Italy’s Niqaab Ban – broader issues of reaction vs proaction

Having received an email from “a group of students opposed to ignorance and racism of any form:Veil-ation” regarding their inititive to address Italy’s proposal of banning the Niqaab, I thought it appropriate to discuss an issue which has been on my mind for some time. As I mentioned in the article, Soccer Crosses vs Nabawi Banner,” I too had had the mentality of reacting to every situation affecting Islam and never going beyond the box of even thinking of applying the Sunnah approach of being proactive.

Please see my response to the students below, followed by the original email.

سليمان الكندي

Muhtaramah
السلام عليكم

I certainly agree with the sentiment that silence might be construed as surrender and ask Allah to grant success to all your good ventures. My only concern is that when these kinds of issues arise, most Muslims, even intellectually capable ones, fall into the rut of reaction as opposed to the proactive approach of Rasulullah sallallahu alayhi wa sallam.

For example, the knee-jerk response to the spate of insults towards the sacred personality is the usual, “Death to America! Death to Denmark!” Would Rasulullah sallallahu alayhi wa sallam not be more pleased with active dissemination on what an amazing personality he actually was? Should a Kaafir rightfully ask, “I do not understand this reaction of the Muslims to a man long dead. Please explain to me why you love him so,” how many Muslims would be able to explain anything about his beautiful personality for 15, 10 or even 5 minutes? Could they mutter anything beyond, “Born in Makkah died in Madinah”? Screaming “Death to America!” is so much easier.

After the building of the Masjid in al-Madinah, Rasulullah sallallahu alayhi wa sallam, examined the city. At that time trade was entirely in the hands of the Jews. The local Arabs were farmers and the Muhajirun from Makkah had no possessions to speak of. Rasulullah sallallahu alayhi wa sallam personally chose a land and appointed Abdurahmaan bin Awf radiyallahu anhu to set up a Muslim business district opposed to the Jewish monopoly, to teach trade to Muslims and supervise their weights and implementation of Shariah, etc. Nobody questions the sincerity of the promoters of BDS (Boycott, Disinvest, Sanctions) against the Zionist terrorist entity. One only asks that certain aspects be in line with the above Sunnah. Proactively provide an alternative first, then react.

As a well-wisher who has heard of your Islamic zeal and intellectual acumen, it is my hope that Allah uses you and your colleagues to disseminate an understanding amongst Muslims and Kuffar of the beauty of Hijaab, and not just settle for reacting to the latest hostilities. I also suggest that rather than add to the negativity with the phrase, “An initiative by a group of students opposed to ignorance and racism of any form: Veil-ation,” would a more positive phrase such as “Students promoting understanding and tolerance” not be more constructive?

Please note that these lines are written as a well-wisher addressing certain broad concepts I had been meaning to follow up on. I do not personally know any individual of this group and have no right to pass judgement.

و السلام
سليمان الكندي

From: XXXXX[mailto:XXXXXX@hotmail.com]
Sent: 13 September 2011 10:26 PM
To: XXXXXX
Subject: Spam: Veil-ation: Banning the Veil is a Fail
Italy is planning on becoming the third country in Europe to ban the Niqab. If something is not attempted by us to show our disapproval of these Islamophobic and ignorant laws being passed, our complaceny might be mistaken for surrender. Stand up in unity with Muslims around the world and let the Italian government, and any other leadership in the world too, know that we will NOT stand for our basic rights being violated. Doing your bit is easy, just follow these steps:

1. Copy this email address into the “send bar” to send an email directly to the office of the Italian President:  presidenza.repubblica@quirinale.it

2. Sign your name and the country you come from at the end of the letter below (translated into Italian as well) to personalise your request.

3. Forward this email to as many people as you can and let the movement spread- let us UNITE against injustice!

An initiative by a group of students opposed to ignorance and racism of any form: Veil-ation.


