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Monday, 17 September, 2001, 08:24 GMT 09:24 UK
Are women intimidated for political gain?
A militant group in Kashmir has issued an ultimatum for women to wear the full Islamic veil, or "burqa", when they are in public.

At the moment most Kashmiri women don't wear the full veil. But last month, there was an acid attack on two women in Srinagar who were not covering their faces.

Hardline Muslim groups in other parts of India have also tried to coerce or persuade women to wear the veil.

But other political and religious groups have condemned the use of overt threats and violence which, they argue, are not condoned by the Islamic religion.

Should women take notice of such threats? How can intimidation be tackled?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

Your reaction

Islam doesn't say to abuse women or throw acids on the face. Islam only says to wear dresses that do not show one's beauty to others. So burqa is not the only solution, Islam doesn't say to cover women's faces. All muslim women know that's how to be a good muslim, so it shouldn't be imposed by threats.
Shakil Ahmed, UK/Pakistan

The West especially wants to strip its women of their dress whereas Islam wants to maintain the dignity of its women by covering their body parts. Wearing a veil reflects a higher level of faith, where the women folk are trying to hide their faces from strangers so that they do not get attracted by their looks. PS Look at the pictures you draw of Mary and Jesus and you will see how modestly they are dressed.
Shoaib Khalid, USA

This is plain old terrorism. The fact that the dress code has to be enforced shows how unpopular it really is among women. It is sad that the menfolk remain silent - maybe they need the burqa.
B. Singh, USA

This appears to be just another scare tactic being employed by a group of people for political gain

Jay, USA
This appears to be just another scare tactic being employed by a group of people for political gain. Although there is no religious basis for this demand, the offenders are trying to disguise it under the veil of religion. Those who support such acts are neither Muslim, nor of any other religion. They are inhuman and should be dealt with accordingly. It is only when we become responsible for our actions that we endeavour to change them.
Jay, USA

Addressing Peter Augustine's comments here, I am wondering what religion he converted from and if that religion advocated any less peace and simplicity and required that men and women should be treated unequally? Peace, simplicity and equal treatment of men and women are not the exclusive virtues of Islam. On the contrary, most of the abuse of women is predominant with practitioners of this religion. If all of them are simply branded as not 'true' Islamists, I fail to see what his point is as by the same count, no evil doer is a 'true' adherent of his or her religion.
Ashok, Australia

Confusion reigns not only amongst the people wanting the 'burqa' to be mandatory, but also between the readers in this forum. Religious leaders from each country should decide whether the burqa 'has' to be worn, or 'can' be worn. Once conveyed to the public, women will be not be used as a means to attain media and political attention.
A. Bukhari, UK

People should be moving forward, not back to the dark ages

BK, England
I think it is a shame that women in Islam are forced to be covered from head to toe. It is possible to be decently dressed in Western and Asian attire. It doesn't say anywhere in the Quran that women should be covered from head to toe. People should be moving forward, not back to the dark ages.
BK, England

In response to Ahmed, UK, I should point out that in Saudi Arabia the incidence of rapes may be the lowest reported, but this may say more about the criminal justice system than the incidence of rape.
Jez Humble, UK

I strongly disagree with Ahmed. Wearing a burqa is not the way to bring down rape figures in Saudi. Good policing only brings down crimes. We should respect others' rights, particularly the weaker section of the community.
Viji Palaniappan, USA/ India

What Islamists do in their own country is up to them ... though one trusts it is illegal to throw acid in the face of anyone anywhere in the world. However, to respond to Rebekha, England, it is right that civilised countries ban the forcible belittling of girls by ignorant minds who force them to wear the burqa. We have outgrown such barbarism. If adult women desire to wear it, so be it ... but don't force it on young children in a free society.
Mark M. Newdick, USA/ UK

Islam has ordered its women to dress in a certain way

Bashir A. Hassan, Somalian in USA
I do not understand why people are so concerned about the religion/culture or dress code of a society. Islam has ordered its women to dress in a certain way and Islam is a religion of choice. So if a woman chooses to be a Muslim and dress in accordance with the Quran, it should be accepted and respected by everybody.
Bashir A. Hassan, Somalian in USA

Women are victims of religious crime on all sides. Whether it is the forcing of the burqa in Muslim communities or the practice of female infanticide and widow-burning in Hindu ones. The way forward is education, not criticism.
Bilal Patel, London, UK

I recently converted to Islam because of its peacefulness, simplicity and the equality it shows towards men and women. The Prophet Muhammad has long given women rights that the Western world just gave them in the 20th century. These include the right to own property, request divorce and the right to earn. Stories like these 'hardliners' disturb me since they have nothing to do with the religion of Islam, rather a system of CONTROL over women.
Peter Augustine, Birmingham, UK

