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Fwd: [TheAligarhForum] Three articles on medical aspects and history of Burqa from the Alig Forum

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  • Mohammad Imran
    ... Ghazali saheb & all, ASAK, No, it is not the TOI s report alone (there are plenty of others, already existing in the print media, since many years).
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 14, 2013

      Ghazali saheb & all,


      No, it is not the TOI's report alone (there are plenty of others, already existing in the print media, since many years). neither it is any secular side's onslaught (many among secularists are very practicing Muslims as well, and they too do care a lot about Islam).

      The issue --I let it continue --is for two reasons ---to see how educated ones in our India Muslim society react and express based on their feelings, understandings and inclinations.The other equally important reason --what exactly science says (some with scientific background among us -- insist only on one kind of conclusion --that it is not true; where as others of similar scientific background produce literature  in support of this problem)

      So, please do not consider it as any witch-hunting on a single TOI article --many among us know how Muslim-friendly TOI has been. But aside from it, that article just re-freshed a scenario ,a condition which exists in our society, and on which some Muslims reflect in one way, others reflect in other way------why we all Muslims have to be clones of each others, reflecting, interpreting exactly in the same manner --if we could not interpret Quran and Hadith universally in one manner (from all four schools to Wahabism to Shiites and what not), so how do we all anticipate that we all will come to unison on this or many other issues. After all that is precisely the meaning of any debate --to come to know how others think differently and whether there is any space and room for these differing thoughts to come to a common minimum. .................although I come from a very highly educated family (a fourth generation university graduate), yet most of my family women still wear Burqa in Azamgarh ---but the same women (including my 86 yrs old mother) never do outside of Azamgarh..in Delhi, in Aligarh, anywhere else.......so I know how strong the bonds of tradition are, I respect them, but we should not just minimize or ignore these traditions' fault-lines. So, please all! do not think that the secularists are jumping because of this one TOI article. It is rather much deeper an issue, like many other contested issues. 

      Below, again, are bunch of articles ---some written by Muslims...on this same "not disappearing Burqa--in-health" issue. Nothing personal. The best that we all can do is to debate  gentlemanly-----remaining sober,decent without agreeing or with agreeing.....we are not going to solve, nor our intent is to remove Burqa from our midst. We are just trying to understand an issue from its psychological, health and cultural/ social aspects...as educated responsible members of our community.... not merely religious ..that it says, so nothing to talk..

      Thanks and regards.


      Islamic Society (08 Jul 2012 NewAgeIslam.Com)
      Burqa and Health Implications for Women: Two Aspects

      By Aiman Reyaz, New Age Islam

      Every time we see or hear about burqa we think about religious and sociological aspects but seldom do we ponder about the health and psychological aspects related to the burqa, which are equally, if not more important.

      When we see (or don’t see!) women covered from head to toe in a burqa we mostly think either of the two things: a) she is a deeply religious person; and b) she is an oppressed victim of male domination. But rarely do we bother about her feelings and the experience of being all but invisible. Nor do we worry about her health or what psychological changes are taking place in her body and mind with this seemingly unnatural practice for someone not living in a desert and trying to protect herself from sandstorms.

      It is time we thought about it and did something about it. There is evidence that a lot of things are going on in a burqa-clad person’s mind unconsciously and a lot of health-related changes taking place in her body, without her being aware of it, even in desert-based societies.

      One Aspect

      In the medical community there is a good deal of concern about the health and psychological effects of the extreme styles of Islamic dress. The main issue is the lack of Vitamin D deficiency due to lack of skin being exposed to the sun. According to A.A. Mishal: “There is huge amount of credible scientific evidence that almost all women who observe the full burqa are deficient in Vitamin D and since Vitamin D is a vital nutrient, its deficiency can lead to various kinds of diseases. Low levels of Vitamin D have been linked to a whole host of devastating disorders including cardiovascular diseases, Type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis. There is also a strong association between deficiency in Vitamin D and an increased risk of developing several deadly cancers, including breast cancer”. (1)

      Since most of the Vitamin D intake is from sunlight exposure, there is concern for women who wear the full burqa, covering from top to bottom, leaving only the eyes and wrist. This greatly reduces the surface area of the body which is exposed to sunlight; hence this leads to low amount of Vitamin D being synthesized. Such low rates of Vitamin D production will quickly exhaust the body’s excess emergency stores of Vitamin D contained in the fat and the person will likely go into a deficient state.

      A study performed by doctors at King Fahd University Hospital in Saudi Arabia (2) showed that out of all 52 women tested, all had seriously deficient levels of Vitamin D and were at risk of many serious health problems, despite living in one of the sunniest places on the planet. Furthermore, in a study undertaken in Jordan, 83.3% of women wearing the most covering style of Islamic dresses were found to be deficient in summer time. Jordan, like Saudi Arabia, holds the distinction of being one of the sunniest places on the planet, so the effect of wearing the burqa on Vitamin D levels and health is profound.

