You're here: Home - Biography & Images - Shaimaa Khalil 2 Comments

Shaimaa Khalil - Biography and Images

Shaimaa Khalil is the BBC’s Pakistan correspondent

  • My most humble opinions

    Sharma, hi.
    I have just read your article about Burkinis on beaches…
    VERY well written piece – nice to see the BBC can still publish well written articles!
    Anyway, to my point:
    I am overweight. The last time I went a beach, I wore, sat, swam and everything else in a t-shirt.
    Yes, I do get ridiculed for it, but it is for MY comfort and it is MY choice.
    It helps to hide the, let’s call it ‘middle-age-spread’, whilst also helping to prevent a deeper sunburn due to the fat heating deeper, lasting longer and, generally, being more painful.
    Hence, I somewhat sympathise with the strange looks, etc..
    I know there are differences – I am not ‘required’ to cover up any part of me, but I support those who do wear a Burkini, for their own, individual choice.

    I must admit, I am pretty ignorant of the differences between Burka, Hijab, Burkini, etc. and I do believe there are times when a full covering is somewhat inappropriate – e.g. a Court hearing, or other instance where unequivocal identification is required.
    However, ‘time and place’ comes to mind and people (NO differentiation at all!) should just be allowed to do what is comfortable and right for them.
    The ban is, in my most humble opinion, wrong! Period.
    I have worked and been to beaches with friends wearing similar clothing, due to their religion, but it has NEVER crossed my mind not to accept it. It’s life, it’s people having fun.
    Keep on having fun and enjoying yourself – that is all that matters.
    A quote that, also, comes to mind is:
    ‘Those that matter don’t mind and those that mind don’t matter’.
    Would you want these ognorant people as friends?
    I am taking the liberty that the answer is ‘no’, so it it does not matter what they think…

    Good article, nice perspective.
    Thank you for your insight!

    One day, we will all be bought but a memory – I hope we can all be good ones…

  • Contrarian Progressive

    I read your piece on burkini and I thought that it was a
    well-argued post with a reasonable message.

    The problem I had with it, is the narrow personal context in
    which you placed the issue. If it is a matter of personal choice, as far as I
    am concerned, you can wear a burkini, a bikini, a dragon outfit or nothing at
    all. I wouldn’t take another look in your direction and I would wholeheartedly
    support your right to choose.

    But what if the choice was imposed upon you unbeknownst to

    The implicit assumption behind your piece is that for most
    Muslims covering up your head and body (and frequently your face) is an Islamic
    requirement. And it is one of the sine qua non rules of Islam.

    If you go back and take a look at family albums in Egypt or
    any other Muslim country (except perhaps the Gulf countries where misogyny has
    always been paramount) you will find that from the 1930’s onwards women either
    wore no headscarves or if they did if was a loosely tied around the chin
    “echarpe” favoured by contemporary Catholic women as well.

    Burqa, niqab and hijab are much later creations. I can
    provide links to Pakistan, Afghanistan, Egypt, North Africa, Turkey and
    Indonesia to prove that covering yourself up was not the norm. I am sure you
    must have seen the clip of Nasser laughing his head off about a suggestion by a
    Muslim Brotherhood man to enforce headscarves. He says, “do it yourself in your
    family if you can.”

    The change took place after 1979. The House of Saud, which
    allowed movies, music and a lively urban lifestyle after huge oil revenues, had
    a rude awakening with the seizure of the Grand Mosque of Mecca by several
    hundred Wahhabis. The King killed them all but he also agreed to their demands,
    including banning music and movies and removing girls from schools, and he also
    decided to spend their new fortune on changing Islam.

    Between then and now, Saudi Arabia spent roughly $200
    billion to reduce Islam into three simple precepts.

    (a)Islamic garb is a must for women and they should be
    covered at all times (eventually Islamic garb became also a requirement for men
    but not in the same compulsory way);

    (b) Alcohol is one of the biggest sins in Islam and true
    Muslims should never drink, never go into places where alcohol is sold and be
    friends with people who drink.

    (c) Blasphemy, that is insulting the Qur’an or Islam, is the
    biggest sin of them all and should be punished by death.

    Ask around and all your Muslim friends will agree with these

    To reinforce this message, they built madrassas and mosques everywhere
    in the world. In Pakistan it was Zia ul Haq that made it possible by
    eliminating secular schools, in Turkey it was another general, Evren who pushed
    Koranic courses, in Indonesia it was Suharto who converted in 1989, in Egypt,
    it was Anwar Sadat who led the Islamisation of the army and society (little
    good did to him). All with Saudi money. Not only did they build those madrassas
    and mosques but they dispatched hundreds of thousands of radical imams to carry
    the message.

    Let’s look at those three precepts to see if what they say
    is true.

    Alcohol. It might surprise you that the Holy Book does not
    ban alcohol. In fact, when something is forbidden, Qur’an does not equivocate.
    For instance about pork: “Forbidden unto you are carrion and blood and
    swine-flesh…. (5. Al Ma’ idah: 3).

    For alcohol, this is what was revealed:

    “They question you about strong drink and games of
    chance. Say: In both is great abuse and usefulness for mankind; but the abusive
    side of them is greater than their usefulness.” (2. Al-Baqarah :219).

