In his “historic” speech to the Muslim world, Barack Obama spoke up for the rights of women. The first example Obama used was the right of Muslim women in the West to wear hair covering (italics mine):
The sixth issue that I want to address is women’s rights.
I know there is debate about this issue. I reject the view of some in the West that a woman who chooses to cover her hair is somehow less equal, but I do believe that a woman who is denied an education is denied equality. And it is no coincidence that countries where women are well-educated are far more likely to be prosperous.
Another odd choice by Obama, just like his claim that “rules” in the U.S. make if “harder” for Muslims to donate to charity. Obama may have thought he was being brave by speaking up for Muslim women in the West, but he was being cowardly because in many Muslim countries women are forced to wear veils, burqas, and other types of clothing which are part-and-parcel of the subjugation of women. By focusing on the right to wear hair covering, not the oppressive practices in which hair covering and more restrictive clothing is forced upon women, Obama threw women’s liberation under the bus.
Obama really would have been brave if he told the Muslim world that just as we will fight for the right of Muslim women in the West to wear hair covering, we will stand up for the right of all women not to wear hair covering or other restrictive clothing. That would have been a truly historic statement, rather than politically correct nonsense:
And what’s all this about head scarves? “I reject the view of some in the West that a woman who chooses to cover her hair is somehow less equal,” Obama said. Talk about a straw man. Isn’t the real wardrobe issue for many Muslim women that they must cover, smother and nearly blind themselves in burqas, whether that’s their choice or not?
And Obama could break with the tradition, not unique to Obama or to any one political party,
of by refusing to have American women representing this country forced to wear head covering when visiting Muslim countries. Hillary Clinton, Laura Bush, Nancy Pelosi, and many other women who are successful and supportive of women’s rights have engaged in this practice when traveling to Muslim countries.
Respect is a two-way street, and if we are to respect the practices of Muslim women, Muslims should respect the practices of non-Muslim women.