Response to Imtiaz Ahmed’s article on the veil.

Tanvee

After reading the article it would seem that the veil was enforced more after the western worlds demand to abolish it.

The article at the end gives the reader a choice – that the veil is either a symbol of womens lib. or another way of replacing the eastern way of life with the western way. In which case the fact that it was infact the western way of life (represented by the western thinkers and other islamic thinkers who had become “seduced” by it) that by its disapproval forced this eastern tradition, falsely attributed to Islam alone, to become stronger, is ironical.

The article made me think, women who raise their voice against the veil in the name of women’s lib. are bound to be women who have infact rejected it. Some like Shabana Azmi, may never have faced it, but others have and still have taken this point of view. The article argues that only women who experience it have the right to decide about it not those “men and women who have already abandoned it”  Which hypocrite is likely to raise their voice to the world about the veil while infact still embracing it?

A thing like the veil may have meant several things. It may have simply been exclusive to some people, it may have been related to status, it may even have been voluntry. Today however it means such diffrent things. Regardless of what a symbol may have meant, at a given time it is often unfortunately reduced to mean the current connotations. Today the veil is highly religious. It has become iconic for Islam. The fact that many Islamic nations have made veils for women compulsory by law while no nation of any other religious affiliation has, says as much.

I am of the firm opinion that there comes a time when customs, religions and culture reach redundancy. Again, as I am often misunderstood when i make this point, this is not a value judgement. My opinion of good or bad hardly matters. What is true is that as other aspects of life and situation move on and change so must culture etc. Some systems sometimes reach their upperlimit – the harrapan way of life although great stagnated and was crushed by the aryan onslaught. Cultures can be destroyed in diffrent ways other than bloody wars. Maybe this is true for most religions and customs of the world today, including the veil. Even if you argue its original meaning of class segregation and totally disregard the “new” dimension of religion and womens suppression/oppression, it can be refuted with – there is no place for elitist traditions in the world today. Especially with the gigantic bourgoise.

(My opinions are not whole and if  i’v been unfair take me up on it, i do not mean to offend anyone. Especially piyush. joke. sorry.)

Pooja Gupta

The article once read, gets us thinking on various lines.

Firstly, it looks into who uses the veil. The article says it was first worn only by the upper class women but considering the world today it is nothing of the sort.
According to the article, the western thinkers looked at it as a symbol of oppression of women and backwardness of Islam. It is ironical to see that the veil came into resistance as a cause of those who were against the native customs and practices and what was only a form of apparel now of great symbolic significance.

The article brings about a question as to, “Whether or not a veil as a women’s apparel is relevant to women’s rights?”. Well it would make no sense for the men or women who have already abandoned to make this decision and hence the article says only those who have the experience should be allowed to make this decision.I personally think the choice should be given to a person not after they have experienced it but before. Once someone is already wearing it , they would not want to say no the veil, but we must consider the fact as of present day there a lot of people who only wear the veil on force and not by will. So it would be fine to let the decision be made by those who are experiencing it.

The questions still exists if men like Qassim Amin have themselves been patriarchal because they wanted to see the women as equals to men or they did not want to be classified as backward.I guess what is more important is what each individual believes and for what purpose he/she is wearing a veil. If a women is allowed to make her own choice regarding the veil then there would be no question of what people like Qassim Amin had in their minds.

In Islam, they have this pracitce, belief rather about dressing modestly. I’ve had various convesations with my friends about how they feel about covering themselves up all the time. To this, they say that the muslim culture does not only ask women to cover themselves up, they have various rules for men as well. In many muslim oriented countries, a man would be punished if he stared or passed a cheesy comment about any woman. It does sound very pity-ful when you see women covered up. But we need to look at both sides.Infact, a lot of the women are happy wearing the burkha.

The veil today is used for various religious purposes and it is not possible to classify it as a symbol for one particular thing.We cannot say anymore that the veil was all to disgrace women but in some places it was against women being themselves.

