wear the hijab ‘as a right’
Date: Monday,7 April, 2008, at 01:29 AM Doha Time
By adhering to
the new gender discourse, Muslim women are wearing the hijab (veil) as a right
and not as part of a command, Ziba Mir-Hosseini, professor from University of London, told a
panel-session ‘Theology and Politics of Fiqh’ on the last day of ‘Innovation in
Islam’ conference yesterday.
“This new position is part of evolution of their intellectual thought and the
democratic vision of Islam. For the first time Muslim women are taking part and
defining the juristic position themselves,” said Ziba,
who is a legal anthropologist, specialising in
Islamic law, gender and development.
“In doing so, they are not only challenging the Islamists, but also the
Orientalist version of the hijab as well,” she added.
The conference was organised by the Centre for
International and Regional Studies (CIRS) at
Georgetown University School of Foreign Service in Qatar (SFS-Q).
“Since the ’90s the hijab – one of the most visible Islamic sights – has been
the battleground between the traditionalists and the modernists. For the
Islamists, the hijab became a religious symbol, while feminists looked at it as
a symbol of oppression,” she said.
“However, the Islamic legal discourse doesn’t contain a single or clear-cut
notion of the hijab. There are assumptions – and have always been there – based
on the readings of the holy text in a social context,” said Ziba.
According to her, the notion that a woman has an active sexuality and should
confine it was the real bone of contention.
“And while some Islamic scholars defend the notion of confinement, others have
defined the hijab as means of ‘protection’ – set on a premise that women are
participating in the society of course,” remarked Ziba.
“Within Muslims there are those who follow the dogma, while there are others
who take the democratic and participatory discourse of Islam. This struggle
between the two has always been existent. What we should understand is that the
hijab is no longer a religious mandate, and is in fact a socio-political
mandate,” she said.
The director of CIRS, Mehran
Kamrava also spoke and focused on ‘Shia Fiqh’ in his
presentation, while Omaima Abou-Bakr, from Qatar
University talked interpreted women’s biographies in medieval Islamic writings.