Archive for Hijab

BBC: Talks Over Hate Attack on Schoolgirl Wearing Hijab

Posted in Loon Violence with tags , , , , , , , , , , on January 19, 2012 by loonwatch

Talks over Sunbury-on-Thames schoolgirl race attack

(BBC)

The girl was attacked by older white girls who kicked her, pushed her to the ground and drew on her face.

Surrey Police said it seemed the girl had been targeted on 11 January because she was wearing a headscarf.

Spelthorne councillor Colin Strong said the incident was being raised at a meeting with neighbourhood police as an issue that affected the community.

‘On busy road’

Detectives said they were treating the incident in Vicarage Road as a racially-aggravated assault.

Det Con Simon Egan said the girl had been targeted as she waited for a bus.

He said the suspects had kicked the victim in the leg, pulled her rucksack from her, pushed her to the floor, used make-up to draw on her face and racially abused her.

After the incident, the girl picked up her bag and ran away.

Det Con Egan said: “This was an appalling assault where a young victim has been targeted in a completely unprovoked attack.

“It would seem that suspects targeted the victim for no reason other than because she was wearing a headscarf.”

In an appeal for witnesses, he said the assault had taken place at the side of a busy road in daylight and urged any pedestrians or drivers who saw the attack to come forward.

The issue will be discussed at a neighbourhood policing meeting at the Sunbury Youth Centre, in Bryony Way, on Thursday evening.

Veils: Who are We to Judge?

Posted in Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , on January 18, 2012 by loonwatch

Niqab

Veils: who are we to judge?

by Anne Kingston (Macleans)

No item of female apparel summons more attention, animosity, debate or censure in Western society than the veil covering Muslim women. That’s saying something in a culture inured to the sight of sweatpants with “Juicy” on the backside, Abercrombie & Fitch’s padded “push-up” swimsuit tops for eight-year-old girls, and women teetering on skyscraper porno heels as hobbling as the “chopines” worn by 16th-century Venetian prostitutes.

Governments are racing to restrict the veil in its various declensions: hijab, chador, abaya, niqab, burka. France and Belgium banned face-and-body concealing burkas and niqabs last year; similar legislation is in the works in other European countries, echoing campaigns to rid cityscapes of minarets. Last June, Muslim women were singled out by FIFA, the world soccer body, which banned players from wearing Islamic headdresses on the grounds they could cause a “choking injury.” The Canadian federal government drew its first line in the sand last month when Immigration Minister Jason Kenney announced a ban on face veils during the swearing-in of the citizenship oath. Quebec’s Bill 94, which would deny essential public services to women in niqabs in the name of “public security, communication and identification,” is wending through the legislature.

So what’s really going on here? Why are women many see as subjugated the ones being censured? Part of what’s driving this is the visceral response a veiled face summons in the West: it’s a mystery and a threat. Unless you’re a surgeon, a goalie, a bride or a belly dancer, masking one’s face is anti-social, a prelude to robbing a bank or attending a Ku Klux Klan meeting. Faces confer identity, legally and socially. Covering them can signal Darth Vader menace. It’s dehumanizing.

A covered or veiled woman summons more complex associations, given that female emancipation in the West focused on bodily autonomy and was mirrored in fashion trends—beginning with Coco Chanel, who believed women should share the same liberties as men and replaced restrictive corsets and long skirts with jersey dresses, knits and pants. Instructing a woman to cover up to preserve sexual modesty and prevent lustful thoughts is viewed as archaic and misogynistic—harking back to the Victorians hiding curvy table legs or the kind of dystopian theocracy depicted in Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. The “liberated” woman eschews modesty; any instructive to preserve it is code for oppression, as seen in global “SlutWalks” protesting “victim-blaming” after a Toronto police officer suggested women could avoid sexual assault if they stopped dressing “like sluts.”

Western women may be shackled by clothing and customs—six-inch stilettos, Brazilian waxing, cosmetic surgery, the imperative to be thin—but that’s seen to be their choice, their self-expression within a culture that often conflates female empowerment with female sexuality. A veiled Muslim woman is therefore even more freighted, thought to represent a second-class citizen deprived of identity and isolated from public life, a trapped victim of “gender apartheid,” as witnessed by the horrific acid attack on Afghani schoolgirls who abjured the offensive burka.

