What's in a veil

Our friend Sarah Carr opens a blog post about the Egyptian government's latest misguided, ineffectual attempt to legislate what women wear on their heads ("Secularisn't") with some reflection on her own distaste (and doubt over the validity of that distaste) for the niqab, the full face covering. 

I mean there are a million ways to abuse a child on the abuse spectrum. Perhaps allowing/encouraging her to wear neqab isn’t that bad. I think why it bothers me is that it sexualises a child, since for women who wear it, the neqab is an interpretation of the veil, which ultimately is about modesty. No child should have to think about that, and no one should be thinking about that while looking at a child.

I think a lot of people struggle to explain why they feel so differently -- why they feel a line being crossed, or draw a line -- about the hejab (head scarf) and the niqab (full face covering). I like to keep the criminalization of fashion to a minimum, and I think the French ban on the headscarf is ridiculous and discriminatory. But there is more than a difference in degree between covering your hair and covering your face. What's troubling about the niqab is a very obvious thing: it's dehumanizing. We anthropoids acknowledge each other by looking each other in the face and in the eyes -- doing so is one of the most powerful, most meaningful and sometimes uncomfortable (as we've all experienced on public transportation) interactions we can have. To become faceless is to erase yourself and to greatly limit your capacity to relate to others and for others to relate to you. 

1 Comment /Source

Ursula Lindsey

Ursula Lindsey is the managing editor of the Arabist blog. She writes about culture, education and politics in the Arab world. She lived in Cairo from 2002 to 2013 and got her start at the ground-breaking independent magazine Cairo Times. She was the culture editor of Cairo magazine in 2005-2006 and served as special projects editor at the independent news site Mada Masr in 2013-2014. She is the Chronicle of Higher Education's Middle East correspondent. She contributes to the BBC-PRI radio program The World, and has written for Newsweek, The New York Times, The New Yorker online, Bookforum and the blog of the London Review of Books.

Niqabitches

Via The Telegraph, citing a Rue89 piece where the Niqabitches (as the two anti-ban activists who feature in the above video call themselves) write:

"To put a simple burka on would have been too simple. So we asked ourselves: 'how would the authorities react when faced with women wearing a burka and mini-shorts?," asked the students, one of whom is a Muslim.

"We were not looking to attack or degrade the image of Muslim fundamentalists – each to their own – but rather to question politicians who voted for this law that we consider clearly unconstitutional," they said.

"To dictate what we wear appears to have become the role of the State (as if they didn't have other fish to fry ...)."

 

1 Comment

Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.

Links for 07.08.09 to 07.09.09

Bint Al-Beltway | Blog by Washington-based policy wonk, good stuff on Syria, Lebanon, US MENA policy, technology and military issues. Middle East Report Online: The Day After “Victory”: Kuwait’s 2009 Election and the Contentious Present by Mary Ann Tétreault and Mohammed Al-Ghanim | On Kuwait's election. Palestinians reject Netanyahu's 'economic peace' plan - Haaretz - Israel News | As well they should, Palestinians don't need an economic boost, they need independence and the end of the occupation. A Renditions Scandal in Britain—By Scott Horton (Harper's Magazine) | On the case of Rangzieb Ahmed, an Ethipian rendited to Pakistan, which is currently being investigated by Britain. Which is more than you can say about Obama's decision not to investigate and prosecute these cases in America. Hamas: Mubarak doesn't know soldier's condition - Yahoo! News | Mubarak had said Shalit was well, but Hamas says Hosni has no idea what he's talking about. International Crisis Group - Iraq and the Kurds: Trouble Along The Trigger Line | Another ICG report on the important issue of how to settle resource-sharing, political rule among the Kurds and Arabs of Iraq, urges US to mediate resolution before withdrawal. In Morocco, an Alternative to Democracy - Morocco Board News Service | Excellent critique of a stupid WaPo article on Morocco. Q&A with Iranian Opposition Politician Ebrahim Yazdi Asharq Alawsat Newspaper (English) | Essential interview with Iranian opposition figure. The Israeli ambassador is a dual national. | Isn't that a problem? Views | A veiled attack on freedom in France's niqab debate | Egyptian Muslim Brother Ibrahim al-Houdeiby on the France/niqab debate. Interesting use of Obama's Cairo speech at the end.
Read More