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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 11 Oct 2009, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Canadian Muslim group calls for burqa ban

No covering up Egypt's niqab row: There have been demonstrations by women students in Cairo after a leading cleric backed moves to ban the wearing of full women's veils, known as the niqab, in classrooms or dormitories.

Women Choosing Full-Face Veil Has Egyptian Authorities Worried

Italy Wants to Prosecute Burqa Women




Canadian Muslim group calls for burqa ban

09 Oct, 2009

OTTAWA: A Muslim group on Thursday called for a ban on the wearing of burqas in public in Canada, saying it ‘marginalizes women.’

‘The burqa has absolutely no place in Canada,’ said Farzana Hassan of the Muslim Canadian Congress.

‘In Canada we recognize the equality of men and women. We want to recognize gender equality as an absolute. The burqa marginalizes women.’

Many Muslim women in this country are being forced to wear the loose robe and veil by their husbands and family, setting them apart from other Canadian women who are living freely, she claimed.

Hassan acknowledged the Quran preaches modesty, but ‘it doesn't have to be that you have to cover your face or you have to wear a virtual tent wherever you go. This is not a requirement of Islam or the Quran.’

Hassan blamed extremist Muslims for its rising popularity in Canada. ‘To counter this trend, we are asking for a ban on the burqa,’ she said.

The call follows an edict by a top Muslim authority in Egypt calling for a ban on the burqa.

Several European countries, including France, Italy and Denmark, have also called for burqa bans in recent years.

Last year, an Ontario judge ruled that a woman testifying against her alleged rapist does not have the right based on religious beliefs to wear a veil in court. The decision is being appealed.

In 2007, a controversy also erupted over a Quebec election official's decree to Muslim women to remove their veil at the ballot box so that their identity could be verified.

Hassan was not able to say exactly how many women in Canada wear the burqa, but said ‘it is on the rise’ in Toronto and Montreal.

According to a 2006 census, there are some 800,000 Muslims living in Canada.

The Muslim Canadian Congress, which has some 300 members, describes itself as ‘providing a voice to Muslims who are not represented by existing organizations ... that are either sectarian or ethnocentric, largely authoritarian, and influenced by a fear of modernity and an aversion to joy.’ — AFP



No covering up Egypt's niqab row

There have been demonstrations by women students in Cairo after a leading cleric backed moves to ban the wearing of full women's veils, known as the niqab, in classrooms or dormitories. Christian Fraser has been hearing both sides of the argument.

It is not often I am summoned to the door of the Supreme Council of the ancient al-Azhar university.

It is, after all, the high seat of Sunni Islam. But this was where the diminutive sheikh who presides on this wise council chose to meet the journalists who wanted to learn more about his ban.

In fact it was more of a sermon than a press conference and the sheikh, who is by the way a government appointee, seemed unruffled both by the unruly scrum of journalists and the commotion his announcement has caused.

He has this unshakeable confidence that he is right. Perhaps it comes from the Koran he holds in one hand and the hotline to President Hosni Mubarak he has in reach of the other.

For some unfathomable reason, given the number of Egyptian press conferences I have attended this year (most of which run for hours with no discernible purpose), I had somehow raised my expectations that the Supreme Council might deign to answer my questions.

Why are an increasing number of young women in Egypt turning to the niqab? What role did the government play in the sheikh's ruling?

And how will it be seen by the politicians of Europe, like President Nicolas Sarkozy who banned the niqab from French classrooms? And indeed the British Justice Minister, Jack Straw, who asked women to remove them in his constituency office?

"You must read my judgment," insisted the sheikh. It was a two-page slab of scripture in classical Arabic, for which a lifetime's education in the halls of al-Azhar would surely not have prepared me.

And so, somewhat ill-informed, I left the supreme scholars in search of my own, more earthly answers.

Increasingly conservative

On Taalat Harb, one of the main arteries through Cairo, the Egyptian clash of cultures is on prominent display.

There are shops doing a roaring trade in garish fishnet stockings, clothes that belong to a budget production of the film Moulin Rouge, alongside those selling the all-enveloping outfits more commonly seen in this increasingly conservative society.

