Posted by: Lister | May 19, 2007

Asmaa Abdol-Hamid

Apparently, it’s controversial to be both Muslim and modern. The Guardian. (Via PM)

The 25-year-old social worker, student and town councillor describes herself as a feminist, a democrat, and a socialist. She has gay friends, opposes the death penalty, supports abortion rights, and could not care less what goes on in other people’s bedrooms. In short, a tolerant Scandinavian and European.

She is also a Palestinian and a devout Muslim who insists on wearing a headscarf, who refuses, on religious grounds, to shake hands with males, and who is bidding fair to be the first Muslim woman ever to enter the Folketing, the Danish parliament in Copenhagen.

For the extreme right, the young activist is a political provocateur, an agent of Islamic fundamentalism bent on infiltrating the seat of Danish democracy. To many on the left, Ms Abdol-Hamid is also problematic, personifying through her dress the reactionary repression of women and an illiberal religious agenda that should have no place in her leftwing “red-green” alliance of socialists and environmentalists.

Ms Abdol-Hamid is unfazed. “I see more Islam here in Denmark than in Iran or in other places in the Middle East,” she says. “It’s easier to be a Muslim in Denmark than in Saudi Arabia. I don’t feel a stranger here. I’m interested in politics. I want to talk about this society, about political issues. But I’m not in politics because I’m a Muslim.”

[…] The Danish People’s Party or DFP, the far-right movement that unofficially props up the weak centre-right government of the prime minister, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, is on the warpath. A couple of DFP politicians compared the headscarf to the Nazi swastika. One described the prospective MP as “brainwashed”.

“We don’t like the idea of her performing as an Islamist in the parliament,” says DFP spokesman Kim Eskildsen. “We find it wrong that she’ll use the parliament as a tool for Islamism … We don’t consider this woman a Nazi. But the way the headscarf is used is comparable to other totalitarian symbols.”

[…] But conservative Muslim leaders are also disapproving of her activism.

“Some Muslims don’t think it’s right for a female to act like this. They go to my father and tell him, get her married, get her married,” she laughs. “Others think you can’t be Muslim and Danish at the same time. Some of the Muslims and the extreme right are just the same.

“And there are women in my party who say that anyone who wears the headscarf is oppressed. It’s like they think I’m dumb. They’re taking away my individuality. We need the right to choose. It’s up to us whether or not we wear headscarves.”

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