I must admit that I started to research for this post with mixed feelings. I reasoned to myself that if a religion like Islam, with so many millions of followers, had a large number of female followers who wore some type of head and /or body covering, that it could not be just a coincidence. There is also the fact that many Muslims live in very hot climates, in which being covered up would be uncomfortable. Furthermore, when they live in other countries, they still follow their tradition and wear one of the multiple coverings , anything from a hijab to a burqa. In Western countries, the attitude of the native population towards these types of traditional garments ranges from indifference to outright opposition.
Lately there’s been quite a lot of public debate over a French law that bans the use of the burkini, an adaptation of the burqa which can be used for swimming and as beachwear. It was first designed in Australia by Aheda Zanetti. This law has now been overturned as illegal by the Conseil d’État, the highest administrative court in France.
What is the issue at stake here? Is the burkini, like the burqua or the hijab, etc., a political statement or on the contrary is it part of a cultural and /or religious system? Do the women who wear it voluntarily really do so out of free choice or are they so indoctrinated by their society that they believe it to be an integral part of their identity? Do ‘native’ Westerners understand what it implies to criticise and ban something which they do not have a clear understanding of? Furthermore, is it correct from an ethical point of view to ban an individual’s choice of attire because of what we perceive it to symbolise, regardless of that individual’s opinion and / or intention when choosing it?
Let’s start with a little history.
“It is commonly believed that Islamic dress code for women, and most especially garments like the burka and the niqab (from Afghanistan and Arabia respectively), are about female modesty and the avoidance, on the part of male observers, of lustful passions.
Certainly such garments are an extremely effective means of hiding the attractions of the female form. However, it has – rightly – been pointed out that nowhere in Islamic law is the complete hiding of the face and body required. Beyond a few admonitions to ‘modesty’, there are in fact very few specific recommendations either in the Qu’ran or any other Islamic scriptures about how a woman should dress.
But if such dress is not necessarily sanctioned by Islamic law, where did it come from?” (…) Throughout Muslim history, the Caliphs and the Sultans ruthlessly plundered the wealth of their citizens wherever and whenever they required it – irrespective of religion. This was a fact noted by Bernard Lewis. In his 2001 book, What went Wrong?, Lewis asked the question: What went wrong with a civilization which – he believes – showed such promise at the start, only to be mired in poverty and backwardness from the 12th-13th century onwards?(…) Yet at one point he makes a telling observation: Wheeled vehicles were virtually unknown, up until modern times, throughout the Muslim lands. This was all the more strange given the fact that the wheel was invented in the Middle East(…) and had been commonly used in earlier ages. The conclusion he comes to is startling: “A cart is large and, for a peasant, relatively costly. It is difficult to conceal and easy for requisition. At a time and place where neither law nor custom restricted the powers of even local authorities, visible and mobile assets were a poor investment. The same fear of predatory authority – or neighbors – may be seen in the structure of traditional houses and quarters: the high, windowless walls, the almost hidden entrances in narrow alleyways, the careful avoidance of any visible sign of wealth.” (Bernard Lewis, What Went Wrong?, 2001, p. 158).(…)
But the Caliphs and Sultans did not stop at plundering their subjects’ material wealth:(…) from the beginning (…), the Caliphs, (…) regularly took wives from their subjects. Even if these women were already married, it made little or no difference. (…)Given such a culture of predatory authority, it is little wonder that men in Islamic lands began to conceal their wives under shrouds. This new style could of course be excused as a pious exercise in modesty; but the real reason, in most cases, was identical to that which produced the drab, windowless exteriors of Muslim homes: Hiding your assets. “(www.islamwatch.org. ‘Hiding your Assets: The Surprising Origin of the Burka & Niqab’)
There are many virtues that a person can possess or cultivate. Patience, kindness, empathy, just to name three. They all enhance the character of the individual that has them.
