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Shamima Begum: accused of responsibilities to face up to, she has rights.

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Was Begum a member of the  Isis all-female Al-Khansaa Brigade, who enforced women’s dress rules?

This has caught the headlines.

Shamima Begum: IS bride ‘given legal aid’ for citizenship fight

BBC.

Legal aid has been granted for Shamima Begum – who joined the Islamic State group aged 15 – to fight the decision to revoke her UK citizenship.

The 19-year-old, who left east London in 2015, was stripped of her citizenship in February, after she was found in a Syrian refugee camp.

Her family has previously said it planned to challenge the decision.

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the Legal Aid Agency’s decision to assist Ms Begum made him “very uncomfortable”.

Legal aid is financial assistance provided by the taxpayer to those unable to afford legal representation themselves, whether they are accused of a crime or a victim who seeks the help of a lawyer through the court process.

It is means-tested and availability has been cut back significantly in recent years.

This Blog agrees with this statement:

The I’ . Florence Sneed reports, nevertheless has also reported on  this:

Shamima Begum: Isis bride ‘was discipline enforcer for group’s morality police’

Shamima Begum, who left London aged 15 to join Isis, served in the terror group’s “morality police” to help enforce strict rules among female members, according to reports.

Ms Begum is said to have been allowed to carry a Kalashnikov rifle and earned a reputation for being a strict “enforcer” on issues such as women’s clothing.

The teenager, who is now 19, previously said she was “just a housewife” after being tracked down to a Syrian refugee camp earlier this year.

But sources have said she had a paid role as an enforcer of discipline in which she likely ordered the imprisonment and lashing of women in Raqqa, according to the Sunday Telegraph.

It reported that Ms Begum is also thought to have been actively trying to recruit other women across Europe during her time in city.

Other reports suggest the teenager – who has since been stripped of her British citizenship – went as far as preparing suicide vests and sewing them on to would-be bombers.

The Independent added this detail,

One activist quoted by the newspaper said Begum had been seen holding an automatic weapon and shouting at Syrian women in the city of Raqqa for wearing brightly coloured shoes.

“Members of our group from Raqqa knew her well,” said Aghiad al-Kheder, an activist from Deir ez-Zor who founded an anti-Isis collective that published information about Isis crimes from sources on the ground.

This leads to the following report, (Independent)

Isis: British women led by Aqsa Mahmood ‘running sharia police unit for Islamic State in Syria’

The ICSR says it monitors 25 British female jihadists who have left their lives in the UK to support Isis.

The brigade’s women are reportedly paid a monthly salary of 25,000 Syrian Pounds (roughly £100), says TRAC, for duties that are not involved with acts of terror – instead insurgency operations.

They are not the only all-female brigade, either, with another – Umm Al-Rayan – also created around the same time.

Security services believe that it is likely that the women will know the true identity of ‘Jihadi John’, the Isis fighter believed to be the person responsible for the beheading of American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff.

According to Syria Deeply, the al-Khansaa brigade has also been tasked with cracking down on civilian women who fail to abide by the ultra-strict brand of sharia law implemented by Isis, including that women be fully covered in public and be chaperoned by a male.

An Isis official in Raqqa reportedly said: “We have established the brigade to raise awareness of our religion among women, and to punish women who do not abide by the law.

“There are only women in this brigade, and we have given them their own facilities to prevent the mixture of men and women.”

These are serious charges which Begum must face up to.

It will be interesting to hear the response from this quarter.

Shamima Begum said that at the time she had accepted Isis’s line that the Manchester bombing was justified as form of retaliation. But she went on to say that it wasn’t “fair” on the women and children killed in Mancheser.

And she suggested there was an equivalence between the Manchester bombing and the mass murder by the West in the Middle East.

Certainly it is utterly hypocritical to hear denunciations of violence from those who backed mass slaughter in Iraq and Afghanistan, urged on the devastation of Libya and support the bombing and starving of Yemen.

The West is responsible for the horrors of Isis. Had it not been for its imperialist wars in the Middle East, there would have been no Isis for Shamima Begum and her school friends to join.

