Face Covering: Religious Freedom or Religious Oppression?
First let me address that No one has “ABSOLUTE FREEDOM.”
This is a common misconception surrounding the right to freedoms, that some right to freedom is never a “ABSOLUTE FREEDOM”, in fact, it’s a very important feature of freedom which seems to be little understood. The point is, THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS ABSOLUTE FREEDOM. Self-chosen modesty, I agree with and not some forced or coerced modesty even if it’s the head covering Shayla, Hijab, Al-Amira, Khimar, or Chador.
Why do some Muslim women wear burkas?
The Koran does not explicitly say you have to cover yourself in this manner. However, some islamic scholars argue that it is a religious obligation, particularly the more conservative factions within the muslim world. But even then there are many variations and interpretations. Though, some women may wear it because they strongly believe it is their religious obligation and some muslim husbands would tell their wives ‘please/you must wear the niqab, as I don’t want any other men to see you’ which is extremely possessive as well as, because of or in favor of Religious Oppression. ref
“Damien, you can’t tell someone how to express their faith because women have a right to religious freedom including to use a face covering if they so choose.” – Questioner
My response, “we can state our opinion and the facts of its oppression. Covering women’s faces especially under force is oppression. I have not told anyone what to do but will tell everyone what I think. The debate about the veil covering ones face in public involves the public, as in I don’t think any person should be allowed to cover their face as a general rule out side of a temporary specific thing. Covering of one’s face is not about religious freedom anymore that making Jainism nudist monks wear some covering when in public. Because by being in public one is then under public constraints and pubic laws. This means covering one’s face is about public civil rights of everyone not limited to the one stating they think it’s a religious liberty. As a public relating issue it also intersects with practicality of public involvement, which entails that although within reason no one should be told what to wear, or not wear; this is not a complete freedom in a public setting. But for the most part there should be as much choice as is reasonable except where this choice actually infringes on someone else’s rights as can happen in the public areas, the public domain is a free place but has social constraints thus is not a free for all. And don’t forget just because a Muslim woman lives in a country that doesn’t force her to cover up, doesn’t mean there isn’t a father/husband or some other controlling family member pushing, shaming, forcing or threatening her to keeping her wearing a face covering instead of her doing what she wants too.
Let’s Now Address Sexism in Islam?
Sexism From the Qur’an:
Qur’an (2:223) – “Your wives are as a tilth unto you; so approach your tilth when or how ye will…” A man has dominion over his wives’ bodies as he does his land. This verse is overtly sexual. There is some dispute as to whether it is referring to the practice of anal intercourse, which it has been used historically to justify. If this is what Muhammad meant, however, then it would appear to contradict what he said in Also (see Bukhari 60:51), and was “revealed” when women complained to Muhammad about the practice. The phrase “when and how you will” means that they lost their case.
Qur’an (2:228) – “and the men are a degree above them [women]“
Qur’an (2:282) – (Court testimony) Establishes that a woman’s testimony is worth only half that of a man’s in court (there is no “he said/she said” gridlock in Islam).“And call to witness, from among your men, two witnesses. And if two men be not found then a man and two women.” Muslim apologists have sometimes creatively tried to explain why a woman’s testimony is worth half that of a man’s under Islamic law (based on this verse) while still attempting to maintain the semblance of equality. Unfortunately for them, studies consistently show that women are less likely to tell lies than men, meaning that they would make more reliable witnesses in any court – were it not for Islam’s obvious sexism.
Qur’an (4:3) – (Wife-to-husband ratio) “Marry women of your choice, two or three or four”
Qur’an (4:11) – (Inheritance) “The male shall have the equal of the portion of two females” (see also verse 4:176).
Qur’an (4:15) “As for those of your women who are guilty of lewdness, call to witness four of you against them. And if they testify (to the truth of the allegation) then confine them to the houses until death take them.”
Qur’an (4:24) and Qur’an (33:50) – A man is permitted to take women as sex slaves outside of marriage. Note that the verse distinguishes wives from captives (those whom they right hand possesses).
Qur’an (4:34) – “Men are in charge of women, because Allah hath made the one of them to excel the other, and because they spend of their property (for the support of women). So good women are the obedient, guarding in secret that which Allah hath guarded. As for those from whom ye fear rebellion, admonish them and banish them to beds apart, and scourge them. Then if they obey you, seek not a way against them.”
Qur’an (4:176) “Unto the male is the equivalent of the share of two females.”
