Saturday, May 14, 2011

The burqa and why I do not support it.

You might think that I am over-focusing on Islam recently, and maybe I am. But at this point in time, nothing frightens me more than the prospect of Sharia courts opening where I live, the prospect of Islam and Islamic views becoming more widespread where I live.

However, there are glimmers of hope, from those who are not too scared of being 'Islamophobic' to do the right thing.

Words cannot express how impressed I am with Sarkozy for this.

The French government has done things much righter here than I expected them to.

Imposing such harsh penalties and potential jail time for those who attempt to force others to cover their faces (as is the case in many traditional islamic families) is absolutely the right thing to do. The fact that this penalty is much higher than the one for a woman who refuses to remove her veil to reveal her identity sends absolutely the right message.

I recognise the argument that everybody should be free to wear whatever they want, whether covered up, or bare, but let's be frank.

The burka is not a symbol of female empowerment. The burka is symbolic of female suppression. Suppression of individuality, and more importantly, suppression of sexuality.

The central idea of the burka is female modesty. The central idea of female modesty is that women must refrain from arousing men and leading men into sin. If they arouse men, then men cannot be held responsible for what they do to 'uncovered' women.

No, really. That last sentence is what a Sheikh here in Sydney said about women (ew). He likened men to animals and women as pieces of 'uncovered meat', stating that the animals cannot then be held responsible for eating the meat.

The mind boggles, doesn't it?

I can't help but wonder why, if as some muslims insist, the burqa is for the protection of women, the women are the ones with the limitations and restrictions placed upon them.

Surely, if it is the men who are harbouring the lustful, sinful thoughts, they are the ones that should be required to be fitted with blinkers or blinders to stop them from looking at women. Surely, the onus should be placed on the offender to not offend, rather than on the victim to police the offender's behaviour. I can't help but think that this would be the case if womens' well-being was the focus.

The entire concept of female modesty as a 'protection for women' is repulsively misogynistic, as it implies that if one is not 'modest', one is willfully endangering oneself and therefore is then partially to blame for any harassment or assault that may then occur.

I do also recognise the argument that 'westernised' women are equally conditioned to bare more skin, to expose their sexuality, to the extent where appearance is valued so much that mental disorders like anorexia nervosa and bulimia become more frequent within the society.

I rail against the sexualisation of women, too. Very much so. But the western perception of female sexuality is dichotomous; the Madonna-whore complex. For example, the west has a conversational equivalent of the burqa, and that is; the word 'slut'. Calling women derogatory names, in an attempt to police 'inappropriate' (whatever that is) sexual bevaviour. The thought process behind calling a woman a slut, is almost the same as the one that makes people want to force women to hide their faces. However, it's a slightly more nuanced issue, that I will tackle at whatever point I can make enough sense of it to provide a coherent, cohesive argument against it.

Furthermore, and arguably, more importantly, it is a security risk to have people roaming around hiding their identities.

I, personally, will not feel safe in a community where people are allowed to, and do run around covering their faces, leaving me unable to identify them in the case of an assault, or robbery, or any crime. That is not a safe environment to be in. I think that even when the time comes, that burkas have ceased to be widespread as a symbol of female suppression (way, waaay into the future), it still would not be right to allow groups of people to roam around in face-hiding garb.

In sum, I absolutely do not think that sexist practices should be tolerated anywhere, but especially in civilised nations, simply by virtue of them being a religious aspect of a foreign culture. Tradition and religion are not valid reasons for the continuation of a behaviour.


  1. The logic of this practice is crazy to me. This would be like saying that you should have to drive a crappy car because if you drive a nice one I can not be held responsible for my impulse to steal it. People are forced to control their desires all the time.

    Also, what does it say about the men? Do they not care that they equate themselves with animals? Do they not care that they are labeled as so evolutionarily insuffficient that they do not even have basic skills like impulse control?

    Way to go France on this one. I hope the rest of Western civilization follows suit.

  2. It seems to me, woman who wear burka's are being controlled by men. So when I hear the excuse 'it's part of my religion' I just can't take it seriously!

    Great post!

