European push to ban burqas appalls Afghan women

By Reuters Staff
April 16, 2010
burqas 1

Afghan widows line up during a cash for work project in Kabul January 6, 2010/Ahmad Masood

A firm believer in women’s rights, the only thing Afghan lawmaker Shinkai Karokhail finds as appalling as being forced to wear a burqa is a law banning it.

Karokhail is one of many Afghan women who see a double standard in efforts by some European nations to outlaw face veils and burqas — a move they say restricts a Muslim woman’s choice in countries that otherwise make a fuss about personal rights.

“Democratic countries should not become dictatorships and Muslim women should not be deprived from all kinds of opportunities. It should be their choice,” said Karokhail.  “Otherwise, what is the difference between forcing women to wear a burqa and forcing them not to? It is discrimination.”

France, which has the largest Muslim population in Europe, as well as Italy and Belgium are considering proposals to ban all-enveloping burqas and face veils called niqabs. Many in the West see them as a symbol of the subjugation of women.

Shukriya Ahmadi, a 35-year-old Afghan government employee, has ditched the burqa since the days of being forced to wear it during Taliban rule. Still, she has only scorn for Western governments seeking to outlaw them

“This shows they use democracy, freedom of religion and human rights issues only when it suits their purposes,” Ahmadi said.

Read Sayed Salahuddin’s full story from Kabul here. See also visiting Rome-based staffer Deepa Babington’s blog post from the streets of Kandahar, where she found it difficult to find any women even in burqas.

Follow FaithWorld on Twitter at RTRFaithWorld

No comments so far

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/