The debate about women’s right to cover their bodies to the extremes has heated to an unprecedented scale in Europe as more countries are discussing whether to put an end to somebody’s right to publically wear attire such as the burqa or niqab that represent radical forms of Islam.
However, the majority of women coming from a moderate Muslim background in Europe seem to be the biggest victim of the pro-veil campaign and the hype around it. This is because aggressive reporting of the issue leads many people to believe that this tiny minority of burqa-clad women actually represents all Muslim women.
Therefore it might come as a surprise for many who have seen the Muslim world through a certain lens to know that majority of Muslim women do not believe in covering themselves in long cloaks from head to toe.
In fact large numbers of Muslim clerics from across the world believe that Islam has nothing to do with this kind of attire and woman are only advised to wear modest clothes just to avoid objectification of their bodies.
As in 2010 when the burqa issue made controversial headlines, it indulged the whole world into defending a women’s right to wear burqa and it went on defending it as per se religious freedom by declaring it an essential part of religious teachings.
Even influential scholars like Egypt’s former Grand Imam and Rector of Al-Azhar University in Cairo Sheikh Mohammad Tantawi in 2010 categorically declared that the face veil is not obligatory in Islam while France and other countries have every right to ban it. In 2009 the former Imam of the Paris’s Grand Mosque Dalil Boubakeur seconded President Sarkozy’s decision to ban the full body veil and declared it in harmony with the secularism of the French Republic. He continued to say the constant discussion of the burqa is a way of distracting people from real issues.
In fact in almost the whole Muslim world including Indonesia, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, Iraq, Morocco, Tunisia, Muslim Africa, the gulf countries including the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait, the full body veil was never a common or obligatory practice.
The pro-burqa campaigners consider it a personal choice of an individual to decide what to wear. But this matter is too complex to be regarded as a personal clothing choice because this practice is sets the burqa or full veil as a standard of piety for other Muslim women across the world which would slowly engulf those Muslims who were never used to this practice.
Both terror groups like ISIS and their adversaries in the West are adding to the phenomenon through different ways by politicizing a simple issue and taking the debate into the wrong direction.
It has become a catch-22 situation for the moderate Muslim women who were earlier unaware of such radical versions of their religion. Now they are being bombarded with the information about the importance of burqa for Muslim women from both sides.
The full body veil is a product of the puritans of Islam, which mostly have their origins from modern day Saudi Arabia and is part and parcel with many other inhumane practices by these Salafists such as barring woman from driving, voting, or letting them freely choose their husbands.
The reported cases of coercion and bullying against the Muslim woman to try and make them adopt an extremist lifestyle in United Kingdom and Europe are not isolated incidents. In fact they are just tip of an iceberg. The majority of the moderate Muslim women who have gone through such bullying at public places, at work or even in their own localities and avoid reporting such incidents either to the public or to the police due to the fear of increased threats and backlash by the extremists.
I have seen my best friend facing such bullying in school while living in one of the most modern and diverse cities in the world (Frankfurt, Germany). She had told me that sometimes during the class right in front of her teacher(s) she was bullied for not wearing the proper “Islamic” attire. Yet nobody would dare take any action against those extremists who would be publically harassing her to wear the Islamic clothes (burqa) if she had to carry a Muslim name around.
This lack of empathy from these extremist Muslim women toward the problems of majority of their fellows from Muslim backgrounds is really painful and pathetic. It tumultuously causes total submission to the patriarchal thoughts which never allows women out of their shell. Despite being privileged to be heard, unlike their fellow faith followers who are deprived of even basic necessities of life such as food, health and even life itself, they never seem to be raising the genuine problems of women as a whole.
However, a certain section of this privileged class of European Muslims is busy fighting for this un-Islamic issue instead of talking about the real problems that the world especially the Muslim majority countries are facing today.
These women in the West are demanding to cover themselves when there is no eminent threat to their sanctity. They are protected by the law of the land, their Allah does not require the veil to evaluate their piety and their fellow non Muslim countrymen respect them the way the honor their own women as compare to the Muslim women in the Muslim majority countries.
Probably they have never seen young girls in the Middle East married off to old men, or a brother chopping off the head of his sister and putting it on his doorstep as a trophy because she merely talked to a male neighbor, or a girl who helped her female friend marry a man out of love only to suffer a cruel death at the hands of her own family members.
They have never thought about their fellow Muslim women who were being burnt alive because they did not bring a dowry along at the time of their marriages and about those poor Muslim girls who are being mutilated in the name of religion in many Middle Eastern and African countries.
Apparently this vehement demand to wear burqa is just a social oddity which is followed by many other social oddities which take refuge under the banner of religion. This archaic custom was designed to enslave women and control their lives by the religious fanatics comprising all mighty males of those sects.
This demand to wear the full veil, which is being proposed in the name of women liberation, is actually anti-social in nature.
It will only end up pushing women away from reasoning, discouraging Muslim women from partaking in social life, confining them in their homes, putting restriction upon her mantel ability to make her career, promoting the male dominance on her rights, making it a certificate of righteousness and encouraging men to use her as a commodity.
Heart wrenching stories of enumerable Muslim women are reclining into the devastating hurricane of wretchedness which is ripping the honor of honorable apart.
Therefore it is high time to overthrow this un-Islamic and inhuman tradition because we ‘the women’ carry the responsibility of educating generations.
An enslaved soul cannot bring up a human free of prejudice against anybody.
Khadija Khan is a Pakistan based journalist and activist, who has worked with various print and electronic media outlets as a reporter and a commentator.