  3. Not to mention religion is a joke anyways, its just a form of mass control no matter what religion you practice.

  4. I love the way you explain your thougths.

  5. Have you read the Millenuim series? I'd love to read your opinion :D

  6. I appreciate this post. My partner and I have had several discussions on this subject, and we always come back around to the fact that yes, women (everyone, in fact) has the right to wear what they want. BUT... the burka is not a fashion statement. It is a sign of suppression. And the women who wear the burka are either forced to, or they've been brainwashed to think that it empowers them to wear it. Which is bullshit. Thanks for such an in-depth post on the subject!

  7. Chia; Exactly. That's precisely why I'm at a complete loss to understand how anybody could respect such a practice.

    Sarah; They are, definitely, whether consciously or subconsciously. The Abrahamic religions, and most religions in general, are very anti-woman.

    AlCapwn; Pretty much. It's a crutch for the weak. Which would be fine by me, if these weak didn't try to foist their bullshit onto MY life.

    Anon; Thankyou! :D
    Anon (not sure if it's the same anon as above); You know, I had heard a lot about those books, but never gave them a second glance just because of all the hype. Hype about something makes me not want to be a part of it, generally. But reading the wiki page, I think I might give it a shot. Thankyou!

    Sparrow; It's quite a complex issue, I think. There are so many contradictions that emerge. Even I haven't wrapped my head around it completely yet. I'm glad you enjoyed it! :D

  8. Just like any victim of rape is obviously "asking for it". I agree, religion is a bullshit excuse to condone oppression. I am thankful to have grown up in a society where this kind of treatment is unacceptable. I hope it stays that way.

  9. I think you are amazing :)
    Can I be your secret admirer

  10. I find it astounding that society as a whole still struggles with the idea that women are people too.

  11. You should check out Toronto's "Slut Walk" because of a quote from the police surrounding an issue of rape at a university:

    "The comment put forth by one of the officers, that women should “avoid dressing like sluts in order to not be victimized,” has caused outrage throughout the Osgoode community and beyond, and has made national news headlines."

  12. Yes, that's what prompted my little edit in there about 'slut' being a conversational burqa.

    Fuck, I love Canada.

  13. Meeka; Me too. If it shows any signs of changing, I'm moving to Canada.

    Anon; XD Lol. Of course. But why are you anonymous!

    Megan; Ditto. It the stupidity of it all that keeps me up at night.

  14. Because, I would prefer to remain anonymous.
    Being your "secret" admirer generally requires me to be secret.
    You write with such conviction, with such passion.

    I think you will go far, in whatever it is you choose to do.

    *smiles* xo

  15. What do you have to hide?! Huh?! Huh?!

    Also, shush. You'll make me blush. XD

  16. Fuck u they can wear what ever they want it is dignity instead of being whores they are choosing it if they did nit agree they could wear a simple head scarf and normal clothes or atleast wear enough clothes to cover instead of walking around not considered human

  17. "they are choosing it" - now that's extremely debateable.

    As to the rest of your points, they need not be addressed, because this isn't Saudi Arabia.