Qur’an (5:6) – “And if ye are unclean, purify yourselves. And if ye are sick or on a journey, or one of you cometh from the closet, or ye have had contact with women, and ye find not water, then go to clean, high ground and rub your faces and your hands with some of it” Men are to rub dirt on their hands if there is no water to purify them following casual contact with a woman (such as shaking hands).
Qur’an (24:4) – “And those who accuse free women then do not bring four witnesses (to adultery), flog them…”
Qur’an (24:13) – “Why did they not bring four witnesses of it? But as they have not brought witnesses they are liars before Allah.”
Qur’an (24:31) – Women are to lower their gaze around men, so they do not look them in the eye. (To be fair, men are told to do the same thing in the prior verse).
Qur’an (33:30) “O ye wives of the Prophet! Whosoever of you committeth manifest lewdness, the punishment for her will be doubled, and that is easy for Allah.”
Qur’an (33:33) – “And abide quietly in your homes…” Women are confined to their homes except when they have permission to go out.
Qur’an (33:53) “When ye ask of them (the wives of the Prophet) anything, ask it of them from behind a curtain. That is purer for your hearts and for their hearts. And it is not for you to cause annoyance to the messenger of Allah, nor that ye should ever marry his wives after him. Lo! that in Allah’s sight would be an enormity.”
Qur’an (33:59) – “Tell thy wives and thy daughters and the women of the believers to draw their cloaks close round them…” Men determine how women dress.
Qur’an (40:20) “And if ye wish to exchange one wife for another….”
Qur’an (53:27) – “Those who believe not in the Hereafter, name the angels with female names.” Angels are sublime beings, and would therefore be male.
Qur’an (65:1) “O Prophet! When ye (men) put away women….”
Qur’an (66:5) – “Maybe, his Lord, if he [Muhammad] divorce you, will give him in your place wives better than you, submissive, faithful, obedient, penitent, adorers, fasters, widows and virgins” A disobedient wife can be replaced.
From the Hadith:
Abu Dawud (2:704) – “When one of you prays without a sutrah, a dog, an ass, a pig, a Jew, a Magian, and a woman cut off his prayer, but it will suffice if they pass in front of him at a distance of over a stone’s throw.”
Abu Dawud (2155) – Women are compared to slaves and camels with regard to the “evil” in them.
Abu Dawud (2141) – “Iyas bin ‘Abd Allah bin Abi Dhubab reported the Apostle of Allah (may peace be upon him) as saying: Do not beat Allah’s handmaidens, but when ‘Umar came to the Apostle of Allah (may peace be upon him) and said: Women have become emboldened towards their husbands, he (the Prophet) gave permission to beat them. Then many women came round the family of the Apostle of Allah (may peace be upon him) complaining against their husbands. So the Apostle of Allah (may peace be upon him) said: Many women have gone round Muhammad’s family complaining against their husbands. They are not the best among you.” At first, Muhammad forbade men from beating their wives, but he rescinded this once it was reported that women were becoming emboldened toward their husbands. Beatings are sometimes necessary to keep women in their place.
Abu Dawud (2142) – “The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: A man will not be asked as to why he beat his wife.”
Abu Dawud (567) – “Apostle of Allah during a journey said to me: Uqbah, should I not teach you two best surahs ever recited? He then taught me: “Say, I seek refuge in the Lord of the dawn,” and “Say, I seek refuge in the Lord of men.””
Bukhari (6:301) – “[Muhammad] said, ‘Is not the evidence of two women equal to the witness of one man?’ They replied in the affirmative. He said, ‘This is the deficiency in her intelligence.’” Allah has made women deficient in the practice of their religion as well, by giving them menstrual cycles.”
Bukhari (2:28) – Women comprise the majority of Hell’s occupants. This is important because the only women in heaven ever mentioned by Muhammad are the virgins who serve the sexual desires of men. (A weak Hadith, Kanz al-`ummal, 22:10, even suggests that 99% of women go to Hell).
Bukhari (62:81) – According to Muhammad, the most important part of a marriage contract is the unrestricted access that a man has to his wife’s vagina.
Bukhari (62:58) – A woman presents herself in marriage to Muhammad, but he does not find her attractive, so he “donates” her on the spot to another man.
Bukhari (5:59:462) – The background for the Qur’anic requirement of four witnesses to adultery. Muhammad’s favorite wife, Aisha, was accused of cheating [on her polygamous husband]. Three witnesses corroborated the event, but Muhammad did not want to believe it, and so established the arbitrary rule that four witnesses are required.
