just as someone who is forced into anything deals with some form of oppression. If a woman CHOOSES not to veil then that is her choice. If a woman is FORCED to not veil… that is still a form of oppression. No one here is denying that. I say focus on the main issue, not the rulings of the ulama, but those rare individuals who believe they are â€œabove the lawâ€ and do things formed from culturalistic beliefs like genital mutilation, forced marriages, honor killings, raping innocents to remove diseasesâ€¦ all what they claim for the â€œsake of Deen ul Islamâ€ when in fact it is for the â€œsake of Deen-un Nafsâ€. These are the culprits, not like you demand, the mashayakh. We know that their bayaan is not to some particular government, king, or individual but to Allah, as it should be for us all. May Allaah increase you and give you success in your quest for the truth. Islam has been made easy for us, our objective is to follow what our Lord has prescribed for usâ€¦ as you mentioned before samina wa atana. We hear and obey. Inshaa Allah I addressed all of the statements you were seeking answers to. If not then I’m sure there are other brothers/sisters who can address them where I have failed to do so bi’ithnillaah. Jazakumullaahu khairan. faryal April 20, 2011 I’m from Pakistan and let me assure you I’m not forced to cover up, I do it by my OWN choice. Najmah Umm Ayyub April 22, 2011 Dear brother Samuel, In regard to your second set of statement: You wrote: â€œAnd did I forget to mention the everlasting punishment meted out in the hereafter??â€ In turn shall we address every sin that is accountable for punishment in the hereafter? That is a loaded question, Samuel, and factually must determine what the punishment is for a woman who refuses to cover herself properly in the hereafter. There are different levels to kufr, as well as different levels to shirk, Shirk (worshipping other than Allah)â€¦ which from my understanding is the ONLY act that is truly punishable with â€œeverlasting/foreverâ€ hellfire torment. You wrote: “Hebah, YOU have a choice to wear niqab; But most women in the Muslim world do not.” I believe that you are making a false assumption with this statement. On one hand you mention that in Muslim countries like Saudi Arabia and Pakistan the women are forced to wear niqab. Well statistics have shown that the majority of Muslims (including con/reverts) reside outside of the typical Arab countries, with 62% of the world’s Muslim population living in Asia. Since several of the countries in Asia arenâ€™t typically Muslim, nor follow any Shari’a law… this can hardly equate to the majority or even “most” women not having a choice, as you stated. In addition, none that has a law expressing punishment (severe or minor) for a woman who does not wear hijab or niqab. Many people demonstrate the tendency to confuse the aspects of Islam with the periling aspects of culturalism and tradition. This cultural exhibition is what the â€˜Muslim feministâ€™ movement illustrates as incorrect practice, disgusting torment, shown evidences of torture and oppression. This is, however, not what Islam is and what Islam seeks and fights against. These are the ignoranceâ€™s that Muslims are trying to get the non-Muslims of the world to understand, instead of generalizing the population of Muslims worldwide into a stereotypical view of oppression of women. Media bastardizes Islam into a group of misogynist leaders, male oppressors, terrorists and radicals, and people just have a tendency to flock towards the â€œmedia poster darlingsâ€ who say they speak for the masses in this fight against extremism. You said: â€œYour description of ulama as merely â€œadvisingâ€ Muslims is also not accurate at all, because who then judges in a Shariah court? â€œ Shariah law is the law of the Muslims, the law as determined by Allah. The ulama hold allegiances to the law of Allah, not the law sent down by man. They are not the â€œmakersâ€ of the law anymore than a judge in the Supreme Court upholds to the laws set in the United States. They are indeed who explain the articles for our Bill of Rights/Constitution but did not present them. Yes a Qari has to be a learned man, well established in many laws of Islamic rulingsâ€¦ just as a judge or doctor has to be well-versed, studied and scholared in their practices before they can rule or operate on any individual or group. How is this determined so differently? Allah is the judge of all mankind, so to say that we are Muslims means we have to abide by the rules set down for us. Just as a Jew or Christian is responsible for the rulings set down for them by their preachers, rabbiâ€™s, priests. You wrote: â€œJust because Muslims donâ€™t have a Christian equivalent of a pope, bishop, priest,etc, that does not mean in any way that Muslims are going to be able to navigate the Qurâ€™an, the ahadeeth, the books on fiqh and other issues of mathaaib all on their own without getting influenced by the scholars they take knowledge from.â€ I think you missed the point that Hebah was trying to make. In other religions Judaism, Hinduism, Christianityâ€¦ they have what is determinedâ€¦ a middle man, per se. Someone who speaks to God on behalf of the â€œlaymenâ€, due to the stature that they place (and other factors, that we wonâ€™t get into) on God/Trinity/Holy figure. In Islam, there is no middle man, a person who doesnâ€™t have the complete knowledge of Islam still may address God directly in worship â€“ cutting out that necessary middle man. The scholars who we get information from, who are more knowledgeable in certain aspects of religion, who have devoted their life works to understanding Islam, who are inheritors of the Prophet are not the agent for us to seek Godâ€™s reward or mercy but act as stepping stones to help increase our understanding. They are held just as accountable for their actions, as each one of us are, where-in prior said religionsâ€¦ their clergymen are often seen as infallible. Any sect within Islam who takes on their Shaykh as an infallible â€œindividualâ€ has committed a grave error. Many people are influenced by those that teach themâ€¦ i.e. we still uphold several beliefs of our parents or professors from college who made a distinguishable impact on our views of the world. Some of us still contact our professors or parents when seeking the â€œrightâ€ decision. Although this webbing attachment exists, it doesnâ€™t belittle our own ability to adapt that knowledge to our person. Is choosing to stand up for our liberal expression and our ability to adhere to the commandment in our religion, ignoring the cries of our Muslim sisters who are indeed oppressed and abused within this religion? I donâ€™t think so. What the France ban of niqab is doing is blanketing over the actual issue. It isnâ€™t addressing the oppressors, the transgressors or the abusers. They still exist with the niqab ban. There is no outlet for these women to cry out to, no organizations developed for the few out of 2,000 women in France to turn to. They are still subject to the oppression that they originally had, only this time without niqab on. I donâ€™t think anyone has said that it doesnâ€™t existâ€¦ it certainly exists outside of religion; this is a disease of the heart within certain individuals and in order to fix that, it must be addressed directly. This is exactly what the media is expecting of us to do and generally speaking the people fall for it every single time. Women in the West, Asia, Africa and the Middle East stand up against the ban on niqab. If oppression is the issue at hand, the fight should be for Sarkozy to make the abusers accountable. Not attack every woman in niqab and shut us off as brainwashed puppets to chauvinist characters. Niqab is a choice that many of us made, under many different and similar circumstances, and will continue to fight for the freedom to do so. Opposers of niqab continually (conveniently) forget that any form of culturalism that is in direct opposition of Islam is not condoned. It is no ones right to deny someone the opportunity to practice their religion. Infringing on my religion is bigotry and discrimination, especially in a country where they “claim” democracy. The weak argument is that MY NIQAB interferes with the daily functioning in someone elseâ€™s life… how’s that for moderation and giving up control? Najmah Umm Ayyub April 22, 2011 Brother Samuel, I would like to congratulate you for the courage to take on the opposing position in regard to the necessity/frivolity of hijab/niqab. While I don’t know you personally, nor assess what your exact views are in this debate, it is commendable to say the least that you offer up a different opinion which allows us to express our thoughts whether in agreement or disagreement, to come to a common plateau. Even if it ends in agreeing to disagree. After reading several comments, I figured I would take a stab at addressing some of the issues you brought forth and appoint some clarity to them. You wrote: “Hebah Ahmed states that she is wearing the niqab (not forgetting the hjiab too) because she wants, because it is her choice. Yet this is not true in two ways:….” What sister Hebah addressed was her choice, in addition to what the Muslims feel the commandment of Allah, in regards to