How to deal with the veiling issue? Is a ban, as currently deliberated in France, a realistic solution??
Continued from Part 2
When we praise the Muslim Iranian women for their courage, inner strength and intelligence as many learned people, who jump to easy conclusions and remarks on how the Iranian women are better off than most conservative Muslim women.
My appreciations is that, I admire how they have suffered, tolerated, stood up and took it on the face for all these years, and now they have thrown themselves in a do-or-die civil rights movement, which will eventually change the face of the Islamic Republic of Iran...
Read the following article, which is a continuation to my previous posted articles and get a feel for the reality of the Bangladeshi and the Iranian women under fundamentalist Islamic totalitarianism rule and the raving mullah’s dictates:
Can call for ban on Hijab: Not really the answer?
A knee-jerk reaction to Aqsa Pervez’s tragic death in Mississauga, Canada, would be a gross dishonor to this young rebel and her free spirit to live a normal life...! Professor Taj Hashmi has made an impassioned plea calling for a ban on hijab in Canada. The antidote to a stupid, inhuman and falsely constructed religious dictum is really not another dictum that in turn can have multiple undesirable consequences.
The Hijab ban in Turkey has caused social disruptions, dysfunction at educational institutions and workplaces, and strengthened the resolve of the Islamists. The story is not dissimilar in France, as a ban that was opposed at the time of protesting against these claims that it was a “religious” symbol of the Muslims on the same par as the Star of David is of the Jews. In Germany, the hijab-ban for State teachers has served as a yard-stick in the hands of the old German racial supremacists. And now, we hear that Belgium has banned the Hijab also...
Muslim women will always take a stand against any State-imposed ban or sanctions of the hijab or any other articles of the Muslim women’s clothing for the simplest of reasons that other than the ‘trends’, ‘local culture’ or ‘fashion’ as she deems it to be.
As a Muslim woman needs no higher authority to dictate to her in the manner in which she dresses herself, the tragic reason is that she dresses herself in that manner because it has been sanctioned by Allah and that Mohammad had made his wives to be compelled into believing so.
[There are other points to it. The most important objection to the hijab is its presentation as a paradigmatic definition of an Islamic garb for the Muslim women’s right to self-righteousness dictated by their prophet. So a call for a ban on Hijab is not the answer. We should make these self-righteous thinking to change by bringing some plain simple reasons to their selfish, false ways of thinking…]
The Lifting of the Muslim Veil
The statement of President Nicholas Sarcozy of France—that the Burqa/Niqab is not welcomed any more in France and that ‘it is a symbol of oppression and not of religion’—has raised serious debates all over the world.
It was in France, where some five years ago the display of religious symbols, Muslim headscarves, the Sikh turbans, big Crosses and the Jewish skullcaps in schools was banned. Even public servants could not use the same in their places of work.
Since the revolution in 1789, France has always been a secular state; it has also always adopted a particular version of such policies. France has been setting examples for some European Countries on these assertive kind of secularism, like Turkey...
It has another dimension: large number of poor Muslims coming here are from its old colonies, living in abysmal conditions. One recalls a large section of the immigrant Muslims, living in impoverished Paris suburbs, who suffer from economic deprivation. A couple of years, Muslim youths began a series of violent acts over the death of two Muslim youths killed by electrocution while running away from police chase. Media reports widely linked those sustained violence to frustrations due to unemployment and poverty. Well beggars can never be choosers.
How is secularism to be implemented?
One way is that, the social situations are transformed and the hold of the feudal elements in such Muslim-governed countries are done away with, and Muslim states are encouraged to adapt to the norms of western societal social and gender equalities. With this, the symbols of gender inequalities start receding. There is no uniform pattern in these approaches. Even after democratic regimes come to being formally, many an old norms take time to vanish. Yet, there are some of these traditions, including Islamic Sharia, that must be done away with by assertive legislations.
