All Articles Tagged "niqab"
I was surfing the internet, looking for something to write about, when I came across a piece on one of my favorite websites, The Frisky. It was just a blurb linking to CNN, but the headline,”TV Station Staffed By Fully Veiled Women Launches In Egypt,” intrigued me. The video and accompanying text piece on CNN detailed a new Egyptian television station called Maria. The station allows fully veiled women to operate and broadcast their own programming.
Initially, it seemed like a great idea. Women like Heba Seraq-Eddin who had studied mass communication in college, couldn’t get a job in television because networks, even in Egypt, weren’t hiring women who wear niqabs, the covering that shields everything except the woman’s eyes. These women had been discriminated against in class, where they couldn’t wear their niqabs during tests, or in their dorms and now in the job market. Seraq-Eddin felt that in Maria, she found a place where she and her beliefs were accepted: “I felt that we finally have a place in society after being marginalized. As women wearing niqab, we had no rights, and no one to talk about us. Through Maria, we’ll find people like us talking about us, with no discrimination.”
As a minority woman who majored in journalism, my heart went out to them. I thought, Go ‘head girls! It seemed like an empowering endeavor. But as I continued watching the video, I bristled several times at some of the thoughts expressed. Abu Islam Abdallah, the creator of Maria‘s mother channel, Al-Omma, is vehemently anti Christian (bristle) and believes it, Christianity, is the cause of society’s ills. Ills like women dressing immodestly, working as dancers and serving as members of parliament. (Bristle) Abdallah said that this network is about rejecting the type of discrimination these veiled women have had to face and putting them on the “right path.” (Bristle!)
Honestly, my first thought was either this man is crazy, a hypocrite or a liar. How can you claim to promote female empowerment and independence but believe women serving in Parliament is “madness.” Is that not another form of discrimination against women? The CNN article interviewed an Egyptian academic who believes Abdallah and his new network could just very well be a gimmick, a cover up to promote his conservative agenda. And I had formed my judgment about the whole thing, I was ready to slam the gavel, dismiss the network as oppressive and move on to the next thing.
But before I could click away, I had to ask myself, Why are you mad?
Clearly, as a Christian woman, who is also some version of a feminist/womanist/whatever, there were plenty of opportunities for me to be offended. And though Abdallah’s comments didn’t help me come to terms with Maria’s message, I had to ask myself what if the tables were turned? What would an atheist, post-racial, misogynist think about me writing and working for a black women’s website? We could argue all day about whether or not I should be able to do such a thing and what my job represented; but hopefully the atheist, post-racial, misogynist and I would come to the conclusion that we’ll never see eye to eye and should both just respect that my work empowers me, even if it goes against everything Mr. Atheist, Post Racialist, Misogynist believes in.
Now, I can’t speak for these women. I don’t know how fulfilling being a part of such a network, is for them. But I’ll just concede that they’re doing something they believe in. And though, I can’t support their message, I’m not mad at them.
What do you think, is Maria helping or hurting these Egyptian women? Watch the video and let us know what you think?
More on Madame Noire!
- Komon Ou Ye? 9 Of Our Favorite Celebs of Haitian Descent (And A Few Surprises Of Course!)
- Breaking Down the Point of a Protective Hairstyle: What Exactly Should You Be Protecting?
- When Famous Stars Play Famous People: Who Killed It On-Screen And Who Was A Mess?
- If It’s Broke, Fix It: Why Some Friendships Are Worth Sticking Out
- Consider This: Put The Odds In Your Favor And Date The Next Guy You Meet
- Shoe Shine: Must-Have Metallic Sandals and Pumps
Earlier this week, French police arrested two veiled-women who were protesting the country’s law banning face hiding, also known as the burqas ban. Just hours after the legislation too effect, dozens of burqa-clad women staged a protest in front of Notre Dame, claiming that the law violates their right to freedom of religion.
For those who are unaware, the ban pertains to the burqa, a loose, full-body garment that includes a mesh window over the face, and the niqab, a full-face veil that only leaves an opening for the eyes. Though the burqa is primarily worn in Middle Eastern and North African countries, you can find variations of it in many urban American cities where there is a large African American Islamic population. Even though the burqa has been around for centuries, it gained international attention during the Afghanistan invasion when Secretary of State Colin Powell, among others, used the garment to highlight the extremity of the Taliban.
But it wasn’t until 2003 when the veil became a problem in France. That year, former French President Jacques Chirac introduced legislation that banned Muslim girls from wearing headscarves to school. Chirac said that most French people saw “something aggressive” in the veil and that the secular state could not tolerate “ostentatious signs of religious proselytism.”
In 2010, current President Nicolas Sarkozy and France’s right-winged Parliament followed in the footsteps of Chirac by passing what would become the burqa ban. Though the ban did not specifically call out the burqa, it does state that it was illegal to hide the face in public spaces. According to Sarkozy, the ban was based on the idea that “the veils imprison women and contradict this secular nation’s values of dignity and equality.” Under the law, veiled women risk a fine of 150 euro ($215 US) or special citizenship classes.
Many women in France and abroad have questioned the legitimacy of the law. On many levels, the law seems to violate freedom of religion, which is guaranteed under the country’s 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. But the real burqa-clad elephant in the room is this: how is banning the burqa or niqab any less authoritarian than forcing women to wear it?
The problem with the ban is that Sarkozy and the law’s supporters fail to see how the banning of clothing, which many women wear for religious reasons, will most likely further marginalize these devout-religious women by making it impossible for them to engage in work, school and other social activities. Ironically, Sarkozy claims that “equality” is the motive behind instituting the law.
In addition, the question of what differentiates secular society from what some folks deem as symbols of extremist Islam is being settled on the bodies of women. Women are being used as some sort of litmus test to determine what are ‘acceptable’ practices of a religion. Hence, France’s ban on burqas is nothing more than a brash throwback to colonialism when the subjugation of a group’s customs and traditions where justified as a way of ‘saving’ them from their barbaric and primitive ways. In essence, France’s racism, sexism and xenophobic is as thinly veiled as the burqa.
Charing Ball is the author of the blog People, Places & Things.