Many liberals fall into the trap of seeing a division between “good” and “bad Muslims”—such as Shamima Begum who deserve to feel the full force of the law. But any Muslim that dares to question British foreign policy is considered to be a “bad Muslim” by the British state.

Socialist Worker. 20th of February 2019.

Begum, if the case against her is proved, was an active participant in genocide.

There is no doubt whatsoever about the nature of the mass killings carried our by Daesh.

Only the politically confused can try to excuse the genociders of ISIS and aided by the Islamic Morality Police by pointing to the crimes of Western powers.

Only hypocrites and liars can throw responsibility for their crimes onto ‘the West’. 

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Written by Andrew Coates

April 15, 2019 at 12:05 pm

Tariq Ramadan, still facing Rape Charges, Attends Meeting on Violence Against Women in Saint Denis.

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Still Facing Rape Charges Ramadan Attends Public Meeting on Violence against Women. 

Tariq Ramadan assiste à une conférence sur les violences faites aux femmes

Le Point today.

Tariq Ramadan, toujours mis en examen pour viol dans deux dossiers et sous contrôle judiciaire, a été aperçu hier soir à Saint-Denis lors d’une réunion « contre les violences faites aux femmes au quotidien », en présence de Danièle Obono et de Françoise Vergès. Cette réunion était organisée par Madjid Messaoudène, militant décolonial et conseiller municipal La France insoumise en charge de l’égalité et des droits des femmes à la mairie de Saint-Denis. Des femmes en désaccord avec sa présence ont quitté la salle.

Tariq Ramadan , still indicted for rape in two cases and under judicial supervision (that is, on remand), was seen last night in Saint-Denis during a meeting “against the daily violence women face”, in the presence of Danièle Obono and Françoise Vergès. This meeting was organised by Madjid Messaoudène, decolonial activist and city councilor for La France insoumise responsible for equality and women’s rights  the Saint-Denis Council. Women who disagreed with his presence left the room.

The Mayor of Saint Denis reacted strongly,

His coming into the room as a spectator of the debate is an unacceptable provocation,”  said the mayor of Saint-Denis (French Communist Party) His presence is “totally indecent.

She is reported to have also said,

 His ignoble provocations must stop, ” insisted the mayor, calling Tariq Ramadan to ” respect a minimum of decency by leaving in peace those who fight against violence against women .”

The story is also covered in Libération:

A Saint-Denis, Tariq Ramadan s’invite à une conférence sur les violences faites aux femmes.

The arrogance of the Oxford Don is not just astonishing, it is despicable.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

March 19, 2019 at 5:52 pm

Parkfield Muslim Parents Campaign to End “Promotion of Homosexuality”.

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Stop Promoting Homosexuality, Say Parkfield Parents (Economist). 

West Midlands Mayor Andy Street has spoken out over the Parkfield Community School protests, insisting that ‘intolerance must not win out’.

Taking on Twitter, the mayor called the language used by protesters outside the school over the past week ‘unacceptable’, and stressed the importance of tolerance in the community.

….

Parkfield has insisted that the programme will continue to be taught after the Easter break , despite 350 parents signing a petition against it and several removing their children from classes last week.

The protests have been widely condemned by MPs and councillors from across the city, with Birmingham Yardley MP Jess Phillips saying she was ‘heartbroken’ by a video showing the protests.

Birmingham Live

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Police investigate ‘homophobic graffiti’ at Birmingham school amid row over LGBT+ sex education

Police are investigating reports of homophobic graffiti at a school where parents have been protesting against same-sex relationships being taught.

The vandalism at Parkfield Community School in Birmingham was reported to West Midlands Police by a school governor during the February half term holiday.

The force said it was also reviewing video footage circulating on social media to “establish whether any additional offences have taken place”.

Parents have been demonstrating against the school’s No Outsiders programme, which includes teaching about LGBT+ relationships.

In footage posted online, young children appear to be joining in chants of “shame” while adults use the megaphone to voice their opposition.

Responding to the protests, the local Labour Party has got itself into a mess trying to square an impossible circle. Birmingham Labour MP Shabana Mahmood urged schools to take “proper consideration for pupils’ religion and background”.