  18. Er, sorry to say but I totally disagree with you on this post apart from the assertion that Abrahamic religions suck (they do). Forcing women to wear whatever is wrong whether it's the burka in the Taliban context or a bikini in the context of human trafficking. To legislate against any piece of clothing is wrong. The fact that you say every woman feels oppressed wearing it is not only misinformed and subjective but also wrong. Have you talked to anyone wearing it? And for your info not every single woman that wears it is from a fundamentalist family or even a Muslim one.I don't know whether those blogs are still around but I read two blogs one by a white American atheist and one by a white Buddhist convert who wear the burka and were kicked out of their homes for doing so (noone wants their kid being different). They quoted exactly the words empowerment and freedom from the pressure to be aesthetically pleasing as reasons for wearing it as well as a form of rejecting the sexualisation of everything by advertising and therefore cheapening the beautiful and powerful sides of sexuality. Some Harajuku Japanese grils wear pink burka style outfits in order to appear eccentric and defy the norm. I once saw a burka girl saying "mum, dad" to a couple in jeans and T-shirts so we can't say her parents made her and I saw no ring on her finger which would mean her husband didn't too. You could say a certain person brainwashed her. But everyone is social pressured into something. You may say not every single woman wants to wear a burka. True. But also not every single woman wants to wear makeup, perfume, shave her legs and diet but many do due to social pressure and wanting to fit in. I bet if us humans didn't have the conformity mechanism and everyone did what they really wanted there would be a lot less anti-wrinkle creams and hair dying. I mean who wouldn't rather relax, chat or listen to music than dye their hair to mask a natural process of aging. Anyway, different strokes for different people but as an anarchist and a stateless by choice person I don't believe most things should be legislated, especially clothing because it is such a subjective matter. How can someone know what someone else really wants? They can only hypothesise and project their feelings on them i.e. I'd feel awful wearing something so must everyone else coz I'm the centre of the world. Not. Also the burka didn't start out for modesty in pagan times but as a show of status (or pretending to have status) a bit like being chubby in the Victorian era and many Gulf families still wear it for status. A friend told me about a Qatari lady who wore a burka in Qatar but a denim MINI-skirt outside Qatar even in other Arab states like Dubai not because it is obligatory to wear it in Qatar but because it is still a big show of status (together with wearing lots of gold and having the palest skin you can naturaly have in which the burka helps too). Also if you check the Peruvian tapadas (Christian women who wore the burka for many hundreds of years as a symbol of anti-colonilism, defiance of restrction of women going out after dark and multi-ethnic and multi-class solidarity). The forced burka cases are a minority anway no matter what the pro-oil propaganda may say. Everyonehas different reasons for everything. Legislating something due to a minority of people would also restrict the people who are not forced. My proposal: throw the forcers in the prison, not the people wearing it. Restricting someone's freedom of dress in the name of "greater freedom" is dumb at it's best and hypocritical at its worst. If the majority of women felt so bad wearing it they would revolt en masse just like the European women revolted when they wanted to vote. And anyway, what do you care what other people wear. Who's telling you to wear it? Live and let live. That's my motto.

  19. You make some good points, which is the only reason I bother responding to that eyesore of a wall of text. Here goes;

    1. I have, in fact, talked to women wearing both the burqa, and the hijab. They came to my university to promote awareness about Islam, and I asked them about it. There were about 16 of them. They all informed me, together, that they wear the burqa BECAUSE Islam requires women to be 'modest' and cover up their beauty. When asked why men are not required to do this, they informed me that men are not beautiful. *facepalm*. Not that these are the ONLY 16 I've talked to, but they make a good example. The men in the group agreed that this was the reason, and there was another 20 of them. Aside from this, I've talked to a woman who said she wore a burka online, same reason. I talked to a few girls separately who used to go to my school and now wear a burqa, same reason. They 'found' Islam, and Islam requires females to be modest.

    Now, I've never come across anyone wearing a burqa or hijab who told me that they do it to defy any social norm. All I've had are people telling me that women do it to defy the norm, which I don't quite believe. In my cross-continental experience, the reason they do it, is because Islam requires them to be modest. In the west, I mean. The same reason nuns wear habits.

    In some middle eastern countries, I am aware that it is still something of a status symbol as it used to be, but we're not talking about the middle east.

    2. I understand how one may feel 'empowered' by being free of the pressures of society to look good, but covering your face is not the way to do it. It is not in the interests of societal safety to be able to hide your identity in public. This goes for motorcycle helmets, ski-masks, and all manner of face-coverings. Nor do I feel that the majority of people who don burqas, do it for this reason. Sydney has a large muslim population, and there are lots of girls here in hijabs and some in burqas. I am not misinformed.

    3. I don't agree with equating wearing makeup to fit in, to wearing a burqa. To my knowledge, western society doesn't pressure anybody to wear burqas.

    4. I do agree that there is some kind of hypocrisy in a democracy legislating on clothing. My chosen method would be legislating against forcers, and social movement against the pressure of both female modesty, AND female sexual-display. However, I also feel that countries should be free to *make* people 'assimilate' if they so desire. I don't have a problem with middle-eastern countries legislating against short-shorts and mini-skirts, because they would like to preserve their culture. Similarly, in France. I think France's intention is more than clear. The intention is to stamp out Islamic obsession with female modesty. This I agree with. If women don't want to conform to societal norms regarding makeup and shaving, they are free to not wear makeup, and wear pants, or not shave. Covering your face doesn't deal with the issue.

