Tag Archives: niqab

Myriam Francois-Cerrah: The Usurpation of Liberal Feminism


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.

(A more detailed essay on the niqab may be read here)

Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog

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Mohammed Shafiq’s Dangerous Game


I avoided mentioning Mohammed Shafiq when writing about When Tommy Met Mo. Time to rectify as he shows a blatant willingness to take out of context what someone has said.

Maajid Nawaz of Quilliam has just written a succinct article in The Daily Mail on Islam and wearing the veil in the UK:

It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that we have allowed a form of discrimination to creep in against everyone but those who wear the veil. Yes, women should be free to cover their faces when walking down the street. But in our schools, hospitals, airports, banks and civil institutions, it is not unreasonable – nor contrary to the teachings of Islam – to expect women to show the one thing that allows the rest of us to identify them .  .  . namely their face. [Daily Mail]

The article is nuanced and does not go into a more controversial discussion of whether such total face coverings are demeaning and misogynistic as I do here, but the legal, security and exemptions which exist within Islamic thought to allow it’s removal for identification. No ban is mentioned.

Enter Mohammed Shafiq, who in the When Tommy met Mo documentary said slavery mentioned in the Koran did not include sexual slavery, shouting down Tommy that he was attacking Islam to say it did. Despite that other Islamic theologians say it does include that too, Shafiq claimed the verse was being taken out of context.


Nine hours later there is no apology from Shafiq for misrepresenting Nawaz’s thoughts, taking them out of context. Nor seeking to clarify his own meaning. Only an assertion he has the right to challenge his views.

Thing is, that might be helped if they actually were Nawaz’s views.

Shafiq has form here. He wrote a complaint about Tom Holland’s documentary Islam: The Untold Story (which you can watch here).

      Ramadhan Foundation
      Contact: Mohammed Shafiq
      Embargo: Immediate Tuesday 28th August 2012 23:00
      Published: Tuesday 28th August 2012 23:00
      Mr. Mohammed Shafiq, Chief Executive of the Ramadhan Foundation comments:
      “I strongly condemn Channel 4’s documentary tonight titled “Islam, untold story” which makes a mockery of impartial and objective broadcasting. This distorted, biased programme did not have the decency to check its facts and has broadcast lies. I am disappointed that an international broadcaster like Channel 4 has behaved in unbelievable way.
      There are thousands of Muslims scholars across the globe including many in locations where Tom Holland visited during the programme but he did not see fit to speak to them and therefore I draw the conclusion he did not want the real truth but wanted to promote his utter rubbish.
      For instance he said Mecca was never mentioned in the Holy Quran, but in reality it is mentioned two times; Al- Azhab Chapter 33 Verse 6, Al Fath Chapter 48 Verse 24. There is also a mention of the Kaaba and Sacred Mecca Mosque in the Quran in Surah Al Isra Chapter 17 verse 1. A simple search would have produced this but his desire to distort Islam blinded him to objectivity and honesty. He featured evidence from a number of University Professors who happened not to be Muslim when he could have gone to any Muslim Scholar and asked his questions and would have got the answers.
      I have asked several senior Muslims Scholars in the United Kingdom to watch the programme and identify all the inaccuracies which we will forward to relevant authorities for action as detailed in our complaints.
      There is a desire amongst some people trying to change or discredit Islam whether its politicians, commentators or broadcasters like Channel 4. The British Muslim community will not allow Channel 4 to distort our faith and our history.
      The Ramadhan Foundation calls on Channel 4 to apologise for this programme, withdraw it from online viewing and also order an immediate inquiry into why this was allowed to be broadcast. How many Muslims Scholars, community leaders were given a copy of this programme before transmission? Whether historic facts in relation to Islam were verified by the presenter and who his sources were.
          The Ramadhan Foundation has complained to Channel 4 and also Ofcom in this matter and hope it will be addressed promptly and extensively. [

Ramadan Foundation] 

[Edit 9;35AM: Tom Holland has an important point regarding the above press release. Shafiq says that the Qur’an mentions Mecca twice. In some English translations this is true as it is added to the text by the translator – in the original language it does not. This makes the press release by the Ramadhan Foundation the more remarkable, that a pressure group that purports to defend Islam is unaware of what the Qur’an actually says.]