In British India, the cruel Hindu custom of Sati (burning of wife after husband’s death) had to be banned strong legislations.
The Burqa has not been the mandatory part of Quranic teachings. Here the emphasis is on being dressing modestly in Islamic thoughts. In earlier societies and other societies also, different dress-codes have been imposed on and also being adopted by its’ women, some as honor and more of them to impose controls on them. Dr. Zeenat Shaukat Ali, a noted Islamic scholar, points out that long before the advent of Islam, the veiling and seclusions appear to have existed in Hellenistic-Byzantine era… and also amongst Sassanids of Persia. In ancient Mesopotamia, the veil of women was regarded as sign of respectability and status? So should these customs be adhered to the modern age when we know the disadvantages of such coverings?
During those feudal times, the patriarchal norms were operated in the society through the institution of religion and its laws. With the persistence of patriarchy, the women (a lesser evil) were made to wear the identity markers in different cultures and societies of suppressed human thoughts, where the kings were misinformed by their priests and their courtesans. Stronger the patriarchal norms, stronger the social presence of the clergy, stronger is the imposition of identity markers. These may be the Ghunghat (a veil worn in India), headscarf in different cultures, and the burqa amongst Muslims women. From the beginning of twentieth century, the status of women started improving slightly; they started coming out to social space. By the 1980s, women in many Muslim-majority countries also came to their own; the prevalence of the burqa came down; at many open places, it was totally done away with. The situation started worsening with the global war on terror and with the communal violence in India intensifying, partly favored by the religious leaders, who have always uphold such sadistic moods by their vote bank, into beastly maneuvers’ of human deaths. As a life of a human being is of no value to them, but only their vote banks should rise.
With the so-called 'war on terror', intimidation of Muslim communities started worsening situations all over the world. With this, the orthodox and conservative sects of Islam came to the fore. Fundamentalist tendencies like the Talibans propped up at places and worsened the situation by giving senseless fatwas and dictates of their codes of Islamic orderings by Allah. The Talibans have imposed these norms in the most inhuman ways. The sense of insecurity in the wake of war, the invasion of Iraq and then Afghanistan, has increased the sense of insecurity and the consequent hold of conservative sections, who generally impose such restrictive norms on the Muslim women, which has increased in deliberate brainwashing.
In India, one can see a great diversity in the use of the same. In Kerala, it was not much in use and in Kashmir it was practically absent. In Kerala, its use started going up with the rising communal violence of the decade of 1980s and with the rising influence of Wahabi Islam through those taking up jobs in the Gulf regions. In Kashmir, the rise of militancy after the 1990s, the communalization of the Kashmir issue, led to the rise of conservative sections of the society, who wanted to impose the veil, but the Kashmiri women upheld there ground and resisted the same.
Also a lot of misconceptions have been constructed around Islam, the Burqa and its local traditions. Recently India's President, Mrs. Pratibha Patil stated that the Ghunghat in Rajasthan has been introduced due to the fear of Muslim kings, to protect these women from their cruel atrocities. One can ask those arguing on these lines, how did the Sati come into being? Can hiding the face protect women or make them more vulnerable to such atrocities??? The Sati, the Ghunghat, etc., have been more a mark of patriarchal values than due to the impact of the Muslim Kings who ruled India in oppressions. Even today, the Ghunghat persists not because of the fear of the Muslims, but the strong hold of its’ patriarchal values. The occasional cases of Sati also fall in that category. Bal Thackeray of Shiv Sena, came for a strong praise of President Sarkozy for his stand on the Burqa. The same Shiv Sena has been intimidating girls on Valentine day, off and on and giving the fatwas that these Indian girls should not wear Jeans or western attires.
What a case of crass double standards!
The social and political situation that leads to these social psychology and individual psychology of women, always shaped around such beliefs. It’s a fact that men have held the sway in dictating such norms and social situations, and women are internalized to these norms. The Sufi traditions of Islam were not for the use of the burqa.
