Sunday, 21 August 2016

The Burqa and The Niqab In Trinidad and Tobago

Trini Muslim Woman Speaks:
"It hurts my feelings when you treat me bad because I am a Muslim, and that's what I would like people to know. What I want to know is, how is my niqab stopping me from performing my job, how is it hindering me from executing my duties? Some people say that it is a security risk, but they must remember that there are so many things that we can do. We have families, children, lives just like everyone else. We want to get ahead in life just like everyone else. The niqab does not oppress us, our society is oppressing us." Read Full Trinidad Express Article

I am reasonably sure that nobody in Trinidad and Tobago, except maybe the mentally disturbed, would treat any Muslim woman badly simply because she is Muslim or because she wears the Burqa or Niqab.  Most people would probably react to a Muslim woman so attired with understandable suspicion and fear, just as they would to any masked individual whom they cannot see or identify but who can see and identify them in this time of brutal, indiscriminate and random crime, a lot of it committed in the name of Allah by Islamic radicals. Muslim women need to understand that as also the Muslim men who insist that their women dress like that.

Let me preface the rest of this post by saying that I have absolutely nothing against Muslims. In fact, I am a sympathizer with the international Muslim cause that seeks to oppose, combat and reverse Israel's genocidal campaign against the Palestinian People. I am morally opposed to the Israeli agenda to establish Jewish hegemony in Palestine and Israeli dominance in the Middle East generally.

My moral support for the Muslim cause allows me to view the anti American forays of Islamic freedom fighters and their bloody consequences with detachment and little (if any) sympathy for American and Jewish casualties. It is massive American military aid, after all, and unconscionable American foreign policy that created and support the Jewish Goliath with its ravaging war machine that is responsible for the systematic decimation of the Palestinian People and the Palestinian holocaust that we are witnessing today at the hands of modern day Jewish Hitlers.

The genocidal Jewish maniacs who rule Israel with full American support are strangers to the language of brotherly love and peaceful coexistence. They understand and speak only the language of violence and destruction so it is on those extreme terms that Islamic freedom fighters, suicide bombers and other 'jihadists' must, of necessity, engage them.

Having digressed considerably to establish my support for and goodwill towards Muslims generally, I now get back to topic.

I am not versed in Islam, I know absolutely nothing about the Quran and its many injunctions so I am not about to approach the topic of "The Veil" from an Islamic or religious perspective but from a simple, realistic point of view regarding its use in Trinidad and Tobago, and nowhere else.

Here in Trinidad and Tobago our entire population is guaranteed the full protection of the Constitution and the Law, regardless of race, colour or religious belief. Our minority Muslim community enjoys the love, trust and goodwill of the rest of the national community, notwithstanding the violent and bloody breach of our democracy at the hands of a band of Muslim insurrectionists on July 27th, 1990 and other threats of destruction and anarchy continually posed by other Muslim extremists scattered across the country.

While we all have rights, Muslims no less than any other group, even the radicals whose treasonous intentions continue to cast an ominous shadow over our Nation's democracy, we all also have responsibilities, again Muslims no less than any other group.

We are of the view - given the historical fact of anti democratic Muslim threats and attacks against the State, albeit at the hands of a relatively small sub-grouping - that it is incumbent upon the Muslim Community in general, but particularly the peace loving ones, to demonstrate a greater degree of sensitivity to the fear that still fills the heart of many as a result of the actions of their less peace loving Muslim brothers and sisters.

Also, Muslims cannot be insensitive to the fact that we live in an increasingly fearful, distrustful and suspicious society. Putting aside the undemocratic actions of some Muslims, normal decent law abiding citizens, including many Muslims themselves, live in mortal everyday  fear of being attacked and robbed, kidnapped, raped, mutilated and killed by criminals. That is the reality we are dealing with in this country. We are not safe, not even in our homes, unless we choose to barricade ourselves like prisoners, and even so, many of us are slaughtered as soon as we step outside of our prison like existence.

