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Some students upset by ban shrouded in controversy

Courtesy of MCT

A small group of women, clad in dark garments draped over their frames, stood outside the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. Armed only with their voices, they stood together to protest a new French law banning their enshrouding attire. Some of their faces were completely hidden. For others, the only visible body part was their eyes.

Earlier this month, France introduced a ban on full-face veils that forbids Muslim women from wearing the burqa, which conceals the whole body including the face, and the niqab, which conceals all but the eyes.

However, the ban did not come without a fuss. Many of the Muslim women affected by the ban believe this law impinged on their freedoms of religion.

Days after France’s full-face veil ban, a group of Muslim women at Ohio State gathered to share their feelings on a type of traditional Muslim head scarf that many of them wore — the hijab. In contrast to the burqa and niqab, the hijab allows for the face to remain uncovered.

Maria Ahmad, a third-year in speech and hearing sciences and the Muslim Student Association president, said wearing a hijab to “cover your hair, ears and neck is a minimum requirement,” and Ahmad considers this to be “an order from God.”

Dr. Asma Mobin-Uddin, an OSU alumna, pediatrician and children’s book author on the Muslim-American experience, said the hijab is the head scarf, but to be a hijabi, a woman must “cover herself and dress modestly.” Ahmad and Mobin-Uddin made a personal choice to wear the hijab.

Imaan Ali, a recent graduate in international studies and political science, also chose to wear the hijab, although initially “she was pressurized not to wear it.” Now, she blogs on hijab fashion to express her thoughts on “being a Muslim woman in a more positive way.”

Ayat Aldoori, a third-year in French and nutrition, said the hijab “is obligatory.” But Aldoori said her father believed the hijab “is because of the Arab tradition, but it is not necessary.”

Aldoori’s father told her wearing the hijab was her choice, but he doesn’t want her “to be hurt or discriminated against” while wearing it.

“All Muslims — all people — are at different points in their faith … inshallah (God willing), I’ll keep praying and maybe one day (the hijab) will be part of me being a Muslim,” said Aliah Hasan, a first-year in political science who does not wear the hijab.

Commenting on the Muslim full-face veil ban, Ahmad said about “2,000 women” in France wear the burqa or niqab.

“Covering the face is not actually commanded by the Quran,” Ahmad said.

Mobin-Uddin said there is a cultural component to wearing the burqa over the hijab.

“But for the small number of women and families that think that the face veil is obligatory, my argument is more that the women have the right to decide,” Mobin-Uddin said. “The state should not make the decision.”

French authorities claim this ban is partially due to security and identification issues.

“(This is) not a valid reason,” Ahmad said. “For security, no one minds taking off the hijab.”

Mobin-Uddin agreed and said there were ways to get around the ban.

“Of all the people who have robbed banks in France in the last 10 years, how many are Muslim women? Should we ban burqas or ski masks? The evidence and the facts do not prove any great safety threat,” Mobin-Uddin said.

According to BBC, offenders of the face veil ban will be made to take a citizenship course and pay a fine of 150 euros, or about $219. Masks worn in traditional activities like carnivals or religious processions are exceptions to the band.

Ahmad said a lack of communication between Muslims and non-Muslims adds to the problem.

“People assume that everyone who wears the hijab and the burqa are forced to wear it,” Ahmad said. “I don’t know of one person who was forced to wear it, ever. The assumptions complicate things. People assume but don’t ask. It’s the job of Muslims and non-Muslims to fight Islamophobia. If you don’t know something you’ll have a fear of it. (As a Muslim), have dialogue and be willing to answer questions; (As a non-Muslim), step out of your comfort zone, ask the questions.” 

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