Burqas, Bikinis and Debasing Women

Ah the burqa! A degradation of womankind, or an assertion by an individual Muslim woman that she will control who … Continued

Ah the burqa! A degradation of womankind, or an assertion by an individual Muslim woman that she will control who looks at her and in what manner? A sign of piety, an act of rebellion, a political statement? Amazing how a small piece of cloth can create such strong feelings and entangle so many issues!

French President Sarkozy has once against thrust Muslim women’s dress into the public discourse by proposing a ban on the burqa, which he calls a sign of subservience and debasement. While there are valid reasons to ban burqas, Sarkozy’s view is culturally bigoted and oppressively paternalistic. The state, according to him, knows better than individual women what is the best way for them to dress. And Western modes of dress, he believes, liberate women, while Muslim dress codes are restrictive and oppressive.

Before I start to deconstruct that mess, let’s be clear what we are talking about, as some people use the terms hijab and burqa interchangeably.

The hijab, in common parlance, is a scarf used to cover the hair and neck, not the face. It is sometimes called a khimar, especially in Arabic speaking countries. The burqa is a garment which covers the head, neck, shoulders, and upper torso along with the face. It is also known as a chador or chadri, and is associated with Afghanistan and the Indian subcontinent. The Iranian form of a chador is quite different from the Afghani, but the term is used in both countries. Niqab refers more specifically to a slip of cloth that covers the face, and is worn with the hijab.

Like many people from the West, I have a strong negative reaction to the niqab. I feel uncomfortable talking to women without the benefit of facial clues to the emotional content of their speech and the sincerity of their words. It’s spooky listening to a disembodied voice, hearing the woman in front of you but not seeing her lips move. The fact that most women in the West who cover their faces also choose to dress completely in black makes me feel like they are trying to erase their individuality and their identity. As someone who celebrates individuality, diversity, and the uniqueness of each person, I find the desire to cloak that distressing. I find the negation of identity unsettling; I want to be able to recognize the people I am around, and I want them to be able to recognize me. In my culture, only criminals try to hide their identity, and as such I feel uneasy around people who veil.

I also have a negative reaction to arguments that Islam calls for face covering. I believe that it is, in fact, contrary to the teachings of Islam, which calls for modesty, but also for moderation in all things, including dress. The burqa, especially those that have mesh in front of the eyes, is about as extreme a dress as you can get. The fact that the Prophet explicitly forbade women to cover their faces during the pilgrimage suggests that he frowned upon the practice. Perhaps most important of all, if God had wanted Muslim women to cover their faces, it would be unequivocally clear in the Qur’an. It is not. In fact, it is not mentioned at all in the Qur’an. The various arguments that people use to support veiling the face rely on extrapolation, rationalization in terms of public good and the supposed nature of men and women, and attempts to twist the words of the Qur’an into the meaning they want them to have.

The Qur’an mentions women’s dress in two places. The most commonly cited selection by the proponents of face-covering is: “Oh Prophet, tell your wives, your daughters, and the female believers to wrap their outer garments about themselves. This is better, so that they may be recognized and not bothered.” (33:59) As always, there is great discussion of the vocabulary among scholars. Some say the verb, “yudneena” (here translated as wrap) means to draw over, to wrap closely, or to make longer/lower. There is also discussion of what constitutes “jalabeeb,” the plural of jilbab. Modern jilbabs are just long dresses, often worn as jackets over indoor clothing. Others say it could consist of any outer wrap, like a long cloak, or poncho. No matter what the understanding, it takes an expansive interpretation to get the verse to include covering one’s face — a enlargement of “hinna,” which means “them” in the feminine, to mean “the entirety of themselves” ie their entire body, not just a simple “them” as it is grammatically in classical Arabic.

The other verse often cited requires an even greater leap of expansive reading. 24:31 reads: “And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and be mindful of their modesty; that they should not display their beauty except what ordinarily appears thereof — that they draw their coverings (khimar) over their bosoms, and not display their beauty except to their husbands, their fathers, their husband’s fathers, their sons, their husbands’ sons, their brothers or their brothers’ sons, or their sisters’ sons, or their women, or the slaves whom their right hands possess, or male servants free of sexual needs, or small children who have no sense of nakedness; and that they should not strike their feet in order to draw attention to their hidden ornaments. And O ye Believers! turn ye all together towards Allah, that ye may attain Bliss.”