None of us has the right, as individuals or as a community, to deliberately or even unintentionally create or contribute to fear and anxiety in the minds and hearts of others as we seek to exercise and enjoy "our" rights. But that is precisely what those masked Muslim women - and the Muslim men who insist on them dressing that way - are doing when they appear in public, their identities totally concealed.

In the prevailing atmosphere of rampant, deadly criminal activity a masked individual, whether he/she is Christian, Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, what have you, entering a taxi, bus, bank, hospital, health center, library, practically any place except his/her own home is cause for grave apprehension. No one knows for certain whether it is a legitimately dressed Muslim woman, or whether it is a male Muslim radical dressed as a Muslim Woman with arms/explosives concealed within the garb. Or, whether it is an ordinary non Muslim criminal, male or female who wishes to alter his/her real appearance to avoid recognition and identification. The apprehension is justified and understandable given the current crime situation, but the real cut-ass is the fact that we cannot identify anything about the masked individual because he/she is covered from head to toe with the exception of his/her eyes, but he/she can see everything about us and therefore can identify us at any time for murderous reprisal and retaliation.. So while I cannot see you or identify you, you can see and identify me.

But why is it that in Trinidad and Tobago - and again, ours is the only jurisdiction that we here are concerned with - it is mainly if not only a certain type of Muslim woman, the black Muslim woman who totally conceals her identity from the public? All certainly don't, and that brings us to the question of whether those who do and the men who insist that they do are really following Allah's commandment and Quranic injunction or merely following a personal whim, a personal like for personal reasons that have no legitimate Quranic basis and are nothing more than scholarly innovations and fabrications.

To shed some light on this we consulted a well known and respected Islamic Cleric and Scholar who did not hesitate to dismiss the practice of hiding the entire body except the eyes as "an attempt to correct God and improve on His merciful design". He described it as a "man made addition to the Quranic dress code for women that amounts to nothing but idol-worship and should be refused".

This scholarly gentleman provided us with some reading material on the Rules For Women's Dress Code In Islam that supports his position.

In our simplistic non Muslim layman's view, the fact that a substantial percentage of Muslim women in Islamic countries in the Middle and Far East do not dress that way, their bodies covered from head to toe, with the exception of their eyes, tells us that the practice is not based on a fundamental tenet of the religion or its religious book but stems more from tradition on which clever Islamic scholars and fundamentalists have attempted to bestow Quranic sanction.

This is Trinidad and Tobago, secular state, where every creed and race find an equal place. But the right of equality could never mean the right to cause or create unnecessary fear and anxiety in the hearts and minds of others. We should not need the Constitution to tell us that what our sense of brotherly love and humanity, and simple common sense should tell us, if not come naturally to us.

12 comments:

  1. BURKA BOMBSHELL: Muslim country to ban the veil 'because it is NOT Islamic'

    EGYPTIAN lawmakers have argued that full face veils are actually un-Islamic and even go against what the Koran advocates.

    Days after Ukip reignited calls for a ban on the burka in Britain, Egypt has now moved closer to banning the veil.

    The full-face veil has long been associated with followers of Islam and typically covers all of the wearer’s face other than their eyes.

    Egypt, a predominately Muslim country, has placed several restrictions in recent years on wearing the niqab following a sharp rise in those wearing the full veil in the last decade.

    The ban would apply in public places and government buildings.

    Leading politicians argued the full-face veil is neither an Islamic tradition, nor required in the Koran.

    Member of Parliament Amna Nosseir, also a member of Egypt's Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, revealed the niqab is instead a Jewish tradition.

    She insisted "the niqab is not an Islamic duty" and instead was "a part of Judaism".

    Wearing the niqab in public has raised concerns in the Egyptian streets

    She has argued that it is a tradition which appeared in the Arabian Peninsula prior to Islam and that a variety of Koran passages contradict its use.

