Comments on: GUESTVIEW: Out of our hair and away from our pants! http://blogs.reuters.com/faithworld/2009/08/20/guestview-out-of-our-hair-and-away-from-our-pants/ Religion, faith and ethics Sat, 23 Apr 2016 23:25:07 +0000 hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.5 By: Tom Heneghan http://blogs.reuters.com/faithworld/2009/08/20/guestview-out-of-our-hair-and-away-from-our-pants/comment-page-1/#comment-14929 Sun, 30 Aug 2009 13:42:34 +0000 http://blogs.reuters.com/faithworld/?p=7586#comment-14929 Sarah, thanks for your thoughtful answers. A few ideas in response:– You write that “it is important to reconcile the disconnect between what the intention is and what the recipients’ perceptions and experiences are of those rules/laws.” I agree 100% and don’t have to tell you that this is one of the things that interfaith and intercultural dialogue is there for. We have to be optimistic enough to believe that rational people can find a solution.– You ask “who gets to define the nature of freedom and boundaries” in society. Not to be flip, but society itself does. That is, the people and groups in a society roughly agree on what has to be done to promote the common good. When people and groups in the society change, the society has to be open to change along with them. But there is no formula for how to change and how much change is needed. This can only be worked out in the public sphere.– on hygiene, I don’t have any scientific info on germs vs. showers and chlorine, but I can say the French don’t fully share the American enthusiasm for technical solutions (“better living through chemistry”) when they think a simpler one like a dress code can suffice. They do use chlorine in their pools, but not as much as in the U.S., and they don’t want to dump more in because it can be harmful to swimmers and the environment. I’m no expert on the details of public pool hygiene but French friends who swim regularly in public pools tell me this makes sense to them and using more chemicals does not.

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By: Sarah Sayeed http://blogs.reuters.com/faithworld/2009/08/20/guestview-out-of-our-hair-and-away-from-our-pants/comment-page-1/#comment-14841 Sat, 29 Aug 2009 16:21:37 +0000 http://blogs.reuters.com/faithworld/?p=7586#comment-14841 Tom,Thanks very much for your thoughtful comments.Re: the French pool and their hygiene concerns- I understand. The issue is that even if they are not motivated by prejudice, and intentions are good, the problem is that for Muslim women who cover, it is experienced as prejudicial. Reconciling that disconnect is important.I don’t think it is enough to say, “we are not discriminating” because we know from history that this doesn’t work– rather, if rules/laws explicitly infringe on someone’s freedom/religious choices, there should be concrete alternatives offered. In the past, the option has been segregation- and I am not sure that would work in this case, alongside the push to integrate. Some of those who practiced segregation in the US used scripture as well as practical reasoning to justify it—but it was still experienced as demeaning.It is like the mosque access issue for women- sometimes the argument is made based on religious reasoning that women aren’t required to do their Friday prayers at a mosque, so it is not required for mosques to provide space for Muslim women on Fridays. Other times, mosques say they don’t have space for Muslim women to pray on Fridays because they are overcrowded with men, and space is short. Both the religious reasoning and practical reasons may be true and may not be intended as discriminatory, but it is experienced as discriminatory and alienating.Alienated individuals result in a fractured community and ultimately social unrest….maybe that is something else to write further about. Also, while we can dissect the arguments for arguments’ sake and assume that the French aren’t being discriminatory against Muslim women, we know that in reality, societies and rule makers include those who are discriminatory. That is why I think it is important to reconcile the disconnect between what the intention is and what the recipients’ perceptions and experiences are of those rules/laws.An article could probably be written on interfaith/cross cultural perspectives on hygiene:) I don’t think that Muslim women would dare to wear their burkini on the bus to the pool– hmm at least I would not- unless there was absolutely no place to change on the other end! I am also genuinely curious about the scientific reasoning underlying the germs issue- is it really true that germs that are acquired on a bus cannot be adequately done away with using a shower and chlorine? If you have any more information on that, it would be important to know.Your statement, “But religious freedom — like all freedoms — is bounded in some way in all democratic countries, and rightfully so” makes a lot of sense. The problem is that when “Western” countries like the U.S. or France sell freedom to others, they never tell you that it is bounded– they say that they are “free” while the rest of the world is “not free.” In reality, all societies have relative freedom, including the West. We need to think about who gets to define the nature of that freedom and boundaries–How do the boundaries get negotiated over time, and as societies become increasingly multi/transcultural? This applies to all societies, whether Islamic or Western or Eastern.You are right to point out that a government is not required to respond to the concerns specifically of Muslim women, and yes, they do have a responsibility to protect the choices of all citizens. My assumption is that a Muslim woman is part of the group of citizens, and her rights must be protected because she is a citizen—not as some special group. You write that the limitations that we are subject to are decided on by society- yet again, my question is, who are the members of the society, and what is their role in determining the limitations? Who articulates the limitations, and who is ultimately heard by the state? For me personally, the practice of Islam is intimately bound up with the protection of choice- that is why I focused on Sudan’s practice as problematic. Given the plural nature of Muslim societies, if choice is not protected, we are at risk of violating religious principles of compassion and justice. I believe that states must prioritize which ethical principles underlie their laws, and I do hope that the priority will be compassion and preservation of choice.Thank you again.