There are two essential points, which Muslim rulers have to keep in mind. One is that the very basis of Western democracy is freedom and liberty and the ways to be free from oppressions. Countries like Saudi Arabia, which impose the burqa on women; countries like France want to do away with the same through a dictate. What is the difference?
Secondly, international law demands that, globally and within nation states, minorities are ensured of security. Therefore, they must be provided with situations leading to equity and equality. These will ensure that the identity issues take the back seat, and give women freedom to be free from oppressions and dictums of religious manifestos.
For communities that suffer from insecurity and equity, their identity becomes the major rallying point. Just the statement about identity markers, without changing the social situations, is leading to such phenomena’s is a hollow move.
Feminist waves in the Iranian Green Tsunami? "One should not paint an overly rosy picture of Muslim women in Iran. Only 12.3% of them are part of the public workforce and for many a marriage is the only gateway out of their parental homes."
Also posted below is an article written by an Iranian woman, as I feel that it is better to hear her side of the story also:
"No Matter Who Is President of Iran, They Would Stone Me" - by Lila Ghobady
[A Facebook friend sent me this link, and after reading it, I was moved to repost it here, with full attributions. I just want to make sure my friends have a chance to read this perspective on recent freedom movement events that are taking place in Iran.]
Why did not I vote in the latest elections for the president of the country of my birth, Iran? Because no matter who is the president of Iran, they would stone me! As an Iranian woman, I require big changes in order to convince myself that a change in our president would mean an improvement of my basic rights as a human being inside the Islamic Republic of Iran. I was among the many Iranians who have decided not to vote in the recent election[s]. We boycotted the sham election in my motherland and have not been surprised by the results publicized by the mainstream media, both in Iran and elsewhere. This puppet regime has never considered the people’s wishes and has always acted in the interests of the few who are in charge of the prisons called the Islamic Republic of Iran. Cheating, lying and hypocrisy are the specialties of the religious demagogues that maintain the farce that Iran is a democratic state.
Here are some simple facts that demonstrate that irrespective of who is the president, I would still be stoned to death in Iran:
- As a woman whose husband refused to divorce her when she escaped the country and came to Canada as a refugee, I am considered this man’s wife as long as I am alive. It does not matter if I lived separate from him for years, have divorced him in my new country and am in a relationship with a new understanding man who knows how to give his wife the freedom that she needs as her rights. Under the Iranian laws and the Iranian constitution, which are based on strict interpretation of the Islamic Shari’ah laws, I am considered his wife and am at risk of being stoned for “adultery” if I ever go back to Iran. In fact as a woman, I have no right to divorce my husband under the country’s Islamic laws while he has the privilege of marrying three or more times without even divorcing me. This is the case no matter who is the president of Iran; Ahamdinejad or Mousavi or even some one else?
- As a journalist and a filmmaker, I am called upon by the Islamic Republic of Iran to respect the red lines. These “red lines” include the belief and the respect for the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the savagely unjust rules of the traditional Islamic laws in my country. I am expected not to write or demand equal rights of women. I am not allowed to even make the underground films that I have made about the plight of sex trade workers and other social diseases rampant within Iran, as I did secretly some 12 years ago. In fact, I am not allowed to make any film without their permissions and without going through censorship by Iran’s Minister of Culture. If I did openly do all these things in Iran, I would disappear within no time, I would be tortured, and I would even be raped by those that uphold the laws. I would be killed as have known of so many women journalists, filmmakers and activists in Iran been dealt with such atrocities. Among those killed include Zahra Kazemi, the Iranian-Canadian photo journalist, who was brutally tortured and murdered for attempting to photograph and publicize brutalities committed by the Iranian regime?
- I would be considered an infidel woman, if I was born into a Muslim family and later converted to another religion or had I considered myself a non-believer who does not follow these strict Islamic moralities. My branding as an infidel woman would result in my public murder, probably by stoning to death. No matter who is the president of the Islamic Republic of Iran?
- I would be lashed in public, raped in jail or even executed or stoned to death for selling my body in order to bring food to my family, as so many unfortunate Iranian women have been forced to do secretly including many single mothers who have no access to social assistance in a rich but deeply corrupted country like Iran. Even the simple crime of being in love, engaged in a relationship outside of marriage, or worse yet, giving birth to a human being out of the Islamic wedlock is considered a crime against humanity! The byproduct of such a union would be considered a bastard and would be taken away from me, and I would receive 100 lashes immediately after giving birth to my baby. No matter who is the president of the Islamic Republic of Iran?
- No matter who is the president of Islamic Republic of Iran, I would still be denied a university education, a government job and a say in politics and it would even be as if I basically did not exist if I was a Baha’i? I would be considered half a Shia’h Muslim and if I was Christian, a Jewish, a Zoroastrian or even a Sunni Muslim by all levels of society, no matter who is the president of the Islamic Republic of Iran?
- I would disappear and might even be found dead, if I were to keep writing and demanding my basic rights as a woman and an intellectual who has no say in politics (there was not even one female minister in the so-called “reformist cabinet” of Mohamad Khatami Rafsanjani). This would be my fate had I not continued to argue against and challenge the Iranian authorities to the fact that although Iran is one of the richest countries on the planet when it comes to resources, 70% of my people live in poverty because of corruption among its’ leaders and their generous contributions to external causes from fanatic Muslim Hezbollah in Lebanon to the communist government of Venezuela through which they build alliances around the world for Islamic terror. Huge numbers of children go to sleep on empty stomachs here in Iran. Little girls are forced to sell their bodies in the streets of Tehran, Dubai and even China just to survive. I would be jailed or disappeared no matter who is president of the Islamic Republic of Iran?
- No matter who is the president of the Islamic Republic of Iran, I would not be able to be a judge or even a witness in court as a woman. This is because according to Islamic Sharia’h Courts, two women are equal to one man’s testimony. No matter how educated and aware I could be, I would still be considered half of a man’s testimony who might be at a demonstrably much lower level of education and qualification than me, no matter who is the president of the Islamic Republic of Iran?
- No matter who is the president of Islamic Republic of Iran, I would be lashed if I did not cover my head and body in public in compliance with the mandatory Islamic dress code. If I would be caught at a private family/friend/party or wedding taking place in a mixed company, I would be punished for the crime of not being covered. Much worse would happen if I was caught drinking alcohol. It would not matter if I considered myself a non-believer of Islam who simply does not want to follow such Islamic rules. I would be punished harshly, lashed, raped while in custody and even before going on trial. No matter who is the president of the Islamic Republic of Iran?
- No matter who is the president of the Islamic Republic of Iran, I would be killed if I was openly a homosexual. I would be denied all rights as a human being since homosexuality is considered one of the greatest possible sins under the Iranian Islamic regime. I would be considered a criminal and be killed because “there are no homosexuals in Iran!’ That’s odd, because some of my closest friends in Iran say they are gay, but stay “in the closet” for fear of executions, No matter who is the president of the Islamic Republic of Iran?
- No matter who is the president of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Iranian activists living in exile, including myself and many others who are openly opposed to the regime for its’ cruel human rights violations, will not be able to enter this country. We would be caught at the airport by the regime’s police forces and forced to sign an apology letter for our actions against the Islamic regime. If we refused, we would be jailed without any trial for wanting freedom for our fellow people. I would be denied of my basic rights as an opposition to the Islamic regime and would be called a “spy”, jailed, tortured, raped and executed. This would happen regardless of who was the president of the Islamic Republic of Iran?
