WHY BE AT ODDS WITH THE HEADSCARF, ASKS NAILA NEELOFAR
A sense of consciousness has dawned on the Kashmiri youth who present a variegated outlook and the same holds true for the dress code. Some boys bleach their hair and wear torn jeans to keep pace with the trend while others grow beard and keep their shalwar above ankles. Many girls and women prefer hijab and head scarf, which of course is a matter of their personal choice either by influence or conviction, the latter being the stronger. Some schools and teachers object to the wearing of hijab by female students. The headscarf has been a focus of debate at the international level, which is giving concepts like empowerment and feminism a bizarre dimension. France is the first country to impose ban on the head scarf and then on burqa in spite of having a Muslim population of about six million, the highest in Europe. The tragedy is that everything from food to clothes in the Muslim society is subjected to destructive deconstruction, perhaps for the convenient ends of the West. According to the stories carried in the Time magazine and report by NDTV many women protested in defiance of the ban. However the French President Nicolas Sarkozy and the parliament have supported a ban, claiming veils imprison women and contradict the secular values of the nation despite the fact it is a small minority, around 2000 that wear the veil who perceive the ban as a stigma against the country's second most popular religion. Many also believe that it is like forcibly being outcast from the community itself. The tragic fact remains that the veil and the headscarf have been crudely politisized in the post 9/11 world as these have been rendered as symbols of political Islam that is perceived to reflect oppression. Many educated girls and women wear niqab, as they exercise their right to be dressed in the decent way. However it doesn’t mean those who don’t wear hijab are not decent. These educated females I suppose are not Khalid Hosseni’s Mariams lashed by Talibanised Rashids , for a visible ankle in a burqa clad body. A mature educated woman can decide on her own as she is an individual in her own way. It all depends upon the perception , and the feeling to wear it should come from within, for belief to resonate with action.
The Turkish government has also banned women who wear headscarves from working in the government sector. Women who defied the ban were expelled from their respective institutions . Wearing headscarves in photos on official documents like licenses, passports, and university enrollment documents was also prohibited. Universities and schools refused registering women students unless they submit ID photographs with bared hair.
In 1999 Merve Safa Kavakçı , a Turkish politician and a visiting Professor at George Washington University was prevented from making her parliamentary oath because of her hijab, which is banned for civil servants in secular Turkey and which was much later in 2007 critised by the European Court of Human Rights as a violation of human rights. However the ban was annulled and reanulled in 2008. Now the women in universities and schools are informally permitted to wear the niqab.
One fails to understand where lies the difference between the Taliban and the so called secular governments. The former adopted their oppressive policies and the latter advocated forced freedom in the name of liberal secularism, an idea contradictory to its own foundation. Is theocratic dictatorship equally dangerous as fanatical democracy? The modern States of Kemal's Turkey, Nasser's Egypt, Baathist Syria and Iraq, also suppressed religious ideologues to impose on them concepts aimed at legitimizing the State's political motives. Should the state and the clergy be placed above the civil society? Secularism they say unites and not separates or outcasts people, spacing beliefs as strictly private. An abnormal behaviour always creates abnormal situations.
Why is the scarf deliberately being labelled a symbol of political Islam? Can’t there be an alternative reality, that of a comfort level or a trend that women would like to get identified with. Why can’t a muslim woman be just her real self either in head scarf or bare headed. Shouldn’t it be a matter of her personal choice? Convictions come from within not by force or sermonising. Moreover why do we forget that cultural nuances have strong moorings. Sikhs also wear turban which of course is their religious symbol . Hindu women put a big bindi on their foreheads which again is a religious symbol. If the world goes by these norms then Manmohan Singh should not have been the Prime Minister of India as it was a sikh who assassinated Indira Gandhi but tolerance teaches us the lessons of co-existence.
Saffron has saffronised the ideology of many people in India . The name of the journal of Shiv Sena Saamna is very outrageous. Is wearing a headscarf more dangerous than denying the student education and, therefore, stigmatizing them by facing the school management committee? By the way how are the women more empowered who make use of the company of influential men and wear tracks, jeans, shots or even bikinis more empowered than those who don’t subscribe to such kinds of clothes? Emancipation emanates from consciousness and enlightenment, not through coercion. Secular or liberal, under whatever guise it's done, force is force.
(Naila Neelofar is Academic Officer, English, J&K BOSE. The views are personal and have nothing to do with the organisation she works for.)
Lastupdate on : Thu, 12 May 2011 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Thu, 12 May 2011 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Fri, 13 May 2011 00:00:00 IST
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