      There is a strong association between deficiency in Vitamin D and an increased risk of developing several deadly cancers, including breast cancer. (3) The concern is not only towards the woman who chooses to observe the more covering forms of Islamic dress but also towards any potential children she may carry. Infants born to vitamin D deficient mothers have been found to suffer from an increased prevalence of seizures. If these children observe the full hijab in childhood, they run the risk of not reaching the height they would have otherwise reached if they were not vitamin D deficient.

      It has been noted that those who wear burqa feel constricted and will have very low chance of exercising. Burqa can and does discourage exercise both psychologically and practically. They are being conditioned to remain in a limited space and attract as little attention as possible. Since exercising, even minor and easy ones, require body movements these women just cannot push themselves to do it and because of their mind being conditioned to remain in the limited space, they feel that “something is not right” when they try to exercise and finally they quit very early.

      According to The Economist magazine’s world rankings, (4) the countries with the highest obesity rates among women are Muslim countries and a 2006 study (5) found that up to 70 percent of women living in the Gulf Arab states were overweight or obese.

      The Other Aspect

      Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. Over the past 31 years, more people have had skin cancer than all other cancers combined. Melanoma is the most common form of cancer for adults and the second most common for young people. The vast majority of mutations found in melanoma are caused by ultraviolet radiation.

      Science today has indeed confirmed that women are far more susceptible to catching skin cancer from the sun's ultraviolet rays than men. Science today has also confirmed that women's skins are a lot more sensitive to pain then men's, and hence, damage to their skin is a lot more painful and hurtful than damage to the men's skin.


      So I would like to suggest that one should not follow either extreme, i.e., do not wear a head to toe burqa and do not wear fully revealing clothes; wear according to the climate and the surrounding but make sure it is modest. It would be uncomfortable to wear a burqa in a sultry climate; similarly it will be uncomfortable to wear skimpy clothes in a cold climate.

      Disclaimer: This article has focused only on the burqa-clad women’s health and psychological issues arising out of the full veil and does not take into account any religious dictates.


      1.       ‘Effects of Different Dress Styles on Vitamin D Levels in Healthy Young Jordanian Women. Osteoporosis International, 2001. 12(11): p. 931-935.’ By A A Mishal.

      2.       Elsammak, M.Y., et al., Vitamin D deficiency in Saudi Arabs. Hormone and Metabolic Research, 2010. 42(5): p. 364-368.

      3.       (Holick, M.F., Sunlight and vitamin D for bone health and prevention of autoimmune diseases, cancers, and cardiovascular disease. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 2004. 80(6 Suppl).

      4.       (Caroline May – ‘The burqa may be making Muslim women fatter by discouraging exercise’ - The Daily Caller, July 1, 2010)

      5.       The study was presented by Qatari expert Issam Abd Rabbu at the "Facts About Obesity" seminar.

      URL: http://newageislam.com/islamic-society/aiman-reyaz,-new-age-islam/burqa-and-health-implications-for-women--two-aspects/d/7860

      In the Media

      Women could endanger their health by wearing burqas

      By Adriana Stuijt
      May 8, 2009 in Health

      Read more: http://digitaljournal.com/article/272307#ixzz2WDeeFTIv
      Forget evening dresses and bikinis. The girls who participate in a ten-week-long beauty contest in Saudi-Arabia are disguised in black burqas. And the winner will be the woman with 'the greatest 'inner beauty'.
      The burqas are very controversial among health authorities in Western countries, who are increasingly having to deal with the often very serious medical consequences suffered by the growing number of Islamic women who are now migrating into Western Europe, but who are also still being coerced into wearing the burqa mainly through family pressure and imams at their local mosques.
      Medical experts in the West warn that Islamic women wearing these all-encompassing burqas in the northerly climates, which have far less sunshine, suffer much more from osteoporosis due to a lack of Vitamin D.
      The garments don't let through enough sunshine. And their newborn babies are prone to getting more seizures for the same reason.
      "In Ireland, which is experiencing a large influx of muslim immigrants at the moment, women wearing the burqa, doctors are warning, 'are at increased risk of pelvic fractures during childbirth because of vitamin D deficiency due to a lack of sunlight. "And babies born to women with vitamin D deficiency are also more prone to seizures in their first week of life," according to Dr Miriam Casey, expert in Medicine for the Elderly at the Osteoporosis Unit in St James’s hospital in Dublin. The burqa - an all-enveloping outer garment, does not allow enough sunlight through to give women sufficient vitamin D, she warns.
      However it's not known whether the young women who are participating in the beauty contest in Saudi Arabia, might be suffering from rickets -- the condition caused by vitamin-D deficiencies.
      Inner beauty contest does not consider health issues of the Burqa
      Map of Saudi Arabia
      Map of Saudi Arabia
      However, the 'inner-beauty' contest in Saudi Arabia does not consider their physical health, as opposed to a recent incident during a beauty contest in the West, when a contestant failed to win the beauty title because she looked very 'anorexic'.
      What makes the situation doubly tragic is that women who are constantly being denied access to direct sunlight, can be cured very easily: basically, treatment against rickets involves more exposure to sunshine, and increased dietary intake of HGH, phosphates. Especially important would be exposure toultraviolet B light (sunshine when the sun is highest in the sky), cod liver oil, halibut-liver oil, and viosterol are all sources of vitamin D. Basically, if they didn't have the burqa, they would be healthy.
      A sufficient amount of ultraviolet B light in sunlight each day and adequate supplies of calcium and phosphorus in the diet can prevent rickets. Also important: darker-skinned people need to be exposed longer to its ultraviolet rays. The replacement of vitamin D has been proven to cure rickets using these methods of ultraviolet light therapy and medicine. see
      The contest starts on Saturday in the Islamic country and will be judged by a female jury for a whopping ten weeks. The entire country is ruled by Sharia law. Women are not allowed to drive cars, have their own bank accounts, cannot go shopping without male relatives, and are allowed outdoors only when enveloped in the familiar, thick black shrouds.
      Two hundred girls have signed up for the contest, aged from fifteen to 25 years.Associated Press interviewed one hopeful, Sukaina al-Zayer, writing: "She covers her face and body in black robes and an Islamic veil, so no one can tell what she looks like. She also admits she's a little on the plump side."
      But at Saudi Arabia's only beauty pageant, the judges don't care about a perfect figure or face - nor about their health.

