Last evening I watched a panel discussion on TV on the veil. It has become a hot subject again. The headlines scream, “Islamic clerics criticise Shabana stand on veils”. If you read the full report, you will see something not so radically rabid. But Mohtarma Shabana Azmi has found another ‘Muslim’ topic she can bank her secularism on.
In the audience and among the speakers there were women wearing either a hijaab or a full veil; there was Mr. Owaisi, and there was a model (not a prominent one, I might add) who said she was half Muslim but identified with Islam. She was in the studio wearing a dress with a rather gross-looking décolletage. (I do have problems with people who do not know how to dress when.)
I will emphasise only two points that were made:
1. Ms. Azmi said that if someone asked her to wear a veil here she would never do so, but if Jack Straw asked her to not wear a veil in England, then she would wear three veils. Of course, it was the taaliyaan kind of statement that got the applause. I have yet to hear of such a simplistic analysis. This is the sort of knee-jerk rebellion that teenagers are given to. Is this even half an ideological position? I think some of these people really like riding on the wave of such storms in teacups. Because the reality (as the report will make clear) is different. And there are prominent Muslim women who have stated this time and again, including Dr. Zeenat Shaukat Ali and Saeeda Hamid.
2. Someone said that if Ms. Azmi decided to wear a veil she would be out of business. This the lady took as a “personal attack”. It wasn’t. I watched the whole programme. It was with reference to the matter of choice. And it is a fact that given her profession or that of the model is there any place for the veil?
Why did Ms. Azmi not talk about the Australian mufti? And why did she bring in Islam and terrorism in her London lecture? As I had said earlier, this is what the caption that went with her picture receiving the award said: “ SHABANA DOES INDIA PROUD: Shabana Azmi, who has for over two decades fearlessly articulated the rights of slumdwellers and the dispossessed, receives the Gandhi Foundation’s International Peace Prize 2006 from Vanessa Redgrave, an iconic actress and outspoken advocate of human rights herself. In her address to the House of Commons, Azmi dwelt on one of the most troubled issues of our times—the unthinking manner in which Islam and terror are being linked. Gandhi’s philosophy of non-violence, she added, is a contemporary tool to win a sustainable peace. Bravo Shabana.”
Those who do not win such awards and lead fairly invisible lives would of course be pulled up for "whining" about the Islam and terror link. 'Role-playing' model is more like it when we speak about her...
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Islamic clerics criticise Shabana stand on veils - The Asian Age, Oct. 30, ‘06
The clergy and the intelligentsia in India have caught on to the controversy that got kickstarted in Britain over actress Shabana Azmi’s statement that the Quran does not make it mandatory for a woman to cover her face.
While in London to receive the Gandhi Foundation’s International Peace Award, Ms Azmi had called for a debate on Muslim women wearing the veil, saying the Quran speaks about women wearing clothes to cover their modesty and that they need not cover their faces.
Significantly, Islamic scholars are all unanimous that in all the dos and don’ts in the Quran, each is accompanied by a punishment. But in the case of hijab, no such punishment has been mentioned. It only makes it clear that hijab is something wholly voluntary and not mandatory. In countries like Iran, women dress normally but cover their heads with scarves, leaving the face uncovered. The veil or purdah is also seen more as an influence of the Rajput women in India, who covered their faces completely.
All-India Muslim Personal Law Board secretary Syed Qasim Rasool Illyasi said, "If Ms Shabana Azmi says that the face need not be covered, then she should accept the other injunction of the Quran that the body must properly be covered."
Mr Illyasi felt that the entire veil controversy was meaningless and irrelevant. "Why is their no controversy when Christian nuns cover their body, leaving only their faces visible?" he asked. The Quran has laid down instructions for purdah, but there were two opinions on whether the face should be entirely covered. "As far as the Quran is concerned, there is no dispute that the body should be properly covered," he said. In a democracy, he said, it was best left to the individual to decide about his or her dress code, he said.
Most of the maulanas were angry at the controversy and sharply reacted, saying that it was fashion of sorts for some Indian Muslims to criticise the teachings of the Quran and the Hadees. Some Muslims in the country think they will be considered modern only when they criticise the Quran and Hadees, they said. In a statement in Lucknow, Tilewali Masjid Imam Maulana Khalid Rasheed Firangimahali said, "The Quran has clearly instructed that women should put on veils." Imam Firangimahali said this did not mean that they should not go to college or work and remain confined to their homes. However, reacting to Mr Jack Straw’s statement that Muslim women should not wear veils was tantamount to a violation of their fundamental rights, he said.
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On another note, news that will never be given much prominence...
OIC says discord on Id dates is wrong -- The Asian Age, Oct 30
Jeddah, Oct. 29: The secretary-general of the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) has deplored the way Muslims marked Id-ul-Fitr on different days. In India and Pakistan, Muslims celebrated Id on three different days.
"The disparity of dates for celebrating Id-ul-Fitr is deplorable, when science, and especially astronomy, has reached high levels of development and precision," he said in a written statement issued on Friday.
According to Mr Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, celebration of religious festivals on the same day is supposed to "unify the sentiments and positions of Muslims," while it now reflected their disunity and disparity of positions.
He called on religious and official institutions to cooperate with the OIC to harmonise the astronomical calculations which determine the time of the new moon, used to mark the start of the lunar month following Ramzan.
Last year, an Indian researcher had called on the OIC to discuss a unified Islamic calendar which would be followed by all countries with Muslim populations.
Ali Manikfan, founder of the Kozhikode-based Hijra Committee of India, had said a political decision on the matter would enable Muslims across the world to celebrate Id on the same day.
"Id-ul-Fitr should be celebrated on the first day of the lunar month of Shawwal. Muslims around the world are now celebrating it on three different days due to the lack of a unified calendar," Mr Manikfan was quoted as saying at the time by newspapers in Saudi Arabia.
According to Mr Manikfan, Muslim scholars have misunderstood a Hadith of the Prophet which said: "Sumoo Lirueyatihi Wa Aftiru Lirueyatihi (Fast when you see it — Ramzan crescent; and end fast when you see it — Shawwal crescent)."
"The Hadith actually means the date should be based on the lunar calendar," he had pointed out.
"Islam is the most advanced and scientific religion. It is impossible to believe that the Prophet would instruct his followers in this age of science and technology to search for the new moon with their naked eyes when lunar and solar dates can be determined in advance on the basis of scientific calculations," he said.
Mr Manikfan said a mistake made in the past should not mean Muslims have to live with it forever. "When we realise it is a mistake, we must have the courage to correct it in order to protect the common interests of Muslims," he added.