What We Should and Can Regarding The Burqa Ban!

France banned the Burqa, and women there are deprived from the right of covering their faces! Some are happy to be finally able to see the faces of these mysterious women by the power of law. Others are unhappy about forcing people to give up parts of their life-style which, after all, is no one’s business - as long as these women don’t object to uncovering their faces when needed.

I personally dislike the burqa, very much. I wouldn’t marry a women covering her face in public, because I know it’s not an Islamic requirement, because I don’t like it, and because, according to my own understanding of my religion, I even believe it to be un-Islamic. Another man might not want to marry a woman who doesn’t wear a burqa, because he thinks it’s un essential manifestation of chastity, or because he lived in Saudi Arabia long enough to actually believe it’s an Islamic requirement! Me and him are free to choose our wives, and our own likes and dislikes are no one’s business but ourselves. Me and him shouldn’t dictate our opinion on women either! Women choose their cloths and their husbands as they wish; while men choose their wives and their beliefs about women’s cloths as they wish too. Simple, isn’t it?! Not really, because we, the human race, insist on complicating the simplicity of life!

I guess we’ll have to live with that, while striving to simplify things as we complicate them. That’s what being human is about: creating problems, then doing our best to fix them!

It’s probably clear, from the above statements, what my personal position is regarding this ban: I do not support any form of forcing people to do or not do (in this case wear or not wear) anything, no matter how much I personally dislike what they’re doing (or wearing, or not wearing!), as long as their choice doesn’t in any way threaten the rights, safety and freedom of others. Period. That’s my universal rule and I apply it to any and every form of human behavior (or so I hope!).

The point I want to make is, in many cases, or most cases when it comes to governments and laws and nations, our personal opinion isn’t the issue, not that it won’t matter in shaping reality, that’s already clear, but it’s not even the issue on a personal level!

We need to be clear, with ourselves, on the many levels of the problem or piece of news we’re dealing with. We need to put it in its context, that is.

One level is our personal conviction and opinion; this has to be clear to start with. We need to know what to think, to decide why we believe what we believe, and to be consistent with all of our values and other beliefs. In my case, I did clarify, clearly (in my opinion!), what that is!

But the context is more complicated. I will throw in some thoughts that put this ban in some context, in order to help us decide how we can and should react to this ban.

1. Most Islamic scholars agree that covering the face is not required. Most agree, based on one hadith of the Prophet (PBUH) that the proper Islamic dress for women means uncovering the face and two hands. While some argue that even this most widely accepted interpretation is not accurate because it’s not clearly mentioned in the Quran (which is true), therefore even covering the hair is not required.

2. The ban, based on #1, does not forbid Muslims from doing anything essential to the practice of their religion, even though it does interfere with the freedom of the women who want to dress this way. Therefore we should be clear that, if we disagree with the ban, it should be based more on civil freedoms than on “defending Islam”.

3. We, and this is very important, should be just as critical of forcing women to uncover their face as we are of forcing them to cover it. Otherwise we would be practicing what we, Muslims, sometimes blame the West of doing (rightfully, at times): double standards! If we’re angry that a Christian European country forbids our Muslim women to dress according to their beliefs, we should as well be angry at Muslim countries forbidding non-Muslims to dress according to their beliefs. If you happen to believe that it’s ok for a Muslim country to require non-Muslims to respect its traditions, then you should also believe that it’s ok for France to require Muslims to respect its traditions too. Consistency is all I’m asking for!

4. It’s ok for Muslims and non-Muslims to fight and speak against this ban, as long as it’s done in the context of a consistent effort of defending the rights of everyone, and especially as long as it is done in a proper, peaceful and calm manner.

5. it’s the duty of Muslims living in France to respect the laws of the land they’re living in. This is an Islamic rule. Muslims should encourage women affected by this ban to obey the law, while working against it according to the rules and laws and democratic tools of their society. Any senseless ranting and expressions of anger should be clearly condemned.

6. And finally, we Muslims should get our priorities straightened up!

A Muslim leader in Libya or Yemen who is killing his people and depriving them from their basic human rights and freedoms is more dangerous to Islam and Humanity than any ban in France!

The fact that hundreds of millions of Muslims are illiterate, live under the poverty line and don’t have any voice in their own homelands should be far more alarming to us than a ban on a burqa!

The power of “Why”

Beliefs are part of every one of us. We have beliefs, whether we like it or not. Those beliefs not only affect our emotions and thoughts, but they also dictate how we act. We see the world, as well as other people, through them. A racist, for one (bad) example, sees others through dark belief glasses! An open-minded person, who believes that all people are created equal, regardless of color or race, has “normal”, transparent glasses. Our ultimate goal really is to see the world through this type of glasses: Transparent, clear and clean. Hopefully our glasses, besides being transparent, also correct our sight distortions. We can be born with seeing problems, major or minor, but no one will ever be born with corrective lenses. Those we can acquire over time, using the right knowledge, tools and resources.