hijab. However the topic of conversation on the show, according to Spitzer who was hosting the two, was whether or not the niqab was an infringement of Muslim women’s rights regarding a democratic state that Sarkozy “claims” he is representing. If it was about religious verdict and conviction (although I can’t state this firmly) or the Islamic stance on niqab, then both parties would have answered accordingly. Unfortunately this isn’t so, it was a discussion from two women who are outspoken figures on opposing teams. Neither who have the authority to voice outside of their opinion. What we differentiate in Islam is whether someone is addressing a religious verdict (fatwa) or stating mere conjecture and opinion. As you mentioned prior, only those with religious authority who are well established in education of Islam, Quran studies, Hadeeth, Fiqh, etc may issue a fatwa. However that just isn’t what the interview was seeking. You wrote: “In a statement published on its website the MCB, warns: â€œWe advise all Muslims to exercise extreme caution on this issue, since denying any part of Islam may lead to disbelief. â€” As non-Muslims try to understand Islam outside of the fold of Islam… it makes it difficult for them to understand the many aspects of our religion. There are many actions, words, references that MAY lead someone to disbelief… yet Muslims worldwide partake in these actions daily. You may for example: curse your neighbor or say an ill word to your mother, someone may drink or smoke (for whatever reasons). These are all actions that MAY lead someone to disbelief… triggering a “snowball” effect if there is no accountability for said action. You wrote: “Thus, while this statement and even the view that women must wear a hijab (not a niqab) is not concerning just the niqab, it provides a clear example of how women are not the ones who any say over their status in Islam because any woman who denies what these prominent clerics view as Islam (i.e. that a woman must clothe herself with hijab) is open for ridicule in her social circle due to the fact these (male) Muslim spiritual leaders have the authority to condemn any woman not adhering to their views. They even suggest takfeer of such a woman. ” Men as well as women are held accountable for their lack of “hijab”. The view of the scholars within Islam do not supersede over the commandment that Muslims have in following the word of Allah, from the Quran. The verse (ayat), that Muslims and nonMuslims alike feel is “disputable” is Surah an Nur 24:31 where many confuse the meaning of khumurihinna and juyubihinna, decidedly taking their own desires to describe it as meaning merely drawing a cloth across the chest (aka a shirt) and that is satisfactory for hijab. Which theological history has proven as incorrect, but for the sake of “progression and innovation” is more acceptable. Women are in charge of their status in Islam… it is dependent upon how they choose to worship and follow the commandment of our Lord… again. In efforts of someone making takfeer on an individual who is acting in opposition to the practices, denying the choices of others, assisting in banning permissibilities in Islam… what most scholars are aware of and most laymen, especially non-Muslims are not is that it is difficult to “name” someone a kaffir, (noting the emphasized MAY lead to kufr) unless they vocally express themselves to be an apostate. To explain further, before you make takfeer on someone every condition MUST be fulfilled… in addition to the absence of EVERY barrier opposite of the condition. These conditions are knowledge, choice, intent, deliberate action or saying of kufr, and its acceptance. All of these must be present before we can even BEGIN to assess whether someone has committed kufr. From the barriers (impediments of the conditions) are deliberation, affirmation of an error, ignorance, compulsion, and misinterpretation. NONE of these must be present in order to fulfill the commitment of kufr. Our scholars need no reminder of this… however as laymen we constantly need reminders to assess our actions and make them firmly a representation of our faith. While I donâ€™t necessarily agree with the statements made by the MCB, as I personally recognize and accept that there are women who believe that niqab is merely mustahabb (recommended/preferable), I understand the necessity to develop a firm stance of support in retrospect of the events that recently transpired. There are individuals who equally view niqab as wajib (necessity) and some who donâ€™t think niqab is Islamic. All views must be determined as equally respectful and honor each right to practice it. France has taken this right away, so groups of each genre are going to come out in full defense. You wrote: â€œThe idea that a woman â€œdisappearsâ€ is correctly strange and even a bit absurd, but that is because the word â€˜disappearâ€™ doesnâ€™t convey what most non-Muslims feel when they see a Muslim woman with niqabâ€¦ It is also critically important an issue of societal interaction.â€ Noting the disappearance of women in Islam due to niqab is a fool hearted statement of individuals trying to win over an argument due to feeble catch phrases and clichÃ©s. A classic media challenge in order to gain power over the opponent. As our dear sister Hebah showed, the niqab does not impede any part of the conversation with any individual. It does not silence us, nor disturb any societal interactions by any means. In an age where technology is thriving, we have in fact become accustomed to the lack of face-to-face communication that it has become more of an anomaly to hold a business meeting/interview/forum discussion with every party present in the same room. We are more familiar with telecommunications than the old and typical in person meeting of peers. Even our communication here, lacks the gestures of personal confrontationâ€¦ however does not lack the personality involved and needed to communicate. So we are on an equal playing field of internet communication, but what of other formsâ€¦ say for example you had a webcam and I do not or if we are having a telephone conversation. The same idiosyncrasies of my voice, intonation, pitch are still there. Youâ€™d be able to determine my mood, just as much if you were to see my face. My niqab just isnâ€™t a barrier to any communication that we may have. It doesnâ€™t infringe on your rights to speak or interact. That is a biased, bigoted view. You wrote: â€œIf a woman who wears niqab looks at her diary for the week sees that she is going to have a number of meetings with people (men) in business situations, she could (a) plan to meet in a PUBLIC place like a coffee shop, not at the male professionalâ€™s office and (b) only in that case regarding work, businness, etc she could take off the face covering just for that meeting. As soon as the formalities are over, she dons her niqab again, in the coffee shop, and leaves wearing her niqab as she would any other day.â€ Muslim women in the United States and other western countries understand the obligations that law places on us. I totally comply with any security measures that need to be taken if anyone or any organization feels threatened by me wearing my veil. I am just as much concerned with the security issues in the country and making sure that measures are taken to ensure the safety of myself and my family. I guess you believe that since this is such an act of defiance in regards to societal norms that I would non-conform to the laws, regulations and obligations of the authorities. Well, since Islam is a “way of life” there are allowances for that also Martin. We comply with the laws of those that have authority over us until we are able to change the law. Reply Yumna April 17, 2011 Loved the way you spoke sister Hebah! SubhanAllah,you were the epitome of what we Muslim women should be like when the world is watching us,and at other times too, of course. May Allah(SWT) make more of us women like you,Insha Allah. And may He continue to Guide us all and bless you with His infinite Love and Mercy. Ameen. You’re def. in my du’aas and please keep me in yours too,Insha Allah! Reply Miriam April 17, 2011 Jazakillah khair sister Hebah. Sister Hebah: I hope it isnâ€™t too late but I wanted to say THANK YOU! Although I donâ€™t wear niqab the justifications you listed for wearing niqab are the very reasons I put my HIJAB BACK ON. You ARE 100% correct that men ARE telling women how to dress. Many of the men in my ethnic group have us reduced to skin shade lightness, hair texture, and nose shape. It doesnâ€™t matter whatâ€™s in our heart or head just what we look like. Wellâ€¦ Iâ€™m tired of it ALL from ALL men. Raised fist salute sista! Salaam alaikum sistamiriamsrefuge.blogspot.com/2011/04/my-body-is-my-business-why-i-put-my.html sistamiriamsrefuge.blogspot.com/2011/04/part-two-my-body-is-my-business-why-i.html Reply Muslima April 17, 2011 May Allaah have mercy on you sister Hebah and sister Mona. May Allaah keep you both firm on this deen, ameen. I agree with sister Hebah. Her argument is logical. Thanks for sticking up for our sisters in France. Message to the FRANCE GOVERNMENT: We do NOT bow down to you. We do NOT worship you nor do we live to please you. Rather, we bow down to ALLAAH (God). We worship ALLAAH and we- as Muslims strive to please ALLAAH. So don’t try to come and lesgislate our religion. Yes you are setting the laws in society (unfortunately), but don’t you DARE try to legislate what a Muslim woman chooses to wear. I don’t care about your pathetic arguments. You did not create me so you cannot come and “modify” or “modernise” my religion for me. Allaah says in the Qur’an: “This day I have perfected your religion for you, completed My favour upon you and have chosen for you Islam as your religion.” [Sura 5:4] Reply Michele April 29, 2011 so it’s o.k. for Muslims to legislate what other Muslims or non-Muslims wear? Reply Ramy Mahrous April 17, 2011 Ø§Ù„Ù„Ù‡Ù… Ø¨Ø§Ø±Ùƒ ÙÙŠÙƒÙ ÙŠØ§ Ø£Ø®Øª Ù‡Ø¨Ù‡ØŒ Ø¬Ø²Ø§ÙƒÙŠ Ø§Ù„Ù„Ù‡ Ø®ÙŠØ±Ø§Ù‹ May Allah bless you, Heba Reply UmmAasiya April 17, 2011 ALLAH HO AKBAR! ALLAH is the GREATEST. Alhamdulillah I didn’t think I would honestly live to see a day when the practicing Islam is accurately represented on media – and it is all from Allah and Alhamdulillah may Allah increase your good deeds, your intentions, and accept them as there is a reason why He chose you to represent His Deen and that you did. Alhamdulillah. I am proud to have a sister like you in Islam. Keep going… ALLAH HO AKBAR!!! Reply J April 17, 2011 I totally agree sister Hebah. I did not even know that it’s not actually a law in Saudi Arabia, thanks for that information! I think it should also be mentioned that there are plenty of women in Pakistan who do not even wear the hijaab, let alone niqaab. They wear traditional clothing, shalwar khameez, but simply drape a scarf around their neck, and they are not being attacked for that. Those same women only cover their hair when they’re praying or when they hear Quran being recited. Reply Michele April 29, 2011 last time I went to Saudi for umrah my brother in law was yelled at for allowing his “women” to be out in public “naked” (i.e. we had on abayas and scarves, but not niqab). In addition we were actually hit over our backs with brooms and empty pop bottles for praying in the wrong place (too close to the men), ironic since we were physically assaulted by men during the tawaf of the Kaaba. Reply Bint Alam April 29, 2011 Hmmm….I just wanted to say one point and that is perhaps the kids are afraid of niqabi women because they have always been shown that ‘ghosts’ dress that way? SubhaanAllaah, our kids are very well used to niqabi sisters and they are not afraid at all, probably because they have been taught that those movie ‘ghosts’ don’t exist, and what exist is jinns and they are another creation of Allaah whom most of the time mankind cannot see with naked eyes, and they are also taught to put full trust in Allaah and take the precautions by reciting the three surahs morning and evening. :) So I guess sister, you can teach your kids the same and in sha Allaah their fear will be gone and they’ll realise that women who cover do so in emulation of the mothers of the believers and nobody I am sure was afraid seeing them :) Non-muslims who are open-minded and are educated about Islaam very well accept the niqab and I have non-muslim friends who respect my veil a lot. :) Hebah Ahmed April 30, 2011 Subhan Allah how very sad and against the whole point of Umrah. May Allah forgive us all and show us the truth. Ameen. Hebah Ahmed April 30, 2011 Subhan Allah how very sad and against the entire point of Umrah! May Allah forgive us all and show us the path of truth and manners. Ameen. Mohammad Yusha May 2, 2011 @Hebah: Only out of curiosity, why do you wear the veil if you don’t believe it is a religious requirement. Brother April 18, 2011 Has anyone seen those paintings of French noble men in the 1700’s wearing pants that look like spandex, lipstick, makeup and wigs? And they pass judgment on the niqaab; how curious. Reply Fulan May 12, 2011 LOL… Good point Reply Open Letter to Mona ElTahawy « A Way of Life April 18, 2011 […] Hebah Ahmad â€“Â the one you debated on CNNÂ â€“ said something really beautiful that I agree with completely: â€œMona is my sister in Islam […] Reply Azhar April 18, 2011 Asak First of all kudos to Sr Hebah Ahmed for exposing the bigotry of Mona. Hebah is amongst the contemporary Muslim women whom I would recommend my daughter to emulate. May Allah give her the companionship of Rasoolullah(saws) and Ummuhat ul Momineen on the day of judgment for standing up to protect this beautiful deen. Here is my bit about the so called â€œcoercionâ€ When I said â€˜La Ilalaha Illallah Muhammad ur Rasoolullahâ€ I accepted to obey the laws of Allah and His Rasool(saws). My likes and dislikes do not matter. If somebody perceives this as â€œslavery and oppressionâ€, Iâ€™m more than happy to be such slave. I signed up for this when I recited the kalimah. What you see as oppression is liberation to me. Liberation from peopleâ€™s opinion, their rules, their judgmentâ€™s. Iâ€™m content to being a slave to the One who created me, who feeds me, who guides me, on whose mercy lies the air that I breathe. I know in my heart that Iâ€™m in safe hands. Pls get this straight into your heads. No amount of logic can change the laws of my religion. If you really want to change them, go and put your case to Rabb ul Alameen who created them, not me or even my ummah. Wrong number, my dear friend. Was Salaam Azhar Reply Sameera April 18, 2011 Assalamualaikum Heba, I wanted to congratulate you for the CNN talk. Brilliant. :D Im a hijabi and a working muslimah, alhamdulillah. However, that talk has now inspired me to wear niqaab. It feels great! May Allah bless you and bring out many many more Hebah’s in the world. Ameen. Reply Aisha Ali April 18, 2011 I am an Non Saudi who has lived in Saudi Arabia all my life but there is no such thing as a woman being punished for not wearing a niqab. There are countless non hijabis in that country and Pakistan is another story! here’s a preview: maryhoneyballmep.files.wordpress.com/2010/05/pakistan_women.jpg Reply H-man April 18, 2011 Salaamualaikum Maasha’Allah I just saw the interview and got a chance to post a reply. YOU MERKED MONA Maasha’Allah!! Well dont sis. May Allah guide us all. aameen Reply Umm Abdullaah April 18, 2011 First, May Allaah reward Sis Heba for taking the stand so beautifully for us Munaqqahs. I have since deplored how the ‘liberals’ end up being the ones talking for islaam. May Allaah keep you – and us all – steadfast upon His Deen. Also, i want to say – as a fully veiled Muslimah who had to move to Saudi Arabia because the idea of a Medical doctor who veils her face was offensive to the powers-that-be in my country – that i felt Mona’s question on Heba’s job was in bad taste. Many of us would love to practice our hard-earned profession without being subject to double-standards because we veil our faces. And in case anyone wonders, i’m OBGYN so yes, i only work with women but still couldn’t get hired! Finally, as someone who stays in Saudi Arabia, i’m saying enough already. No one FORCES anyone to veil the face. Of course, Saudi women have a societal pressure to conform, but that is not so different from the teen culture in Western countries where you have to dress in a certain manner or be labelled freak. Reply syed April 18, 2011 Only for one thing I can support Miss Hibah is that this is her personal choice and she has full right for her. otherwise as a muslim I know that this is not MUST in Islam. when she said that she is going to show her face in airport, bank etc for the purpose of security procedure then she has to show her face in school/college admission, bus stop, police station, for dirving license, for ID card, for passport, hotels and much more places……so it is better she keeps her face uncovered for her own ease??? Islam encourages easiness in your life within islamic rules. She will be remained as respected as any other respectful woman in uncovered face too. But lastly I agree that this is her personal right, and only for this reason I support her. Reply Sa'at Bedan April 18, 2011 To my sister in Islam Hebah, May ALLAH shower His Rahmah and Barakah on us all! The Prophet(s.a.s) said, “Whoever has (the following) four characters will be a hypocrite, and whoever has one of the following four characteristics will have one characteristic of hypocrisy until he gives it up. These are: (1 ) Whenever he talks, he tells a lie; (2) whenever he makes a promise, he breaks it; (3) whenever he makes a covenant he proves treacherous; (4) and whenever he quarrels, he behaves impudently in an evil insulting manner.” Reply anayat May 19, 2011 AOA to all believers of Islam, I saw great discussions about the burqa ban issue in France. It encouraged me to a great extent that still there are numerous Muslims who are keenly interested in the Islamic matters. But at the same time I came across some comments which are really humiliating. Apart from the beliefs you have, it is not suitable for any Muslim to humiliate other Muslim due to difference of opinion in such matters. There was difference of opinion in the past among Muslims on different issues and they were use to discuss them but in a respectful manner. It is the greatness of Islam , that provides flexibility in its injunctions . It allows faithfuls to act according to there convenience and to show