Yet we didn’t always see it that way. In the 1990s, the niqab, the veil that leaves only eyes exposed, was exotic, a marketing ploy: Loblaw put a photograph of a woman wearing one on the box for its “Memories of Marrakech” couscous. The “otherness” of a veiled Muslim could occasionally inflame bigotry, as seen in 1994 when female high school students in Montreal were expelled for wearing the hijab; the head scarf worn to preserve modesty was deemed an “ostentatious symbol.” But the burka was off the political radar, with the exception of feminist groups that protested the repression of women in fundamentalist Islamic nations, particularly Afghanistan, where Taliban rule in 1994 torched advances made by women.

Then came 9/11, and the burka was hijacked as a handy accessory for the emerging “war on terror.” The week after the twin towers fell, The Economist sent out a “free trial offer” mailer recycling a February 2000 cover of a woman in a niqab below the line: “Can Islam and Democracy Mix?” The image was sultry, destined to boost subscriptions, even if linking a veiled woman with all of Islam was below the magazine’s usual intellectual rigour. Not all Muslim women wear face-covering veils; many Muslims oppose the practice. The Quran, an enlightened text regarding gender equality, enforces no dress code; “hijab,” or cover, refers to the curtain that separates man and the world from God, not to clothing. Men and women are only called to “lower their gaze and guard their modesty.” Nor are Muslim nations in sync on veiling, which has come to represent an oppression-meter of sorts—from Afghanistan, where women faced a mandatory burka law punishable by death, to Tunisia and Turkey, where burkas are banned in schools and government buildings.

Turkish-born sociologist Necla Kelek dismisses the idea that the burka has anything to do with religion or religious freedoms, but rather represents an ideology whereby “women in public don’t have the right to be human.” France’s Fadéla Amara views the garment as a form of religious obscurantism, “a kind of tomb for women.” In her 2004 book, The Trouble with Islam, Irshad Manji rejects any notion of “spiritual submission” to the veil, calling adherence “closer to cultural capitulation”: “To cover my face because ‘that’s what I’m supposed to do’ is nothing short of brand victory for desert Arabs, whose style has become the most trusted symbol of how to package yourself as a Muslim woman.”

Yet as a symbol, the “desert Arab” packaging of women offered powerful visual shorthand for the indeterminate “war on terror.” It was harnessed to garner support for the invasion of Afghanistan, where the road to female freedom was measured in media reports in terms of women’s access to lipstick and beauty salons. Then the burka was tied to Islamic terrorism itself, linking the “war on terror” with a “war on Islam”: video footage that appeared to show one of the failed July 2005 London bombers wearing a niqab implanted fear that the garment posed a national security threat. That risk migrated to Muslim immigrants’ seeming unwillingness to conform to European and American mores. Even global cultural juggernaut Disney, whose 1992 Aladdin came under fire for promoting racist Arabic stereotypes, joined the hijab jihad last year, telling more than one Magic Kingdom employee that they were “not part of the Disney look.”

We can only await the Disneyfication of the burka, which has acquired near magical powers in its ability to turn right-wing politicians into situational feminists. French President Nicolas Sarkozy called the garment “a debasement” of women that rendered them “prisoners behind a screen, cut off from all social contact, deprived of all identity,” ignoring the fact that his ban would closet these women in their homes. As British writer Myriam Francois-Cerrah, a Muslim, puts it: “[Governments] have a funny idea of liberation: criminalizing women in order to free them.”

Sheema Khan, author of Of Hockey and Hijab: Reflections of a Canadian Muslim Woman, likens the paranoia over female veiling to another trumped-up distraction: “These new WMDs (women in Muslim dress) seem to evoke the same fear as those other WMDs (weapons of mass destruction),” she writes. Khan, who wears the hijab, sees a cultural disconnect over the female body and its display: “Muslim women value their bodies, they simply don’t believe in flashing skin.”

In their covering and attempt to disappear from the public sphere, veiled women have acquired paradoxical power in a society that pays attention to women for what they’re not wearing: as the most visible of visible minorities, they’re a measure of multiculturalism’s limits. And as a graphic reminder of the world’s fastest-growing religion, they test how much religious observation and cultural defiance we’re willing to accommodate—and accept.

Jason Kenney described a covered face as “un-Canadian” when announcing the new citizenship ruling: “Allowing a group to hide their faces while they are becoming members of our community is counter to Canada’s commitment to openness, equality and social cohesion,” he said. The minister admitted he found it “frankly, bizarre” that women had been allowed to veil their faces. Some 81 per cent of Canadians agreed with the veto, according to a Forum Research poll, which raises questions as to whether we’ll see similar rulings in other public spaces; Muslim women’s right to veil their faces while giving testimony is currently being challenged.

