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French Women Ticketed For Wearing Banned Burqa and Indonesian Muslim Woman Caned For “Close Proximity”

April 12, 2011
Collection of links on Muslim Brotherhood

Image by Robert Reed Daly via Flickr

In France, it is now an offense to wear a face veil in public.  Advocates in France say that this ban reflects France’s  protection of women’s rights.  Others say that women should be allowed to wear what they want:

A woman has been ticketed in a suburban Paris shopping center for wearing a face veil, in the first reported sanction under a new ban on the garments, police said Tuesday.

Another woman in another Paris suburb was stopped for wearing a veil, but was let go with a warning…

President Nicolas Sarkozy says such veils imprison women and wanted a ban to uphold French values of equality and secularism.

A 27-year-old was stopped by police in the mall parking lot in the town of Mureaux, regional police said. She was handed a ticket that requires her to pay a euro150 ($216) fine or register for citizenship classes within a month.

Police said the exchange was brief and calm. The incident occurred Monday, the day France’s ban on veils such as the niqab and burqa came into effect.

Another woman was stopped Tuesday for wearing a veil in the Paris suburb of Saint-Denis. The 35-year-old was brought to the police station and reminded of the law, police said.

While these were the first publicly reported incidents, it was unclear how many women have been stopped so far nationwide. The French government has estimated only about 2,000 women in France wear such veils, and a few vocal wearers have said they will defy the ban.

Moderate Muslim leaders in France and elsewhere agree that Islam does not require women to cover their faces, but many are uncomfortable with banning the veil…

Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood chief Hammam Saeed said the ban “is totally contradictory to the human rights principles claimed in France.” He said in a statement that he considers the move “a new crusader behavior targeting Muslims everywhere.”

The Brotherhood’s political arm, the Islamic Action Front, is Jordan’s largest opposition group. The Brotherhood is a fiery critic of the government’s moderate policies, including close ties with the United States and diplomatic relations with Israel under a peace treaty signed in 1994. The brotherhood advocates the introduction of strict Islamic Sharia laws in Jordan.

While some advocates state that forbidding women from wearing the veils demeans a woman’s right to wear what she wants, others feel that a society that accepts women being completely covered as a means of control is complicit in attempting to control women, whether the controlling edict comes from a religious force or familial force.

In a coincidental move, perhaps, an Indonesian woman was caned for what was termed extramarital affairs, but was listed as being in close proximity to a man, which may  mean anything:

Mukhtar had been sentenced to the punishment the previous day by a Sharia court where prosecutors said that she was guilty of being in “close proximity” to another man.

The Daily Mail reports that Mukthar was one of four people, including the man she was caught with, to be caned for extramarital affairs Friday. Sharia Police are also investigating a claim that Mukhtar was molested by the crowd before they took her to be charged.

Shortly after the caning, Mukhtar passed out and had to be taken to hospital for treatment.

For those who believe that the Muslim values condone women’s rights, one might want to take a look at the other headlines which demonstrate that the Muslim religion, when used as law, openly condones publicly beating women for what is considered “close proximity.”  We also might consider this past assault on a US journalist, who was stripped and pinched by a crowd this past year.   And while the commentary I received on my blog was overall supportive of the woman, I did get some vile notes regarding Western women being “sluts” and “deserving beatings.”

For similar commentary, check out the response to the Indonesian woman’s caning:

Allah is pleased.the neighbors had every right to invade her privacy and drag her out to the see why the pure true religion of the rapist pedophile murderer slave trader covenant breaker(i know ive left out a few superlative attributes of this magnificent scam artist)founder inventor and false prophet makes Jews and Christians so jealous that their faiths arent pure and pious as muhanimalism.yes the 7th century and the pure religion of peace.just really makes a person feel unfulfilled unless you are a savage inbred small brained muhanimal.they will lead the world out of its present darkness so the light of muhanimal will shine thru peircing the void of the false god of Yaacov and the muslim Yeshua.funny how muhanimal didnt know the Hebrew name of Yeshua or His greek version Jesus and called Him isa.which i doubt translates to rahman mustve got mixed up.oh well all islam knows muhanimal wasnt just a prophet but a genius as well.lets hope indonesias light will inspire others.

