– Chahdortt Djavann: « The veil is a physical and psycho-sexual violence inflicted on girls’’

Chahdortt Djavann: « The veil is a physical and psycho-sexual violence inflicted on girls’’

Capture d’écran 2020-07-02 à 13.44.19

Chahdortt Djavann’s father raised her « in love of books and hatred of the mullahs ». After the Islamic revolution in Iran, she was forced to stop reading great authors to study the Quran and to wear a veil. In June 1980, when she was 13 years old, she was incarcerated for three weeks for protesting against the regime. She was beaten up and had two broken ribs. She arrived in France in 1993 without speaking French. She learned French by herself. She enrolled at the School of Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences (École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales). She wrote her thesis on « Religious indoctrination and the Islamization of the education system in Iran after the establishment of the Khomeini regime » – a study based on the analysis of school textbooks. She then became a writer. Her work is translated into several languages. She has written numerous books, articles and newspaper articles. She is also passionate about chess.

French version here

About the veil:

« I wore the veil for ten years. It was the veil or death. I know what I’m talking about. »

What is it to wear the veil, to inhabit a veiled body? What does it mean to be condemned to imprisonment in a veiled body because it is female? Who has the right to talk about it? I was thirteen years old when the Islamic law imposed itself in Iran under the guidance of Khomeini who returned from France with the blessing of many French intellectuals. Once again, they had decided for others what their freedom and future should be. Once again, they had spread into moral lessons and political advice. Once again, they hadn’t seen anything coming, they hadn’t understood anything. Once again, they had forgotten everything and, strengthened by their past mistakes, were preparing to observe with impunity the trials suffered by others, to suffer by proxy, even if it meant making, when the time came, some heart-rending revisions that would not, however, affect their good conscience or their superbness.

Some French intellectuals gladly speak for others. And today they are speaking for those who are not being heard ‒ the place that anyone else should have the decency not to try to occupy. Because these intellectuals, they continue, they sign, they petition. They talk about school, where they haven’t been in a long time, about the suburbs where they’ve never set foot, about the veil under which they’ve never lived. They decide on strategies and tactics, forgetting that the ones they are talking about exist, live in France, a country governed by the rule of law, and are not a subject for dissertation, a synthetic product for a three-part presentation. Will they ever stop paving the way for the hell of others, willing to do anything to have their name at the bottom of a newspaper article? Can these intellectuals answer me? Why do we hide girls, only girls, teenagers of sixteen, fourteen, twelve, ten, nine, seven years old? Why are we hiding their bodies, their hair?

What does it really mean to veil girls? What are we trying to instill in them? Because initially they didn’t choose to be veiled. They were veiled. And how do you live in a veiled teenage body? After all, why don’t we hide Muslim boys? Can’t their body, their hair make girls desire them? But girls are not made to have desire, in Islam, only to be the object of men’s desire. Don’t we hide what we’re ashamed of? Our faults, our weaknesses, our inadequacies, our deficiencies, our frustrations, our anomalies, our powerlessness, our baseness, our failures, our errors, our inferiorities, our mediocrity, our cowardice, our vulnerabilities, our frauds, our offences, our guilt, our thefts, our rapes, our sins, our crimes?

Among Muslims, from birth, a girl is a disgrace to hide since she is not a male child. She is in herself insufficient, powerless, and inferior. Any attempt at sexual intercourse by a man before marriage is her fault. She is the potential object of rape, sin, incest and even theft since men can steal her modesty with a simple look. In short, she represents guilt, since she creates desire, itself guilty, in a man. A girl is a permanent threat to Islamic dogmas and morals.

She is the potential object of the crime, having her throat slit by the father or the brother to wash away the stained honor. Because Muslim men’s honor is washed with girls’ blood! A girl is considered a shame and a danger. Think about it! She may violate the men’s honor. I would like to know why a man would feel dishonored if the woman violates the rules of modesty. Why is the honor of Muslim men inscribed on the bodies of Muslim women? Let them assume their honor on their own!

I remember terrible scenes. I remember a woman in labour begging the doctor in an Iranian hospital: « If it’s a girl, throw her in the garbage! If I come home with a girl, my husband will kill me’’. I pay tribute here to Jafar Panahi’s film, The Circle, which depicts the curse of being born a girl in a Muslim country. To live for ten years in a body buried under the dark, a body condemned to imprisonment, leaves indelible marks. What could be more unfair, more alienating, than to inflict on a teenager the confinement under the dark and shame of her body because she is female. The veil is no less serious than FGC. There are no days with and days without; the girl becomes a being under the veil. It’s part of her social, psychological, sexual, personal being. By veiling a girl, we instill in her her inferiority, the guilt of her sexuality and, above all, we tell her that she is not in the law, that she does not have rights.

When you veil a girl, you immediately teach her that if any part of her skin and hair protrudes from this fabric, any attempt at rape is her responsibility. And we know that this is happening in some countries. Saying ‘’the veil is my choice’’ doesn’t say what the veil is. Islamists trapped everyone. Everyone is relaying the Islamists’ discourse. I am deeply shocked that fashion brands like Marks and Spencer offer integral swimsuits that hide the whole body.

