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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 20 Sept 2023, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Muslim Women's Uncovered Face Poses Threat to Islam in The East and The Veil to Secularism in The West

By New Age Islam Staff Writer

20 September 2023

Contradictory Interpretations of Veil in The Islamic World Have Put Muslim Women in A Difficult Situation

Main Points:

1.    Iran's Mahsa Amini was killed by Morality Police for improperly covering her head.

2.    Taliban have made full covering veil mandatory for all women.

3.    France has banned Abaya in schools.

4.    Egypt has banned niqab in schools and public places.


Last week, Egypt and France took a similar decision on veil of women. While France, a non-Muslim majority country imposed a ban on abaya, an Islamic dress for women, Egypt, an Islamic country also imposed a ban on niqab, a face covering dress of women. In Afghanistan, women have been ordered to wear full covering niqab in public. They have been barred from going to schools and colleges on the ground that it will facilitate the mixing of genders in society. In Iran, women have been protesting against the laws mandating wearing of head covering veil.

Muslim women across the globe have been grappling with the governments of the East and West as they have their own views and approach to the Islamic dress. While the Islamic countries are divided on the justification of veil or niqab, the western countries like France see the abaya, an Islamic dress as a threat to secularism. While announcing the ban on abaya, the Education Minister of France, Gabriel Attal said that abaya made students look different and identifiable and goes against the principles of secularism. In 2004, the government had banned the wearing of ostensibly religious symbols in schools. This included the Islamic headscarf, Jewish Kippas, Sikh turbans and Christian cross. Now the French government has included abaya in the list of banned dress.

However, from what the government spokesperson, Olivier Veran said, it becomes evident that the French government has other reasons to ban Abaya. He said that abaya was obviously a religious garment and a political attack, a political sign of proselytising or an act of trying to convert to Islam.

His statement betrays the fear that abaya may cause conversion to Islam and that a woman wearing an abaya was unknowingly committing an act of proselytization. It may seem ridiculous but this is how a government spokesperson of France sees abaya. If this is really so then a Muslim man with a beard and skull cap may be considered committing an act of proselytising or trying to convert Christians to Islam.

The opposition parties do not support this view of the government. The opposition party Le France Insoumise calls this government "clothes police". Its leader Clementine Autain said that this law was characteristic if obsessional rejection of Muslims. Muslims

Abaya is not a face covering dress. It is a loose dress covering the full body while the face is uncovered. However, it is an Arab dress and popular among Arab immigrants in France and speaks of the influence of the Arab culture in France.

Around the same time, the Education Ministry of Egypt banned full covering niqab in schools and public places. It also made head scarf optional, depending on the wish of the pupil without pressure from guardians or hardline Islamic organisations that promote niqab.

In Egypt, women generally wear headscarf and a minority of women belonging to ultraconservative society wear niqab. The government order has been greeted by many as the government has given women a choice over veils. They may wear hijab or go without it. The government won’t interfere with their choice of veil. The government has also made it clear that it would not decide as to what extent the women cover their hair.

It should be recalled that last year, a Kurd woman of Iran, Mahsa Amini, 22, was killed by the Morality Police for inappropriately wearing the hijab. She had not fully covered her hair while she was with her brother in a park in Tehran.

Her death had sparked a wave of protests across Iran and women had defied the veil. They had burned their headscarves. The protests still continue. Now, celebrities like actors, doctors, businessmen activists have joined the movement.

The famous senior actress of Iran, Afsana Bayegan repeatedly posted photos of her unveiled her on Instagram.

However, the government also does not show signs of giving in and has been contemplating different ways to supress the movement.

Now, the government has started to declare these women as suffering from psychiatric disorders and sending them to psychological centres for psychotherapy apart from sending them to jail.


Actress Afsaneh Bayegan


Afsana Bayegan, 61, has been given two-year suspended prison sentence and has been ordered by the court to visit the psychological centre once a week. Ridiculously, the judge has diagnosed her with a disease called "anti-family personality disorder".

Another woman named Azadeh Samadi has been diagnosed by the judges with "anti-social personality disorder". A Tehran court diagnosed another woman who had not worn a veil with "contagious psychological disorder" that leads to sexual promiscuity and has sentenced her to two months in imprisonment and six months of psychological treatment.

The Iranian government has not been able to supress the movement of the women and therefore, plans to bring a stricter law to punish protesting women. The law may be passed in two months. Under this law, the protesters and violators of the Hijab Law may be sentenced to 5 to 10 years of imprisonment and a fine of 8,508 dollars. The government will use artificial intelligence to identify protesting women. Cameras will be installed in public places to identify women without hijab.

The fight of Iranian women for freedom of dress did not start last year. It had started soon after Khamenei became the spiritual head of the country after the 1979 revolution. Soon after assuming power, he had mandated hijab in public places. The women had protested this decree. The Article 368 of Iran's Constitution is known as hijab law. This law has become a symbol of oppression of women. Sarah Baoobandi, a Marie Curie Fellow at German Institute for Global and Area Studies in Hamburg writes:

"Across the world, the hijab is a personal choice made by women. In Iran, however, it was transformed into a symbol of oppression and marginalisation. The current rejection of hijab by Iranian protesters, therefore, does not necessarily equal a rejection of Islam or Islamic values. Rather it represents the anger and frustration of the people ---namely women who have been deprived of their basic freedom of choice for decades. "

It can be concluded, therefore, that the West sees the veil or abaya as a threat to secularism and the Islamic world sees the uncovered face and hair of women as a threat to Islam. The Muslim women face a difficult phase and have a long battle ahead.


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