The European Muslim Brotherhood is reacting to French President Sarkozy’s comments critical of the burqa, an enveloping outer garment worn by women in some Islamic traditions for the purpose of cloaking the entire body. Ahmed Jaballah (aka Ahmed Gaballah), head of the European Institute of Human Sciences and member of European Council for Fatwa and Research, criticized the timing of the decision according to an Al Arabiya report:
“I believe this is a way of distracting people from the internal problems the society is suffering from,” he told Al Arabiya. “The number of face-veiled women in France is very minimal and cannot by any means be considered a phenomenon.” Gaballah added that Sarkozy’s statements would have made more sense had they been founded on legal rather than religious basis.
The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) issued a harshly critical statement calling for “freedom of choice”:
The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) criticised French President Nicholas Sarkozy’s intention to ban the wearing of Burqa – a garment worn by a minority of Muslim women in accordance with their religious belief. Reiterating its long established position that individuals must have the freedom to choose their attire on the basis of deeply-held religious beliefs, the MCB called upon the French President to desist from engaging in and promoting divisive politics towards its Muslim inhabitants. In this respect, the MCB echoes the US President Barack Obama’s caution that ‘it is important for Western countries to avoid impeding Muslim citizens from practising religion as they see fit – for instance, by dictating what clothes a Muslim woman should wear. We cannot disguise hostility towards any religion behind the pretence of liberalism.’ Assistant Secretary General of the MCB, Dr. Reefat Drabu said: “It is patronising and offensive to suggest that those Muslim women who wear the burqa do so because of pressure or oppression by their male partners or guardians”. She added: “Such suggestions can legitimately be perceived as antagonistic towards Islam. Instead of taking a lead in promoting harmony and social cohesion amongst its people, the French President appears to be initiating a policy which is set to create fear and misunderstanding and may lead to Islamophobic reaction not just in France but in the rest of Europe too”.
The Union des Organisations Islamiques de France (UOIF), representing the Muslim Brotherhood in France, also issued a statement calling for freedom of choice.
According to media reports the French president Nicolas Sarkozy said:
“The burqa is not a religious sign – it’s a sign of subservience, a sign of debasement. It will not be welcome on the territory of the French republic.” He regards the niqab – a similar form of Muslim dress with a slit for the eyes – in the same way.
(Note: AlArabiya.net June 23, 2009 Tuesday “Muslim imams say burka not obligatory in Islam”)