Archive for the ‘Christianity’ category

Veil Does Not Oppress Women

September 28, 2010

BY AYESHA RASHID It’s about time to unveil the veil controversy. Recently the French senate passed the full-face ban, citing the veil’s alleged offensive nature to French cultural identity and tradition and its alleged oppression of women. In reality, this ban only infringes upon the basic human rights of women. Moreover, the veil itself is not a foreign concept for non-Muslims or for French culture and tradition. Assyrian women voluntarily practiced the veil as early as 1300 B.C. For the Assyrians, the veil was exclusive to highly dignified women. Likewise, ancient Greek women of higher status covered their heads and faces. Even among Persian elites, Anglo-Saxons, and Anglo-Normans, women gladly wore the veil. From its very inception, the veil promoted an aura of honor and prestige, not oppression.

Abrahamic religions prior to Islam also required women to wear the veil. Early Judaic references laud the veil as a symbol of esteem for Jewish women, its very purpose to prevent recognition of her features. During the Tannaitic period, a Jewish woman’s failure to cover her head was considered an offense to her modesty. The most prominent incident is that of Rebekkah who covered herself when she caught sight of Isaac before their marriage (Genesis: 24:64-65). The Virgin Mary, the most revered woman in Christianity, is customarily depicted wearing a headscarf and, incidentally, loose flowing clothing similar to a burqa. Mary’s dress was not without reason. The New Testament commands women to cover their heads out of modesty, while those who refuse face the consequence of a shaven head (1 Corinthians: 11: 5-6). With this understanding, the Vatican implemented the Code of Canon Law of 1917, mandating universal veil observance during church service, only to repeal it in 1983. Yet, to this day, even French nuns observe this clear biblical injunction. Likewise, Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, a French female icon of modern era, earnestly adopted the veil after she was highly impressed with the veil of Veronica — the biblical woman who wiped Jesus’ forehead with her veil. Ironically, while other societies and religions are guilty of repudiating this noble practice, Islam is being stigmatized for maintaining tradition. As the youngest of the Abrahamic religions, Islam makes the head covering a self-imposed mandate for Muslim women as a means of protection and dignity. Like the Torah, the Quran advises Muslim women to cover themselves so they are not recognized and are not molested (33:60). However, Islam does not prescribe any punishment (e.g., shaving of head) for women who choose otherwise. Contrary to the assertion that the veil is oppressive, Muslim women from Islam’s inception proudly wore the veil and maintained a high level of authority in their respective societies. For example, Prophet Muhammad’s first wife, Khadija, was the CEO of a large and thriving trade business. Unhindered, Muhammad’s wife Ayesha taught Muhammad’s male companions after his demise, while exerting immense political influence throughout her life. According to The Worldwide Guide of Women in Leadership, most of the 250 Muslim women leaders proudly ruled from behind the veil and did so with great success. Women like the Regent Dowager Princess Syun Beka (1549-51) of Russia, De-facto Ruler Empress Nur Jahan of India (1611-28), and the Grand Khanum Regnant Toragana of the Qagans of China (1241-48) are but a few examples. The diversity these women portray additionally demonstrates that the veil is not exclusive to “Arab” culture. If the veil was truly oppressive, it is impossible that these women would have been the honored leaders of their respective societies. Indeed, Muslim women are not the only world leaders who ruled while wearing a veil. A closer look at European women rulers illustrates that up until the 16th century, many preferred lose clothing with a modest head cover, with French women as no exception. French women rulers such as Regent Dowager Queen Nanthildis (639-642), Regent Queen Dowager Clothilde, Joint Ruler Queen Alais d’Aquitaine (987-996), and Regent Queen Isabeau Baverie (1392-1419) are depicted with the allegedly oppressive Islamic style head covering. Other European empresses such as “Holder of the Royal Authority” Dowager Queen Dorothea zu Brandenburg of Denmark are proudly depicted with their face covered in the Islamic style veil. Contrary to what President Nicolas Sarkozy and the French parliament assert, the veil and burqa are not exclusively Islamic, nor oppressive, but are deeply entrenched in Christan and French tradition as symbols of pride and dignity. With their irrational veil ban, Sarkozy and French leadership, not Muslim women, are the true offenders to French cultural identity, tradition, and a woman’s dignity. Ayesha N. Rashid is a staff writer for The Muslim Sunrise, the oldest and longest-running Muslim-American periodical. Contact her at First appeared at:


What’s really behind female inequality in American?