Again we see impassioned discussions about what a “khimar” is. Literally, as in this translation, it means something that covers. Many scholars have said that at the time of the Prophet the word indicated a headscarf, as it does in modern times, although clearly it is being used to cover the chest. Proponents of face-covering argue that when this verse says not to show one’s beauty, it must include the face, as women’s faces are clearly part of their beauty.

This is coupled with a great deal of discussion of how women’s faces are such beautiful temptations that men are going to sin just by looking at them, and how such looking leads to even greater sins. None of which I buy into. It is patently false that seeing women’s faces (or any other part of their body) will drive men wild. Millions of American men prove this every day. It is also patently unfair to ask women to shoulder the burden of men’s problems with objectifying them.

It is this kind of tortured reading of the Qur’an, and distorted understanding of human sexuality, that makes the practice of face-veiling and the claim that it is somehow Islamically based all the more repellent to me. I makes me ill that it is being peddled not only as an Islamic requirement, but as the height of piety.

Having said that, I recognize the right of people to disagree with me. Clearly, there is a substantial segment of the global Muslim community who does not find such readings to be a bastardization of the Qur’an’s vocabulary and intent, but rather an accurate reflection of it. As much as I may disagree with them, I firmly defend their right not only to hold their view but to practice it. Freedom of religion, and of conscience are fundamental human rights that I hold sacrosanct.

Sarkozy’s proposal to ban the niqab because he (and others) view it as a denigration of women and a symbol of their submissiveness (to men, not to God) is a betrayal of the secular ideal of freedom of religion. They are placing their own cultural interpretation of the face veil over the right of women to practice their religion as they see fit, and even more fundamentally, to dress as they want to. This is a rather shocking abrogation of women’s agency, their freedom of conscience and religion. It is, in fact, as much a denigration as Sarkozy claims the burqa to be, because he calls into question women’s ability to think and act for themselves.

Sarkozy would no doubt argue that many, if not all, the women who veil their faces are doing so under coercion. That no woman would choose to wear such a garment on their own. Obviously, the matter of coercion is a complex one. The issues in America or France are vastly different than they are in some Muslim countries, such as Yemen or Afghanistan where face veiling is prevalent, or in other Muslim countries, such as Turkey or Tunisia, where wearing a headscarf is banned in governmental offices, universities and schools.

In countries where face-veiling is common or where it is seen as a religious requirement, the pressure to wear a burqa or other form of face-covering can be intense. When a society at large deems women who do not cover their face to be impure, impious, and immoral, the choice to veil or not is much more than a simple religious expression or personal taste in clothing; it is a choice to be seen as moral or immoral, pious or impious. A woman’s choice impacts not just how people see her, but how she is treated by her neighbors and associates, how marriageable she is or her children might be, and even might lead to violence against her by extremists. In that kind of social setting, I don’t believe the choice to wear a burqa is really a free choice. There is so much social pressure, and so many ramifications to not wearing one, that it becomes very difficult to resist.

In the West, the dynamics are reversed. Very few people are going to look at a woman who does not cover her face and deem her impious, unmarriagable, a tramp. The choice to cover one’s face is not succumbing to social pressure, but bucking it. It creates real hardships for people, from discrimination in daily life, and having to deal with assumptions about how subjugated you are, to difficulties in finding employment, challenges getting drivers licenses, going through airport security and even the fear that you might become the target of violence. While there are segments of the Muslim population here who look upon burqas with a romanticized idealism, seeing it as a defiance of a godless society and a show of one’s total submission to God, the fact remains that overwhelmingly the pressure is not to cover one’s face. In that atmosphere, there is a much greater probability that a woman who covers her face has made a much-thought-over choice to do so.

