Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Let us speak for ourselves!

I'm sure by now many of you might have heard of the article printed in 'The Citizen' newspaper on Monday (12 April,2010). If you haven't, let me fill you in. This article is not anything new, it is an opinion piece written by a Non-Muslim woman about what she thinks about the veil. If you'd like to read the article, click on the link below:,1,22

If the link doesn't work, the article is entitled "Peering out from a prison", and you can find it on The Citizen website. The title gives away the writers entire opinion doesn't it? Once again someone who has no idea what it's like to be a Muslim woman has decided to share their opinions about what they think it's like to be one!

I think it's time that we, as Muslim women began to speak for ourselves. There are too many people from all walks of life who have decided that they need to speak for us. We have our own voice and we need to make ourselves clear. Alhamdulila many people have already responded to this article in an attempt to shed light on the truth. Maybe if more Muslim women speak out against biased opinions such as these, it will make a difference and help people to understand our views and perceptions instead of resigning to the belief that we have no opinions, ideas of our own and intelligence.

Below is my response to this article, I'm sure that you have your own responses.

Let us as Muslim women speak for ourselves!!! May Almighty Allah guide us on our path and give us strength, Insha'Allah Ameen.

13 April 2010

The Citizen Newspaper

To Whom It May Concern

Re: Article by Jennie Ridyard (The Citizen, Monday, 12 April 2010)

This is in response to the Opinion piece ‘Peering out from a prison’ by Jennie Ridyard published in The Citizen (Monday, 12 April, 2010).

At the onset I would like to make it clear that I understand that Ms. Ridyard has a right to her own opinion, and since her article is an opinion piece, it would probably be argued that well researched, factual and contextual information is not necessary. If this is the case, then it makes sense why Ms. Ridyard’s article was allowed to be published.

I trust that just as Ms. Ridyard has a right to her opinion, so too do I, and I hope that my opinion is given the same weight as that of Ms. Ridyard’s.

I am a South African Muslim woman who is proud to admit that I have chosen to don Islamic clothing. While it is evident that Ms. Ridyard finds this offensive, for many Muslim women, myself included, the over-revealing way of dress of many Non-Muslim women is also offensive to us. However, since people do have “freedom to wear exactly what they choose”, as Ms. Ridyard has stated, we believe that we should not be taking up issue with this because the fact is that it is none of our business.

It appears that Ms. Ridyard has been majorly influenced by negative and stereotypical viewpoints about Muslim women and the veil, which is so often portrayed in the media. While this type of thinking and perceptions may be common within the media, it fails to portray the whole picture and in so doing ignores very important truths.

The idea that a woman’s physical appearance and her clothes allow her to be human and gives her expression, “thoughts, feelings and perceptions”, is a patriarchal idea in its own. Since when does a woman’s face or what she wears equal her mind or her intellect? Indeed, a Muslim woman wearing a veil is covering her face, not her mind or her heart. Furthermore, if “the veil obliterates women”, then why do veiled women continue to receive so much attention?

I think that it would be very sad if in fact a person’s identity was only about the way they dress. Surely identity is far more multi-dimensional and holistic than that, and the human experience exists on many different levels, not just the physical level.

While it is true that in many instances Muslim women are forced to wear the veil, this is definitely not true for all women, and this is especially not true within the South African context where most women who wear the veil do this by choice! I know of many Muslim women, of all ages, educational backgrounds and social status who have made this choice to wear the veil without being coerced or threatened, and for these women the veil is regarded as a symbol of liberation instead of a prison.

I urge Ms. Ridyard to take some time to find out the truth for herself instead of falling prey to negative stereotypes and speculation. She speaks about how she thinks the veil silences Muslim women, taking away their voice, but when she and others like her take it upon themselves to speak on behalf of Muslim women then this simply silences us further.


I cannot tell Ms. Ridyard, or anyone else what they should write about, but I appeal to you, if you are going to write about Muslim women, please take the time to ask them how they feel first.

To learn more about how Muslim women feel, I refer you to the following blogs:

From A proud Muslim woman

Zarina Hassem
M.A. Psychology (Wits)

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