To cover or not to cover- The Burqa Debate

14 Apr

Before I begin this post, I want to apologise for my prolonged absence from the blogging scene. I’m currently pursuing my masters in London and there’s so much to do that I often find myself hard pressed for time. Rest assured, I’m back and I aim to remain quite regular in my posts from now onwards! And now to the matter at hand..

On April 11th 2011, the very controversial ‘burqa ban’ came into effect in France. This law does not specifically ban the burqa, but bans all face coverings in public places. This distinction is hardly important though since it is common knowledge that this French law is aimed at Muslim women. The French government claims that the ban further enforces two underlying principles of the state- gender equality and homeland security. In the eyes of the government- the burqa is a symbol of female oppression and also provides a convenient disguise for miscreants,namely terrorists. Hence it has to go. On the other end of the spectrum, the ‘burqa ban’ is seen as an assault on the freedom of religion and the freedom of choice by the hypocritical “Liberte” state.

In my opinion, France is a sovereign,secular nation and they have every right to do as they see fit. Also, they must be doing something right since France has the largest number of Muslims in the EU, most of whom are fiercely patriotic. Infact the ‘burqa ban’ affects only about 2000 of France’s 5 million Muslims. And when we talk about a democracy, its all about the will of the people right? Well the controversial bill was passed by a 336:1 majority and in a recent survey, 4 out of 5 French citizens approve of the law. In a way, every nation dictates what we wear. In no country is one allowed to roam public places naked. So if a woman is not allowed to roam the streets with only her eyes covered then why should she be allowed with only her eyes exposed?!

Looking at the bigger picture, is the burqa really an infringement of women’s rights? I would say a definite YES! (Let it be known, that my views on the burqa are mine as a feminist and do NOT make me an Islamophobe. There is a lot more positivity in the religion of Islam, although the position of Muslim women is a cause for concern.) In the past few weeks we’ve heard even feminist defences of the burqa, stating that its a woman’s right to choose. A feminist defence of the burqa is like cutting at the knees of feminism with a sword of misogyny. The so-called religious reasons for the burqa are a joke, nowhere in the Quran are there directions for women to cover themselves in such manner. The Islamic holy book does call for modesty in dress, but this is a dictate for men and women both. Infact the Imam of a mosque in Paris endorsed the law, stating that Islam was fast becoming a religion of fanatics and oppression. I don’t want to be naïve and claim that I believe that the burqa ban was motivated by purely altruistic motives. Sarkozy, who’s been sliding in approval ratings, finds the ban an easy way to appeal to the growing right wing thinking in France. But we must all keep in mind that since time immemorial, religion in general, be it Christianity or Islam, has been utilised to further male dominance over women. So maybe the means here in France are wrong, but they do justify the end.

Signing off,
Saumya Sharma
New Delhi.

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3 Responses to “To cover or not to cover- The Burqa Debate”

  1. Bobbie Jamwal April 15, 2011 at 7:43 am #

    ~ Very True.. The Burqa is not the issue, it’s the veil/ “covering of the face”. Activist Farzana Hassan wants law to ban burqas in public. She is a devout Muslim and feels The burqa has come to be used as a generic term for face coverings and coverings that are more for concealing the identity. Even Islamic countries are liberal on the use of Burqa in Public places. Syria does not allow veils to be worn in public, and in Egypt, women cannot enter universities (Public Place) without first removing their veils.
    “With the threat of terrorism now and with this highly volatile and political situation between the Islamic world and the West, terrorism is pervasive in the sense that it can happen in a random manner. Why have this very enabling garb that people and criminal elements can use to walk around in and cover themselves up? It’s become a security threat, and I think it’s the security and safety of the public that needs to be addressed first and given the most consideration.” I agree with Farzana Hassan.

  2. Vijaya April 21, 2011 at 4:26 am #

    I was in the South of France two years ago in August- and Marseilles which is known for its liberal beaches, also had signs on stores saying whether or not they were open for Ramadan. It’s an example of traditional and liberal minds agreeing. I agree with you that it’s a sovereignty issue, and that the ban is an asset to Muslim French women who have a legal reason to not cover their faces.

  3. Gabrielle Amateur April 30, 2011 at 2:10 pm #

    A fair face may hide a foul heart.

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