Accepting her party’s nomination can be her fourth four-year term as Germany’s chancellor, Angela Merkel announced that Germany must ban the niqab, full face veil, “wherever legally possible.”
Smacking of political expediency, the timing of this announcement underlines her need to draw hard-right nationalists critical of her Syrian refugee policy out of the populist and far-right political parties gaining strength in Germany.
Yet Chancellor Merkel’s ban is but one I support as an observant Muslim woman. In 2011, I argued that then-President Nicolas Sarkozy’s legislating of France’s burka ban would have been a brave step. Merkel’s announcement, while politically opportunistic, will be commended.
Any ban on wearing the niqab in public is but one that defends secular society. In Germany today, secularism as well as the perceived integrity of the us are strained with all the influx of a single.2 million Syrian refugees, the rise in Islamist terrorism, as well as the looming threat from the so-called Islamic State. Germany is really a fragile state in just a fragile post-Brexit Europe. In this climate, niqabs be a direct challenge to national cohesion, connote a neo-orthodox expression of Islam, and so are often linked to Islamist ideologies: ISIS, al Qaeda, the Taliban, while others.
Predictably, liberals, others, and The Council on American Islamic Relations, a prominent American Muslim advocacy group, have previously launched a backlash claiming this burka ban violates the rights of Muslim women much like me, a uniquely Islamist, and not Islamic, claim. Being de facto political totalitarianism, Islamism, also called “radical Islam” or “political Islam,” focuses on absolute domination of the baby, forcibly imposing a perversion of Islam over the idea of Islamic statehood.
While some Muslim women might not be capable to choose in their loved ones, in secular societies where women cost nothing to decide on their dress, rote ritualism and de novo rituals including the wearing with the niqab indicate neo-orthodoxy. Women who tend to adopt the niqab in secular society may achieve this in solidarity with today’s militancy du jour: Islamism. Wherever neo-orthodoxy flourishes, Islamism, not Islam, thrives close by.
Literal, inflexible interpretations in the veil really are a hallmark of Islamism. Because so many Muslims are ignorant of the true dictates of Islam, so many live under Islamist governments, Iran, Pakistan, Turkey, and others, rituals founded on cultural mores, as opposed to Islamic ideals, are co-opted as “Islamic.” These rituals then work to reinforce misogyny in certain societies: the infantilization of ladies in Saudi Arabia as legal minors, their immobilization both inside their society and internationally, banned from travel minus the permission of designated male guardianship, along with a strict gender segregation with the public space, all penalize women.
Problematically, these cultural mores come to pass as manifestations of Islam, when they’re clearly counter in every strategy to the egalitarian spirit that Islam holds for both genders. Denying the traditions are steeped in misogyny deprives Islam of the company’s true identity. Certainly, residing in these societies under such confines as I have in Saudi Arabia, women who must go into the public space do veil themselves, since they must. In this way, the legally mandated veil, whether hijab or niqab, also liberates: Women can leave your home when they are veiled to earn, to study, to function.
Merkel’s ban, therefore, like Sarkozy’s previously, doesn’t confine religious freedom but instead rejects cultural traditions that actually repress women, whether in your mobility, or freedom to choose our dress, and our literal visibility and interaction as members of society.
Many Muslim women in Muslim-majority countries agree that face veiling just isn’t required, as outlined by an intriguing survey by the University of Michigan examining Muslim attitudes to female dress. Even among Muslim women, the eye veil isn’t widely supported. Yet a reaction to a burka ban may be certain to reveal the enormous ignorance surrounding Islam, an ignorance that both Muslims and non-Muslims are guilty.
Certainly, legislating dress, and thereby self-expression, smacks of draconian states like Iran and Saudi Arabia, where I lived from November 1999 to November 2001 and was forcibly veiled by law. How could secular democratic societies permit legislation of dress, you could ask? The answer: Dress can, and even have to be, legislated when societal integrity is threatened and the resulting polarization fuels the development of parallel societies within nationhood. It is exactly within such fragmentation that Islamism takes root as a type of rebellion and rejection in the host society.
Germany can be an intensely secular society, which not only tolerates, but celebrates diversity, though recently it has become more jaded where multiculturalism can be involved. Six years ago, in a very rising anti-immigration climate, Chancellor Merkel declared multiculturalism as dead, giving method to renewed German nationhood and national identity.
Yet anti-immigration sentiment, however repellant, could have some basis in reason. In many European countries, secular pluralistic democracies have been exploited by insular, Islamist neo-orthodoxy. Following the ghettoization of some Muslims in Britain, Britain has struggled with homegrown Islamist terrorism. In France, where ghettoization and marginalization of Muslims is much more marked, lethal outcomes have been borne from such ghettoization, recently inside the Charlie Hebdo massacres as well as the Bataclan attacks.
Certainly, the opportunist exploitation of tolerant democracies by Islamism comes at the expense in the pluralistic Muslim, that is imperiled both from the actions of Islamist terrorists and susceptible to retaliatory xenophobia often triggered by Islamist attacks. Criminalizing wearing the niqab in all public venues, sparked cries of Islamophobia in Sarkozy’s France and it is prone to perform same in German, whilst legislation to follow suit in numerous European countries, such as Belgium and France, and also regions in Barcelona Spain, and Lombardy Italy, is already either enacted into law or becoming proposed as legislation.
But in Europe, Muslims, and German Muslims particularly, have a role to try out in explaining the meaning and nature of veiling in Islam.
From Islam’s origins, the word khimar, “veil,” did not necessarily connote face covering. In the Quran, Sura 24:31, discussing the “khimar” reminds Muslim women of the should “draw it over their bosoms” as integral to female modesty. Similarly, the verse from the veil commanded just the prophet Muhammad’s wives, being a mark of high distinction, to speak from behind a “hijab,” meaning a curtain (Quran Sura 33:53).
Traditions asserting “khimar” specifically meant “niqab” could have been exaggerated. Records show Aisha, one from the prophet’s wives and among the foremost teachers of early Muslims,provided great detail about the khimars in her day, yet no record exists regarding just how these folks were worn.
Make no mistake, secular liberal democracies can overstep the objective. This summer, after that the Bastille Day attacks in Nice, France lost its bearings, criminalized the burkini and forcibly stripped a Muslim woman on the beach inside a shocking assault. The event rightly triggered international outrage and despite strong local support, France’s highest courts ruled those things becoming a breach of democratic values, reversing the legislation. Hearteningly, despite being in a state of emergency ongoing since Charlie Hebdo, France found a way to reason with itself and preserve its vital democracy.
Germany must walk much the same tightrope, between asserting national identity and championing secularism while resisting temptations to demonize all Muslims. To walk this little difference, Chancellor Merkel will require the support with the German Muslim intelligentsia as well as the established German Muslim clergy. Merkel truly comes with an possibility to strengthen Germany’s civil Islam and thereby Europe’s. Both communities have the possiblity to empower and embrace Germany’s Muslims that are as European and as German as they are Muslim; Muslims, who much like me, observe Islam while they repudiate Islamism; and Muslims who value the shared nationhood secular liberal democracy affords them, a national identity within which pluralistic Islam can truly thrive.
Certainly inside short term, Merkel’s proposal will trigger intensely inflammatory reactions but as Germany and Chancellor Merkel tangle while using veil, public discourse surrounding Islam may the truth is deepen and yield opportunities for European Muslims in order to save not simply the veil, but Islam, from your Islamists.