Namus is an ethical category, a virtue, in Middle Eastern Muslim patriarchal character. It is a strongly gender-specific category of relations within a family described in terms of honor, attention, respect/respectability, and modesty. The term is often translated as “honor”. (Wikipedia, ‘Burqa’).
The gender it refers to and is applied to is the feminine. The honor of the family is upheld by its women’s moral righteousness. The path is a narrow one as it is not only what they do or don’t do, but what others (usually men) believe.
In the West, women have long since acquired rights and social freedoms that are as yet unheard of -or worse, have disappeared- in the majority of Muslim countries.
The logic that lies behind ‘ Two wrongs don’t make a right.’ means that if these women are already under pressure from family or society to appear in a certain way, making it illegal for them to comply with this requirement would not result in any improvement for them. Neither would it signify any benefit for the greater society in which they live. Being truly concerned about oppression means acknowledging that no one should be told what to wear simply because someone else interprets their garments as something other than a particular style of dress. If there is no valid reason (hazard to health, danger of accident, mistaken identity…) , what other people wear- or don’t- is not a state affair and needs not be legislated in the name of security.
That there is clearly a double standard in the societies that coerces people into identifying more modesty with more cloth, but only in half of the population, is obvious. This double standard cannot be solved by imposing even more coercion on the people that already suffer it. It is adding insult to injury while taking it to unheard of heights of paranoia and misogyny. Some have even stated that it incites the radicalisation of youth.
So here we are, blaming the victims. Women who already have to deal with discrimination and misogyny in their daily lives are being targeted as promoters of terror. Just a thought: radical Islamists do not have women in their ranks. Not many mothers, Muslim or otherwise, will actively encourage their sons to join an army of any sort, much less the barbaric sect that is ISIS. It boggles the mind how the connection between burqas or burkinis and Islamic terror is made.
I have reached the conclusion that it is a diversion tactic employed by those who actively promote the carnage in the Middle East and elsewhere because of their vested interests. There’s no international outrage at a country like Saudi Arabia, which actively discriminates half its citizens and presides the United Nations Human Rights commission ( no, it is not a joke). The problem is what Muslim women wear on their outings to the beach or the pool. That is the root of Evil.
As I always say, follow the line of events to see who benefits from creating the stir against a piece of clothing and the people that wear it.
Does the general population derive anything positive from it? Do Muslim women enjoy more liberty? Does it create more awareness of discrimination/ injustice/ oppression faced by Muslim women?
Nobody benefits from divisive and biased hype. Nobody benefits from denying cultural differences. Nobody benefits from discrediting entire nations or ethnicities.
Nobody? Actually, yes, someone does benefit.
The governing oligarchy, aided and abetted by world political leaders.
The 1% who wish to amass even greater fortunes at the expense of Humanity.
The ones who pull all the right strings attached to the right puppets.
The ones who seek to enslave the rest of us in one way or another, causing a wave of migration unknown since the Second World War, in their need to mix and blend ethnicities to the point of no return, in haste. They want more consumers. They need to create docile, debt enslaved citizens with no clue as to their past and little hope for their future. They are shaming the native European populations for the crimes of their own creation while luring desperate refugees and migrants into the rat trap of poverty in a foreign land. They promise riches and deliver next to nothing, not even dignity or respect. The elders will be shamed into silence and their traditions will disappear as the new generations grow, while these new generations will have no clue as to their origins, nor will they care.
If you want to subjugate a people, shame the elders and uproot the young, and you will effectively have left them at the mercy of whatever cultural wind blows hardest. A culture with dry roots and no new leaves will wither and die, as the living being that it is.*
Once stripped of its uniqueness and cheated of its diversity, the bleak howl of a human species that knows nothing of its greatness because it will have lost its essence and its purpose will be all that is left. Amid the turmoil and strife of the majority, the Masters will dictate everything from what we eat to the way we talk or, of course, the clothes we wear.
*(This is a quote from another of my posts, ‘In Praise of Identity, In Praise of Diversity’)