By Latheef Farook
(February 15, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) Islamophobia, unleashed with all its ferocity and viciousness under the pretext of fighting a so called war on terrorismby Israel and obediently implemented in the aftermath of the 9/11 by warmongers in Washington, London and Paris is pushing the west especially Europe back into Dark Ages.
Barely two months after peaceful Switzerland voted in a shameful referendum on 31 October 2009 to ban the construction of Minarets, a parliamentary commission in France has recommended that “niqab”, full body veil covering face, be banned from all public places. This ranges from schools, hospitals and public transport to post offices besides refusing residence cards and citizenship.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy whose animosity towards Muslims is common knowledge has been the prime mover behind this hate campaign which, according to analysts, was aimed at diverting the public attention from the problems his government faces.Earlier describing Niqab and Burqa as “un-French” fun loving Sarkozy said the full-length dress was an "unacceptable" challenge to French values. Thus he called Islamic face veils a sign of subservience, debasement that imprisons women and it will not be welcome in France.
Some aligned to Sarkozy’s far rightwing ideology tried to portray the veil as a gateway to extremism, an insult to gender equality and an offense to France's secular foundation.For example inflaming the hate campaign Andre Gerin, chairman of the parliamentary commission which probed into the issue of niqab and hijab, said niqab is only tip of the iceberg as there are scandalous practices hidden behind this veil”.
However the commission has rejected the demand for an outright ban as it might be declared unconstitutional under French and European laws.
Commenting on Sarkozy’s move to ban niqab columnists Antoine Lerougetel and Alex Lantier stated on 15 January 2010 that; the growing consensus in France’s political establishment around a law to ban the burqa has broad and ominous implications. Presented in defiance of public opinion and disregarding constitutional objections, preparations to institutionalize state discrimination against forms of Muslim religious expression marks a turn towards overtly anti-democratic forms of rule.
This particular form of Muslim-baiting was employed by Sarkozy’s predecessor, President Jacques Chirac (UMP) in 2003, when he banned the Muslim veil or headscarf in public schools in 2004. This found broad support in the political establishment and the measure was largely intended to confuse and divide the working class, and particularly teachers, who had mounted a major strike against pension cuts in the spring of 2003.
Your browser may not support display of this image. They added that the witch-hunting of immigrants is, moreover, a pan-European phenomenon. It is expressed in the Swiss referendum banning the construction of minarets, Islamophobic pronouncements by leading figures in Germany such as Thilo Sarrazin, and this month’s assault on migrant workers in the Italian region of Calabria, organized by the mafia, the state and right-wing politicians.
One should not forget that the political, economic, media and other such establishments in France, as in the case of US and UK, have been under the control of Jews whom many Muslims presume as the architects of the current anti Muslim campaign aimed at destroying Muslim countries and gaining global control. Therefore the move to ban Niqab is not something unexpected from Sarkozy who is himself of Jewish ancestry and whose son is married to a Jewess.
In raising such burning issues Sarkozy was well aware the regimes in the Middle East will not raise any objections other than issuing few press statements to calm and hoodwink their people and please their masters in Washington, London and Paris to ensure their survival.
In fact Sarkozy or his predecessor Jacques Chirac who vowed not to allow a Muslim country in Europe during the Serbian massacre of Bosnian Muslims, do not represent the masses in France in the same way George Bush and Barack Obama in the US and Tony Blair and Gordon Brown in UK do not represent the values of ordinary people in these two countries. They are only placed in power by forces which were behind this destructive campaign to do their dirty works.
One columnist pointed out that most French citizens, Muslims included, are for freedom - the freedom to practice their religion, the freedom to dress you want, be it in a miniskirt or a complete niqab.
On should also not forget that France was a colonial power and some French may be indifferent towards people from their former colonies though they were guaranteed of the rights and privileges enjoyed by the French population in general. However there are millions of French with open minds and the French population in general never objected to an Islamic dress covering head to feet other than the face in their cities and villages.
The problem cropped up only when a very small number of Muslim women started wearing clothes covering head to toe and that too in the all-encompassing and very noticeable niqab with which the French were quite unfamiliar with.
France has the largest Muslim population in Europe- around six million. Of this only around 1900 Muslims wear Niqab and they pose no problem to anyone or threat to French culture. These Muslim migrants are mainly from former North African French colonies such as Algeria. Morocco, Tunisia and the like. Some of them belong to third and fourth generations .Over the years they have absorbed themselves well into French society while maintaining their religious and cultural identity.
As the birth place of Jesus the Middle East has been of great interest to the French who are predominantly Christians .Therefore, despite racial tendencies, they were open to new ideas and ideologies. Many liberal French wanted to know more about the Middle East, its religion, culture, lifestyle and the like. In this regard bulk of the Muslim population failed to reach out, integrate and win their hearts and minds. Instead they lived in isolation and deprived themselves the opportunity to mix with the French population.
One commentator said “It's a security issue, it's a communication issue and it's a barrier to integration in a lot of ways. So it disadvantages those who are trying to communicate with them; those who are trying to live alongside them and those who are trying to share the same public sphere as them."
