Thursday, January 24, 2008

Ignorance Behind Veil Uproar: Ridley & Newspapers

"Under Islam, I am respected. It tells me that I have a right to an education and that it is my duty to seek out knowledge," said Ridley.

CAIRO — Award-winning British reporter Yvonne Ridley has blamed the ignorance of Western politicians and media for the ongoing debate about the face-veil and other misconceptions about the status of women in Islam.

"Having been on both sides of the veil, I can tell you that most Western male politicians and journalists who lament the oppression of women in the Islamic world have no idea what they are talking about," Ridley, who reverted to Islam two years after a brief detention by Taliban, wrote in the Washington Post Sunday, October 22.

Ridley used to consider the veil as a mark of women oppression but changed hearts after reading about Islam and the Noble Qur'an.

"I'd been expecting Qur'an chapters on how to beat your wife and oppress your daughters; instead, I found passages promoting the liberation of women."

British former foreign minister Jack Straw has stirred an uproar after recently revealing he used to ask Muslim women to show their faces during meetings with him, describing the face veil as a symbol of separation.

"It is with disgust and dismay that I watch here in Britain …Straw describes the Muslim niqab as an unwelcome barrier to integration," said a mocking Ridley.

"Even British government ministers Gordon Brown and John Reid have made disparaging remarks about the niqab -- and they hail from across the Scottish border, where men wear skirts."


Ridley said Western politicians and media are wrongly blaming Islam for cultural customs in the Muslim world.

"They go on about veils, child brides, female circumcision, honor killings and forced marriages, and they wrongly blame Islam for all this -- their arrogance surpassed only by their ignorance," she wrote.

"These cultural issues and customs have nothing to do with Islam."

The prominent British reporter said Islam has enshrined equal rights for women.

"In Islam, superiority is achieved through piety -- not beauty, wealth, power, position or sex."

She insists that the Noble Qur'an guarantees women all the rights Western feminists have long fought for.

"Women in Islam are considered equal to men in spirituality, education and worth, and a woman's gift for childbirth and child-rearing is regarded as a positive attribute.

"Under Islam, I am respected. It tells me that I have a right to an education and that it is my duty to seek out knowledge, regardless of whether I am single or married."


Ridley said dress codes for Muslim women serve a purpose.

"My dress tells you that I am a Muslim and that I expect to be treated respectfully, much as a Wall Street banker would say that a business suit defines him as an executive to be taken seriously."

Islam sees hijab as an obligatory code of dress, not a religious symbol displaying one’s affiliations.

As for the face veil, the majority of Muslim scholars believe that a woman is not obliged to cover her face or hands.

Scholars, however, believe that it is up to women to decide whether to take on the veil.

After reverting to Islam, Ridley wore a hijab. Only then, she discovered how hijab-clad women are discriminated against in the West.

"I instantly became a second-class citizen," she said.

"Cabs passed me by at night, their 'for hire' lights glowing. One cabbie, after dropping off a white passenger right in front of me, glared at me when I rapped on his window, then drove off. Another said, 'Don't leave a bomb in the back seat' and asked, 'Where's bin Laden hiding?'"


Ridley refuted Western claims that Islam condones violence against women.

"As for how Muslim men are allowed to beat their wives -- it's simply not true.

"Critics of Islam will quote random Qur'anic verses or hadith (sayings of Prophet Muhammad peace and blessing be upon him), but usually out of context," she insisted.

"If a man does raise a finger against his wife, he is not allowed to leave a mark on her body, which is the Qur'an's way of saying, "Don't beat your wife, stupid."

Ridley said violence against women was much higher in the West than in the Muslim world.

She said four million American women experience a serious assault every year.

"More than three women are killed by their husbands and boyfriends every day -- that is nearly 5,500 since 9/11," she added.

"It is also true that in the West, men still believe that they are superior to women, despite protests to the contrary. They still receive better pay for equal work -- whether in the mailroom or the boardroom -- and women are still treated as sexualized commodities whose power and influence flow directly from their appearance."

(collected from

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