the world different aspects of this great Din. Regarding Burqa, whether it is Islamic or un-Islamic, there is difference of opinion but it should not reach to an extent where one starts to misbehave to other ,or one declare the other a non-Muslim. Mutual respect and unity among Muslim Ummah has a priority on other issues and as a Muslim we should always try to keep it up. Actually , the ban put by French government is a clear racist decision based on humiliating womenfolk who use Niqab. No democratic person can support it. May be they did this on superstitious information that women are coerced to use it. I really appreciate Hebah for giving clarification of it that women don’t use it due to some coercive reasons rather it is their own choice. We can take an example ; if a women using bikinie can’t be forced to wear niqab , then you must not force some other woman to remove a niqab if she use to wear it. This is equality and according to democratic norms. Forcing women to remove it is surely a matter which is condemnable. Security reasons can’t justify this oppressive rule of banning burqa, as they can use female security personnel to check the identity of these ladies and no one go to put any objection to this. My only appeal to all the Muslims is that, stand united to face coming challenges and don’t let others to set you apart . They always try to use the rule; Divide and Rule>. Thank you. Reply AbuNour April 19, 2011 I have never really spoken or wished to interact with munaqabat before for a number of reasons: 1- I am convinced that a good portion of them are actually men in disguise who are either criminals or up to something else that is no good. I am particularly concerned when I see them in banks and on planes if you know what I mean. 2- For those of them that are in fact female, then I was convinced that they are creatures functioning on less than a tenth of brain, having agreed to humiliating themselves by defacing themselves like that; and finally 3) If they were remotely intelligent women, then they were obviously intimidated or co-erced into doing so by their dads brothers or husbands, in which case it was probably very bad for my health to interact with such women whose male minders would consider this an affront of the affronts to speak to their womenfolk. Hebah Ahmed does not fall under any of those categories. She sounds smart, assertive, educated and convincing. I therefore am buring to ask her the question: Woman, What is wrong with you???? I sincerely hope that this is a phase and that you will come to your senses and know that there is absolutely nothing wrong with hijab and everything wrong with niqab. I hope so, because you sure sound like a very decent, intelligent young Muslim woman. Abu Nour. Reply Hebah Ahmed April 19, 2011 Asalam Alikum Br. Abu Nour, Jazak Allahu Khair for your compliments…I think. Masha Allah you have successfully complimented me and insulted me in the same message. I am happy to hear that I have broken your stereotypes of a niqabi…perhaps you will begin to see that I am in the majority, not the minority, of women who wear niqab. I am not sure where you got your stereotypes from but all 3 of your assumptions are completely wrong. I pray to Allah that my niqab is not a phase and ask Allah to purify my intentions and keep me and all my Muslims sisters steadfast on the path Insha Allah. What has gotten into me? Well, I believe that the Mothers of the Believers are the best example for women and they wore niqab. I believe that the Sahabiyat were some of the most pious believers and some of them wore niqab. Although I do not believe it is required, I personally benefit immensely from the niqab in terms of increased modesty and a reminder to be on my best behavior and speak only of the good and pure things. I also find it elegant and dignified and a compliment to my intellect. In short, I LOVE it. I think it is especially hard for some men to understand what life is like for a woman and our many emotions, temptations, pressures, and decisions that we make. So my request is don’t worry about understanding it, just support all the women who wear it of their own free will and to please their Creator alone. And realize that as a Muslim, it is not up to your personal intellect or societal norms to decide what is right or wrong in Islam…that is up to Allah alone. Reply AbuNour May 23, 2011 Many thanks for taking the time to respond to my message, and apologies for my very delayed reaction. As I said, you sound very rational and know what you are talking about, so I am not questioning your judgement on why you specifically chose to wear the Niqab. But I am still not convinced. In fact, the same reasons for which you claim to wear it can very easily be applied to the hijab. Furthermore, come to think of it, it can also be applied to MEN: I also want to wear something that increases my modesty and reminds me to be on my best behavior and speak only of the good and pure things. I also want to be dressed in an elegant and dignified way and in a manner that compliments my intellect. And men also have emotions, temptations, pressures, and make decisions all the time based on the society we live in. And I cannot understand the logic of how a women can control her temptations based on what she is wearing, and not what the men all around her that she sees are wearing. Why is this a one-way situation? Now lets imagine that all the women in the world start seeing things the way you do, and all the men out of modesty, also start covering their faces..Apart from the ENORMOUS practical problems that will create (possibly resolved by large name tags or color-coded head gear?), it would be a very very sad, faceless, anonymous world not worth living in…right? Stop hiding and be proud of yourself and who you are. Lift your head up high, dear sister. The world is a beautiful place. Abu Nour Amad April 20, 2011 You sound pretty intelligent yourself abunour though one could be easily mistaken otherwise based on ur incredibly smug and for lack of better words, dumb assumptions. Hope you are not offended but the way I framed my opening, as it is very similar to the framing of your comment. The world needs less assumptions and more communications. Islamophobes use similar sweeping assumptions and stereotypes about Muslims (different assumptions but similarly sweeping as u use for niqab). And just as we loathe their offensive and failed attempts to tell us what we as muslims are or not, similarly wr should loathe a presumptious attitude about any other behavior or people, regardless of our disagreement with ir. Reply Fulan May 12, 2011 Abou Nour, How about you broaden your horizons a little bit? I actually did the research and looked at the different proofs regarding Niqab because my wife was considering it. And guess what I found out?… BOTH, the opinions COMMANDING it and the opinion ALLOWING it had very good points. Although, those Allowing it said that it is BETTER to cover the face. Note, no sound proofs are there to BAN the niqab (except during Salah and Hajj). Do yourself a favor, get out of your narrow-mindedness, and do some research on the topic. A good place to start is islam-qa.com Reply A Yemeniyaâ€™s Response to Mona Eltahawy « Lamya's Corner April 20, 2011 […] of the â€œsymbol of backwardnessâ€ .Â Likewise, Eltahaway claims she wants to extend theÂ Niqab ban across the world. Her goal takes me back to an attempt in 2002 by theÂ French School in Sanaâ€™aÂ to prohibit Yemeni […] Reply mariam nabeel April 21, 2011 Bismillah AsalamOalekum warehmatullah :) Hiba you are my precious sister in deen MashAllah you are intelligent , eloquent ,confident and brave . May Allah be your wali ..ameen. I really love your style of argument handling , you were calm ,cool and confident mashAllah. In support of your argument you did not bring any evidence from Quran or Sunnah , which would perplex Mona or the host of the show . Your thoughts were very crisp and clear not too heavy for your ( non muslims or muslims with less zest and less religious knowledge ) audience to grasp and understand :) Well I am following this thread since it started , it took me some time in posting my own comments here. Quran emphasizes on the significant of this issue and for your benefit i am providing a relevant link here ; youtube.com/watch?v=RZe44SX0EBo&feature=player_embedded#at=97 So how can anyone dares challenging the word of Allah swt ? Modesty and face covering was the way of the sahibiaat..so how can we go against modesty ? lastly according to all four imams in the times of fitna women are required to cover their faces and we indeed are living in an era of fitna. Realistically speaking we have enough evidence in support of women’s face covering . Covering the face for the sake of attaining Allah’s pleasure is definitely a higher level of taqwa and to a certain extent a pinnacle of piety too :) For me niqaab is not a matter of my personal liking but its just my love to my Rabb ” we listen and we obey” saminaa wa attawnaa .. All this debate has made me think about the struggle of our niqaab wearing sisters in France and this is also making me think about many muslim sisters out side France who insist that niqaab is not an obligation. In my humble opinion please sisters