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.
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."
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.