“The self-appointed task of the Muslim brotherhood, as for all Islamists, is not to modernize Islam but rather, to Islamize modernity.” -Denis Macshane, Newsweek reporter

MUCH has been said about the “veil” issue that is causing a rift between Britain and the Muslim community. For House of Commons leader Jack Straw, wearing veils in his office is socially divisive, a mark of separation than unity. Many Islamist-cum-fundamentalists are interpreting Straw’s comments as sacrilegious.

To get the debate straight, Straw is just referring to the head-to-toe burqa and niquab (which covers the head, only leaving slits for the eyes) that most young and married Muslim women wear when out in public, not the hijab, which covers only the hair and not the face.

Interestingly, the Qu’ran says nothing about wearing the burqa. The holy book of Islam calls for a modest clothing for its women, but it does not require its women to don the head-to-toe burqa or its cousin, the niquab.

In my eight-year stay in Al-Ain, in the United Arab Emerates, almost all my female classmates had their whines about the mandatory burqa and niquab that they had to wear when in public or in the presence of men. Although they respected the tradition, they didn’t think it was practical anymore. Besides, it was tiring for them to keep on putting it every time a man entered the room.

But there are still many women who believe that to show any part of their body to men would be inviting sexual thoughts when in fact covering their body leaves much to the imagination. The result of paternalistic ethics? Most likely.

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Gender oppression still exists today, although not all women are conscious of it.

I remember my family living beside a circumcision clinic for Muslim females in Al-Ain for two years. My female neighbors all had this cliterodectomy “to keep their fidelity to their husbands.”

At 12, I could not comprehend where and what part of the female genitalia they must be taken off, and why they need to remove it when in the Philippines, only men undergo circumcision.

Cliterodectomy, arranged marriages, dowry, the required head-to-toe coverings, and allowing only one man for a woman while permitting a man to have as many as four wives are just some of the things that Muslim women have been struggling with and which Westerners have been trying to reform, if not obliterate.

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At last, the Philippines is starting to recognize the importance of Ramadan and Eid al Fitr. It is the third time, counting former president Estrada’s efforts on declaring Eid a national holiday, that the country has recognized the Muslim holiday. It is a step for GMA to foster stronger ties with our Muslim brothers, or probably another of her political move to win back the trust of Muslim voters.

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