who live outside France, go an extra mile and consider putting on veil on your pretty face, in order to please Allah swt . Quran , sunnat and all four imams support that the muslim woman must cover her face in the presence of non mehram men. When we get ill we don’t go to the hair dresser or a social worker or a teacher , we only go and consult a doctor and hence when it comes to the religion we must listen to the Islamic scholars who have sound knowledge of deen, who have good character and taqwa , we simply can not follow our own whims and desires. Lets start covering our faces from the non mehrams and start supporting our niqaab wearing muslim sisters who are struggling in France. Other than religion yes it is hundred percent an issue of human rights too . How can any state make such laws against any minority ? Muslims have their share of huge contribution in France’s social and economical structure as well. Flaws in systems are the core reason of corruption and violence , instead of blaming women’s veil / niqaab , rather focus on establishing a higher efficiency level and commitment level for the safety of people and states . Saudi Arabia is an example with least violence and corruption rate. How possibly women’s veil be responsible for volence in any state?? Please do not feel threatened of women’s veil as this even sounds funny. take care and all the best my sisters in deen ..i love u for the sake of Allah swt. Reply khamsek April 21, 2011 I can’t believe CNN has hired notorious adulterer and rapist Eliot Spitzer as a commentator, especially on women’s issues. Reply halima April 22, 2011 my sister constantly says this Reply Jassim Munir April 21, 2011 Assalam u alaikum Allah u akbar, Sister Hebah, May Allah bless you with More Eman, May Allah give you more strength and protection and May Allah give same Eman to all our Muslim Sisters in world,so that they can also protect their Eman. i really appreciate the way you answer to people’s stupid questions and arguments. All those Muslims, who speak against Niqab, or Burqa or Hijab, they really don’t know the teachings of Islam, the teachings of our Prophet Muhammad P.B.U.H. May Allah open their eyes and minds, that how easily and freely they talk against Islam. Reply Ali COlak April 21, 2011 Assalamu alaykum. Mashallah, that was a beautiful debate. Sister Heba, you must be commended for keeping such a cool head throughout the whole thing my blood was boiling only 2 minutes into the debate! May Allah help you and all our sisters. Reply Muhammad Iqbal April 22, 2011 Assalam-o-Alaikum Sister Hibbah, congratulations for a gr8 job on CNN. You literally laid a smack down to that so called liberated muslim lady who has no idea of what she was talking about. She should have realised by the end of this talk that if the face was central to communication we would not have understood even a bit of all that you said. You not only said what you wanted to, you were also far ahead on intellectual terms. I’m sure many of the male viewers who were viewing this video were focusing 100% on your views instead of getting diverted by the natural attraction caused by the woman’s appearance. These 10 minutes have at least proved today that a muslim woman more vocal, independent and liberated as the one who has to dress up in a way to show that she is bold and liberated when deep inside she knows that if she does not look good, she can’t even work as a receptionist even though she is talented to do so. DOES SHE CALL THIS A CHOICE!!! May Allah reward you for your efforts… Jazak Allah Khair Muhammad Iqbal http://www.iqbalonline.com Reply Michele April 29, 2011 Yea, great job on that smack down of that “liberal” so called Muslim. I’m sure Muhammad would like it even better if he could watched her stoned for her liberal thoughts. Good thing we live in america. Astighrallh, this is the problem with the Muslim world at large, people arguing about the most ridiculous issues when Muslims face so many real problems. Reply Najmah Umm Ayyub April 23, 2011 As salaamu alaykum all, I have a quick question/concern. I wonder if its proper to generalize people who otherwise wouldn’t have a discouraging word to say against their Muslim family/coworkers/friends/acquaintances as Islamophobes. Could this in fact be a more specific phobia within the realm of xenophobia, directly related to the niqab? Somewhat similar to a fear of the unknown although directly related to the “Veil”. As Abu Nour above so (non) eloquently mentioned that his stereotypes existed not because of Islam or the Muslim woman herself but due to his mind’s schematics and elaborations he developed from not seeing the face and bringing a fear of potential scenarios. Or maybe I’m just babbling on… *sighs* Reply Carlos April 23, 2011 I am sensing a lot of animosity toward Mona in these postings. Is she not just vocalizing her own interpretation of Islam’s rules of dress, and her own personal preferences? Just because a poster might not like her opinion, are these ad hominem attacks appropriate? I think I even saw at least one poster imply that is she is ugly. She is not ugly, and, even if she were, what does that matter? Would that make her opinion matter less? Grow up. I do not think Mona did nearly as badly, in the debate, as many of the posters are stating. And Hebah did a good job presenting her argument, but it was not nearly the “smack down” some posters talk about. I thought this was supposed to be a grown-up debate, not a schoolyard shouting match, with everyone ganging-up on the kid with the unpopular viewpoint. I sense bias, not objectivity. Muslim Matters, I would like to have an image next to my postings, like some posters have. How do I get one? Reply Amad April 23, 2011 If u have noticed, we have removed or edited many comments that are personal attacks. We try our best to keep the discussion focused on the topic, not the persons. On ur other issue about moderation of ur comments, we are not interested in over argumentation. Also pls note that this site’s main audience r Muslims in the west. Those who don’t share our faith are welcome to interact but not to take discussions into tangents or to be condescending in any fashion. Subjective job for the many editors here, we r trying our best to make the atmosphere kinder and less in your face. Reply Carlos April 23, 2011 Thanks, Amad. I agree, personal attacks are counterproductive. I try not to engage in them myself, although it can be tempting when I feel like someone says something that raises my ire. Yes, I know this website is primarily for Muslims. That is why I am here. I want to communicate with Muslims. I do not otherwise have any opportunity to communicate with Muslims. Where I live, there are not very many, and, even if there wore, it is awkward to approach strangers and start-up philosophical discussions. I am not trying to be a pest. My goal is to try to do my part to help bridge some of the gaps that exist between Muslims and non-Muslims. When communities grow too far apart, that can lead to misunderstanding, suspicion, dehumanization of the “other” and even conflict and violence. I have hope, however. The basic fact is that we are all humans, and, therefore, we have more commonalities than differences. I don’t just “pick on” Muslims. I engage in debate with many evangelical Christians too, some of whom are even in my extended family. Yours is not the only website on which I post messages. What about my other request, regarding getting an image next to my name? J April 24, 2011 Go to Gravatar.com. After you sign up and do whatever it prompts you, and then comment anywhere on the the web with the e-mail address you use on Gravatar, the image of your choice will show up by your name. Carlos April 23, 2011 Muslim Matters, why are my comments now being subjected to a period of “awaiting moderation” before they are posted? I have been careful not to break the rules for commentary that you have elaborated. I get the sense I am being censored because I am a non-Muslim, and my opinions are unpopular to one or more of the moderators. What’s the matter Mr./Ms. Moderator? Are you afraid of taking me on in an honest, respectful and fair debate? Are you afraid my reasoning might make sense to some of your readers? Reply Project_Niqaab April 24, 2011 Asalamu alaikum, I am currently undertaking a project to try and change the image of Niqaabis in the West – the aim is to provide society with a more accurate image of the woman behind the veil, to show that she is educated, active in her community and certainly not invisable. It is hoped that we can show that Muslim Women in the west are not being forced to veil, rather its a free valid choice made by thinking sane women who have a lot to contribute to society. I ask all Niqaabi Sisters to Contribite – Please send a blank email to firstname.lastname@example.org to find out how. Brothers please get your wives involved by passing on the link – and non niqaabis you can still help by fowarding the link to others. Jazakumullahu Khairan Reply Project_Niqaab April 24, 2011 @ Hebah, We would especially like to have you on board so please do drop us an email. Reply Abida April 24, 2011 Allahumma barik Sister. Masha’Allah, the way you defended the Niqab makes me so proud. Subhan Allah, I