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Ban the Burqa?

Posted in Books & Authors, Marxism with tags , , , , , , , , , on July 20, 2009 by Umer

The following article appeared in the New York Times and deals with one important debates that have erupted from the speech made by French President Nicolas Sarkozy where he stated that the Burqa is not welcome in Franch territory. While the statement made by Sarkozy may be drenched in racism, as many may argue, what should be the independent position of the Left over the issues of women’s veil? Is the Left doomed to decide its position based on the opposition of others (a position of reaction)? Or, can it have an independent and principled position of its own? How does the Left in Pakistan see the question of women’s veil?

The New York Times article discusses the issue of women’s veil from the point of view of a women’s identity as an individual. Another way of looking the issue of veil is by understanding it as an institution deeply linked with patriarchy, rather than merely as an individual choice (which may also be very important). What must also be questioned is the implication that the veil have have on the society at large.

The late Mazhar-ul-Haq Khan, Professor at Peshawar University, wrote a throughly about patriachal institutions in Muslim societies in  his book ‘Pardah and Polygmy: Social pathology of Muslim Societies’ (1972). The fundamental thesis of Mazhar-ul-Haq’s book is that the two interlinked institutions of pardah (veil) and polygamy are the main factors behind the decadence and stagnation of the Muslim societies. Not only they are based on incorrect interpretations of Islam, argued Mazhar-ul-Haq, they inculcate a sense of inhibition, fear and loss of identity in the family structures suppressing the spirit initiative, creativity, adventure, and openness in both males and females from their childhood (all of which are necessary for collective and individual progress). Why is it that Muslim societies have failed to produced men and women of science for many years? The same can be said of other fields of study, though with some variance. While the rest of the world has progressed by leaps and bounds, why are the Muslim societies still trailing behind?

These questions require us to delve deeper in the issue rather than giving knee-jerk and reaction-bases answers.


Ban the Burqa

Published: July 2, 2009

NEW YORK — I am a Muslim, I am a feminist and I detest the full-body veil, known as a niqab or burqa. It erases women from society and has nothing to do with Islam but everything to do with the hatred for women at the heart of the extremist ideology that preaches it.

We must not sacrifice women at the altar of political correctness or in the name of fighting a growingly powerful right wing that Muslims face in countries where they live as a minority.

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