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October 22, 2006

Comments

Al-Muhajabah

Yes, I'm real. What else would I be? :-)

Dave Hill

When a blog doesn't reveal all that much about the personality of its author you sometimes wonder! I'm glad you've commented. I asked my question partly in the hope of eliciting a response from you. Please keep on doing it. I'll certainly keep on following your sites.

Al-Muhajabah

Like I think many people who blog (at least in my experience) I prefer to keep a little distance between my real life and my online life. Unfortunately, I've had to deal with some very hostile people online (including one person who flooded me with harassing comments and emails) that I'm glad don't know all my personal details.

I found your blog via Comment is Free and was interested enough by what you wrote there to come check out Temperama. While we don't agree on every issue, I like a lot of what you have to say.

My work schedule keeps me too busy to blog very actively, but I do try to comment on issues that particularly affect Muslims so that people can hear a Muslim voice. One thing that I think is unfortunate about much of what I've read of the debate in Britain is that some people (though by no means all) are too busy saying what they think it all means to listen to the voices of Muslim women themselves.

Dave Hill

Yes, Al-M, I can quite imagine that you attract the ire of some unpleasant people. That is a sad thing. And no, Al-M, I think we may not be as one on everything but I certainly share your feeling that not enough Muslim women have been heard from. Some who like wearing a niqab have been given a platform though - notably on BBC TV's Newsnight programme and on the Victoria Derbyshire radio show I linked to in my post on Ms Azmi:

http://davehill.typepad.com/temperama/2006/10/aishah_azmi_cas.html

But what of those who wear it against their will? They surely exist and are the least heard from of all. For me, the key issue is protecting the individual woman's freedom to go veiled or unveiled as she chooses. Is that freedom as widely respected as I believe it should be? What do you think?

Al-Muhajabah

I very strongly believe that how a woman dresses should be a matter for her own conscience only. I oppose women being forced to veil - and I also oppose women being forced not to veil, that is, when there are laws prohibiting veiling. To me, these are two sides of the same coin and they both take away a very basic autonomy for women, the right to control how they dress.

In my own experience, very few Muslim women in the West are forced to veil. I acknowledge that the group of women I know and have known over the last seven years may be unrepresentative, but I do feel that a disproportionate amount of attention is given to the idea that women are forced to veil. This seems to me to be an edge case and better dealt with as and when it occurs rather than making a decision about veiling as a whole because of it. In any case, to protect or rescue a woman from being forced would require dealing with her individual circumstances and talking one-on-one with whoever is placing her under this compulsion.

Another aspect that I have seen is that some very conservative families are more likely to allow or encourage women to participate in public life and pursue careers if the woman wear Islamic dress. By restricting women from wearing this dress, these women may actually have their public participation curtailed. This is related to something I said in my blog entry about why I don't agree with Straw's action. These are women who have come out to interact with their MP and become more engaged in politics. If some of them feel uncomfortable about unveiling in order to be able to talk with him, they may be likely to simply withdraw again rather than take off their veil. What has that achieved for integration? The women who may need it the most feel that they are being driven away from it.


My concern in the British debate that I mentioned before is that in general it does not seem that Muslim women have the same platform that politicians and newspaper commentators do so that the overall public debate is unbalanced. Perhaps this is inevitable, but it is one of the reasons that I seek through my blogging to present a voice that people might not otherwise hear.

I've written a lot on my blog over the four years of its existence about veiling issues and rather than try to compress everything into this tiny comments box, I'll suggest the following:

http://www.muhajabah.com/islamicblog/archives/veiled4allah/006389.php
Yes, intelligent women can choose to veil

http://mt.muhajabah.com/mt-find.cgi?Template=keyword&IncludeBlogs=1&SearchField=keywords&search=veiling
other entries tagged with veiling

P.S. More personal information about me is available at: http://www.muhajabah.com/docstorage/me.htm (which is linked from my admittedly crowded sidebar as "Learn more about me")

Dave Hill

Thank you for the above, Al-M. I've read "more about you" and your story is very interesting (especially the stuff about Six Apart: you've no idea how much I could learn from you in that department...) When I have time I will read all those pages you've linked to properly. As for your latest comment here I think it deserves greater prominence. Maybe I could quote from it in a post here or in a future piece for Comment Is Free, should the right opportunity arise. What do you think?

Gracchi

Dave thanks for linking to me sorry I didn't notice this at the time- didn't show up on technorati for some reason but thanks anyway I've never looked round your blog so am doing so now in a sleepless moment

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