Policing women and religion out of hand

Photo taken from The Guardian website; from vantagenews.com

The policing of women’s bodies and what they decide to wear is getting out of hand in both the United States and around the world.

In the United States, we as a society are constantly criticizing what women wear, from asking in court systems what women are wearing at the time of their sexual assaults to creating sexist dress codes in our public code that prevent young girls from wearing menial articles of clothing such as spaghetti strapped tank tops in fear of “distracting” male students from receiving their education.

In France earlier this week, a Muslim woman on a beach in Nice was cited with a ticket by the police for not “wearing an outfit respecting good morals and secularism,” according to French news agency, Agence French-Presse.

She wore leggings, a tunic and a headscarf while on the beach with her children. In three photos that were posted by The Guardian, the woman is seen laying on the beach, four police officers on their way to approach her.

Photo taken from The Guardian Website; by Vantagenews.com
The woman who only gave her her first name, Siam, is seen laying on the beach in a tunic, leggings, and headscarf.

In the second photograph, the Muslim woman can be seen with her tunic partially removed and all four police officers watching her do so; and in a third photo, she’s holding the tunic out to the police officers while one officer is knelt down inspecting it.

Photo taken from The Guardian's website; from Vantagenews.com
Siam, holding out her tunic to an officer to inspect.

Nice and other various French cities have banned “burkinis,” a type of swimwear for Muslim women that correlates with Islamic dress code and other clothing that “overtly manifests adherence to a religion at a time when France and places of worship are the target of terrorist attacks,” which refers to the attack that occurred this past summer on Bastille Day where a cargo truck drove into crowds, killing 86 people and injuring more than 300 others. The ban is said to be “necessary to protect the population,” but I do not buy this at all.

The wording of the Muslim woman’s ticket also indicates that her outfit was not respectful of good morals and feeds into the idea that Islam is an immoral religion, which it is not. Are nuns in France being asked to not wear their habits because their outfits do not “respect good morals and secularism?” Doubtful.

While I agree there are terrible people out there who use Islam to push radical ideologies (see the Syrian Civil War for more details), I disagree with France that this woman deserved to have her clothes taken off and inspected to ensure she was not a threat. This woman was at the beach with her children, not bothering anyone.

What is worse, according to The Guardian, a witness to the scene said she heard other people around the situation saying things such as “Go home,” and applauding the police for making this woman remove her clothing.

While I understand that all of this is supposed to help protect the people, it is more harmful to average citizens than anything. These rules are meant to target people who identify or “look” Muslim, and this leads to more profiling by law enforcement and stereotyping in our society. If policies like this are going to be set in place, I hope and want them to be set in place for all people and religions.In order to make sure this rule and ban is fair, nuns should not be wearing their habits and priests should not be wearing their collars.

If you are going to police one gender’s or one religion’s right to clothing, all of them should be policed.

CORRECTION: The original poster of the photos was not The Guardian. The photos were taken from vantagenews.com and were used on The Guardian’s website.
This article has been edited and updated by the original author.

This article was originally published by BG Falcon Media’s independent student publication, The BG News, which can be found here.

New graduate class coming this fall helps combat Islamophobia

A new graduate course coming this fall will help students understand Islamophobia in the past and present through media, such as film and literature.

Khani Begum, who will teach the course called “Deconstructing Islamophobia,” said the class is to help students understand Islam “is not exactly related to terrorism itself, but that it is something certain groups have tried to move in the direction of making Islam their ‘rallying call’ … for their own agendas.”

Begum was inspired to create the class after speaking on panels about Islamophobia in the Bowling Green community.

Growing Islamophobia rhetoric has made its way into politics and at the forefront of mainstream media. Presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump callied for a temporary ban on Muslims entering the United States and former opponent Ted Cruz demanded more policing and heavier monitoring on Muslim communities.

Begum, who is of Muslim, said the class shows how certain media and literatures view Islam and how to address Islamophobia in the graduate students’ own communities.

“When you see someone who is being demonized, what do you do? Do you step in there? How do you inform these people who are … trying to profile?” Begum wants to address these questions.

She said the new rhetoric society has seen post-9/11 isn’t particularly new at all, and Islam is not the first culture to be demonized or feared.

“The same thing happened with the Jewish populations in Europe,” she said. “It’s very similar, the way they were demonized by the Nazis.”

She hopes the course will get students to see this through both literature and film made by both the cultures that demonize Islam, but also medias made by others who showcase the lives of ordinary Muslims.

“We’re going to do a lot of theoretical writings that kind of trace the background … of Islamophobia,” Begum said. “When did it start … how was it first considered in the early centuries and now today? What are the different connotations of it?”

Begum also said the course is taking on a new and “innovative” task.

Students will complete a service learning assignment for their final class project. The students will be connecting with community groups such as Not in Our Town, The Islamic Center of Greater Toledo, or WBGU-TV to produce a project based on the knowledge they have acquired throughout the semester.

“The students will have a chance to either produce a little short that could be shown on WBGU-TV,” she said. “They could do a panel of discussion with people from the community or they could do a short film.”

Only three students have signed up for the class so far, but she’s hoping for more participation as the fall semester approaches.

She also hopes to create an undergraduate class pertaining to Islamophobia.

“It would have to be more literature and film based, and not as much theory,” she said. “But we’d do a few essays … and maybe some media things.”

Not In Our Town examines Islamophobia on campus, nation

Not in Our Town hosted a discussion on Islamophobia in the Union’s theatre Wednesday night to start a conversation on the growing intolerance of Muslims and people who are perceived as Muslim.

NIOT is an initiative that invites the community to stand against acts of discrimination and prejudice against minorities and other marginalized groups.

The event started with a panel of six participants talking for 10 minutes each, followed by a question and answer segment.

The six participants included a representative from the Islamic Center of Greater Toldeo; members of the Muslim Student Association at the University; and the owner of Bowling Green carry out, South Side Six.

The representative from the Islamic Center of Greater Toledo said the mosque (located in Perrysburg) works continuously, as it is their job to educate not only others in the Islamic community, but also the larger community.

Dale Waltz and Eva Davis, the chairs of the Canton Response to Hate Crime Coalition from Canton, Michigan addressed the importance of engagement and relationship building between marginalized communities and groups and law enforcement.

According to Waltz, who is also the Sargent of Canton Towship’s police department, they’ve only had one hate crime reported since the coalition was founded in 2008.

“We take these things seriously,” he said. They do get incident reports, and they are addressed and taken care of.

Eva Davis, who has been the director of Canton’s public library for eight years, said she has changed the library into a “neutral third place” for others to meet people in their community.

Muslim Student Association president Adnan Shareefi was also on the panel and said that a problem is how other people “see” Muslims and that the role of the Muslim Student Association is to engage, educate and encounter bias.

During the Q&A segment of the discussion, one student asked what future educators and researchers could do in order to expand their classrooms or research.

The panelists encouraged the use of class speakers in the classrooms. Not just of adults, but speakers that were also students that they could connect to.

Coalition co-chair Dale Waltz encouraged non-Muslim community members to reach out, connect and think outside of the box when helping minority and marginalized communities.

Not in Our Town will be having another discussion on Islamophobia on Feb. 9 at the Wood County Public Library in Bowling Green.

This posted has been edited and updated by the original author.

This article was originally printed in the independent student publication, The BG News on January 28, 2016. You can find the web edition here.