Perhaps the burqa isn’t so much a sign of religious “freedom” as “religious oppression.”  Notice that the woman who was caned was wearing body coverings.  Apparently the coverings offer no protection at all to women in Indonesia…

On one hand, a Huff Post Arab-American writer (although the US does not recognize dual-citizenship) states that the West should seek compromise, because ostensibly there are dangerous Muslims out there, while at the same time, look at other Muslims and realize they are not the same, all while attempting multiculturalism:

Being part of the West, Americans should be concerned about the ramifications of this French ban on face veiling. We are still trying to get over 9/11. The recent Times Square bomb scare orchestrated by a Pakistani-American also reminds us of the never-ending threats from individuals, as well as and sleeping cells, in addition to Al-Qaeda itself.

In order for us to win the battle against radical Islam, the West needs to stick to the democratic values of liberty, equality, and freedom for all. We cannot compromise those values as a result of few militant Muslims’ manipulation of religion or use of the burqa and niqab as a cover to commit crimes. We need to build bridges with Muslim men and women by showing them our genuine embrace of multiculturalism. We need to show respect instead of condescending remarks on religious practices that we don’t buy but are considered intrinsically part of the cultural fabric of few conservative Muslims who willingly choose to follow them.

How many Muslims really choose to follow the dictates of separation of the sexes, of marking women as anonymous with body coverings, or of caning women for “close proximity”? The author of said post asks for tolerance after warning that those in the West are at risk of being bombed for not complying with radical Muslims.

While one author states that body coverings aren’t a real security risk, whole task forces in Iraq were created to deal with suicide bombings by women wearing veils and covers:

Referencing the 1966 film about the French fighting the Algerian insurgency in which veiled women are used to smuggle weapons, Jennifer Heath said: “This is like someone has figured out that we can get rid of the niqab by sort of pretending it’s going to be the Battle of Algiers again. I find it a little sensationalist.” Heath edited “The Veil: Women Writers On Its History, Lore, And Politics,” a collection of essays about veiling.

Still, during the peak of the insurgency in Iraq, the niqab became a serious issue. Many women were not thoroughly searched at checkpoints, so militants began recruiting them for suicide bombings or to smuggle weapons under their clothes. Authorities in turn began creating female police officers and a community policing organization called the Daughters of Iraq was also created to search women at checkpoints.

Whether it’s polite to acknowledge or not, full body coverings have been linked to criminal activity, and the fear that this impacts security is spreading.  Spain is entering talks of banning the burqa as well:

Spain’s government on Tuesday said it favors barring the use of burqas in government buildings, joining other European countries considering similar moves on the grounds that such garments are degrading to women.

Total body-covering Islamic veils demean women and the restriction will be included in an upcoming bill on religious issues, Justice Minister Francisco Caamano said.

The minister said garments like the burqa are “hardly compatible with human dignity” or with identifying a person in public spaces such as town halls or public schools.

“In my judgment it is extravagant for a woman to wear a burqa as it in no way reflects a religious mandate, but if a woman wants to wear one, then why shouldn’t she?” said Mansur Escudero, spokesman for Spain’s Islamic Commission

Identification of persons in public is one of the main objectives listed in banning the veil, and while many people like to believe that being in public gifts a certain right to freedom of expression, here in the States, there are limits to personal freedoms while being in public.  Nudists may not demonstrate their religious beliefs by going out in public nude.  Paparazzi may not be blocked from shooting by someone out in public.  In reality, being out “in public” confers fewer freedoms than living inside one’s home.  One is not allowed to start riots based on religious beliefs, in public.  One’s garments or lack thereof are actually generally constrained while in public.

