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The Veiled West

By M. Burhanuddin Qasmi, July 3, 2009
The Muslim women veil issue in France is gradually taking an ugly shape across the world. The ‘extra’ liberal people possessed with Western life style even in the East count banning ‘burqa’ as women ‘liberation’ from ‘the dark age’ in tune with French president Nicolas Sarkozy, yet majority of Muslims across the glob consider it as direct attack on one’s freedom of living and religious practicing. It is nothing less than forceful conversion of Muslim women to the Western civilization, some argue.   
France has opened one more Pandora’s Box which surly will widen fresh divide among the practicing Muslims world over and the West. The new friendship endeavour between the West and the Muslim world marked by the US president Barack Obama’s historic Cairo speech is to be affected by this new escalation of culture and life style. 150 million Muslims in India are alarmed and they gradually started showing their anger on the way France government is dealing with the whole issue.     
‘It is a matter of the utmost concern that France has decided to enact legislation outlawing the burqa or head covering of Muslim women, the wearing of which is enjoined upon all Muslim women in the Qu’ran,’ (Surah: Al-Ahzab 59 and An-Noor 30-31) observed the newly elected member of parliament and a prominent religious scholar Maulana Badruddin Ajmal. In a press statement from Mumbai Maulana Ajmal argued “it is a covering of the whole body as part of a sacred religious injunction, described by the Prophet of Islam Muhammad (saws).”
The Western world which prides itself as the champion of democracy, human rights and women’ rights gives free rein to nudity and skin show and no Muslim in the world objects to the au natural look. But when they take upon themselves the right to decide what women should wear in public through laws, then it is downright condemnable and blameworthy.
Freedom, that is precious, holy thing, cannot be one sided. If freedom gives a license to some women for wearing revealing dresses, knickers, bikinis and jeans then how does it stop some other women from wearing their chosen dresses? Muslim women are mature enough to understand the limits of their freedom and while following the basics of a free democratic world order France must allow Muslim women to dress the way they like.   
Dressing is an individual and private issue that does not need to come under public scrutiny.
The Nuns all over the world wear a full dress covering their bodies as also a wimple, or white sarees and full-length gowns, and similarly Sikhs wear beards and turbans to strictly follow their religious rulings. Are these things next in the line to be legislated upon and banned in France or countries within European Union?
Muslim NGOs and social religious organizations in India are anxiously following the development in France. A complete ban on Muslim women dressing will invite public protest which is evident from columns and letters in Urdu press.
In the past too the world has been put on flame by some Western countries with tags like ‘freedom’ of expression as in the case of infamous movie ‘Fitna’ and Prophet of Islam’s derogatory cartoons from Denmark and Norway. If Mr Sarkozy fails to maturely handle the sensitive issue for the Muslim world; this time around the intensity of escalation between Muslims and France will be the same as was in the past.
The MP from Assam’s Dhubri Maulana Badruddin Ajmal who is also founder president of Assam United Democratic Front (AUDF) grabbed the Muslims’ sentiments in India and will shortly send a separate letter to Dr Manmohan Singh, the prime minister of India urging him to pressurize the French government to refrain from passing such reprehensible laws that have caused outrage in the community of Muslims in India and the world over.
Maulana Ajmal will also send the copy of his letter to president of India Ms Pratibha Devi Singh Patil, chairperson of the UPA Government Ms Sonia Gandhi, minister for the external affairs, minister for the minority affairs, French foreign mission, New Delhi, Human Rights Commission of India and to Women Commission of India.      
For a common man such morally purblind laws enrage the community at the receiving end and tarnish the fair image of France as an upholder of liberty, equality and fraternity gained through much sweat and blood in the French revolution and subsequent mass movements in the 60s.
France government must take urgent steps in favour of democracy, freedom and peace in the world and take positively the concerns of Muslims world over including 150 million Muslim in India. It is time for European Union, for the entire world to properly define ‘freedom’! Or how one’s freedom is becoming another’s slavery?  A forceful removal of Muslim Women’s head cover or a ban on veil is nothing less than oppression— modern cultural slavery enforced on Muslim living in France. Doesn’t it sound that the West is veiled of common sense?
M. Burhanuddin Qasmi is editor of Eastern Crescent and director of the Mumbai based Markazul Ma'arif Education and Research Centre. He can be contacted at     




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