From James Bloodworth (above).

Birmingham school LGBT lessons protest investigated

Protesters branding school lessons about LGBT rights as “toxic” and “disgusting” have been accused of using “appalling” and “incendiary” language.

It follows footage of continuing rallies at a Birmingham primary school where the lessons have been taught.

A man can be heard telling a crowd outside Parkfield Community School that teaching about social difference is “aggressive indoctrination”.

Police are reviewing the video to see whether any offences are committed.

The footage – in which a vocal and supportive audience is told homosexuality is incompatible with Islam – was taken outside the school.

On Thursday, Birmingham City Council’s cabinet member for social inclusion John Cotton said: “In recent days, we have been appalled to see attempts to divide the people of our city by using insulting and incendiary language targeting the LGBT community.”

While Parkfield is an academy, not a local authority school, Mr Cotton said the council was monitoring the situation.

Neither the school nor the protesting group, which includes parents of pupils, wished to comment.

Brendan O’Neill (Spiked)  backs the parents:

Those Birmingham parents are right

Teaching primary-age schoolkids about sexual matters is weird.

When it comes to moral and religious matters, parents should exercise the greater authority over their children. It is crucial for the sovereignty of the family and the rights of parents that their moral purview is not casually traduced by officials who presume to know better.

Reports indicate that other ‘conservative’ (that is, reactionary) religious groups are following these protests. It is suggested that they may follow suite.

This is strongly reminiscent of similar protests in France against the teaching of equality in schools, claimed to be the “Théorie” du genre ” which includes  LGBT (Lesbiennes, Gays, Bi et Trans ).

During 2014 the Catholic Far-right and Muslim ‘conservatives’ (that is, the Muslim far-right) joined forces (as they had done against Gay marriage) and organised,by parents, boycotts of schools: “Théorie” du genre : quand extrême droite et musulmans conservateurs font alliance)

Here is an article about one of the founder of this movement.

Gender theory and school boycott (Parents. 2018) Bientôt ou déjà parents, on vous accompagne !

.. …Farida Belghoul, writer and filmmaker, was a leading figure of the anti-racist March of the Beurs of 1984. The present movement is part of the vast constellation of very conservative family associations, fundamentalists and / or extreme right. In a press release, Farida Belghoul urged her supporters to contact representatives of the anti-gay marriage Manif our tous, the association Equality and Reconciliation (whose president is the Holocaust denier Alain Soral), the French Spring (far right), Action française. … In the texts available on the official website of the JRE, Farida Belghoul gives the appearance of reason and moderation. But Farida Belghoul develops an approach which draws both on theories of conspiracy (Masonic), millenarianism and “declinism”, and focuses on a grand alliance between Muslims and Catholics against the spirit of the Enlightenment.

The campaign continues (2018, see first image here, which focuses on LGBT).

Written by Andrew Coates

March 9, 2019 at 2:37 pm

Yazdis March in Iraq for International Women’s Day: Honour to Nadia Murad!

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ISIS militants overran Nadia Murad’s village in northern Iraq when she was just a high school student. In 2018 the 25-year-old became a joint winner of the Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict.

She shared the honor with Denis Mukwege, a doctor who has worked to treat thousands of women and girls affected by rape and sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Unlike some previous winners of the prestigious award, such as Nelson Mandela or Malala Yousafzai, Murad isn’t a global household name. But she’s become an increasingly high-profile voice. She has used her traumatic experience — kidnapped, enslaved and raped by ISIS fighters — to become an advocate for the Yazidi minority in Iraq and to fight for the rights of women and refugees.

The Nobel committee chair said Murad had “shown uncommon courage in recounting her own sufferings and speaking up on behalf of other victims.”

CNN. International Women’s Day.

 

Liberated Yazidi women burn their veils as Islamic State crumbles

As she emerged from five years captivity inside the Islamic State, Barfe Khalaf Farho wanted one thing more than anything else: fire.

The 26-year-old Yazidi had been forced to wear a niqab every day of her slavery in the homes of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) fighters and their wives.

So when she reached the Western-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) last week the first thing she did was tear off her veil and set it aflame. The Kurdish fighters cheered her on as the black garment twisted in the fire.

