Thursday, December 07, 2006

Someone forwarded this to me, which I thought I can share you need to have special permission to do that? I get soo fedup when ppl equate Islam with terrorism. In my years in the UK I had to do a lot of explaining to ppl that no, we do not blow up ppl, and our men are no less chauvinistic than the English ones!!!

Anyway, read on:

How I came to love the veil -Yvonne Ridley
I used to look at veiled women as quiet,oppressed creatures -- until I wascaptured by the Taliban.In September 2001, just 15 days afterthe terrorist attacks on the UnitedStates , I snuck into Afghanistan , cladin a head-to-toe blue burqa, intendingto write a newspaper account of lifeunder the repressive regime. Instead, I was discovered, arrested and detained for 10 days. I spat and swore at mycaptors; they called me a "bad" woman but let me go after I promised to readthe Koran and study Islam. (Frankly, I'm not sure who was happier when I wasfreed -- they or I.)Back home in London , I kept my word about studying Islam -- and was amazedby what I discovered. I'd been expectingKoran chapters on how to beat your wifeand oppress your daughters; instead, Ifound passages promoting the liberationof women. Two-and-a-half years after my capture, I converted to Islam, provokinga mixture of astonishment,disappointment and encouragement amongfriends and relatives.Now, it is with disgust and dismay thatI watch here in Britain as former foreign secretary Jack Straw describesthe Muslim nikab -- a face veil thatreveals only the eyes -- as an unwelcomebarrier to integration, with PrimeMinister Tony Blair, writer SalmanRushdie and even Italian Prime MinisterRomano Prodi leaping to his defense.Having been on both sides of the veil, Ican tell you that most Western malepoliticians and journalists who lamentthe oppression of women in the Islamicworld have no idea what they are talkingabout. They go on about veils, childbrides, female circumcision, honorkillings and forced marriages, and theywrongly blame Islam for all this --their arrogance surpassed only by theirignorance.These cultural issues and customs havenothing to do with Islam. A carefulreading of the Koran shows that justabout everything that Western feminists fought for in the 1970s was available toMuslim women 1,400 years ago. Women in Islam are considered equal to men in spirituality, education and worth, and a woman's gift for childbirth and child-rearing is regarded as a positive attribute.When Islam offers women so much, why are Western men so obsessed with Muslim women's attire? Even British government ministers Gordon Brown and John Reidhave made disparaging remarks about the nikab -- and they hail from across the Scottish border, where men wear skirts.(Haha ha good one Yvonne!) When I converted to Islam and began wearing a headscarf, the repercussions were enormous. All I did was cover my head and hair -- but I instantly becamea second-class citizen. I knew I'd hearfrom the odd Islamophobe, but I didn't expect so much open hostility from strangers. Cabs passed me by at night,their "for hire" lights glowing. One cabbie, after dropping off a white passenger right in front of me, glared at me when I rapped on his window, then drove off. Another said, "Don't leave abomb in the back seat" and asked,"Where's bin Laden hiding?"Yes, it is a religious obligation forMuslim women to dress modestly, but the majority of Muslim women I know like wearing the hijab, which leaves the face uncovered, though a few prefer the nikab. It is a personal statement: Mydress tells you that I am a Muslim andthat I expect to be treated respectfully, much as a Wall Street banker would say that a business suit defines him as an executive to be taken seriously. And, especially among converts to the faith like me, the attention of men who confront women withinappropriate, leering behavior is not tolerable.I was a Western feminist for many years,but I've discovered that Muslim feminists are more radical than theirsecular counterparts. We hate those ghastly beauty pageants, and tried to stop laughing in 2003 when judges of theMiss Earth competition hailed the emergence of a bikini-clad MissAfghanistan , Vida Samadzai, as a giant leap for women's liberation. They even gave Samadzai a special award for"representing the victory of women'srights."Some young Muslim feminists consider the hijab and the nikab political symbols,too, a way of rejecting Western excesses such as binge drinking, casual sex and drug use. What is more liberating: being judged on the length of your skirt andthe size of your surgically enhanced breasts, or being judged on your character and intelligence? In Islam,superiority is achieved through piety --not beauty, wealth, power, position or sex.I didn't know whether to scream or laugh when Italy's Prodi joined the debatelast week by declaring that it is"common sense" not to wear the nikab because it makes social relations "more difficult." Nonsense. If this is the case, then why are cellphones,landlines, e-mail, text messaging andfax machines in daily use? And no oneswitches off the radio because they can't see the presenter's face.Under Islam, I am respected. It tells me that I have a right to an education andthat it is my duty to seek out knowledge, regardless of whether I amsingle or married. Nowhere in the framework of Islam are we told thatwomen must wash, clean or cook for men.As for how Muslim men are allowed to beat their wives -- it's simply not true. Critics of Islam will quote randomKoranic verses or hadith, but usuallyout of context. If a man does raise afinger against his wife, he is notallowed to leave a mark on her body,which is the Koran's way of saying,"Don't beat your wife, stupid."It is not just Muslim men who must reevaluate the place and treatment of women. According to a recent National Domestic Violence Hotline survey, 4 million American women experience a serious assault by a partner during an average 12-month period. More than three women are killed by their husbands and boyfriends every day -- that is nearly5,500 since 9/11.Violent men don't come from any particular religious or cultural category; one in three women around the world has been beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused in her lifetime,according to the hotline survey. This is a global problem that transcends religion, wealth, class, race and culture.But it is also true that in the West,men still believe that they are superior to women, despite protests to the contrary. They still receive better payfor equal work -- whether in themailroom or the boardroom -- and womenare still treated as sexualizedcommodities whose power and influenceflow directly from their appearance.And for those who are still trying toclaim that Islam oppresses women, recallthis 1992 statement from the Rev. PatRobertson, offering his views onempowered women: Feminism is a"socialist, anti-family politicalmovement that encourages women to leavetheir husbands, kill their children,practice witchcraft, destroy capitalismand become lesbians."Now you tell me who is civilized and who is not.

hermosh@aol.comYvonne Ridley is political editor ofI slam Channel TV in London and coauthorof "In the Hands of the Taliban: Her Extraordinary Story" (Robson Books).

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