    As you know, Qur’an is not translated, it is rendered.
    Typically this is rendered as “great sin and usefulness”. A sin cannot have
    great usefulness. The Qur’an also says this:

    “O you who believe! Draw not near unto prayer when you
    are drunken, till you know that which you utter,. ….” (4. An-Nisa: 43).

    Hardly a “forbidden unto you” message. But ask any Muslim
    you know, they will say that it is strictly forbidden.

    As for covering up women, hijab, burqa or niqab are never
    mentioned in the Holy Book. People who want to cover women up usually quote
    verses 30-31 of An-Nisa (24) surah. These verses talk about what should be
    private and what should be public. If you take into account 5:6 about daily
    ablutions, you realize that hands, arms, feet, face, head and hair are not considered
    private. Yet, currently in some societies, even a burqa is sometimes not enough

    But perhaps the best example of Saudisation of Islam is the
    question of blasphemy, you know, the motivator behind all kinds of terrorist
    activities. In the Qur’an you have two passages dealing with the issue of
    making fun of or insulting Islam. The first is Al-An’am (68)

    “And when you see those who engage in [offensive] discourse
    concerning Our verses, then turn away from them until they enter into another
    conversion. And if Satan should cause you to forget, then do not remain after
    the reminder with the wrongdoing people.”

    This was revealed to the Prophet when he was in Mecca and it
    was the mashrikun making fun of Islam. Ask any Muslim scholar how offensive
    this should be, yet the instruction is clear: do nothing, move away.

    Then, several years later in Medina, Christians and Jews
    made fun of Islam. This is what was revealed (An-Nisa (140))

    “And it has already come down to you in the Book that when
    you hear the verses of Allah [recited], they are denied [by them] and
    ridiculed; so do not sit with them until they enter into another conversation.
    Indeed, you would then be like them. Indeed Allah will gather the hypocrites
    and disbelievers in Hell all together.”

    Two extremely clear revelations by Allah on blasphemy. Yet,
    there is not a single Muslim state that does not punish the same crime with
    either long prison sentences or death. Is there a bigger sin in Islam than
    knowingly and willfully disobeying Allah? Yet all Islamic organizations and
    states are doing it in broad daylight.

    Ask any Muslim what the Holy Book says about blasphemy. I
    guarantee you that all of them will tell you it is a mortal sin punishable by
    death. This is why they reacted to the Danish cartoons and Charlie Hebdo

    That is because no one bothers to read the Qur’an, instead
    they take the word of their local imam who clearly has a different agenda than
    enlightening them.

    Do you see what I mean by Saudisation of Islam?

    Your burkini or hijab should be your choice.

    But if someone spent a great deal of money and effort to
    make sure that Muslims define themselves through these three precepts, then you
    should question why a burkini or hijab or burqa might not be a personal choice.
    If they persuaded you that without it you are no longer a Muslim, there can be
    no personal choice. And this is exactly what had been done.

    At this point, my friends invariably ask my why Saudi Arabia
    did this. I say, you tell me.

    But I will tell you this, there is another interesting twist
    to this massive effort. It is about Muslims in the West.

    If you think about it, making you wear special garments in
    the middle of a Western society and asking you to cut yourself off from anyone
    who consumes alcohol or anyplace that sells the stuff is a perfect way to
    isolate you, to ostracize you. It is designed to turn you inward and to make
    you “the other.”

    It was a slow moving process until 9/11. The rising
    Islamophobia afterwards helped those imams enormously. Many Muslim women in
    Europe began to wear hijab as a political statement. And when they were greeted
    with open hostility, their imams were there to remind them what they preached
    previously. They hate you because you are Muslims, they said.

    So, Muslims in the West began to turn inwardly. You started
    seeing women in burqas or almost burqas following men with shaved heads and
    bushy beard wearing shalwar kameezes. Molenbeek in Belgium or Saint Denis
    outside Paris will give you enough visuals on that score. And the more they
    turned themselves into the other, the more the larger society treated them with
    hostility and contempt.

    And their imams told them, you see, that is because you are
    Muslims. It is a vicious cycle with both sides stubbornly and blindly playing
    their part.

    In that context, the lost souls of the second generation
    became easy targets for radicalization. But that is another story.

    So if you see burkini as a personal choice, that is one
    thing and I am with you on that.

    But if burkini is part of an effort to change what being a
    Muslim is through three silly precepts then you need to discuss its political
    context as well. Because in that context, Islamic garb is something designed to
    isolate you, to turn you into “the other” and to force you to face a hostile
    reaction from the larger society.

    Please don’t tell me that the larger society has no business
    reacting to you. Thanks to the third precept i.e., blasphemy Islamic garb is
    now firmly associated with violence. It is unfair but so is life.

    And it was and still is the responsibility of Muslims to
    take back their religion that was hijacked by a cynical ruling family.

    When people ask me about Islam, they silent question is
    “what is wrong with Islam?” I do two things. First I tell them the answer to
    their silent question is “Muslims who are too lazy to learn about their
    religion and rely on misogynistic Salafist imams”.

    Second, I buy them a copy of Karen Armstrong’s book on Islam
    (which is available for free on the Internet in pdf form) as it is the best
    source to find out that Islam, outside the shackles of political authority, is
    a glorious religion.