    Dr Nosseir added that while the Koran calls for modest clothing and for women to cover their hair, the holy book does not ask for women to cover their faces.

    She said: “We seek to spread moderate Islam. Wearing the niqab in public has raised concerns in the Egyptian streets in view of the hard circumstances the country is undergoing.”

    Egypt, a predominately Muslim country, has placed several restrictions on wearing the niqab

    Parliamentarians in the Egypt Support Coalition, loyal to President Abdul Fattah Al Sissi, said the push for a ban is also based on religious and security grounds.

    Concerns over security have followed a rise in militant attacks from Islamic extremists in recent months.

    Alaa Abdul Moneim, a spokesman for the Egypt Support Coalition, defended the alliance’s anti-niqab move.

    He said: "We are seeking to prohibit the appearance of masked faces in public."

    The latest legislation follows a ban at Egypt's premier public university, Cairo University on academic staff from wearing the niqab in classrooms in response to complaints it was too difficult to communicate with students.

    In January this year a court upheld the university’s ban.

    The University also banned nurses and doctors from wearing it in medical schools and in teaching hospitals, arguing the ban would “protect patients’ rights and interests.”

    During the national election in October last year, women wearing niqab were told they needed to remove the full veil if they wished to vote, in order to be identified.

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  2. Face Coverings In Islamic Countries

    Let's take a look at the laws and obligations of face coverings in Islamic countries because in some Muslim countries face coverings, even head scarves, are banned.

    To revisit briefly.

    BURQA: The burqa is the full body covering, head to toe. That means the eyes, too, with a mesh for seeing.

    NIQAB: The niqab (usually worn with a body covering called an abaya) is also a cloth facial covering, with only the eyes visible (often misunderstood as being the burqa).

    HIJAB: The hijab is a modest veil that covers (around) the head and chest. It doesn't cover the face.

    The burqa's true origin is cultural, not religious. It stems from the Bedouin desert tribes and was designed to protect them from the harsh desert sun and sandstorms. ('Bedouin' derives from the Arabic word 'Bedu' - 'the desert dwellers')

    ISLAMIC DRESS CODES IN ISLAMIC COUNTRIES:

    MALAYSIA
    In Malaysia, Islam is followed by 61.3% of the population. Although head scarves are permitted in government institutions, public servants are forbidden from wearing either the burqa or the niqab. A judgment from the then-Supreme Court of Malaysia cites that the niqab, or purdah, "has nothing to do with (a woman's) constitutional right to profess and practise her Muslim religion", because Islam does not make it obligatory to cover the face.

    TUNISIA
    In Tunisia, Islam is the religion of 98% of the population, with the majority being Sunnis. In 1981 Tunisia banned women from wearing Islamic dress, including headscarves, in schools and State offices. The ban was largely ignored until 2006 when the government cracked down on those wearing the hijab in an attempt to deter extremism.

    TURKEY
    In Turkey 98% of the population is Muslim, restrictions on wearing the headscarf in State institutions were in place for decades but were relaxed last year to allow Turkish women who want to wear the hijab (the traditional Islamic headscarf covering the head and hair, but not the face) to civil service jobs and government offices. The ban was lifted to address concerns that the ban was discouraging women who wear it from seeking government jobs or higher education.

    MOROCCO
    In Morocco where 98% of the population is Muslim (mostly Sunni) there has been some restriction or discrimination against women who wear the hijab. The hijab in these cases is seen as a sign of political Islam or 'fundamentalism' against the secular government.

    SYRIA
    In Syria, 87% of the population are Muslim. Syria is a constitutional secular State and discourages the wearing of traditional hijab. Ghiyath Barakat, Syria's minister of higher education, announced that the government would ban students, teachers and staff from covering their faces at universities, stating that the veils ran counter to secular and academic principles of the country. Among the prohibited garments would be the niqab, but not the hijab or related garments that do not cover the entire face.

