Monday, June 22, 2009

Women Subjected to the Burqa

Two robbers (a man and a woman) disguised in Afghan-style robes stole 200,000 pounds worth of jewellery from an exclusive London store, March 2002. (photo from BBC)

President Nicolas Sarkozy of France has stated that the head-to-toe covering, the burqa, is not welcome in France.

We cannot accept to have in our country women who are prisoners behind netting, cut off from all social life, deprived of identity ... that is not the idea that the French republic has of women's dignity ... the burka is not a sign of religion, it is a sign of subservience .... it will not be welcome on the territory of the French republic. - Nicolas Sarkozy, June 22, 2009

Read the article here

Sarkozy also stated that it was important to distinguish between respecting a religion such as Islam and outlawing the wearing of the burqa. I would hope that his statement that "civil servants must not wear any outward sign of their religion, whether they are Catholics, Jewish, Orthodox, Protestants or Muslims" does not include the wearing of small jewellery such as crosses or the Star of David. They do not restrict one's movements or hide one's identity from others.

The photo above does raise the question of security - after all, we identify people first by their face, but wearing a burqa makes a person unidentifiable. This is not a case of rejecting the apparel of a certain culture; after all, most of us have no problem with Indian women wearing the sari; in fact, I find them most of them quite beautiful. But a burqa is not a dress of beauty, it is a shroud to hide women.

I have often wondered how one could drive a car with such limited vision. My father who had his left eye removed surgically, was required to have a row of mirrors fitted to his car so that he could drive. Without those mirrors, he had a blind spot that was considerably larger than normal. Surely a burqa restricts vision to the point of being unsafe. If one cannot drive without wearing glasses if they are prescribed, then how can one drive with one's eyes covered like this?

There's a contradiction at the heart of Islamist confidence, nicely caught in a story from New Zealand about female Muslims driving around in burqas. According to some police representatives, this mode of dress somewhat restricts the field of vision, and also offers opportunities for fleeing bank robbers to disguise themselves as Muslim women. However, nobody wants to be insensitive, do they? And, on the whole, the police were happy to take the Islamic lobby groups at their word that the burqa was a requirement of these women's faith. But as Greg O'Connor, president of the New Zealand Police Association, couldn't resist adding, "If one's belief system was so strong that you didn't want to show one's face then perhaps that belief system should extend to not driving." Indeed, if your clothing can't evolve out of the camel train era, maybe your mode of trasportation shouldn't either. But that's Islam in the third millennium; they want the certainties of seventh century society with the conveniences of the twenty-first century. - America Alone, by Mark Steyn

Perhaps feminists should think about the rights of Muslim women and begin to lobby for them. There is no doubt that many Muslim women are being repressed and, in some cases, worse. From genital mutilation to honour killings to being covered up from head to toe, surely these women would love some emancipation.

Support women's rights - real rights, not feminist pieties - in the Muslim world. This is the biggest vulnerability in Islam. Not every Muslim female wants to be Gloria Steinem or Paris Hilton. But nor do they want a life that starts with genital mutilation and ends with an honor killing at the hands of your brothers. The overwhelming majority of females in Continental battered women's shelters are Muslim - which gives you some sense of what women in the Middle East might do if they had any women's shelters to go to. When half the population of these societies is a potential source of dissent, we need to use it. - America Alone, by Mark Steyn

Today, I saw a woman in a burqa picking up her children at the local Muslim school here in Halifax. And yes, she was getting into an SUV and driving them home. In a veil of fabric so that even her own children could not see her face.

Well done, Mr. Sarkozy, I hope your words echo loudly in Europe where thousands of Muslim women are trapped in their curtains of fabric.


Elena said...

A burqa in Halifax?

Julie said...

I have seen one woman regularly now for a few months, walking with her husband and child on Harvard Street. This is the third woman I have seen in a burqa in Halifax.