Sarkozy and the Niqaab Ban

**Note…this is more of a rant…*

“In 2004, France banned head scarves from schools and public buildings.”

French President Sarkozy has been pushing for the ban of the niqab in France stating, “In our country, we cannot accept that women are prisoners behind netting, cut off from all social life, deprived of an identity…This is not the French republic’s idea of dignity…When we meet women who wear it, we try to educate them, and explain to them that moderation is a better choice.”

The attempt to rescue Muslim women is a French tradition dating back to the colonization of Algeria in the 1830s. It is a way to bring Enlightenment to the Arabs. For French colonialists, the veiled Algerian woman was both a sign of resistance to French attempts to shape their society, and a rallying cry to redouble their civilizing efforts. “The Arabs elude us,” fretted one general in the 1840s, “because they conceal their women from our gaze.”

These are all quotes from a Time article on July 13th, 2009. I would like to address several points made in the excerpts that honestly concern me.

I would first like to address the points President Sarkozy has brought to my attention, mainly the point of a loss of identity on those who wear the niqaab or burqa.

Considering it is only the minority of a minority of women who wear the niqaab, I see it that the women that wear then niqaab have an strong sense of identity. Because a woman does not define herself by the beauty of her hair, the curve of her neck, or the purity of her face does not remove her from having an identity. In more ways than others—these women have more of an identity because they have established their social circles on the pure premise of their personality, rather than their shallow appearance. I personally do not wear the niqab, however I do wear hijab (headscarf) and God has blessed me with the opportunity to wear it since I was 10 year old, it was what established my sense of identity. The hijab allowed me to flourish as a person, allowed me to grow as a woman and to know who I am without worrying about how my body was viewed.

Why do women have to be prisoners behind netting? I know of many women that don the niqaab and are teachers in public schools, hard working engineers, scientists, doctors and leaders within their own communities. How in any way shape or form are they prisoners? Please Mr. Sarkozy explain to me why a woman MUST be a prisoner behind netting when many women are prisoners of their own body image? The rate of girls falling into anorexia and bulimia, has skyrocketed in recent years. Too many girls are worried about not fitting into a size 0 and not having the perfect body and the media still pushes this concept of the “pretty girl.” In order to fit into society, you must conform yourself to the form in which society wishes you to be, and according to Mr. Sarkozy, the only way to be free in this world is to show your face.

Wearing niqaab does not cut you off from a social life, it’s a face covering, not a leash.

So the French republic’s idea of dignity requires that you show your face? Remind me to stay home on bad days, I don’t want to be judged on the scowl that I wear; it’s not very dignified.

The last statement he makes, just pushes me over the edge. Wake up people! This is Orientalism at it’s worst—this is what was done during colonialism. Teach the savages, the uneducated ones. It’s even referenced in the article by another author that it is an attempt to “rescue” the Muslim population.

Now onto my opinions…. (as if I haven’t given enough already)

I believe that the beauty of a woman is sacred, that it should not be something that is manipulated to please the desires of man. Women are the backbone of society and in order to manipulate society, you manipulate the women. And when the women rebel and refuse to follow your standard, there is no way that you will have control over that population. If you cannot see their faces because they have a faith much stronger than your petty attempts and ideas of “freedom” you cannot change those women.

I love the example of the strength of Khadija (May Allah be pleased with her), who was the first wife of the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him). She was a woman of substance, period. She was a business woman who essentially, sent a proposal to the Prophet herself. When the Prophet first received the revelation of the Quran, the first person he ran to was her, he sought refuge from the fear he felt, with that woman. And she told him that he was not crazy, that Allah would never punish him and was always supportive even when the whole tribe placed sanctions on the Muslims. She is a reflection of the women who supported the growth of Islam at a time when it was wholeheartedly rejected and persecuted.

Why is the way a woman dresses or doesn’t dress any business of Sarkozy or the French Republic? It is the right of every human being on this planet to practice their religion or belief system without imposing on others. Therefore if a woman chooses to wear a hijab, a niqab, or burqa, it is in her own right to practice it because she is not forcing you to wear it, her choice, her body, her mind, her faith.

Personally, I am sick of man dictating for a woman what is good for her and what isn’t good for her. Whether she should expose 99% of her body to sell a product or get some attention. A woman has the right to protect herself from the wandering, judging eye of man—and I think the French republic, and any other republic that is concerned with how a woman dresses, has way too much time on their hands. They should concern themselves with the people that are dying of starvation on their streets or the education of those in their country who cannot gain an education.


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