Monday, November 5, 2007

Why do we discriminate against veiled women?!!

TODAY....I went to a lecture given by an award-winning Egyptian journalist called Mona Al Tahawy about blogging and the way cyberspace gives women a space to express themselves to talk about my blogging experience !:) Anyways, a very brave veiled girl talked about her experience as a veiled woman in Egypt aka a MUSLIM country and how some people discriminate against her.

She inspired me to write this!(Thanks Norah and Mona!

Don't we Muslims love talking about the racist west and how the west discriminates against Muslims and look down on veiled women? I'm not denying the fact that some Westerns stereotype or even dislike Muslims but if I told you that some of us discriminate against Muslims too, are you going to agree with me?Are you trying to convince me that you never said something like " oh my god, how can she say that? She is veiled!The fact that the woman is veiled doesn't make her any less human and she is still a woman like the rest of us. What do we expect of veiled women?Muslims in the west are labeled "terrorists", "oppressed" "wife-beaters" or "backward-minded" barbarians by some non-Muslims. This is because there are ignorant people everywhere however, when the ignorance and discrimination comes from within, there is no excuse for it.

A lot of my veiled friends told me stories about discrimination against them by fellow Muslims. They are often considered dumb, uneducated, oppressed and to some extent, prudes. So, you must always watch what you are saying in front of them. I was once told by a friend in high school that she doesn't feel comfortable talking to veiled girls because she feels uncomfortable "swearing" in front of them and talking about the relationships she had.The outspoken "veiled" woman at the lecture said something like “traditional Egyptians are against us and secular ones are trying to "save us". They can't fully integrate in the liberal/more secular Egyptian society because some view the veil as an impediment to the development and modernization of Egypt. The traditional society doesn't exactly accept their presence too. Veiled women in Egypt are truly stuck in the grey area!

Why do we discriminate against them?

I'm Muslim. I'm not veiled but I think it's a personal choice and I respect the decision of women who choose to veil. I treat them as equals because they are and I don't censor myself while talking to them because I don't think that the veil suppresses their personality in anyway.

I went to the Marriot hotel on a school trip about three years ago and for some reason, my friends and I started a conversation with one of employees there. We sat down and talked as she kept pulling down her skirt. One of the guys asked her why she keeps doing that and her reply was simple yet shocking: I have to wear this short skirt to be able to work here, however, I feel very uncomfortable wearing a short skirts.So, hotels and "high-class" places require you to take off the veil and wear it in your "private" life. Of course, what would the western tourists say if they say a veiled woman working at the Marriot where they are staying for a week?

I'm sorry; I just understood why we discriminate against veiled woman. We are trying to be more democratic! Yes, the Muslim world is trying to be all democratic by making veiled women uncomfortable so they can take it off. I don't think that the veil hinders development. On the contrary, the veil is a choice and it should always be one. If a woman chooses to wear it, it's her right. Isn't it democratic to consider the veil an act stemming from freedom of choice and freedom of expression?

By looking down at "veiled" women, we are violating a basic human rights rule, freedom of religion.Finally, I don't believe that the veil is a backward thing. We can be modern and develop our societies without abandoning any cultural or religious values. Our religion and culture makes us unique and shapes our identity. We should uphold our values but at the same time, tolerate and accept other values. Isn't tolerance one of the teachings of the prophet?


Dalu said...

To be honest, I am one of those people who "Censors" herself around veiled women. :'( I always feel like I should be extra "pious" because seriously veiled girls to me are like nuns, or rather should be like nuns. And I've been gradually trying to break that habit.

I think I ended up being this way though because there has been many times where other veiled women (and other people of different religions, i.e. very strict christians) have chastised my behavior. So I'm more likely to "remember" those moments of chastisements and act "accordingly" from then on.

I mean I think I'm a "good person" but I swear a lot, I am known to hang with "no no groups" so I always feel like in the presence of people who have very clear religious beliefs...that is presented outwardly I suddenly have to "tone down" the crazy to make them uncomfortable.

And also to make myself comfortable.

Because to be seen as a "immoral" being is really not a very good feeling.

But thanks for this post, kizzie, it really makes me think

Fatemeh said...

Salaam waleykum! I have to agree with your post but also with Dalu's post. Bihejabis often get discriminated against by hejabis, and hejabis often get discriminated against by bihejabis. It works both ways.

You posted that wearing a veil is the right to religious freedom. We have a post that deals with hejab as women's rights, rather than religious rights; check it out!

Dalu said...

"that is presented outwardly I suddenly have to "tone down" the crazy to make them uncomfortable."

I meant to make them COMFORTABLE, not uncomfortable. :'\ sorry. i was typing in a hurry before class.

Crushed said...

We had a furore here when Jack Straw (a leading minister) stoked Islamophobia by coming out against the veil.

Thst this should come from a Socialist was pretty shocking and shows how our government is prepared to use mass hysteria for their own ends.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Very interesting post, Kizzie and thank you for this insight. As long as the veil is a choice, I don't see a problem with it. I can see that Egyptian women just can't win in current circumstances and that is shocking about the girl at the Marriott. - There is nothing "modern" or "civilised" about employers who require that.

lady macleod said...

interesting view point.

fake consultant said...

might i also suggest that one of the challenges here is the assumption that veiled women are going to be especially conservative, as dalu as commented above.

living outside of a muslim society i have to ask if the degree of discrimination increases with the degree of modesty a woman presents-or are all veiled women treated more or less equally?

i also note with great interest the observation that no one wants to be thought of as an immoral person...and i was struck by how much that means in some parts of the u.s. as compared to others.

i don't live in fear of being thought of that way, but i can think of communities here where such a fear would be significant.

perhaps some of this is due to our habit of living as "scattered" families (often moving across country), rather than living together multigenerationally and all in the same house or neighborhood or even town.

Anonymous said...

Amazing, I've finally found where all the Sudanese bloggers are!

I'm muhajaba myself and seriously, just because I make it very clear that I don't approve of swearing or dirty talk people seem to cross me off this invisible list of 'people who it's okay to talk to'. Recently I told my friend that they seem to think that because I'm muhajaba and a bit religious that automatically makes me Ansar Sunna and boring.