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Reuters: European push to ban burqas appalls Afghan women


(hat tip:

(Reuters) – A firm believer in women’s rights, the only thing Afghan lawmaker Shinkai Karokhail finds as appalling as being forced to wear a burqa is a law banning it.

Karokhail is one of many Afghan women who see a double standard in efforts by some European nations to outlaw face veils and burqas — a move they say restricts a Muslim woman’s choice in countries that otherwise make a fuss about personal rights.

“Democratic countries should not become dictatorships and Muslim women should not be deprived from all kinds of opportunities. It should be their choice,” said Karokhail.

“Otherwise, what is the difference between forcing women to wear a burqa and forcing them not to? It is discrimination.”

France, which has the largest Muslim population in Europe, as well as Italy and Belgium are considering proposals to ban all-enveloping burqas and face veils called niqabs. Many in the West see them as a symbol of the subjugation of women.

In France, government and opposition lawmakers call burqas an affront to the country’s secular traditions, though an advisory board has said a banning them may be unlawful.

In deeply conservative Afghanistan, the Taliban made wearing a burqa mandatory for all women during their five-year rule that ended with the U.S-led invasion in 2001. It is still widely worn in the Muslim country, especially in rural areas and the south.

Shukriya Ahmadi, a 35-year-old Afghan government employee, has ditched the burqa since the days of being forced to wear it during Taliban rule. Still, she has only scorn for Western governments seeking to outlaw them.

“This shows they use democracy, freedom of religion and human rights issues only when it suits their purposes,” Ahmadi said.


She suspects burqa legislation will only help a resurgent Taliban in Afghanistan gain support from outraged Muslims and win recruits for their insurgency campaign against the Afghan government and U.S.-led NATO forces.

University student Farida, 20, is another Afghan woman who says the move smacks of a double standard.

“I have never worn a burqa and do not like it,” she said. “But why would the West, which calls itself a supporter of democracy take such a decision? I am perplexed and sad.”

Even one of Afghanistan’s most outspoken and controversial women, former lawmaker Malalai Joya, is a staunch opponent of efforts to ban burqas or tight headscarves called hijabs.

She dislikes burqas, but wears it anyways as a cloak of protection from warlords she has been critical of in the past.

“As much as I am against imposing the hijab on women, I am also against its total ban. It should be regarded a personal matter of every human being and it should be up to women if they prefer to wear it or not,” she told Reuters by email.

“It is against the very basic element of democracy to restrict a human being from wearing the clothes of his/her choice. These governments better punish those men who force women to wear hijab, but if any woman wears it out of her own wish, there should be no ban on it.”


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  • Pingback: Blog » Of Niqab & Burqa Bans, some opinions and some reports()

  • Danios

    No more comments about MuslimMatters or homosexuality. This article is about the Islamic veil, so stay on topic. It is very typical for some elements to push the conversation this way or that way. The topic here is clear: the right of Muslim women to practice their religion freely (and to wear whatever the heck they want), a cornerstone of our American ideals. Off topic comments will no longer be approved.

    D’eon can choose to accept Amad’s challenge on MuslimMatters.


  • Abdullah

    MuslimMatters is NOT a hate site. That’s a smear. Remember: they have an open comment policy, and can’t be held responsible for what everyone says there. But the authors themselves are very level-headed and respectful. I like that site a lot!

  • Amad (of

    d’eon, can u pls point to the vile homophobia on MM?

    We believe homosexual acts are a sin, just like Christians do and people of other religions do. But this doesn’t mean we will impose that on others or that it will lead to hateful action.

    Finally, EACH author is responsible for his or her own post as is clearly stated in the site’s policies.

  • Danios


    I cited MuslimMatters because that was where I saw the Reuters article. It is simply proper netiquette to link back to them, a “finder’s fee” if you will.

    I am unfamiliar with their views on homosexuality. Having said that, they describe themselves as a “conservative, orthodox Islamic” website, so I am pretty sure I wouldn’t see eye-to-eye with their writers on that topic. Nonetheless, I do not think the site can be described as a “hate-site.”

    Please stay on topic.


  • D’eon de Beaumont

    Danios, if you truly are progressive then please explain why you linked to the hate site muslimmatters (which contains some of the most vile homophobia I’ve ever laid eyes on) in this post?

  • Danios


    “And the conservatives who support the ban are the Conference of French IMAMS. It is no mere “claim” of mine.”

    Yes, it is a “mere claim” of yours. The Conference of Imams was founded in 2009 by Hassen Chalghoumi, who is also the one who issued the statement supporting the ban. The First Post reports “Liberal imam risks death by backing ban on burkas.” Notice the word “liberal.” As I said before: your mere claim.

