This weekend brought news for Muslim women in France: They are allowed to go out in public without a full veil. You might wonder how exactly this is news, seeing as the country’s recent push for a burqa ban is all about forcing women to go unveiled in public — but the pronouncement didn’t come from the French government but rather an influential Saudi cleric.
Sheikh Ayedh al-Garni spoke out against the proposed ban, calling it “illogical and unreasonable,” but conceded: “In case a ban is enforced against a Muslim woman there — and as a consequence there is a reaction or negative implications or harassment or harm — it is better for the Muslim woman to reveal her face.” It isn’t the most generous fatwa, considering that if the French law passes, they won’t have much of a choice, regardless.
As the Associated Press reports, others were quick to chime in with a few crucial caveats: Mohammed al-Nujemi, a professor at the Institute of Judicial and Islamic Studies, told a Saudi TV station, “The Saudi woman should not go on tourism to non-Muslim countries. Going to a non-Muslim country without a necessity is not permissible according to the sharia.” But, if you somehow find yourself stuck in a non-Muslim country that bans the burqa, well, then it’s all good.
What I love about this — and when I say “love,” I mean “hate” — is that both sides are rigidly policing how much skin women can show. It’s a game of political tug-of-war and women are at the center.