Tom Holland responded to the complaints promptly:

      The origins of Islam are a legitimate subject of historical enquiry and this film is wholly in keeping with other series and programmes on Channel 4 where the historical context of world religions has been examined, such as The Bible: A History. A considered exploration of the tensions that inevitably arise when historical method is applied to articles of faith was central to the film. We were of course aware when making the programme that we were touching deeply-held sensitivities and went to every effort to ensure that the moral and civilizational power of Islam was acknowledged in our film, and the perspective of Muslim faith represented, both in the persons of ordinary Bedouin in the desert, and one of the greatest modern scholars of Islam, Seyyed Hossein Nasr.
      It is important to stress as we do in the film that this is a historical endeavour and is not a critique of one of the major monotheistic religions. It was commissioned as part of Channel 4’s remit to support and stimulate well-informed debate on a wide range of issues, by providing access to information and views from around the world and by challenging established views.
      As a non-Muslim historian I tried to examine, within a historical framework, the rise of a new civilisation and empire that arose in the late antique world as the two great ancient empires of Rome and Persia were in decline. The themes in the programme have been previously written about extensively by many other historians including: Patricia Crone, Professor at Princeton; Gerald Hawting, Professor at SOAS; and Fred Donner, Professor at Chicago  all of whom lent their support to the programme. The themes it explores are currently the focus of intense and escalating academic debate.
      An accusation laid against the film is one of bias and, although I believe that absolute objectivity is a chimera, what was incumbent upon us, in making the film, was to be up-front about my own ideological background and presumptions, and to acknowledge the very different perspective that Muslim faith provides. If the film was about the origins of Islam, then it was also about the tensions between two differing world-views. Whether one accepts or rejects the truth of the tradition is ultimately dependent upon the philosophical presumptions that one brings to the analysis of the sources.
      To answer some other substantive points:
      1. It has been suggested that I say in the film that Mecca is not mentioned in the Qu’ran. In fact, I say that Mecca is mentioned once in the Qu’ran. As a historian I have to rely on original texts and although later tradition (as brought to us through the hadith) has come to accept that other names are synonymous with Mecca, the fact is that there is only one mention of Mecca in the Qu’ran(although due to an unwarranted interpolation, a second one does appear in the Pickthall translation).
      2. On the broad perspective some complaints assert unequivocally, as is often said, that Islam was “born in the full light of history unlike the ancient faiths”. That may have been the belief of Western scholars back in the days of Ernest Renan, but it is most certainly not the academic consensus today. One leading authority, Professor Fred Donner, who appears in the film, has written:
      “We have to admit collectively that we simply do not know some very basic things about the Qur’an – things so basic that the knowledge of them is usually taken for granted by scholars dealing with other texts. They include such questions as: How did the Qur’an originate? Where did it come from, and when did it first appear? How was it first written? In what kind of language was – is – it written? What form did it first take? Who constituted its first audience? How was it transmitted from one generation to another, especially in its early years? When, how, and by whom was it codified? Those familiar with the Qur’an and the scholarship on it will know that to ask even one of these questions immediately plunges us into realms of grave uncertainty, and has the potential to spark intense debate.”
      This summary may fairly be said to represent the current state of play in the academic debate.
      3. It has also wrongly been suggested that we said there is no historical evidence for the seventh century origins of Islam. What I actually said in the film was that I had expected to find contemporaneous Muslim evidence – “but there’s nothing there.” And the Qur’an aside, the first mention of the prophet Muhammad’s name in Arabic is on the coin that we featured in Part Five, and on the Dome of the Rock, which we also featured prominently. The evidence provided by Christian contemporaries was mentioned in Part Three, and is dealt with at greater length in the book.
        Obviously in a film of only 74 minutes, which opens up very rich and complex arguments and brings to light detailed academic scholarship, which has been going on for over forty years, it is impossible to articulate all the resonances and implications of every argument. Much more detail, with full citation of sources, will be found in my book In the Shadow of the Sword: The Battle for Global Empire and the End of the Ancient World. All the film can hope to do is to introduce this fascinating (but until now, largely academic) debate with careful contextualising to a larger television audience. The subject, it should be said, is advancing and changing all the time as new discoveries are made, and new insights are gained. That is precisely what makes it such a fascinating area of research, and an entirely valid topic for a documentary. [

Channel 4]

The regulator saw no case to investigate the complaints brought against the documentary. However, claims that Tom Holland was deliberately distorting the evidence to fit a biased narrative played their part in abuse and death threats he received. Honest academic research and inquiry into history met with abuse and hysteria. There at the beginning was Mohammed Shafiq whipping it up.

He is trying to do the same with Nawaz, misrepresenting, taking things out of context.

Mohammed Shafiq needs to be called on that – because it has repercussions for serious debate, let alone the safety of others when motives are questioned and emotions played on with such disregard to personal integrity by the antagonist. Shafiq has himself had a credible death threat; he rightly has the liberty to speak his mind, and a nation that values free speech should protect that.

When he twists and distorts others words and actions in the process he deserves our contempt and resolve not to get away with it.

Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog

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Niqab: Trying To See Through The Veil Debate

The issue of banning the niqab – which is what people appear to mean when saying “muslim veil” – which covers the face of a woman completely save for the eyes. What follows is a digest together with my views using concepts not really expanded in the debate – the concept of a citizen equal to all and individual rights.


No Compulsion In Religion

“Ibn ’Abbaas and Ibn ’Umar, from the major Companions, explained the verse {except that which appears therefrom} to be the face and the two hands. And they (those who claim that a woman must veil her face) do not have a single authentic narration from the Companions with which they can support their opinion that a woman’s face must be covered. ” ~ Imam al-Albani

Even where it is worn out of a sense for religious reasons, common sense like being seen by a male doctor or passing through airport security can be seen as just reasons to remove the veil (source). Also the idea that Muslim homogeneity exists, seeing the niqab as protecting a jewel or empowering women as non sex objects by salivating man flies could not be more wrong.

Dress Modestly

As Hind Aleryani put it about growing up in Yemen:

I hear it all the time: “A woman is a jewel that needs to be protected (i.e. covered),” and sometimes it is even said that a woman is like candy “if you remove the wrapper (i.e. the cover) the flies will swarm around her”. I turn on the TV and find that favorite male singer that I am so fond of brushing his soft silky hair and flaunting his handsomeness: his arms are bare, his chest is bare — why isn’t this object of temptation covered? Why isn’t he imprisoned at home? Why aren’t women tempted by him? Some might claim that a woman shouldn’t look at this… then shouldn’t men shield their gaze when looking at a tempting female “object”? I couldn’t find the answer.

In a previous post on Islam and Women I was berated for not mentioning men are told to dress modestly and gaze downwards too. If men were told to wear a veil and only show their face and muscles to their wife, have to stay indoors so do not socialise with other women, and refuse to serve women when working – we might have a case this was not a misogynous application. Clearly it does fall on women to be more modest, to lower their gaze more.

Before Birmingham’s Metropolitan College tried and failed to ban the niqab out of security (as it does for hoodies etc) remember a few years ago when a college in Buckinghamshire was applying to ban with support from the Muslim Educational Centre of Oxford (Meco):

Taj Hargey, Meco’s chairman, said he was also willing to organise a campaign among Muslims nationally to resist “this largely Saudi-driven campaign to make the niqab a compulsory requirement for Muslim women”.

He added: “We are strongly committed to offering you our full and unequivocal support in banning face-masks at school. We trust that you will continue to resist any move to implement this kind of minority ethnic obsession, which has no foundation whatsoever in the transcendent sources of Islamic law.”

Dr Hargey said that since the school’s dress code already allowed the option for Muslim girls to wear the hijab, there was no need for full-face covering. [Daily Telegraph]

Free Choice


Robin Ince’s blog post on the niqab can be read here.

Thing is whether wearing the niqab can be a free choice if truly misogynistic, or whether it is possible that women have bought into the veil beyond face value. As Anne Marie Waters explains:

… women can be misogynist woman-haters too and we must not forget this. In fact, women’s misogyny is far more dangerous because it legitimises the virgin/whore dichotomy and gives it a credibility that it simply wouldn’t have if it stemmed from the mind of a man. In short, just because a woman chooses the niqab does not make the niqab ok — it remains a tool of subjugation and suppression, and it would continue to be just that even if every woman in the world supported it.

While writing this post this one was posted by Unrepentant Jacobin which is direct to the liberal/libertarian who feels free choice by a woman wearing the niqab trumps the misogyny meaning and gender inequality political Islam promotes today via the niqab:

The fundamentalist’s defiant affirmation of choice excuses the liberal from having to pass judgement and excuses the libertarian of the need to countenance State intervention. So, whilst zealots are welcomed onto the BBC and into the pages of the Independent to defend their freely adopted signifier of purity, secular Muslims, apostates and free-thinkers like Esha are forced to blog about their experiences anonymously from behind a second veil, fearful of the consequences of exposure.

Unapologetically he states we should support a state wide ban, in contrast to Robin Ince. The niqab is becoming something to do with threats to apostates and intimidation of women. I fear that banning the niqab is being seen as a symbolic victory to solve these problems.

My View: It Is Not For The State To Decide


I have made clear my own views here, and experience of head covering and hair requirements in the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Regarding the law I stated (editing out Jehovah’s Witnesses – see the post for more on that):

Issues of free choice, and lack of compulsion are at the heart of thinking about specific laws to prevent coercion – for example wearing the hijab in public. It misses that women may voluntarily choose to wear such items. The sister at the home study did not have to wear – I was a child and not yet a brother – she wanted to do this as her expression of faith.

Religious freedom means for me you may voluntarily choose to be part of a faith and there is no legal remit to follow religious doctrine. You can ask me to leave your church if my hair is too long, but you cannot deny me the right to walk the streets with my hair long.

