Victim-blaming: Was she “asking for it”?

In response to Bikini vs. Burqa, I was asked the following question:

          “In the context of Islam, are women who do not choose to dress modestly “asking for it”?  Who gets the

           blame when a woman is sexually harassed or assaulted?”

Here’s my response:

I believe this question is referring to the wording of the translation of Qur-an 33.59:

“O Prophet, say to your wives and your daughters, and the women of the believers to draw part of their outer garments over themselves.  It is likelier that they will be recognized and not molested.”

I supposed this could be taken as implying- or at least allowing- that women who do not dress this way will be molested (or harassed) and that it’s their fault.

This is absolutely not the case, however.  I base that on my understanding of other verses in the Qur-an, the primary source of Islamic information, including moral and legal information.

(1)    Qur-an 53.36-38

“Hasn’t he been informed of what is in the scrolls of Moses

And of Abraham, the one who fulfilled (his covenant)?:

That no bearer of a burden shall bear the burden of another…”

No one can bear the blame for someone else’s actions.  That’s clear.  If someone does wrong, he or she alone is to blame.  It should be pointed out that Muslims believe this concept to also be in the lost books of Moses and Abraham, so we don’t believe that Allah has ever allowed a person to be blamed for another’s actions.

(2)   Qur-an 24.30

“Say to the believing men to lower their gazes and to guard their private parts…”

Islaam has a practical approach to sexual harassment and assault.

The same directive is addressed to the believing women, followed by instructions about modest dress.  In the explanation given by scholars, this refers to lowering their gaze from women, other people’s private parts (i.e. those which are supposed to be covered) and at obscene objects.  The term “lower the gaze” is explained in narrations reported from the Prophet as not following the first (unintentional) look with a second (intentional) look or stares.

So regardless of how a woman is dressed (and she is allowed to dress in a way considered “immodest” in Islamic values) a man is not supposed to look at her.  If he’s not supposed to be ‘ogling’ her, or ‘checking her out’, then of course he is not allowed to go further than that.

 

(3)   Qur-an 17.32

“And do not approach zinaa…”

The word zinaa means sexual intercourse with someone to whom you are not legally married.  So it includes fornication (sex outside of wedlock) and adultery (sex with someone married to someone else), among others.

Now, look carefully at the wording.  In the original Arabic, the wording is not “wa laa taznuu”, which would mean ‘and do not commit fornication, etc.’.  It is “wa laa taqrabu az-zinaa”, which means “and do not APPROACH fornication, etc.”  So, regarding your question, regardless of how a man feels about a woman (or about how she is “making” him feel) he is already not supposed to be looking at her, as discussed above.  Further, he is not to, in any way, do anything that brings him close to sex with her.  No catcalls.  No advances.  No smiles.  No come-ons.  No touching.  No introductions.  NOTHING.  If he does any of these things, never mind surpassing all of them to grope or sexually assault her, he is clearly in the wrong.

(4)   Qur-an 23.1,3

“The believers have surely succeeded…

who turn away from laghw,…”

I think this relates more to the issue of sexual harassment than sexual assault.  Laghw is translated as, among other things “futile and/or indecent speech”, depending on the translator and context.  So the kinds of things that men harass women with are forbidden, regardless of the context.  In fact, there is no context in which futile, indecent speech is allowed.  Therefore, considering that such speech is wrong, and considering that, as above, no one can be blamed for what another person does, if a man harasses a woman, it is his fault, not hers.

That’s a brief review of what I think the Qur-an contains on the subject.  Now, turning to the secondary source of Islamic law and morals, the guided lifestyle of the Prophet, these are things that the Prophet either:

(1)   did,

(2)   said,

(3)   commanded, or

(4)   allowed (by staying silent about in its presence)

This, the sunna, is not in the Qur-an, but has been compiled in books of narrations or ahadeeth (singular:  hadeeth).  Every hadeeth goes through a scientific process of scrutiny where the reputation of every individual narrator is graded, and the entire chain of narration is also graded for authenticity.  Here is an example:

Narrated Wa’il ibn Hujr:

When a woman went out in the time of the Prophet for prayer, a man attacked her and overpowered [raped] her. She shouted and he went off, and when a man came by, she said: “That [man] did such and such to me”. And when a company of the Emigrants came by, she said: “That man did such and such to me”. They went and seized the man whom they thought had had intercourse with her and brought him to her.

She said: “Yes, this is he”. Then they brought him to the Apostle of Allah.