Canadian political scientist and Middle East scholar Katherine Bullock predicted that Muslim women would become “the visible link between Western power politics and an anti-veil discourse in the West,” in her 2002 book, Rethinking Muslim Women and the Veil. The University of Toronto professor, a convert to Islam since 1994, wears the hijab. She was prescient: Sarkozy’s targeting of the Muslim minority is viewed by many as a pander to voters on the extreme right.

Bullock challenges the common view that the veil is oppressive and degrading. While she acknowledges the horrific violation of women’s rights in Islamic states, she writes that these must be addressed by the courts, and that a woman’s right to wear the veil should be separate from other human rights issues. That argument is a hard sell in the West, where high-profile murders of Muslim girls and women are associated with their rejection of the veil in “honour killings,” the odious term that segregates extreme domestic violence: Aqsa Parvez, the 16-year-old Mississauga, Ont., girl who was murdered in 2007 by her father and brother for refusing to wear the veil, and the ongoing Shafia trial in Kingston, Ont., in which a husband, wife and son are accused of murdering three teenage girls and a first wife. At that trial an expert prosecution witness overtly raised the connection when speaking of Muslim mores: “A woman’s body is considered to be the repository of family honour,” he said.

That any woman would willingly wear an “ambulatory prison,” as Christine St-Pierre, Quebec’s minister for the status of women, has called the niqab, is a mystery in a culture focused on the exposed female body and the distorted “body image” resulting from artificial Photoshopped standards. Amid “Does this burka make me look fat?” jokes, female Western journalists took the garments out for test drives, reporting back that they were confining, isolating and even elicited hostility, which is predictable. Veiled Muslim women have become doubly dehumanized in the West—by the veil itself and incendiary responses to what it’s seen to represent—which makes them vulnerable to the kind of violent Islamophobic attacks seen in France.

Yet the defiance expressed by hijab and burka wearers confounds the stereotype that they are submissive and lack will. Disney’s hijab ban has been successfully challenged. Last September, Hind Ahmas and Najate Nait Ali made headlines when they were fined for disobeying the French burka ban.

Inscrutable and complex, the veil is a code that can’t readily be cracked. Many women are veiled against their will, it is true, yet many others choose it. The idea that the veil could represent an assertion of identity, defined by daily connection and devotion to God, is alien for many in a secular culture. Liberal ideas of equality and liberty, which distinguish want from need, trump other ways of looking at the topic, says Middle Eastern historian Christina Michelmore, a professor at Chatham College in Pittsburgh, Pa.: “A lot of women want to wear it because they have to,” she told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in 2001. “It was a commandment, and I would obey,” Bullock writes. That’s a mindset alien in the West, Michelmore observes: “For many Americans, cultural restraints on individual behaviour automatically look like oppression. I think that’s a very American look at the world. For lots of cultures, communal standards aren’t seen as inhibiting individual freedoms.”

Women wear the veil as a rejection of Western values, Michelmore notes: “They see it as part of their identity, as separate from this globalized McDonald’s world.” Many of the veil’s most vocal proponents, ironically, are Western women who’ve converted to Islam, among them Tony Blair’s sister-in-law, Lauren Booth, German broadcaster Kristiane Backer, author of the 2009 book From MTV To Mecca, and Yvonne Ridley, of Islam Channel TV. Ridley extols the veil as offering freedom from Western sexism—the male gaze that renders a woman “invisible” after a certain age and undue judgment of women based on their appearance: “What is more liberating: being judged on the length of your skirt and the size of your surgically enhanced breasts, or being judged on your character and intelligence?” she asks. Yet to frame the debate as an either-or duality between two cultures is to ignore the continuity that exists. There’s synchronicity in the burka being stigmatized at the same time female display in the West has geared into cartoonish, hyper-sexualization—the mainstreaming of the stripper aesthetic, the creepy Toddlers and Tiaras commodification of girls, and billboards like Estée Lauder’s: “Beautiful gives her daughter something to look forward to.” A new study from the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism reveals women are increasingly under-represented and overly sexualized in top movies: they’re far more likely to be seen in “sexy” clothing (25.8 per cent, compared to men at 4.7 per cent) and to be partially naked (23.6 per cent compared to 7.4 per cent). Yet the barbaric repression of women in fundamentalist Islamic nations—stoning for adultery, being denied the vote and access to education—renders complaints about continuing gender inequities in the West trivial by comparison, when, in fact, they are all extremes on a vast continuum.

