The editorial “To ban or not to ban” (July 16) on the French government's move towards banning the burqa and the niqab struck a refreshingly balanced, nuanced and dispassionate note. France has been consistent in upholding the concept of secularism. It treats religion as a strictly private affair.
In their private spaces, people are free to practise any faith. In public places, all French citizens are expected to respect the lofty ideals of liberty, equality and fraternity. Muslim women are free to wear the burqa or the niqab in their homes. When the government applies the same yardstick for all, the question of Islamophobia does not arise.
The editorial is indeed an eye-opener. Whether or not to ban the veil is something to be decided by the leaders of the Muslim community.
But one thing is certain. A majority of new generation Muslim women will be happy at the progressive move.
The issue has two sides to it. One of them is to do with personal choice. It is up to an individual to adopt the veil and democracies like France should respect this right. The second aspect is whether or not the Islamic veil urges women to cover the face. It is evident from the holy Koran and a number of conventions that the face is not included in the Islamic veil. A woman in the early period of Islam could sit in the market and carry on business without a male beside her. She was not expected to cover her face and stay indoors all the time, as the advocates of burqa argue.
The French government's move of banning the niqab has nothing to do with Islam. I request the community and all right-thinking people not to mix it with religion and play with the sentiment of common Muslims.
Mahmood Alam Siddiqui,
To rob women of their choice in this age of freedom on the ground that women wear the burqa not out of choice but childhood conditioning is childish in itself. Among the several women converts to Islam, most are modern, educated, and liberated who voluntarily take to the veil. Kamla Surayya Das, an acclaimed Indian poetess, is a name nearer home. The woman of today cannot be forced into anything; neither ‘into' the burqa, nor ‘out' of it.
The irony in this heated debate cannot be missed — secularism turning out to be a new age religion (belief system) — and the most intolerant one at that. While all true religions acknowledge the universality of tradition, modernity necessarily believes that all religions are false, and seeks to relegate religion and finally kill it.
While history has many examples of societies where religions coexisted harmoniously, such coexistence cannot be sustained in typically modern societies precisely because of their ‘modern' character!
One must remember that the ban has been approved by the vast majority. Therefore, the argument that it is against the principles of democracy is out of place. According to a report, a very small percentage of women observe the burqa. We also come across media reports which say many women wear it because of the fear of attack by Islamic militants. How can we say, then, that all women have embraced the burqa voluntarily? Let us be realistic, not hyper sensitive.
It is not fair to ban the freedom of people to practise their religion or exercise their choice. France's decision is also opposed to its culture and its people because those who follow Islam form the second largest community there.
It is unfortunate that the burqa/niqab row is hitting the headlines for the wrong reasons. Even from a secular standpoint, one fails to see the difference between imposing a ban on headscarves and insisting on women putting them on. If wearing a burqa is the antithesis of the noblest values of liberty, equality and fraternity, how can a ban on it escape the same charge? It is indeed a matter of shame that the western women's dress code which leaves nothing to imagination is treated as the norm against which all other dress codes are judged.
Banning the burqa amounts to an infringement on personal freedom. If a woman feels like wearing the burqa or the niqab, it is nobody's business to read the Riot Act to her.
A.K. Muneer Hudawi,
As a medical doctor who observes the niqab, I fail to understand why people who have no inkling about the wisdom behind the laws in Islam are so eager to pass a judgment on those who wear the burqa, saying it is a sign of oppression. An overwhelming majority of women who wear it do it out of free will.
Christian nuns who not only observe a similar dress code but are also totally cut off from the social circle, including their family members, are respected and revered for their sacrifice.
There is no need to verify whether or not the Koran prescribes the burqa or the niqab as it will not stop Nicolas Sarkozy or anybody for that matter from speaking against it. But for a clarification, it is mentioned in the Koran: “Say to the believing men that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that will make far greatest purity for them. And Allah is well acquainted with all they do. And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty and not display their adornment except what appears thereof.”(24:31-32).