When he [the Prophet] was about to pass sentence, the man who [actually] had assaulted her stood up and said: “Apostle of Allah, I am the man who did it to her”.

He [the Prophet] said to her: “Go away, for Allah has forgiven you”. But he told the man some good words [Abu Dawud said: “meaning the man who was seized”], and of the man who had had intercourse with her, he said: “Stone him to death.”  Sunan Abu Dawud, Book 38, #4366

So it is clear that the victim was not to blame.

Now, do people always judge by the book of Allah and the example of His Prophet?  No.  Of course, the majority of the people in the world are not Muslim, so they are unaware.  As for the Muslims, not all of them are knowledgeable, and not all of them are sincere.  If a person is insincere, his or her knowledge does not benefit, and much less their ignorance.  If a person is ignorant, her or his sincerity does not benefit them, and much less so their insincerity.  Somewhere in the fray, among other things, women may not get their rights.  If that is so, it is not Islam, but those individual Muslims- or hypocrites posing as Muslims- who are to blame.

Now, in what way can a woman be to blame?  If she dresses immodestly, she is wrong for doing so, but the matter is between her and Allah.  To my knowledge there is no legal penalty for immodest dress, so it is not a matter between her and the authorities.  (A general goal of the sharee’ah is to stop the spread of indecency, so I imagine there are measures that can be taken in extreme cases, though.)  In any case, as we have shown, it does not in any way excuse sexual harassment or assault.  We must recognize, though, that while it cannot be said that she has encouraged harassment or assault, neither can it be said that she has discouraged it.  This is one of the benefits and purposes of modesty, to discourage the men who are not fearful of Allah.  It is a pre-cautionary measure mandated by Allah long ago, whose relevancy is still being proven today (see here).

(Everything I’ve written here is subject to the limits of my knowledge and understanding.  The truth of it is from Allah, and any inaccuracies are only from my self.)

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Hijab Success Stories

Contrary to popular images, the hijab is not a hurdle to the Muslim woman’s progress.  In fact, it probably helps.  Don’t believe me?  Well what would you say to a 15-year-old Harvard freshman, a Division 1 basketball star, a fencing champion, an Olympic sprinter, a newsanchor, a sportswear designer, and successful active women all over the world who choose to wear the Islamic veil?  These are their stories…

Saheela Ibrahim

Saheela Ibraheem, 15-year-old Harvard Freshman

https://qahiri.wordpress.com/2011/10/25/hijab-harvard/

Bilqiis abdul-Qaadir

Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir, Division 1 Basketball Star

https://qahiri.wordpress.com/2011/10/24/hijab-basketball/

Ruqayya al-Ghasara

Ruqaya al-Ghasara, Olympic Sprinter

https://qahiri.wordpress.com/2011/10/24/hijab-olympics/

‘Ulaa al-Barqi

Ola al-Barqi, Awtan TV Newsanchor

https://qahiri.wordpress.com/2011/10/24/hijab-anchor/

ahiida swimwear

Aheda Zanetti, Owner and designer of ahiida Islamic sportswear

https://qahiri.wordpress.com/2011/10/25/hijab-swimsuit/

Anonymous Robot Designer

HijabisDoingThings.tumblr.com- a site showcasing successful, active and happy hijabis

https://qahiri.wordpress.com/2011/10/25/hijab-worldwide/

Ibtihaj Muhammad

Ibtihaj Muhammad, Fencing Champion

https://qahiri.wordpress.com/2011/10/25/hijab-fencing/

Kulsoom Abdullah, Weightlifter

https://qahiri.wordpress.com/2012/04/23/hijab-success-stories-weightlifter/

Hijab Success Story: 15-year-old Harvard Fresh(wo)man

Piscataway girl, 15, decides to go to Harvard after being accepted to 13 colleges

By Kelly Heyboer/ The Star-Ledger

Saheela Ibraheem wasn’t sure any college would want to admit a 15-year-old. So the Piscataway teen hedged her bets and filled out applications to 14 schools from New Jersey to California.

“It’s the age thing. I wanted to make sure I had options,” said Saheela, a senior at the Wardlaw-Hartridge School in Edison.

In the end, 13 colleges accepted her — including six of the eight Ivy League schools.

After weeks of debate, Saheela settled on Harvard. She will be among the youngest members of the school’s freshman class.

“I’ll be one of the youngest. But I won’t be the youngest,” the soon-to-be 16-year-old said.

