Its about us Muslim women. Again

Todays plunging necklines and stacked bangles are flashbacks to pre-Islamic Arabia where women walked around heavily ornamented and bare-breasted. Pre-marital sex, multiplicity of partners and a highly sexualized culture was the norm. The advent of Islam reintroduced a code of conduct that emphasized modesty, marriage, lineage, beautiful character and human rights. Each morning, women choose to either cover or bare something or the other. It seems that to be liberated, women must bare all. But for at least a few millennia, women of various religions choose to cover their bodies to ensure their feminine grace and modesty.

The veil is not only a sign of dignity, but a common element of religious practice for devout women. It successfully introduces a de-sexualized public sphere which does not inhibit sexuality but rather grants it a defined place in day-to-day life. Modest dress neutralized sexual differences between males and females, allowing them to rise above primal distinctions.

The command for women to cover their heads is unambiguously stated in the Quran. Therefore, any claim that the head-covering is not commanded in the Quran, or the face-veil an un-Islamic patriarchal concept, should be disregarded as fallacious. Moreover, it is ridiculous to claim that forms of the veil in Islam are a patriarchal legislation. God is the One who legislates, and God does not have a gender.

As the Cambridge scholar T. J. Winter says, [a] woman who exposes her charms in public is vulnerable to what might be described as visual theft, so that men unknown to her can enjoy her visually without her consent. The claim that the veil or the face-veil reduces a woman to a vulnerable passive object is baseless since it very clearly does the opposite.

The Canadian public sphere has afforded every individual the right to freedom of thoughtand expression. The woman who veils her face is hence neither barbaric nor stupid.

If face-veils and burkas have led to bank heists, a simple metal detector would solve that problem. To claims that the burka is a symbol of Saudi-inspired Islamic extremism, the burka, niqab or the chador are simply cultural and geographical adaptations of the face-veil. If a country chooses to enforce the burka, that is an offense on their part. But if a woman chooses to wear it, then that should be her choice, regardless of its negative associations.

Lastly, what truly is an insult to the female gender is stipulating what she can and cannot wear in a free country if she so chooses to. A modestly covered woman is simply neutralizing her sexual difference. In light of this, the Muslim Student Association at UTM unanimously takes a stance against the call for legislation to ban the face-veil. It emancipates itself from any representation by the Muslim Canadian Congress.

Ruqayyah Ahdab

Vice-President, MSA

1 comment

  1. I disagree with the narration of this article.

    If you wish your article to be a religious one, quote the verse of the Quran that it makes reference and not just state “It says so in the Quran.”

    Just maybe the burka, niqab or the chador started off as a great way of keeping sand out of ones’ hair and later evolved symbols of recognizing status of the family / culture / faith.

    The implication that there is a dress code to be considered a good follower of God is the point I disagree with. It is faith and your works that should define who you are, not a cloth that shields your face.

    I’m against legislation to ban the face-veil, but not for the reasons you state.

  2. I completely agree, and I can’t wait for when the men follow the modest example of the females of your kind.

  3. I think to delve further into this topic, one has to ask, why do women have to be covered in order to desexualize the public sphere? Only a culture that saw women’s bodies as primarily sexual objects would require that they be covered. And why do we not require the same thing of men? Because men are the one’s doing the sexualizing. Why don’t men have to veil themselves in order to ensure their masculinity? Why is modesty not an important quality for a man to have (or at least, not as important as for women)?

    Believe me, I hate being stared at by guys in the street. Every woman does–it’s creepy and sexualizing and weirdly shameful. But the problem is not that women’s bodies are inherently salacious–it’s that we live in a culture that has made them that way. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if women didn’t need to dress modestly in order to avoid sexualization and be taken seriously in the public sphere? If we could walk around in whatever clothes we pleased without worrying that we’re being objectified by some lecher’s gaze?

    Also, just because something was in the Quran does not mean that it is not patriarchal. In fact, quite the opposite. Islam, Christianity and Judaism are all patriarchal religions that were founded in highly patriarchal times, places, and cultures. Wearing a hijab is not necessarily the result of patriarchy that exists today, but the commandment for women to wear one in times past is certainly the result of the patriarchal nature of the culture from whence it came.