In Muslim societies, women are invisible, buried, because they cannot be exterminated. We need them to procreate, to satisfy men’s sexual needs… Since we cannot exterminate them, we bury them in the dark. In the most barbaric systems, women are veiled. Why do we put up with it here? Because they are women and Muslim. In the name of cultural difference? Why not accept stoning and excision in this case? In all Muslim countries, there are marriages of underage girls with aging men. It’s a cultural difference, isn’t it? But here it is considered a crime: pedophilia. What do these intellectuals and Islamologists think about it?

I decided to write when I saw 12-year-old girls starting to wear the veil and when I heard some intellectuals say that sending the veiled students out of school would only make their situation worse. These well-intentioned people did not think that tolerating veiled girls in school would only increase the pressure on Muslim teenage girls. Some veil advocates explain that this is a way for girls in cities to protect themselves from boys.

This is unacceptable. It is tantamount to bowing to violence. In fact, let me tell you that it is in countries where women are veiled that there is the most prostitution and pedophilia! What I am asking for is a ban on veil wearing for minors. It should be noted that, in Islam, a veiled girl is considered nubile. In other words, it is a girl who is placed on the marriage market and, consequently, on the sex market. When you see 9-year-old girls wearing the veil, you’re practically in pedophilia! There are laws in France to protect minors from all forms of sexual abuse. That is why I am calling for a ban on veiling minors. The veil is a physical and psycho-sexual violence inflicted on girls. It is equivalent to disposing of their bodies, to defining the teenager as a sexual object intended to satisfy men’s desires.This is barbarism !

The veil defines women psychologically, socially, sexually and legally as sub-men. The veil is the yellow star of the female condition. It marks the female bodies as humiliated, guilty, sources of worry, anguish, threatening, dirty, impure, source of discomfort and sin, these unhealthy objects, coveted, desired and forbidden, hidden and exposed, locked up, abused, circulate around men, like shadows. If, today, young Jews started wearing the yellow star, claiming « it’s my freedom »; if young blacks decided to wear chains around their necks and feet, saying « it’s my freedom », wouldn’t society react? When you try to nuance it by using the words ‘headscarf’ or ‘headband’, I reply: « Between the burka and the coloured headscarf, the meaning is the same’’. Talking about headscarves, about headbands, is just a semantic cowardice; it’s a miserable rhetorical trick.

Boys and girls, women and men can wear a cross or Fatma’s hand around their neck, referring to religious figures and the Christian or Muslim faith. It is an ornament, while the veil is reserved for women. On the religious, historical, anthropological, social and legal level, it has meanings, functions and scope that structure the Islamic society. The veil concretizes and materializes the sexual apartheid and the inferiority of women’s rights… It is the symbol of the Islamic ideology. The Islamism’s flag, the Ummah’s flag. Veiling teenage girls and women was an essential prerequisite for initiating the massive re-Islamization of youth from Muslim immigrant backgrounds, preventing them from being fully integrated by the unholy West. Precisely, to finally create a Muslim community that would be anti-Western. The method of re-Islamisation in the West is identical to the one used in Muslim countries, such as Iran, Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia…, because it operates, above all, on Muslim youth. Wearing the headscarf here is a support for the Islamist dictatorships that impose the burka there. The veil is the very emblem of Islamist dogma. Islam can quite live without it, but there is no Islamist country without the veil. »

On Relativism:

« First of all, there is no such thing as a human being who, in the absolute, believes in nothing. We all have beliefs. Religious or spiritual. « Believing in the absurdity of existence », as Camus puts it, is also a belief. Even the most materialistic among us have beliefs: they believe, for example, that after death humans become a raw material again, and return to the earth. Any hypothesis concerning pre-birth and post-death is a matter of belief, since there is currently no scientific and experimental certainty on this subject. (…) What matters is not the content of the belief. Everyone believes their beliefs are superior to those of others. The important thing is that, in a democracy, there is no hierarchy of beliefs. Let there be no evil believers on the one hand, and no good believers on the other. Or on one side the believers and on the other side the unbelievers. This distinction enhances, gives credibility to, and institutionalizes the beliefs of some, the « believers », in the name of an unfounded and unfathomable sacredness, to the detriment of the beliefs of others, the « unbelievers ». Without religious beliefs, non-believers are asked to « respect » believers’ beliefs.

The hierarchy of beliefs is the beginning of a dictatorial drift. (…) And while the State is concerned about the specific needs and demands of the last believers, not to mention terrorist threats, the problems of all, such as unemployment, poverty, precariousness, housing… are relegated to the background. (…) Who could have imagined, a few decades ago, in 1980 for example, that in France journalists and cartoonists would be murdered because they had blasphemed? Even Houellebecq would have been miles away from inventing such an improbable fiction. The mere observation that religious dogmas have progressed to the detriment of rational thinking in Europe over the past thirty years forces us to question its future.

