05/15/2007, 00.00
KUWAIT

A woman’s courage: without a veil in parliament

The Kuwaiti Education Minister Nouriya Al-Subeeh has refused to wear a veil in parliament. This gesture has drawn criticism from her colleagues who underline the need to respect Islamic law that calls upon women to wear a veil. But academics have ranged themselves in favour of the woman, depicting her as an example for all women who are victims of male domination.

Madinat al-Kuwait (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The refusal of the Kuwaiti Education Minister Nouriya Al-Subeeh to wear a veil in parliament has drawn the resentment of Islamist MPs on one hand and support by the country’s academics on the other. The latter claim no one can impose the obligation to wear a veil.

Minister Al-Subeeh gave her reasons for refusing to wear a veil in an interview with the Egyptian weekly, Roz Al-Yousuf. She said: "The belief of a woman who does not want to wear a veil must be respected. This is the essence of democracy, in my opinion, to respect and accept the opinion of the other.”

However ministers criticized their colleague’s decision, claiming that she was required by law to wear a veil. “Article 1 of the 2005 Election Law states that women have political rights but that they must respect the principles of Islamic law.” What’s more, according to them, the education minister should set a good example and wear a veil, as required by the law.

But a few ministers defended the choice of Al-Subeeh, saying that parliament was not a mosque where one had to remove one’s shoes or put on a veil before entering, and therefore wearing a veil was a personal decision and not an obligation.

Dr Shamlan Yousuf Al-'Issa, political science lecturer at Kuwait University, criticized the religious groups' authoritarian interference. The professor said these groups were trying, both within the parliament and outside it, to interfere in the details of all aspects of day-to-day life, and to take power sometimes in the name of the religion, and sometimes in the name of custom and tradition.

The columnist Hassan Al-'Issa said one Minister Burmiya had no right to attack Nouriya Al-Subeeh.

A sociologist, Ali Al-Tarah, said this was a world where everything was upside-down, where things acquired value that did not deserve it. The veil does not reflect the personality of its wearer, and anyone who covers herself with a veil - it is her choice, and we must respect it.”

An Egyptian attorney and writer, Naja Abd Al-Halim, praised the education minister’s courage and wrote: "Madame Nouriya entered the parliamentary chamber with unusual courage, high confidence, and composure that was the envy of all, especially the women, and we hope that every women who has suffered from the tyranny, domination, arbitrariness, arrogance, and contempt of a man will learn from here.” Naja Abd Al-Halim added: “It is more appropriate to take an interest in what is in Madame Nouriya Al-Subeeh's head than in what she should have on her head.”

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