Legislating what women wear under the guise of freedom is a worrisome portent, one Human Rights Watch calls a “lose-lose situation”: “[Burka bans] violate the rights of those who choose to wear the veil and do nothing to help those who are compelled to do so,” Judith Sunderland, a senior researcher with the group, said last April.

Art allows an exploration of the ambiguities that politics cannot. Canadian photographer Lana Slezic captured a fearful complexity in her famous portrait of Lt.-Col. Malali Kakar, Afghanistan’s most senior female police officer, who was murdered by the Taliban in 2008. Taken in profile, the image shows Kakar shrouded in a half burka, holding a handgun, her fingernails painted bright red. The image of the Afghan police officer working to emancipate Afghan women wearing a symbol of oppression upends the assumption that an unseen woman can’t yield power. Last week, Michelle Risinger, an NGO worker, blogged on GenderAcrossBorders.com about a successful uprising in Kabul by women disguised by their burkas; it forced her to redefine the garment “from a symbol of repression to a means of protection, and even the sustainment of women’s empowerment activities.”

Parisian guerrilla artist “Princess Hijab” explores the power of the veil in her work, using a black marker to “hijabize” and “niqabize” billboards to subvert consumer imagery and push cultural boundaries. “The niqab is very powerful, not just religiously,” the artist told Al Jazeera in 2010: “It has been used in fairy tales, it’s part of the collective memory, a symbol of religious observance, mourning and death.” The veil doesn’t belong to a single religious or ethnic group, she points out: “It’s an empowering piece of clothing but it also can be frightening.”

Exiled Iranian artist and filmmaker Shirin Neshat, known for her “Women of Allah” series, similarly creates haunting, powerful images of veiled women, some with guns, their bodies superimposed with Farsi poetry. “Western culture generally tends to mystify women behind a veil,” Neshat told hEyOkA magazine: “It seems ironic but true that the more a female body is covered, the more desirable it becomes. Therefore much of the credit goes to the phenomena behind Islamic culture that by controlling female sexuality, it ironically heightens the notions of temptation, desire and eroticism.”

That would explain the bizarre spectre of the increasing sexual fetishization of the burka in the West. In 2003, rapper Lil’ Kim appeared in a half-burka, naked below, on a magazine cover. In 2009, Mattel endorsed a “Burka Barbie.” The pneumatic plastic doll, once banned in Iran as a threat to “morality,” was outfitted in lime-green and Day-Glo orange “burkas” and auctioned off at Sotheby’s for Save the Children. A few months ago, Kim Kardashian, of sex tape infamy, pranced around in a burka in Dubai. Paparazzi swarmed. It was defiant, outrageous, more shocking than nudity. And anyone who sees it as cultural progress hasn’t been paying attention.

The Modern Muslim Woman is Who She Chooses to Be

Posted in Anti-Loons with tags , , , , , , , , , , on January 11, 2012 by loonwatch
Hijabi Surfer
Photo by: Sadaf Syed

My Life: the modern Muslim woman is who she chooses to be

By Maryam Ismail (The National)

Where did this image of the oppressed Muslim woman come from and when will this battle against it stop? Growing up on a diet of Saturday TV matinees, every “Muslim woman” I saw in the movies was a belly dancer with a lot of chiffon wrapped around her. Mata Hari, who was actually a Dutch divorcée who recreated herself as a Javanese Hindu princess, changed the world of exotic women forever. In the films of old it was the dance of the seven veils that would woo a man into revealing secrets of war. Today, it seems there is the idea that under one’s hijab lies some mystical inner working, one that needs to be covered up by another layer of normality.

This seemed to be the idea at a recent panel discussion called “The Role of Muslim Women in Society”. This discussion was part of the ICover photograph exhibit by Sadaf Syed at the Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilization. This exhibit is a sort of official debut of the new American Muslim. This newly christened, hybrid identity is one that hopes to erase all ties with Muslim cultural, ethnic and linguistic history.

