By SAIRA KHAN
24th June 2009
Shopping in Harrods last week, I came across a group of women wearing black burkhas, browsing the latest designs in the fashion department.
The irony of the situation was almost laughable. Here was a group of affluent women window shopping for designs that they would never once be able to wear in public.
Yet it's a sight that's becoming more and more commonplace. In hardline Muslim communities right across Britain, the burkha and hijab - the Muslim headscarf - are becoming the norm.
In the predominantly Muslim enclaves of Derby near my childhood home, you now see women hidden behind the full-length robe, their faces completely shielded from view. In London, I see an increasing number of young girls, aged four and five, being made to wear the hijab to school.
Shockingly, the Dickensian bone disease rickets has reemerged in the British Muslim community because women are not getting enough vital vitamin D from sunlight because they are being consigned to life under a shroud.
Thanks to fundamentalist Muslims and 'hate' preachers working in Britain, the veiling of women is suddenly all-pervasive and promoted as a basic religious right. We are led to believe that we must live with this in the name of 'tolerance'.
And yet, as a British Muslim woman, I abhor the practice and am calling on the Government to follow the lead of French President Nicolas Sarkozy and ban the burkha in our country.
The veil is simply a tool of oppression which is being used to alienate and control women under the guise of religious freedom.
My parents moved here from Kashmir in the 1960s. They brought with them their faith and their traditions - but they also understood that they were starting a new life in a country where Islam was not the main religion.
My mother has always worn traditional Kashmiri clothes - the salwar kameez, a long tunic worn over trousers, and the chador, which is like a pashmina worn around the neck or over the hair.
When she found work in England, she adapted her dress without making a fuss. She is still very much a traditional Muslim woman, but she swims in a normal swimming costume and jogs in a tracksuit.
I was born in this country, and my parents' greatest desire for me was that I would integrate and take advantage of the British education system.
They wanted me to make friends at school, and be able to take part in PE lessons - not feel alienated and cut off from my peers. So at home, I wore the salwar kameez, while at school I wore a wore a typical English school uniform.
Now, to some fundamentalists, that made us not proper Muslims. Really?
I have read the Koran. Nowhere in the Koran does it state that a woman's face and body must be covered in a layer of heavy black cloth. Instead, Muslim women should dress modestly, covering their arms and legs.
Many of my adult British Muslim friends cover their heads with a headscarf - and I have no problem with that.
The burkha is an entirely different matter. It is an imported Saudi Arabian tradition, and the growing number of women veiling their faces in Britain is a sign of creeping radicalisation, which is not just regressive, it is oppressive and downright dangerous.
The burkha is an extreme practice. It is never right for a woman to hide behind a veil and shut herself off from people in the community. But it is particularly wrong in Britain, where it is alien to the mainstream culture for someone to walk around wearing a mask.
The veil restricts women. It stops them achieving their full potential in all areas of their life, and it stops them communicating. It sends out a clear message: 'I do not want to be part of your society.'
Every time the burkha is debated, Muslim fundamentalists bring out all these women who say: 'It's my choice to wear this.'
Perhaps so - but what pressures have been brought to bear on them? The reality, surely, is that a lot of women are not free to choose.
Girls as young as four are wearing the hijab to school: that is not a freely made choice. It stops them taking part in education and reaching their potential, and the idea that tiny children need to protect their modesty is abhorrent.
And behind the closed doors of some Muslim houses, countless young women are told to wear the hijab and the veil. These are the girls who are hidden away, they are not allowed to go to university or choose who they marry. In many cases, they are kept down by the threat of violence.
The burkha is the ultimate visual symbol of female oppression. It is the weapon of radical Muslim men who want to see Sharia law on Britain's streets, and would love women to be hidden, unseen and unheard. It is totally out of place in a civilised country.
Precisely because it is impossible to distinguish between the woman who is choosing to wear a burkha and the girl who has been forced to cover herself and live behind a veil, I believe it should be banned.
French President Sarkozy has backed moves to outlaw burkhas in France
President Sarkozy is absolutely right to say: 'If you want to live here, live like us.'
He went on to say that the burkha is not a religious sign, 'it's a sign of subservience, a sign of debasement... In our country, we cannot accept that women be prisoners behind a screen, cut off from all social life, deprived of all identity.'
So what should we do in Britain? For decades, Muslim fundamentalists, using the human rights laws, have been allowed to get their own way.
It is time for ministers and ordinary British Muslims to say, 'Enough is enough'. For the sake of women and children, the Government must ban the wearing of the hijab in school and the burkha in public places.
To do so is not racist, as extremists would have us believe. After all, when I go to Pakistan or Middle Eastern countries, I respect the way they live.
Two years ago, I wore a burkha for the first time for a television programme. It was the most horrid experience. It restricted the way I walked, what I saw, and how I interacted with the world.
It took away my personality. I felt alienated and like a freak. It was hot and uncomfortable, and I was unable to see behind me, exchange a smile with people, or shake hands.
If I had been forced to wear a veil, I would certainly not be free to write this article. Nor would I have run a marathon, become an aerobics teacher or set up a business.
We must unite against the radical Muslim men who love to control women.
My message to those Muslims who want to live in a Talibanised society, and turn their face against Britain, is this: 'If you don't like living here and don't want to integrate, then what the hell are you doing here? Why don't you just go and live in an Islamic country?
Source: Daily Mail, London
URL of this page: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-society/why-i,-as-a-british-muslim-woman,-want-the-burqa-banned-from-our-streets/d/1548
to Sultan Shahin Editor@NewAgeIslam.com
date 15 July 2009 08:51
An article from 18 months ago, in an Irish publication.
