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Oppressing the Veiled and Civil Disobedience

June 17, 2011

By CoolnessofHind

“All voting is a sort of gaming, like checkers or backgammon, with a slight moral tinge to it, a playing with right and wrong, with moral questions; and betting naturally accompanies it. The character of the voters is not staked. I cast my vote, perchance, as I think right; but I am not vitally concerned that that right should prevail. I am willing to leave it to the majority. Its obligation, therefore, never exceeds that of expediency. Even voting for the right is doing nothing for it. It is only expressing to men feebly your desire that it should prevail. A wise man will not leave the right to the mercy of chance, nor wish it to prevail through the power of the majority. There is but little virtue in the action of masses of men.”. 

Henry Thoreau, Resistance to Civil Government (1849)

The French Assembly voted 366 to one in favour of the ban on the veil, primarily premised upon the notion, that it oppressed women.  Such arguments have been comprehensively demolished on this blog in the past, and hence do not necessitate a regurgitation of those arguments.  Nevertheless, one would certainly question the motive of a government which wishes to pass a law against a minute minority (some estimates suggest less than 400 women wear a veil in France) in a total French population of 63 million.

The French, quite clearly, underestimated the oppressed, husband-abused “burka-clad” Muslim woman because they are exhibiting more freedom than the government allows.  Civil disobedience is a widely discussed concept which essentially purports, as espoused by Thoreau, that if the law is unjust than a reform should be effected through its contravention.  It is argued that exhausting remedies would take a life-time before any meaningful change could be made.  Malcolm X echoed these sentiments when he argued extremism could be justified in the defense of liberty because the complainant is lobbying that body which is responsible for its oppression (Malcolm X, Oxford Union, December 3rd 1963). A common cited example is the civil disobedience of the black community in America with their “sit-ins” in white only cafes and buses.

Muslim women, in veils are challenging the law through civil disobedience and have even purported to challenge it further by taking it to the European Convention of Human Rights.  Acts of a group of oppressed, backward women?  The free Muslim women are indeed challenging an oppression; an oppression by the French government against Islam and Muslim.  In doing so they have inadvertently, become the symbol of freedom from oppression.

The brave women are taking the fight head on, even if they are sanctioned, in defense of the beloved Sunnah of the Mothers of the believers (may Allah be pleased with them).  As Thoreau aptly stated:

Under a government which imprisons any unjustly, the true place for a just man is also a prison.

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