Photo by Siobhán Silke/Flickr (Creative Commons)
Kenza Drider, one of the most vocal opponents of France's burqa ban, April 2011
On Monday, France implemented a controversial ban on the face-covering veils worn by some Muslim women, which are referred to there as burqa or niqab. Women who continue to wear the veils are subject to steep fines if cited. The French government defends the ban as promoting sexual equality, while critics have called it a blatant appeal to anti-Muslim voters. Meanwhile, there has been mixed reaction from Muslim women as the ban is debated around the world.
KPCC intern Yasmin Nouh, a recent graduate of UC Irvine who herself is Muslim and wears hijab, the traditional head scarf, interviewed three prominent Muslim women in California on reaction to the ban. She spoke with Hadeer Soliman, vice president of the Muslim Student Union at UC Irvine; Edina Lekovic, director of policy and programming for the Muslim Public Affairs Council in Los Angeles; and Zahra Billoo, executive director of the San Francisco Bay Area chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. Here's what they had to say about the burqa ban, how it affects Muslim women here, and broader concerns they see surrounding it.
Photo by HORIZON/Flickr (Creative Commons)
The interior of a mosque in Ishafan, Iran, May 2006
"We need to use this moment as a catalyst to open a national debate about the grievous misconceptions, fear and suspicion about Islam and Muslims. This discussion needs to be elevated to ethical discourse beyond biases and prejudices."
- Salam Al-Marayati, president of the Muslim Public Affairs Council in Los Angeles, on NPR's dismissal of Juan Williams
The reaction from Muslim civil rights groups to the network's firing of veteran journalist and news analyst Williams last week - and his comment about Muslims that led up to it - has been varied, with some taking a more forgiving attitude than others.
Williams remarked last week during an appearance on Fox's "The O'Reilly Factor" that getting on a plane and seeing people in "Muslim garb" made him nervous. In reaction, the national Council on American-Islamic Relations issued a statement calling on called on Muslim Americans and the general public to contact NPR and "take appropriate action."
Photo by TK/Flickr (Creative Commons)
Two women in hijab at a Southern California picnic, June 2008
A decision by Disney to allow a female Muslim intern to wear a traditional religious head scarf, or hijab, at work could set a precedent for other Disney employees who make an argument to wear the head scarves as part of their work uniform.
According to the greater Los Angeles office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a national Islamic civil liberties organization, the decision involved a young woman from the Chicago area who had interviewed by phone for an internship job as a Disney vacation planner in Anaheim.
In a press release today, CAIR-LA stated that when the unidentified intern arrived in California, she was informed by her new employer that she would have to take a different position with limited guest interaction, a stockroom job, while a customized uniform was created for her. The wait for a customized uniform was five months, according to CAIR-LA, the length of her internship.
This moving short video is part of a series of PSAs released at the beginning of this month by the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the nation's largest Islamic civil rights group. The series of three videos is titled "9/11 Happened to All of Us." Two feature first responders, including the firefighter, and a third spot features a several religious leaders from different faiths. The video above was featured today in a post in ColorLines.
The PSAs were released in response to what news reports and polls have indicated is a growing sense of Islamophobia in the United States. The past several weeks have been marked by the highly-publicized public debate and protests over the construction of a planned Islamic cultural center near the site of the former World Trade Center (which, according to today's New York Times, had a Muslim prayer room), and the media circus in Florida over a pastor's now-cancelled plan to burn copies of the Quran.