    “So many comments here on this site fit right with the nutty radical right in America with their stupid purity test for their fellow conservatives.”

    This is a smear by you. I am a progressive, and if you read my articles, you will see that I am very sympathetic to reformist Muslims and their viewpoints.

    In this case, however, Mr. Chalghoumi is wrong. I don’t know too much about him, and I am not passing judgment on him as a person or his faith. I am saying: he is wrong on this matter. The vast majority of Muslims–be they liberal or conservative–oppose the xenophobic ban.

    In any case, it doesn’t matter even if 100% Muslims agreed with the ban. A ban restricting civil liberties is wrong.


  • Les

    @George Carty

    Interesting thought. But do you think Islamophobes know their fighting a losing battle? Islam is an incredibly tenacious belief system. Christendom realized this in the Crusades, although that did not stop them from their continuing onslaught on the Islamic world. Do they think, with perpetual war, that it can fall like Communism? IMO Islam is indestructible.

  • Slevdi

    I’ll rephrase my question so it is a bit clearer and less provocative:

    What is the Islamic justification for a woman to fully cover her face?

    (For the record, I am 100% against this ban.)

  • TYO

    For those of you who are interested in hearing a these two view points among Muslims check out the Daily Beast’s two articles. And the conservatives who support the ban are the Conference of French IMAMS. It is no mere “claim” of mine. There should be no purity test of what makes a “real” Muslim opinion on issues. Make up the percentages as much as you like. A minority view is not automatically less valid than a majority view, no matter how much the bully majority in that community will like to depict it. In fact much positive change start out as a minority view before becoming mainstream. Muslims who have another view are just as much of a Muslim as anyone else. The Muslim community IS diverse in many ways, and not monolithic. So many comments here on this site fit right with the nutty radical right in America with their stupid purity test for their fellow conservatives.

  • Biz

    I agree that the ban was not passed to liberate women nor was it to promote sectarianism.
    Most feel that it is wrong for Hasidic women to shave their heads after marriage and wear a wig for the rest of their lives but French and Belgium lawmakers are not debating that.
    If French and Belgium lawmakers feel that they are trying to preserve the tradition of sectarianism in their lands that why not also ban the habit that nuns wear?
    This is purely islamaphobia. It is a way to disenfranchise their already disconnected minority. Instead of trying to help them they are pushing them further into the fringes. Desperate people do desperate things. As a world we need to promote understanding and this is not the way. We need to reach out to Muslims and promote the moderate Muslim understanding and educate Muslims and ourselves at the same time. Those that promote hate have one a victory. Keep in mind those that make money and get joy from hate do not care who is being hated. Just as long as they are doing the hating they are happy. First it was the Native Americans, then the Jews, then Blacks, then the Irish, then the Italians, then Hispanics, and now the Muslims. Hate groups have just been jumping from one group to another bringing in new members. We need more like minded people to say No More Hate.

  • George Carty

    @Abdulmajid: “Also, many fiery anticommunists of old have now become Islamophobes; they just needed a new enemy, a new scapegoat.”

    I wonder if it’s actually the reverse: perhaps the traditional Western hatred of Islam was temporarily diverted to Communism during the 20th century. Certainly there were some anticommunists who seemed to have the fervour of a Crusader…

  • Jack

    Perhaps this overview is helpful:

  • Hassan

    In any case, i doubt Muslim support of a ban exists to any significant degree- not even 1%. But as Danios said, it’s not hard to find a posterboy for mean-spirited and anti-democratic motions.

  • Hassan

    One thing to note is that Muslim support for a ban is due more to 3rd world sectarianism than any respect for women’s rights. Most Muslims don’t wear burqas or niqabs because their schools of thought and jurisprudence do not deem them necessary. Nevertheless, we tend to have a ‘live and let live’ approach to different Islamic views, at least until recently.

    The problem when one tries to legislate things that distinguish religious practice is that an Imam who doesn’t believe in Niqab or Burqa may support a ban just as a petty way to undermine the competing opinion. It’s a petty way to win an argument, but one Europeans seem happy to provide. Rather than act on the side of Muslims to benefit them, it uses one Imam’s disregard for human rights as support for human rights. The fact that one group of Muslims doesn’t believe in it gives them no right to ban it from others, and that’s something those Muslim supporters don’t understand. Their support isn’t something the ban-it people should be proud of.