Bukhari (72:715) – A woman came to Muhammad and begged her to stop her husband from beating her. Her skin was bruised so badly that she it is described as being “greener” than the green veil she was wearing. Muhammad did not admonish her husband, but instead ordered her to return to him and submit to his sexual desires.
Bukhari (88:219) – “Never will succeed such a nation as makes a woman their ruler.”
Bukhari (4:149) – Muhammad’s wives are even trained to defecate on his command.
Bukhari (48:826) – Women have a deficiency of intelligence, meaning that their decisions will not be comparable to a man’s.
Bukhari (58:125) – Women are tradable commodities. A Muslim with two wives offers a fellow Muslim his pick between the two. Muhammad then arranges a wedding banquet.
Hadith, this can be for an offense as petty as merely being alone with a man to whom she is not related.
Ishaq 969 – Commands that a married woman be “put in a separate room and beaten lightly” if she “acts in a sexual manner toward others.”
Ishaq 593 – “As for Ali, he said, ‘Women are plentiful, and you can easily change one for another.’” From the captives of Hunayn, Allah’s Messenger gave [his son-in-law] Ali a slave girl called Baytab and he gave [future Caliph] Uthman a slave girl called Zaynab and [future Caliph] Umar another.” – Even in this world, Muhammad treated women like party favors, handing out slave girls to his cronies for sex. Ali was raised as a son by Muhammad. He was also the 4th caliph. This comment was made in Muhammad’s presence without a word of rebuke from him.
Muslim (4:2127) – Muhammad struck his favorite wife, Aisha, in the chest one evening when she left the house without his permission. Aisha narrates, “He struck me on the chest which caused me pain.”
Muslim (4:1039) – “A’isha said [to Muhammad]: ‘You have made us equal to the dogs and the asses’”
Muslim (8:3306) – “A woman without a husband has wore right to her person than her guardian, and a virgin’s consent must be asked from her, and her silence implies her consent.”
Tabari VIII:117 – The fate of more captured farm wives, whom the Muslims distributed amongst themselves as sex slaves: “Dihyah had asked the Messenger for Safiyah when the Prophet chose her for himself… the Apostle traded for Safiyah by giving Dihyah her two cousins. The women of Khaybar were distributed among the Muslims.”
Tabari IX:137 – “Allah granted Rayhana of the Qurayza to Muhammad as booty.”
Ishaq 969 – “Men were to lay injunctions on women lightly, for they were prisoners of men and had no control over their persons.” – This same text also justifies beating women for flirting.
Tabari Vol 9, Number 1754 – “Treat women well, for they are [like] domestic animals with you and do not possess anything for them.” From Muhammad’s ‘Farewell Sermon’.
By Damien Marie AtHope
The ruling coalition agreed in January 2017 to prohibit full-face veils (niqab and burka) in public spaces such as courts and schools. It said it was considering a more general ban on state employees wearing the headscarf and other religious symbols. The measures were seen as an attempt to counter the rise of the far-right Freedom Party, which almost won the presidency in December 2016. The coalition, made up of the left-wing Social Democrats and the conservative Austrian People’s Party, said that full-face veils in public stood in the way of “open communication”, which it said was fundamental to an “open society”. The measures require parliamentary approval before they can come into force. ref
A law banning the full-face veil came into effect in Belgium in July 2011. The law bans any clothing that obscures the identity of the wearer in places like parks and on the street. In December 2012, Belgium’s Constitutional Court rejected appeals for the ban to be annulled, ruling that it did not violate human rights. Before the law was passed, the burka was already banned in several districts under old local laws originally designed to stop people masking their faces completely at carnival time. ref
There is no ban on Islamic dress in the UK, but schools are allowed to decide their own dress code after a 2007 directive which followed several high-profile court cases. In January 2010, then Schools Secretary Ed Balls said it was “not British” to tell people what to wear in the street after the UK Independence Party called for all face-covering Muslim veils to be banned. In September 2013, Home Office Minister Jeremy Browne called for a “national debate” about Islamic veils in public places, such as schools. In 2014 UKIP came first in the European elections in Britain, winning 24 seats in Brussels. Former UKIP leader Nigel Farage has said that full veils are a symbol of an “increasingly divided Britain”, that they “oppress” women, and are a potential security threat. Some 57% of the British public support a burka ban in the UK, a YouGov poll in August 2016 found. ref
In 2008, the government announced it would bar judges from wearing headscarves and similar religious or political symbols – including crucifixes, Jewish skull caps and turbans – in courtrooms. That move came after pressure from the Danish People’s Party (DPP), known for its anti-Muslim rhetoric, which has since called for the ban to be extended to include school teachers and medical personnel. After a Danish paper published a controversial cartoon in 2005 depicting the Prophet Muhammad as a bearded man with a bomb in his turban, there were a series of protests against Denmark across the Muslim world. ref
