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Thursday 24 April  
A burqa wearing woman in Egypt
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Amsterdam, Netherlands
Amsterdam, Netherlands

Call for a worldwide ban on burqas

Published on : 8 October 2010 - 1:33pm | By (Photo by RNW)
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The burqa can only be worn behind closed doors from 1 January in France. From then on a full burqa ban comes into force following the ruling from the constitutional court which  has approved the law. The government which is about to come into power in the Netherlands also wants to introduce a ban on burqas. “Very good,” says Egyptian journalist Mona Eltahawy, who visited the Netherlands this week. 

by Ibrahim Jadelkarim
 

Ms Eltahawy calls herself a liberal Muslim. Arabic media call her controversial. She writes in English and Arabic about freedom, the oppression of women, abuse, female circumcision and corruption. As a result, she has received death threats, but Ms Eltahawy has not allowed herself to become deterred.
 
Ban the burqa

Freelance journalist Mona Eltahawy visited the Netherlands this week to deliver a speech at the annual globalisation reading, with 'Boss in your own burqa: feminism thanks to or in spite of Islam' as its main theme.
 
Ms Eltahawy is in favour of a worldwide ban on the burqa and other all-concealing clothing. Doesn’t that contradict the liberal principles which guarantee freedom of religion and religious faiths?
 
“It's because I am a liberal Muslim, I want to ban the niqab and the burqa. I find niqabs and burqas the very opposite of liberalism. Covering a woman's face essentially equates closeness to God with disappearance of women. I oppose that viewpoint one hundred percent, and I don't think that niqabs and burqas have anything to do with Islam,” says Eltahawy.
 
Cartoons

The views on burqas are not the only reason Ms Eltahawy has been labelled controversial by the Arabic media (for which she also writes). Another reason is her support of the Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard, known for his Mohammed cartoons, and their publication in a Danish newspaper.

Mr Eltahawy does not think the cartoons are insulting. What does concern her is that people have been hurt and killed in violent demonstrations against the cartoons in the Islamic world:
 
“I was more offended at the violence committed by some Muslims than I was offended by the cartoons. Because in my opinion the cartoons will not damage Islam and the cartoons will not damage the prophet Mohammed. I am more concerned with orderly Muslim men and women. And unfortunately in the violent reaction to the cartoons, around 20 Muslims were killed by fellow Muslims. That to me is much more offensive than the cartoons."
 
Escalation
Radical Muslims manipulate fellow Muslims, Ms Eltahawy thinks, and they are also responsible for the current tension between Muslims and non-Muslims in Europe, “helped” by anti-Islamic or populist movements in various European countries.
 
“I don't believe that there is a clash of civilisations. I believe there is a clash between the right wing and the rest of us. And the right wing is comprised of two parts. One part is the political right wing in Europe represented by people like Geert Wilders and other right wing politicians who are often xenophobic and often take a strong anti-Muslim stand. The other right wing is the Muslim right wing represented by radical Islamists, who threaten with violence and who were behind the terrorist attacks in various European countries.”
 
Asked about the trial currently being held in the Netherlands against MP Geert Wilders, Ms Eltahawy says she believes in freedom of speech, as long as it does not incite violence.

 

Discussion

Anonymous 10 October 2010 - 12:44pm

Though I'm not a member or strong supporter of any political party, I don't think the European right-wing parties are necessarily to blame. This is because they are Europeans and this is Europe. They have a right to protect their lands from foreigners, just like the Arabs have a right to protect their lands from foreigners. If Arab countries want to ban immigration to their countries, they have the right. Europeans have the right to do the same, and it is not necessarily "xenophobic" or "racist", it's just that not everyone wants to see their way of life taken away or eroded by the influx of people who bring a completely different way of life with them, many of whom do not assimilate either by choice or by circumstance.
It is also a question of whether a first-generation immigrant from a completely different way of life *can* assimilate or not. It would be difficult for me to assimilate to Sudanese life and way of thinking, so it's not hard to imagine that it might also be difficult for a Sudanese person to assimilate to the Dutch way of life and way of thinking. They two cultures are too different for it to be so easy.

shami 9 October 2010 - 2:00am / NETHERLANDS

This is the true strength of a woman...hats off to you Ms.Elthaway and success in your endeavor.

Anonymous 9 October 2010 - 1:36am
Hiram2 9 October 2010 - 12:09am

Mona Eltahawy was correct when she stated "Radical Muslims manipulate fellow Muslims, Ms Eltahawy thinks, and they are also responsible for the current tension between Muslims and non-Muslims in Europe, “helped” by anti-Islamic or populist movements in various European countries." ..........Ms. Eltahawy, if you were offended by the violence committed by "some" Muslims, against other Muslims, don't you think and understand why people like Mr. Wilders and those politicians, like Wilders, take such a strong anti-Muslim stance? If you can get offended when Muslim women are mistreated by "some" Muslims, don't you think non-Muslims get offended with the terroristic activities committed by numerous attacks on them by Muslims? .........You were also quoted as saying: "says she believes in freedom of speech, as long as it does not incite violence." What I hear you saying is: Mr. Wilders is guilty because his speech incites violence regardless if he telling the truth. Now, you placed a condition for limiting free speech and your condition was if it did not incite violence and at the same time you also supported cartoonist, Kurt Westergaard and his paintings of Mohammed. After the paintings of the Mohammed cartoons, weren't "around" 20 Muslims killed in violence due to the paintings. How can you support Kurt Westergaard's freedom of speech when 20 people died from violence. His speech set in motion the killing of the 20 Muslims. Also, how many Muslim women will suffer from both physical and mental violence because of your speech?.............Ms. Eltahawy, you have a right and duty to speak out against how women are treated as chattel in the Muslim world. It is a accurate perception because you have seen how women are mistreated but don't judge people like Wilders who speak out against the violence being committted by Muslims who don't believe in free speech and equal rights for women, non-Muslims, and the People of the Book because he too has seen how thousands of non-Muslims and Muslims were murdered! He has a duty to report any crime committed and one of those duties is to give an accurate discription of the criminals in order for the police to build a M.O.

sandra v 8 October 2010 - 7:57pm / Nederland

Very impressive article. My full respect to the person who wrote it.

jasmin 8 October 2010 - 4:18pm / India

I do not understand: the the Netherlands honours the liberal Muslims who speak against Islam and even grant them asylum, and allow them to participate at political level, BUT, when Geert Wilders says the same, he is put on trial and members resign from political parties because he is supporting the ruling party. Strange!!!

Anonymous 8 October 2010 - 4:04pm

"Wow, a Muslim who makes sense." suggesting that Muslims ( an enourmous, complex and diverse group of people) as a whole do not make sense? We must be careful of making uneducated generalizations--that is, only if don't want the same being done to us.

Dutch Patriot 8 October 2010 - 2:59pm / Holland

"I was more offended at the violence committed by some Muslims than I was offended by the cartoons. "

Wow, a Muslim who makes sense.

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