Women’s Rights Compatible with Islam, says Fatima Zibouh
March 17, 2010, 6:32 pm
BRUSSELS – Fatima Zibouh, recently appointed to the Center for Equal Opportunity, commented Wednesday on the controversy surrounding her appointment. She advocated a feminist vision of Islam and shared her views on the proposed burqa ban.
Asked to comment by RTBF's "Matin Première" on the position of French feminist Elisabeth Badinter, who views the veil as an oppression of women, Ms. Zibouh replied that “there are many feminists” who follow Islam. In fact, she said that women’s rights are compatible with the Muslim faith.
“It is important that Muslim women join feminism, against the imposed wearing of the veil, against forced marriages,” practices which she describes as “archaic”. Ms. Zibouh also refused to “argue about the meaning of the veil,” insofar as its role as an instrument of sexual domination. “Who cares, that is not the issue,” she said, contending that the growing issues of "social diversity" and a "shortage of classrooms" are more pressing priorities.
For Ms. Zibouh, the real discrimination is against qualified, educated women who choose to wear the veil – she make a point of calling hers a "scarf" and deems it an "accessory" – who have difficulty finding employment or who are confined to second-rate jobs.
She also found that the issue of whether or not teachers should have the right to wear the veil “merits debate”. “Why not, since it is done in other European countries, such as Switzerland,” she asked.
In her eyes, the essential issue is that the teachers refrain from advocating for their religion in the classroom. Muslims are not the only ones who can be seen as attempting to impose their religious views on students. “I had a Dutch professor who spent his time trying to convince us that God didn’t exist,” she recalled.
As for the issue of a ban on the burqa, Ms. Zibouh made her position clear: "For me it not only has no place in Belgium, but it has no place in Islam. For me it is a practice that is patriarchal, which has nothing to do with Islam." She further explained that niqab is the more appropriate term for the full-face-covering garment one is likely to see in Belgium (its wearers arriving from the Middle East "to the joy of Avenue Louise shops") while the mesh-faced burqa is generally confined to places like Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia, where "reactionary visions of Islam" can still be found.
Ms. Zibouh's appointment to the post, where she replaced Zakia Khattabi, received much criticism. The Islam in Europe blog reported that Senator Alain Destexhe (MR) took issue with Ms. Zibouh's veil, saying it conflicted with "neutrality requirements of a public service" job and that the green party's nomination contributed to "strengthening religious elements in the public sphere."
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