Read the, highly recommended, Nadia Murad: The Last Girl: My Story of Captivity, and My Fight Against the Islamic State.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

March 8, 2019 at 11:46 am

Top Oxford Don and Islamic Scholar Tariq Ramadan had Sexual Relations with Minors in Switzerland.

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jacket, Islamic Ethics

A Very Short Book Indeed.

Oxford Don Tariq Ramadan is in the news again today.

Affaire Ramadan : en Suisse et au Qatar, de gros revers pour le théologien

Libération reports,

In Geneva, an official report confirms his inappropriate behaviour with former students, while in Doha, a former relative asks Muslims to stop supporting him because of his proven double life…

Tariq Ramadan made sexual suggestion to at least three of his underage students in the years 1986, 87, 89, reads in this report that Libération was able to consult. A very charismatic French teacher from 1984 to 2004 in various schools in Geneva, he used to invite students to the restaurant, and accompanied by them by car. At their September hearing five of them reported similar facts.

In Qatar (the country which is the source of funds for his Oxford post) Mohamed el-Moctar al-Shinqiti, a political analyst and well-known commentator on Al Jazeera, published a text on his blog calling on Muslims to stop supporting Tariq Ramadan, a “sex addict who despised those he abused and uses lies to mislead Muslims.” 

 

Investigations uncover Banna’s grandson’s sexual relations with minors

According to a secret investigation issued by the Swiss State Council on October 31, Islamic scholar Tariq Ramadan faced new charges of having sexual relationships with minors in Switzerland, French L’OBS website reported Tuesday, Nov. 27.

Ramadan is the grandson of Hassan el-Banna, the founder of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood.

The investigation revealed that Ramadan tried to seduce a 14-year-old girl but did not succeed. He also had consensual sex with three female students aged between 15 and 18. These incidents took place from 1980 to 1990, when Ramadan taught French and philosophy in two schools (the secondary school of Susie and the middle school of Kudri).

It is noteworthy that the Islamic scholar confessed on Nov. 18 to having a consensual sexual relationship with one of the women who sued him for rape, according to French news source Europe 1.

Ramadan’s lawyer Emmanuel Marsigny stated that the scholar will talk in front of the judiciary about the relationship that he had with one of the women suing him.
Up until now, four women in France and Switzerland have filed lawsuits against Ramadan accusing him of sexual assault.

Ramadan denied having any relations with the first two women who accused him of rape. But when confronted with the third woman, he admitted having a consensual sexual relation with her.

Marie, Ramadan’s third plaintiff, also provided investigators with a dress allegedly having Ramadan’s semen on it. The tests are still underway to specify if there is correlation between DNA samples. The French police detained Ramadan in January, a legal source said.

In June this year, Ken Loach, Yvonne Ridley and Peter Oborne, the Canadian one-time New Leftist Charles Taylor, and a host of Oxford Academics, and others across the world, signed a Petition in support of Ramadan (here)

It is not known if he still retains his Oxford link.

Written by Andrew Coates

November 29, 2018 at 2:09 pm

Tariq Ramadan, admits to “Lying” in defending himself against Rape Allegations.

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Tariq Ramadan” «Désolé pour ma ‘violence’»: Sorry for my ‘violence’.(le Soir)

On the 25th of July prominent figures backed this campaign for Islamist Scholar Tariq Ramandan.

JOURNALISTS, ACADEMICS, FILMMAKERS EXPRESS OUTRAGE AT TARIQ RAMADAN’S UNJUST TREATMENT BY FRENCH JUDICIARY

We wish to remind the country that affirmed the inalienability of human rights and equality, the importance of respecting principles that ensure the integrity of French justice.”

The letter also expresses deep concern with the inhuman treatment that Tariq Ramadan has been subject to at the hands of French justice.

The signatories conclude by asking, “We ask our French friends: should it truly come to this?

They included:

Ken Loach, UK, Dr Norman Finkelstein, USA, Noam Chomsky, USA, Peter Oborne, London, UK, The Rt Revd Dr Rowan Williams, Cambridge, UK, Yvonne Ridley, Scotland, UK, Baroness Uddin, Charles Taylor, Montreal, Canada, Houria Bouteldja, Paris, France, Karen Armstrong, London, UK.

