The following are excerpts from a discussion about the veil between
Iqbal Baraka, editor of the Egyptian women's magazine Hawaa, and Al-Jazeera
TV news presenter Hadija bin Qinna. The show was aired on LBC TV on May
Interviewer: "How do you view the phenomenon of celebrities
taking up the veil, Iqbal Baraka?"
Iqbal Baraka: "In my personal view, this phenomenon has less to
do with religion than with social, economic and political factors. Women
are intimidated and terrorized. The Arab woman is subjected to
continuous pressure to wear the hijab. The Arab man tries to gain
control and hegemony in any sphere, to compensate for his utter failure
in the political sphere. So he puts pressure on the woman. Some say that
the hijab is a religious duty - as if Allah had ordered men to observe
five religious duties, and ordered women to observe six. This completely
contradicts the equality between all human beings in Islam."
"This phenomenon began to spread with the Arab defeat of 1967, when some
Muslim scholars alleged that the reason for the defeat was that Muslims
were distancing themselves from their religion. Women going out to work
and women's liberation were the main reasons for the defeat, in their
"Consequently, there began to be tremendous pressure on the weak and
wretched element - the woman. This was a way of compensating for the
shortcomings of the Arab man, who was repeatedly defeated in the
"This is a social, political, and psychological phenomenon, more than a
Hadija bin Qinna: "I became convinced that pleasing God is much
more important than pleasing the viewers. I was surprised that after
taking up the hijab, most of the viewers' responses were wonderful.
People welcomed my decision to wear the hijab and congratulated me.
Almost all media outlets... You'd be surprised if I told you that media
outlets from India, Japan, Columbia, the United States, London,
France... Media outlets like Le Figaro, Le Monde, The Times, and The
Guardian... Many media outlets talked about this hijab. I think that
Iqbal Baraka is mistaken in her analysis."
"How come individual liberty ceases to exist only when it comes to the
hijab? Today, the homosexuals talk about their liberties, and demand
that associations be establishment to defend their rights, and in some
Arab countries they even march in the streets. So how... I mean...
Homosexuals have begun to talk about their liberties - is it too much to
grant us the liberty to wear what we want?"
"She talks about the hijab as if it were a lethal virus, or a plague
liable to spread rapidly, and she fears that the hijab might spread in
society this way.
"Her interpretation of this as a social phenomenon that has nothing to
do with religion makes me feel that Mrs. Iqbal is speaking from Wagadugu
or some island, and not from an Arab-Muslim country.
"Islam is the religion of the state in most Arab constitutions. Women
who wear the hijab constitute over half of the women in Arab societies."
Iqbal Baraka: "You believe the hijab to be a religious duty,
right? So how come it is not incumbent upon men?"
Hadija bin Qinna: "I was in Jerusalem about two months ago, and I
noticed that Jewish religious women cover their heads, even with a wig.
Some of them shave their heads completely, and wear a wig. Of course, we
are familiar with Jews' way of deceiving their own religion. Some of
these women shave their head completely, and wear a wig as a head
"How come the world is not in an uproar when it comes to these women?"
Iqbal Baraka: "She raised a very important issue: Why is the
entire world against the wearing of the hijab by Muslim women? The
reason is that the hijab is a means of racial discrimination, which was
initially intended to distinguish the rich from the poor. Later it was
used to distinguish between free women and slave girls, and today it
distinguishes between Muslim and non-Muslim women, as well as between
men and women.
"The hijab is one of the most distinct means of racial discrimination.".
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