Ashok Chowgule, Vice President, Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP)
I have no respect or tolerance for Sharia
By Ian O'Doherty
December 03 2007
So the story gets more interesting. The so-called "Qatif Girl", the truly heroic woman who now faces 200 lashes after being gang-raped had more than just the authorities of this savage kingdom to worry about --
it has recently emerged that her own brother tried to kill her when he realised she had been repeatedly violated.
Here in the West, if a brother discovers his sister has just been gang-raped he will have murder on his mind, for sure, but it would be directed towards those responsible, not his sister.
But in the twisted world of male Islamic pride, the poor girl who had been through an experience so traumatic that it is actually impossible to even contemplate, the family's spurious "honour" maintained precedence.
Although a world where "honour" consists of killing a rape victim is a world where "honour" has a very different meaning from how we understand it.
And that sense of honour being besmirched is what has driven those charming Sudanese chaps to go completely mental at the "leniency" shown to Gillian Gibbons.
Once their Friday prayers to the most merciful Allah were over, they spent the day demanding that the woman -- who was surely misguided in going to such a backwards hell-hole in the first place -- be executed by firing squad.
But what has been particularly nauseating has been the British government's handling of the affair. According to the Foreign Office, they were "very disappointed" at the verdict.
Really? Why didn't they simply say that the next aid bundle to Sudan, worth nearly £200m, was off the table and if anything further happened to the woman then crippling sanctions would be applied?
But no, instead we got a load of mealy-mouthed rubbish about how this was a localised incident, that it didn't represent Islam and hopefully we can all hold hands and sing songs around the proverbial camp fire.
But the problem is that this is representative of Islam. Anywhere in the world where Sharia law is practised, such barbaric and disgusting practises take place on a regular basis.
Don't believe me? Well, Iran has been in the news for the most recent example of a woman being sentenced to death by stoning. But they are also partial to hanging gay people and women with too much attitude.
And they quite like a bit of eye-gouging as well, when the mood takes them, such as the woman who had her eyes gouged out in a public square because she fought off a man who tried to rape her. Check that out on the internet when you fancy losing your lunch.
Or what about precious little Palestine, where 50 women have been killed by their own families this year alone, and where the beating of women who aren't sufficiently "modest" is common under the fanatics of Hamas.
Or Afghanistan, where women are routinely raped and murdered by family and strangers with impunity? Or Chechnya? Or Somalia? Or anywhere Sharia is practised.
And yet we are constantly instructed by the multicultural, liberal, chattering classes to show "respect" and "tolerance" towards Muslims who want to practise their cultural heritage in Western countries.
Well, you know what? I don't have any respect or tolerance for not just the actions, but also the mentality.
And before you start to think that this is something that is happening thousands of miles away, refer yourself back to the case of Birmingham woman Banaz Mahmoud, who was kidnapped, raped and tortured by her uncles last year before being killed and buried in a suitcase. Her crime? She
had a boyfriend. She was one of at least 12 women killed by their families in Britain last year to protect their "honour".
And before we start to think that these are isolated incidents by extremists, the Muslim Council of Britain, the supposed "moderate" wing of mainstream Islam, still claim that death is too good for Salman Rushdie and they regularly rail against gays.
Oh, and for the record, 40pc of British Muslims want Sharia to be instituted in Britain. Hardly a lunatic minority, surely?
While we don't have the same sort of problems here -- yet -- we still have a situation where Ali Selim, the chief spokesman for Irish Muslims and a supposed moderate, refuses to condemn Osama bin Laden, and thinks that what goes on with those two women in Sudan and Saudi are "internal matters" and none of our business.
And, of course, anyone who writes about this is immediately accused of being Islamophobic and racist.
Well, I am Islamophobic in the sense that I'm phobic towards the notion of treating women as third-class citizens, flogging people and killing them for having an independent thought.
I'm phobic towards the idea of killing Theo Van Gogh because he made a movie they didn't like. I'm phobic towards killing a Japanese translator because he worked on the Satanic Verses.
I'm also rather phobic to the notion that the Muslim world has the right to riot and kill each other because of a few unfunny cartoons in an obscure Danish publication.
As regards the spurious accusation of racism which is bandied about against anyone who criticises Islam, let me make this clear – you cannot change the colour of your skin. Pigmentation is irrelevant. But you can dislike someone's superstition and in Islam's case, even among other superstitions, they are particularly horrible.
No, my Muslim friend, it's your religion and your Sharia law I am criticising. It has nothing to do with the colour of your skin. And you know what? In a free democracy we still have the right to say things
What Saira is saying sounds so completely right and the opposite POV appears so thoroughly wrong!
A non-Muslim saying it will always appear as Islam-bashing. However, it seems quite self-evident to most non-Muslims that the practice of the burqa (and several other radical Islamic practices) are horribly bad NOT because they offend non-Muslims, but because they keep Muslims behind the world community stepping forward into time.
Many Muslims from around the world -- including many progressive Muslims -- have become defensive about their religion and in their interaction with the non-Muslim world. It is futile to discuss who is to blame for this. The germane issue is that this defensiveness makes even some progressive Muslims support such regressive practices as the burqa in the belief that they're fighting for their right to be Muslims.
The solution lies in Muslims fighting such retrograde practices from within the Islamic Umma. And I really mean fight. Because it is clear that right now the radicals, despite their smaller numbers, are winning: all around the Muslim world, incidence of radicalization of Islam is on the rise. Progressive Muslims must galvanize themselves around such issues, one by one.
Power to Saira and her kind!