Now Ramadan has changed his story and admitted to lying.

Leading Islamic scholar Tariq Ramadan, charged with raping two women in France, claimed Monday that he had consensual sex with both of them after previously denying any physical contact.

France 24.

Ramadan, a well-known TV commentator, has strongly denied accusations that he raped the women in hotel rooms as an attempted smear by his opponents.

His lawyer Emmanuel Marsigny said the Swiss academic had changed his account of what happened on the basis of text messages that have emerged between him and his two accusers.

The messages “show that the plaintiffs lied and that the sexual encounters were wanted, consensual and even sought again afterwards”, Marsigny said.

The unearthing of these messages “has allowed him to acknowledge that he had sexual relations” with the women, Marsigny said.

Ramadan, accused of raping the women in 2009 and 2012, has been in custody since February 2.

He previously insisted he had no sexual contact with his two accusers, feminist activist Henda Ayari and a disabled woman known in media reports as “Christelle”.

Ramadan was a professor at Oxford University until he was forced to take leave when the rape allegations surfaced at the height of the “Me Too” movement late  last year.

The married father of four, whose grandfather founded Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, has repeatedly sought bail arguing that being in prison is making it difficult to treat his multiple sclerosis.

The courts have so far rejected his requests, ruling that he can receive adequate treatment in the prison hospital at Fresnes in the southern Paris suburbs.

Last month a computer expert working on the investigation retrieved 399 text messages between Ramadan and Christelle, whom he is accused of raping in a Lyon hotel room in 2009.

The text messages detailed his violent sexual fantasies ahead of the alleged attack.

Afterwards, the records show that he wrote to her: “I sensed your unease… apologies for my ‘violence’.”

Ramadan previously claimed he was involved in a “game of seduction” with Christelle, online and on the telephone.

But he said their only face-to-face contact was a drink in the hotel bar, describing her as a “compulsive liar”.

Ramadan’s lawyers have also provided details of his exchanges with Ayari, whom he is accused of raping in a Paris hotel in 2012.

The New Straits Times  adds,

Ramadan said he had “relations akin to sex games of the submissive-dominant kind, but always in a consensual and knowing way,” his lawyer said.

“It has been one year now that Mr Ramadan’s defendants have been playing tricks to save his cause. But the truth is that he lied from the beginning of this case by denying he had sexual relations and that it took one year to confess,” Jonas Haddad, a lawyer for the other plantiff, Henda Ayari, told Reuters.

“Will it take him another year to confess the rest?” he said.

Ramadan’s lawyer said a series of text messages found in the two women’s mobile phones showed the relations were consensual. He filed a request for Ramadan, in custody since he was notified of the French investigation on February 2, to be freed.

Written by Andrew Coates

October 23, 2018 at 12:04 pm

Criticising the burqa means lining up with racists – says SWP.

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Defiant woman rips off her black burqa after ISIS were driven away. (Raqqa October. 2017)

The fall out from Boris Johnson’s comments on the Burka continues.

Nobody doubts that they have given the wink to the far-right and legitimised prejudiced diatribes against ‘Muslims’.

But there is also a pro-body veil reaction from some quarters.

Liberal people who (as a Facebook friend in the US remarks) are up in arms about the world imagined in The Handmaid’s Tale. But often the same individuals give weight to the idea that the religious obligations inflicted on women by this interpretation of Islam, are a choice to be celebrated.

There is talk – I thought it remained safely relegated to distant memories of courses on ‘theory’ – about the way it may free the female shape from the ‘male gaze’.

As if Islamic Law is about anything other than the behaviour of the believers in the sight of god enforced through violence if need be.

Not surprisingly the British SWP, with its long history of complicity with Islamism, has bent to this wind.

They are not trying to shout down criticisms of the burqa by linking them to the far-right.

Why criticising the burqa means lining up with racists

Boris Johnson’s attack on the burqa has left some liberals with a problem.

The article begins with this bold assertion:

“when supposed progressives criticise the burqa, it gives more credibility to the more overt Islamophobes.”

