Of women, burqas and the absurd | india | Hindustan Times
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Of women, burqas and the absurd

The decision of the French Government to debar women wearing the burqa from public places is the most recent example of growing intolerance in European nations of the influx of large number of Muslims, mainly from north African countries like Algeria and Morocco, writes Khushwant Singh.

india Updated: Feb 14, 2010 00:51 IST

The decision of the French Government to debar women wearing the burqa from public places is the most recent example of growing intolerance in European nations of the influx of large number of Muslims, mainly from north African countries like Algeria and Morocco. Earlier, a referendum in Switzerland voted in favour of banning erecting minarets and domes. Similar exhibitions of petty-mindedness have come to light in Holland and Denmark.

What does it matter if an old woman is seen going to the post office or clinic wearing a burqa? Or what is it that riles Swiss folk seeing a minaret or a dome in the horizon? The real cause is economic not racial or religious. They feel outsiders threaten their jobs. They resent outsiders taking dole, free medical aid, old age and disability grant etc. provided by the welfare state without having contributed anything to the public exchequer.

I who boast of my deep concern with what happens to Muslims, also find burqa an irritant. While living in Lahore before the Partition, I was once invited by the Principal of the Government College For Women to speak to her students. When told that I would have to speak from behind a screen as a large number of students were Muslims, I refused to do so. On the other hand I addressed students of Kinnard College for Women both before an after Partition, I did not see a single girl wearing a burqa.

I can say with confidence that of the hundreds of Muslims families I know, not one has women in hijabs or burqa. This practice is limited to lower-class families with little or no education. How do the pro-hijabis explain the phenomenon of Muslim women Heads of States, as in Pakistan and Bangladesh, Muslim women diplomats, civil servants, in business offices, airhostesses, police and the Army? Like the top layer of Muslim society, women working in the fields or as domestic servants do not wear burqas.

The resurgence of hijab is a recent phenomenon fuelled by bigots of two fundamentalist nations: For Sunnis it is the Wahabi Saudi Arabia, for the Shias the post-Shah regime of the Ayatollahs. When the British dominated Arab countries, Muslim girls were seen in European clothes in Riyadh. The one and only time I visited Iran was during the regime of the Shah, I spent a week in Tehran. I did not see a single woman in a veil.

I regard the hijab as the emblem of jihalat-backward-ness. The sooner Muslim women liberate themselves from it, the better.

What is absurd?

I'd like to know the meaning of absurd
Though I am not a nerd
I confess things appear rather absurd
When art and cricket and cinema
Must in one mould be made
No myths in movies
Or even in art for that matter
And no Pakistanis in cricket please
Is this what they call absurd?
To play by rules no one cares about
And all this absurdity is nationalism
Is this what is absurdism?
One song for all schools
One dress for all females
One subject for all movies
One object for all nationalists
P for power; O observance; L for lament,
I for ideology; T for tame; I for imperial
C for checks and S for sabotage…
Is this what absurd means?
Beating a dead horse!
When cricket needs more common sense
And hockey needs more rashtriya sahara
When females need more aid
And art needs more space
And all nationalisms fall flat on the face,
Until someone thinks of the nation
That lies bleeding
Under all these absurdities!
(Courtesy: Sami Rafiq, Aligarh)

Happy Birthday

Last July we celebrated a special birthday. Monica Lewinsky turned 44. Can you believe it?
It seems like only yesterday she was crawling around the White House on her hands and knees, putting everything in her mouth.
They grow up so fast, don’t they?

(Contributed by Vipin Buckshey, Delhi)

The views expressed are personal