We were wandering round Duomo Plaza in shorts and short-sleeved shirts appropriate to the mid summer temperatures when we noticed three women encased head to foot in black robes with only their eyes peeping out.
“How awful to have to dress like that,” one said.
“It’s their choice,” another replied.
But is it? Do the women who wear these all-enveloping clothes freely choose to do so?
Even if they do, what does it say about the attitude of their men, if a glimpse of flesh is regarded as obscene or an incitement to lust?
And what happens to women who choose to dress in less concealing clothes?
When the law follows the religious dogma, they risk punishment. Lubna Ahmed Al-Hussein, a Sudanese journalist faces 40 lashes because she wore trousers to a restaurant.
She could claim UN immunity but she wants to be tried in the hope of proving there is nothing in the Koran which makes it wrong to dress as she did.
She’s not alone. The Arab Network for Human Rights Information is backing her.
ANHRI calls on “all human rights NGOs interested in freedom of expression and women’s rights to back up Lubna and make efforts to stop this charade trial that violates all international treaties defending freedom of expression and women’s rights asserting that the Sudanese government persecutes antagonists in every possible way and would not refrain from using the worst laws and practices.”
The women of Vejer de la Frontera in southern Spain used to have to wear the cobijada.
It wasn’t a desire to give women more freedom which led to it being banned, it was security issues. During the Civil War in the late 1930s, men used the cobijada to disguise themselves and conceal weapons so it was outlawed.
A British stewardess, Lisa Ashton, was sacked when she refused to fly to Suadi Arabia after being told she’d have to walk behind her male colleagues and wear the traditional black robe, an abaya.
Saudi experts and companies that recruit women to work in the country say it is a “myth” that western women are required to walk behind men. There is no requirement for them to wear the abaya in public, though many do.
Earlier this year an employment tribunal in Manchester ruled that BMI was justified in imposing “rules of a different culture” on staff and cleared it of sexual discrimination. Ashton has consulted Liberty, the human rights organisation, and may seek a judicial review of the decision.
What you do when your beliefs clash with those which are acceptable in another country isn’t always simple but if this is reported correctly it does appear the airline was asking more of its employees than would be expected in Saudi Arabia.
The idea of any individual or group of people being required to walk behind another offends me and I struggle with the whole concept of the cover-all clothing which some Muslim women are expected to wear.
Some say it’s their choice but I wonder if it’s a free choice.
Fears of terrorism have declined a bit, but if there was another mass attack such as the September 9th ones in the USA or the bus and underground bombings in London authorities might look again at the security implications of voluminous robes.
That’s what put an end to the women of Vejer de la Frontera wearing the cobijaba.
It was common of women of the village to wear this until the Civil War when suspicion that men were disguising themselves as women by wearing the all-concealing black robe and hiding arms under it led to it being banned.
P.S. Stargazer has a related post on religion and gender equality at the Hand Mirror.
A French court has denied citizenship to a foreign woman because she wears a burqa and swears total submission to her husband.
The woman, identified only as Fazia M., is a 32-year-old Moroccan who has been living in France since 2000. She speaks French and has had three children, all of whom have acquired French citizenship.
Under the laws prevailing at the time of her citizenship application, a spouse had the right to acquire nationality provided he or she had been married for two years and had a good level of French. However, the authorities could reject the application on the grounds of “lack of integration” into French life.
Fazia M. was rejected on these grounds after she attended several interviews, dressed in the burqa, with the social services and police, which are normal steps in the process.
She and her husband volunteered the information that they were Salafists – members of an ultra-strict Saudi-inspired branch of Islam – and that the husband had asked her to wear the burqa and that she accepted “submission” to him, Le Monde reported.
Fazia M. appealed to the State Council, arguing that she had been denied the right to freedom of religious expression. The court rejected her suit, saying she had “adopted a radical practice of religion that is incompatible with the essential values of the French community, notably on the principle of equality of the sexes”.
“According to her own statements, Faiza M. leads a virtually reclusive life, cut off from French society,” explained Emmanuelle Prada-Bordenave, a government lawyer. “She has no idea about secularism or the right to vote. She lives in total submission to the men of her family.” Read the rest of this entry »