Zeyneb Salim, 29 February 2008

on Time for Clear-headed Thinking, by Emel Abidin-Algan

Dear Qantara Team,

For some reason, it was technically impossible to post my comment on the website, so I’m sending it this way:

I respect Ms Abidin-Algan's decision to decide against the Islamic clothing rules and thus also against the headscarf. It's wonderful that she’s working towards lifting the headscarf ban.

However, I do think that she tends to use too many generalisations and blanket judgements in her article.

Her accusation that millions of Muslim women who wear the headscarf have not studied the authentic Islamic sources, the occasions of revelation and the individual contexts of the verses critically enough is simply unfair.

The fact is, women like Abidin-Algan are marginal phenomena and the majority of confident, young, successful, educated Muslim women do not wear the headscarf as a symbol to display specific belonging to a group.

I was born in Europe, in an enlightened Western country. I live in an open and liberal family and was brought up with plenty of self-criticism and analysis. I have non-Muslim friends, attended German, American and English universities and read Islam Studies at secular institutions, studied the sources. How do I and millions of other confident Muslim women fit into that picture?

A true Muslim woman is also aware that she can never think herself better than women who don’t cover their heads. That is simply the basis of their belief. For God alone knows whose deeds harbour sincerity and quality, and I am certain our creator doesn’t judge that by a piece of cloth. That would be too simple.

For that reason, I can only condemn such statements when they are made. No one may presume to judge someone else's way of life. Ms Abidin-Algan accuses Muslim women, namely, of thinking themselves more valuable than women who don’t wear headscarves. Presenting her experiences as a yardstick for the entirety of the Muslim community is going a little too far.

In our present society, we have the phenomena of the protectors and the liberators. The former try and force us to wear the headscarf; in their opinion, we must be protected from all the evil looks and the others must be protected from our dangerous attractions. Then there are the latter, the liberators, who want to liberate us by force, from the headscarf and our so-called repression and the brainwashing we’ve been given.

So Ms Abidin-Algan can now join the ranks of women like Necla Kelek, Seyran Ates and Lale Akguen. Our so-called liberators by force, who want to convince us that everything that was manifest over thousands of years has now become humbug through their high fatwa.

Both sides, the liberators and the protectors, have been exerting force and repression for years, but no one asks us Muslim women with headscarves what we actually want?! It all seems a little schizophrenic to me.

I am in favour of self-determination for every individual. Just because the aforementioned women have decided against the headscarf, that doesn’t mean they have to force their decision upon us. After all, I don't presume the same thing in reverse.

With kind regards from the USA,
Zeyneb Salim
Master of Islam Studies

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