Islam, the Veil, and Oppression

I am currently reading Excellent Daughters: The Secret Lives of Young Women Who Are Transforming the Arab World by Katherine Zoepf. One chapter discusses the use of the veil or the hijab and it is a most telling revelation about the astonishing differences of thinking in the traditional Islamic society as contrasted with Western thought. Zoepf recounts this encounter with a Muslim woman who proudly explains why she wears the hijab.

What if a man sees you girls walking in the street with your hair uncovered and becomes so aroused that he goes and abuses a child?

Wouldn’t you feel that it was your fault that this child was raped? I know that I could never live with myself if something like that happened. That is why I wear the hijab.

Although only two or three years younger than Zoepf, this Muslim woman named Asma is light years removed from the idea that “blaming an unveiled woman for the actions of a child molester [is] outrageous [and] to argue otherwise [is] to suggest that men [aren't] responsible for themselves.”

Zoepf quotes Fatima Mernissi, a Moroccan sociologist who has explained that the traditional Islamic society “hardly acknowledge[s] the individual, whom it abhor[s] as a disturber of the collective harmony.” Consequently, traditional society “produce[s] Muslims who [are] literally ‘submissive’ to the will of the group.”

If seen in a positive light, this group cohesion creates a strong community bond where all Muslims are guardians of the others in the group. Thus, “if someone slipped, then the guilt would be shared." Consequently, less important are the rights of the individual compared with the "rights of the community." This sense of group identity is certainly a common thread among tightly knit communities of many different religious organizations.

On the other hand, this misogyny “disproportionately” burdens female members. Thus, females who grow up under this constant scrutiny “face a particularly difficult path, since the mere fact of their being in the public eye is often enough to raise suspicions about their modesty.”

Herein lies a fundamental and clear-cut difference between a society based on individual responsibility for one’s actions and one based on group conformity wrapped around a guilt-induced rationale. At no time does a man’s accountability for assault enter this mindset. According to this point of view, the woman deliberately put herself in a position to be victimized and the community did nothing to stop the woman’s actions. This, is why Sheik Taj Din al-Hilali, Australia's most senior Muslim cleric can assert, without irony, that an unveiled woman is asking to be raped since she is "like uncovered meat who attract sexual predators." Moreover, al Hilali "suggested that a group of Muslim men recently jailed for many years for gang rapes were not entirely to blame" since there were women who "sway suggestively" and "wore make-up and immodest dress." He went on to say that if the woman "was in her room, in her home, in her hijab (veil), no problem would have occurred." Thus, the problem of rape lies entirely with the women victims.

And many followers of Islam concur. Abdul Jabar Azimi states that "Hijab prevents molestation" and mentions the Qur'an in the following verses of Surah Al-Ahzab: "O Prophet! tell thy wives and daughters, and the believing women that they should cast their outer garments over their persons (when abroad); that is most convenient, that they should be known (as such) and not molested (Al-Qu'ran 33:59)."

Thus, the "Hijab has been prescribed for the women so that they are recognized as modest women and this will also prevent them from being molested."

Which, of course, begs the question -- if a woman is uncovered, does that make her ripe for a sexual attack -- thus, if a non-Muslim woman is wearing Western garb, is it correct to presume that she is a proper target for an attack? Ask the rape victims of Cologne and other European cities.

In her graphic novel Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi demonstrates how in 1980, Iran was transformed under the Islamic Revolution so that she no longer could go to a French secular school but was forced to wear the veil, attend a segregated school, and fear for her mother, who was demonstrating for freedom and choice.

With the Shah's overthrow in 1979, alcohol was banned, clubs were shut down, and women had to be covered head-to-toe in public. Daniel Greenfield documents what happened recently to one young girl and her friends who had the audacity to remove their hijabs. The young people were taken to prison and the court issued its punishment -- for wearing a skirt, each girl would receive 40 lashes while the boys who had partied and listened to western music would receive 50 lashes.