It should not be forgotten that culture, in the anthropological sense, is totalizing. Underneath what is called the cultural trait, are sometimes hidden barbaric practices. Moreover, practicing one’s faith does not mean imposing medieval dogmas in the public space. The practice of faith is distinct from obedience to religious dogmas that are intended to be above democratic laws. None of the five pillars of Islam requires an ostentatious practice. One can practice their Muslim faith at home. I think that in order to live in peace, it is time to affirm that faith, like sexuality, is about intimacy and is practiced in private.

It is time to say that we do not discuss with the representatives of Islamist totalitarianism. We condemn it and fight it. There is too much to do in our suburbs, too much to do in the field of education, work and equal opportunities, there has been too much delay for us to admit today that extreme Islamists are becoming the spokespersons for young French people who feel excluded. It is our common responsibility, it is the responsibility of the Republic and its representatives to ensure that this perverse and absurd situation ends. Immigration is an opportunity for France and democracy is an opportunity for immigration. But promises must be kept. »

On Islamophobia:

« In 2003 and 2004, regarding the law against ostentatious signs in schools, we heard repeatedly: « it will stigmatize the Muslim community », as if there were a monolithic community that fully supported the wearing of the veil. While we know that the clear majority of Muslims in 2003-2004 were against wearing the veil. Islam’s ideologues are launching formulas precisely for the media to take them back, in this case in order to make this monolithic community exist, which would include all so-called « Muslims » without exception. The aim was to make this community exist in the collective unconscious of non-Muslims when it was non-existent in reality, while encouraging young people from Muslim families to give substance to this community. So, this formula, « it will stigmatize the Muslim community », thought and invented by ideologues, then repeated by « useful idiots » and the media, has had perverse and very dangerous consequences and has contributed to fracturing society. Often, some journalists do not understand the impact of the sentences they repeat. Islamists have used a sleight of hand that is a real feat: those who criticize religion for its most totalitarian aspects are treated as « Islamophobes », racists and xenophobes, like far-right militants. When words lose their meaning, madness triumphs.

The term « Islamophobia » was coined – it is never said ‒ by Iranian mullahs just after the Islamic revolution. Islamophobia was anathema for the hundreds of thousands of opponents that the Islamist regime executed. All those who did not adhere to the Islamist regime were considered Islamophobes, enemies of Islam, and were put to death without the right to a trial. Islamophobia sums up the totalitarian ideal of an Islamist regime for which any opposition is considered as an attack on Islam and as such is punishable by the death penalty. To talk about Islamophobia, about those who criticize Islam’s dogmas, is obviously getting into the game of Islamists. It is surprising that numerous intellectuals and politicians, led by MRAP (Mouvement contre le racisme et pour l’amitié entre les peoples/ Movement against racism and for friendship between peoples), have unashamedly endorsed, in France and Europe, the use of a term that has everything to do with an ideological war machine. »

The resignation of politicians and intellectuals:

« I’m angry because we’re facing stupidity. What does it mean to be « tolerant » when you are faced with the intolerable? In front of an Islamist from the UOIF (Union des organisations islamiques de France/Union of Islamic Organizations of France), I feel like I’m going back in Iran. That’s what makes me mad! Today in France, there are men more dangerous than Islamists in Muslim countries. And they are the interlocutors of the public authorities!

Public authorities that behave as if they were only discovering today that there are suburbs and ghettos. For more than a decade, Islamists have been given some authority to exert pressure in the cities. It is as if we were making our suburbs into a kind of protectorate or colony. Instead of tackling the causes of violence, we opt for repression. Immigrants are subjected to a double repression: that resulting from the government’s security policy, and that which consists in placing them under a religious authority to have peace. For now, it’s working, but it won’t hold up. I’m pessimist. This resigning policy made the bedrock of the National Front.

We are being told that human rights would be interpreted as a humiliation by Muslims. That’s not true! Islamists would interpret it this way, but they only represent a tiny minority of Muslims. There are dozens of associations of Maghrebi women who are calling for a law. They say: « You must not accept the veil at school, otherwise you will no longer be able to avoid wearing it’’. I participated in a recording of a program involving a veiled woman. She made the same slip twice. She said: « We must fight against girls who do not want to wear the veil ». That’s revealing, isn’t it? The tragedy today is that politicians let fear speak instead of the law.

I do not appreciate a certain sociological discourse that advocates the tolerance of the veil in the name of the right to difference and respect for cultures. To those making this speech, I say: « Wear the veil for a year and get back to me ». What do they know about the veil? What do they know about Islam? This is also what I blame some French intellectuals for. They abuse their position as intellectuals to decide on anything and everything. Even in Muslim countries, makingminors wear a veil is fundamentalist behaviour. At one point in its history, France was able to put Catholic dogmas back in their place. Why shouldn’t we do the same with Islamic dogmas? When I say this, these intellectuals look at me with an embarrassed look. »