Yesterday, I wrote about the niqab to symbolize a society that is not based on equal values, but simply mutual respect. Today I saw a Swedish documentary on internet about the niqab and the questions this garment “awakens” in Sweden and Europe.
Ideas are children of their time, and it seems to me that we are living in a political era when the enlightenments’ values and liberties are put to the test – how much can they bear? The ideas of Hobbes and Rousseau (although not Lockes’) are developed from a secular world view whereas today these values are facing a religious way of perceiving the world. But aren’t everybody free to think and express themselves however they like, doesn’t that apply for people who do not share the same values?
I have detected many double standards in the debate, making me believe that this isn’t really a question about the niqab but a question of xenophobic nature. First I would like to iniciate you in the double standards of the debate and its suggestions. If the niqab is an oppressive symbol, then why should we oppress these women even more by not allowing them in the public space by law, as they are aiming at in France? Wouldn’t that segregate and oppress them even more? Another question: if the niqab is a threat to the enlightenments’ values, wouldn’t it just give the “followers of niqab”, in lack of a better expression, sympathy as the niqab would be slaughtered like a martyr in the Parliaments of Europe? One women said that the niqab was like being a nun for her; should the nuns be our next sacrifice for freedom?
To answer my last question: of course not! Why? Because the nuns are a part of European culture and tradition! Well are they really? Historically they also come from the same area as Islam. I am not suggesting that Islam is our new religion in west or that expressions and ideas’ brought with it will be dominating in e.g. Europe. But I am suggesting that we should not be xenophobic, we should not be scared of different ways of viewing life. We should not forbid everything that isn’t yet seen as European in many’s eyes. Yesterday I said respect, today I also say Understanding.
True Understanding of each persons right to chose for oneself. True Understanding of the liberties that are the cornerstone of European societies. I heard someone in the documentary say: Why should they be allowed to dress like that when we can’t walk around in shorts and skirts in their homecountries? Reply: if I hit you does it justify you tohit me? If it does, would I be a bigger woman hitting you back, or simply by responding peacefully? Intolerance should open our eyes for the beauty of tolerance, don’t you think?
Also by using the word Understanding I challenge you to approximate yourself to what may be alien for you – next time you see a women in burqa or niqab, simply say: “Salaam u aleykum” (“Peace be upon you”) before walking away…