Mr Stuart Jefferies writes about the non- Hegelian views of Mr. Sarkozy (http://DAWN.com) pg 10 world news.Another human rights activist ,surprisingly English appeared on tv interview also thought that his statement was infringemnet on personal freedom and did nothing to help the human and particularly women's rights in France. Mr. Mark Parton,(http://partonwords.blogspot.com ) a famous radio -journalist and blogger from Canberra, Australia also took my views last week on the burka issue. This issue ironically appears to be the vanguard now in adressing secularism,muslim societies, freedom of expression and the plight of the muslim women in the world.
Mr Jeffries defends the Hegelian view that reason alone defines personal freedom and not just societal conditioning and implies it in the context of what Mr. Sarkozy said.He said that"We cannot accept to have in our country women who are prisoners behind netting, cut off from all social life,deprived of identity" and "the burka is not a sign of religion, it is a sign of subservience""It will not be welcome on the territory of France".He says that the French president is treading on the path of destroying right to choose in matters of freedom of expression , in this case, outer garment, Burka.The other English human rights worker said that in his experience such edicts did not help the victims and did nothing to improve human, particularly women's rights situations.
I believe and here comes the blasphemous words from muslim, Pakistani woman that Mr Sarkozy is Right in his thoughts but maybe the correct words are not chosen and perhaps the timing of such a staement reeks of political advantage gaining.As I answered to the radio journalist, Mr. Parton that the edict of appearing modestly in public in Islam, two ayats or verses in the Koran,to be exact came in the context of the conduct of muslim women in Mecca in those times.Both these verses exhort women to cover the heads and pull up the edge of the head cover slightly over the face so that she maybe distinguished as a muslim woman different from other non-muslims. This is done by thousands of muslim women as hijab.In those days there was a tradition that there were women slaves by arab men(non-muslim), who made them do prostitution and earn money. These slave women were publically taken as un- chastised and one way of distinguishing from them in public was the order of the hijab.The other edict is regarding taking the scarf like (Dopatta, in the subcontinent) cloth in front to cover the breasts in order to appear modest. This is not in context of public appearance but is practiced by muslim women in India, Pakistan and many other countries.When Pakistan came into bieng, the burka was taken by a few immigrant women from India and the rest as in Punjab, Baluchistan, Sindh were only wearing dopatta, the long scarf. The tradition of the face covering burka started much later on , more so after the Ziaul Haq so called Islamisation campaign, hudood ordinances, Afghan Jihad, all thanks to the tune of the fiddle of the so called liberal Americans. ( I would love Mr Jeffrey's comments on Zia ul Haq's views on Hegel and the at that time US administrations' views on that.)
It is interesting to note that Hindu women in their "Lajja" modesty also take the palloo or edge of the sari over their face and express shyness and modesty. hhTis is considered a very sweet womanly "style" expression and has nothing to do with suppression or oppression as such. ( See star plus dramas ,made in India).
Punjabis and other muslims in Pakistan were living happily in the sense that there was sectarian tolerance and women worked in fields and as teachers, nurses, doctors in the cities also. There was no problem of the burka.
Post Zia era when religious so called extremist thrust increased, the burka became more fashionable in some regions in Pakistan. Earlier it was only a few women fron religious parties like Jamat e Islami( Maulana Maudoodi's party) who were wearing burka with face covering hijab. A few other maulana's people also covered their faces.We were neither exhorted by these people to wear the burka or cover our faces.Now over the years, the extremism, intolerance, failure to respect other people's view point and respect their culture has increased and now we are seeing open threats to violence even by female activists of the jamaat to women who do not wear the burka. I am a personal witness to this where I always had avery friendly and positive interaction with even the male leaders o f the Jammat in the early 80's now I am afraid to talk to their minor female activists.
In Saudi Arabia, burka was worn almost evrywhere, many other arab countries, the burka was popular in villages mostly and the urban women were less inclined towards it.The wide gap between women wearing burka was not really one of perception as all muslim societies were tolerant towards women who were not wearing it.three things happened which almost changed the whole perception of burka. The iranian revolution, almost directly rejected the western look of a female , thanks to the US siding up with Shah and throwing away Mossadaq and the religious leadership's populrity in Iran.Now over the years , thanks to the Basij, it is again symbolising what Mr. Jeffreys would call non_Hegelian, suppression of individual freedoms.
The Saudiazation of the islamic religious scholars 'view of the Pakistani woman, which mostly spread in the Pathan population initially. These religious scholars were running seminaries and madressahs which was bieng funded by saudi money. The women in these populations were first to take this burka elment. You would be surprised that the blue colour burka worn in afghanistan is considered more islamic by many fundamentalist Pathans , naturally as they have more influence and interaction with Afghan pathans. Many of these people describe the black burka as fashionable and westernised and therefore rejected and ordered to abstain from. A particular area in Frontier was ordered by Taleban, not to wear the black un Islamic burka. The same black burka is worn by Pathan religious student population in Karachi.
The Afghan Jehad where the Islamist Mujaheddin became more popular and later were taken over by Taleban again enforced the burka as means of implementing so called Islamic edicts on a helpless women population which was aghast with poverty, death of loved ones(more than 25000 widows in Kabul alone).This enforcement of chastity on a populace who is protected by the prophet of Islam (orphans and widows) and the Koran more than anything else in the world.
The third and most important symbol of suppression of human rights and I would really like an unbiased take of a westerner on this is Israel's thrust on rejecting the muslim Palestinian identity. As the Palestinians were more suppressed in their rights , they became more expressive in their religious symbolism and as happened in post Shah Iran, women expressed by taking up the burka.
Now my input as to why I said Mr. Sarkozy was right in his ideas. I did not say he was right in his expression or articulation. I have no love for the French President, though he does epitomise a kind of high achiever. But, nevertheless,the burka in a muslim society now symbolises, subjugation of women, as most muslim countries are very bad in women 's rights obligations and justice.It does refect subjugation as the extremist movements are focussing on keeping women invisible and as recently see in Buner, a man was shot by taleban for not giving his daughter to a taleban.
It does reflect subjugation in Saudi Arabia where women are treated as second class citizens,where men and rich men at that can get away with rape and murder.Where liqour is drunk routinely but a woman is beheaded for doubt of sexual act.
It does reflect subjugation in Iran, where more than half the people on death row are children, and a sizable number are girls.Where you are muslim but if you do not side with a particular establishment or religious elitist view you are doomed.
It does reflect subjugation in Pakistan where women have only recently been given some refuge from the Draconian hudood ordinances, in which the victim of rape was put in jaila d the rapist set free for want of evidence.This country even today a woman who is raped is considered unchaste. (I will post the photo of a child who wasraped when 3 years and even her eyes were gouged out.She comes to us for rehablitation and is a living witness to this crime against humanity.)
The choice to wear a burka or not, should be upto the individual and in free societies like France, they should not express themselves as if they are subjugated. Freedom to wear Hijab is an expression of islam but burka surely not.