    4. I think your last point is ludicrous. "If women felt so bad about female genital mutilation, let them revolt!11". That's not realistic. We know that thousands of women every year are mutilated at young ages in the west. Does their lack of revolt signal to us that they enjoy their genitals being cut off...?

  20. This is a very intelligent, thought provoking entry. I'm looking forward to reading more of your entries!

  21. I agree with you, wearing the burqa is a symbol of suppression. Although women do wear it of their own will, I know that it is because they are told it is the right thing to do. The burqa stamps out room for individuality. It tells these women that you are the same as all the women out there, and you are to do whatever you have to, for men. Because men cannot control themselves, you have hide your body... In the end it is not about modesty but about control.
    Im from the middle east and I know a lot of people who wear the burqa, they are the same who marry men of their parents choice and live their life according to their husbands beliefs.
    They are happy, no doubt because they think that theyre are being "modest"... the truth is, just because a chocolate bar is wrapped, doesn't mean someone with a sweet tooth with think "Its wrapped, I cant see the chocolate so I don't want it" Nowadays it doesn't matter what women wear, men will still look at them however they want, it's just that some people like the feeling of being in control of someone else...

    Your writing is amazing. Don't ever stop standing up for what you believe in.

  22. Julie; Thankyou! I'm so glad you liked it. :)

    HappyMich; It's definitely about control, they've just made the women think it's about 'modesty'. Which is such a ridiculous notion in itself.


    Comments like these inspire me to keep writing without fear of judgement, guis. Thanks. :D

  23. @Infidel, In Dubai, there was a case, of two sisters being killed by their parents. Reason: They went out with friends and a boy was there. They parents called it honour killing.


    That's a link that talks about the word "bitch", kinda similar to the whole "slut" thing, and in the comments, "slut", is also talked about.

  25. Here again is the argument about how great the burqa is. Women promoting the burqa don't know real freedom. They are raised (brainwashed or beaten into submission) to think that men can't help themselves or control their sexual urges when women are exposed (a finger on a hand is enough for you to be beaten or raped).

    Muslim Women are blugeoned by their husbands, brothers, fathers, anybody who is on the street if they aren't "modest". I have lots of pictures I can share with you all. Honor killings, public stoning, fathers raping and killing their own daughters. Shit. Right On France. I hope the United States follows.

    Don't get me wrong I have lived in a muslim community where women wear a hijab. Thats ok and is a symbol of their religion just like Baptist women who don't believe in wearing slacks.

  26. Oh and another thing burqa wearing nations don't let women drive, don't let women vote, don't let women get an education, have a job or have a life outside the husband or family's control. I heard of a story where a girl is disguising herself as a man because she and her mom and sisters have no male head of the household to take care of them. They will kill her if they find out.

  27. Nations that enforce the burqa also don't allow women to have citizenship. So if a woman has a child and the husband dies, her property goes away and her children have no inheritance. So she and her children are basically turned out into the streets. The in-laws will not have anything to do with her either. Nice family ethics don't you think. This is essance of fundamentalist Islam.

    1. Pretty much. Bunch of primitive idiots, they are.

    2. totally! HOW THE HELL can something that is forced upon them be FREEDOM? Doesnt the sentence contradict itself? I wonder how GOD forgot to put brains into muslims!

  28. Men and women are fundamentally different. You talk of the burqa being repressive and suppressive, but what about the miniskirts and bikinis and two pieces that women wear in the summer these days? How is that acceptable? What if men started walking around with speedos that showed an outline of their penis? Would that mean more "freedom" for men? I for one am ashamed to take off my shirt in public. I don't think I would feel "empowered" if I suddenly had the right to walk around naked in public, or with my shirt off. If anything, I would be constantly worried and self conscious about myself and feel exposed to the strangers in public. Feminists are stupid and basically hypocritical whores. They demand more freedom for women without realizing that that freedom will be their undoing. (And without realizing what that would mean for men, in an egalitarian society) This blog posts proves that.