The exhibit tries to show Muslim women breaking the boundaries of so-called tradition. Muslimah rockers, surfers and boxers are some of the examples of the “modern Muslim woman”. OK, that may be well and good, but I am so tired of this conversation. Muslims are people and by virtue of this essential fact, they are going to do what they want. Perhaps some might wag a finger and proclaim this is un-Islamic. Others will argue that traditional (Islamic) ideology is a thing past and shout: “Come on now, get over it.”

iCoverPhoto by: Sadaf Syed

I am so over hijab hysteria.

Standing on the sidelines of this discourse is like watching a dog chase its tail with the sincere hope of catching it. And if he does, what will happen? More than likely, he’ll yelp and bite himself again for being so stupid. Why should it be a special event if a woman who wears a hijab decides to be a fencer or a ballerina? Is it out of the realm of faith? Some may not think so and others may not care. Then, there may be another premise: that wearing the hijab will show the world that Muslim women have arrived. However, I think that if this is the case, they may end up being the oldest debutantes at the ball.

This was the case during the panel discussion sponsored by the US Consulate in Dubai. On the panel were the fashion designer Rabia K, the media consultant Wafa KBR, the artist Najat Mekky and the US foreign service officer Marwa Zeini. The first three are Emirati women who have been successful in their fields despite their covering Islamically and came to discuss their experiences. I don’t want to steal my sisters’ thunder – they deserve their applause, because their journeys have not been easy – but they were managing their lives as they see fit, within the context of their circumstances.

“Muslim women should wear clothes that they can run and play in,” Zeini said. Was she trying to tap into my unconscious and force me to do battle with my former self? Just then, I got an uneasy feeling that someone was going to kidnap me the moment I stepped into the streets, and then announce the next day that I was miraculously freed by Brad Pitt and American values.

If anything, I wish someone would rescue me from this endless notion that a woman is nothing unless she aspires to run with the big boys or tosses her Muslim soul into the sea and declares she’s free at last. Can we please talk about something else?

Maryam Ismail is a sociologist and teacher who divides her time between the US and the UAE

Geert Wilders Upset that Queen Beatrix Wears Headscarf in Visit to Mosque, Forgets He Wore Yarmulke to Synagogue

Posted in Feature, Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on January 8, 2012 by loonwatch

Geert Wilders and his PVV Party are upset that Queen Beatrix, queen of the Netherlands wore this “hijab-hat” while visiting a mosque in Abu Dhabi:

Queen_Beatrix_Veil_HijabQueen Beatrix visits mosque in Abu Dabi

Wilders Seemingly forgot that he dressed like this while visiting a synagogue in the United States:

Wearing a Yarmulke (Yamaka) is okay but not the Hijab

Getting upset over celebrities and world leaders wearing Islamic or Muslim garb while visiting a mosque or Islamic holy place is a regular theme amongst Islamophobes, we have covered their angst about this before, Daniel Pipes’ Unhealthy Obsession with the Hijab.

Here is a Radio Netherlands post on the subject (via. Islamophobia-Watch):

Queen’s headscarf causes row

(Radio Netherlands Worldwide)

Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, who is in Abu Dabi, wore a headscarf when she visited the Sheikh Zayed Mosque this morning out of respect for the customs, traditions and conventions of Islam, says Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal. The queen is on a two-day state visit to the United Arab Emirates.

“Not to have worn one during a visit to a mosque wasn’t an option. In that case, the invitation to visit to the mosque, one of the most important in the United Arab Emirates, would’ve had to have been refused,” explained Mr Rosenthal.

‘Oppression’
His comments come in response to criticism from the Freedom Party (PVV) about the clothing worn by Queen Beatrix and Crown Princess Máxima who, with her husband Prince Willem-Alexander, is part of the royal party visiting the UAE. The PVV had complained that, by wearing a headscarf, the queen was lending legitimacy to the oppression of women under Islam.

Mr Rosenthal pointed out that Queen Beatrix also adjusts the way she dresses when she visits synagogues and cathedrals.

‘Waste of time’
The democrat D66 party was quick to point out that PVV leader Geert Wilders himself wears a yarmulke when he visits the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem. Green Left MP Tofik Dibi not only slammed Mr Wilders’ comments about the queen’s dress but also the responses to them as a waste of time. (emphasis mine)

(mw)

The Feminist Mosaic: The Naked Blogger, the Burka, and the Boys in Hijab

Posted in Feature, Loon Politics with tags , , , , , on November 28, 2011 by loonwatch

Aliaa al-Mahdy sparked a firestorm of controversy last month when she posted a sensationalist nude photo of herself on her blog, ‘Memoirs of a Revolutionary.’ Praised almost universally in the West for her “courage,” the 20-year-old art student sent “shock waves” through Egypt’s conservative society. (It is interesting to note that when women attempt to attain their rights to wear the hijab or the niqab in lets say France it is not met with the same enthusiastic praise but rather derision.)