It then jumps to this statement,

Some liberals see the burqa as a reflection of sexist ideas.

They assume that women are pushed to cover themselves because female flesh has been deemed dirty or too exciting to men.

Of course there will be some Muslims who think this. But the idea is hardly Islamic—it’s deeply rooted in Western capitalist societies.

So that’s all right then.

Or not.

Think of rape trials where women are told they were “asking for it” because of what they wore. Or the Canadian cop who said that women should “avoid dressing like sluts” to escape sexual assault.

The SWP claims that

Many liberals, and right wingers, claim they want to “liberate” oppressed Muslim women who they assume have been forced to cover up.

Are they alone.

Apparently not:

We should oppose women being forced to wear coverings. And we should stand with the women in Iran who have defied the state and removed their hijabs in public, imprisoned as a result.

This is what the SWP said about these protests (4th of June):

Women are resisting the compulsory wearing of the headscarf—which is another very good thing happening at the same time.

Even women who want to wear it are saying it should be the right of women to choose.

As the left we have to support the women fighting back, and not leave the issue to the pro-imperialist right.

The problem is that the issue grabs attention in the West because it resonates with the Islamophobic representations of Iran.

The issue is being hijacked by Islamophobia by some in the media in the West.

End of story for the SWP until this week.

But its not Islam that’s at fault

But it isn’t true that Islam forces women to cover themselves. Like other religions, Islam suggests that men and women dress “modestly”. What this means is open to interpretation, which is why different Muslim women choose to wear different coverings, or none at all.

Women often say they choose to wear coverings to feel closer to Allah. It’s patronising to assume that every women who wears a hijab, niqab or burka has been told to do so by a man.

So they do it for Allah.

If religion is not a problem what is?

This also treats the main source of oppression facing Muslim women as Muslim men. In fact, the main oppressor of Muslim women is the state.

The state is of course the principal form of oppression for ‘women’: no doubt the ‘state’ has a special function in oppressing women……

Apart from wishing away decades of feminist debate about patriarchy, the family, and the old saying that the “personal is political’,

The confusion reaches its apex in confusing state legislation about the full body veil, ‘forcing’ women to give up the ” veils, headscarves or burqas  with the idea that criticising the burka is to “line up with racists”.

Socialists should defend a woman’s right to choose what she wears. That includes the right to wear a burqa—and the right not to wear one.

Forcing Muslim women to give up wearing veils, headscarves or burqas isn’t liberating, just as encouraging women to wear skimpy clothes isn’t. Instead it’s just another form of judging women on their appearance and dress, and taking control and choice away from them.

Is siding with the legislation, in say France, when it was backed by all the political parties at the time, the same as being on the same side as the ‘far right’?

Is ‘forcing’ people to not wear the oppressive full-body veil the same as “criticism”?

This argument gets nowhere.

Rather than point out that the SEP feels no compunction about lining up with the far-right over Brexit the issue at hand should be taken seriously.

This is a ‘liberal’ view  of a Muslim woman the SWP and others are trying to  shut up.

Boris Has Made it Almost Impossible for Muslims to Critique Veiling.

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown

In my view, scarves, cloaks and masks symbolise the negation of the female form, female inferiority and menace, and most troublingly, a wilful distancing from other humans in the public space.

One of Britain’s foremost scholars Ziauddin Sardar, has this to say on the controversial subject: “In a total perversion of Qur’anic advice, dressing modestly has been interpreted as dressing like a nun, covered from head to foot, showing only a woman’s face (in some circles only the eyes), wrists and feet.”

Females thus accept the burden of modesty while men do not, though both have this obligation. Millions of Muslim women do not submit to these pressures. One of them, a senior TV producer unloaded her frustrations in an email: “We came here to get away from these oppressive expectations. Britain offered hope, a place where you were protected by the law, could be educated, go out, be free. “You could make your own decisions, strive to be equal to men.

Now this freedom is crumbling away because of a few shouty, veiled women. Our voice remains unheard.”

