Almost every day I come across a piece of writing over internet on the issue of veiling in Islam. Forcing a woman not to cover her head is as worse as forcing her to cover. The ultra-secular laws of France and ultra-religious laws of Iran and Saudi Arabia are equally condemnable. Selecting one’s mode of clothing is totally a personal thing, and no other individual or a group or a state should have any say in a person’s selection of what pieces of cloth she/he should wear or shouldn’t wear.
Personally I don’t think wearing a veil (any kind) makes any woman stand more respectable than the one not wearing it. One’s character is all that counts. I’ve heard many a televangelists, including Dr. Zakir Naik, quote a very patriarchal example that if there are two women, one wearing hijab and other one not covering herself, then the chances of the latter being preyed upon by men are much higher. This is a sick argument, sure it is. Instead of blaming men for wrong-doing, majority of male scholars maintain that women are to blame because they tempt men through the way of their clothing. The Quran also commands men to lower their gaze, so how do they advocate this and force men to act upon this? Let’s assume the version of women tempting men to be true, then how are we going to deal with the kids because there are always pedophiles roaming in the city? Should we put the kids behind veils too? Or should they be stopped from leaving their homes? Or “if a man would consent to covering himself up to avoid arousing the lust of homosexual men?” In our society there are generalizations about those who veil and about those who don’t. Reza Aslan, in his book No god but God, asserts that the veil has been defined throughout history by those who have never worn it, the Muslim women’s movement, therefore, rests on the predicament that Muslim men, not Islam, have been responsible for the suppression of women’s rights.
One of the basic ingredients of Secularism is that everyone is free to practice her/his beliefs as long as they don’t come in conflict with others’. What France and Turkey have done in the name of Secularism is against the very fundamental right a person enjoys in a secular state, and it is no different from what Iran and KSA have been doing in the name of Islam. The West condemns the actions of moral police in Iran whenever a woman is humiliated on account of not covering her head in worst words possible, but justify the same act done by their police to the hijab-wearing women in the name of enlightenment/secularism. Constituting what can and cannot be put on within France’s ‘secular’ society is no less ludicrous than that of obligatory veiling in Iran/Saudi Arabia. In Turkey, a secular Muslim country, the veil is outlawed in much of the public sector and veiled women are routinely deprived of their rights to government employment and higher education. This is also a heinous state-crime.
I’ve seen girls [some boys too] on Facebook sharing posts and statuses which more or less imply that those in veil are more upright than those who are not. It’s good to pray and follow the injunctions of Islam, it’s even better to preach what is right and forbid what is wrong, but one shouldn’t just become obsessed with one’s own piety and start judging/tagging others only in respect of the way they dress.
Decency is skin deep.