  29. Men are women are not "fundamentally different". Please cite sources for your claims. Their differences are nearly all cultural, besides anatomy.

    What ABOUT the miniskirts and bikinis? Men DO walk around in speedos showing their bulges. Men DO walk around shirtless in hot weather, exposing their man-breasts to all. Men DO do all of these things. And that DOES mean more freedom for men, particularly when women are disallowed by law to do the same.

    I do not care what you personally wish to do. That is what freedom is; you can do WHATEVER you want to, so long as you are not harming anybody. Just because you wouldn't feel empowered, doesn't mean everybody shares your views.

    "Feminists are hypocritical whores" - you are a moron and no longer welcome to comment on my page. You have spewed patriarchal bullshit which assumes that policing female behaviour is best for society. Please crawl into a hole, and come back out only when you can join the rest of us in the 21st century.

    1. Thank you, that is a brilliant reply, I quite enjoyed reading the article and it's good to see someone who expresses their opinions truthfully and actually has truth to back it.

      I definitely agree with you sometimes there are things you do not wan't to see such as manboobs and men showing off said bulges. And I definitely agree with the burqa issue, they should be allowed to choose whether they wear it in some cases, but because it has been beaten into them that men can't resist themselves they are forced to wear it.

      Men need to start taking responsibility for their actions and not blame it on women saying I couldn't help myself just because she was showing some skin.

      Will be looking forward to reading more of your posts

  30. I am DEFINITELY bookmarking this website to my Favorites List :D
    I love how you make your point by spinning off what others say. In a calm, rhetorically savy way, of course. I look forward to reading more postings on controversial issues that get people worked up on.

    "Please crawl into a hole, and come back out only when you can join the rest of us in the 21st century..." HAHAHAAA! Love it.

  31. I like your articles...they are thought provoking...thus the stuff you wrote about this burkha thing got my head spinning...because what u think the burkha is a dress code assigned for women in the islam or quran...which is not true...just if you care to know what it actually is visit to the the address given below...

  32. I spot a bit of hypocrisy in the above... no-one who claims to promote a free world can label ANY symbol of identity as oppressive/suppressive or not. Different symbols mean different things to different people. Ironically, just SAYING that something is (subjectively) symbolically oppressive/suppressive could be oppressive/suppressive in itself.

    I say let anyone wear whatever they want to as long as it doesn't endanger the security of anyone. I'm emphasising and clarifying the statement I made in my previous sentence: "endanger the security of anyone", not the *perception* of security of anyone.

    Clearly covering one's face may allow a criminal to "anonymously" commit a crime and a would-be crminal may use their claimed identity as a means of getting away with a crime.

    Still, another big irony is that many Muslims seem to think that wearing a veil is something Islamic - I am Muslim and I would disagree with that... It's not even extreme-Islamic. It's cultural, not Islamic. Don't be a hypocrite - respect others' cultures if you would have them respect yours.


    1. Yes, one can indeed use common sense to label symbols as being symbolic of certain things. Say you see a skinhead with a swastika tattooed on his bald head. Are you seriously going to tell me he's just into Hinduism? Of course not. We use our common sense to make these judgements. Saying something is oppressive, is in no way oppressive. Maybe you don't quite understand what oppression is.

      The REASON I say that it is a disgusting and sexist norm, is because, as I mentioned, the entire concept of 'modesty' as a behavioural prescription given by anyone, is perverse. As a personal choice, it is perfectly acceptable. As a prescription for behaviour, whether given by religion, or family, or society, it is a perversion because it implies that if one is NOT modest, then they invite abuse. This is obscene, and it is an obscene state of affairs that has led to women being made to feel obliged to wear this shit on their heads.

      IF one is, on a personal level, moved by the desire to be modest to wear a burqa or a hijab or any kind of facial covering, I am alright with that. But that is not what this is, and let us not pretend otherwise. This is a pervasive societal and religious norm that is being actively propogated as a prescription, not as a personal choice. Let's try a little honesty.


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