 
Ai rappresentanti del governo italiano
Vi imploro di riconsiderare con attenzione l’approvazione della legge intesa a bandire l’uso del niqab in Italia. Poiché l’Italia si vanta di essere un paese democratico che promuove i diritti umani e consente ai propri cittadini di vivere secondo le proprie convinzioni, il bando di un indumento religioso quale il niqab sarebbe molto ingiusto e mostrerebbe che il vostro paese usa due pesi e  due misure, non rispettando il diritto alla diversità. Il niqab è un simbolo di modestia per coloro che hanno fede nell’Islam, e un profondo significato religioso sta dietro il suo uso. Molti ignorano questo, per cui abbiamo deciso di illustrare i principali benefici e  le caratteristiche del Niqab.
Niqab significa semplicemente ‘coprirsi la faccia in pubblico’. Non è un comandamento prescritto da Dio, ma piuttosto un comandamento imposto come atto buono e casto. Si parla del niqab con reverenza e ammirazione, non come un segno di degradazione o oppressione. Perché mai Dio avrebbe voluto discriminare le donne, parte della Sua creazione? Nell’Islam quante vestono il niqab vengono apprezzate per le loro conoscenze, la pietà e per il contributo alla società. Esso è un supremo segno di purezza e dignità, e non solo permette alle donne il più alto grado di virtù ma serve anche cone garanzia  di sicurezza e come protezione dai mali della società. Considerate queste salde ragioni e i chiari benefici che stanno dietro il niqab, non si riesce a capire perché debba essere bandito. Per questo molte donne nel ventunesimo secolo scelgono di onorare il niqab, che garantisce loro più diritti e più rispetto di ogni minigonna.
Secondo Souad Sbai, membro del conservatore “Partito delle Libertà”, la proibizione del niqab “aiuta le donne a uscire dalla segregazione e dall’oppressione”. Come chiaramente detto sopra, il niqab non è segno di degradazione e oppressione, ma piuttosto una scelta da onorare e da garantire alle donne in Italia.
Un vecchio ragionamento a favore della proibizione del niqab allude a una minaccia per la sicurezza. Una qualche credibilità in questo ragionamento  deriverebbe dal fatto che il niqab fosse stato usato come travestimento per minacciare qualcuno. Ma nessun niqab, nella storia italiana, è stato mai usato da gruppi per compiere azioni violente. È stato solo usato da donne fedeli all’Islam per ragioni religiose. Oltre tutto bandire un costume religioso per queste ragioni giustificherebbe la grave assunzione anti-islamica che attribuisce tutti gli attachi terroristici a musulmani; i recenti atti di violenza commessi in Norvegia provano il contario.
Secondo Barbara Saltamartini, del medesimo “Partito delle libertà”, “L’approvazione di una legge proibizionista porrebbe fine alla sofferenza di molte donne obbligate a vestire il niqab o il burqa, che annullano la loro dignità, e le metterebbe sulla via dell’integrazione”. Il niqab è opzionale, e commenti come quello citato sopra provano il profondo fraintendimento e l’ignoranza presenti tra i leader politici in Italia. Occorre al contrario incoraggiare il riconoscimento della differenza e il rispetto per gli altri, piuttosto che promuovere boicottaggi e  proibizioni basati sul bigottismo.
È dunque chiaro che è interesse dell’Italia non bandire il niqab: approvare tale legge significherebbe violare i diritti delle donne. L’Italia è ampiamente stimata in tutto il mondo, e sarebbe dunque una grave ingiustiza per la storia del vostro paese l’approvazione di tale legge chiaramente razzista, che finirebbe col compromettere  tale immagine dell’Italia. Vi imploriamo dunque di astenervi dall’introdurre nel vostro ordinamento democratico né ora né in futuro una simile legge!
To the Leaders of Italy
I implore you to carefully consider the passing of the law in your country which will soon ban women from wearing the Niqab. As a country which prides itself on its democratic principles and affording its citizens the basic human right to choose how they should live, banning a religious garb such as the Niqab is most unjust and will only portray your country as one with double standards and a lack of general respect for diversity.  The Niqab is a symbol of modesty for those in the Islamic faith, and has a deep spiritual meaning behind its use. Many are ignorant of this, and so we have decided to outline the basic benefits and noble characteristics of the Niqab.

Niqab means, simply, to cover ones face when out in public. It is not a commandment that is compulsory as prescribed by God, but rather a commandment that has been deemed a good and chaste act. When we discuss the Niqab we do so with reverence and admiration, as the Niqab is not a sign of degradation or oppression. Why would God discriminate against women, a segment of His creation? By wearing the Niqab, women in Islam are appreciated for their knowledge, piety and contribution to society. It is the highest sign of purity and dignity, and not only affords women the highest degree of virtuousness but acts as a screen for her safety and protection from the evils of society as well.  With such strong reasoning behind its use and the benefits of the Niqab so obviously apparent, one finds it difficult to see why it was banned. One can also find it easy to see why so many women in the twenty first century are choosing to honour the Niqab, as it affords them more rights and respect than any short mini-skirt can. 

According to Souad Sbai, a member of the conservative Freedom People Party, the reasoning for the Niqab ban is because they feel they “…have to help women get out of this segregation … to get out of this submission.”   As has been clearly stated in the paragraph above, the Niqab is not a sign of degradation or oppression, but is rather a choice that should be honoured and afforded to the women of Italy. 

The age old reasoning for banning the Niqab is cited as that of it being a security threat. This reason would hold some form of credibility if the Niqab has ever been used as a disguise to pose a threat to anyone. On the contrary, in the history of Italy, not once has the Niqab been used by groups to carry out violent attacks. It has only ever been worn by women is Islam who have recognised its importance and decided to wear it out of religious reasons. Also, banning a religious custom on this basis would be making the most grave and Islamophobic assumption that all “terrorist attacks” are carried out by Muslims, and in light of recent events in Norway I think we can all agree that this is most certainly not the case.

Also, according to the vice president of the Freedom People party, Barbara Saltamartini, “Final approval will put an end to the suffering of many women who are often forced to wear the burqa or niqab, which annihilates their dignity and gets in the way of integration.”  The Niqab is optional, and comments like this only reveal the deep misunderstanding and misconceptions which exist amongst your leadership. Let us rather work towards recognition of each other’s adversity and respect for one another, instead of bans and boycott based on ideas of bigotry.

It is apparent from the above reasoning that not banning the Niqab is not only in the best interest of your country, but to pass this act is also in direct violation of the rights of a portion of the women in your country. Italy is spoken of only in the highest terms around the world, and so it would be a grave injustice to the natural history of your country as well as the current population to tarnish that reputation with the passing of a law so obviously racist in its foundation. We implore you, therefore, to refrain from passing this law- now, or anytime in the future of your democratic state!
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