Women and Islam

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All right, well before I start this post I want to say, I am a practicing Christian (Wisconsin Synod Lutheran in case you’re curious) and I am not a Muslim, nor have I ever been Muslim. That being said, I do have thoughts on the way that Islam treats women.

The issue I am going to focus on today is the veiling of Islamic women. I’m talking about the hijab, the niqab, and burqa.

For brief definitions:
Hijab – “Refers to both the head covering traditionally worn by Muslim women and modest Muslim styles of dress in general.” (Wikipedia)
Niqab – “A veil which covers the face, worn by some Muslim women as a part of sartorial hijāb.” (Wikipedia)
Burqa – “An enveloping outer garment worn by women in some Islamic traditions to cover their bodies in public places. The burqa is usually understood to be the woman’s loose body-covering (Arabic: jilbāb), plus the head-covering (Arabic: ḥijāb, taking the most usual meaning), plus the face-veil (Arabic: niqāb).” (Wikipedia)

I’m talking about this in light of recent news from France. France has banned the burqa. It went into effect earlier this week. In fact, they’ve already made some arrests.

I want you to watch this video where two Muslim women debate it and then I’ll give you my opinion on it.

While I feel that countries who choose to force women to wear the burqa, niqab, or hijab are wrong and those laws should be overturned, I also feel that nobody should have the right to tell you you can not wear something, especially not if it is something you are doing for religious reasons.

Last week, I attended (and presented) at Wisconsin Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies student conference. One of the sessions I got the chance to attend was called “Do You See More Than My Hijab?” This student had done her research, asking other Muslim women across campus on their feelings on wearing the veil. The speaker talked about how she felt the majority of the time that her veil didn’t bring her any negative effects from people and that men actually respected her more, she felt, when she was wearing it – opening doors for her and such. She was very open with us and allowed us to ask her any questions. She talked about her choice to wear the hijab. I used to feel too that it was oppressive, I used to read Muslim women talking about how it wasn’t, but it wasn’t until I talked to a real person that it convinced me that it wasn’t oppressive to women (where they have a choice).

And you know, even though I would never do it – a lot of it made sense to me. A lot of people have picked on me for wearing what I consider modest clothing because they think my status of modesty is ridiculous. To them (a lot of Muslim women) the hijab, niqab, and burqa are their way of being modest. When it’s done for their choice, I think they should have every right in the world to make that choice. Modesty is so little valued in our world, that when a woman wants to be modest, there is often a lot of backlash against it, like these women are facing.

I think I will end with this quote by a Muslim woman, that sums up my thoughts on this.

If women want to walk around half-naked I don’t object to them doing so. If they want to wear tight jeans where you can see their underwear or walk around with their breasts hanging out, I don’t give a damn. But if they are allowed to do that, why should I not be allowed to cover up? – Source

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