The burqa is a dilemma. This ugly expression of religious contempt for women has no place in modern society.

 

The initial question one has when confronted by this fashion vulgarity is why would anyone want to wear such a hideous thing? There is no convenient or simple answer.

 

The strident defense of the burqa by some apologists begs a deeper question. Why is it that religions need to dictate to their believers what they think, do and wear? Can we allow - or prevent - the normalization of extreme religious beliefs? 

My view in the case of the burqa is that it is both a form of control and a social signaling device.

Although many religions dictate the clothing of women, only islam has a full body and face covering like the burqa.

The burqa is problematic. Undeniably;

  • it is sexist; muslim men have no equivalent; and
  • it isolates muslim women from the greater community and hinders civil participation. In the process it dehumanizes women.

Critics of the burqa argue:

  • it literally covers domestic abuse of muslim women. Muslim community leaders often reject the notion that islam permits violence against women. The fact is some muslims do believe it is permissible to discipline your wife.
  • muslim women are forced to wear it. The greater the religiosity of the muslim woman and her community the less choice she will have in wearing the burqa.
  • it is a security risk. If you doubt this, then try entering a bank or service station wearing a motorbike helmet and see how far you get.

Against this is the view that to ban the burqa would undoubtedly foster or enable further spurious claims of victim-hood by islamists. There is also the practical difficulty in enforcing such a ban. And a ban may lead to less interaction in the general community by muslim women who are forced to, or forced to choose to, stay indoors.

As a signaling device the burqa says many things. To non muslims it says I am different - it says I dont want to belong. It says women are unequal and must be segregated.

To muslim women it says if you dont wear the burqa you are a slut. It says you must be docile and observant and subservient. It is a tool of blackmail and intimidation. Undoubtedly it has been used to justify the sexual assault of non muslim women.

Has there been any greater symbol of the religious subjugation of women in modern times? But what would a ban achieve? It wont change the convictions of islamic zealots and it might alienate the less observant muslim. It will divert attention from addressing the root issue of the normalisation of extreme religious beliefs.

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On the flip side - there is some beautiful clothing that comes from the Arab world that I would LOVE to wear - but don't because of 1. Knowing it will make me a target for discrimination and safety!

2. Im not Muslim and it would be offensive to pretend to be (to Muslims.)....But I still shop at a store where I buy pieces from Morocco or Dubai....

Clothing in general for women is hard. Damned if you do, damned if you don't....

I work with a lot of Muslims and a few days ago a Muslim woman, probably a friend of a fellow employee, showed up wearing a gorgeous white silken gown with a turquoise top and headscarf. I almost told her how beautiful she looked and, sadly, might have for fear of getting me (and quite possibly her) in trouble with some of the Muslim men I work with.

Oh My Allah, that story does beg some potentially explosive questions...

@Belle:

"Clothing in general for women is hard. Damned if you do, damned if you don't...."

Go Naked.  I'll get behind you for support. ;D

Clothing in general for women is hard. Damned if you do, damned if you don't....

Because of fifteen years working with women of a nubile age, I got some insights into females and their attire.

Men don't understand the role of clothing in women's lives unless they stop to think about it with an open mind. For one thing, women are on display at all times when they are away from home (in public, at work, at school, etc.) in a way that men are not. How she dresses announces to men and some women whether she's a slut or a prude. 

While I can't totally buy the idea that a female in 5" platform heels, a short skirt, and a top that emphasizes her decolletage is doing so totally for herself and not to get attention, even that isn't proof that she's a slut. She may be looking for attention from suitable males (or whichever sexual variant she likes) but that doesn't mean she's ready to head off to a motel with all comers. 

They also have to put up with comments about their clothing and how it displays their body. Can a male imagine a woman saying, "Why don't you wear tighter pants? You have a great cock!"? No. Yet, a woman might hear something like "Why don't you wear something that shows off those wonderful boobs of yours? You're always wearing such loose tops."

But that's a well-meaning comment.

Women also have to endure catcalls like "Ho, Mama! Love that ass and the way you swing it side to side." Even a less detailed catcall can be unnerving, especially if the female has to pass the same way every day. It needn't even be a catcall. Just being watched and winked at can be distressing because, well, what does it mean?

So, my male buddies, just always be aware that you can walk around and, unless your taste in clothes is bizarre, no one will pay attention to your wardrobe choices. Well, okay gays may have thoughts, but they will likely keep them to themselves.

And isn't it ironic that I gained these insights by working in the porn industry.

@Black Olive:

"I personally have a heavy sweating issue, & I would stink up everything anywhere near me within an hour or less!"

TMI ;)

P.S.  I'm the same way every time I wear my Burka. :)

What and offend Allah???  Blasphemy.  LOL

In Saudi Arabia its ok if a woman chooses to wear such clothing as long as she is accompanied by a male relative at all times when wearing it in public.

It is a tool of ghastly control and power, the vile conversion of women into submissive property and a function of their male realtive's tribal-like honor. It is as sexist as sexism can be. And note that as muslim countries become more secularised and women have more and more of a choice (Turkey, Central Asia, Albania, Philippines) the clothing prison comes off more and more. Once families move to countries that don't enforce the law (especially in the Western world) they start coming off.

It is a nightmarish assault on the dignity of human beings.

well said Davis and it is also sad how many muslim women defend the sartorial splendor of cultish subjugation...i really like the idea of banning it in public

People should be allowed to wear whatever they want. Period.

Privately?

Yes 

In public?

Should we allow the badges of oppression in public? I dont think so. 

I agree as to persons who have not suffered the slings and arrows of outrageous religious indoctrination. But governments ought not give tacit approval of subjugation.

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