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

    • Noura menem

      Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

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      Reply
      • Umm Reem

        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.

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      • abu nabeeha

        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.

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      • Hebah Ahmed

        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.

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      • Layla

        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

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      • Sagal

        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.

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      • Hebah Ahmed

        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.

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      • Haleema Braun

        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….

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      • Hena Zuberi

        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.

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      • ivoryTower

        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!!

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      • mohamed

        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.

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      • Abdur Rahman

        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.

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      • Muslimah

        MashaAllah, Hebah, when i grow up, i want to be like you inshaAllah

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      • Bismillahfille

        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.

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    • Husnain

      Sister Hebah,

      great job masha’Allah and may Allah reward you for the courage with which you defended your position. Jazak’Allah khair.

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    • Dawood

      “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.

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      • J

        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.

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      • Amad

        pls learn the meanings of ad hominem and sexist, because neither’s application makes much sense here, sorry.

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    • Michele

      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,

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      • Fulan

        @ Michele:

        “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”

        -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 can’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.

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      • Byby

        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.

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      • Muslimah

        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.

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    • Hebah Ahmed

      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.

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      • harris

        Very articulate and calculated comments sr.Heba, job well done.

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      • Angel

        Masha Allah sister Hebah, wonderful job, may Allah guide Mona Ahmed and all Moslem women to the right path..

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      • Ali

        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.

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      • Abdus Sabur

        Your closing statement was brilliant. AlhamduLillah! very efficient use of 15 seconds. :)

        Jazakullahu khair for representing the ummah in a very positive way,

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      • Aisyah

        Hebah thank you you’re awesome masha Allah! Al-hamdulillah!

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      • Mohamed Safras

        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,

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      • Michele

        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.

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      • Umm Ahmad Aminah

        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)

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      • Mohammed Lamine (DZ)

        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

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      • touseef khan

        summa ameeen but u speak in front of all men ur debates r going on its nt gud

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  1. Yousuf

    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.

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    • Hebah Ahmed

      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.bickford@turner.com

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      • Amad

        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.

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      • Faeza

        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 :)

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  2. Amad

    “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”.

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    • Omar

      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.

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      • Uzair

        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! :)

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      • Hebah Ahmed

        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

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      • Abu Hamza

        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 .

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      • Omar

        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.

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      • Azhar

        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!!!!!!!!

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      • Abubakar

        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!

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  3. Rabia

    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.

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    • Amad

      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.

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  4. Umar

    Hebah 1 – 0 Mona

    Very well expressed by Hebah.
    (Cheap shot by Mona about Hebah’s job situation!!)

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    • Umar

      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!)

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      • Hebah Ahmed

        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.

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      • Haleh

        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 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.”

        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

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      • AhmadLobo

        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

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      • SW

        Well put, Haleh, jazakillah khair. And again, jazakillah khair to you too Hebah for your wise words :)

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      • Umar

        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?

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      • Mehnaz Qasim

        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

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      • Emma Apple

        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.

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      • Pam

        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.

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      • Nabeel

        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

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      • Your Bother

        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.

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      • someone

        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.

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      • NAS

        I thought that writing for Muslim Matters constitutes a job, and credible job at that!

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  5. The Way to Truth

    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]

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    • Azurah

      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.

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    • Umm Reem

      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 :)

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  6. Siraaj

    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

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  7. Haytham

    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!

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  8. Ify Okoye

    Hebah, well done! Freedom of religion and expression are ideals worth fighting for, not only for ourselves but for everyone.

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  9. Amad

    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 ….
    http://twitter.com/#!/monaeltahawy

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  10. Iesa Galloway

    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

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    • Siraaj

      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

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      • Iesa Galloway

        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

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      • Siraaj

        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

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      • Iesa Galloway

        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

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    • Umm Reem

      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!

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      • Hebah Ahmed

        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. :)

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      • Iesa

        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

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      • Na'ima

        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.

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      • Hebah Ahmed

        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!)

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    • J

      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.

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  11. Abu Ziyad

    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.

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    • Hebah Ahmed

      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.

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  12. Kara McCarty

    Well put Sr. Hebah, you articulated your points clearly, did not get upset and everyone is very proud of you!

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  13. Nahyan Chowdhury

    excellent mashaAllah tabarakAllah, extremely well done by sr.Hebah.
    Also, gotta give it to the moderator for managing the guests well.

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  14. Liajul

    Assalaamu ‘alaikum,

    I don’t know how people can see this as a debate. Sister Heba is the clear winner. there’s no argument

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  15. Atif

    Reading the news on the niqab ban made me very sad, but watching this video made me very happy.
    MashaAllah, may Allah reward her.

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    • Hebah Ahmed

      Ameen and AlhumduliLah! We all need hope…Allah is truly in control.

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  16. Tareq

    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

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    • Hebah Ahmed

      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.

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      • Safiya Outlines

        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.

