The Veil and the Bikini Schism

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Just look at the contrast – recently the former foreign secretary, Jack Straw, demanded that Muslim women should remove the veil, whilst preaching freedom to them. In contrast, the Imam in Australia, Sheik Taj Din al-Hilal pointed out the consequences for society, when women dress provocatively. This is usually done intentionally or unintentionally to entice the opposite sex and nobody can dispute that it agitates the raw male instinct.

Is this another example of clash of values? May be not, as Jack Straw and Sheik Taj Din al-Hilal, would concur in opposing complete nudity in public. Therefore, both agree, and recognise that a minimum standard of clothing needs to be enforced in society, for both genders. Clothing is one of the factors that differentiate the animals from human beings! What that minimum standard should be, is at the heart of the debate, the most crucial question. However, this is ignored, as the primary focus is on maximising freedom for individuals, and not what should be the minimum dress code for greater harmony for the society as a whole.

Did the Australian Imam pose an intellectual argument or did he make insulting remarks about scantly dressed women? For example, did he call them prostitutes or animals who roam naked in the jungle without any shame? If he had done so, then he would have ‘progressed’ to the levels of Salman Rushdie, or those who drew the derogatory cartoons of Prophet Muhammad (SAW) in Denmark, or those closet racists who have now come out to vent their hate against the Muslims!

As expected, the Western media went into a state of frenzy after hearing the comments of the Australian Imam. What happened to free speech now? In short, there is no room for Muslims issuing genuine criticisms, no space for Muslims having the right to express their opinions challenging the status-quo. The media is becoming intolerant and fanatical as it claims about others in totalitarian societies. Increasingly it looks like the media of Julius Streicher in the 1930s Germany.

So, it is unacceptable when the Muslims pose a valid argument without the use of pejorative terms, and yet, when the West insults us in the crudest form, they expect us to tolerate it under free speech. Is it any surprise, the West is losing the intellectual battle against Al-Qaeda, as the London Daily Telegraph stated recently? You do not need to hire analysts, or conduct polls to establish such self-evident truths.

I was listening to the debate on the James O’Brian show on the radio. He was already incensed by the comments, and got even more enraged when non-Muslims emailed him, concurring with the views of the Australian Imam. Eventually, he suggested that the Imam should be handled physically as one cannot have a reasoned discussion with people who hold such views. Hence, Mr O’Brian is an intolerant neo-Julius-Streicher, and failing to recognise that he is the one advocating violence over dialogue and free speech. I am not sure why some of these presenters discuss subjects of this nature. I would have thought they are more qualified to debate popular culture.

Mr O’Brian claimed that the Imam’s comment exclusively blamed women for getting raped or if they suffer some type of sexual assault. I phoned in, and informed the operator that Mr James O’Brian got it completely wrong, and not for the first time. What the Imam was saying, only women who dress in a provocative manner ‘contribute’ towards these types of crimes and they have to share at least some responsibility. The operator would not let me through, as ‘he’ wanted to air some seedy story about men who ogle at women. I guess he was even less interested in free speech, and giving some voice to those voiceless people, who were being systematically demonised.

On the one hand, women are to have all the freedom (choice) and if I understand Mr Jack Straw that means: freedom to wear fewer clothes as possible. Yet, no sane person can deny the impact on the male sexual instinct by women exercising their freedom in this manner. Thus, is it unreasonable to expect women to bear some level of responsibility, so that they do not contribute towards these crimes? In the same way, would society not point fingers at those individuals who leave their money and assets unprotected, enticing the thieves? All responsible parents monitor their young daughters, as they are concerned about the predatory hot-blooded young males. The recent pictures released from Abu-Ghraib shows how nasty and hot-blooded these males are – even children are not safe from them.

The males too have a responsibility and just because they are sexually agitated, it does not give them the right to force themselves on women. Not every single male would behave according such principles, and restrain their carnal desires. Scantly dressed females should remember, especially before flirting, that for some men, if you excite them beyond a certain point they cannot retreat.

Naturally, when the opportunity arises, many men end up committing rape. This is confirmed by surveys that show a significant number of women in the US get date-raped. When men were asked if they would rape if the opportunity arises, the figures were even higher. Note, the word ‘opportunity’, meaning both sexes have the responsibility to ensure that such opportunities are not created. The constant promotion of ‘freedom’ creates selfish individuals, who give their carnal desires a greater priority, than to restrain it in order to show respect for others.

Our focus should not be to enhance freedom for both sexes, as one person’s freedom inevitably impinges on someone else’s freedom. Because, we do not live as individuals on our own islands, but collectively in a society. Rather, the focus should be to find the equilibrium between the two genders, where they can enjoy a stable relationship. Soaring divorce rates to rising single parent families are just some of the signs that clearly show we have not reached that equilibrium. This is the real debate behind the schism of the veil and the bikini.

I thought the West is yearning for a genuine debate with the Muslims. But, how can that be, when we see emotional and superficial responses coloured by their medieval heritage, from those who are bragging about the weight of their liberal values? Perhaps they expect Muslims to go on four limbs and resort to insulting also. Maybe only then Muslims will be given an EQUAL chance to express their viewpoint, under the flag of free speech!

For sure, any reasonable person knows the distinction between posing an intellectual challenge, and systematically insulting a community under the flag of free speech. At present, that seems ‘anybody’ except the very people that are shouting free speech. How ironic!

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