Sarkozy’s proposed ban, then, will not impact the women who are most likely coerced into wearing a burqa. Ironically, while protecting women from men, society or themselves is not a valid reason to ban burqas, it may well be valid for society to protect itself from the institution of face-veiling. There is a case to made for banning face coverings on the basis of public safety. It’s pretty obvious that if there are large segments of the community whose identity cannot be easily determined that is only going to make it easier for criminals to get away with what they do. And, indeed, we fairly regularly hear about insurgents in the Pakistani/Afghanistan region who escaped detection by wearing burqas. Certain establishments, like banks, have a need to be able to identify their customers. I could see supporting a ban on burqas, much as I would support a ban on wearing ski masks on public transport or in baseball stadiums.

In closing, I would like to turn the issue on its head. If we are opposed to face veiling because externalizes the belief that men are unable to see women as anything besides sexual objects, should we not be equally opposed to botox, facelifts, and a culture which sells cars, movies, music, liquor and pretty much anything else it can on the breasts and behinds of unnaturally thin, artificially busty young women? This fixation on women’s sexuality in the west, and the quest to be ever more alluring, is the mirror image of face-veiling in the east — it’s just in the west we exploit the very mindset that the face-veil seeks to suppress.

Worst, it is always women who bear the burden of men’s objectification of them, whether that means covering their entire bodies in dark cloth or carcinogenic cosmetics. If we are going to critique the burqa as denigrating to women, then we must also critique a culture where the never-ending quest for beauty has lead to an epidemic of anorexia, plastic surgery, and billions of dollars wasted on face paints, hair dyes, and debilitating fashions. We must seek a happy middle ground where women are just people.

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  • ender2

    Public safety overrides a woman’s right to choose denigration for the sake of an ancient tribal religion in the form of the burka. The KKK can’t walk around mask, and the practice invites criminal behavior. France and the US should BAN THE BURKA IN PUBLIC.

  • abhab

    Pamela:

  • decentdust

    Farnaz1Mansouri1, your post made me smile. Hope you’ll write again. Ender2, you copied and pasted your post from a different thread. How creative. Abhab, are you talking about a hadith? Which one? Is it one of those considered to be reliable? CCNL1, did you even read this article? The desire for autonomy which makes some Muslim women CHOOSE the veil (as they did in Egypt in the 1960s, for example) is from anywhere but the Dark Ages. By the way, the phrase “Dark Ages” refers to a time when Christian Europe was mired in stagnation, and the Islamic world was flourishing. Pamela Taylor’s description of the burqa as (potentially) “an assertion by an individual Muslim woman that she WILL control who looks at her and in what manner” sounds remarkably feminist, again putting it at a pretty far remove from the “Dark Ages.” The quality of the reader posts on these boards is depressing (to say nothing of the crimes against grammar, spelling and punctuation committed in nearly all of them). Many of the posters are mean-spirited, angry and ignorant. This site was supposed to bring people together, not deepen their divisions. The Post should just shut it down.

  • thisworld

    I am OK with any religion provided that they are not extreme, do not subjugate others of different religions or harm innocent people in the name of their religious practice. I am not that religious myself – I don’t go to church on Sundays – but do celebrate Christmas mainly for commercial reasons and because it feels great at Christmas time.I do have a view on burka however, because I believe it is oppressive. I don’t mind light veils or head scarves etc but Burka is a device by which women are required to ‘hide’ themselves as if they are products of some unspecified ‘sin’ and not natural beings born exactly as God intended. If these women defend the wearing of burka even in the most oppressive of weather, then it only suggests the sucess of the religious propaganda they must have been subjected to from birth. Having said that, we have the problem of women ‘revealing’ too much of themselves in much of the Westernised societies which isn’t nice either. In any event, there is nothing natural about burka the sole purpose of which is to hide women’s bodies and faces as if they are to be regarded as dirty, obscene and sinful. Their very existence contracdicts the notion of God who is supposed to have given us our body. Therefore, it is safe to presume that Burka is a product of Man not God and as such does not really have religious value other than the Man’s desire to control women as sub-species.In a way, Burka is as unnatural as the Roman Catholic’s insistence that priests must observe celabacy.

  • thisworld

    In conclusion, I must say that I am in agreement with the French President on this subject, for a change.

  • ccnl1

    It is obvious that we go far beyond Pamela Taylor’s take on burqas when we say:”Just another public display that Islam founded in the Dark Ages remains in the Dark Ages!!!”