seriously envy people who have such good communication skills and I pray that one day I’ll be able to talk in defence of Islam with such good arguments. Jazak Allahu khayran and may Allah strengthen you! Reply Coorled38 April 24, 2011 A few years back I was prepared to enter a Sharia Court in Bahrain (a self proclaimed Islamic country though I debate that point) where wearing the hijb, much less the niqab, is NOT law. Social pressure nonwithstanding, there was/is NO law that says hijab/niqab MUST be worn in Sharia Court either and yet a security guard came out with a hijab in his hand and declared I needed to don it before entering the court. I told him that I dont wear hijab but he apologized and said I must wear it. I refused and reiterated that it was not law. He apologized again and went into the court only to emerge a few moments later to tell me the judge refused to see me unless I did. I told the security man that I was immediately going to lodge a formal complaint against the judge for insisting on something that was not law and refusing to see me. The guard went back in and came back and told me I could enter the court. Once inside the judge immediately castigated me on why I would not wear the hijab. I again told him (as if he needed telling) that it was not law and therefore he couldnt insist I do so. This went on for a few moments, and then he spoke and said that he only allowed me into his court because clearly I was not a Muslim and therefore didnt know better. I told him that I was in fact a Muslim but that did not negate the fact that there was no law to wear hijab in Bahrain much less in his court room. Upon hearing that I was Muslim he spoke with the man next to him in Arabic about my immoral behavior and refusal to obey him. He asked the man “why doesnt she have any shame?” I immediately answered him in Arabic asking HIM why HE didnt have any shame in insisting on focusing on the hijab when that wasnt why I was in his court that day. (admittedly I was treading on dangerous ground here as an expat AND female in a Arab/Muslim court, but seriously the man was insulting and irritating me) Of course he was shocked to realize that I was both Muslim AND knew Arabic. He immediately demanded to know why I wasnt wearing hijab period then since the Quran states that I should. I replied that I didnt believe it was mandated AND that was beside the point, I wasnt there in his court to debate the hijab and my “immoral and shameless” stance for not wearing it. He then said he could not listen to my case and reassinged another judge to hear it another day…and I was dismissed. Bahrain courts being how they are….it was a very long time before I could get another appointment…but I was delayed because a man, judge though he was, had this firm belief that I should be forced to wear the hijab solely for his own benefit, as it is not a law to do so in Bahrain. I wrote a letter of complaint to the local papers and other venues and a storm was created over it. I was approached by many women who complained bitterly of this judge and others who had this same belief…that women MUST wear the hijab in their court rooms or face critisizm or reassigned cases. Sounds like force to me. So yes, Heba, some women are forced to wear it. Taking this one issue only, that means that every woman who went into this mans court room went with the understanding that she either had wear it (even if she doesnt wear it generally) or face being assigned to another judge for another day. Force or not? Some of you will ask (as others have) why not wear it for a few moments just to get your hearing over with. No big deal. Well it is just a big deal to me when a man (govt etc) says I MUST wear it as those women who want to wear it and are told they cant. How is that any different? Of course this is just one of many instances I experienced while living 23 years in Bahrain in which the hijab (niqab is worn there and it fluctuates in fashion…and yes I belief it goes in and out of fashion just like any other thing women wear…but isnt worn by the majority of women) was forced on me. The first time being by my Muslim husband…2 years BEFORE I even considered reading up on Islam and possibly converting. So a nonMuslim woman at that was forced to wear hijab or not leave her house. Now if you had sat on that debate with a woman that is forced to wear hijab/niqab (not that she would have the opportunity to be on a show such as that most likely) and claimed that is is YOUR right to wear it meanwhile she claims that it is NOT her right but something she is forced to do…who would have won that debate? Sometimes it’s not about what YOU have the right to do as being the most relevant point on the topic…its about all of us other women that were not given that right, who had a man standing in front of us saying…hand over your rights please because what WE believe and how WE practice Islam is more important than something as trivial as your right of choice. Of course, the French ban is pretty much the same thing..men deciding what women should or should not wear. No difference except that Muslms seem to protest more when women are forced to remove fabric then when they are forced to put it on. As for your personal comment that in all your years of meeting women you had never came across one who was forced to wear hijab/niqab? I lived in Bahrain 23 years as I said and I met many many of them and Bahrain isnt even a considered an extremist country inline with Saudi or Pakistant etc. Go figure. Reply Amad April 25, 2011 Based on your comment, one might be tempted to think that you are arguing that hijab should be banned as well to take into account the women who are forced to wear hijab? Reply Coorled38 April 25, 2011 No, I have no issue with hijab/niqab being worn if women choose to do so….my comment referred to women that are not given that choice. 2000 women in France have chosen to wear it? Are any of them forced too? I wonder why those who choose to wear it seem to neglect to advocate for those that are forced to wear it? Personally speaking, I do not understand how some Muslim women can fight so hard to wear something that other women have been abused, tortured, or even killed for not wearing. And yes, women are killed over not wearing hijab or removing it much less niqab. It would be nice if men just got over this whole, let’s police women’s bodies and what they wear, ego trip but that wont happen anytime soon….but as I mentioned somewhere else, why don’t muslims fight as hard for women’s rights in countries where they are forced TO wear something specific then in countries where they are told to remove it? Abu_Muhammad April 25, 2011 @Coorled38, I am with you on the treatment of women in the Muslim countries but it is an issue that stems from a lack of education. Underneath all the glitter that you see in the westernized countries is lies the ugly face of female trafficking, pornography on a huge scale. You mean to tell me that this is freedom? Do you know how many women are turning to Islam in Europe and the west without any coercion? All societies have certain norms and codes of conduct. We Muslims believe that Allah says in the Qur’an, specifically Surah Nur (24:31) And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what (must ordinarily) appear thereof; that they should draw their veils over their bosoms and not display their beauty except to their husbands, their fathers, their husband’s fathers, their sons, their husbands’ sons,……….” and the ayah goes on. This is a commandment of Allah and for Muslim women not to fulfill this hukm is a sin. Michele April 29, 2011 nowhere in that ayah does it say the word “hair”. In addition, there are many other commands from Allah throughout the Quran, I would venture that most muslims, not matter how pious, are neglect in following many of them, including the ones on passing judgment on other. Funny how men are always in a hurry to find gray area the issues that pertain to them, like Polygamy, paying interest, how to treat your wife, family, neighbors, giving charity, arrogance, etc. – yet they love to pull out the ol’ hijab card. MYOB. Abu_Muhammad April 25, 2011 Why do the comments always seem to veer towards countries that are either dictatorships or don’t have any law and order? Let’s focus on the countries at hand which pride themselves of their so-called democracies, civil liberties and human rights. France started it by banning the niqab even though its only around two thousand women who wear it. Switzerland banning Muslims from establishing Masjids. Don’t give us examples of Muslim countries because we know how things are there. The security apparatus can pick you up and make you disappear. You talk about hijab in bahrain? There is 60-70 % shia majority who are being killed because they want representation in the government. I understand that you don’t care less about wearing a hijab let alone a niqab but the issue is that these countries who proclaim themselves being bastions of democracy are picking on women who voluntarily want to wear the niqab. Why don’t pick on the Tibetan monks wearing those saffron colored dresses or whatever they are. Reply Coorled38 April 25, 2011 “Why do the comments always seem to veer towards countries that are either dictatorships