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Posted in: Islamic Gender & Religious Apartheid, Hijab & Burqa

Published on May 24, 2010 by Phyllis Chesler

Published by NewsRealBlog

Do Clothes Make the Muslim? Buddhists Don't Wear Burqas

Last week, Newsweek published yet another liberal opinion piece: Superficially but falsely even-handed, optimistic, pro-Arab and Muslim culture, pro-Judeo-Christian Western culture—safely middle-of-the-road. So "middle" that the reader does not really know what road she is on or where she is going. The journalist, Christopher Dickey, is writing about the new winner of the Miss America contest, Rima Fakih, who is an Arab-American Shiite Muslim with family roots in Lebanon.

And they say that Americans are "Islamophobic?"

Speaking out of all sides of his mouth, Dickey tells us that the French Cabinet has drafted an anti-burqa/anti-niqab law; that the new Miss America has been accused both of having "family ties to Hezbollah terrorists"—and of being too-sexy a pole dancer; that in 1985, Lebanon was filled with "bearded radicals holding Americans hostage at the Beirut airport in 1985" and, at the same time, with women "tanning in their bikinis at a beach club just a couple of miles away."

This continues for another ten-eleven paragraphs. All things are true. Opposites exist. Contradictions abound. Therefore, nothing is true, there are no objective or universally moral truths. What exists is Dickey's and the mainstream media's point of view: He writes: "The fact is that most Arab and Muslim women, like people anywhere, are basically just trying to get by in the culture that's been handed to them, looking to make a little space for their ambitions, take advantage of opportunities, and find freedom where they can."

Does he include Al-Qaeda, Al-Shabaab, Islamic Jihad (in Palestine and Egypt), the Muslim Brotherhood, the Taliban, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jemaah Islamiya or the Islamist terrorists who perpetrated 9/11, 3/11, 7/7, 11/25 in this happy-go-lucky description of Muslims who are just like us? He mentions the Iranian-backed terrorist group Hezbollah, but he does not seem truly worried about them. Alright, Dickey and his supporters might say: C'mon, these terrorists are national and supra-national players. They have hijacked the true, peaceful Islam and have nothing to do with the large majority of Muslims who are peaceful and pro-modernity. A good point—and I believe in supporting anti-Islamist Muslims: the dissidents, the feminists, the pro-democracy activists, the secularists, etc. Alas, they are an endangered minority both in the West and in their countries of origin.

But really, how can Dickey so totally overlook the local, indigenous, tribal, cultural, and/or religious customs that define Islamic gender apartheid? How about those Islamist men who throw acid into the faces of young Muslim schoolgirls because they are wearing their Islamic Veils improperly? How about those civilians who honor-murder their daughters, sisters, and wives when they refuse to wear the Islamic Veil, who dare to leave a dangerously abusive husband, who are seen as too "Western?"

Dickey avoids these questions entirely. Instead, he focuses upon the false moral equivalence between the burqa and the bikini. He quotes Amal Gandour, a Stanford-educated Shiite (unveiled) woman who says that "the very educated and professional—but veiled—woman in the southern suburbs of Beirut may have a stronger claim on the cosmopolitan vision than the bimbos with bare stomachs, big lips, and fake eyelashes walking downtown on Rue Foche."

Just a minute. While I may not like the pornographication of the female body that has taken over Western culture, neither my family nor the state will ever force me to wear a bikini—or kill me if when I refuse to do so. Increasingly, the Islamic Veil has become either a life—or a death sentence for Muslim women. The veiling of women is also related to fundamentalism and terrorism. Bin Laden's wives are all fully veiled. Follow the chador or the burqa, in Muslim lands and in the West, and soon enough, you will stumble upon an anti-infidel, anti-Zionist den of extreme haters or terrorists.

Dickey is right to say that "The real test of modernity, including our own, is tolerance." But to suggest, as he does, that the more a person is willing to tolerate, the more modern you are, is just as mistaken as suggesting that the more nakedness you reveal, the more liberated you are. Tolerance and liberty without limits will eventually lead to their opposite.

When President Sarkozy calls the Islamic Veil a threat to France and to democracy, he may be exaggerating but he is also taking a legitimate moral stand. Dickey scoffs at French Justice Minister Michele Alliot-Marie who insists that burqa wearers are "a threat to the values of the Republic and democracy." Dickey finds it hard to "take her seriously." Two thousand burqas in France (Dickey's estimate) may not be an epidemic, but what Dickey misses is that this is the just the tip of the iceberg of Islamic misogyny. He also completely misses a larger truth: that burqas are a health hazard to women, a violation of their human and civil rights.

There may be many women like Rima Fakih in the Muslim World, but they are increasingly endangered. The once modern, educated, unveiled women of Turkey and Egypt have been re-veiled. The once emerging women of Afghanistan and Iran have been sent back to the tenth century. The women of Saudi Arabia have not yet left the seventh century—although some women are feminists and are actually fighting back against the dreaded Muttawa'a, the religious "vice and virtue" police. Muslim girls and women in the West are veiling too—as if it's a form of "resistance" against "Islamophobia" or a statement of jihad. Some are veiling in order to show solidarity with their family or religion and in order to remain marriageable—or simply in order to avoid being beaten or killed.

I am really tired of these politically correct multi-culturally relativist pieces on this important subject. And, I do understand that a) there is absolutely no religious imperative for Muslim girls and women to veil; b) a secular state ban against the burqa is as problematic as a family who forces a girl to veil against her will. And yet—we live in treacherous times. This is not the time to sue for the right to wear this barbaric, anti-woman clothing as if winning such a "lawfare" lawsuit represents a victory for freedom. This is the time to end the practice of veiling women on behalf of women's freedom.

Clearly, this battle must begin in the West.

Mr. Dickey: You begin your article by asking: "Do clothes make the Muslim?" My answer: Buddhists don't wear burqas. Mr. Dickey: The ball is now squarely in your court.

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