In Morocco, women cannot work in some sectors (like tourism) if they wear the veil. Princess Lalla Salma — the wife of King Muhammad VI, a direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammed and recognized as the Commander of the Faithful — appears in public without a veil.
Contrast that with the silent performances of Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s wife, Emine, in Turkey. She apparently shares a religious conception that “a woman’s voice is nakedness.”
I chose the example of Morocco because there are many Moroccan women in Italy who did not wear a veil before coming here but after a few months choose to don it. I asked some of them why. They replied: “To earn the respect of my community. Otherwise, they tell us, we will become like you, like the women you see on television.”
Certainly, we acknowledge that the image of women offered on Italian television, especially in advertising, is not the most edifying. But for the leaders of Islamic communities, this is an excuse to keep Muslim women isolated and therefore under their control. In order to prevent being misguided, these women do not learn our language and they live in isolation. Meanwhile, their husbands work and their children go to school, where they are forced to interact with the world around them.
Of course, fortunately, not all women migrants from Muslim countries live in isolation. There are women who work and who are active in women’s organizations fighting for women’s rights, to protect those who suffer violence or to combat female genital mutilation. Often, these struggles are carried out without much solidarity from Italian feminists, who prefer to acknowledge those who defend a pseudo-identity through clothing, the most authentic representation of that world.
So, the road to emancipation becomes more difficult for women who want to free themselves.
And I do not think the trend of girls who wear the veil to oppose the moderate Islam practiced by their veil-less mothers (as claimed by Professor Paolo Naso on March 15, during a broadcast of Radio 3 ”Tutta la città ne parla”) can be considered empowerment. However, this statement emphasizes that the veil is a manifestation of belonging to a radical Islam, a fundamentalist version of the religion. In the Qur’an, there is no mandate for women to wear the veil; thus, wearing it represents the evident adhesion to global Islam (the ideology that underlies the most extreme forms of Islam).
Nor it is even the defense of an identity through tradition (which I consider not to be a value, since wars are fought in its name) because the veil (hijab) worn by Muslim women in the name of religion is an “approved” veil, a sort of religious fashion statement that has spread based on the model of the chador, imposed in Iran after Khomeini’s victory.
So I believe that the decision of the European Court about the veil and beyond (“company policy may prohibit religious symbols to ensure ‘neutrality’”) is one way, among many, to fight Islamic extremism, which is represented, often unconsciously, by women who feel the veil is a religious obligation. This is not Islamophobia. On the contrary.
Why do the guardians of women’s faith prevent them, in most cases, to go to the mosque? Are they afraid of being disturbed by their bodies in a place where their only thought should be of Allah?
If Muslim women still conditioned by their communities realize that like many of their sisters, they can be a good Muslim without the veil, by having an intimate and personal relationship with their faith, perhaps they will gain greater autonomy. But their men do not want this: They would lose their power, masked under the illusion that the veil still represents the way to control female sexuality.