Saumitra

This article says that the veiling existed before islam ,the article clearly shows that the veil was not a widely spread practise. It also states that even Quran states that women should be dressed modestly. It does not mention veil as the only thing. this means that veil is not a relegious issue. Now there was some kind of instability that existed in public life of then islamic world and so that put some restriction on the women of certain class of society . This article also focuses on the gender issues that existed(exist) . When Muhammad thought that there is too much freedom his wives are experiencing then he asked them to wear a wig..that means he was quite insecure about his own age and wealth(value and people) , instead of finding solution for himself he put restriction on his wives. Then as socirty progressed and the class of people that wanted their wives to wear veil increased, they started looking at muhammad’s wives as models for ideal women. So women were expected to be ideal when men themselves were not…So this whole issue of veil became an issue with the colonial attack on the islamic world. The colonials’ attack was not on the culture , they did not intend to blast trhe practice but they just wanted to devide the society so that it is easier for them to rule the society. that means veil was just a metaphor used by colonials for their use. the article also focuses on the core issue of who decides whether women should or should not don the veil.  According to me it should be left to themselves whether or not they want to wear a veil. I know it is very subjective as there are different classes living in India alone. So some women are happy that men do not stare at them but there are women who also say that ” if i wear a burkha more people stare at me ”  . There is an interesting story …

In Mumbai where i live there is a muslim family living and there are living there for several years so i have noticed them since my child hood. The women in that family always used to wear burkha but i have never seen the girls of whatever age wearing burkha….and so when my family asked about that we were told that its about them to wear or not…

This proves very important point that not an entire religion is backward. There are many people who do not wear burkha and are not subjected to scrutiny. I also think that the perspective in which muslims are looked at should change.

the article clearly shows that the veil was not a widely spread practise.
It also states that even Quran states that women should be dressed modestly.
it does not mention veil as the only thing. this means that veil is not a relegious issue.
Now there was some kind of instability that existed in public life of then islamic world and so that put some restriction on
the womwn of certain class of society . This article also focuses on the gender issues that existed(exist) . When Muhammad thought that
there is too much freedom his wives are experiencing then he asked them to wear a wig..that means he was quite insecure
about his own age and wealth(value and people) , instead of finding solution for himself he put restriction on his wives.
Then as socirty progressed and the class of people that wanted their wives to wear veil increased, they started looking at muhammad’s
wives as models for ideal women. So women were expected to be ideal when men themselves were not…
So this whole issue of veil became an issue with the colonial attack on the islamic world. The colonials’ attack was not on the culture
they did not intend to blast trhe practice but they just wanted to devide the society so that it is easier for them to rule the society.
that means veil was just a metaphor used by colonials for their use.
the article also focuses on the core issue of who decides whether women should or should not don the veil.According to me there is no
answer to this question as there is no governing body that looks after it and i totally agree with the fact that do people who have
already dropped it and people other than muslims should have any say when it comes to this issue.

One response to “Response to Imtiaz Ahmed’s article on the veil.

  1. tanveenabar

    What i meant by – “Which hypocrite is likely to raise their voice to the world about the veil while infact still embracing it?” , was that no man or woman still subscribing to the idea of a veil would openly stand up against it – ‘be the change you wish to see’ and all that. Those afraid of repurcussion would hardly make open protests. That is not to belittle their protests – just that they would hardly bring it out in the open, giving the orthodox believers nothing to complain about. Change from within is often the best way, but the moment an insider strongly protests against a system chances are they’ll be boycotted . Making them outsiders.

    Also sure, a culture could re-emerge. So many of todays modern traditions are old ones reborn. I guess i should have mentioned that to balance all the other stuff.
    I was trying to highlight that sometimes, some things get so over used, missunderstood and stereotyped that maybe something brand new is the best way to loose these tags.
    With Islam, its not just the veil but the larger grimer tag – terrorism. As far as the rest of the world is concerned, all muslims are terrorists. Today theres an unfortunate but widespread blind hatred for all things islamic .
    What seems to be looming is a new-age crusade of sorts.

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