On 11 April 2011, France became the first European country to ban the full-face Islamic veil in public places. Under the ban, no woman, French or foreign, is able to leave their home with their face hidden behind a veil without running the risk of a fine. As President, Nicolas Sarkozy, whose administration brought in the ban, said that veils oppress women and were “not welcome” in France. The penalty for doing so is a 150 euro (£133, $217) fine and instruction in citizenship. Anyone found forcing a woman to cover her face risks a 30,000 euro fine. Data from 2015 showed that 1,546 fines had been imposed under the law. The European Court of Human Rights upheld the ban on 2 July 2014 after a case was brought by a 24-year-old French woman who argued that the ban violated her freedom of religion and expression. Most of the population – including most Muslims – agree with the government when it describes the face-covering veil as an affront to society’s values. ref
On 6 December 2016, Chancellor Angela Merkel said the wearing of full-faced veils should be prohibited in Germany “wherever it is legally possible”. Her comments, made at a CDU party meeting, came after plans to outlaw the burka – or any full-face veil – in public buildings were proposed by Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere in August. ref
Several towns in Italy have local bans on face-covering veils. The north-western town of Novara is one of several local authorities to have already brought in rules to deter public use of the Islamic veil. In the Lombardy region of Italy, a burka ban was agreed in December 2015 and came into effect in January 2016. Governments have discussed extending laws to impose penalties on Muslim face coverings, but these have not yet been enforced nationally. In 2004 local politicians in northern Italy resurrected old public order laws against the wearing of masks, to stop women from wearing the burka. ref
In November 2016, Dutch MPs backed a ban on the Islamic full veil in public places such as schools and hospitals, and on public transport. The niqab and the burka full-face veils were included in the ban along with face coverings such as ski-masks and helmets. In order for the ban to become law, the Dutch Senate must approve the bill. Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s ruling Liberal-Labour coalition described the bill, which will fine offenders up to 410 euros (£350, $435), as “religious-neutral”. ref
Russia’s Stavropol region has a ban on hijabs – the first of its kind imposed by a region in the Russian federation. The ruling was upheld by Russia’s Supreme Court in July 2013. In Chechnya, the authorities have defied Russian policy on Islamic dress. In 2007 President Ramzan Kadyrov – the pro-Moscow leader – issued an edict ordering women to wear headscarves in state buildings. It is a direct violation of Russian law, but is strictly followed today. President Kadyrov even voiced support for men who fired paintballs at women deemed to be violating the strict dress code. ref
Though there are no plans for a national ban in Spain, in 2010 the city of Barcelona announced a ban on full Islamic face-veils in some public spaces such as municipal offices, public markets and libraries. At least two smaller towns in Catalonia, the north-eastern region that includes Barcelona, have also imposed bans. But a ban in the town of Lleida was overturned by Spain’s Supreme Court in February 2013. It ruled that it was an infringement of religious liberties. Barcelona’s city council said the ban there targeted any head-wear that impeded identification, including motorbike helmets and balaclavas. ref
In late 2009, Swiss Justice Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf said a face-veil ban should be considered if more Muslim women begin wearing them, adding that the veils made her feel “uncomfortable”. In September 2013, 65% of the electorate in the Italian-speaking region of Ticino voted in favour of a ban on face veils in public areas by any group. ref
For more than 85 years Turks have lived in an officially secular state founded by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, who rejected headscarves as backward-looking. Scarves are banned in civic spaces and official buildings, but the issue is deeply divisive for the country’s predominantly Muslim population, as two-thirds of all Turkish women – including the wives and daughters of the prime minister and president – cover their heads. In 2008, Turkey’s constitution was amended to ease a strict ban at universities, allowing headscarves that were tied loosely under the chin. Headscarves covering the neck and all-enveloping veils were still banned. In October 2013, Turkey lifted rules banning women from wearing headscarves in the country’s state institutions – with the exception of the judiciary, military and police. The governing AK Party, which has Islamist roots, said the ban meant many girls were being denied an education. But the secular establishment said easing it would be a first step to allowing Islam into public life. In August 2016, Turkey began allowing policewomen to wear the headscarf. ref