Saheela is among the millions of high school seniors who had to finalize their college decisions by Monday, the deadline for incoming freshman to send deposits to the school of their choice. Nationwide, this year’s college selection process was among the most competitive in history as most top colleges received a record number of applications.

Saheela joins a growing number of New Jersey students going to college before they are old enough to drive. Last year, Kyle Loh of Mendham graduated from Rutgers at 16. In previous years, a 14-year-old from Cranbury and two of his 15-year-old cousins also graduated from Rutgers.

For Saheela, her unusual path to college began when she was a sixth-grader at the Conackamack Middle School in Piscataway. Eager to learn more about her favorite subject, math, the daughter of Nigerian immigrants asked to move to a higher-level class. The school let her skip sixth grade entirely.

By high school, Saheela said, she was no longer feeling challenged by her public school classes. So, she moved to the Wardlaw-Hartridge School, a 420-student private school, where she skipped her freshman year and enrolled as a 10th-grader. Her three younger brothers, twins now in the ninth grade and a younger brother in second grade, all eventually joined her at the school.

School officials were impressed Saheela, one of their top students, didn’t spend all her time studying.

“She’s learned and she’s very smart. But she keeps pushing herself,” said William Jenkins, the Wardlaw-Hartridge School’s director of development.

ibraheem-2.JPGAaron Houston/For The Star-LedgerSaheela Ibraheem, a 15-year-old senior at Wardlaw-Hartridge School in Edison, has been admitted to 13 colleges, and chose to attend Harvard this fall. Photo taken during a Wardlaw-Hartridge softball game in Piscataway.

Saheela also excels outside the classroom. She is a three-sport athlete, playing outfield for the school’s softball team, defender on the soccer team, and swimming relays and 50-meter races for the swim team. She also sings alto in the school choir, plays trombone in the school band and serves as president of the school’s investment club, which teaches students about the stock market by investing in virtual stocks.

Saheela began applying to colleges last fall. Her applications included her grade point average (between a 96 and 97 on a 100-point scale) and her 2,340 SAT score (a perfect 800 on the math section, a 790 in writing and a 750 in reading).

She was delighted when she got her first acceptance in December from California Institute of Technology. “I was so excited. I got into college!,” Saheela said.

More acceptances followed from Harvard, Princeton, the University of Pennsylvania, Columbia, Cornell, Brown, Williams College, Stanford, University of Chicago, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Washington University in St. Louis.

On March 30, she got her sole rejection letter — from Yale. Saheela isn’t sure why the Ivy League school didn’t want her.

“My parents were thinking it was the age thing,” she said.

Saheela was torn between going to MIT and Harvard. A visit to both campuses last month made the choice easy. “She went to Harvard and she fell in love with the place,” said Shakirat Ibraheem, her mother.

Saheela said she wants to major in either neurobiology or neuroscience and plans to become a research scientist who studies how the brain works. As for her own brain, Saheela insists she is nothing special.

She credits her parents with teaching her to love learning and work hard. Her father, Sarafa, an analyst and vice president at a New York financial firm, would often study with her at night and home school her in subjects not taught at school.

“I try my best in everything I do,” Saheela said. “Anyone who’s motivated can work wonders.”

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story mistakenly reported the number of Ivy League colleges. There are eight. Saheela Ibraheem did not apply to Dartmouth College.

http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2011/05/piscataway_15-year-old_girl_he.html

Hijab Success Story: Fencing Champion

Fencer With Headscarf Is a Cut Above the Rest

By AIMEE BERG

When Ibtihaj Muhammad fastens her headscarf, or hijab, around her chin, one of its purposes is to deflect unwanted attention.

[FENCER_cov]Associated PressOlympic hopeful Ibtihaj Muhammad will compete this weekend.

But when she wears a hijab in a sporting arena, it often has the opposite effect.

The New Jersey native is currently ranked 11th in the world in women’s sabre, a discipline of fencing. Only one American ranks higher: Mariel Zagunis, the two-time Olympic and world champion.

Both women will compete this weekend at a World Cup fencing event at the New York Athletic Club to earn points toward qualifying for the 2012 London Olympics.

The International Olympic Committee and the U.S. Olympic Committee do not track athletes’ religion, but if Muhammad makes the Olympic team, she would likely be the first practicing Muslim woman to represent the U.S. at the Games.

When she competes, photographers often zoom in on the name Muhammad on the back of her fencing jacket. Her mother, Denise, recently saw such a photo and said, “I realized: my God, she’s representing all of us.

