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Muslim Women in Britain Seek Fairness, Not Favors

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By Sajda Khan

 

The face-veil has become the epitome of European xenophobia. Burka and niqab are two terms which are commonly used to describe a face-veil. The niqab is a face-veil covering the entire face leaving the area around the eyes uncovered. The burka covers the whole body including the face with a mesh or voile around the eyes.

Once again, Britain’s obsession with the face-veil of Muslim women has sparked controversy.  Writing in the Telegraph, former foreign minister Boris Johnson said that the attire was oppressive, that it is not in the Qur’an and that he thought it was ridiculous that people choose to go around looking like letter boxes and bank robbers. While Johnson faces an internal Conservative Party investigation, let us be honest; he is not the first and will not be the last to condemn the face-veil. Since the time of colonialism and up until now, there has been a legacy of Western politicians condemning the veil as sinister, misogynist, oppressive, a mark of separation, and the litany goes on. Sadly this trend of Islamophobia has emerged within our society with impunity.

Politicians and people who hold public office should adopt the British values of tolerance and respect in the language they use; making belittling comments about the practices of a culture or religion is a catalyst for the far-right to embolden discriminatory policies. Muslims are already seen as a fifth column and alienated from society, and comments like this do not help with integration but instead, reflect an illiberal and closed society, leaving  minority communities susceptible to stigmatization and abuse.

There has already been an increasing number of attacks on women for their visibility of being Muslim women, and as a result, these women are either forced to curtail their freedom to choose to dress how they wish or they are forced out of public life. This suggests that there is no place in Britain for women who choose to wear the face-veil and creates an ‘us’ and ‘them’ dichotomy.

Furthermore, it undermines our values which include individual liberty and respect for other cultures and religions. A liberal democracy is built upon the foundation of respect and upholding the rights of others even if we dislike the choices that they may make. Tolerance is the willingness to tolerate the existence of opinions or behaviors that one may dislike or disagree with.

Muslim women choose to wear the face-veil for a myriad of reasons. Some wear it as part of a religious or cultural identity while others do so as a sign of empowerment, or even as a fashion statement. It is true that in some parts of the world Muslim women are oppressed and may be forced to wear the face-veil, and this  should be opposed. But to stigmatize women who choose to wear the face-veil is also antithetical to the tenets of a liberal society.

Even within the Muslim community there are some Muslims who are eager to denounce the face-veil because they believe that it is not Islamic and a preposterous choice. Many of these Muslims may even agree with Boris Johnson: that it is right not to ban the face-veil but it is not prescribed within Islam, hence Muslim women should  not wear it. They will also argue that the face-veil is an erasure of women and that the ideology that supports it is an antithesis of feminism. It is true that there are no verses in the Qur’an that explicitly state that a woman must wear the face-veil. However, let us not ignore the fact that Islamic law is not simply a literal reading of the Qur’an. We have an entire epistemology: there is the Sunnah of our Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), and the scholarly interpretations and opinions. Muslim theologians have debated and differed on the issue of the face-veil ever since the era following the death of Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him). Some scholars have held the opinion that it is an obligation to wear the face-veil while others have said a  Muslim woman is not obliged to cover her face. For many Muslims then, the face-veil is rooted in Islamic tradition, but they will differ as to whether or not it is compulsory.

The point is though, whether or not one believes the face-veil is a requirement, no one has the right to tell a woman what she should or should not wear. In addition, people on either side of the discourse should not promote an intolerant austere vision. Islam is not monolithic; there are nuances and these should be respected, even if we choose to disagree.

More importantly however, what seems to be deliberately obliterated from the hysteria around the face-veil, is the actual voice of those Muslim women who choose to wear it. Arundhati Roy said: “There is no such thing as the voiceless. There are only the willingly unheard.”  So, whether it is Muslims or non-Muslims, let us not disregard the individual choices that many of these women make and let us not adopt an ethnocentric approach to the face-veil, because that is no doubt, an affront to our British values.

I would say, the face-veil in Britain is symbolic of Britain being a diverse, open and liberal society. It demonstrates the ability of the British to be able to absorb differences and to accept foreign customs. Societies are, no doubt enriched by cultural variation. The presence of  heterogeneous mores is a sign of pluralism and let us not forget, pluralism is one of the hallowed values of our country. Surely,  an ethnocentric approach is clearly an affront to our British values – values that demand a lot more respect than this.   

Finally, Muslim women seek fairness, not favors; so, let’s not deny them the individual freedoms that Britain prides itself on.  

 

 

Sajda Khan is a writer, and is currently completing her PhD on the Seerah and its relevance to the West. She can be found on Twitter as @SajdaKhanUK

6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Safa Nadem

    August 27, 2018 at 12:24 AM

    Excellent points made! This is the best written piece I have read on the Niqab!

  2. Avatar

    Yousaf Ali

    August 27, 2018 at 12:51 AM

    Wow MashAllah – a wonderful article!

  3. Avatar

    Fazal

    August 27, 2018 at 4:42 AM

    Awesome article, keep your great work going.

  4. Avatar

    Ansah Tariq

    August 27, 2018 at 6:47 PM

    Some pertinent points made in the article. The writer has succinctly addressed the fanaticism surrounding the face veil and how it is starkly contrasting to the rhetoric and values Britain prides itself on

  5. Avatar

    Alkalaam

    August 29, 2018 at 12:47 PM

    Barak allahu Keek, May allah increase you in knowledge and amal.

  6. Avatar

    Shira

    September 4, 2018 at 4:37 PM

    Masha Allah Brilliant article

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#Current Affairs

Faith Community Stands With Peace And Justice Leader Imam Omar Suleiman During Right Wing Attacks

Hena Zuberi

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In a follow up to the right-wing media platforms attack on Imam Omar Suleiman – calling him anti-semitic, a common tactic used to discredit both Muslim activists, as well as criticism of Israel policies, Faith Forward Dallas issued a statement.