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  3. Continued From above

    Face Coverings in Islamic Countries

    AFGHANISTAN
    Islam is the official State religion of Afghanistan, with approximately 99.7% of the Afghan population being Muslim. Under the Taliban, the burqa was obligatory. While this is officially no longer the case, there remains intense social pressure to wear the burqa, and ex-President Hamid Karzai has been accused by critics of compromising women's rights in order to appease insurgents. The full Afghan chadri covers the wearer's entire face except for a small region about the eyes, which is covered by a concealing net or grille. Before the Taliban took power in Afghanistan, the chadri was infrequently worn in cities. While they were in power, the Taliban required the wearing of a chadri in public. Officially, it is not required under the present Afghan regime, but local warlords still enforce it in southern Afghanistan. The chadri's use in the remainder of Afghanistan is variable and is observed to be gradually declining in Kabul. Due to political instability in these areas, women who might not otherwise be inclined to wear the chadri must do so as a matter of personal safety.

    BANGLADESH
    In Bangladesh, 90.4% of the population is Muslim (4th largest Muslim population in the world). There are no laws requiring women to cover their heads. Hijabs are mostly worn by women in rural areas, and a few in urban areas, but in recent times there has been an increase in the number of women wearing the head scarf. Since the secular party Awami League was elected to power in 2008, there has been an increase in repression against women who wear the hijab, reports of women being harassed, detained or dismissed from student dorms are many. Hijab is seen as a symbol of Islam, and the repression against it by the government is due to its vision of creating a secular Bangladesh

    EGYPT
    Islam comprises 94.7% of the population. In 1923, Hoda Shaarawi made history when, while waiting for the Press, she removed her veil in a symbolic act of liberation. The veil gradually disappeared in the following decades, so much so that by 1958 an article by the United Press (UP) stated that "the veil is unknown here." However, the veil has been having a resurgence since the 1970s. Small numbers of people wear the niqab. The secular government does not encourage women to wear it, fearing it will present an Islamic extremist political opposition. Many 'elite' Egyptians are opposed to the hijab, believing it harms secularism. By 2012 some businesses established bans on veils, and Egyptian elites supported these bans.

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  4. Continued from Above

    Face Covering In Islamic Countries

    INDONESIA
    Indonesia has the largest Muslim population in the world, with approximately 202.9 million identified as Muslim (88.2% of Indonesia's total population of 237 million). Under Indonesian National and Regional Law, female head-covering is entirely optional and not obligatory. The hijab is a relatively new phenomenon in Indonesia. Even before Western influence, most Indonesian women (especially Javanese) rarely covered their hair except when praying, and even then the hair was only loosely covered by a transparent cloth. Some women may choose to wear a headscarf to be more "formal" or "religious", such as the jilbab or kerudung (a native tailored veil with a small, stiff visor). Culturally, to the Javanese majority, the Saudi-style hijab and niqab are considered vulgar, low-class and a faux pas.

    INDIA
    Islam is the second-largest religion in India, making up 15% of the country's population with about 180 million adherents. Among the Muslim population in India, the burqa is common in many areas of old Delhi. In the locale of Nizamuddin Basti, the obligation of a woman to wear a burqa is dependent on her age: Young or unmarried or women in their first years of marriage are required to wear the burqa. However, after a certain time the husband usually decides if his wife should continue to wear a burqa.

    IRAN
    In Iran, 98% of the population is Muslim. Niqabs and burqas are rare in Iran, limited mostly in small Arab and Afghan communities in the south east. Currently based on article 638 of Islamic Penal Code of the Islamic Republic of Iran "Women, who appear in public places and roads without wearing an Islamic hijab, shall be sentenced from to ten days to two months’ imprisonment or a fine of up to 5,500 Rials.

