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Islamic clerics criticise Shabana stand on veils - The Asian Age, Oct. 30, Ď06

The clergy and the intelligentsia in India have caught on to the controversy that got kickstarted in Britain over actress Shabana Azmiís statement that the Quran does not make it mandatory for a woman to cover her face.

While in London to receive the Gandhi Foundationís International Peace Awa

rd, Ms Azmi had called for a debate on Muslim women wearing the veil, saying the Quran speaks about women wearing clothes to cover their modesty and that they need not cover their faces.

Significantly, Islamic scholars are all unanimous that in all the dos and doníts in the Quran, each is accompanied by a punishment. But in the case of hijab, no such punishment has been mentioned. It only makes it clear that hijab is something wholly voluntary and not mandatory. In countries like Iran, women dress normally but cover their heads with scarves, leaving the face uncovered. The veil or purdah is also seen more as an influence of the Rajput women in India, who covered their faces completely.

All-India Muslim Personal Law Board secretary Syed Qasim Rasool Illyasi said, "If Ms Shabana Azmi says that the face need not be covered, then she should accept the other injunction of the Quran that the body must properly be covered."

Mr Illyasi felt that the entire veil controversy was meaningless and irrelevant. "Why is their no controversy when Christian nuns cover their body, leaving only their faces visible?" he asked. The Quran has laid down instructions for purdah, but there were two opinions on whether the face should be entirely covered. "As far as the Quran is concerned, there is no dispute that the body should be properly covered," he said. In a democracy, he said, it was best left to the individual to decide about his or her dress code, he said.

Most of the maulanas were angry at the controversy and sharply reacted, saying that it was fashion of sorts for some Indian Muslims to criticise the teachings of the Quran and the Hadees. Some Muslims in the country think they will be considered modern only when they criticise the Quran and Hadees, they said. In a statement in Lucknow, Tilewali Masjid Imam Maulana Khalid Rasheed Firangimahali said, "The Quran has clearly instructed that women should put on veils." Imam Firangimahali said this did not mean that they should not go to college or work and remain confined to their homes. However, reacting to Mr Jack Strawís statement that Muslim women should not wear veils was tantamount to a violation of their fundamental rights, he said.
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