Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Headscarf torn between faith and politics

This is an interesting article published in The National about the hijab in Tunisia:

John Thorne
March 02. 2009

TUNIS // One evening last year, a computer technician called Afef switched on her television, tuned to an Islamic programme and felt her world suddenly change.

“Something awoke in me,” said Afef, 27, who did not wish to give her surname. For the first time, she resolved to wear the hijab, or Islamic headscarf, “even though that’s difficult in Tunisia”.

Next week women around the world will observe International Women’s Day, honouring feminist advances of the 20th century. That resonates strongly in Tunisia, where women’s rights have long been a point of national pride.

That pride has led the government to crack down heavily on the hijab, called an “odious rag” by modern Tunisia’s founder, Habib Bourguiba. Authorities consider the headscarf a sign of creeping Islamic extremism, while feminists see male domination.

But for women such as Afef, it is primarily a matter of religious freedom.

Tunisia’s secularism owes much to Mr Bourguiba, who ruled the country for three decades after it gained independence from France in 1956. He considered women’s emancipation central to building a modern state. Among the titles engraved proudly on the bronze doors of his mausoleum is “Liberator of Women”.

Often, that has meant liberation from tradition, which Mr Bourguiba believed was holding Tunisia back. Under his rule, a new family code was enacted that gave women equality with men in key areas, and Islamic schools and courts were shut down.

Read the rest here.


Nihad said...

what an irony !! Women have been emancipated by the founder of Tunisia but does not have the right to dress in a way she pleases if she choses the hijab.

Sharshura said...

I haven't seen any articles recently about Tunis and the headscarf lately.

I wrote an essay for a class last year about this and I found that whenever Ben Ali feels that his power is in danger he cracks down on the hijab. There has been a hijab ban since 1981 in every place imaginable but there are still hijabis in Tunis. When Ben Ali gets pissed by people opposing his government (most of whom aren't on an islamist platform) he cracks down on the women to try to shut the men up.

And just one more thing, even though their personal status laws are extremely revolutionary for time and the area that they came out of that does not mean that society accepts it. (In my personal opinion it was done to be more like Europe. The politicians were all men that wrote it and no woman was consulted on what she thought of it. Even today there are not many women in positions of power in government) For example, my husband told me that no Tunisian woman would be allowed to study outside of her city even though men can go outside the country to go to uni.

Sorry this was so long but I love discussing anything related to Tunis. I hope my ramblings are understandable. I think I will repost this article on my blog as well.

Anonymous said...

Wow..I just finished reading the entire article and the 1st thing that came to mind was 'I've never heard of 'feminist extremism'.

I'm sure you read the part about posting police outside of University and making women take off their scarves, and stoping women in the streets and making them sighn a paper saying they will stop? HUH???

It's like the government already has such a say so in every aspect of ones life can I please dress how I like weither it be in niqab or bikini.lol

Anonymous said...

beautifully touching story.

Anonymous said...



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