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By: Tom Heneghan http://blogs.reuters.com/faithworld/2009/08/20/guestview-out-of-our-hair-and-away-from-our-pants/comment-page-1/#comment-14775 Thu, 27 Aug 2009 22:10:13 +0000 http://blogs.reuters.com/faithworld/?p=7586#comment-14775 Sarah, as you probably remember from your previous FaithWorld contribution (http://tinyurl.com/myg8df), I appreciate having your strong opinions here but don’t fully agree with all of them. Our main point of difference seems to be over whether freedom of religion is an absolute right or whether it has to be put in a wider social context of competing rights and duties.I see no problem with a woman wearing a burkini at the beach. But French municipal pools are quite strict on hygiene and effectively ban anything that the bather could come to the pool already wearing, thereby bringing in dirt from outside. Bathing caps are mandatory. Long baggy swimtrunks for men are also out as they could double as shorts worn on the way to the pool, something they wouldn’t do in a skimpy swimsuit.You write that “surely a shower before entering the water and the chlorine of a public pool can be counted upon to take care of these dangerous ‘molecules and viruses!’” French pools already have pre-swim showers and chlorine, but the officials who run them decided long before the burkini ever appeared on the scene that these were not enough to ensure cleanliness in the enclosed spaces for which they are legally responsible.I’m not saying that some officials are not prejudiced against Muslims and might not be more motivated by that prejudice than by any concern for hygiene. This certainly happens — as in that mayor’s comments about the burkini amounting to “going back in civilisation” — and it deserves to be highlighted and criticised. But I also know that I, as a non-Muslim male, am also constrained by what I can and cannot wear in a public pool here. Similar restrictions apply in other European countries — I first encountered them in Germany in 1972 when I was a student there and the few Muslims in town were mostly working men. Saying a real hygiene-based burkini ban (not a prejudiced one) amounts to a message that “those who practice Islam will be marginalized” does not tell me what message is sent by the long-standing hygiene-based ban on baggy shorts and uncapped hair for French non-Muslim men.In the post, you say “the French ban on head covers, face covers and now on pool attire suggests that religious freedom is bounded, even within a democratic context.” This suggests it somehow is not bounded elsewhere, for example in the U.S. But religious freedom — like all freedoms — is bounded in some way in all democratic countries, and rightfully so. Religious freedom should be allowed as far as possible, and we advocate that on this blog. But there inevitably are limits. No multifaith society can operate peacefully if each religious group has unlimited freedom. No democratic society can operate peacefully if any social group has unlimited freedom. The challenge is to allow as much freedom as possible without creating divisions in the society. This doesn’t mean existing regulations can’t be changed, but criticism of them has to refute the reasons behind them and not simply posit freedom of religion as an absolute right that, in cases of a clash, other society-wide rules and regulations must necessarily adapt to.I also find your conclusion questionable. You write: “what government must do is to protect the freedom of Muslim women to choose our dress. Protecting choice guarantees human dignity and maintains fairness. Ultimately, the preservation of democracy as well as the practice of Islam depends on it.” Unless it is an Islamic state, the government does not have a specific responsibility to protect Muslim women’s choices, only the choices of all citizens. And they must all be subject to certain limitations decided by the society, be they a ban on displaying intimate body parts in public or a ban on full facial veils in public. Although a state may decide to protect the specific choices of a specific minority, its democratic credentials do not depend on that. Indeed, one could argue that this approach might actually undermine democracy rather than strengthen it. And I wonder if the practice of Islam really does depend on state protection for specific women’s clothing choices that many Muslims do not think are necessary to be faithful to their religion.

