x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Roots of niqab don't hail from Islam

Basing his ideas on the opinions of Islamic scholars, a columnist in Al Ittihad says the practice of face covering is a social habit and not a religious obligation.

Amid the tumult surrounding the ban of the niqab in European and Arab countries, Mohammed al Hammadi wrote in the Emirati newspaper Al Ittihad: "There are numerous pretexts and justifications for allowing the niqab, but the reason for prohibiting it is crystal clear: nothing in the Muslim faith imposes such a practice on women." The writer, basing his ideas on the opinions of Islamic scholars, assures us that the practice of face covering is a social habit that dates back to the time of the Assyrians. However, many counter this opinion and claim that the niqab is a religious obligation, although such claims are devoid of any religious foundation. That is why few Islamic clerics objected when France and Syria banned the habit.

"There are those who simply deceive themselves and others by maintaining that sequestering women behind veils prevents vice and promotes virtue, whereas the two are not interrelated in the first place. Prevention of vice starts in the mind of women and men, not in the wardrobe." The habit of veiling a woman's entire face is alien to Islam although many claim that it is a matter of personal freedom, which is an entirely different question. "Some say women are half of society; in fact, women are the whole of society. How can we accept that our whole society be shut behind a veil?" the writer concludes.

Following the recent talks that saw rivals Iyad Allawi and Moqtada al Sadr in Damascus in a bid to overpower Iraq's current prime minister Nouri al Maliki, Dr Fahd al Fanek, in an article for Jordanian daily Al Ray, advised Mr al Sadr to enter Iraq's political arena from Damascus rather than Tehran as the former is nearer and does not involve sectarian issues.

This recent attraction between Mr Allawi's Iraqiyya and Mr al Sadr's Shiite bloc, although inconclusive, is a serious blow to the incumbent prime-minister al Maliki, who has accused Damascus and other Arab capitals of encouraging and financing terrorisms. Mr al Maliki had attempted to strike Sadrist forces with some success in Basra. However, that hasn't won him the support of Sunni areas as his government failed in fighting terrorism, guaranteeing security and in creating strong alliances. His shortfalls may deny him another term in office. Jordan has welcomed all Iraqi political factions without discrimination in an attempt to save Iraq from disaster. Mr al Maliki chose to take an adverse attitude toward Jordan, Saudi and Syria which secured him neither Iran's support nor Iraq's approval.

In an article for pan-Arab newspaper Al Sharq Al Awsat, Osman Mirghani commented on the recent release of a video depicting Benjamin Netanyahu making admissions about his first period as prime minister, when he deceived the US president Bill Clinton into believing he would help implement the Oslo accords. Instead, he boasted of destroying the peace process.

In the video, Mr Netanyahu said the way to deal with Palestinians was to strike them hard. He dismissed the United States "as easily moved" which must surely depress Mr Obama who believes that "Mr Netanyahu wants peace". It is probably against this backdrop that he met with the US president, which confirms his intention to continue strikes against Palestinians and expansionist schemes." Some argue that the recording is outdated and that Mr Netanyahu's attitude may have altered. However, his extremist positions reflect the milieu in which he was raised. All facts indicate that Mr Netanyahu today is the same as the man shown in that film. He has no intention of granting Palestinians an independent state. He refuses refugees the right of return to Palestine and considers the unconditional withdrawal from Gaza a grave mistake that Israel must not repeat.

If wars start with words, then the recent remarks by the Israeli chief of staff, Gabi Ashkenazi, are on point. He hinted at Israel's preparedness to strike Hizbollah even in populated areas if need be, noted the UAE newspaper Akhbar al Arab in its editorial. His statements are serious "belligerent talk" that goes beyond mere threats that Israel has sent before. Had he raised the possibility of a military confrontation in less chaotic times, Gen Ashkenazi's words could have gone unheeded.

If Israel succeeds in convincing the international community to side with it against Iran in future, this may turn into full-scale warfare, prompting Tehran to strike back. As a result, the entire region will enter a phase of endless tension and instability. Israel is seeking any excuse to launch a war, as it has consistently been opposed to a diplomatic solution to the Iranian nuclear programme. Israel wants to make use of this crisis to compensate for its failure to contain either the Lebanese or Palestinian resistance. Israel also needs to use the Iranian issue as a pretext to indirectly provoke resistance in southern Lebanon, and to then wage a "limitless war", backed by the US. * Digest compiled by Racha Makarem @Email:rmakarem@thenational.ae