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Friday, 26 June 2009

On Burqa Banning

It seems that, in a spat of lunacy, burqa banning has come up in France. Naturally, some people are saying we should do the same here - because craziness spreads, y’know. Let us analyse all that is wrong with this. This may take a while, there’s a lot of wrong there.

First of all the very idea of a dress code for people on their own time in a free society is so very disturbing that I don’t even know where to begin. Seriously, the very idea is ludicrous. Gods, I find public nudity laws ridiculous (and I think they’ve done a lot of damage with us overly sexualising the naked body, being unable to separate nudity and sex AND caused us no end of societal hang ups about our bodies and shame regarding many parts of them. But this is another matter). Laws which say what you can and cannot wear without good reason are the very antithesis of freedom - it is a very personal thing that is being dictated here and it’s an expansion of government power into an area that is very very scary.

We already have rules about where you can and cannot cover your face (such as banks) and we already have rules about work and school uniforms. This is expanding that to a blanket ban. So where are the good reasons for this huge infringement of personal choice?

It intimidates people.
Intimidates people? Why? Do you think she has a pair of uzis under there? The only reason that would be intimidating would be because people have waaaay too much Islamophobia programmed and this ban would only feed into that. I think a more accurate term would be people are “disconcerted” or made uncomfortable by burqas.

Well, so what? People are made uncomfortable by men in drag or make up. I can make thousands of people ragingly uncomfortable wearing tight trousers, a hot pink, skin tight-tank top with rainbows, linked Mars symbols and the words “so many men, so few can afford me,” or “You must be at least 8“ to ride“ blazoned across it. My grandmother, even in her sane days, was intimidated by any man with a beard. She and all my great aunts and uncles are outright intimidated and FRIGHTENED by Nuns. I am intimidated by large, overt religious symbols. I am intimidated by skin heads. I’m mildly freaked by tongue piercing and ear gauges.

However, we do not and should not dictate other people’s clothing and body decoration on the basis of what makes us comfortable - the arrogance of that is beyond compare. If you don’t like such clothing, do not wear it, but to demand others adhere to our tastes and sensibilities is deeply wrong

The Qu’ran doesn’t demand they wear burqas
I’m sorry, but the number of non-Muslims telling Muslims that they are practicing their faith in an incorrect fashion is beyond silly. Yes, the Qu’ran says that men and women must dress modestly. Right, like that isn’t damned ambivalent and couldn’t be interpreted many different ways - like a lot of holy text (there are HOW many different variations of Christianity, Islam and Judaism for example?). It doesn’t matter how YOU interpret it, unless they have come to you for theological advice, it is how THEY interpret it. Even if you DID share the same faith, it is not your place to tell someone they are doing it wrong.

These women are being oppressed!
On the face of it, this argument looks so much better. All these women are forced into burqas and this way they would no longer have to wear them! Let equality and freedom ring out!

Except it fails in one fundamental level. You are denying these women the choice. They go from being forced to wear the burqa to being forced NOT to wear the burqa - whether they want to or not. Look at Iran during the time of the Shah, look at modern secular Turkey. In both countries there were/are laws restricting the wearing of veils et al - and women WEAR/WORE them as a form of protest. They wanted to wear these clothes and they were forced not to.

Why is the oppression of male dominated governments telling women what to wear any better than male dominated family/cultural/religious customs telling women what to wear?

By all means have facilities to reach out to people who may be being coerced, definitely inform people of their rights, definitely provide protection and shelters and refuges - but making their choices for them is NOT freeing them from oppression.

If you think women should be free from oppression then you think that THEY should be able to make their OWN choices, even if you disagree with them.

They’re being oppressed - cultural brain washing edition
This basically says that yes the women are being oppressed but they agree to it because they have been culturally oppressed and don’t know any better.

Or, to put it another way: It is our duty as White, Christian Men to teach these poor deluded Brown Muslim Women how to do things decently.

Yes, I know that not all Muslims are non-Caucasian but the language used here is extremely reminiscent of the old “white man’s burden” argument. We have to save the poor women from themselves! They don’t know any better!

Seriously, this is the height of arrogance. We have to ban the burqa because it’s oppressive of women and women who do wear it are being oppressed even if they choose it because they don’t know any better. Now go wear a mini-skirt and a boob tube as is societally acceptable! Alright, the last was a little bit of an exaggeration, but it’s amazing how often society EXPECTS women to show flesh (but that’s another issue).

Side note to the oppression:
So let’s assume for a second that all these women ARE oppressed either by absorbing cultural misogyny or because they have fathers/husbands/brothers who will do them harm if they disobey. Right. Now you outlaw the burqa. The thing that stops their body being seen by males who are not relatives - which is the point of the garment to begin with

Do you think they’ll just go out in more revealing clothing? Really? Because I think it’s far more likely that they won’t go out at all - that they’ll be trapped in their own homes. If they’ve accepted the idea that the burqa is essential “modest” dress required by the Qu’ran then they’re NOT going to be comfortable walking around outside without it. In fact, in some cases I imagine (obviously I don’t know) it would feel akin to going out undressed, to say nothing of religious aspect of it. Any oppressive male relatives are likely to be equally or more unimpressed or unhappy.

This? Does not sound like a reasonable solution to any kind of oppression to me.

In fact the whole idea doesn't sound reasonable on any level