NYC World Cup

Friday, June 24 ? Sunday, June 26
New York Athletic Club, 180 Central Park South
Night sessions/ medal bouts $15 and up All-day tickets $2

“You feel the pride. Muslim women are struggling around the world. She’s not on the front lines but when she stands up there, she’s making her mark for them, for freedom, to have their voices heard.”

To make the ultra-selective squad?a maximum of two women per country will compete in sabre in London?Muhammad has been training 30 hours per week at the Fencers Club on West 28th Street in Manhattan and another three to four hours a week with a conditioning coach near her home In Maplewood, N.J.

“I’m one of these people with tunnel vision,” said Muhammad, 25. “I’m convinced that I can do anything with enough practice and enough work.”

SPRTS_FEATURE2

Natalie Keyssar for The Wall Street JournalShe is the 11th ranked female sabre fencer in the world and the second ranked American. She is trying to earn a spot on the Olympic team that will go to the 2012 Games in London.

Playing sports was a given for the third of five children growing up in an athletic household, but Muhammad always wore long clothing under her volleyball and softball uniforms to conform with Islam’s emphasis on modesty.

When Ibtijhaj was 13, her mother drove past the local high school and saw fencers in the cafeteria who were covered from head to toe. Her mother turned to her and said, “I don’t know what that is, but when you get to high school, you’re doing it.”

Then, one day at practice, “Out of this mild young lady came a roar,” said her Columbia High School fencing coach, Frank Mustilli. “She got hit, got mad, and under that calm facade was a very aggressive individual.”

At 16, she dropped epee for the lightning-quick sabre discipline, which targets everything above the waist (except hands) and allows scoring with the edge of the blade as well as the tip.

As team captain, Muhammad helped her high school win two New Jersey state team titles. Later, her youngest sister, Faizah, became a two-time state individual champion in sabre. (Faizah, 19, will also compete at the New York World Cup.)

At Duke University, Muhammad was a three-time All-America and graduated in 2007 with a double major in international relations and African-American studies (and a minor in Arabic).

Two years later, she began to work with the 2000 U.S. Olympian Akhi Spencer-El in Manhattan.

“It completely changed my fencing,” she said. “This is the first time I’ve ever been taught to fence tactically.”

In 2009, Muhammad won the U.S. national title. A year later, she made her first quarterfinal at a World Cup event (losing to Zagunis, 15-8, in Brooklyn, N.Y.). And in November 2010, Muhammad finished 14th in her world championship debut in Paris. All the while, observing her Muslim faith.

SPRTS_FEATURE1

Natalie Keyssar for The Wall Street JournalIbtihaj Muhammad practices her thrusts at the New Jersey Fencing Alliance on Thursday.

Every day, Muhammad prays five times. The fourth prayer, Maghrib, usually coincides with training so she will say it at home later, or pray in a utility room.

Last year, during the holy month of Ramadan when eating and drinking are prohibited from sun-up to sundown, Muhammad woke up at 90-minute intervals in the middle of the night to hydrate during a high-altitude training camp in Colorado Springs. (In 2012, the entire London Olympics will occur within Ramadan.)

But what bothers Muhammad’s mother most is the fencing etiquette that entails shaking hands with male referees and seeing her daughter travel without a male guardian.

At airports, fencers are always scrutinized because they carry on bulbous facemasks, metallic jackets and electrical wires. A hijab adds to the questioning. In Belgium this month, Muhammad was told to leave the airport if she did not remove her headscarf.

Her father Eugene, a retired cop, taught her, “The more you [protest], the more you have to take off.” Diplomacy eventually prevailed. Usually, Muhammad speaks her mind. She used to be an emotional fencer. Now she is more controlled, but retains her trademark feistiness.

“On the strip, she’ll fight for every single touch and not budge,” Zagunis said.

But ultimately the referee decides who scored the first touch and, early on, Muhammad sometimes wondered if her minority status affected the outcome of her matches. If so, she figured it had more to do with being African-American than Muslim.

“I have a hard time imagining someone would treat me different based on my faith,” she said. “So when I come across anyone being rude to me or anything of that nature, I attribute it to race. I guess that’s my first instinct.”

Six-time Olympian Peter Westbrook told her, “You cannot allow ‘because I’m Muslim’ or ‘because I’m black’ into play in fencing. The minute you put those in, you’ve lost.”

“I have to remember my purpose,” she said.

Very few Muslim women have earned Olympic medals since Nawal El Moutawakel of Morocco ran to victory in the 400-meter hurdles in 1984 wearing shorts and a tank top. Muhammad hopes to add to that in hijab.