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By: maureen http://blogs.reuters.com/faithworld/2009/08/20/guestview-out-of-our-hair-and-away-from-our-pants/comment-page-1/#comment-14708 Tue, 25 Aug 2009 09:44:07 +0000 http://blogs.reuters.com/faithworld/?p=7586#comment-14708 Well done Sarah – this was a balanced and thought provoking article

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By: Bob Larick http://blogs.reuters.com/faithworld/2009/08/20/guestview-out-of-our-hair-and-away-from-our-pants/comment-page-1/#comment-14706 Tue, 25 Aug 2009 02:47:06 +0000 http://blogs.reuters.com/faithworld/?p=7586#comment-14706 As long as can see women’s face, it shouldn’t be seen as a security risk, or demeaning to women (that has to feel has to cover oneself up so much, or embarrassed about about one’s body ). The real issue is the need for religions and secular society to feel more compatible and friendly towards each others interpretation of propriety! These are all reasons to support “Bob Larick’s” Holistic, Risk Management, Interfaith,Business,Security (& development) Alliance Institute; as an integral part of meaningful UN reform , and a local to global , Culture of Mutual Respect/Consideration and Goodwill, between “All God’s Children”.Don’t we all need a Salvation Agenda, to Achieve Sustainable, Human Security & Prosperity, in this world ( not just beyond)?

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By: Maura http://blogs.reuters.com/faithworld/2009/08/20/guestview-out-of-our-hair-and-away-from-our-pants/comment-page-1/#comment-14705 Tue, 25 Aug 2009 02:32:55 +0000 http://blogs.reuters.com/faithworld/?p=7586#comment-14705 Thank you for your lovely and enlightneing article. Fear breeds on ignorance. Please keep writing your wonde ful articles and hence, educate all of us. What does it matter what we wear or in many cases, not wear? I will never understand why can’t we understand and respect one another despite our garb, whatever it maybe. What happened to the old adage of NEVER “judging a book by it’s cover”. Brevity is the soul of wit and diversity is the soul of life.Thank you

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By: Wendy http://blogs.reuters.com/faithworld/2009/08/20/guestview-out-of-our-hair-and-away-from-our-pants/comment-page-1/#comment-14700 Mon, 24 Aug 2009 22:43:03 +0000 http://blogs.reuters.com/faithworld/?p=7586#comment-14700 Thanks, Sarah Sayeed, for starting this discussion. I thought it was a no-brainer that women should choose their own dress, but I see that readers are quite conflicted about it.I’m surprised by the number of writers who cannot imagine an educated, thinking woman choosing to cover herself. Such a choice is derided as a sign that “a woman cannot think for herself” or even as “malicious progaganda” by writers who probably think they respect women. Maybe folks need to get to know educated women who’ve made this choice before dismissing it all as ignorance.I’m also surprised by the number of people from “freedom loving civilized countries” who are ready to dictate what Muslim women should or should not wear. We’re offended by patriarchal societies that dictate women’s dress and behavior, yet we’re ok with Western societies that legislate conformity?A number of respondents say “Do as the Romans do”, i.e. follow the local restrictions wherever you are, i.e. you have no right to question. In the U.S., if someone passes a restriction we don’t like, we push back and argue about it. Isn’t that the model we prefer, rather than passive acceptance?Finally, some argue that the burkini issue is all about public health. Were head coverings in French schools banned because of public health? Is that why the Dutch said that women in burkinis could swim at separate times like other ‘special groups?’ I suspect it’s a monolithic fear of Islam behind this, with public health as the latest thinly ‘veiled’ excuse.Islam has as many variants as Christianity, Judaism and nonbelief. If we can’t respect that complexity, we end up trying to “exclude all forms” or, almost as bad, dividing Muslims between ‘ignorant’ and ‘liberated.’ That’s a trap, and a disservice.

