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The Veil and the Plight of the Unveiled Woman
Publication date: 2002-01-14

One of eastern customs that attracts attention of the westerners is the custom of the Muslim women to cover their head, face and body.

To the Muslims this is known as 'hijab', pronounced as 'hee-jarb', in English it is sometimes called 'veil'.

In the recent months 'hijab' hit the western media in connection with the war in Afghanistan. It was used to justify the war, and the need to 'destroy' (this was the actual word used by Tony Blair and his ministers) the Taliban, because they force the Afghan women to cover their faces in public.

From the way in which some British television reporters were saying after the Taliban left Kabul, that the Afghan women were still covering their faces, even after the Taliban had left, it appeared that they thought that hijab was a Taliban invention imposed on the women of Afghanistan by force.

Just in case the peace keeping forces form the same opinion and try to 'liberate' the Afghan women from their 'burkas' (the style of hijab common in Afghanistan), it would be useful to shed some light on why do Muslim women cover their bodies and heads.

Contrary to what many people believe, hijab is not a Muslim uniform, nor does it have any 'spiritual' meaning. It's purpose is simple and very practical, and it is clearly stated in the Qur'an (33:59): "O Prophet! tell your wives and daughters, and the believing women, that they should cover themselves with their clothes. It is better that way, so that they be respected and not sexually harassed".

Yes, the only purpose of the hijab is to protect women from sexual harassment.

We see in our daily lives what happens, if women do not cover themselves, as advised by the Qur'an.

Sexual harassment at work, in the street, and on the public transport. Sexual promiscuity and broken marriages. Date rapes and just rapes. Single mothers. Teenage pregnancies. Sexually transmitted diseases. And drugs and alcohol to see the reality in a more rosy light.

Just in recent weeks a scandal report appeared in the British media that the British prison service are not providing enough prisons for women. Apparently the number of women in British prisons is growing at such fast rate, that the authorities cannot cope with it.

And then another news item about women - young women die as result of increased alcohol consumption.

And another recent report about 80 percent of women regretting, that they had sex before marriage.

And anybody who had a chance of observing men and unveiled women working side by side in offices, knows that much of the working time is spent on preoccupation with flirting, sex jokes, and men's eyes being riveted to the prominent parts of female bodies.

And had hijab been adopted in the White House, president Clinton could still have been president, and Monica Lewinsky could have still kept her job.

And how many teenage pregnancies would have been prevented, and how many marital breakdowns, and alcoholic binges?

And may be, even, there would appear some vacancies in the women's prisons?

It is true that many Muslim women wear hijab without understanding its purpose. They wear it, because their mothers and sisters wear it. But a woman benefits by observing hijab regardless of whether she understands its purpose or not - she is protected from constant sexual harassment to which the unveiled woman is subjected throughout her life.

Attempts to remove hijab from the Muslim women are not new. The Russian communists tried to 'liberate' the women of the Central Asia, and succeeded for a time. But once Communism collapsed, hijab appeared again on the faces of the Asian women. It was not imposed by force, they put it on of their own free will, once they regained their freedom.

It's something the Afghan peace keepers should ponder on.


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