    It’s pretty much like members of the Jewish community supporting a ban against ultra-orthodox clothing simply because they don’t personally believe in it, or resent it, and want a petty easy way of ‘winning’ the sectarian argument.

  • Danios


    Yes, I should have pointed out the difference between burqa and niqab.

  • Danios


    First, one can always find patsies to say whatever from whichever side. Therefore, the presence of some Muslim chumps who support such Islamophobic legislation means nothing. The Muslim community overall hates this legislation, and you can go ahead and find the 0.000001% of Muslims who disagree and then claim it’s balance to give them equal time to voice their views as the other 99+%.

    Second, I highly doubt your claim that “Muslims (liberal to conservative)” support the burqa. Conservative Muslims who back it? Give me a break. As for the so-called “liberal Muslims” who support it, they are the self-hating “Muslims” like Tarek Fatah.

    Third, many Muslims–in fact, the vast majority–do not believe that burqa is mandatory. Yet, they believe it is the right of a Muslim woman to choose to wear it or not.

    Fourth, even if some Muslims supported the ban, so what? Why should I post that on our website? I am a progressive. I don’t support the government restricting civil liberties. How does the presence of some Muslims who think otherwise justify what is clearly something wrong?

    Fifth, even if you were misguided enough to believe that that the ban is something good, you should be smart enough to realize that it is the culmination of Islamophobic/xenophobic fervor, not true care for Muslim women. It’s colonial feminism.


  • TYO

    Another online newspaper did a better job of showing two points of view on their site – one article by a Muslim who was against the ban, and another by Muslim woman who supported the ban. Online you can search and find that not only liberal Muslims SUPPORT the ban, but some French Imams have also openly supported the burqa ban.

    Articles like these here only show one type of Muslim view, which is against the ban. You don’t seem to give other Muslims (liberal to conservative) who SUPPORT the burqa ban as much time. It gives the impression of Muslims versus the West, when it really is people (Muslims and non-Muslims alike) support the burqa ban and people (Muslims and non-Muslims alike) against the ban.

  • Jack

    @Slevd; Because the women of the prophet Muhammed supposedly wore face veils, and these women (mostly converts) want to be as devout as they can be. Well, they didn’t come as devout as the women of the Prophet, so…

    It’s like supererogatory works in Catholicism. Be more religious, get extra credits on your Heavenly account!

    And for the hundredth time: Muslim women in European societies don’t wear Burqas but Niqaabs. Run them through Google image, you’ll notice the difference.

    Oh, and the young woman in the picture looks uebercute with that French flag draped across her face (is she sticking out her tongue by the way? That’s cute too!)

  • islamispeace

    Yes AbdulMajid, you are correct. This whole obsession with the burqa wreaks of European double standards.

  • Abdulmajid

    islamispeace, the people promoting those restrictions specifically targeted against Muslims feel morally and intellectualy superior to Muslims and therefore they think they are entitled to, and it is all right if they make the choice for the Muslim womens’ own good. Or so they say. To “liberate” them; because the burqa, the hijab, the minaret are “a symbol of an oppressive, totalitarian, evil ideology”. And because some conservative politicians think that way they will “take away votes” from the rightist, fascist parties (and don’t see, or pretend not to see how fascist and bigoted they have become). And become some people have become totally deluded and filled with a diffuse fear of Islam and Muslims by the anti-Muslim headlines the tabloids give them to increase their sales. This is the same as the dislike of Communists, Russians or Eastern Europeans in general that was felt by the broad public during the Cold War (all the time forgetting that while the ideologues of such regimes, their secret police and their military surely were evil, the people as such are not. Also, many fiery anticommunists of old have now become Islamophobes; they just needed a new enemy, a new scapegoat.) And because if that much exposure is given to the issue it will divert attention from much more pressing but uncomfortable problems those politicians are incapable or unwilling to address. They never even have asked the women concerned. And to make such a fuss because of a handful people. So you see, this is all cheap demagoguery, it should be exposed as such and since these Islamophobic laws possibly contravene basic human rights or the right of free expression, they should be brought before the Constitutional Courts of the European Court, and probably would then be thrown out. I would advise the people concerned to try it!

  • islamispeace


    Why would any woman prefer to wear little or nothing (as in many western coutries) assuming she was free to make her own decision?

    Since western societies put so much emphasis on “choice”, why is it so hard to understand why some Muslim women “choose” to wear a burqa?

  • Rogain

    Because she thinks its right. Why would a woman prefer to be a porn star if she was free to make her own decision?

  • Slevdi

    Why would a woman prefer to wear a burqa assuming she was free to make her own decision?

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