“I’d love for other minority women and religious minorities [in the U.S.] to believe they can excel in something outside the norm?not just sports, anything where they’re breaking the barrier,” she said, “and not be deterred by what the image is just because they fall outside that box.”

Copyright 2011 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304569504576404011992467534.html

Hijab Success Story: Worldwide…

http://hijabisdoingthings.tumblr.com/

Hijabis Doing Things!

So here’s the deal. The past decade hasn’t exactly shed the best light on Islam. Muslim women are portrayed as oppressed, helpless, voiceless, and faceless in the mainstream media. The truth is, we’re everything but. And here is the proof. Here is our collection of pictures of women that wear hijab (the traditional Islamic dress covering the head) doing all kinds of things.[This blog is run by three hijabi sisters, living in London, Ontario]
Ahiida Swimwear (my wife has one!)

Hijab Success Stories: Islamic Sportsgear

 

National Geographic News: NATIONALGEOGRAPHIC.COM/NEWS

Muslim Athletic Wear Covers Skin Without Cramping Style

Jennifer Cutraro
for National Geographic News
April 27, 2006
The design of most modern sportswear puts many Muslim women athletes in
a curious bind: adhere to their faith and have their motions hampered or
compromise their beliefs in the name of athletic performance?

The Koran requires women to cover everything except their faces, hands, and feet, says Tayyibah Taylor, editor-in-chief of Azizah Magazine, a publication geared toward Muslim-American women.

“The idea is that your modesty in dress and behavior is a passport to public space,” Taylor said. “It makes the statement that a Muslim woman’s body is not a part of the public conversation.”

Recently Muslim women living in a Somali refugee camp in Kenya (see map) were given unique new volleyball uniforms.

Designed through a partnership between Nike and the United Nations, the uniforms permit the women athletes to dig, spike, and set while covering their bodies and heads in a way that remains true to their faith.

But don’t look for such specialized gear at your local mall or sporting-goods store just yet.

Nike spokesperson Alan Marks says the Beaverton, Oregon, company currently has no plans to commercialize the product. And most other major sportswear manufacturers have no lines specifically targeting Muslim women.

Today a scattering of small companies is the only commercial source of sportswear for the modest-minded.

Modest Yet Fashionable

Finding appropriate exercise wear is something that Muslim women have struggled with for years, says Laila Al-Marayati, spokesperson for the Los Angeles, California-based Muslim Women’s League.

She says some women and girls choose to work out in long-sleeved shirts and sweatpants, but that is only a partial solution.

“Muslim women sometimes will prefer to go to all-female gyms or work out at home, so they can exercise comfortably and not be overwhelmed with heat exhaustion,” Al-Marayati said.

An additional challenge is the need to keep the head covered with a hijab, a head scarf girls begin to wear in early adolescence (related photo: young Iraqi girl trying on a hijab).

“As an active Muslim girl, I found it difficult to participate in most sports, because of all the excess clothes we were wearing. And the veil—very unpractical when playing sports,” Aheda Zanetti wrote in an email to National Geographic News.

Zanetti is the owner of Ahiida, an Australian company that designs women’s sportswear.

“All of that excess fabric had to go, and that’s when I introduced the Hijood—a hijab shaped like a hood,” Zanetti wrote.

The Hijood is a close-fitting head covering made of a lightweight fabric.

A Danish company called Capsters produces a similar product. Designer Cindy van den Bremen says her goal was to develop a sportier hijab for girls to wear in school gym classes.

Zanetti also developed a line of swimwear for Muslim women, which incorporates a long-sleeved top, close-fitting hood, and long pants, all made of a stretchy, lightweight fabric.

Turkish clothing manufacturer Hasema likewise produces modest yet fashionable swimwear for women, men, and girls.

That’s welcome news to girls like Zarina Jalal, a high school student who lives just outside of Albany, New York.

“If there was a way that I could do swimming without baring myself as much as I’m required to, then I’d definitely take up swimming more often,” she said.

Jalal gave up soccer in middle school because of the requirement to wear shorts as part of the team uniform. She says clothing requirements can be a barrier for Muslim girls who want to play sports.

“The stereotypical clothing when you’re doing anything athletic competitively is a very big turnoff for Muslim girls, in my opinion,” she said.

To Market?

Taylor, of Azizah Magazine, sees great market potential for sportswear more appropriate for Muslim women.