    JORDAN
    In Jordan 92% of the population is Sunni Islam. There are no laws requiring the wearing of head scarves nor any banning of such from any public institution. The use of the head scarf increased during the 1980s. However, the use of the head scarf is generally prevalent among the lower and lower middle classes. Veils covering the face are rare. The hijab is increasingly becoming more of a fashion statement in Jordan, not a religious one, with Jordanian women wearing colorful, stylish head scarves along with western style clothing.

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  5. Continued From Above

    Face Coverings In Islamic Countries

    SAUDI ARABIA
    Islam is the State religion of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which is sometimes called the "home of Islam" and is the location of the cities of Mecca and Medina, where Mohammed, the messenger of the Islamic faith, lived and died, and which attracts millions of Muslim pilgrims annually, and thousands of clerics and students who come from across the Muslim world to study. Saudi Arabia is the birthplace of the Arabic language, the language of the Quran, the central religious text of Islam. According to most Saudi scholars, a woman's awrah (most intimate parts) should not be seen in front of unrelated men so her entire body including her face and hands must be covered. Saudi women are expected to cover their faces in public. But there are many Muslim women, including Saudis, who only wear a headscarf without the niqab, similarly most non-Muslim women wear only a head scarf or no face covering at all.

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  6. PAKISTAN
    97% of Pakistani is Muslim. In Pakistan, the use of the burqa is primarily predominant in Pashtun territories along the border areas, and to a great extent in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan. However, in the remaining majority of the country, its use has greatly declined over time. However, the burqa observance remain localised and most women who wear the burqa within these areas, do not do so when they travel out of the area. Most women wearing the ?ij?b do so as their own choice. In Pakistan, most women wear the Shalwar Kameez, a tunic top and baggy trouser set which covers their arms, legs and body. A loose dupatta scarf is worn around the shoulders, upper chest and head since showing one's hair is considered rude and in bad taste. Women are expected to wear a veil in public. The ?ij?b together is becoming unpopular among the younger generation. Westerners are also expected to dress modestly too. Pakistani society observes traditional dress and it is advisable for women to wear long skirts, baggy trousers and long sleeved tops in public. In the big cities, some women wear jeans and khakis, especially in casual settings, shopping malls and around picnics pots. Vest tops, bikinis and mini skirts in public are considered immodest and are socially taboo. Dress codes for men are more lax, although shorts are rarely seen.

    ReplyDelete
  7. PAKISTAN
    97% of Pakistani is Muslim. In Pakistan, the use of the burqa is primarily predominant in Pashtun territories along the border areas, and to a great extent in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan. However, in the remaining majority of the country, its use has greatly declined over time. However, the burqa observance remain localised and most women who wear the burqa within these areas, do not do so when they travel out of the area. Most women wearing the ?ij?b do so as their own choice. In Pakistan, most women wear the Shalwar Kameez, a tunic top and baggy trouser set which covers their arms, legs and body. A loose dupatta scarf is worn around the shoulders, upper chest and head since showing one's hair is considered rude and in bad taste. Women are expected to wear a veil in public. The ?ij?b together is becoming unpopular among the younger generation. Westerners are also expected to dress modestly too. Pakistani society observes traditional dress and it is advisable for women to wear long skirts, baggy trousers and long sleeved tops in public. In the big cities, some women wear jeans and khakis, especially in casual settings, shopping malls and around picnics pots. Vest tops, bikinis and mini skirts in public are considered immodest and are socially taboo. Dress codes for men are more lax, although shorts are rarely seen.

    ReplyDelete
  8. SOMALIA
    Nearly all people in Somalia are Sunni Muslims. Young Somali women wearing the hijab during regular day-to-day activities usually wear the guntiino, a long stretch of cloth tied over the shoulder and draped around the waist. In more formal settings such as weddings or religious celebrations like Eid (the end of Ramadan) women wear the dirac, which is a long, light, diaphanous voile dress made of cotton or polyester and is worn over a full-length half-slip and a brassiere. Married women tend to sport head scarves referred to as shash, which often covers their upper bodies with a shawl known as garbasaar. Unmarried or young women, however, do not always cover their heads.