It is, though, whispered in shadowy corners of this city that prostitutes are in fact customers at both types of shop.

Mar Mohammed runs Nur Moda (Women's Fashions). He has been in business for 20 years.

"I have never sold as many niqabs," he told me. "A hundred, 120 a day," he says, "no problem."

Full Article at:


Women Choosing Full-Face Veil Has Egyptian Authorities Worried

By Dolores M. Bernal

Muslim women in Egypt are fighting to keep their full-face veils on. According to several reports this weekend, the full-face veil has Egypt concerned for two reasons: security and fundamentalism.

The full-face veil, also known as niqab or burqa, it’s increasingly gaining popularity in Egypt among young women because it makes them feel more pure and closer to God. But Egyptian authorities are viewing the niqab as too militant and as a sign that fundamentalism is spreading. Muslim clerics in the country have preferred women wear the veil that covers the hair only, the hijab.

In Cairo, at the Muslim al-Azhar University, there are reports that a ban on the niquab has passed. According to ABC News, the head of the school, Sheikh Mohammed Tantawi has said that the ban will apply at women-only dormitories and in classrooms only. In other reports, Tantawi has sited security as the main reason why the ban was approved. Authorities want to avoid impersonation since according to the Education Department, men have been caught snicking around wearing the burqa.

There are also concerns that fundamentalist forms of the religion are spreading. Authorities fear that a following of Salafism is growing. An article by the AFP on the subject explained what the sect is about:

“Salafism has much in common with the ideology of al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden, but most of its practitioners shun politics, putting the emphasis on spreading the puritan creed of emulating the practices and beliefs of early Muslims.”

According to the AFP, Egypt’s government has been on a “secular trend” for decades, yet it has seen an increasing number of attacks by fundamentalist over the years. The full-face veil is making authorities nervous even though analysts insist that the niqab is being worn for puritanical purposes only.



Italy Wants to Prosecute Burqa Women

MILAN – Plans by Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s allies to prosecute Muslim women for wearing burqa, a loose outfit covering the whole body from head to toe, is infuriating the political establishment in the southern European country.

"A ban (on the burqa) would be xenophobic and discriminatory,” Mario Scialoja, the chair of the Islamic Culture Centre of Italy, told Reuters late Thursday, October 8.

“The existing law should be enforced."

The far-right Northern League is pressing to amend a 1975 law to prosecute Muslim women for wearing burqa.

The law slaps hefty fines and up to two years in jail on people covering their faces with anything preventing their identification by police.

But the Northern League is now proposing to amend the law to ban “garments worn for reasons of religious affiliation”.

The far-right party also wants to remove from the law the expression “justified cause”, which has prompted courts to allow burqa on religious grounds.

Scialoja warned that a burqa ban would stigmatise Muslims, calling on Italian authorities to treat Muslim women with respect.

"We say no to a new law."

The burqa has been a hot issue in many European countries.

Last month, the Italian spa resort town of Montegrotto Terme banned the burqa.

A French MP has also proposed a ban on the wearing, sparking outcry among the Muslim minority and across the Muslim world.

Italy has a Muslim population of some 1.2 million, including 20,000 reverts, according to unofficial estimates.


The centre-left opposition also strongly criticized the proposed burqa ban.

“(The plan is) unconstitutional because it infringes on religious freedom," said Donatella Ferranti, a member of the opposition Democratic Party.

Barbara Pollastrini, former centre-left minister for equal opportunities, also blasted the move.

She said the current legislation was sufficient, but needed to be more effectively enforced because the burqa "conveys a message of violation of women's human rights".

Italian Muslims have been in the eye of storm since the Berlusconi’s government and its far-right partners came to power.

The Northern League is widely accused of racism with many critics calling it the BNP of Italy, a reference to the British right-wing party.

Its election campaign played on issues such as immigration, crime and economic and cultural fears from immigration.

Portraying itself as a defender of Italy's Christian roots, it started its mission in the new government in May 2008 with bringing down a mosque in the northern city of Verona.

Last September, the League rejoiced the success of its campaign to halt the building of a mosque in the northern city of Bologna.

Last year, League MP Mario Borghezio burst into a church in the northern city of Genoa shouting anti-Islam statements.