“In another 15 years there’s going to be a sizeable Muslim consumer market and lots of demand,” she said. “I think we’re where the Hispanic market was 20 years ago, and today the Hispanic market is a big consumer market.”

Arun Jain, a marketing professor at the University of Buffalo in New York State, agrees.

He says, given the growth potential of the Muslim community in the United States, major sportswear manufacturers could be missing out on an opportunity to break into an emerging market.

“I believe it’s a strategic blunder on their part,” Jain said. “My feeling is that they don’t think there’s that much buying power, but I am certain that they’re mistaken.

“If customers are given what they are looking for, they will be willing to pay, even at a higher price,” he said.

That “strategic blunder” might pay off for the specialty shops that cater specifically to the needs of Muslim women in sports, he says.

Yuka Nakamura, a doctoral candidate in physical education and health at the University of Toronto in Canada, has studied Muslim women’s participation in sports.

She says there’s definitely a need for modest sportswear, even beyond Muslim communities.

She cites a program at a pool in Calgary, Canada, that tried to encourage more Muslim women to take up swimming by allowing them to wear T-shirts in the pool.

“It wasn’t just Muslim women who wanted this,” she said. “An increasing number of women felt more comfortable being covered up and even larger men who felt uncomfortable in a bathing suit and preferred to be in a T-shirt.”

Azizah’s Taylor agrees. “It’s not only Muslim women who are making attempts to be modest when they go out,” she said.

“There’s also a contingency of Christian women and Jewish women and others who just don’t feel that they need to show their bodies. Other women are striving to be modest as well.”

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Hijab Success Story: News Anchor

BBC NEWS
Fully-veiled presenters hit Saudi screens

Amani Fikri
BBC Arabic Service

Until recently you would never have seen women presenting television programmes dressed from head to toe in the niqab or burqa. But on the Saudi religious channel Awtan TV it has now become the norm.

"We don't introduce ourselves as beautiful women who put on layers of make-up. Our audience is focusing on...our ideas and our discourse."

Female broadcasters at the station are draped in the all-enveloping dresses, which are usually black and also cover their faces.

The work environment too is very different. Male technical assistants do not enter the studio while the women are presenting.

There are more than 60 religious channels across the Middle East. Some allow women to present programmes without being fully covered or dressed in black.

Others have no women presenters at all.

Relationship

Awtan TV decided to take a unique approach. The station was launched in 2008, and last month it set a precedent by allowing women to present, but only on the condition that they wear the niqab.

 

“ We report from the field in the niqab and it does not stop us from doing anything 
Ola al-Barqi Awtan TV presenter

Ola al-Barqi anchors a breakfast show, as well as a quiz show for girls called Mosabqat Banat.

A key element of the programme is the relationship built between presenter, contestants and the audience – something that might be more difficult if the presenter is totally covered up.

“The face is not the only way to build a relationship,” explains Ms Barqi, speaking to BBC Arabic.

“We’re always receiving calls from viewers in various countries encouraging us to keep doing what we do.”

And, as Ms Barqi points out, women are not just confined to the studio at Awtan TV.

“We report from the field in the niqab and it does not stop us from doing anything.”

‘Restrictive’

Wahhabism, the strain of Sunni Islam that is officially practised in Saudi Arabia, is considered one of the religion’s most conservative forms.

Some critics say that Awtan TV is restricting women’s freedom by making it compulsory to wear the niqab if they want to be presenters.

The issue recently returned to prominence when a leading Egyptian cleric, Sheikh Mohammed Tantawi, said he would issue an edict stating that the niqab was a “custom that has nothing to do with Islam”.

Many Muslim scholars take the position that the niqab is not obligatory.

But Ms Barqi says nobody “forced the niqab” on her and she does not intend to force it on her three daughters, who watch their mother on television and feel proud of her.

However, the presenter thinks that when the time comes, her girls will want to wear the niqab because that is how they were brought up and it is, she argues, part of Shariah – Islamic law.

Advantages

Ms Barqi says there are other good reasons why she wears the niqab.

It helps her to concentrate more on her work rather than anything else, and what she looks like is irrelevant.

“We don’t introduce ourselves as beautiful women who put on layers of make-up. Our audience is focusing on what we present to them, our ideas and our discourse.”

Ms Barqi believes some people work in the media to become famous. But that is not why she became a presenter.

“We don’t need fame,” she explains.

Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/middle_east/8368242.stm

Published: 2009/12/09 10:29:55 GMT

© BBC 2011