Why I Love the Mus­lim Veil

Yvonne Rid­ley

I used to look at veiled women as oppressed crea­tures — until I was cap­tured by the Taliban.

In Sep­tem­ber 2001, 15 days after the ter­ror­ist attacks on the Unit­ed States, I snuck into Afghanistan, clad in a head-to-toe blue burqa, intend­ing to write a news­pa­per account of life under the repres­sive régime. Instead, I was dis­cov­ered, arrest­ed and detained for 10 days. I spat and swore at my cap­tors ; they called me a bad” woman but let me go after I promised to read the Qur’an and study Islam.

Back home in Lon­don, I kept my word — and was amazed by what I dis­cov­ered. Instead of Qur’an­ic chap­ters on how to beat your wife and oppress your daugh­ters, I found pas­sages pro­mot­ing the lib­er­a­tion of women. I con­vert­ed to Islam 2 12 years lat­er. Now I watch with dis­gust and dis­may as for­mer For­eign Sec­re­tary Jack Straw describes the Mus­lim niqab — a face veil that reveals only the eyes — as a bar­ri­er to inte­gra­tion, with Prime Min­is­ter Tony Blair, writer Salman Rushdie and Ital­ian Prime Min­is­ter Romano Pro­di leap­ing to his defense.

Hav­ing been on both sides of the veil, I can tell you that West­ern male politi­cians and jour­nal­ists have no idea what they are talk­ing about when they blame Islam for child brides, female cir­cum­ci­sion, hon­or killings and forced mar­riages. A care­ful read­ing of the Qur’an shows that just about every­thing West­ern fem­i­nists fought for in the 1970s was avail­able 1,400 years ago to Mus­lim women, who are con­sid­ered equal to men in spir­i­tu­al­i­ty, edu­ca­tion and worth. When Islam offers women so much, why are West­ern men so obsessed with Mus­lim wom­en’s attire ? Even British gov­ern­ment min­is­ters Gor­don Brown and John Reid have made dis­parag­ing remarks about the niqab, and they hail from Scot­land, where men wear skirts.

When I began wear­ing a head­scarf, I became a sec­ond-class cit­i­zen. One cab­bie, after drop­ping off a pas­sen­ger in front of me, glared when I rapped on his win­dow, then drove off. Anoth­er said, Don’t leave a bomb in the back seat” and asked, Where’s Bin Laden hiding?”

Yes, it is a reli­gious oblig­a­tion for Mus­lim women to dress mod­est­ly, but the major­i­ty of Mus­lim women I know like wear­ing the hijab, which leaves the face uncov­ered. My dress tells you that I am a Mus­lim and I expect to be treat­ed respect­ful­ly, much as a banker would say a busi­ness suit defines him as an exec­u­tive to be tak­en seriously.

Some young Mus­lim fem­i­nists con­sid­er the hijab and niqab polit­i­cal sym­bols too, a way of reject­ing West­ern excess­es such as binge drink­ing, casu­al sex and drug use. Which is more lib­er­at­ing : being judged on the length of your skirt and size of your breasts, or on your char­ac­ter and intel­li­gence ? In Islam, supe­ri­or­i­ty is achieved through piety, not beau­ty, wealth, pow­er or sex.

Italy’s Pro­di joined the debate last week by declar­ing that it is com­mon sense” not to wear the niqab because it makes social rela­tions more dif­fi­cult.” Non­sense. If this were the case, why are cell phones, e‑mail, text mes­sag­ing and fax machines in dai­ly use ?

Islam tells me that I have a right to an edu­ca­tion and a duty to seek knowl­edge, regard­less of whether I am sin­gle or mar­ried. If a man rais­es a fin­ger against his wife, he is not allowed to leave a mark on her body, which is the Qur’an’s way of say­ing, Don’t beat your wife, stupid.”

Accord­ing to a recent Nation­al Domes­tic Vio­lence Hot­line sur­vey, an aver­age 4 mil­lion Amer­i­can women expe­ri­ence a seri­ous assault by a part­ner each year ; more than three women are killed by their hus­band or boy-friend every day ; and one in three women around the world has been beat­en, coerced into sex or oth­er­wise abused. This prob­lem tran­scends reli­gion, wealth, class, race and cul­ture. But it is true that West­ern men still believe they are supe­ri­or to women and receive bet­ter pay for equal work.

For those who still claim Islam oppress­es women, recall this 1992 state­ment from the Rev. Pat Robertson :

Fem­i­nism is a social­ist, anti-fam­i­ly polit­i­cal move­ment that encour­ages women to leave their hus­bands, kill their chil­dren, prac­tice witch­craft, destroy cap­i­tal­ism and become lesbians.”

Now you tell me, who is civ­i­lized and who is not ? Why I Love the Muslim Veil 1Endmark

Yvonne Rid­ley is polit­i­cal edi­tor of Islam Chan­nel TV in Lon­don and co-author of In the Hand of the Tal­iban : Her Extra­or­di­nary Sto­ry (Rob­son Books).



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3 responses to “Why I Love the Mus­lim Veil”

  1. shazlee shah Avatar
    shazlee shah

    assalamualaikum.amazing arti­cle.

    just for my understanding,may i know which verse of quran that you explored about the wom­en’s right?just think­ing that i should know that too.thanks madm.and if u could,pls mail me.

  2. Ahyad nawi Avatar
    Ahyad nawi

    Dear Robert,

    You asked a ques­tion on why is it that the Tal­iban for­bid women/​girls go to school ? Did you ever ask why is it that the Mus­lim gov­ern­ment of Malaysia encour­ages its female pop­u­la­tion to get the high­est and the best edu­ca­tion ? Why is it that the Malaysian gov­ern­ment does not emu­late the Tal­iban if you had described that the Tal­iban prac­tices the true teach­ings of Islam. Thats why you need to get your his­tor­i­cal facts and your in depth knowl­edge of Islam right before you judge whether some­thing done by some­body rep­re­sents the true teach­ings of Islam just because he or she pro­fess that religion.