After decades of resurgent Islam, public nudity is frowned upon in Egypt, even in art. Mahdy defended her act, writing in her blog:

Put on trial the artists’ models who posed nude for art schools until the early 70s, hide the art books and destroy the nude statues of antiquity, then undress and stand before a mirror and burn your bodies that you despise to forever rid yourselves of your sexual hangups before you direct your humiliation and chauvinism and dare to try to deny me my freedom of expression.

Mahdy also launched a Facebook campaign, “Wearing Hijab in Solidarity with Women,” which called on men to support women’s rights by uploading photos of themselves wearing headscarves. The idea of men wearing hijab to make a political statement is not new.

In 2009, Iranian authorities tried to humiliate jailed activist Majid Tavakoli by publishing photos of him wearing hijab as punishment for his role in protests following a disputed election. Iranian men responded by launching the online “Be a Man” campaign, and hundreds of men expressed their solidarity with Travakoli by uploading photos of themselves wearing hijab.

Be a Man CampaignBe a Man Campaign

The “Be a Man” campaign also advocates women’s rights. Mahdy featured many participants’ photos on her Facebook page before it was shut down in response to thousands of complaints. She has vowed to relaunch it within days.

Egypt’s Attorney General has received a legal complaint accusing Mahdi and her boyfriend, Kareem Amer, of “inciting immorality, debauchery, and defamation of religion.”

This legal complaint is bound not to help the situation and will likely have the opposite effect. We know whenever the state interferes to repress freedom of conscious it only brings more attention to the issue and entices copycats.

Secular liberals and religious conservatives are vying for support in Egypt’s increasingly polarized society. Mahdy’s liberal critics fear her radical tactics could prompt a conservative backlash and strengthen ultra-Conservative Islamists in upcoming elections.

Egyptian journalist Mohammad Abdelfattah, whose role in exposing the deadly beating of Khaled Said helped spark the 2011 Egyptian Revolution, expressed his support for women’s rights, but advocated a different approach, saying:

I don’t think that’s how I would like to show my support for women. Both of us respect our differences, but that’s not something I would do … I think that it’s a funny tactic, it’s not serious stuff…

You know, we can mobilize for women’s rights in a more serious manner that can achieve real things on the ground, not just some superficial type of tactics that would make the already conservative population [of Egypt more] alienated … to the idea of women’s rights.

Mona Eltahawy, a freelance Egyptian-American journalist based in New York, who ironically supports bans on the burqa dismissed liberal critics who accused Mahdy of hurting their cause. Eltahawy, who describes herself as a liberal, secular Muslim, said conservative opponents should not be allowed to set the agenda. In an article expressing lavish praise for Mahdy’s campaign, she wrote:

When a woman is the sum total of her headscarf and hymen – that is, what’s on her head and what is between her legs – then nakedness and sex become weapons of political resistance…

[Mahdy] is the Molotov cocktail thrown at the Mubaraks in our heads – the dictators of our mind – which insists that revolutions cannot succeed without a tidal wave of cultural changes that upend misogyny and sexual hypocrisy.

Eltahawy’s views are prevalent among feminists who interpret public nudity as the ultimate rebellion against the burqa, considered a notorious symbol of oppression in the West. Many who subscribe to this view believe Islam and feminism are mutually exclusive, and that religion should be tossed in the trash bin, along with the hijab.

Muslim feminists have challenged this orthodoxy, forwarding the argument that Islam and feminism are compatible, and that modest dress actually liberates women from the confines of superficial beauty. Many Muslim feminists have introduced a competing contemporary narrative that challenges the notion that women’s liberation is a one-size-fits-all endeavor.

Maybe Mahdy’s campaign will contribute to a new feminist mosaic that is inclusive and focused on choices, not mandates. Rather than becoming a lightning rod issue, pitting one side against another, why can’t we make room for naked bloggers, and burqas, and boys in hijab?

