Monday, May 10, 2010

Ban Burqas?

The burqa is a piece of outer clothing covering a Muslim woman from head to foot, with only an opening for the eyes. Worn over indoor clothes when leaving the home, the principle is that it maintains personal modesty, as decreed by the Qur’an (Koran).
But the burqa is not specifically mentioned in the Qur’an, so some Muslim women feel the command is adhered to by just covering the hair with a scarf. Many associate the burqa with Afghanistan's Taliban regime: not wearing it there bore the possibility of punishment. Others feel no woman should have her clothing dictated by an oppressive male-led government. However, dressing modestly is a big part of Islamic law.
Some countries with large Muslim immigrant populations have tried to outlaw burqas, so it’s now a controversial political issue. Some advocate banning to free women, others see this as an attack on religious and personal rights. Wearing burqas was banned in French public schools in 2004. This was followed mid-2009 by the French president saying burqas were "not welcome" in France: "We cannot accept women as prisoners behind a screen, cut off from social life, deprived of identity". Jan.2010: France barred public services and public transport to burqa-wearers. April 2010: Belgium proposed banning clothing obscuring the identity of the wearer in public. The Netherlands wants a burqa ban, as do liberal Canadian Muslims... and last week, calls to ban burqas in Australia too. Those supporting bans say it's in the name of liberty and equality, that burqas are an affront to female dignity.
But is there more to this? Is it xenophobia? Paranoia? Victimisation? Couple these moves with the banning of new minaret construction on Swizz mosques (Nov.2009), and there's an air of wanting to restrict Islam in these countries: there have been moves in the past to ban it as a fundamentalist, draconian, outdated and dangerous religion.
But isn't that confusing moderate Islam, with the extremists who kill and bomb in the name of their wild interpretations of the Qur’an? Yes, the memories of 9/11 will forever demonise Islam, but in reality it should only demonise those carrying out the terrorist attacks. Islam is not the enemy: its radical variants are.
PS: Check out the excellent on-going blog of an American woman living in Saudi Arabia...who wears a burqa.
See also my blog of 22 April 2010.
PS: 23 June 2010 - Spain narrowly votes to ban burqa-wearing in public.
PS: 11 April 2011 - France's burqa ban came into force today.

1 comment:

Shelley, Brunswick, Australia said...

I feel very uncomfortable near a woman in a burka. It's as if she is spying on me, or she has something to hide. I can't help staring at her. And when she's with her husband she has to walk behind him like a pet or a slave. Shes not of the same value as him. She can't walk beside him, as a true partner would. I agree that burkas should not be worn in western society. If it fits their religion, by all means wear them in their own country but not here.