Excerpt from the Washington Post (You’ll need to register to view it, but it is for free):
“Ten days ago, a 31-year-old Moroccan-born immigrant to Belgium quit her job at a prepared foods factory in the small town of Ledegem. Her decision was the result of several months of intimidation, beginning in November when her employer, Rik Remmery, received an anonymous letter. It claimed to be his “death warrant” unless he fired his “fundamentalist” Muslim employee — or made sure that she removed her head scarf.
A few days later, a second letter arrived, repeating the threat. Another came, putting a $326,000 bounty on Remmery’s head. When a further envelope showed up containing a bullet, Remmery and his wife became truly worried. Although they had stood by Naima Amzil, their employee decided to ditch her head scarf while she worked. It was a wrenching decision for her. “A piece of me has been taken away,” she cried.
It wasn’t the end of her ordeal, though. After two more bullets showed up in the mail, Amzil finally decided to quit the job she had for eight years rather than endanger either her life or her employer’s.”
Such news cannot escape my attention, although I have heard many. So far I have failed to get myself used to this kind of news though. I am Muslim, living in Europe, and do not wear head scarf for my own reasons. But what is the matter with these head scarves? Are they not simply clothes?
On the last Women’s Day, a group of women protested on how Muslim men forced the women to wear headscarf by putting Muslim clothes on a statue in Budapest. Of course they have a right to do so, as I have the right to criticize them. The action showed a cultural ignorance instead of the defence of human rights. No one forced anyone to put on anything. Clothes are closely related to culture. I can imagine we would have been as eccentric sightseeing in Iraq wrapped in a bikini as well as those Muslim women with their scarf in Europe. Anyhow, we would have needed a lot of sun block cream to protect our skin from having sun burned there with bikinis. Another example; we cannot force Indian women to get rid of their Saris and begin to wear Levi’s; I daresay.
Religion, to some points, is also a product of culture. Thus I cannot deny that the decision to wear something is based on it as well, which means that some women wear head scarf due to their religiosity. However, that is beyond man’s control. It is one’s own responsibility with God if s/he believed in any.
Surely it would be a tough job to distinguish whether something belongs to religious symbol or not nowadays. I noticed older women in Hungary also have custom to wear head scarf; not exactly the same style like the Middle Easterners; but quite similar to those worn by Muslim women in South East Asia. And I doubt that the French law which bans Islamic headscarves and other religious symbols from its state schools would come out fairly. Head scarf and cross necklace might be easily identified; although I cannot see what is wrong with wearing them; but would every lad who shaved their head a la Vin Diesel not be able to attend state schools because they resemble Buddhist monks?
More from the article:
“Islamophobia is a new phenomenon in modern Europe. In the early 1970s when I lived in Britain, Muslim women in France used to tell me how their neighbors admired their “stylish turbans.” Turkish women in Berlin and Cologne would flaunt their head scarves, which their own country’s ultra-secularist government had banned from many public places. Some Arab women arriving at Paris’s Orly Airport would take off the veils they were obliged to wear in their homelands. They did so of their free will, not because of Europeans’ negative reactions to their cultural peculiarities.
In fact, 30 years ago Muslims were rarely recognized in Europe as a religious group at all. In Britain, Muslims were usually identified by ethnic and national labels — Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, Kashmiris and so on. It wasn’t until the late 1980s that Britons began to refer to them as Muslims. In the last five years, the cultural symbols that distinguish Muslims have come to be mistakenly viewed as symbols of Islamic extremism.”
For this matter, I have no explanation, unfortunately. I only hope tolerance and understanding will enlighten us all.
For peace in this world
Note: I got this link from a mailing list. Full-text of IHF Report “Intolerance and Discrimination Against Muslims in the EU – Developments Since September 11″
(160 pages, March 2005) is available free.