Myriam Francois-Cerrah has written a scathing review of Yasmin Alibhai-Brown’s book Refusing the Veil. Her article in The Newstatesman argues up is down: Yasmin has downplayed religious identity because of her middle class niche circle prejudices, that being against how some women dress is social conservatism, and that her racial heritage and anti-racism is diminished by her empowering anti-muslim prejudice.
The debate of how Wahhabism is growing as a movement in the UK with how women are viewed, treated and presented within Islam, deserves better than this article. Myriam claims that by a woman choosing to be a Wahhabist or Islamist, and dressing in the niqab/burka, there can be no question of misogyny if they identify it as empowering and their religion.
By the same reasoning, you can read feminist support for FGM as cultural traditional values which women choose for themselves and their daughters. Just do not dare to call it female genital mutilation you white liberal cultural imperialist.
Taj Hargey insists we call the face veil a face mask. The intent to hide away the facial expressions and appearance of women from society, to make such an observation the property of her husband, is one that should outrage feminists. For if this is not misoynistic, please do insist men as an expression of their faith and cultural identity cover their faces too. The view that if women must be in the public space, let them be hidden in plain sight, is not gender empowering.
Veiling is not part of social liberal feminism; the veil is a patriarchal response to male libido by suppressing the female form by misogynistic application. Social conservatism at its worse when it suppresses men and women when it fears sex by thought (the veil, segregation) or by deed (FGM). No matter how much you try to reinvent what these actions and dress mean you cannot escape the reason behind them.
A Vitamin D deficiency caused by excessive covering of the skin – take a supplement is Myriam’s response. Let us not even explore that our bodies require exposure to sunlight to be healthy, that Allah must have designed us this way but God demands an action that can lead to health problems.
Yasmin is accused, in the most scholarly way of avoiding the word, of being a coconut. Brown on the outside white on the inside. Difficult for a recent white convert to pull off, but Myriam does it rather well. Middle class views have made Yasmin betray her muslim heritage and racial identity; let alone the sisterhood. Worse, she is fuelling anti-muslim prejudice by critiquing the veil. That there can be an open debate by muslims regarding the veil is to be resisted because racists and bigots may jump on the bandwagon to suppress muslims because their skin colour is usually not white.
Myriam Francois-Cerrah has written a masterpiece in how to usurp liberal feminism in the cause of reactionary orthodoxism. The bottom line is no legal power should be used to coerce women to dress a certain way in a park. The French anti-veil law is communitarianism; claiming to make citizens equal by same identity of appearance. That is not in the same league as Saudi Arabia requiring veiling with extreme punishments. However, liberals should oppose banning the veil in a park – it is no business of the state sanctioning what you wear (or do not) in a public space as a crime.
The threat to Islam and Muslim women is the promotion, let alone tolerance, of reactionary and oppressive Wahabbism in the UK. That is why Yasmin is the liberal feminist here while Myriam has shown herself siding with the social conservatism of Islam.
Murdering language cannot disguise the attempt to usurp liberal values. Nor does undermining liberalism help in tackling anti-muslim prejudice.
Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog