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sobota, 9 kwietnia 2011
About those Hijabs
The headscarf that many Muslim women wear is called a hijab, and it is a sort of compromise due to the Koran's requirement that both men and women to dress modestly, and tradition in that area had women wearing veils over their faces in the Persian manner at the time Muhammad was alive. Depending on the translation, some interpret Sura 33: 59a as meaning veils:
O Prophet! Tell your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers to draw their clothes [veils?] all over their bodies
Most translations suggest full dresses, so minimal skin shows, but some are more specific about veils. The more restrictive and radical forms of Islam interpret this section more completely and literally.
Here's the thing: the Koran never specifically tells women they have to be covered up with a burkha or wear a hijab. However, the clerics interpreting the Koran in an attempt to come up with practical ways of applying the rules and regulations in it have come up with these concepts. Sharia law requires a full shapeless bag in some areas, and some just a scarf over the head.
Think of it this way; say the US Constitution required women dress modestly, but does not give specifics. Over time as cases come up accusing women of not dressing modestly, judges begin to come up with precedent as to what is and is not modest. Some states decide this means a woman has to wear a burkha, and some decide just a scarf is sufficient. That's how the system of covering up women came about; there are different Sharia law "districts" and interpretations around the world, each with their own rules.
Back in 2006 I wrote about Noor, a teenage girl who liked the hijab because she thought it was not just attractive, but it shows more modesty and that appealed to her, plus it displays her faith, which she is proud of.
Other girls are less happy with the scarf than Noor. Lamya Kaddor is an Islamic scholar living in Germany, a Muslim woman, and she does not wear the Hijab. Why?
It is even more likely to bring about the opposite of what God intended by exposing wearers of headscarves to discrimination. Today the intended protection against 'annoyances' is provided by a well-functioning legal system rather than by adherence to social rules from the past. A free state based on the rule of law protects a woman, for example by punishing attacks on her person.
She points out that the verse I listed above come from a section of the Koran calling for both men and women to be chaste, but the hijab and modern Islamic teaching seems to only apply them to women. By having only women wear the hijab and men do what they want, she believes this violates the spirit of the Koran.
Mona Eltahawy takes a different path. A Muslim woman writing for the Washington Post, she relates a horrific story from Saudi Arabia:
I lived in Saudi Arabia from age 15 – 21 and visited several times a year until 2000. A couple of years after I stopped visiting, a horrific fire broke out in a school in Mecca, home to the Muslim world’s holiest site. Fifteen girls burned to death because morality police standing outside the school wouldn’t let them out of the burning building. Why? Because they weren’t wearing headscarves and abayas, the black cloaks that girls and women must wear in public in Saudi Arabia.
She argues that if a girl wants to wear a scarf, she should be allowed to, and opposes the ban on hijabs at Turkish university campuses.
At the same time, she views the way hijabs and other specific coverings are required in some areas as oppressive and believes that women end up pawns in a struggle between factions of Islam to prove they are the more faithful and proper Muslim sect.
Whether Muhammad would have agreed with the decision of the Saudi authorities or not is up to some question; I suspect based on my reading of the Koran that he probably would have allowed an exception to save the lives of the girls.
Some places such as France have ruled that girls may not wear a Hijab in public schools as an attempt to preserve French culture and stem the tide of Muslim influence on the nation.
Ultimately I have to agree with what Mark Steyn said about the topic: "It's not about a woman's right to wear the hijab, it's about a woman's right to NOT wear the hijab." You can wear one or not if you wish, I happen to think scarves look attractive even though I'm not a Muslim. Just don't demand every woman wear one.