Farhana Qazi was interviewed by Abigail R. Esman and recounts how she was "blessed to be an American Muslim woman who would not have had the same opportunities in life if she had remained in Pakistan." She explains that her father raised her to be a bridge between the East and West and she has used her skills in counterterrorism work. Her work focuses on the divisions in the Muslim world today -- "a broken mass of billions blinded by age-old customs, traditional, and patriarchal norms steeped in ancient cultures." She is trying "to understand the way that Islam has been destroyed by splinter groups, religious fanatics, and hardline conservatives, issuing fatwas that oppose women's rights."

Qazi maintains that many Muslim females join Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups because, the groups, e.g., ISIS, "empower these girls." This is because "many Muslim girls living in the West are still bound by cultural (read controlled) rules and have little freedom outside of their home environment; they aren't allowed to 'hang out' with Western friends and these girls certainly don't have the same opportunities as their brothers or male cousins. In these cases, girls look for alternatives, which terrorism provides" and the terrorist groups are only too happy to make use of the girls as "cannon fodder." And, if the girls do not obey, they will be silenced by being shot with paintballs, whipped, or stoned to death.

Qazi states that because Muslims "believe that God's love is only for the select few, then this teaching restricts children in many ways; they are unable to cope in a western society and compelled to stay with their own communities. They are quite vulnerable to extremist recruitment."

In 2010, Nonie Darwish wrote that President Obama

did not tell the Muslim world what they needed to hear, and should have heard from the leader of the Free world. He had a moral obligation to add that we need to protect the right of Muslim women not to wear the hijab and punish those who force them to do so.

Many Muslim governments do not force the Islamic outfit on women. Egypt is one such country and the problem for the majority of Egyptian women is not being forced by their government to wear the hijab, but rather, they are forced by radical Islamists and their families. Mr. Obama should have known that the Egyptian government itself often discourages women from covering up and actually forbids the wives of Egyptian diplomats from wearing the hijab and even head covering. The reason I know that is because my brother is an Egyptian diplomat. The social and religious pressure on Egyptian women is huge and tyranny does not necessarily come from the top but often from Islamist Sharia enforcers on the streets who often want to take matters in their own hands. They use ridicule, pressure, intimidation, humiliation, and even throwing acid on women who do not wear the Islamic garb.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali writes that Muslim women, resigned to their circumstances, survive by reciting "Inshallah, God willing." Thus, if a woman does not submit, "then a man's good name, and his authority are damaged." This "belief is part of a larger one that individuals don't matter; that their choices and desires are meaningless, particularly if the individuals are women." As a result, "[t]his sense of honor and male entitlement drastically restricts women's choices [so that] a whole culture and its religion weigh down every Muslim, but the heaviest weight falls disproportionately on women's shoulders."

And recently, the military ruler for the region of eastern Libya, General Abdul Razek al-Nazouri, announced his decision to bar Libyan women from leaving the country unguarded by a male.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali also maintains that "the Muslim veil, [and the] different sorts of masks and beaks and burkas, are all gradations of mental slavery." In fact, a woman "must ask permission to leave the house, and when [she] does, [she] must always hide behind thick drapery. Ashamed of [her] own body, suppressing [her] own desires -- what small space in a [woman's] life can be called [her] own? The veil deliberately marks women as private and restricted property, nonpersons. The veil sets women apart from men and apart from the world; it restrains them, confines them, grooms them for docility. A mind can be cramped just as a body may be, and the Muslim veil blinkers both a woman's vision and her destiny. It is the mark of a kind of apartheid, not the domination of a race, but of a sex."

That a piece of cloth should be the center of so much attention should speak to the fact that it represents much more than a piece of material. Certainly, Muslims can wrap their explanations around the idea of modesty as much as they want, but, in reality, far too many women are gagging under the weight of the veil.