Comparing dress codes is useless if you don't compare the enforcement of them

LS, UK/Australia/USA
Do women have more freedom whether or not they're forced to wear veils? Of course not! In the US or UK, the female dress code is enforced by arts and culture. Disobey and you get laughed at. In Iran, it's enforced by the police. Disobey and you get flogged. In Pakistan, it's enforced by a combination of family and courts. Disobey and your father knows he won't be punished for killing you. Comparing dress codes is useless if you don't compare the enforcement of them.
LS, UK/Australia/USA

It is certainly a part of Islamic law that a woman cover her face, as is reported from authentic narrations (ahadith). Where scholars differ is whether it is mandatory or recommended. Throwing acid in a woman's face is a criminal act and there is no justification for it. Islam has to be in the heart before it can manifest itself on people's limbs.
Ahmad Sajjad, Australia

There has been a suggestion to make burqa mandatory in the West to bring down cases of rape. I would like to ask my friend that in the countries he is quoting as example, how many cases see the light of day?? Can we be sure that the voice of women is not stifled in the name of culture, religion or tradition. The choice to dress as one pleases is a natural and fundamental right of freedom and no fundamentalist, terrorist or religious fanatic should be given the right to infringe on others' rights.
Abhay, India

This practice is against the teachings of Islam and must be stopped

Sajjad Anwar, USA
The Quran, the holy book of the Muslims has not ordered any full veil or burqa for women. The instructions are for both men and women to wear decent clothes which are not provocative. Clearly the hard-liners and religiously orthodox leaders have introduced this system into Islam and society in order to enslave women. This practice is against the teachings of Islam and must be stopped.
Sajjad Anwar, USA

There is no such coercion in Islam about a burqa or covering one's face. And Muslims are well aware of this fact. This act of throwing acid is committed by a little known group that claims to be 'Islamist'.
Ayesha, USA

Who commits the greater crime in the eyes of God, the woman who does not wear a veil or the psychopath who beats her up or throws acid in her face? It is what it is, an excuse for evil men to abuse women.
Mick B, UK

I would like to draw people's attention to the fact that in France the wearing of the veil at school and in public places was made illegal, so is that not a violation of human rights?
Rebekha, England

I am in support of the burqa

Ahmed, UK
I am in support of the burqa, although the full burqa is not Islamic it is an innovation. Saudi Arabia has the lowest cases of raped women in the world, the least number of abused women and most importantly there are very few abused children. Contrary to popular belief women are not protected in the West, they are exploited under the banner of "arts and culture". If the US/UK were to implement a burqa system would the number of women being raped increased/decrease? It doesn't take a genius to work out the answer.
Ahmed, UK

Islamic clerics and other so-called religious leaders use all these tactics to maintain their hold on the population. While Pakistan justifies this in the name of religion, India hasn't done much to discourage it because of vote bank politics. The so-called secular political parties in India have a lot to answer for by not freeing the Muslim women from the mullahs.
Ashesh, USA

While it may be accepted in Muslim society to wear the veil, it should not be forced upon those who don't see the need to cover up. Moderate Muslims should speak up against these extremist groups who have a strange and bizarre interpretation of Islam. With Pakistan already on the cusp of being Talebenised, the same ruthless behaviour is now raising its ugly head in formerly peaceful Kashmir. What joy and happiness has the Taleban brought to anyone?
A. Rastogi, India

This is just another way to oppress women

Dhirendra, India
This is just another way to oppress women and put them in a subordinate place in society. A woman should enjoy the same human rights as those guaranteed under international human rights legislation.
Dhirendra, India

The Qur'an says: "There is no compulsion in religion." The Kashmiri group's declaration is completely un-Islamic. At the same time, it highlights the plight of the Kashmiri people who are not well educated in their religion. It also highlights the oppression of the Indian government that prevents them from learning Islam. I really don't know whether they can be blamed for their ignorance.
Kamran Kiyani, USA

It's just a plea to all Muslims all over the world that human rights are not only for men but for women too.
TJ, India

I believe there is a nasty agenda by terrorists in this misadventure

Shyam Koppikar, USA
The Muslim fanatics/terrorists in Kashmir are deliberately forcing the women to wear the veil. Surprisingly certain Muslim organisations support this. I believe there is a nasty agenda by terrorists in this misadventure. Once all women are veiled, there is no way of telling if the veiled person is man or woman or whether he/she is carrying guns.
Shyam Koppikar, USA

Women or men should be allowed to practice what they believe in. If the women in Kashmir don't believe in wearing a "burqa" in public, it should not be imposed on them. It's against human rights.
Ranjeeta, England

Such intimidation can only be tackled if peaceful Muslims speak out against such tactics and if women receive the protection from the police that they deserve. After all, whatever your political objectives as a Muslim, there can be no justification at all for the sort of cowardly and repressive tactics used against women. It is absolutely disgraceful and uncivilised.
Rustam Roy, England

See also:

20 Aug 01 | South Asia
Kashmir women given veil ultimatum
12 Aug 01 | South Asia
Patrols against Kashmir acid attacks
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