She is right. Vast numbers of white Britons give us their support when most we need it. They did this week. We Muslims need to give a little too – abandon regressive customs and integrate for the greater good and our survival. With the hard right marching again across Europe, Muslims face an existential threat. This is no time for cultural and religious obstinacy.

These are her views (2015) in more depth:  As a Muslim woman, I see the veil as a rejection of progressive values.

They are much more materialist and historically rooted than airy abstractions about the ‘state’.

Muslim feminists of the past critiqued and repudiated the veil. One of them was a man, Qasim Amin, an Egyptian judge and philosopher, who in 1899 wrote The Liberation of Women.He was the John Stuart Mill of the Arab world. Huda Shaarawi set up the Egyptian women’s union in the early 1920s. One day in 1923, as she disembarked from a train in Cairo, she threw off her veil and claimed her right to be visible. Educated Iranian women started feminist magazines and campaigned against the veil around the same time. These pioneers have been written out of history or are dismissed as western stooges by some contemporary Muslim intellectuals.

After the transformative 60s, Muslim feminists resumed the fight for equality. European rule was over. It was time. The Moroccan academic Fatema Mernissi, Egypt’s Nawal El Saadawi and the Pakistani scholar Riffat Hassan all argued for female emancipation. They rightly saw the veil as a a tool and symbol of oppression and subservience. Mernissi’s Beyond the Veil ( 1975) is a classic text. So too El Saadawi’s The Hidden Face of Eve (1975). But more conservative Islamic tenets have taken over lands, communities, families, heads and hearts.

The promise of this version is a return to certainties and “purity” of belief, a mission backed by Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states. Deobandi revivalists, funded by Arab money, now run more mosques in Britain than any other Muslim subgroup. Women are told not to travel without male relatives, not to work, to be subservient, to veil. This movement began as a reaction against the Indian raj and mutated into a fundamentalist creed. Today their pushback against “cultural imperialism” appeals to many alienated young Muslims. And, in part, it explains the growing popularity of the hijab, jilbab and full veil .

But in the Qur’an, the veil is mostly used metaphorically to describe barriers between good and bad, believers and nonbelievers. In two verses, women are told to lower their gaze, and to cover their private parts and bosoms. Men are also instructed to lower their gaze, and to dress modestly. One verse commands the women in the prophet’s family to fully veil, partly to protect them from enemies and supplicants.

Sahar Amer, associate professor at the University of North Carolina, has studied these sacred injunctions: “[Nowhere] is the hijab used to describe, let alone prescribe, the necessity for Muslim women to wear a headscarf or any other pieces of clothing often seen covering women in Islamic countries today. Even after reading those passages dealing with the female dress code, one continues to wonder what exactly the hijab is: is it a simple scarf? A purdah? A chador? Or something else? Which parts of the body exactly is it supposed to cover? Just the hair? The hair and neck? The arms? Hands? Feet? Face? Eyes?”

 

All religions cast women as sinners and temptresses. Conservative Islam has revived the slander for our times

 

Veils, in truth, predate Islam. Zoroastrian and Byzantine upper-class ladies wore them to keep aloof from the hoi polloi. When Islam’s armies first reached Persia, they were shocked at this snobbery; then they adopted the custom they loathed; the control of women was hard-wired into their psyches.

All religions cast women as sinners and temptresses. Conservative Islam has revived the slander for our times. Women have to be sequestered or contained lest they raise male lust and cause public disorder. Some young Muslim women argue that veils liberate them from a modern culture that objectifies and sexualises females. That argument is appealing; but if credible, why would so many hijabis dress in tight jeans and clinging tops, and why would so many Muslim women flock to have liposuction or breast enhancements?

It is complicated: veils for me represent both religious arrogance and subjugation; they both desexualise and fervidly sexualise. Women are primarily seen as sexual creatures whose hair and bodies incite desire and disorder in the public space. The claim that veils protect women from lasciviousness and disrespect carries an element of self-deception. I have been at graduation ceremonies where shrouded female students have refused to shake the hand of the chancellor. Veiled women have provoked confrontations over their right to wear veils, in courts, at schools and in colleges and workplaces. But I regard their victories as a rejection of social compromise.

Written by Andrew Coates

August 21, 2018 at 12:15 pm