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      • sakina

        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.

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  17. Aliaa

    Great job sister Hebah Mashallah….Keep going and we will all be talking against this law in different countries

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  18. Sara

    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.

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  19. Cucumber09

    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.

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  20. Hamna

    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.

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  21. NAS

    MashAllah great job Hebah, I really like the points of Spitzer too! we should send him thank you letters!

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  22. Suzanne

    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

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  23. Amman Abdul Adl

    “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…

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    • Olivia

      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.

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      • Amman Abdul Adl

        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

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      • Michele

        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.

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    • Hebah Ahmed

      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.

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      • ilyas ismail

        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

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  24. Al Madrasee

    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

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  25. Olivia

    sounds like seeing women wearing the niqab makes Mona feel bad.

    poor Mona, ban it so she can feel better.

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  26. hannah

    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!

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  27. life is a test

    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!

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  28. Mohammad Arif

    MashaAllah, may Allah keep you in good health, increase and strengthen your Iman ans save you from all evil, Ameen.

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  29. ahlam

    MashAllah, Hebah all the points were mentioned in a very clear-cut,straight-foward manner. BarakAllahu feeki.

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  30. Aya

    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.

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  31. Umm Adam

    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

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  32. Ruth Nasrullah

    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!

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  33. DiscoMaulvi

    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

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  34. hiba Ahmed

    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

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  35. Bint A

    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

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  36. Halima

    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

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  37. Ahmed H

    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

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  38. Yahya Ibrahim

    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.

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    • Hebah Ahmed

      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!)

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      • HenaZuberi

        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!!

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  39. Nouman Ali Khan

    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.

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    • Hebah Ahmed

      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.

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  40. Laura

    Go Mona! You spoke well in a clearly biased debate. The only purpose of the burqa is to eliminate women from the public sphere.

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    • DrM

      @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.

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      • Laura

        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.

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      • DrM

        @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.

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      • Bushra

        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.

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    • Hebah Ahmed

      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?

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      • Laura

        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.

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      • Amad

        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.

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      • Laura

        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?

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      • Amad

        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…

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      • Hebah Ahmed

        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.

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      • Laura

        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.

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      • Hebah Ahmed

        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? 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.

        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.

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      • life is a test

        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.

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      • Laura

        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.

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      • Laura

        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.

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      • Siraaj

        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

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      • Laura

        “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.

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      • Husnain

        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.

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      • Omar

        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

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      • Laura

        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?

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  41. Faatimah

    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 :)

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  42. Brother

    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.

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    • Hebah Ahmed

      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.

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      • Hamna

        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?

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  43. Cartoon M

    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!

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    • Safia Farole

      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.

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      • Bushra

        OHHHHHHH…no wonder she seemed familiar. I thought I’d seen her somewhere.

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    • Cartoon M

      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.

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      • Brother

        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.

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  44. Juli

    assalamualaikum

    Hebah, you rock, mashaallah! May Allah bless you and your family here and in the hereafter. ameen!

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  45. Ismail Kamdar

    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.

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  46. Safia Farole

    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.

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  47. Noha

    Jazaky Allah khayr Hebah! Keep up the good work! I wish she was given some more time.

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  48. Um Yusuf Ebtehal

    MashaAllah Hebah..very well put. You made us all proud!!

    JazakiAllah Khair!

    May Allah bless you and your family and keep you steadfast!

    أحبك في الله

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    • Hebah Ahmed

      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!

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  49. Sana

    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!

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  50. Umm Ibraheem AShmin

    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 Allâh, and hated that which pleased Him.
    So He made their deeds fruitless. (Muhammad 47:28)

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  51. Muslimah

    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

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      • Nahdimbarak

         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.

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  52. Samsad

    amazing amazing mashaa Allaah. May Allaah reward you for this. you will be in my prayer always inshaa Allaah

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  53. Mohammed Riyas

    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.

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  54. alom (frm london)


    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

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  55. Kashif Dilkusha

    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.

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  56. kishwar

    well done sister hebah. the entire ummah is proud of u and u spoke out what our hearts feel

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  57. Amal

    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

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  58. Megan Wyatt

    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.

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    • Hebah Ahmed

      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!

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  59. Bushra

    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!!

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  60. Yahya

    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.

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  61. umi

    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.

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  62. Sameeh Uz Zaman

    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.

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  63. Sister

    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.

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  64. R

    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.

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      • Good suspicion is nice.. But

        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.

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      • Muslim

        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.

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  65. Sagal

    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.

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  66. Fadi

    Sister Hebah,

    You make the whole muslim nation proud! Keep up the good work!
    Fadi

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  67. Abdul-Qadir

    @ 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?

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  68. Name (required)

    Salam to the believers,

    Masha’Allah, Sister Hebah done a brilliant job!

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  69. Shireen

    BarakaAllah feeki Hebah for fighting for women’s rights everywhere…I’m reminded of my love of Hijab – it is liberating and empowering! ♥ May Allah bless you immensely!

