Veilophobia, veilophilia: the great debate about the Muslim veil

veilophobia                                                         veilophobia

Veilophobia, veilophilia: the great debate about the Muslim veil. This was the title of Souad Halila’s presentation at the International Diversity Conference in Belfast 2010 where I was a speaker as well about a very different subject: diversity in economical perspective. The debate about the veil is fierce and emotional, also in Tunisia.
Halila showed us that our knowledge about veils starts in Assyria in the 7th century BC. Veils were used by Greeks, Romans, Jews, Christians, Muslims and Hindus and became only a discussion item in the 20th century years ’30, ’40 and ’50 when new leaders in Persia and Turkey declared the veil to be retarded; they promoted a western lifestyle. This is how the veil became a symbol for Muslim identity.
Nowadays, Muslims – also Muslim women – take the debate about the veil in their own hands, the discussion about the veil being retarded is retarded itself. In many places, also in The Netherlands, this debate is dominated by white men – joined by just a few women – telling that they want to liberate women. They like to decide for the women what liberation consists of, they have one concept, one vision and we have to adopt it all. Today they propose to forbid that women, wearing a veil, work in public organisations because the presence of veils would harm the separation between state and religion. As if our public organisations would be more neutral with only white men and Muslim men working there…
Souad Halila asks us to choose between unity in diversity (the concept of the Ummah) or diversity in diversity (room for many different visions). She promotes the second choice and so do I.

Read also:
Veil or economy? Queen’s visit to Oman and UAE
The surprise of Arab spring
Simone Veil: une vie

Arab spring – surprise surprise?

arab spring Arab spring – surprise surprise?

Today the Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad publishes an article written by professor of policy science John Grin and myself about the apparent ‘surprise’ of the Arab spring – or in terms of English Al-Jazeera: a region in turmoil. For those who speak Dutch, find it here: Arabische lente kwam niet als verrassing, in English: Arab spring did not come as a surprise.

In 2006 an official scientific government advisory board published a report about the dynamics in islamic activism. It was a 3 year study, very well documented, 234 pages, showing how new islamic thinkers and movements were connecting with democracy and human rights. However, in just 1 day most politicians had given strong, condemning reactions, calling the advisory board naive and the report ‘nonsense’. The report was so unwelcome that the board was threatened with reorganisation and even abolishment. There was no discussion about the content, about islam and the development of Dutch foreign policies in the light of new democratic movements in muslim countries, the fear of fundamentalist islam being predominant. John Grin and I published our ideas about this taboo already in 2006 in NRC Handelsblad.

Fear is a bad adviser, also in the debate about islam, human rights and democracy. Now in 2011, we face a lack of insight in what is really happening in Arabic countries, how Arab spring evolves and what that means for Dutch foreign policies… as if the turmoil couldn’t have been predicted. Politicians are ‘surprised’ by the events and stay silent. Or is that because they are busy reading the 2006 report after all?

Other blogs that may be interesting for you:
Portrait du décolonisé – Albert Memmi
How much spring is the Arab spring?
Ramallah: Jews removing Christians from the Middle East