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By: Sarah Ryan http://blogs.reuters.com/faithworld/2009/08/20/guestview-out-of-our-hair-and-away-from-our-pants/comment-page-1/#comment-14698 Mon, 24 Aug 2009 20:54:28 +0000 http://blogs.reuters.com/faithworld/?p=7586#comment-14698 Kudos Sarah, for a brilliant juxtaposition of cultures and defense of political and personal freedoms. I wish I was still in New York to learn from you. Your friend in peace and struggle – Dr. Sarah Ryan

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By: Khalid http://blogs.reuters.com/faithworld/2009/08/20/guestview-out-of-our-hair-and-away-from-our-pants/comment-page-1/#comment-14696 Mon, 24 Aug 2009 19:52:12 +0000 http://blogs.reuters.com/faithworld/?p=7586#comment-14696 The Quran requires both Muslim men and women to dress modestly. Dress that reveals the body curvatures and features in open public places is not considered modest. Islam does not require women to cover their face or hide their identity. The face is to be kept uncovered during the annual Muslim pilgrimage of hajj, one of the most sacred of the rituals. The covering of the face by most Muslim women is cultural tradition and not a religious requirement.I agree with some of the commentators that regular baggy dress can be harmful as the wet clothes will weigh down the swimmer. If burkini is baggy and voluminous, then it should not be allowed in public swimming pools. Such individuals pose danger to themselves and those who are appointed for the public safety. The Islamic religious edicts are flexible and can be adapted to various situations only if the individual is willing to use common sense interpretation and keep cultural and tribal traditions separate from the true religious requirements.

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By: Peter Heinegg http://blogs.reuters.com/faithworld/2009/08/20/guestview-out-of-our-hair-and-away-from-our-pants/comment-page-1/#comment-14694 Mon, 24 Aug 2009 19:10:25 +0000 http://blogs.reuters.com/faithworld/?p=7586#comment-14694 I’m distressed as the next person at the dreadful persecution of women wearing burkinis; and I think this would be an excellent time to review some of the leading feminist texts of the Qur’an, as a reminder of how much Islam has to offer modern women:SOME QUR’ANIC TEXTS ABOUT WOMEN1. “Women are your fields: go, then into your fields whence you please” 2:223.2. “Men have authority over women because God has made the one superiorto the other; and because they spend their wealth to maintain them.Good women are obedient. They guard their unseen parts because Godhas guarded them. As for those from whom you fear disobedience,admonish them, forsake them in beds apart, and beat them. Surely Godis high, supreme.” 4:343. “Wives of the Prophet! Those of you who clearly commit a lewd act shall be doubly punished. But those of you who obey God and apostle and do good works, shall be doubly recompensed; for them We have made a rich provision.Wives of the Prophets, you are not like other women. If you fear God, do not be too complaisant in your speech, lest the lecherous-hearted should lust after you. … Stay in your homes and do not display your finery as women used to do in the days of ignorance.” 33:30-334. “Prophet, we have made lawful for you the wives to whom you have granted dowries and the slave girls whom God has given you as booty; the daughters of your paternal and maternal uncles and of your paternal and maternal aunts who fled with you; and any believing woman who gives herself to the Prophet and whom the Prophet wishes to take in marriage. This privilege is yours alone being granted to no other believer” 33:505. “You may put off any of your wives you please and take to your bed any of them you please. Nor is it unlawful for you to receive any of those whom you have temporarily set aside” 33:516. “You must not speak ill of God’s apostle, nor shall you ever wed his wives after him; this would surely be a grave offense in the sight of God.” 33:537. “When Zayd divorced his wife, We gave her to you in marriage so that it shouldbecome legitimate for true believers to wed the wives of their adopted sons if they divorced them, God’s will must needs be done. No blame shall be attached to the Prophet for doing what is sanctioned for him by God.” 33:37-388. “If you are in doubt concerning those of your wives who have ceased menstruating, know that their waiting period shall be three months. The same shall apply to those who have not yet menstruated (i.e., child wives) “ 65:4.9. “Ask the unbelievers if it be true that God has daughters, while they themselves choose sons. Did we create angels females? … Would He choose daughters rather than sons? What has come over you that you judge do ill?” 37:149-15410.“Would they ascribe to God females who adorn themselves and are powerless in disputation?” 43:1811. As for the righteous, they shall surely triumph. Theirs shall be gardens and vineyards, and high-bosomed maidens for companions: a truly overflowing cup.” 78:3112. “ …bashful virgins whom neither man nor jinnee will have touched before. Which of your Lord’s blessings would you deny?” 55:56Amazing stuff, no?Peter Heinegg

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