So this is the true face of the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is what it means to live under Ayotollah Khameini and his treble goons. No change is possible while the Islamic Republic of Iran is controlled by such autocratic, fundamentalist religious despots who determine the laws of the land. There have been no real elections ever in Iran. Candidates are all hand-picked and cleared by a central religious committee. It is a farcical imitation of the free nomination/election processes that we have pictured in the free world. There is no possibility that a secular, pluralistic, freedom-loving democratic person who loves his or her country can ever become a candidate to run for president (or any other office) in the Islamic Republic of Iran? Twelve years a go, we went through the same process. Mohamad Khatami Rafsanjani became the favorite of the western media, which called him a “reformist” who spoke beautifully about freedom of speech, civil rights and dialogues between other cultures. But when he became president there was a crack down on a student uprising –a crackdown against the same students who voted for him. Many were killed, many disappeared, and many were tortured. Artists, authors and intellectuals disappeared and were found “mysteriously” murdered. The smooth-talking president Khatami, whom westerners loved, never tried to stop the violence and never showed sympathy to his supporters. Instead, he openly avowed that his responsibility was to respect the wishes of the supreme leader, Ayotollah Khameni, and to protect the security and sanctity of the Islamic regime of Iran.
Now, the passionate and oppressed young generations of Iranians are going through the exact same situations. They are supporting Khatami’s friend, Mousavi. It is sad that history repeats itself so quickly in my beloved country of birth -Iran. The people of Iran were fed up with poverty, injustice, corruption and international embarrassment with the knuckle-dragging, anti-Semitic, war-mongering cretin who was and still is President Ahmadinejad. They chose to support a bad choice -Mousavi rather than the worse choice, Ahmadinejad. However, when an election is really a selection, choice is an illusion. Mousavi is from the Islamic regime; he is inseparable from it, and all its abuses and cruelties will be shown once he has power under him.
The true reality is that the Islamic Republic of Iran has not had a democratic, free election for the past 30 years. Mr Mousavi, if elected, will not make any changes, not because he is powerless to do so (as Khatami’s supporters claimed during his presidency), but because he doesn’t believe in a democratic state as his background shows. He belongs to the fanatic dictatorial era of Ayotollah Khomeini and he believes in the same command-and-control system of the government. We should not forget Khomeini’s statement in one of his speeches after the revolution about democracy. He said that “if all people of Iran say ‘yes” I would say no to something that I would believe is not right for the Islamic Nation”.
Let us not forget that Mousavi was Prime Minister of Iran in the 1980s when more than ten thousand political prisoners were executed after three-minute sham trials. He has been a part of the Iranian dictatorship system for the past 30 years. If he had not been, he would not be allowed to be a candidate for the president the Islamic Republic of Iran in the first place!
In fact in a free democratic state someone like Mousavi should have gone on trial before becoming a presidential candidate for his crimes against thousands of freedom-loving political prisoners who were killed during the time he was Iran's Prime Minister. A quick look at Mousavi’s political biography reveals him to be a fanatic Khomeini supporter and a fanatic hard-liner similar to Ahmadinejad and others in control of the Islamic regime. His reign as Prime Minister was one of the darkest times in the history of Iran’s Islamic regime in terms of censorship and human rights violations. He is also backed up by the Rafsanjani mafia family, who has stolen the oil money for their own family interests while 70% of the population lives in poverty. So ingrained as he is in a system of corruption and exploitation, that how could anyone believe that Mousavi genuinely wants reform? For these and many other reasons, I did not choose to vote and instead boycotted the elections, along with the many other Iranians like me. But this time, many Iranians who boycotted the vote in the last election voted in this one because of their profound disgust with Ahmadinejad. I sympathize with them, but I believe that there exists no better option for the people of Iran than to entirely overthrow the Islamic regime altogether that oppresses the country of my birth. I strongly support my people’s movement against the ever-present dictatorship and violence infecting my country. I will scream, along with my compatriots, “Down with dictators!” “Down with murderers!” “Down with the brutal oppressions that is the Islamic regime of the Islamic Republic of Iran and all of its toxic, self-serving alliances.”
Long live freedom in Iran of the Persian Empire!