There is a very interesting book out, which deals with the available behaviour choices for women in Islam. It is titled: “The freedom underneath the veil” and conveys the views of a Muslim woman, who explains just how little we know about the freedoms of women in Islam. Which is true. However, she did it somewhat differently than it will be done here:
The thesis described in the book, that under a veil, women are protected from sexual violence, builds on a substantial fundamental consideration: Men, according to this ideology, are not referred to as equal human beings, but merely instinct-driven creatures whose excitability could be curbed through appropriate behavior and clothing on women’s part. It is the Islamic concept, to separate men and women as often and as far as possible from each other, so that the animalistic man does not desire the woman, nor come too close to her.
When some time ago, a footballer refused to shake hands with a female journalist, all were outraged. But the soccer players showed great surprise: He did not understand this as hostility towards women, but as completely normal. “Women won’t shake men’s hands, either,” he reasoned. And he’s right. In Islam, it is not intended that men and women exchange physical contact, unless they are promised to one another or related. Even the seat on which a woman has previously been sitting, should not be occupied by an unfamiliar man, as this could trigger feelings in him.
The cause for all these rules of conduct certainly lies in the image of men created and carried by this belief system. Let us not forget: A man is not to shake hands with a woman, in order to avoid arousal!? He should not bathe together with women, so as not to be sexually excited by naked body parts!? Thus, and only for this reason, women should cover themselves accordingly. The woman’s clothing is to make sure that her hair is not seen, nor a bare leg; and if the provision is interpreted more strictly, then no uncovered arm either, let alone a hand. The burqa, as a final consequence of this notion of the genital-controlled man even shows the eye area only barred and slot-like, so that the eyes are no longer visible and feet are not seen either; the hands, also, are gloved – at any temperature. This garment is rarely worn here, in some countries it is even forbidden; the “headscarf covering all hair” however, is already very common.
It is obvious, that one and the same body of thoughts is behind this: Again, we are at the contempt for men and at a provision to the woman to cover herself – which must be seen as a devaluation of the woman, as well.
She is the sole cause of his excitement – this alone is being expressed that way. She is the reason why he can not control himself. If she does not dress decently enough, how could he help himself – that’s the unanimous consensus in this world view. Therefore, she, the woman is expected to kindly cover herself.
That is the crucial difference with which we are confronted increasingly in Austria / Europe – especially in view of the recent immigrants who are, after all, of Islamic origin. This unfamiliar culture connected to the Islamic faith, also carries something hostile, when we dare to really look behind the scenes: Our morality, the relationship between man and woman, the image that we have of each respective gender, differs completely from theirs: It is infact seen as decadent and morally degenerate by strict Islamic faithful and as a logical consequence, rejected discriminatory. That may be the reason why many of the immigrants do not seek fellowship with the locals – and feel devoted to and belonging to their home country, for example, Turkey, even if born here. Supported by their parents they grow up in the faith, (or later convert to it) that a divine order between men and women is a matter of course and the only means to ensure their vision of morality and decency. And anything that is different, is considered as degenerated, seen through their pure eyes:
Western men are even seen as weaklings by believers strictly following the Islam, who – in the case of failed marriages – failed to protect their women and prevail. And may western women then be seen as a prostitutes for their inappropriate clothing?
The male image is thus marked by contempt. The image of women? – Just as much. The woman has to be careful not to arouse the man, not to seduce him. Extramarital intercourse of the woman is considered as adultery in any case, even if it was a rape! The temptress is the woman, the man only the victim of her shamelessly flaunted attractions. Several centuries ago, it was no different in the West: The womb of the woman is home to the devil, counted among recognized folklore. Women had to be guarded meticulously so as not to fall into evil ways. Women were considered as temptresses, whom men had to be very weary of, so as to not stray from the path of virtue.
We now see: One can probably compare those (outdated) worlds. I would stress – starting from the last-mentioned examples – that this describes states of many centuries ago – and fortunately both education and recurring waves of emancipation cleaned up with these ideas!
For this reason alone, we are where we are – especially in Europe: in an enlightened and tolerant society.
But now we are once more confronted with medieval attitudes which intervene in our lives uncomfortably, as if there had never been such a thing as enlightenment in history. Medieval meets modern time. Burquini meets Bikini. And as for palliating this confrontation, it seems that some are pretty good at it.
But I see no reason why we should let our values, which were tediously and blood-soakedly won through the reconnaissance, be flushed away by a dominant and outwardly practiced religion in the name of freedom of religion!
It is one of our core values that human rights are indivisible and none of them has more or less weight. This is precisely the ground on which our humanity and our democratic order both stand. Freedom of religion and belief is merely one of the human rights. And therefore not above the rest.
This is what we should unequivocally make clear to all people who want to live with us. So that we may preserve and defend all these universal human rights together. For these are the fruits of the Enlightenment and our most highly treasured rights. The warrantor of our freedom.
Translation from German: Serena Nebo