Oct 292006
Authors: Sahar Babak

In his article on Nov. 25 “Toss the burqa, join the world,” Mr. Speaker wrote, “Here’s to Jack Straw and the advancement of rational ideas!”

Obviously Mr. Speaker’s article about Muslim women was not based on knowledge but on his observation. I would like to present a practical idea to Mr. Speaker: Learn about a group of people before making any conclusions.

As a Muslim woman I would like to take this opportunity to teach Mr. Speaker about women in Islam. To begin, it’s important to distinguish between religion and local customs, for these two things differ greatly in any society. First off, the head covering is referred to as hijab, not burqa.

According to the Quran, women are not to be blamed for Adam’s first mistake, a sign of equality from the beginning. Women were given rights to vote less than 100 years ago in the West, while the Quran (42:38) gave women voting rights almost 1,500 years ago.

According to CNN anchor Lou Dobbs “The burqa is inequality. It offends our culture.”

Yet it is this culture that pressures women to measure up to the media’s expectation of women, who are constantly being portrayed as sex objects. This is inequality, this is oppression of women by people around the world – not religion. This idea that hijab is a form of inequality is largely a Western idea. Many Muslim women view hijab as something liberating them from being nothing more than a sex object.

It is not the role of the government to legislate dress. The governments that do are some of the most repressive in the world and we would do well to not adopt their practices.

The hijab signifies respect for oneself and it makes a strong statement of individualism to the rest of the world. It also forces men to respect women for their intellect, not just their physical attributes.

As India Arie stated in her song “I am not my hair”: “Does the way I wear my hair determine my integrity?” Muslim women have not offended American culture – rather we have added to the wonderful cultural salad bowl of America.

Sahar Babak



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