I know this has been a hot topic of conversation for a long time. I remember seeing the discussions as they happened, particularly in British news sources over the last several years, but only recently has it become so prevalent that I see these memes all over the place.
It’s always been my policy not to hide from things, and to speak up when I see something wrong happening. I’m not expecting to change anyone’s mind about their beliefs – but I a hoping to provide my point of view, and some food for thought for people who may not fall directly on one side or the other.
The first thing I’d like to address – beyond the points of banning the burqa itself, are the memes that are passing around with the connotations that if you’re wearing a burqa you are doings so because you are a terrorist, or are concealing a bomb, or something else equally ridiculous.
I’m not sure when we as society will get tired of throwing around the Terrorist word to prejudge a whole race of people – but so far it doesn’t look like we’re letting up. If you look at a middle-eastern person and the first thing you wonder is if they are a terrorist, you really should educate yourself or try to open your mind a fraction. Similarly trying to hide behind security concerns while taking away peoples freedoms is the Patriot Act all over again – and that shit still scares me.
Since I didn’t really why people are so eager to get rid of the burqa, I figured I would do a bit of research and came across an article listing the top 5 reasons you should ban the burqa by Front Page magazine. Not the first place I would look for news, but it basically summed up a lot of the things I was seeing on other sites. I encourage you to do your own research on the subject. I’ll start by addressing these.
Premise: The Burqa Covers Up Abuse
While I can’t argue that the burqa would cover up abuse, I challenge you to find other types of clothing that can’t be used for the same purpose. Women are very clever when it comes to these sorts of things, using baggy clothes in general, make-up, scarves, accessories, or just not leaving the house. Does the burqa make it easier? Probably, but you are fooling yourself if you think there aren’t alternatives that are used every day.
So if we take this premise to the exterme, and pretend this is what we are actually worried about. Why aren’t there mandatory screenings for women who wear clothes that cover 90% of their bodies. Or maybe we should require women to go around scantily clad so their signs of abuse would be more readily visible. This would obviously stop people from abusing women, right?
Premise: The Burqa Justifies Sexual Assault on Women Who Don’t Wear It
Basically, men are raping women and claiming it is because they aren’t wearing a burqa. This is a totally new thing, men haven’t been raping women and claiming it’s the victim’s fault ever before in history. Obviously someone should step in and tell these women what to wear for their own safety and benefit.
I hope everyone can see how ridiculous this sounds when laid out simply. Are there precautions we can take in every day life to prevent us from being robbed, or burgled, or killed? Yes there are. Should the government have the right to regulate those things and force me to do them? Of course not. Their job is to see to my safety so that I don’t have to do those things in the first place.
This premise also talks about the segregation of women etc. etc. Which might be true, but is a religious item, not an inherent product of the clothing.
Premise: Civic Participation
Wearing the burqa doesn’t prevent people from interacting in society. Prejudice and ignorance by people not wanting to interact with women in burqas does. Who’s at fault there?
The burqa can only be used as a tool of segregation in places that force women to wear it through laws. Or places that prevent women from voting, or holding property, or doing a variety of things. It isn’t the burqa preventing these women from participating, it’s the culture, or government that is at fault.
Premise: Segregation is Discrimination
There are a lot of practices in the world that are gender based. Some of them are objectively worse than wearing baggy clothing in public. While I am opposed to anyone projecting and enforcing their beliefs on another – I am wholly in support of a person following their own personal beliefs.
While I applaud the government wanting to take a stand against segregation and discrimination – they’ve already done that through equality laws. You can’t give someone the right to be equal, then take away the right to make their own choices in life.
Premise: The Wearing of the Burqa is Enforced Through Violence
Something else there is no way to objectively determine. Even assuming this is true, whose job is it to prevent that intimidation? What about parents who force their children to dress certain ways? Or anyone from intimidating another person to do something contrary to their nature? We have laws against those things, it is up to the victims of crimes to seek help. You can’t proactively start banning things. Let’s ban guns, they are used for violence and forcing people to do things.
There are countries that have taken both sides of this debate to extremes. One side forces women to wear the burqa, the other side bans the wearing of them. Which side is right? Which side has the right to take away the personal right and freedom of a woman to have control over their own bodies and minds?
While I would never wear a burqa personally, and may not understand the minds of people who do wear them, that doesn’t mean those people are wrong. Those people are different, and that isn’t a crime.
I’m unsure how making the women criminals is going to help anything in this case. If they are being forced under threat of violence to wear the burqa, does fining them present an equal threat? Will they choose being beaten, or fined? Why are we turning these victims into criminals?
On the other hand, what if they are making a choice to wear their burqas? Why do we have the right to make that choice for them, and take away the right to wear whatever they want?
Is the burqa a religious symbol? What about the nun’s habit? Or the funny Jewish hat? Does the government have the right to prevent you from wearing those in public? Should they? How many symbols have been banned? Is the swastika banned? Sure, in some places. Has that prevented it’s use as a symbol for hate and racial superiority that still exists 100 years later? Nope. You can’t go to war against a symbol and win. You need to change the minds of people to make any lasting difference.
I’m also concerned about where it ends. When we beg the government to insert themselves in our lives and determine what we are allowed to do – what will stop them from doing the same thing in the future? I for one don’t want to hand over my right to choose my own clothing to the government. Do you?
Also – let’s assume that a ban is instituted. How is it enforced? Do we really need to be tasking our police with identifying and fining women breaking the law? What if they are being forced to do it? The sentiment of equality, inclusiveness and community is a good one. We want everyone to feel like they have a place in society, like they aren’t outcast, like they can be included. Is banning clothing really going to accomplish any of that? Not that I can imagine.
In Conclusion –
I firmly believe that banning the burqa, or banning any type of clothing is silly and ultimately ineffective. I don’t believe we have the right, to tell people what to believe, or what to wear, or what to say. I believe in individual rights and freedoms, and I believe we should support those individual rights and freedoms to the best of our ability.
Do I agree with a religious culture attempting to oppress women and potentially segregate them, or use force to prevent them from seeking out help or the ability to make their own choices? Of course not – but there are better ways to combat the systemic use of violence and oppression against Islamic women, and it does NOT begin with telling them what to wear. It begins with telling them they have a choice, and supporting the choices that they decide to make in their own lives.