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Hijab, burqa, abaya, veil: different names for the same phenomenon, the reason for increasing tension between the Muslim world and the West.

From a fine of one euro, they now move to imprisonment. Repression is hitting Iran, where parliament passed a law that introduces very severe punishment – up to 10 years in prison – for women who dare not wear the hijab, the Islamic women’s veil, in public places.

152 deputies of the Iranian parliament voted for the bill called “On the Hijab and Chastity,” with only 34 votes against it and seven abstentions. Now, in order to enter into force, the document must be approved by the “Council of Guardians of the Constitution,” a body consisting mainly of ultra-conservative theologians and lawyers. There is little doubt about the final “yes.”

As a representative of the Iranian parliament explained, “the main goal of the new initiative of legislators is to strengthen control over compliance with the Islamic dress code by Iranian women.” Currently, women can be stopped by the police, fined (from 0.1 to 10 euros) or subjected to other forms of “corrective punishment” for “inappropriate appearance.”

When the new law comes into force – there is a three-year “trial” period – fines will rise to €4,000-€8,000 for women who “simply” do not wear the burqa, and up to 10 years in prison for those who do not comply with the rule in an “organized manner and encourage others to follow their example.” Punishments are also provided for owners of shops serving Iranian women who do not comply with the Muslim “dress code,” as well as owners of cars in which women “are not covered with a veil.”

The new law was passed amid mass protests in Iran on the anniversary of Mahsa Amini’s death. This 22-year-old Iranian girl died under still unclear circumstances on September 16, 2022, after being taken into custody by religious police “for improperly wearing the veil.”

The issue of Islamic dress code has become a subject of great tension between the authorities of European countries and their respective Muslim communities. France has banned in schools the abaya, women’s clothing, which is a long black dress made of light fabric that covers the entire body except the head, legs, and arms. In 2004, French law had already banned religious symbols such as the Islamic veil, the kippah for Jews, or the crucifix for Christians, so as not to “contradict the secular character of French public schools.”

A bill banning the burqa has also been passed in Switzerland. Following a positive decision by the Cantonal Council, the National Council also approved the ban on “face concealment” on September 20, by 151 votes against 29, with 6 abstentions. Therefore, in Switzerland, the eyes, nose, and mouth must be visible in all public or private places accessible to the public. “Exceptions are made for those who ride a motorcycle, for health reasons, or in places of worship,” said Swiss parliamentarian Michel Buffat. According to the document, violation of the ban on concealing the face will be punishable by a fine of up to 1,000 francs (about 1,041.6 euros). Exceptions are made for those traveling by air, in diplomatic offices, or places of worship.

Although Pope Francis encourages tolerance, there is certainly no shortage of news about the punishment of “disobedient” people in Muslim countries. The latest example was reported by the Italian site Il Post, according to which in Indonesia, a young Muslim woman Lina Lutfiawati, well-known influencer with more than two million followers on TikTok, “was sentenced to two years in prison for posting a video of herself saying ‘Bismillah’ – the phrase meaning ‘in the name of God’ in Arabic – before eating the crispy pork skin.”

Lutfiawati tried to explain that she tried pork, the consumption of which is strictly forbidden by Islam, “out of curiosity,” while on holiday on the tourist island of Bali, where, unlike the rest of the country, the majority of the population is Hindu. The video was declared blasphemous by the Nahdlatul Ulama, Indonesia’s highest Muslim clerical body, after which the Palembang District Court on the western island of Sumatra (western part of the country) accused Lutfiawati, known on TikTok as Lina Mukherjee, of “disseminating information aimed at inciting hatred against individuals and religious groups.” In addition to the two-year prison sentence, she was also ordered to pay a fine of 250 million Indonesian rupiah (about 15,000 euros), which is about four times the average annual salary in Indonesia.

Giornalisti e Redattori di Pluralia

Editorial board