March 3, 2010

Jessica Valenti has opened my eyes to a deeper insight. Ms. Valenti described female oppression in America through physical abuse, sexual abuse and sexism in the workplace. As a Muslim woman who proudly observes hijab and interacts with men on strictly professional levels, I have been protected from these oppressive acts. The day women stop serving men merely as a commodity that comes in different hairstyles and makeup, their dream of equality will materialize.

How ironic that my hijab is looked upon as a tool of female oppression.

Ayesha N. Rashid, Richmond

Appeared in Washington Post on 27 Feb 2010

French Parliament Continues to Amaze

March 3, 2010

Editor, Times-Dispatch: France does not cease to amaze. From French fashion to anti-Muslim laws, everything that is “made in France” is unique in nature. A shrewd French parliamentary committee has recommended a partial ban on veils, citing veils as a threat to the “values of the Republic.”

Is it possible that the mere 1,900 French Muslim women who choose the veil are a threat? This intrusive ban takes away their right of using public transportation, hospitals, schools, and government offices while wearing the niqab. In other words, it infringes on the basic human rights of those 1,900 women whose personal choice is to cover their faces.

A ban on the choice of clothing does not suit a place known as the fashion capital of the world. It seems French values prefer half-naked women on the catwalk to women who choose to cover themselves in the walk of life.

Ayesha N. Rashid.

Appeared in NY Times on January 29, 2010 and in Richmod Time-Despatch on February 10, 2010

The problem with Rifqa Bary

December 3, 2009

Rifqa, a born Muslim American teen, converted to Christianity and was allegedly threatened with death by her parents. She insists on saying that the Qur’an commands her parents to kill her. In her interview, she says, “You dont understand, Islam is very diffrent. If they love Allah more, they have to kill me, my blood is Halal now, because I have turned to Christianity, its honor killing, its in Quran, you dont understand”. Rafiqa Bary is absolutely right when she says, “you dont understand.” However, the one not understanding what Islam teaches is herself and those who want to kill her (if any). The alleged punishment of apostasy in Islam has no basis in the Quran and was not practiced by the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). There is not a single verse in the Qur’an which commands the killing of someone who reverts from Islam. In fact, the Holy Qur’an announces the freedom of religion by saying, “there is no compulsion in the religion” (Holy Quran 2:257). One definite verse that refutes the death penalty for apostasy is as follows: “Surely, those who disbelieve after they have believed and then increase in disbelief, their repentance shall not be accepted. and these are they who have gone astray. As for those who have disbelieved, and die while they are disbelievers, there shall not be accepted from anyone of them, even an Earthful of Gold, though he offer it in ransom. It is these for whom shall be a grievous punishment, and they shall have no helpers.” (Holy Qur’an 3:91, 92) This probably is the most conspicuous verse about apostasy. Can someone even refer to a hint of killing in this verse?. If anything, it promises the life of an apostate by saying “then increase in their disbelief”. If they were to be killed immediately then how could they increase in their disbelief? There are at least seven verses in the Qur’an that refute the alleged punishment of apostasy in Islam. On the other hand, not a single verse goes in its favor. Advocates of the penalty of death for an apostate base their argument on the following verses: But if they repent and observe Prayer, and pay the Zakat, then they are your brethren in faith. And We explain the signs for a people who have knowledge. And if they break their oaths after their covenant, and revile your religion, then fight these leaders of disbelief— surely, they have no regard for their oaths—that they may desist.’ (Holy Qur’an 9:11-12) This is the summit of their argument and even that goes against them. First of all, the fighting is supposed to be against the leaders of disbelief rather than the individuals. Secondly, the purpose of “fighting” is revealed in “that they may desist”. So, if they were to be killed then how will they ever get a chance to desist. Most importantly, critics and ignorant alike forget the very following verse which further qualifies verses 11 and 12. “Will you not fight a people who have broken their oaths, and who plotted to turn out the Messenger, and they were the first to commence hostilities against you?” The focus is to only fight those who were first to be hostile towards you. Is this not a policy America enacts? Or, any nation of the world? Does such a nation exist that allows another nation’s attack, and does not respond? Why then, when the Qur’an mentions a law adopted by every government of the world, do people take issue? Misinterpretation of patent Quranic verses by Muslim Ulema have not only lead to the unjust killing but have also distorted the image of Islam. Mis-interpreters of Islam are the real enemies of Rifqa Bary, not Islam itself. For more information on this issue, please refer to:

Ayesha Noor Richmond, VA