HIGHLIGHTS OF HISTORY
- France has banned the wearing of certain Islamic headscarves in public
- Muslims clash over what the ban means to them
- IReporters are ringing on what the sails mean and if they should be banned
(CNN) – When Zahra Jaferi learned that France had banned the wearing of certain types of traditional Islamic headscarves in public, she said she felt conflicting emotions.
A practicing Shia Muslim and correspondent for The Trentonian newspaper in New Jersey, Jaferi wears a head scarf, saying she firmly believes in her right to express freedom of religion.
At the same time, she declared that France has the right to preserve its culture and traditions.
“If France wants to preserve its beautiful ancient culture from the threat of the dual identity of immigrants, then the government has the right to do so,” said Jaferi, 34.
Two weeks ago, France formally banned the wearing of burqas and niqabs that hide the face. The burqa is a covering covering the whole body that includes a mesh on the face, while the niqab is a full veil with an opening for the eyes.
Two points of view on the âban on the burqaâ in France
The hijab, which covers the hair and neck but not the face, and the chador, which covers the body but not the face, are apparently not prohibited by law, which has sparked a heated debate over religious freedom in France.
CNN’s iReport asked its community of citizen journalists for their views on the ban and the broader role of Islam in modern society. Jaferi is one of the many iReporters who responded.
The headscarf ban is a controversial issue for many, in part because of the wide overlap between the cultural and religious meanings of Muslim headscarves.
There is no express mandate in the Quran for women to wear the veil, and there is a wide range of different theological positions on the issue within contemporary Islamic thought. Yet many Muslims regard the wearing of the veil as an integral expression of their faith.
Jaferi said America has a much more egalitarian attitude towards Islam than France and many other Western countries. She points to the election of President Barack Obama as proof.
âAmerica elected a president with a Muslim name and a Muslim father,â she said. “The prejudices have softened a lot, it seems.”
For Jaferi, America is a great place to worship and live.
âMost Americans believe that God exists. The country is educated, the streets are organized, there is prosperity for many people.â¦ It is not a bad environment for anyone. An environment is what you make of it. . “
Some iReporters have said they strongly oppose the French ban, even though they are not Muslims themselves, due to their views on religious freedom.
Allan Robinson, 43, a practicing Christian from Bangor, Maine, said he believed France’s ban was evidence of a rise in prejudice and racism against Arabs and Muslims in particular.
“Although I myself am what is called a Christian, this does not give me or anyone else the right to infringe or condemn Islam, or any other religious faith, simply because it might. don’t buy into my beliefs, âhe said. “Condemning any religious denomination demonstrates a serious form of prejudice.”
Robinson said the ban is a step down a slippery slope.
âIf a set of religions is accepted in modern lifestyles and others are banned or condemned, it becomes hatred,â he said. “And this hatred, as history has shown, leads to war, violence, death and injustice on a global scale.”
Others who responded said they supported the ban, for both secular and religious reasons.
Mugur Varzariu, 40, is a photojournalist from Bucharest, Romania. His passion for photography has taken him across the world, giving him the opportunity to observe an array of Islamic clothing and rituals in a range of different cultural contexts. (Varzariu took the photos of traditional Islamic women’s dress in the gallery accompanying this article.)
Although he was brought up as an Orthodox Christian, he is not religious now, and he has stated that he supports France’s ban.
“All countries should ban the burqa and the niqab,” he said. “Religions are like brands.â¦ (These clothes are) a brand element for Islam, and no religion should be allowed to own public space.”
Despite his secular beliefs, Varzariu said he believes it is wrong to point to one faith as the source of religious violence in the world.
“Are guns killing people?” He asks rhetorically. âWe all know that people kill people.â¦ Islam itself is not incompatible with any other religion or the West. It is neither better nor worse. The danger lies in the interpretation of religion. .
âIn my religion book, if you are afraid that you will not make it to Heaven because of fashion (the way you dress) then you are probably confusing Gianni Versace with the Prophet Muhammad,â he said.
Many Muslims in Europe see this issue quite differently from followers of Islam in the United States.
Tasnim Nazeer, 24, is a practicing Muslim in the UK, where she works as a writer and reporter for various Muslim-oriented publications.
Nazeer is opposed to the French ban and said she believes anti-Muslim sentiment in Europe is much more prevalent than in the United States, due to pervasive cultural stereotypes about Islam.
âI don’t like the way the media continually label ‘Muslim’ with the word ‘terrorists’,â she said.
âYou always hear in the news about ‘Muslim terrorists’ and ‘Islamic extremists’, but when other terrorist groups such as the (Tamil Tigers) in Sri Lanka or the Irish bombers made headlines, did you- Do you hear about their religions this? âshe asked.â Terrorism and terrorists are not related to any religion. If they are using religion to justify their wrongdoing, these individuals are wrong. “
Nazeer also said he believed much of the support for the new French law is rooted in the widely held belief that Muslim women who wear such clothing are oppressed.
In her view, the belief that Muslim women who wear the veil are oppressed is an insult to the self-determination of all Muslim women.
âThere are many hardworking and positive Muslim women who differ from this mistaken stereotype. From authors to lawyers, there are countless talents and contributions of Muslim women around the world that go unnoticed or simply ignored.
“It is simply unfair that Muslims received this negative portrayal because of a few wrongdoers,” she said. “I hope that in the future a more positive and respected vision will be given to Muslims, because every religion deserves respect.”