  • themoderate

    Lets see. Innocent young women are shot in the street like dogs, helicopters to drop acid on peaceful protesters, and political opponents are threatened with death for “waging war against God”. And all Silly and Jony can come up with are Burkas?

  • Farnaz1Mansouri1

    Worst, it is always women who bear the burden of men’s objectification of themTrue. Hence, the solution is relatively simple. Rather than have Muslim women wear burquas, those men, who fear “temptation,” should confine themselves to the private realm, not go out in public. If they must work to help support the family, they can do so from the home.Many years ago, in Israel, there was a sudden increase in the number of rapes. In a meeting with senior government officials, Golda Meir, not yet prime minister, listened to men propose interim measures. It was suggested that women be alerted and advised not to go out unaccompanied at night.Meir said, “Wait a minute. Since men are the rapists, should it not be they who are advised not to go out at night”?

  • walter-in-fallschurch

    asoders22,because scripture was written and commented on by MEN.

  • abhab

    A lesson for Sarkozy from history.When Mustafa Ataturk, the father of modern Turkey, wished to ban the wearing of burqa he simply issued an executive order to that effect. The nextday his advisors notified him that none of the women complied. He asked his secretary to issue what he called an “addendum” to the earlier decree. This addendum stated that prostitutes are excluded from the ban. That same day all women dropped their shrouds, even the prostitutes amongst them.

  • asoders22

    The burqa is a disgrace. In daily life, it is smothering and restricting physically, and as a symbol, it is disgusting. Don’t even try and tell me that women originally came up with this stupid clothing idea themselves. They did not, as they did not come up with the concept of genital mutilation. The female support for those phenomena today, where it exists, is not freedom, it is adaptation and old habit.Both the hijab and the burqa are unnatural to the human mind and spirit. (So are breast implants if you don’t need them because you lost a breast, btw.) If women feel they need burqas because men behave badly if they don’t, men should change.

  • walter-in-fallschurch

    western women in “islamic countries” are often required to wear a veil or some other form of islamically-prescribed covering so as not to offend muslim men’s sensibilities. imagine if muslim women in america were required, under threat of death or deportation, to wear high heels and sexy revealing clothes. ha ha ha…muslim women here should be allowed to wear whatever the heck they want, but should not be allowed to cover their faces. as others have mentioned that’s just a security concern along the lines of bank robbers and masks.

  • asoders22

    “an assertion by an individual Muslim woman that she WILL control who looks at her and in what manner” Well, why don’t Muslim men wear blindfolds if they are such idiots as to view women the wrong way? It’s about as comfortable as the burqa. At least they can breathe.

  • halozcel1

    Ryanfries,You say *it is their choice to dress as they please**She is following her religion/cult…her face to her husband,blood relatives and other women**Muslim women dont demand(muslim men will demand when they increased in US) that bikini clad women on beaches cover themselves*(!)*Western Imperialism has many faces*

  • DanielintheLionsDen

    In Iran, the “Old Man” is perfecting the code of modest dress for Islamic women: coverd in dirt and six feet under.

  • dolph924

    There is no way that anyone should be allowed into stores, sports arenas, auditoriums or anywhere else with faces covered and wearing clothing that could conceal assault rifles. Basic security — even pre-9/11 — demands that video cameras can capture faces of robbers. We need not apologize for excluding them — let them adjust to post-seventh-century life. I was excluded from a liquor store many years ago on Halloween when I tried to go in with a mask on. It wasn’t based on religion; it was basic security. That would soon become the dress of choice of armed robbers everywhere if allowed anywhere.

  • TLOY8366

    What a description of the columnists group “Muslims for Progressive Values!” In America we choose whether to wear a bikini or not-it is not decided by men only or the government only. It is a hideous hypothesis that women make up their minds on these issues in predominantly Muslim lands-if so when will they drive in Saudi Arabia, or be fully schooled in all regions of Afghanistan and now Pakistan?The author is truly brainwashed if she has convinced herself that women actually choose to hide themselves in this way.

