Femmes for Freedom was shocked to learn that Dutch national newspaper NRC Handelsblad printed an opinion piece in favour of permitting the burqa, which was signed by 47 organisations, including prominent women’s rights organisations. This publication marks a black day in the Dutch women’s rights movement. The column Fidan Ekiz wrote on the new partial burqa ban has touched the team of Femmes for Freedom. Fidan hits the nail right on the head, by reasoning that it is not perceived islamophobia that is at the centre of protest, but misogyny. Those 47 women’s rights organisations, who have signed the publication titled ‘This Ban is a modern-day Witch Hunt’ ‘This Ban is a modern-day Witch Hunt’ are convinced that they are supporting the right to self-determination. However, by signing this publication, these organisations fail to see that they are in fact supporting an ideology that is not only violent towards women, but also couldn’t be further removed from these rights to self-determination and an open and free society. The 47 organisations base their validation of this misogynistic opinion piece on an advice issued by the Council of State in 2012 in which it advised against a total ban on face-covering clothing. However, this negative advise has been overturned in multiple judgements passed by the European Court of Human Rights in 2014 and 2017. Both the French and Belgian total ban on burqa’s are in compliance with judgements of the European case law with regards to freedom of religion. In addition, the court does not designate these bans as discriminatory or disrespectful towards the private or family life and the freedom of speech. The Dutch legislation abides by the same rules (and regulations). The explanatory statement published by the Dutch government motivates the choice to enforce a partial ban on face-covering clothing such as the burqa in public transport, government offices, schools and hospitals.
European countries are not alone in pushing for similar legislation. In Morocco for instance, the sale and production of burqas has been prohibited and in Tunisia a partial ban on wearing the burqa is in effect. This makes us wonder if the implementations of such bans also make these countries, that are known to have a large Islamic population, Islamophobic or racist?
We call upon you to help us challenge and counter this unnecessary Islamophobic and racist narrative. Please sign your name under the column written by Fidan Ekiz by sending an e-mail to email@example.com and share this message online. We ask you to join us in demanding equality, freedom and safety for all women.
This is not about Islamophobia but about female phobia, by Fidan Ekiz
Since I read that text a couple of years ago, I think about it regularly. In an interview (Jalta, Corinne Vloet), Maajid Nawaz spoke about how the radical Islamic movement, which he was once part of, deliberately drew the racism and Islamophobia card from political motives. They put their heads together to construct arguments which they then spread throughout their networks for political purposes. ‘We actually had meetings about how we would spin the latest news, so that the Islamic ideology would get one step closer to Islamisation of society. (…) We see someone who, genuinely or not, complains about racism, but what we don’t see is what is behind it: a well-coordinated, united, ideological effort to revise the social contract in Europe. It is a fact. I know it, because I was one of its architects.’
Nawaz has warned before that Europe does not understand that we are in the midst of an ideological battle. I hear the same from the German-Turkish female imam Seyran Ates, who I met last year: ‘The Islamisation of Europe is not a right wing-populist narrative. I’m telling it you here and now’.
If it hadn’t been for people like Nawaz and Ates, then perhaps we would never have seen or have wanted to see the danger of Islamophobia. The persuasiveness of the anti-racist and Islamophobia discourse is strong and overpowering. This is also apparent now from the discussion about the partial ban on carrying face-covering garments (burqas, niqabs, balaclavas and full-face helmets) that has come into force. The discussion about the ban – which is meant as a security measure – has been hijacked by the fear of Islamophobic people.
Even Amnesty International has come up with a misplaced campaign (‘Women have the right to decide what they wear themselves’) in which the partial burqa ban bunched together with the duty to wear a headscarf, such as in Iran. Political party NIDA has promised to pay the fines for women who wear a niqab or a burqa and therefore violate the burqa ban. This same NIDA earlier condemned Shirin Musa of Femmes For Freedom as a spokesperson for Leefbaar Rotterdam, because she held a plea for a special police unit for crimes of honour and female circumcision.
Isn’t it interesting that so-called progressives present themselves as defenders of a symbol of misogyny and anti-democratic thinking? Isn’t it fascinating that women who are infatuated by feminists such as Huda Shaarawi, Nawal El Saadawi and Fatima Mernissi, do not mention the battle that these heroines have fought against misogyny? Do they not know the obsession with containing the female body, the protection of virginity? Are they not aware of the Islamic hatred against women? As the Egyptian American feminist Mona Eltahawy writes in her book Headscarves and Hymens: ‘While the clergy endeavours to suppress female desire, it is the men who cannot control themselves. (…) They are obsessed by women and their orifices’. In The Veil And The Male Elite Mernissi writes the following: ‘The conflict between the divine and the feminine consists in all monotheistic religions, but nowhere as strong as in Islam, which has decided to obscure, hide and mask, femininity’. Mernissi speaks of a phobic attitude towards women. Being a women means that you are the embodiment of sin. All the more surprising according to her, because the prophet actually encouraged his followers to denounce this because it was an attitude that came from the pre-Islamic period, literally the era of ignorance and superstition. ‘Is it possible that the hijab, the attempt veil women which is now seen as the basis of the Muslim identify, is nothing else than a remnant of the pre-Islamic mentality?’
The most important question that defenders of the burqa should ask themselves is why women are responsible for the protection of men against the sexual desires that they supposedly stimulate in them. Let the men control themselves!
From our privileged position, we should unanimously recognise the reality of those women who are not as privileged. Feminists in the Middle-East, who stand on the barricades shoulder to shoulder, have been shouting it for so many years: help women in your own community with their battle against misogyny. This way, you will help the worldwide battle against hatred of women. This is the moment because women, who have been told for such a long time that they should not bring misogyny from within to the outside world because it would be playing into the hands of racists, that women raise their voices. And they will not be silenced anymore.
Silvan Schoonhoven of newspaper De Telegraaf, spoke with Jamila from Rotterdam who was forced in Pakistan by their in-laws to wear a burqa. She took it off once she was in the Netherlands. ‘The fabric’ (burqa) is not the biggest problem, says Jamila. The fanaticism behind it is much scarier. Jamila, who now wears a head scarf, cannot believe that she saw an increase in the number of ‘niqab fans’ in Rotterdam amongst highly-educated second generation Muslim women.
The ‘partial ban on face-covering garments’ act is meant as a security measure and has nothing to do with xenophobia. Also, as far as I am concerned, the ban is extremely difficult to enforce and there mostly a symbolic measure. Of course, we must be careful that people will not start behaving violently towards Muslim women wearing a burqa or a niqab. The article in the AD earlier this week which advises about what civilians can do themselves (a citizen’s arrest is allowed) when they see a burqa or a niqab in public spaces, therefore rightly provokes outrage. What is evident, however, is that most people who can be heard, do not say anything about the lack of freedom behind the veil. It seems a deliberate strategy. We should not talk about the feminists now who have fought against the veil and in support of the sexual revolution. No, we should now talk about the criminalisation of Muslims in a hostile environment. And whoever is critical about the burqa nowadays, is a racist or an Islamophobic person.
I think back about what Nawaz said. ‘We Islamists laugh about the naivety of the left.’
Everyone who now, blind for their own paternalism and privileged position, sticks out their neck for freedom to wear the burqa: this has nothing to do with Islamophobia, but everything with gyno or female phobia. Do not be so naive and realise what you are advocating for. There is nothing liberal about the free choice of wearing a burqa.
The following persons have signed: