The Veil Controversy
But the country whose government is currently going after the hijab most vigorously is Tunisia. The wearing of the hijab has been spreading rapidly in Tunisian towns, prompting President Ben Ali recently to reactivate a 1981 decree banning the wearing of the hijab in government offices, schools, universities, and public places in general. His government views the hijab as one more sign of the unwelcome but growing influence of Islamists in Tunisian society. This past Ramadan, in a reversal of the standard pattern for Muslim religious police, Tunisian police were seen tearing headscarves off women in the streets.
The authorities consider the hijab unacceptable in a country that enshrined women’s rights as long ago as 1956, with the banning of repudiation (male-initiated casual divorce), polygamy, forced marriage, and the granting of women’s rights to vote and sue for divorce. Ben Ali sees women “as a solid defense against the regressive forces of fanaticism and extremism.”
Interestingly, the Tunisian author and feminist Samia Labidi, president of A.I.M.E., an organization fighting the Islamists, recounts that she personally started wearing the veil before puberty, after Islamists told her the hijab would be a passport to a new life, to emancipation. After a few years, she realized she had been fooled and that the veil made her feel like she was “living in a prison.” At first, she could not bring herself to stop wearing it because of the constant psychological pressure. But the 1981 ban on the hijab in public places forced her to remove it, and she did so for good.
Labidi’s experience suggests that in both Tunisia and France the recent banning of the hijab has actually helped Muslim women who are subject to Islamist indoctrination.
When indoctrination is not enough, try bribery:
For Islamists, the imperative to veil women justifies almost any means. Sometimes they try to buy off resistance. Some French Muslim families, for instance, are paid 500 euros (around $600) per quarter by extremist Muslim organizations just to have their daughters wear the hijab. This has also happened in the United States. Indeed, the famous and brave Syrian-American psychiatrist Wafa Sultan recently told the Jerusalem Post that after she moved to the United States in 1991, Saudis offered her $1,500 a month to cover her head and attend a mosque.
And then threats,
But what Islamists use most is intimidation. A survey conducted in France in May 2003 found that 77 percent of girls wearing the hijab said they did so because of physical threats from Islamist groups. A series in the newspaper Libération in 2003 documented how Muslim women and girls in France who refuse to wear the hijab are insulted, rejected, and often physically threatened by Muslim males. One of the teenage girls interviewed said, “Every day, bearded men come to me and advise me strongly on wearing the veil. It is a war. For now, there are no dead, but there are looks and words that do kill.”
Why the sudden emergence of the veil? Because it’s in-your-face:
Given the Islamists’ ferocious determination on this point, it is worth asking: Why exactly is covering the female so important to them? The obvious answer is that it is a means of social control. Not coincidentally, it is one of the only issues on which Sunni and Shia extremists agree. It’s not by chance that use of the hijab really took off after Iran’s Islamic regime came to power in 1979. Some Shiite militias in Iraq have actually started forcing women–Muslim or not–to wear the veil or face the consequences.
Not only in Iraq are women forced to veil themselves – in France, women are gang-raped at the banlieus if they’re not wearing veils, whether or not the women are Muslim.
It has nothing to do with women choosing to become Marie Claire’s Mecca Stars
One solution to this debate may be profiling of women who wear hijab for investigation of domestic or other abuse. If [Olivier Guitta, writing at] Weekly Standard [see above] is right, then wearing hijab is a sign that a female has been intimidated and possibly beaten. If so, then not investigating the possibility of such abuse where it occurs, i.e., failing to implement hijab-based profiling, discriminates against women. Those who would oppose such investigation would be arguing that they favor physical abuse of women.