Eileen can be reached at middlemarch18@gmail.com

I am currently reading Excellent Daughters: The Secret Lives of Young Women Who Are Transforming the Arab World by Katherine Zoepf. One chapter discusses the use of the veil or the hijab and it is a most telling revelation about the astonishing differences of thinking in the traditional Islamic society as contrasted with Western thought. Zoepf recounts this encounter with a Muslim woman who proudly explains why she wears the hijab.

What if a man sees you girls walking in the street with your hair uncovered and becomes so aroused that he goes and abuses a child?

Wouldn’t you feel that it was your fault that this child was raped? I know that I could never live with myself if something like that happened. That is why I wear the hijab.

Although only two or three years younger than Zoepf, this Muslim woman named Asma is light years removed from the idea that “blaming an unveiled woman for the actions of a child molester [is] outrageous [and] to argue otherwise [is] to suggest that men [aren't] responsible for themselves.”

Zoepf quotes Fatima Mernissi, a Moroccan sociologist who has explained that the traditional Islamic society “hardly acknowledge[s] the individual, whom it abhor[s] as a disturber of the collective harmony.” Consequently, traditional society “produce[s] Muslims who [are] literally ‘submissive’ to the will of the group.”

If seen in a positive light, this group cohesion creates a strong community bond where all Muslims are guardians of the others in the group. Thus, “if someone slipped, then the guilt would be shared." Consequently, less important are the rights of the individual compared with the "rights of the community." This sense of group identity is certainly a common thread among tightly knit communities of many different religious organizations.

On the other hand, this misogyny “disproportionately” burdens female members. Thus, females who grow up under this constant scrutiny “face a particularly difficult path, since the mere fact of their being in the public eye is often enough to raise suspicions about their modesty.”

Herein lies a fundamental and clear-cut difference between a society based on individual responsibility for one’s actions and one based on group conformity wrapped around a guilt-induced rationale. At no time does a man’s accountability for assault enter this mindset. According to this point of view, the woman deliberately put herself in a position to be victimized and the community did nothing to stop the woman’s actions. This, is why Sheik Taj Din al-Hilali, Australia's most senior Muslim cleric can assert, without irony, that an unveiled woman is asking to be raped since she is "like uncovered meat who attract sexual predators." Moreover, al Hilali "suggested that a group of Muslim men recently jailed for many years for gang rapes were not entirely to blame" since there were women who "sway suggestively" and "wore make-up and immodest dress." He went on to say that if the woman "was in her room, in her home, in her hijab (veil), no problem would have occurred." Thus, the problem of rape lies entirely with the women victims.

And many followers of Islam concur. Abdul Jabar Azimi states that "Hijab prevents molestation" and mentions the Qur'an in the following verses of Surah Al-Ahzab: "O Prophet! tell thy wives and daughters, and the believing women that they should cast their outer garments over their persons (when abroad); that is most convenient, that they should be known (as such) and not molested (Al-Qu'ran 33:59)."

Thus, the "Hijab has been prescribed for the women so that they are recognized as modest women and this will also prevent them from being molested."

Which, of course, begs the question -- if a woman is uncovered, does that make her ripe for a sexual attack -- thus, if a non-Muslim woman is wearing Western garb, is it correct to presume that she is a proper target for an attack? Ask the rape victims of Cologne and other European cities.

In her graphic novel Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi demonstrates how in 1980, Iran was transformed under the Islamic Revolution so that she no longer could go to a French secular school but was forced to wear the veil, attend a segregated school, and fear for her mother, who was demonstrating for freedom and choice.

With the Shah's overthrow in 1979, alcohol was banned, clubs were shut down, and women had to be covered head-to-toe in public. Daniel Greenfield documents what happened recently to one young girl and her friends who had the audacity to remove their hijabs. The young people were taken to prison and the court issued its punishment -- for wearing a skirt, each girl would receive 40 lashes while the boys who had partied and listened to western music would receive 50 lashes.