    The women in Afghanistan were tra­dion­al­ly oppressed not due to reli­gion but due to cus­tom­ary or trib­al laws ( which are some­times total­ly out­dat­ed and against the Islam­ic teach­ings )that were brought down from their trib­al ances​tors​.To the Tal­ibans , the non islam­ic cus­toms or tra­di­tions are as divine as the chi­nese belief that wear­ing black on CNY would bring bad luck or tak­ing a bath after deliv­er­ing a baby is a taboo.

    Women in Afghanistan are oppressed not by Islam but by cul­ture and tra­di­tions which are very much against the tenets of Islam. The oppres­sion is sim­i­lar to the oppres­sion on the blacks and the coloured in South Africa under the Apartheid sys­tem. The women in Chi­na, Viet­nam, Thai­land, Cam­bo­dia and the Philip­pines are also dis­creet­ly oppressed to the extent that they are sold to pros­ti­tu­tion rings guised under match mak­ing syn­di­cates and job oppor­tu­ni­ties at the age of puber­ty and all of this is due to women being the weak­er gen­der by men’s defi­na­tion of women.

    Islam has define roles for men and roles for women .The Quran has nev­er spec­i­fy that men are more supe­ri­or that women or vice ver­sa. Because of their phys­i­cal dif­fer­ences, men and women have def­i­nite roles .Any Mus­lim who deny the men and the women from his or her role would be com­mit­ting a great sin. This defi­na­tion of roles are as crys­tal as defin­ing the role of a don­key and the role of a human unless you are also fight­ing for the don­key’s right to equal­i­ty and in this case you want all humans to snort and shit like a don­key so that the don­key would feel that it has been treat­ed equally.

    Let me give you an exam­ple of oppres­sion in the Chi­nese cus­tom. A chi­nese is not allowed to prac­tice polygamy but it is an opened secret that many Chi­nese men has more that one wife. These ladies are often referred to as mis­tress or mis­tress­es in many cas­es the Chi­ne­ses man espe­cial­ly the wealthy ones, keeps more than one in his pri­vate ille­git­i­mate collection.

    Being ille­git­i­mate, the mis­tress­es and the chil­dren out of this ille­git­i­ma­cy are as good as beg­gars on the street when the ille­git­i­mate hus­band dies. His law­ful wife has all rights to his inheri­tence and can­not be chal­lenged in any court. Is this not an oppres­sion to the oth­er wives and chil­dren, if any and this not a ques­tion of the oth­er wives tak­ing risk but whether a women is pro­tect­ed by her reli­gion. In the Chi­nese reli­gion it is not but in Islam, it is and this is just one of the many many ways Islam upholds wom­en’s right 1,400 years ago. A Chi­nese man can just leave his ille­git­i­mate wife and his chil­dren with­out any alimo­ny or finan­cial sup­port but the Mus­lim men is sub­ject to a lot of con­di­tions after divorc­ing any one of his four wives. Even in mar­riage Islam demands equal treat­ment in every way amongst the wives and if the would be hus­band is not capa­ble of com­mit­ting to this arrange­ment then the hus­band must main­tain only one wife whichev­er way it goes.

    On dress­ing, you also have to know that the Mus­lim males also has to main­tain his Aurat ” just as in women. For male mus­lims, his aurat runs from the bel­ly but­ton right down to the ankle and this part of the body can­not be seen by the oppo­site gen­der. By the way , are you the type that does not mind hav­ing your daugh­ter or wife to walk around the streets with just a lit­tle star cov­er­ing her volup­tious breast nip­ples with a small pink panties just good enough to cov­er that lit­tle pink XXXXX in between her legs. Are you the type that does not get angry when your wife and daugh­ter or moth­er starts mak­ing whore like lewd move­ments at the cheers of the enthu­si­as­tic male pub­lic while walk­ing down the street . If not, then why are you so against women who lives up to her mod­esty and dig­ni­ty or are you the type that wants wom­ent to dress in the way you think fit ?

    If you had ever been to a Uni­ver­si­ty in the Unit­ed States, you can prac­ti­cal­ly see how the girls are clam­our­ing to be pop­u­lar, most liked, most beau­ti­ful and in doing so, they degrad­ed them­selves with the most reveal­ing out­fit , heavy make ups and free and easy lifestyle so as to be hip and to be accept­ed. They have cre­at­ed a tra­di­tion­al cul­ture where girls who do not reveal their essen­tials are con­sid­ered geeks and out­cast­ed pari­ahs and licensed obtained to reject these geeks in the soror­i­ty house. Any girls who are mod­est­ly dressed ( mus­lims includ­ed ) are made fun of not just in schools but even in nation­al television.

    By the way, you are already a geek in U.S if you are a aver­age Chi­nese from Malaysia but you can still befriend a white Amer­i­can but rest assured, he or she would also be either a geek, fat and ugly girl, a black girl or oth­er non white race.

  3. Richard Chin Avatar
    Richard Chin

    Then why the Tal­iban for­bid women/​girls from going to school ? If it was so lib­er­at­ing, what are you afraid the girls will learn in school ? Why is Islam so afraid of a wom­ans face, fig­ure or phys­i­cal appear­ance. Your enthu­si­asm to your new reli­gion is good, but please do not be cloud­ed by it. You are most like­ly suf­fer­ing from Stock­holm Syn­drome”. You were caught and almost killed. Just think.

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