or donâ€™t have any law and order? ” Ironically, those countries are the so called Islamic/Muslim ones…why do we veer towards them? Simple…because we want Muslims to care as much about what goes on to women in THOSE countries as they do about the few (2000 as you said) that are apparently discriminated against in non Islamic/Muslim countries. Why is it that every single Islamic/muslim country is either a dictatorship or has no law and order? Why is it that Muslims around the world will protest a woman’s right to wear niqab in a non Islamic/Muslim country but not protest against Islamic/Muslim countries that prevent her freedom of movement, self autonomy, or any other right that is summarily taken away. We veer towards those countries because we, those living in these “wonderful bastions of democracy” cannot understand why the rights for Muslim women outside of those countries are fought harder for than for the Muslim women within them. Instead of Heba sitting there saying, I personally have never met a woman that was forced to wear it, she could have showed support and solidarity with those women who obviously do exist even if she has not been so fortunate to meet one. While she is fighting to wear something that has no Islamic mandate in a country that does not want her too…all those women that wish to take it off but cannot due to a very real fear, go largely ignored…even by other Muslim women who enjoy rights those Muslim women only dream of. I guess my point was….if Heba and those 2000 others in France want their right to wear something and will go on the news to gain attention for it and possibly picket and protest it or approach French officials to get their complaints heard etc….then do the same for your sisters that cannot do that. Those that are forced to wear it…might possibly wish to remove it and wish that the Muslim ummah around the world cared as much about their plight as it does about 2000 women in France (a mere drop in the ummah)…a non Islamic country. Carlos April 25, 2011 Coorled38, a courtroom is not the best example to prove your point. Courtrooms require a higher level of decorum than other places. In the U.S., a judge can require that parties appearing before him/her, and even members of the audience, dress appropriately, which usually means no shorts and no hats. It is considered the Judge’s inherent power to maintain courtroom etiquette, and it is probably even written down in the published rules of the court. Judges want people in the courtroom to understand the seriousness of the proceedings. Dressing too casually shows disrespect for the Court’s authority. If one shows-up to court wearing shorts, the Judge will probably scold him/her in front of everybody, and might tell him/her to come back the following week, properly attired. Of course, anywhere else in the U.S., outside of swanky restaurants, banks, churches, places of employment and a few other exceptions, nobody is going to tell you that you must wear full-length pants or take off your hat. Then again, if you dress inappropriately in public, people might think less of you, might prejudge your level of sophistication and might make fun of you behind your back. Sometimes the price of personal freedom is accepting the social (and professional) consequences of nonconformity. Reply Hebah Ahmed April 28, 2011 Thank you Carlos, I was going to make the exact same points. In America there are plenty of government buildings and businesses that have signs with “No shirt, No shoes, No Service”. The level of modesty is based on the cultural norms of the society. @Coorled38 I hear your point and I am VERY aware of the ugly, oppressive treatment of women in some muslim-majority countries under the guise of Islam, and I by no means wish to take away from their plight. I must say that with many of these women, the clothing they wear is the least of their concerns. The abuse is usually much worse than merely the way they are forced to cover and stems from a systematic ignorance of Islam and a sexist cultural view of women. I was only asked to speak on CNN because I wear a simple 6 in by 8 in piece of cloth on my face…the topic was only about the niqab ban and I barely had time to address that. My work for and with Muslim women extends to much more than my clothing. I have worked against domestic abuse in the Muslim community and have helped shelter women who are going through this painful situation. I have worked with many converts to Islam who have experienced a lot of sexual violence and abuse prior to accepting Islam and help to counsel them. I have also helped to bridge the generational gaps between American muslims and their immigrant parents who try to force their cultural ways on their children. I pray Insha Allah that people like you and me and Mona can stop bickering over things like clothing and work together instead to address the deeper needs of our Muslims sisters Insha Allah. I think we really have the same goals. :) Coorled38 April 29, 2011 Thank you, Heba, for answering me. I have no qualms with any part of your reply except for the “bickering” reference. I do take exception to this because I dont see discussing our difference of opinions as bickering. This signifies a certain amount of negativity or animosity. I have neither for you, or for any woman (man) whose beliefs are different than mine within Islam. I wonder why men are seen to discuss, debate, dialogue, while women are reduced to squabbling ,bickering, and backbiting…generally speaking? I just might add one more thought…when you refer to the Muslim women in other countries as “they” I must confess that I was one of those women…I am “they” (or I was for a very long time). Those women do have more important issues to worry about than clothing…but you know…no matter how bad it is for some Muslim women…they still find time to bring the conversation back around to who wears and who doesnt wear the hjiab/niqab. It is apparently THE defining subject for Muslim women (and men(). Hebah Ahmed April 30, 2011 Asalam Alikum Dear Sister, Please forgive me if I offended you with the use of the the word “bickering”. I used it to describe the trivial-ness of the discussion on clothing, not to put down the women who are discussing it (inlcuding myself). I think we (and the world) are spending way too much time and effort discussing women’s dress and not enough time and money on education, security, and healthcare for the women we are claiming to care for. You say you are/were one of the “they”…well I want you to know I see you and I feel you and I am deeply sorry for any pain and injustice you have suffered. You have no idea how much my blood boils when I see the way so called Muslims abuse others and try to justify it. I ask Allah to remove all your hardships and burdens and give you a peace at heart Insha Allah. You are correct, too many muslims focus on the outer appearance and use it as a way to put others down and make themselves feel superior. Not only is it sad but it is harmful because it pushed many people away from the beauty of Islam. I felt the same way before I started covering and then Allah put into my life a number of very good practicing Muslims who never commented on my lack of covering or judged me and instead drew me in with their grace, manners, and love of Allah. May Allah make us all of these people Insha Allah. Ameen. Maryam April 27, 2011 As salaamu alaykum warahmatullaahi wabarakatuhu, everyone. Thank you, Sister Hebah. You spoke eloquently on behalf of our sisters in niqab who are facing prejudice in many ways, even here in the USA. Yes, we must acknowledge both sides that there are some who are forced to wear it, and some who want to wear it for the sake of Allaah, and both sides are confronted with threats from family members and the society. Just like the hijab, the journey to wearing the niqab for different sisters, comes along with so many different perspectives. That said, I would love to invite Sister Mona to my local community in North Carolina, and see for herself the sisters who don on the niqab. They are indeed NOT disappearing, and will NEVER disappear bi idhnillaah. I personally know seven niqab sisters that I communicate with. Three are certified teachers and volunteers at the Islamic full-time school, the Hifdh full-time school, and the Islamic weekend school. One is a pediatrician and works with the niqab. One is a MBA holder, one is a software engineer, and one is a clinical laboratory scientist. They are all educated, eloquent, and don on the niqab with full grace. Any problem with that??? Mona says she wants to see the ban on the niqab all over the world. Instead of pouring all energy on the so-called misogynists, why not turn all gears around and refocus the energy to empower every Muslim woman, irrespective of what they wear, to acquire their basic rights in Islam. So much is happening in our own backyards, and of course, around the world, and yet the debate on a Muslim Woman’s choice of clothing becomes the hot topic. In Afghanistan alone, over 2 million Muslim women are widows (SOURCE: Islamic Relief newsletter). What do we want to do for them? In sub-saharan Africa, specifically Congo, rape and sex traffic against women have become the norm in society. How can we help these women? How can we bring hope and dignity to them? My close friend from India told me how many women from her native land are beginning to keep their maiden name instead of adopting their husband’s first or family name. This basic education is still lacking among many Muslimahs. I hail from a country where married Muslim women love the title, “MRS.” To them, it’s just ridiculous if you are married and still bear your maiden name. I mean, there are tons of issues that we need to address now and in many years to come. So, a ban on niqab all over the world? Hmm… I simply think it’s a dream in another wonderland. Reply yasir arfat awan April 29, 2011 Assalamualaikum Respected , you did a great job. may Allah protect you & increase your eeman. aameen yasir arfat awan islamabad pakistan Reply Bint Alam April 30, 2011 Yes, indeed it is really sad of what happened during the sister’s umrah. May Allaah rectify our hearts and actions, ameen. Reply SZH May 1, 2011 Disappear? Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world, more women convert to Islam than men, for Allahâ€™s sake even Tony Blairâ€™s sister-in-law converted to Islam, so how can a Muslim women disappear? Reply Michele May 2, 2011 also wondering for those who believe it is recommended or fard why Muslim women are prohibited from wearing it for Hajj? The mothers of the believers were advised to cover their faces so they would not be recognized and harassed as the Prophet’s (pbuh) wives, not out of extreme modesty requirements. Reply aceejay May 3, 2011 Salam and hello to all ! I am a journalist student from South Australia and i am here to say thank you sister Hebah for the wonderful debate regarding on the niqab issue. Im writing an article about the niqab banning issue for my assignments and my lecturer agree with many parts of your statement which makes sense and easy to adapt especially for the non muslim to know what is niqab is all about. I am here to support sister Hebah and I wish you all the best and may God bless you ! Thank you. Ace. South AU. Reply Ukhta May 4, 2011 Asalamu Alaykum Warahmatuallahi Wabaraktu, Masha’Allah ukhtii well done, may Allah swt keep us all on the right path….Allahuma ameen. Im a niqabi as well and it can be challenging especially in the West where even your family feels uncomfortable with the choice of wearing niqab. Im very proud of how you handled the situation, masha’Allah patiently.. Alhamdulillah may Allah swt unite us in Jannah. Love u for the sake of Allah swt…..Jazakallah khair Salamz :) Reply McMood May 9, 2011 Regarding your human rights. When you enter into a democracy, you relinquish all your individual rights and give your authority to the majority and the government who in return give you privileges/benefits and in effect rights that you already had as sovereigns. The American constitution and founding fathers was setup to protect the rights of the sovereign, the government was put in place to serve the people not the people to serve the government. If the Muslims in America would like to re-claim their God given rights, then they should look to the movements in America who want to return to the origins of your constitution and the setting up of a republic and not a democracy. Where individuals as sovereigns can always opt out in certain issues when they do not agree. So Sr. Heba, when you claim your Human rights in a democratic state, then you are at the mercy of the majority and of the government which can chop and change Acts and Statutes as they deem fit to do so. The moment a government tells you what you can or cannot wear, or what colour dress code you can wear etc etc should be the realisation that they are telling you that they own you and you are their slave/servant and they your masters. The slave trade in America never ended it just transformed itself without anyone realising it, people happy with small comforts and benefits handed to them while the bulk of their rights have been stripped away from them. Mona is thus right in this case, when the government leglislates something then if you accept its jurisdiction over you, you have to accept it. If you want to overcome that, you need to lawfully step out of their jurisdiction and show how their power is fraudulent and against the very basis of the US constitution. In that way Muslims will be able to RE-claim their rights – I would suggest you research into the movements in America and Canada which are already actualising it and empowering themselves through it. Jazakillah Khayr Reply Carlos May 11, 2011 In case McMood’s comment confuses you, it is not your fault. Don’t try to make sense of it. I believe he is a proponent of one of the American extremist movements called “militia movements” or “patriot movements.” Look it up, if you are curious. They do not recognize the legitimacy of the US Government, or really any government for that matter. They feel like it is their privilege to make-up their own “laws” to suit themselves. Never enter into a promise, agreement or contract with someone who believes this nonsense. He will not honor his promise. NEVER accept anything from him that resembles a check. It will be a worthless piece of paper. He is right that government should not tell people how to dress. There are some exceptions, of course, but, to infringe on such a personal freedom requires a compelling governmental interest. Reply McMood May 12, 2011 “When a well-packaged web of lies has been sold gradually to the masses over generations, the truth will seem utterly preposterous and its speaker a raving lunatic.” – Donald James Wheal Our Prophet salallahu alayhe wa salam was called a madman. I don’t know who Carlos is and your background. I just picked up on Sr. Heba’s reference to her Human rights in a Democracy. Yes, please everyone do your research on these ‘extremist’ movements. Remember it should not be strange for us, Muslims have been labeled extreme for a number of years now, so perhaps we can see through the manufactured fog and make up our own minds. This very topic, on niqab, is case in point. Omar El Kot May 11, 2011 Salam Alekom .. Well First of all i would like to Say how proud i’m of knowing that there is a Muslim sister out there that can speak of her self and for the other sisters with such confidance and make muslims look and sound such civilized ppl .. Really Hebah rabena ma3ky and GOD bless all what you do : ) raf3ty rasna ya bent balady . Reply SW May 15, 2011 MashaAllah Hebah, you did very well. Alhamdulillah. May Allah strengthen your faith and increase your wisdom and enable you to always defend Islam in the best way. Jazakillah khairan katheeran – you speak for a lot of your sisters, including me, although I don’t wear niqab, I defend the principle and the right to wear it! :) Reply omran May 16, 2011 heba is awesome and spitzer too Reply andalib June 1, 2011 as salaam alaikum, jazakallah khair, thank you for voicing our thoughts. may allah be with you. andalib panjwani, age 68, India Reply Ali 826 June 5, 2011 Jzaaki Allah Kheir Sister Heba, May Allah reward you and multiply your ajr. Reply Yasmine June 29, 2011 Assalamu Alayki Hebah, You are an example to me. May Allah bless our oummah with more and more women like you ! from Morocco Reply Ayesha February 12, 2012 assalamo alaikum wa rahmat ullah.We are so PROUD of u.May Allah swt keep you on the straight path always.Love u 4 Allah. Reply Flowerpower881 February 16, 2012 I am impressed by the way she defended herself. she was so cool, calm and composed. MashaAllah! Reply Arman_ah March 4, 2012 Interesting arguments but why is it that the opposer is simply resorting to the argument which goes something on the lines of ‘ it should be banned because if it was not people think those that are wearing the veil are more pious that those that are not’ that is utter nonsense. It appears she feels insecure with her faith if others wear the veil. Piety depends upon ones actions and heart. Not necessarily by wearing or not wearing the veil. What we are seeing is extreme secularism, or secular fundamentalists beginning to attack the the one religion which is most practiced and visibly present, Islam. Democracy and rights included the freedom of religion which included freedom to wear what you want if you beleive in it. Why is it being attacked by secularits in the name of civilisation? A Alam Reply Amazonesdelaliberte April 14, 2012 Thank you hebah. I am Lila citar, président of association amazones of freedom. God bless you . I want to talk with you about burkan ban. I côme from France. Listen take away on the 04/11/2012 See you son Reply Rika Halida April 20, 2012 I don’t wear niqab but i put my high respect for Hebah. You thrilled my heart, Hebah. Reply Daniel Dickey April 22, 2012 Both sides present a solid argument. It’s her right to wear whatever she pleases and Hebah makes that clear quite eloquently. But why she chooses to wear such items is probably because of an ideology she was raised with. Reply hafez May 11, 2012 assalamualaikum Hafez from Malaysia. Great job Hebah. In Malaysia, muslims cover their bodies/aurah and wearing niqab considered as normal. It commands respect. Never terrorised us. Sexy women do terrorise us. It is a matter of iman. nothing else. Fear ALLAH not people around us. Wish you luck. Inshaallah.