  • rwheeler1

    There is a venerable saying: when in Rome, do as the Romans do. If there is wisdom in it, it means that Muslim women should not dress in clothing that may offend the sensibilities of most others in an alien culture. But it also means that western women, upon visiting a Muslim country, should wear the chaldor and for the same reason, because their western form of dress offends the sensibilities of the Muslim people.

  • asoders22

    “asoders22,because scripture was written and commented on by MEN”I know! I wrote that a couple of comments down. Just trying to install fresh thinking into rigid Muslim men and women. I recommend reading Irshad Manji’s “The problem with Islam today”, to Muslims and non-Muslims alike. She dissects the meandering story of Islam and why it has become so unflexible and inhuman, where avoiding to think, reflect and develop is in vast areas considered a sin.

  • andrewzboard

    Quite good Pamela. (BTW did you know that your name is one of the few that doesn’t go way back? Invented by a British poet. But is nonetheless pleasant.)A western analogy here: many women prefer Ms to Miss/Mrs because they want control over how they are seen — as married or single. Niqab is clearly similar in intent. Personally don’t like burqas but the matter of *intent* is murky — can be very different in different contexts.

  • edbyronadams

    “an assertion by an individual Muslim woman that she will control who looks at her and in what manner?”I fail to see how any manner of dress can control who looks at someone and in what manner. While burqas may lessen sexual objectification, it would not eliminte it and may be offset by perceptions of a woman as a displaced beekeeper looking to get run over by a bus.

  • kjohnson3

    “Worst, it is always women who bear the burden of men’s objectification of them, whether that means covering their entire bodies in dark cloth or carcinogenic cosmetics. If we are going to critique the burqa as denigrating to women, then we must also critique a culture where the never-ending quest for beauty has lead to an epidemic of anorexia, plastic surgery, and billions of dollars wasted on face paints, hair dyes, and debilitating fashions.”I agree with this wholeheartedly. Ms. Taylor is absolutely correct when she expands the argument to include all other forms of social pressure which serve to erode women’s self-esteem.As to “banning” the burqa, I think there’s a better way to advance this cause than for the government — any government — to willy-nilly eliminate women’s civil rights.The real issue in this country, legally, is that, in order for citizens to do a variety things, they must be identifiable by their facial features. For instance, a woman must be willing to show her face to gain a driver’s license, to interview for a job, to do business in a bank, to board an airplane, to get a passport, and in many places to actually use her credit cards. Furthermore, there are basic safety requirements that citizens and non-citizens both must observe; for example, a woman who is face-veiled is not able to safely drive a car.So, instead of making a specific law that bans the wearing of a piece of clothing associated with (if not required by) a particular religion, the U.S. (as well as France) would be better advised to stringently impose the current laws, policies, and guidelines that exist to refuse services and licenses to any individual whose face is covered and who will not uncover it.Outright banning is only going to feed the flames of radical religionism. It becomes the rallying cause for a variety to groups to holler “discrimination!”Application of basic laws and regulations, on the other hand, is a kind of “ban” done on a case-by-case basis in which the government doesn’t eliminate women’s right to wear the veil but, instead, refuses to grant the privileges they want unless they agree to unveil.In other words, yes, you can have your veil. But no, you can’t get a driver’s license. No, you can’t drive a car. No, you can’t get on an airplane, take money out of the bank, etc., etc. Women have full choice, but, as with anything in life, there are consequences.Sure there will be lawsuits. But if the government applies this approach fairly and consistently across the county, ultimately, those who veil either will come to terms with the need to comply with the rules and regulations of the land or will decide to accept the limitations to personal freedom that the veil imposes.This makes much more sense than arbitrarily banning something associated with a religious population.

  • asoders22

    Just Pamela’s elaborate dissection and discussion of every word regarding the matter in the Quran alone goes to show how ridiculous the whole thing is. You have to try to determine every syllable of old Arabic in a book written by who knows whom in order to decide how to dress here and now? How about using common sense?

  • asoders22

    Just Pamela’s elaborate dissection and discussion of every word regarding the matter in the Quran alone goes to show how ridiculous the whole thing is. You have to try to determine every syllable of old Arabic in a book written by who knows whom in order to decide how to dress here and now? How about using common sense?

