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French President Nicolas Sarkozy is in the media for his misadventures yet again. After creating controversies and receiving flaks by touring the world with his model “lover-turned-wife” before actually tying the nuptial knot and using some of her albums, according to his own government, to promote tourism in France, Sarko has come with one more controversial venture. This time it is the proposal to ban the Hijab - a head scarf or especially designed attire used by Muslim ladies to cover their bodies that is receiving widespread condemnations from all most every corner of the world. “It is unacceptable to have women in France who are prisoners behind netting. It is not a sign of religion but a sign of subservience”, he has been quoted by the media as saying.


On the expected lines, knifes are out in the media against the French Government and though its proposal to ban Hijab has found few supporters from other parts of the world also, it is being opposed tooth and nail by the Muslim world. They are wondering why in the western world where anyone can walk on the roads without even a cloth and where the rampant nudity is unquestionable, a Muslim woman trying to protect her dignity by wearing a headscarf or Hijab is being such an issue.


“The Western world which prides itself as the champion of democracy, human rights and women’s rights gives free rein to nudity and skin show and no Muslim in the world objects to the au natural look. But when they take upon themselves the right to decide what women should wear in public through laws, then it is downright condemnable and blameworthy”, Burhanuddin Qasmi, a Muslim scholar has observed.


“These are the countries where women dressed in half-naked attires walking on the street do not result in a furor. But if a graceful Muslim lady covers her body properly, wears head scarf and uses Hijab then people like Sarkozy feels uncomfortable”, observes another scholar while adding, “Why the west which portrays itself as the champion of the Human Rights having a fleet of Commission worldover is silent on the issue. Is it not a fundamental right for an individual to wear whatever he or she wants?


In a surprising development, unlike in the past the Muslims besides receiving supports from few unexpected people from outside the Muslim world, women have themselves come in a large number to oppose the proposal. “How much Islam does Sarkozy know? Has he tried to read the Quran and find out its stand on Hijab?” asks Ozma Naheed of Iqra Foundation.


Mumbai based Zeenat Shaukat Ali is more vocal. “It is astonishing that the President of a country has made such an undemocratic and irresponsible statement. I feel Hijab is more about culture than religion, but that doesn’t mean Muslim women should be denied the right to wear the Hijab”, she says.


Equally defiant is Arshi Firdaus, a student into Islamic studies. Stating that the so called western culture is actually destroying the poise of women and has virtually transformed the women into a commodity, she says, “It is therefore clear for the women worldover that there are two paths for them. One advocated by the west and the other preached by Islam. While the first clearly is opening the doors of the hell for them, the later definitely ensures their dignity, pride and safety. Both the paths are for the women and it is their sole right to choose the one. No government or individual has any right to interfere in this.”


And the war goes on and on.


However, the most astonishing silence on the issue is of US President Barack Hussein Obama. United States has a long history of playing the role of “a worried policeman” in international affairs. Of late President Obama also did the same when he expressed his concern over the development in Iran after President Ahmadinejad won the presidential election. Moreover, only the other day he was roaring at Cairo University. “Freedom in America is indivisible from the freedom to practice one's religion. That is why there is a mosque in every state of our union, and over 1,200 mosques within our borders. That is why the US government has gone to court to protect the right of women and girls to wear the hijab, and to punish those who would deny it”, he said in his much publicized address to the Muslim World while stating, “I consider it part of my responsibility as president of the United States to fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear.”


Ever since his speech, analyst worldover are speculating over the sincerity of the assertions and proposals laid down by him in Cairo. ‘Rhetoric sans action’, many had observed. ‘Mere words are not enough. Obama should translate all that he has spoken in Cairo into real action’, others had suggested. ‘It is yet another attempt by the US administration to fool the Muslim world’, some others had gone to this extent while rejecting the US President’s address to the Muslim world. But one thing is certain. Obama’s address to the Muslim World had helped in striking a chord within many in the Islamic world and the majority termed it as a beginning of a new chapter.


The breeze of fresh air that was felt globally after his Cairo speech is however being vanished by the developments in France. It is therefore surprising why President Obama, who was very quick in expressing his concerns over the developments in Iran, does not show the same quickness over what is being planned by Sarkozy and his friends against the Muslim women in France and the issue that might lead to long term damage elsewhere in the world. Any further delay in coming with a policy statement by President Obama on this issue would only strengthen his detractors, who term his Cairo overtures as mere rhetoric and believe Obama would never translate them into real actions.





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