Carter: Maplewood woman could be first American Muslim to wear hijab while competing at Olympics

Posted in Anti-Loons with tags , , , , , , , on October 17, 2011 by loonwatch

Ibtihaj Muhammad is the first practicing Muslim to represent the U.S. in women's fencing. She's ranked second in the U.S. and 11th in the world. Ibtihaj stands out because she wears her hijab headscarf that is worn by Muslim women.

Ibtihaj Muhammad is the first practicing Muslim to represent the U.S. in women’s fencing. She’s ranked second in the U.S. and 11th in the world. Ibtihaj stands out because she wears her hijab headscarf that is worn by Muslim women.

Carter: Maplewood woman could be first American Muslim to wear hijab while competing at OlympicsBy 

Barry Carter/The Star-Ledger 

Ibtihaj Muhammad jogs lightly across the second floor gym at the Manhattan Fencing Center in New York. She’s warming up, eager to get some work in.

Ready! Fence!

Fencers are already on the strip, a narrow fighting lane, and they’re going at it, the air filled with little razor-like hisses and whispers. Many are Olympic hopefuls, like her, preparing for the World Championships Saturday in Italy. The competition is another chance for Muhammad to earn qualifying points in her quest to make the 2012 London Olympics in July.

“I don’t think I ever wanted anything so much,” said Muhammad, 25, of Maplewood. “I just want to make sure I’m doing everything I can to make this Olympics.”

When it’s her turn to spar, she slips the fencing mask over her hijab, the headscarf Muslim women wear. In a room full of fencers, it’s the one thing that makes her stand out. If she makes the Olympics, she’ll stand out even more. Fencing officials believe Muhammad is likely to be the first American Muslim woman wearing a hijab to compete at the games. The United States Olympic Committee doesn’t track athletes by religion, but the demographic is something Muhammad thinks about, knowing what an accomplishment it would be since few Muslim women compete in sports.
http://c.brightcove.com/services/viewer/federated_f9?isVid=1
“I didn’t have female Muslim role models to look up to in the athletic world,” she said. “It’s really important for people to know my story. I think it’s something I have to do, because I want Muslim female youth to believe they can do something like this.”

Muhammad is ranked number two in the United States and 13th in the world in women’s sabre, a fencing style in which strikes are made above the waist with any part of the weapon. Locally, she represents the Peter Westbrook Foundation in New York City, training at the Fencers Club on West 28th Street, where she is coached by Akhnaten Spencer-El, a 2000 Olympic fencer. Under him, she’s a tactical, cerebral fighter who caught the fencing world off guard in 2009.

She won the U.S. national title that year, cracking the top 16 world rankings. Last year, she won a bronze medal at the Pan American Championships and a coveted spot on the U.S. women’s national team.

“She’s still young in the game and she’s only going to get better,” Spencer-El said.

Back to the strip. She goes against a member of the U.S. men’s national team, then her teammate, Dagmara Wozniak of Avenel. You can hear the constant ping of saber blades colliding. Everyone has cat-like footwork that is lickety-split quick, calculating and aggressive. They duel back and forth trying to outsmart each other, snapping their weapons at the wrist to score. The long electrical wires attached to the edge of their fencing jackets register hits. All of them look like puppets dancing on a string, lunging toward each other and their their shot at gold.

Ibtihaj Muhammad, left, and Damara Wozniak, of Avenel, face off during practice match in New York.Ibtihaj Muhammad, left, and Damara Wozniak, of Avenel, face off during practice match in New York.

Getting to Italy isn’t easy. Each country is allowed two spots for women’s sabre and Muhammad and her teammates are the top four fencers in the U.S. The best of them is two-time Olympian Mariel Zagunis of Oregon, and she’s number one in the world.

Muhammad is unfazed. She trains daily, except for Sunday, running in the morning before conditioning at a women’s gym. In the evening, she’s in New York City fencing for four hours.

“I just keep going,” she said. “I don’t want to get to a competition and lose a bout, because I didn’t work out that extra hour.”

You can see she’s super-competitive, hating to lose, constantly critiquing herself. She’s all business for this once in lifetime shot, but Muhammad does pause for what’s important.

The third of five siblings in an athletic family, Muhammad finds strength in her faith. In August, she stayed focused through Ramadan, the annual Islamic month of fasting during the day. But Muhammad wants no sympathy, saying her sacrifices are not unlike anybody else’s. She kept hyrdrated, waking up every 90 minutes at night to eat and drink. If she makes the team, Muhammad will be used to the regimen since Ramadan next year falls during the Olympic competition.

