Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Syrian Ban of Burqa, Older Than You Think

The Syrian government has decided to ban Burqa in universities , a news that has been making headlines around the globe especially it came after the French decision to ban Burka in public places.

The world may be amazed from such decision in an Islamic country despite it is not the first as Egypt has also banned Burqa in universities and knowing the Syrian regime and its history ,one would say that this is something normal.

It does not do with human rights but rather the beliefs of the Syrian Baath regime.
From 10 years ago there was technically no veil at all in the streets of Damascus despite the nature of the Syrian society as conservative one thanks to two decades of religious repression policies the Al Assad socialist Baath had practiced. An old Egyptian friend married to a Syrian told the family from two decades ago on how the Baath agents went after any veiled lady in early 1970s to pull the veil from her head.

When Bashar Al Assad inherited the Syrian throne , he allowed some of the lost rights to the Syrian people to create popularity including : Veil. It has returned back to the Syrian street.

The regime started to use religion more to its own interests , for example those huge protests in Damascus following the Danish cartoon crisis using the anger of the people there to deliver a political message to the EU during the international tribunal. Yes the Danish government did a huge mistake during that crisis but the Syrian regime was the last one to speak about insulting prophet Mohamed "PBUH" when hundred thousands are in jails for no reason at all.

I believe this ban expresses the fear of the regime that not only the Syrian Muslim brotherhood would return back but also other fundamentalist groups that regard the regime as secular Baath one that needs to be fought ,already the Syrians saw technically war between the Muslim brotherhood and Al Assad regime that end with a semi genocide the world seems to ignore boldly.

The ban of Burqa is just the tip of the ice berg in the violations of human rights in Syria for a very long time. Like father like son , it is not and was not new thing on the Syrian society.


  1. Z:
    As mentioned in your commentary 'From 10 years ago there was technically no veil at all in the streets of Damascus.....'
    As a frequent visitor to the Middle East over the past 38 years I noticed that the increased appearance of Islamic head/face and body covers is directly related to the degree and amount of oppression in these countries.
    I also noticed that these dress codes were more prevalent with non-Saudi families who lived and worked in the Arabic peninsula where Salafism and Wahhabism is widespread.
    Normally I do not generalize, but it seems that this dress code is used to express more than religious tradition and beliefs. It is also used for various other purposes including the making of a political statement against state oppression.
    Most second generation Muslims in the West shun these traditions because they do not fear their government when expressing themselves, yet they live a virtuous and clean life (few do not).
    In conclusion, I think if people in the Middle East are given the freedom to speak their minds openly they will shed all the 'tools' of expression and use their voices instead without fear. However if you force them to remove their 'political statement' or burkas, they will find other means of expressing their discontent.

  2. @Z, The right of people to wear what they want has to be weighed against common sense security considerations. The Burqa: Facts & Issues has a balanced discussion and good reader comments.

    In Florida a Muslim woman wanted her drivers license identification photo taken with her face covered. The court said no. In France, Britain, Australia, the United States and no doubt many other places burqas have been used as a disguise to commit crimes. You may say "well, you can rob a bank wearing a costume mask, do you ban masks?" But if you walk into a bank wearing a mask you will be stopped so fast it will make your head spin; the use of a burqa exploits cultural tolerance as a weakness. In Pakistan suicide bombers often wear burqas.

    There is a ton of news about the Syrian burqa ban. The main quote is by Minister of Higher Education, Ghaith Barakat, who called full face covering "inconsistent with the values and ethics of academic traditions". That's a liberal-humanist view that's common in universities all over the world. It's not a uniquely Baathist sentiment.

  3. @anonymous , the governments are making from it a political statement
    For sure if we have political freedom and freedom of expression in general our countries will stop importing from other cultures.

    @Jason , may be because I know the black record of the Baath regime very well and how it fought religion especially the Sunni Islam in the country I look it from different angle.
    You do not know that in 1982 not less than 10,000 civilian Syrian ¨some say more¨had been killed by the Syrian army in Hama massacre in the clash between the MB and the Al Assad regime ¨the MB were supported by the CIA¨
    It is not about the war of terrorism or security issues


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