    ReplyDelete
  9. THE PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES
    Islam is a prominent religion in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank. Israel's Muslim population accounts for 16.1% of the population in the country making them the second largest religious group in Israel after the Jewish population. Most of the population in Gaza and the West Bank are Muslims (75% in the West Bank and 99% in the Gaza Strip.) Successful informal coercion of women by sectors of society to wear Islamic dress or the hijab in the Gaza Strip where Mujama' al-Islami, the predecessor of Hamas, reportedly used a mixture of consent and coercion to restore the hijab on urban educated women in Gaza in the late 1970s and 1980s. Similar behavior was displayed by Hamas during the first intifada. Hamas campaigned for the wearing of the hijab alongside other measures, including insisting women stay at home, segregation from men and the promotion of polygamy. In the course of this campaign women who chose not to wear the hijab were verbally and physically harassed, with the result that the hijab was being worn "just to avoid problems on the streets". Following the takeover of the Gaza Strip in June 2007, Hamas has attempted to implement Islamic law in the Gaza Strip, mainly at schools, institutions and courts by imposing the Islamic dress or hijab on women. Some of the Islamisation efforts met resistance. When Palestinian Supreme Court Justice Abdel Raouf Al-Halabi ordered women lawyers to wear headscarves and caftans in court, attorneys contacted satellite television stations including Al-Arabiya to protest, causing Hamas’s Justice Ministry to cancel the directive.

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    Replies
    1. These Islamic countries demonstrate at best there is a wide ranging interpretation of modest religious Islamic dress.The burqa and full face coverings are mostly rare, and even discouraged or banned in a number of Islamic countries.

      Delete
  10. Block Admin wrote:

    "In the prevailing atmosphere of rampant, deadly criminal activity a masked individual, whether he/she is Christian, Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, what have you, entering a taxi, bus, bank, hospital, health center, library, practically any place except his/her own home is cause for grave apprehension. No one knows for certain whether it is a legitimately dressed Muslim woman, or whether it is a male Muslim radical dressed as a Muslim Woman with arms/explosives concealed within the garb, or whether it is an ordinary non Muslim criminal, male or female who wishes to conceal his/her real appearance but most of all his/her identity."

    Suspect held wearing hijab

    Published: Friday, August 26, 2016


    The two other suspects involved in Wednesday’s gun attack against two off-duty police officers were arrested yesterday.

    Officers from the North Eastern Divisional Task Force held the suspects in two separate incidents.

    One of them tried to disguise himself by wearing a hijab, a headpiece worn by Muslims to conceal their face.

    Police said that suspect, a 35-year-old man of Valencia, was held hiding in some bushes suffering from gunshot injuries in Charlieville, Chaguanas. They believe he stole the Muslim wear from someone’s clothesline. He was taken to the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex, Mt Hope, to undergo emergency surgery.

    The other suspect, a Barataria man, was held soon after the gunfight with the police.

    On Wednesday around 2.30 pm, PCs Mervyn Williams and Adesh Mano were about to enter Williams’ home at Edinburgh 500, Chaguanas, when they were accosted by three suspects.

    The off-duty officers exchanged gunfire with the bandits before they escaped in a Nissan AD wagon.

    Williams was shot in the foot and taken to the Chaguanas Health Facility and then was transferred to EWMSC for treatment.

    Mano alerted his colleagues and several units responded. Police arrested the third suspect shortly after the crime near the Monroe Road Flyover after the suspects abandoned the vehicle.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Employers Allowed To Ban The Hijab, EU Court Says

    Employers are entitled to ban staff from wearing visible religious symbols, the European Union's top law court ruled on Tuesday, a decision Muslims said was a direct attack on women wearing hijabs at work.

    The European Court of Justice (ECJ) said it does not constitute "direct discrimination" if a firm has an internal rule banning the wearing of "any political, philosophical or religious sign".

    Read More

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