Beliefs are part of every one of us. So we need to make sure that our beliefs are not damaging our vision. Seeing is a great gift. Your eyes are an asset that you would not exchange for billions of dollars. What would you do with all the money in the world, if you can’t see the world! However the eyes of the mind are far more important than the eyes in our face. We know of many great men and women who were blind, but their blindness was the small, minor one. They could see clear with their hearts and their minds, and this is what really counts. This is what made them great people. Our beliefs shape this inner eye, which in return shape our actions and reactions, our life, and our whole destiny. So we basically should care about the accuracy of our beliefs as much as we do about the accuracy of sight. Who wants to see things as they are not? We can safely say that those who don’t care if what they see is true or not, accurate or not, are insane, superficial or naïve. Those who see things as they are but pretend to see them as they are not are even worse.

So I think we can easily come down to this conclusion: we have to examine our beliefs. Inaccurate, unreal beliefs do us harm, and no good. This has another name: seeking the truth. Distorted vision simply means that what we see is not true. Being concerned with the truth is the key. It is also the door. It is the way.

The risk of taking no risk!

I am not unfamiliar with taking risks. And I thank God for giving me the ability and willingness to take risks and have no or little fear. Sometimes it took me awhile to make the decision and get out of my comfort zone. The reward wasn’t always immediate. And many times the road less traveled was long and hard, and felt like it was a dead-end. But I have no regrets.
I’ve seen people who didn’t take risks, and may be they avoided much of the trouble that I faced, but their lives remained the exact same for long years; as well as people who ended up having more trouble because they didn’t take the risk of change. My hardships gave me experience, strength, and independence, and they were a good test. Many times I felt that I failed, but I am glad I never saw myself panic, even at times when, for example, I had enough money only for a few days ahead, with no income, and no familiar face anywhere close by. I always knew that God will bring about a solution, even if at the last minute, and He always did! I considered my time with no money and no source of income as a forced vacation! Free time that I wouldn’t have dared to give to myself if I still had the job. Don’t take me wrong, I never got fired from any job, but it’s a long story!

I can’t see the ability to take risks without faith in God. God doesn’t want us to be stupid, but he doesn’t want us to be cowards neither! He put us on Earth and He alone prescribed a time for our leaving, so death shouldn’t be an issue. And, as the prophet Muhammad once put it, God feeds us the way He feeds birds, they leave their nests with empty stomach, and return to it, at the end of the day, with their stomach full. Our share of money, health, and everything else is all planned up there. One Muslim sufi said it so beautifully, so many centuries ago: don’t preoccupy yourself with what is created and guaranteed for you, rather preoccupy yourself with what you were created for! Meaning: don’t worry. God created you to work and earn good money that involves no harm and no deception, and He created the outcome for you. No worries. But He also created you to be righteous, to change things for the better, to try to fix injustice when you see it happen, you’re created for those tasks that a real human is worthy of undertaking! Don’t then forget what you’re created to do for mere food, money and safety. Your food and money are all created for you already, and they will come. Remember, you don’t really make the money. You could be stuck right at this moment with millions of people who don’t have enough food for the day, don’t have a roof over their head, and live in places that have no paved roads, no electricity, etc. Be one of them and show me how you’ll make the money, brilliant!

Even when I took the risk of leaving religion and my native faith to be more true to myself, God was still there, because I was certain that if He existed, then He supports me in trying to be more honest. He is The True (one of the 99 beautiful names of God) and He supports all our efforts on the path of truth, even if, on the surface, we seem to be straying away from Him.

Risk was the only way anything changed. Major changes in world history all involved major risks, taken by brave people. Risk is also optimistic. I know it. I might seem to be depressed for long times, but guess what, if deep within I wasn’t a true optimist, I would never have taken any risk. We take risks because there is a picture in our heart of how things should be, and our optimism that it can happen is the only reason we do those seemingly stupid actions.

Once I was so tired of the place I lived in and I decided to move out. I had a car with an engine that smoked heavily every time I drove it. No one believed that it could go a hundred miles away. I drove it from upstate NY to Washington DC, and from there to southwestern Florida. I embarked on this trip with enough money to get me to my destination, with no room for anything unexpected, including any kind of car trouble! Even though I always give advice to my friends to give room for the unexpected in their financial planning, I didn’t feel stupid, I just had a strong feeling in my heart that God would not put me into trouble that is beyond my ability to handle. Only in Florida did the brakes completely disappear, but I had reached my destination and I could deal with this trouble safely! Had I stayed, I would have been more safe, but my life would have stayed the same. The story of my risks is a long story, and I might share more of it some day.

I always wanted to change the world, and felt that it was possible. My seemingly fruitless risks were a necessary exercise. No athlete wins the Olympics with no training!

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