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Modernisation or Clash of Civilisations
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As Advani’s rath yatra tainted the secular credentials of India, coloured the mind of the common man and aggravated differences between two communities, so the fl agrant decimation of Iraq and Afghanistan waged by the diehard Christian duo of Bush and Blair, on trumped up charges relating to the presence of weapons of mass destruction, has cast a pall over the tenuous relationship between the Christian and Muslim world. And this has come at the heels of the West’s unreasonable policy toward the Palestinian cause, which lies at the heart of the matter, but has been dealt with perfunctorily and largely treated as a nonissue.

In a global society, real leadership is surely about building bridges between peoples and countries and embracing diversity, and not about driving a wedge and shackling and stifl ing dissimilarities and multiplicity.

The die is cast and the dice appears to be loaded against Islam. If it is not weapons of mass destruction or terrorists or minarets or Islam’s revered prophet that are the target, the harmless and bland burqa provides fodder, for the West to open up yet another front to assault. In a society where less is more, the bikini and the burqa must make strange bedfellows. But this is precisely what diversity and globalisation are all about. The freedom and openness of the West presupposes acceptance of individual choice, taste and fashion at all levels as long as it does not impinge on the law of the land or encroach upon the moral sensibilities of its people. Normally, the state of dress or undress within the privacy of the home is the prerogative of the individual but outside it different societal mores apply. In a decent society it is expected that people dress decently. The West’s culture of openness and decency should therefore have no truck with overdressed individuals, however outlandish the gear or appearance, although it may be expected to frown upon an overly undressed state, which gives rise to baser instincts.

Europe has taken the burqa more seriously than the majority of Muslim women around the world both in conservative heartlands and modern climes. Belgium has taken the lead in voting for a ban on the wearing of the burqa in public places with their lawmaker referring to it as a “walking prison” and equating the move with the emancipation of women slaves. The Muslim Executive of Belgium has cautioned that the vote would set a dangerous precedent and could also end up imposing curbs on the beliefs of other communities. Amnesty International has termed the vote a violation of rights to freedom of expression and religion.

Nicolas Sarkozy of France, who epitomises the liberal West, while audaciously calling the burqa and niqab “an affront to French values that denigrate women” is currently proposing legislation, despite being warned that it may be unconstitutional, which would foist a fi ne on women who wear it out of choice, and fi ne and imprison those who force a woman to wear it. France, with five to six million Muslims has the biggest Muslim population in Europe but it is a miniscule number that wears the veil.

What are the reasons for the West’s surge of interest in the burqa? Do these countries really see Muslim women in burqa as victims, which is a violation of their human rights? Are they coming out in sympathy for these ‘beleaguered’ Muslim women because it pains them to see their suffering? Are they the self-proclaimed protectors and saviours of these women’s rights? Do they consider the hijab as a sign of fundamentalism, which should not be allowed to take root outside of its area of origin? Is the burqa perceived as a threat to the security of the people in the wake of terrorism, which is again a creation of the West’s misplaced policies on the Palestinian issue? Or is it that all things that are alleged to be Islamic are becoming anathema to the western mind? Or is it that the lack of religious fervour in the West is uneasy with the spread and reach of Islam? Is this a clash of cultures or a “clash of civilisations”?

The religious connotation of the burqa is not within the scope of this piece. It is individual freedom that is under attack but it is being assailed only because the individual is a follower of another religion. Would the West have reacted in the same fashion had Jewish women practiced purdah? We doubt it. The West is traversing a rocky and treacherous path that would lead to further alienation instead of ameliorating an already tense, suspicious and fl oundering relationship. A change of tack and a change of course are the urgent need of the times.
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Commented By: Shazia Malik On: 06-06-2010

This is definently clash of civilisation sir. Remember what President Obama said at Al-Azhar. And I quote "And I consider it part of my responsibility as President of the United States to fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear" Unquote, And how you and I had a huge debate on it while fly back to Jordan.

We as followers of Muhammad, do not feel threaten with Jews or Christain, becuase we know Islam's uniqueness and it's positives. Banning burqa shows their insecurity towards their own religion.

I must add, all these will divide the gap between the West and Arab world.
Commented By: sanju On: 06-06-2010

Samara & Shaz muslims have themselves to blame. You should not cribb about the condition palestinen muslims. Israel is not going to give them a 1 sq ft of place.
Commented By: iffy On: 08-07-2010

Catholic nuns have worn veils for centuries, with no public controversies arising. There is no reason why any girl’s school uniform can not now be modified to include a veil. Wearing a veil to school or to work must be a matter of choice for all.

It is only Muslims Veil that they have problem with!!
Commented By: aziz On: 11-06-2010

I like the way you have put this piece of article. There will always be people and groups who will find problem with our religion. The best way is to ignore them and quote them hadith and verse from Quran.

In a society where less is more, the bikini and the burqa must make strange bedfellows. This is so true. These days the less you wear and more you show your body parts, you are consider to be modern.

People want othere eyes to stare at you with evil intention. This seem to be the order of the day.

Allah bless us.
Commented By: Fariha On: 24-06-2010

Before I started covering, I thought of myself based on what others thought of me. I see that too often in girls, their happiness depends on how others view them, especially men. Ever since, my opinion of myself has changed so much; I have gained (a lot of) self-respect. I have realized whether others may think of me as beautiful is not what matters. How beautiful I think of myself and knowing that Allah finds me beautiful makes me feel beautiful.
Commented By: Imaan On: 24-06-2010

According to Jabir ibn Abdullah, when he asked the Prophet, peace be upon him, about a man's gaze falling inadvertently on a strange woman, the Prophet replied, "Turn your eyes away." (Muslim) In another tradition, the Prophet, on whom be peace, chided Ali for looking again at a woman - he said, the second glance is from Shaitan. The concept of modesty and hijaab in Islam is holistic, and encompasses both men and women. The ultimate goal is to maintain societal stability and to please God. Since Muslim women are more conspicuous because of their appearance, it is easier for people to associate them with the warped images they see in the print and broadcast media. Hence, stereotypes are perpetuated and often sisters seem "mysterious" to those not acquainted with Muslim women who dress according to Divine instructions. This aura of "mystery" cannot be removed until their lifestyles, beliefs and thought-systems are genuinely explored. And, frankly, this cannot be achieved until one is not afraid to respectfully approach Muslim women - or any Muslim for that matter. So, the next time you see a Muslim, stop and talk to him or her - you'll feel, God-Willing, as if you're entering a different world, the world of Islam: full of humility, piety, and of course, modesty!
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