      What they're looking for in the quest for "Miss Beautiful Morals" is the contestant who shows the most devotion and respect for her parents.
      "The idea of the pageant is to measure the contestants' commitment to Islamic morals... It's an alternative to the calls for decadence in the other beauty contests that only take into account a woman's body and looks," said pageant founder Khadra al-Mubarak."The winner won't necessarily be pretty," she added. "We care about the beauty of the soul and the morals."
      So after the pageant opens Saturday, the nearly 200 contestants will spend the next 10 weeks attending classes and being quizzed on themes including "Discovering your inner strength," "The making of leaders" and "Mom, paradise is at your feet" — a saying attributed to Islam's Prophet Muhammad to underline that respect for parents is among the faith's most important tenets.
      Pageant hopefuls will also spend a day at a country house with their mothers, where they will be observed by female judges and graded on how they interact with their mothers, al-Mubarak said. Since the pageant is not televised and no men are involved, contestants can take off the veils and black figure-hiding abayas they always wear in public.
      The Miss Beautiful Morals pageant is the latest example of conservative Muslims co-opting Western-style formats to spread their message in the face of the onslaught of foreign influences flooding the region through the Internet and satellite television.
      A newly created Islamic music channel owned by an Egyptian businessman aired an "American Idol"-style contest for religious-themed singers this month. And several Muslim preachers have become talk-show celebrities by adopting an informal, almost Oprah-like television style, in contrast to the solemn clerics who traditionally appear in the media.
      Now in its second year, the number of pageant contestants has nearly tripled from the 75 women who participated in 2008. The pageant is open to women between 15 and 25. The winner and two runners up will be announced in July, with the queen taking home $2,600 and other prizes. The runners up get $1,300 each.
      Last year's winner, Zahra al-Shurafa, said the contest gives an incentive to young women and teens to show more consideration toward their parents."I tell this year's contestants that winning is not important," said al-Shurafa, a 21-year-old English major. "What is important is obeying your parents."
      There are few beauty pageants in the largely conservative Arab world.
      The most dazzling one, for years, has been in Lebanon, the region's most liberal country, where contestants appear on TV in one-piece swimsuits and glamorous evening gowns and answer questions that test their confidence and general knowledge.
      There are no such displays in ultra-strict Saudi Arabia, where until Miss Beautiful Morals was inaugurated last year, the only pageants were for goats, sheep, camels and other animals, aimed at encouraging livestock breeding.
      This year's event kicks off Saturday in the mainly Shi'ite Muslim town of Safwa, and mostly draws local Shi'ite contestants. But it's open to anyone — and this year, 15 Sunni Muslims are also participating, al-Mubarak said. "This is a beautiful thing," she added.
      There have long been tensions between the two sects in the kingdom. Hard-liners in the Sunni majority consider Shi'ites infidels, and the Shi'ites often complain of discrimination and greater levels of poverty.
      Al-Zayer, a 24-year-old international management student, said she signed up because she is the "spitting image" of her mother. "I'm proud of my devotion to my parents," she said.
      What does she think of Lebanon's beauty contests?"It's a matter of cultural differences," she said. "In Saudi Arabia, they are Islamically unacceptable."
      The decision will fall in July. The woman with the most beautiful soul will win 2,600 dollars.It's not known whether she'd be allowed to keep it, though.
      Read more: http://digitaljournal.com/article/272307#ixzz2WDeUmVdA

      Middle East Quarterly

      Ban the Burqa? The Argument in Favor

      by Phyllis Chesler
      Middle East Quarterly
      Fall 2010, pp. 33-45 (view PDF)



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