In fact, it’s generally considered a sign of impending criminal activity, even here in the United States, to enter public areas with a face covering, like a ski mask, hats, hoods, or other forms of clothing that obstruct the view of the human face.  While there are some that decry the limiting of religious expression in public and look to the US to state that it’s a human right’s issue, they have only to look at the manner in which alternate forms of religious expression are banned in the US, hood coverings by KKK marchers, nudism by nudists, any kind of clothing that is deemed to be “soliciting,” and other limits on dress are regularly imposed in US society.  There are limits, even here, and in France, moderates are quietly discussing how this is a security issue, not just a religious issue:

In most cases, European politicians in support of banning complete facial covering avoided making religious arguments, instead arguing that clothing of any kind that hid a person’s face constituted a security threat.

“It’s understandable why some countries are not too happy with the niqab because it does not reveal the true identity of a person, the face of a person. Now whether this should be introduced as a law or not, I’m not sure,” said Moneef Zou’bi, director general of the Islamic World Academy of Science in Amman. “I think it’s a matter of choice at the end of the day.”

In France, the most recent country to ban the niqab and burqa, Jean-François Cope, the majority leader of the French National Assembly, went so far as to compare the niqab to a ski mask in an editorial piece published in The New York Times in which he defended the law…

“The visibility of the face in the public sphere has always been a public safety requirement. It was so obvious that until now it did not need to be enshrined in law,” he wrote. “But the increase in women wearing the niqab, like that of the ski mask favored by criminals, changes that. We must therefore adjust our law, without waiting for the phenomenon to spread.”

Though accepted by most Arabs, the niqab and burqa are still relatively uncommon outside the Arabian Gulf. Most Arab women tend to view such coverings as too extreme or unnecessary.

In Jordan, where only a handful of women wear such clothing, police have noted a sharp increase in the amount of crime committed by people, sometimes even men, wearing the niqab as a disguise. The number of criminals apprehended while wearing such Islamic dress climbed from a combined total of 170 in 2007 and 2008 to 104 in 2009 alone, according to police officials. Though there were a few cases of homicide, most of the incidents involved theft or other petty crimes.

While the majority of Muslim-backed writers have thus far asked for tolerance while reminding the West of terrorists (and thereby using terrorist acts to ask for tolerance or pressure for it), I have also found Muslims who state that they do understand the need for public identification, and they understand how the clothing may be abused or used to abuse.  In the case of stating that everyone should get to practice their religion publicly, the US is a poor place to cite as an example.  Defendants who pray in court are regularly removed, as are those who sing hymns.  Clothing choice is limited in public, even in places of business: “shirt and shoes required for service.”  So are actions limited in public places, making things like yelling “fire” in a theater as a joke, a criminal act.

Here are comments from the French and moderate Muslims, both found on  Huffington Post, from the same article on the French ban of the burqa in public.  Please note that the ban is just for public spaces, or those shared by other people:

A French secular perspective:

The issue on veiling in France is a dual issue. it is an issue about our (France) attachment to Republican values, the ones that cost us three bloody revolution­s, but also offered a heaven for persecuted migrants from Russia to China, and From Chile to Iran to come to our country and be treated as equal by the Republic. The other issue is about our Republican system that, since 1901 has made a clear separation between state and church. Religious values or symbols have no place in public life. Do you know why it should remain so? So a Muslim girl that wants to dress like any other French girl will live old enough to have children, so the next “issue” we are confronted with is not polygamy or the will by a city to impose Shariah, so girls are not burnt and disfigured and killed. Yes, Muslim girls are burnt and disfigured and killed not just in Afghanista­n or the Emirates, but in France, Germany and here, in the US, for dressing like a girl, being too smart, too emancipate­d.
To us, French, this separation has worked pretty well until the 80’s and the first radicals, and became a social issue 10 years ago. It is much more a reaction to a system that has failed to integrate fully the largest Muslim population in Europe than a set of beliefs that should be respected by the host country on the name of freedom.
And now for the moderate Muslim view:
As a Muslim, I honestly have no problem in it being banned. The problem is that many women who wear the burka think they get closer to god when they cover their faces. It’s sad but nothing in the quran talks about that and it was never part of religion till the 14th century during the Ottoman empire. Many muslim countries such as Tunesia banned covering hair and I don’t see why muslims should protest it when it gets banned in Europe.
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