The ability to speak for change should be open without reproach …

The laws of the land should protect women from reprisals that endanger them. Specific laws targeting specific religions aimed at a specific gender homing in on a specific garments – suggest peculiar special treatment. We need to think carefully when thinking of such a law the liberty of someone that freely choses to practise their faith or express cultural identity is not affected on our streets.

Sisters should be choosing it for themselves. That is the bottom line.

We can still challenge the ideas that lie behind misogynistic thinking …

The nibaq is different from a hijab (pictured in above meme and subject of earlier post). As mentioned with the Oxford example earlier the hijab was seen as an alternative for someone to use if they wished to express their faith. The nibaq is a mutated variant that depersonalises a woman to the outside world. Freedom of expression is the principle put forward rather than religious freedom, in a similar way it is not a requirement to wear a crucifix as a Christian. You may however wish to.

I am against the segregation of women at public meetings – read more on that at University College London here:

Human rights trump religious ideas in enforcement. I am not a man, or a human mammal with urges and cravings, when considering such rights. In the eyes of the law we transcend gender, and in the body politic we metamorphose into something that makes us equal and entitled:

Citizens of a secular liberal democracy.

This is the same with the nibaq – no woman may be forced by fear, intimidation or actual violence to veil her face. The public sphere cannot encourage such a view of women to be tolerated – or else we are condoning that very act of misogyny.

State power is not benign – coercion that changes the autonomous individual behaviour of others that would otherwise be freely chosen is never to be undertaken lightly. We accept such power over us, with numerous safeguards like democracy and bill of rights, because the alternative of anarchy would be seen as worse on individuals (anarchists will disagree of course).

Equality of citizens and secularism for me make clear – an education college/university that promotes equality of men and women would be within it’s rights to reject the niqab as against their ethos. Girls whether in puberty or not must not be made to wear a niqab. Nor should they be made to stay indoors or disallowed to socialise with boys of their own age. Such restrictions are one reason I am against same sex schools. This is based on notions of citizenship as gender equality – not secularism.

Yet secularism means for me a state wide ban on the niqab is one I have issues with. Because I am sure political Islamists would love to use state power to make women dress modestly. We can say that we are using such powers to destroy a symbol of repression on women – this is benign action.

I understand such paternal instincts – which are crudely called white saviour complex. The exceptions are clear enough on security, medical and identity grounds. On secular grounds religious objections can be overruled because it impacts on these issues.

The problem is I do not want to see women being treated as in the top photo – manhandled for their own good, prosecuted for their own good, seen as needing state intervention to be liberated from misogynist thinking. In other words the view: If only this woman had not been brainwashed to see what she was doing to herself and what she is saying to others about herself and about them. We must use the law to stop such dreadful sickening thinking.

Because when the state thinks like this a free society cannot be trusted to think for itself without the state deciding for us. Whether we think this particular action is benign is irrelevant. If the individual would of their own free will voluntarily do something we must consider individual rights when stopping them.

Unless for their own good you would arrest women who want to wear the niqab. We are talking about criminalising a piece of cloth and making the wearer the criminal not the misogynist who coerces them to do so nor end the sub culture that wants women hiding their face in public completely. Instead we put the “brainwashed” or “wilful female misogynist” in the dock that dare hide their face in public willingly.

Shall we let off those that keep women indoors, prevent social opportunities, deny them an education because the burden of proof is less glaring? Read Hind Aleryani post in full quoted earlier to understand we are dealing in Britain with what we can see, but not what is even worse about this insidious version of Islam. Which is so humiliating and degrading other Muslims object too.

The proposed veil ban is a symbolic victory over political Islam. That is not a good enough reason to make women we disagree with criminals over a piece of cloth. By all means damn me as a weak Lilly livered liberal for not using state power to rid Britain of the niqab – actually you mean libertarian, but that has less of an insulting ring to it.

I want the niqab out of Britain and to be resisted in the public sphere. But I will never have women made criminals for how they dress. The reasons outlined in this post are why I will oppose oppression whether by political Islam or the state deciding on what women should want for themselves fashion wise. I should add that I am sympathetic to the naked rambler – the whole notion that a naked body causes such consternation is one that given we are human mammals makes me wonder whether we should consider clothing necessary for modesty. However I do not feel the need to join in his naturalist nature walk.

Fight the niqab, resist it, remove the veil of ignorance for what it truly represents. Leave secular state power out of it to ban – but allow for the public space to make that decision and for children yes I would agree to a state ban. Unless you are calling for the state to ban gender segregation in public (which I did not see during the UCL issue) you will appreciate why I feel we can win this argument without abusing state power to override the decision of an adult.

Long post but felt covering above set out my opinion – thanks for reading.

Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog

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