Socialist Worker

Criticism of the veil is not about liberating women

by Lindsey German
Issue No. 2023

One of the more distasteful features of the wave of attacks on Muslims has been the sight of feminists lining up to support Jack Straw’s comments against the veil.

Women who claim they believe in liberation should know better. The women’s movement of the 1960s was anti-racist, coming out of the civil rights and anti-war movements in the US.

Those who espouse their ideas today are attacking some of the most oppressed women in the name of liberating them. Their assumption is that any Muslim woman who wears the veil or the hijab does so because of pressure.

This is false - some women may fit into this category, but many Muslim women choose to wear the niqab or the hijab for their identity, or for political or other reasons. They are making a statement which they have every right to make.

You would think from the attacks that it was only among Muslims that women’s oppression still exists. In fact, women in the West do not have even the most basic equality, despite nominal lip service to the term.

Women suffer worse wages, have to do most housework and childcare and are subject to sexual double standards.

Feminists often say superior ideas on women’s liberation in the West go back 200 years, which makes the West more advanced than the Middle East or South Asia. But women’s liberation has long been a minority view.

It took until well into the 20th century before women won the vote after a long struggle. It took another struggle to put issues like abortion, equal pay and gay liberation on the agenda in the 1960s and 1970s.

These struggles are still to be won. Only a small minority of women have benefited from changes in society - they pay other, often immigrant, women, to do domestic work.

They have turned their backs on any struggle to change the world and supported a series of bloody wars aimed at countries with Muslim populations.

They now presume to tell Muslim women they can’t be liberated unless they dress and behave like them.

Islamophobia and

the ‘war on terror’

A People’s Assembly

Called by the Stop the War Coalition
10am, Saturday 18 November, Camden Centre, Judd Street, London WC1H
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