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Rationalizing the veil
French President Nicolas Sarkozy opened up a can of feisty worms when he said the burqa is "a sign of subservience." Arab News asks scholars what they think the burqa signifies.
July 12, 2009 1:07 by Dana El Baltaji
“If the woman wants to make a space for one of the eyes, or something of a sort, she can do that if it doesn’t attract attention,” said the sheikh. “This is for the woman who has vision problems, or is old.” Stressing that Muslims should ignore the words of non-believers, the sheikh cites the Qur’an as saying that to gain Allah’s satisfaction a woman must be covered “from head to toe.” Al Shamrani stresses that Muslim women should avoid places where they are not permitted to mask their faces.
“Why shall I go to this place if I know that it has rules against Islam?” he said. “There is a difference between a person who is obliged to (go to such places) and a person who goes there by choice.”
Al Shamrani explains that the pride and honor of men (as well as families and in some cases tribes) are inexorably linked to the conduct and dress of the related women. In his words, the woman is “shame, modesty and honor for the person (her guardian) and neither that person nor the woman wants (others) to humiliate her honor.”
For his part, Sadiq Al Maliki, professor of political science at King Abdulaziz University said should France decide to ban the niqab, Muslims should not “blame them on ideological grounds without trying to understand from where they are coming. We cannot simply take a role that is [cultural] and try to force it on others.” The professor added that Islamic society may be grappling with the gender issue within its own boundaries, “but it is not trying to eliminate the identity of the woman.”
First seen in Arab News.