Faith Forward Dallas at Thanksgiving Square – Faith Leaders United for Peace and Justice is a Texas-based interfaith organization that has worked on many initiatives with Imam Omar Suleiman.

The statement reads:

“Imam Omar Suleiman a spiritual and moral voice for peace with justice!!!!!

Time after time in our city, in the United States and around the world, Imam Omar Suleiman has been a spiritual and moral voice for peace with justice. When others seek to divide, he calls for unity. Faith Forward Dallas at Thanks-Giving Square works to unite faith leaders for justice and compassion. Imam Suleiman has been a trusted leader among us. In the wake of his beautiful prayer to open the House of Representatives on May 9, he has received threats of violence and words of vilification when instead he should have our praise and prayers. We call upon people of good will everywhere to tone down the rhetoric, to replace hate with love, and to build bridges toward the common good.

Faith Forward Dallas at Thanks-Giving Square”

Commenters on the Faith Forward Dallas statement have left comments of support.

The group has invited locals and other leaders to endorse and share the statement. “Endorsed! I love and fully you Imam Omar Suleiman!” wrote Karen Weldes Fry, Spiritual Director at Center of Spiritual Learning in Dallas (CSLDallas), commenting on the statement.

Some commentators do not understand the manufactured controversy.  Heather Mustain writes, “What people are writing is so vile. They obviously didn’t even listen to his prayer!” Imam  Omar Suleiman delivered the opening prayer in the US House of Representatives on May, 9th, 2019  at the invitation of Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D) of Dallas, TX.

“I’m grateful for the faith leaders with whom I’ve built relationships with and served with for years that have shown full support throughout this process. Together we’ve stood with one another in solidarity in the face of bigotry, and in the support of others in any form of pain. We will not let these dark forces divide us,” said Imam Omar Suleiman in response to the outpouring of love from the people he has worked with on the ground, building on peace, love, and justice.

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#Current Affairs

#UnitedForOmar – Imam Omar Suleiman Smeared by Right-Wing News After Opening Prayer at US House of Representatives

Zeba Khan

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Sh. Omar Suleiman delivered the opening prayer in the US House of Representatives yesterday, May, 9th, 2019  at the invitation of Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D) of Dallas.

Immediately since, right wing media platforms have begun spreading negative coverage of the Imam Omar Suleiman – calling him anti-semitic, a common tactic used to discredit both Muslim activists as well as criticism of Israel policies.

News outlets citing the criticism have pointed to a post from The Investigative Project on Terrorism or ITP, as the source. The  ITP was founded by and directed by noted Islamophobe Steven Emerson. Emerson’s history of hate speech has been documented for over two decades.

Since then, the story has been carried forward by multiple press outlets.

The immediate consequence of this has been the direction of online hate towards what has been Imam Omar Suleiman’s long history of preaching unity in the US socio-political sphere.

“Since my invocation I’ve been inundated with hate articles, threats, and other tactics of intimidation to silence me over a prayer for unity,” Imam Omar Suleiman says. “These attacks are in bad faith and meant to again send a message to the Muslim community that we are not welcome to assert ourselves in any meaningful space or way.”

MuslimMatters is proud to stand by Imam Omar Suleiman, and we invite our readers to share the evidence that counters the accusations against him of anti-semitism, bigotry, and hate. We would also encourage you to reach out, support, and amplify voices of support like Representative E.B.Johnson, and Representative Colin Allred.

You can help counter the false narrative, simply by sharing evidence of Imam Omar Suleiman’s work. It speaks for itself, and you can share it at the hashtag #UnitedForOmar

JazakAllahuKheiran


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“When any community is targeted, they need to see a united faith voice — that all communities come together and express complete rejection of anything that would pit our society against one another more than it already is.” -Imam Omar Suleiman

Source: Kera News

 


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#Current Affairs

Ben Shapiro Gets Wrecked on the BBC for Racism Against Palestinians and American Jews

Andrew Neil so thoroughly destroys Ben Shapiro that he has a snowflake meltdown and retreats in the middle of the interview to his own safe space, off-camera. 

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The video plays at the 10:00 minute mark where Neil begins to break down Shapiro on his statements about President Obama, Palestinians, and American Jews.

Let’s set the context – popular conservative commentator Ben Shapiro, known for his aggressive debate style in the public square, visited the BBC to promote his new book.  The interviewer, Andrew Neil, after giving Shapiro a chance to introduce himself to the BBC audience, questioned him about the anger both the left and the right feel towards one another, and Shapiro’s own role in stoking that anger and polar opposition within the Republican party over many years.

The reason for this line of questioning is because Shapiro claims this to be a problem in American discourse and fails to consider his own contribution to the problem, and it is this hypocrisy that Neil confronts him about.  Shapiro attempts to respond, but is promptly crushed by Neil’s responses with Shapiro’s own quotes.  For example, he brings up the following tweet written about Palestinians which Shapiro agrees was wrong but hasn’t taken down:

 

Shapiro futilely attempts to respond, but Neil continues to quote Shapiro until he is left with no choice except to throw ad hominems at his interviewer, which were deftly turned back on Shapiro, leaving him to look even more petty for his attempted condescending remarks.  The end result is the man claiming earlier to welcome a spirited debate quickly found himself running away to lick his wounds.

Perhaps the greatest irony in this debate – Shapiro accused Neil of being an opinion journalist of the left-leaning variety, while Neil is a conservative and chairman of The Spectator, whose editorial outlook is conservative.

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