Justifying this view some Muslim commentators blamed the Muslims for not understanding the culture of their host country where people rose up in a bloody revolution, overthrew the monarch, established their own republic more than two centuries ago and triggered off a wave of political, economic and social changes. They now enjoy what they describe as the fruits of these overall changes.
On the other hand French culture and values are diametrically opposed to Islamic culture and values. They belong to a culture which in the name of art, paint women in all forms and admire. In the 1960s the French media hailed as “goddess” the French actress Brigitte Bardot who posed for semi nude and nude postures.
Under such circumstances it is common knowledge that Niqab which most of them cannot understand is bound to create some misunderstandings in the host society and project Muslims in negative forms. They point out that Muslims in the western countries could avoid wearing niqab and avoid the unwanted tension it creates as there are differences of opinion among Muslims scholars on niqab.They justified their views by citing numerous traditions such as the one stating that “when a woman reaches the age of puberty, no parts of her body should be kept exposed except the face and the hands extending to the joints of the wrist”. The question is, why insist on niqab and provide the needed fodder for the anti Muslim fascist forces to demonize Islam and Muslims.
They also cited what the eminent Egyptian born scholar and thinker Syed Mutawalli ad-Darsh who served at the Islamic Cultural Centre, London, and the UK Islamic Shari’ah Council as its president and equipped with sufficient knowledge on the problems of Muslims in Europe said as early mid 1990s.
Syed Mutawalli AD-Darsh said “I disagree with the statement that niqab is a religious obligation and have been at pains to explain this from the outset. There is no hard proof in the Quran or Sunnah to that effect. In fact there were heated discussions as early as 1994 in Britain on niqab. They raised questions such as whether it is a sin of omission by not wearing it and how are they really expected to wear it on the main streets of Britain. In the Muslim world more and more women don the face veil. However their actions appeared brave, but we are not sure that these sisters have in fact a clear understanding of what is required by Islam in matters of dress. The books available said little which would help clear up the confusion. In fact it seemed that books aimed at Muslims in the West favored covering everything except the face and hands whilst books for the audiences in the Arab world and the Indian subcontinent appeared advocate niqab.
However what we need is to know about the whole question of hijab as niqab is applicable to Muslims all over as the Shariah is universal”.
They explained the fact remains that there are differences among the classical scholars of Islam as to whether or not the face is “awrah”. It is however worth remembering that these scholars refrained from denouncing those who held different views as kafirs. Human nature being what it is, different people will always choose to follow different interpretations. That is in fact a blessing of Islam”.
Realizing the explosive nature of the issue under the current tense anti Muslim atmosphere many farsighted Muslim scholars and community leaders in France warned the Muslims that hostile forces could exploit face veil to project Muslims as extremists and fanatics .
They feared that a ban on niqab and burka might alienate moderate Muslims and wanted to save the Muslim community from the potential threat. A moderate imam, Hassen Chalghoumi who publicly condemned the burka, was denounced as a "miscreant" and "apostate” and around 80 men forced their way into a prayer meeting at his mosque in Drancy, north of Paris.
Meanwhile there emerged reports that Al Qaeda threats to 'wreak dreadful revenge' on France over its plans to ban the burka coupled with legal challenges from the EU by the European Court of Human Rights made Sarkozy take a U turn on his niqab ban program. Despite the apparent softening of France’s policy towards the burka, Andre Gerin stressed the need to move ‘hand in hand’ with Muslim leaders so as to work ‘progressively’ towards a total ban.
Your browser may not support display of this image. However Paris Mosque leader Dalil Boubakeur supported the proposal for a commission, by stating that any official debate on this issue should be on the condition that they listen to what the experts on Islam had to say on the issue.'
Meanwhile Yvonne Ridley, a British journalist who converted to Islam said the French decision was "driven by Islamophobia - not the freedom or liberties of women". She said she did not know anyone who had been forced to wear the niqab or burka. Some Muslims chose to wear the niqab for religious reasons - because they believed it brought them closer to their faith - she said
Then came the warning from the Catholic Church. Bishop Michel Santier, the top French Catholic official for interreligious dialogue, warned the government on Monday 1 February 2010 against banning full-face Muslim veils, insisting that France must respect the rights of its Muslims if it wanted Muslim countries to do the same for their Christian minorities. “If we want Christian minorities in Muslim majority countries to enjoy all their rights, we should in our country respect the rights of all believers to practice their faith,” said Bishop Michel Santier.
In the midst there emerged reports that Swiss politician Daniel Streich, who was behind the campaign against minarets of mosques, has embraced Islam.
During his confrontation, Streich studied the Holy Quran and started understanding Islam. He wished to be hard to Islam, but the outcome was otherwise. He is ashamed of his doings now and desires to construct the most beautiful mosque of Europe in Switzerland-of course with beautiful minarets.
He wishes to seek absolution of his sin of proliferating venom against Islam. He is thinking of a movement contrary to his previous one to promote religious tolerance and peaceful cooperative living, in spite of the fact that ban on mosques minarets has gained a legal status.
This is the greatest quality of Islam that it comes up with even greater vigour, when it is faced with confrontation. Ends
By Latheef Farook