Westerners’ obsession with niqab

Empowering Weak & Oppressed

Editor

Rabi' al-Thani 16, 1431 2010-04-01

Editorials

by Editor (Editorials, Crescent International Vol. 39, No. 2, Rabi' al-Thani, 1431)

Politicians in the West love to play wedge politics. Picking on the weakest members of society is their favourite ploy but the recent hysteria about niqab — the full facial and body covering, except an opening for the eyes, worn by some Muslim women — is quite out of proportion with what is perceived as a “threat” to Western freedoms and liberties.

Politicians in the West love to play wedge politics. Picking on the weakest members of society is their favourite ploy but the recent hysteria about niqab — the full facial and body covering, except an opening for the eyes, worn by some Muslim women — is quite out of proportion with what is perceived as a “threat” to Western freedoms and liberties.

France, Belgium and the French-speaking province of Quebec in Canada are the leading champions of this ludicrous campaign. In Britain, too, the debate has raged with opportunistic politicians jumping on the bandwagon. In Canada, politicians of all stripes have indulged in anti-niqab rhetoric.

Let us look at some statistics. According to Le Monde Diplomatique (April 2010), no more than 367 women wear the niqab in France, many of them French converts to Islam. Yet the French republic feels threatened. More women are murdered by their spouses or partners each year than the number of women wearing niqab but the French Republic has not risen to defend women from spousal abuse. In Quebec, the number is even smaller: hardly 25 women wear the niqab in a population of some nine million. Does the Quebec government have no other concern but to deny Muslim women the right to cover their faces? After all, women in Canada are permitted to walk around topless if they so choose, according to a 1996 court ruling. Not many women have taken up the option. The Quebec bill would deprive Muslim women of government services if they came with their faces covered.

Politicians who argue that the niqab is forced upon women are being hypocritical when they suggest they want to restore these womens’ freedoms. They should just ask the women wearing it. Nor is it a question of whether it is mandated by Islam. Since when have Western politicians, and indeed some secular Muslims, been concerned about Islamic requirements? The fundamental point here is the right of Muslim women to dress the way they choose. It is not for Western men or Wwestern feminists to tell Muslim women how to dress. If women in the West are free to wear bikinis, walk topless in the streets or strip naked in dance clubs, why can’t Muslim women have the freedom to cover themselves?

It is time the West’s cultural imperialists got off their high horse and realize that Muslim women have as much right to wear the niqab as other women have to uncover themselves.

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