It doesn’t matter at this point. Muhammad has come a long way in a career that started when she was a high school freshman. She stumbled on the sport driving past Columbia High School with her mother, who could see the team practicing through the large cafeteria windows. Inayah Muhammad didn’t know what they were doing but thought her daughter should try it because the uniform would cover her body and that was suitable to Islam’s tenet of modesty for women.

“I had know idea it (fencing) would take us this far,’’ said her mom, a Newark schoolteacher. “She’s so in love with the sport. I don’t think she really understands how good she is.’’

Muhummad was an epee fencer with Columbia until her former coach, Frank Mustilli, saw she was a better fit for sabre’s combative vein. At practice one day, Mustilli said his mild mannered athlete got upset after she got hit hard and lashed out.

“She showed me a little bit of fire. She screamed and attacked,’’ said Mustilli, head of the New Jersey Fencing Alliance.

At Columbia, Muhammad also played softball and volleyball but was captain of two state championship fencing teams before going to Duke University. She became a three-time NCAA All-American, earning dual degrees in International Relations and African-American studies with a minor in Arabic.

Ibtihaj Muhammad is seen during a September practice in New York.Ibtihaj Muhammad is seen during a September practice in New York.

After graduation in 2007, her father, Shamsiddin Muhammad, said his daughter’s passion for fencing did not wane. The family supports her financially and she chipped in what she could last year as a substitute teacher at Shabazz High School in Newark and fencing coach at Columbia.

“I know this is her dream and inspiration,’’ said her dad, a retired Newark cop. “We believe that what is written is going to happen.’’

That belief helps her deal with distractions on this journey. At times she’s wondered if her race or religion played a role in a judge scoring unfairly. When traveling, she has been treated as a foreigner who can’t speak English, and worse, she feels the stares that say terrorist.

In Belgium this year, security officials told her to leave the airport unless she removed her hijab. Muhammad would not. Her mother interceded and there was a compromise to have her head patted down. Muhammad said it’s frustrating making others comfortable, but she’s not going to let “closeted views” derail her purpose.

“If God wants me to succeed, no one can take it from me,’’ she said. “That’s the way I approach it and I think that’s what keeps me sane and grounded in this sport.’’

Altercation at New York amusement park after Muslim women banned from rides for wearing headscarves

Posted in Loon Violence, Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on September 1, 2011 by loonwatch

(Via Islamophobia-Watch.com)

Altercation at New York amusement park after Muslim women banned from rides for wearing headscarves

A New York amusement park was temporarily shut down Tuesday after a large-scale altercation erupted between Muslim patrons and park rangers over a disagreement on headgear rules.

Muslim women in a tour group at Rye Playland in Westchester County were reportedly denied access to several rides because they were wearing hijabs – their traditional headscarves, MyFoxNY reports.

“Our headgear policy is designed to protect the safety of patrons and safety is our first concern,” said Deputy Parks Commissioner Peter Tartaglia. “This policy was repeatedly articulated to the tour operator, but unfortunately the message did not reach some of the members of his group.”

The altercation began when park officials offered refunds and members of the Muslim group got in a scuffle, Tartaglia told The Journal News. Two park rangers were injured when they jumped in to break it up, he said, and were taken to local hospitals.

Dozens of police vehicles from nine agencies then rushed to the park, where officers arrested 15 people – mostly for disorderly conduct, authorities said. The disturbance involved around 30 to 40 people.

All other visitors were not allowed into the park between 4 and 6 p.m. ET, with exit ramps from I-95 closed as well.

The tour group – the Muslim American Society of New York – was at the park to celebrate Eid-ul-Fitr, an Islamic holiday that marks the end of Ramadan, MyFoxNY reports.

“Everybody got mad, everybody got upset,” Amr Khater, a Brooklyn resident, told The Journal News. “It’s our holiday. Why would you do this to us?” Khater said park rangers notified him of the headgear rules upon arrival.

Fox News, 30 August 2011

The Journal News reports: “Lola Ali, 16, of Astoria said she witnessed a group of girls and women wearing hijabs go to park security to confront them about the headgear issue. She said the women were upset and yelling. She said the security officers started pushing them away and the girls stood their ground, at which point the security officers grabbed them, pushed them to the ground and handcuffed them. Men within the park saw this and tried to intervene, Ali said, and the situation went downhill from there. ‘They were beating down the girls, then they started beating down the guys,’ she said of the security officers.”