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  70. umm imran

    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

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  71. Rula

    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

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  72. carimah

    As’salaamu’alaykum
    Heba, I want to applaud you for your excellent response Masha’Allah !
    May Allah reward you abundantly.

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  73. Medinah

    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!

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  74. Arif Kabir

    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!

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  75. Juli

    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.

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  76. abu Rumay-s.a.

    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.

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  77. UmmZayn

    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!!

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  78. anna

    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.

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  79. Bilal

    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.

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  80. Sami

    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!

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  81. Riyas Valiya

    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…

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  82. Usama

    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

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    • Umar

      Rape rates are 100x less in Saudi than the USA.
      Robbery rates are 50x less in Saudi than USA.
      (source: nationmaster)

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      • Anne

        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.

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      • Bushra

        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.

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      • Amad

        I don’t disagree with all of what you are saying, but this:

        It makes me sad how many men in this thread couldn’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.

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      • inqiyaad

        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.

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      • Usama

        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.

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  83. mariya

    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

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  84. F

    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.

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  85. Nabeel

    “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 — 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.

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    • Nabeel

      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.

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    • kylie

      err…how can u pray when u have your period?…. ;) mona is so weird for saying that

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  86. UMUMTAZ

    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!

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  87. Sarah

    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

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  88. Rafa

    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!

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  89. Seerah

    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

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  90. Bint Alam

    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.

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    • Rafa

      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.’

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  91. Umm-Ayoub

    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.

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  92. WAJiD

    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.)

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  93. Maryam

    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.

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  94. Sister

    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 :)

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  95. Zulander

    asalamu alaikum,

    masha’Allah that was great. I’m glad sisters are defending themselves in the media, it really tackles the stereotypes people have.

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  96. Muslima

    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.

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    • Inqiyaad

      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 doesn’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 separation…? 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 symbol…it shouldn’t be…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 shouldn’t be difficult, lets stop making it difficult.
      Islam is not difficult for one simple reason and that is
      لاَ يُكَلِّفُ اللّهُ نَفْسًا إِلاَّ وُسْعَهَا

      Allâh 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.

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      • Umm Reem

        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.

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    • Siraaj

      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

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      • Amad

        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.

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  97. Umm Raabi

    MashaAllah ukthi you handled that very well. may Allah reward you

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  98. DrM

    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 ‘escargots’, ‘pate de foie gras’ and ‘steak tartare’, 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?

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  99. Alhamdulillah :)

    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

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  100. Hodan Ibrahim

    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.

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  101. Azhar

    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

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  102. Safiyyah

    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!

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  103. Niqabi

    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 “right-wing” 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 us–freeing us from the enslavement of a society that is predisposed to judge us by our beauty or lack thereof–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 one’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 “disappear,” 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 don’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 don’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.

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  104. forever a student of Islam

    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!

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  105. Saifullah

    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!

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  106. Abu Musab As-Somali

    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!

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  107. Sarah S.

    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

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  108. faezon

    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.

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    • Amad

      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!

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  109. chuck hird

    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.

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    • Amad

      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.

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  110. Emma

    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.

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  111. Umm Ahmad

    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).

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  112. jafar

    Dear Habah: very well spoken …may Almighty bless you for what ever u r doing

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  113. AnonyMouse

    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.

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    • suhail

      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.

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      • Bushra

        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.

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      • suhail

        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.

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      • suhail

        -Comment removed. Again, we are not discussing Mona, the person, here.

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      • Hebah Ahmed

        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.

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  114. Muhammad Bin Arshad

    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.

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  115. Ali Pak

    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”.

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  116. Farhan

    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”.

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    • Farhan

      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.

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  117. Mohamed Hussein

    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.

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  118. Aisha Ali

    MashaAllah, well done sister Hebah. Hope you get more opportunities to voice all our female voices. Love u for this. <3

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  119. Reza

    Masha’Allah, Hebah tore her to pieces in that debate, what a great job! Jazak’Allah Khair!

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  120. Hafiza Khatun

    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.

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    • Hassen

      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.

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  121. Radhia

    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!

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  122. Aisha

    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

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  123. nk

    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?

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  124. ES

    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

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  125. Abu Yusuf

    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 http://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.

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  126. MW_M

    Mona keeps saying I believe, I believe, I believe, well, we don’t make laws based on what Mona believes

    epic!

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  127. Hannah

    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.

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  128. Sufistan

    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 [ http://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.

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    • Muslimchica

      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

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  129. Sadaf Farooqi

    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))

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    • Hebah Ahmed

      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!

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  130. Cognitive Dissonance

    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

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    • Hena Zuberi

      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.

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      • Azhar

        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 “coercion”

        When I said ‘La Ilalaha Illallah Muhammad ur Rasoolullah” I accepted to obey the laws of Allah and His Rasool(saws). My like