Farhana Qazi was interviewed by Abigail R. Esman and recounts how she was "blessed to be an American Muslim woman who would not have had the same opportunities in life if she had remained in Pakistan." She explains that her father raised her to be a bridge between the East and West and she has used her skills in counterterrorism work. Her work focuses on the divisions in the Muslim world today -- "a broken mass of billions blinded by age-old customs, traditional, and patriarchal norms steeped in ancient cultures." She is trying "to understand the way that Islam has been destroyed by splinter groups, religious fanatics, and hardline conservatives, issuing fatwas that oppose women's rights."

Qazi maintains that many Muslim females join Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups because, the groups, e.g., ISIS, "empower these girls." This is because "many Muslim girls living in the West are still bound by cultural (read controlled) rules and have little freedom outside of their home environment; they aren't allowed to 'hang out' with Western friends and these girls certainly don't have the same opportunities as their brothers or male cousins. In these cases, girls look for alternatives, which terrorism provides" and the terrorist groups are only too happy to make use of the girls as "cannon fodder." And, if the girls do not obey, they will be silenced by being shot with paintballs, whipped, or stoned to death.

Qazi states that because Muslims "believe that God's love is only for the select few, then this teaching restricts children in many ways; they are unable to cope in a western society and compelled to stay with their own communities. They are quite vulnerable to extremist recruitment."

In 2010, Nonie Darwish wrote that President Obama

did not tell the Muslim world what they needed to hear, and should have heard from the leader of the Free world. He had a moral obligation to add that we need to protect the right of Muslim women not to wear the hijab and punish those who force them to do so.

Many Muslim governments do not force the Islamic outfit on women. Egypt is one such country and the problem for the majority of Egyptian women is not being forced by their government to wear the hijab, but rather, they are forced by radical Islamists and their families. Mr. Obama should have known that the Egyptian government itself often discourages women from covering up and actually forbids the wives of Egyptian diplomats from wearing the hijab and even head covering. The reason I know that is because my brother is an Egyptian diplomat. The social and religious pressure on Egyptian women is huge and tyranny does not necessarily come from the top but often from Islamist Sharia enforcers on the streets who often want to take matters in their own hands. They use ridicule, pressure, intimidation, humiliation, and even throwing acid on women who do not wear the Islamic garb.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali writes that Muslim women, resigned to their circumstances, survive by reciting "Inshallah, God willing." Thus, if a woman does not submit, "then a man's good name, and his authority are damaged." This "belief is part of a larger one that individuals don't matter; that their choices and desires are meaningless, particularly if the individuals are women." As a result, "[t]his sense of honor and male entitlement drastically restricts women's choices [so that] a whole culture and its religion weigh down every Muslim, but the heaviest weight falls disproportionately on women's shoulders."

And recently, the military ruler for the region of eastern Libya, General Abdul Razek al-Nazouri, announced his decision to bar Libyan women from leaving the country unguarded by a male.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali also maintains that "the Muslim veil, [and the] different sorts of masks and beaks and burkas, are all gradations of mental slavery." In fact, a woman "must ask permission to leave the house, and when [she] does, [she] must always hide behind thick drapery. Ashamed of [her] own body, suppressing [her] own desires -- what small space in a [woman's] life can be called [her] own? The veil deliberately marks women as private and restricted property, nonpersons. The veil sets women apart from men and apart from the world; it restrains them, confines them, grooms them for docility. A mind can be cramped just as a body may be, and the Muslim veil blinkers both a woman's vision and her destiny. It is the mark of a kind of apartheid, not the domination of a race, but of a sex."

That a piece of cloth should be the center of so much attention should speak to the fact that it represents much more than a piece of material. Certainly, Muslims can wrap their explanations around the idea of modesty as much as they want, but, in reality, far too many women are gagging under the weight of the veil.

Eileen can be reached at middlemarch18@gmail.com

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