    Muslim women should absolutely have the choice to wear a veil. A woman should feel like she can dress however she wants, especially if it’s a core tenet of her religious beliefs. It’s a beautiful thing when a Muslim woman decides of her own free will to veil herself out of strong ties to her culture and her religion. But I still believe that there is nothing wrong this acknowledging that the practice did not arise out of a desire to give equality for women, but to regulate them and keep them under patriarchal control. The difference is that today (at least, in Canada), women have the choice to veil themselves or not.

  4. Melissa, It is not accurate to deny that the Arabia at the time when the Quran first came down is a patriarchal Arabia. Patriarchy still exits in that region but Islam was not to disprove patriarchy. Islam disproved the negative actions that came about when women of pre-islamic arabia were sold and bought like objects. Women had no inhertiance rights but that still does not negate the fact that there were strong women. Even pre-islam there were Arab Queens and arab female enterprenaurs. However just like today in our present day society there is still selling of sex. Islam was meant to regulate these bodily physical destires. As a result the arab region was able to elevate past physical desires to become intune with the spiritual aspect present in all humans. Post-islam science, math and philosophy flourished in the region. Sadly enough culture today mixes in with religous practice and often takes the upper hand. The treatment of women in Afghanistan by groups that affiliate themselves with Islam is abhoring and is far from any of the teachings of Islam that I am familiar with.

  5. “Islam disproved the negative actions that came about when women of pre-islamic arabia were sold and bought like objects.”

    This practice still continues today even with so-called “child brides” and is officially endorsed as legal Islamic religious leaders. Who are you kidding?

    “As a result the arab region was able to elevate past physical desires to become intune with the spiritual aspect present in all humans”

    Actually no, instead of transcending sexism they threw blankets over their desires because apparently they can’t control their rape tendencies otherwise.

  6. Great discussion. A very well-written article, and an insightful comment by Melissa. I just learned a lot!

    Everyone has a right to practice their freedom of choice in wearing a face-veil. Why has legislation tried to ban it?

  7. The niqab/burka are cultural choices and not religious obligations. No where in the Quran does it mention the wearing of the niqab or burka.

    Bottom line: if you’re wearing a niqab/burka, it is your choice – you cannot justify it by calling it a religious obligation.

  8. What’s this about the child brides? I also heard a ‘rumor’ that the Prophet had a child bride. Is this true? And if these child bride stories are true, can someone please specify with direct REFERENCE and QUOTATION where in the Quran it justifies such practices. I’m hearing a lot of people say that “it says so in the Quran” but your point lacks weight if there is no reference for us to fact check you.

  9. JM, I’m assuming your referring to my post, I didn’t say anything about the Quran, I was talking about a contemporary islamic issue.
    Is this cited enough for you?

    Passage 65:4 which discusses several of men’s right’s for divorce, the third of which covers “child brides”.

    “a third type of divorce, which is neither a Sunnah nor an innovation where one divorces A YOUNG WIFE WHO HAS NOT BEGUN TO HAVE MENSES, the wife who is beyond the age of having menses”

    “Therefore, making mention of the waiting-period for girls who have not yet menstruated, clearly proves that it is not only permissible to give away the girl at this age but it is permissible for the husband to consummate marriage with her. Now, obviously no Muslim has the right to forbid a thing which the Qur’an has held as permissible.” (Maududi, volume 5, p. 620, note 13)

    and yes Aisha was 9 when “the prophet” consummated his marriage with her

    Bukhari vol. 7, #65:

    “Narrated Aisha that the prophet wrote the marriage contract with her when she was six years old and he consummated his marriage when she was nine years old. Hisham said: “I have been informed that Aisha remained with the prophet for nine years (i.e. till his death).””

  10. You shouldn’t be defending this practice, not because I have anything against Muslims in particular, but rather you are defending a religion, and therefore you are as complicit as any other religion in the retardation of human intellectual progress.

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