  • asoders22

    Just Pamela’s elaborate dissection and discussion of every word regarding the matter in the Quran alone goes to show how ridiculous the whole thing is. You have to try to determine every syllable of old Arabic in a book written by who knows whom in order to decide how to dress here and now? How about using common sense?(This is difficult to post. It’s my third attempt.)

  • dnjake

    It is a reality that society places restrictions on people’s dress. Going without clothes in public is generally unacceptable in most societies. Bikini’s are usually acceptable at the beach in the US. But I suspect that form of dress is not generally used in other settings. Particularly, in the case where a burka is not part of a woman’s roots, the choice of wearing one is likely as much a statement of social defiance as it is the adoption of religion. The level of European intolerance for the burka also probably has as much to do with unattractive racial attitudes as it does with real social problems from women covering their face. Personally, I would probably not chose to restrict the use of the burka except in social settings where its use made a difference. But I also don’t have much sympathy with the idea that people have some fundamental human right to wear one. If you want to live in a society, you have to accept some of its norms on how you dress and how you interact in public. In the West, those norms say no to the burka.

  • avp_65

    Sarzoky was merely trying to divert attention from financial problems in his own country.

  • Ali8

    Really, would it be that hard for an omniscient being to communicate very clearly, if he/she/it wanted to, how women should dress. Isn’t the fact that you are contorting yourself beyond all logic to understand a text that is supposed to be a message make you stop and think–why do I believe this??

  • lynnb1

    Sarkozy is right. There are many instances where Western societies set boundaries for practices that certain individuals claim to do in the name of religion but that are offensive to the larger culture. We don’t allow would-be polygamists to marry and impregnate 14 year old girls. We don’t allow people to walk around completely naked in public. The list could go on and on. We don’t, and rightfully so, tolerate anything and everything even if it’s done in the name of religion. The burka has no place in a free and democratic society.

  • dkbain1

    typo in 2nd paragraph — “against” should be “again”

  • ScottChallenger

    If you argue the State has no right on how to tell a women how to dress or what to wear, then how can conservatives justify the State telling a women whether she has to or does not have to carry a baby to term and give birth?Seems contradictory and ironic.

  • alstl

    woman who covers her face has made a much-thought-over choice to do so…Right, do I fail to cover my face and risk being beaten or not? That’s the choice. I don’t understand why Muslims want to move the the West when they are so insistent on retaining the most strict aspects of their culture.

  • CrzKat

    lynnb1 wrote:

  • jewishmother

    Cool woman, this author.But she writes, “It is patently false that seeing women’s faces (or any other part of their body) will drive men wild.”Patently false? How would she know? Men spend billions of dollars a year just to look at naked women. The good woman is mistaken on this one. BTW: I support a ban on covering the face, and I support women who choose to cover their head and necks and BREASTS.BREASTS DO TURN MEN ON. TRUST ME!

  • obblehit

    TL;DR

  • sakeneko

    Nicely said, Ms. Taylor. First, I appreciate the clear explanation of the difference between “hijab” and “burqa”, and of the other terms used to refer to outer garments worn by Muslim women to fulfill Islam’s requirements for modest dress. Second, I appreciate the recognition of paternalistic arrogance masquerading as something better in French President Sarkozy’s comments and many public objections to burqas. My opinion is that, in this country, we have no right to ban *any* form of dress for any reason other than the strongest of public policy concerns. If we can demonstrate that wearing burqas in public is putting our lives or health at risk as a group, maybe we should ban it. However, if the only problem it causes is to make some of us westerners (including yourself and me) feel uncomfortable, that simply isn’t a good enough reason.

  • onestring

    In this day and age of terrorism NOBODY has the right to walk around in public completely covered.I’m sorry, but in reality no human can be trusted – least of all those who claim religious purpose, higher morality, or pious honor.Further, when YOU wear the burka or when fundamentalists demand the burka because it is immoral and immodest for women to simply wear clothing in public YOU ARE SAYING ALL UNCOVERED WOMEN ARE IMMORAL!Burka = KKK hoodI am disgusted by the complete covering of a person in public from every intellectual angle, with the exception of walking in a snow storm, rain, or such.

  • epetrilli1

    Agree w/Ender2. When I look at the burqas, so ubiquitous in the Muslim world, I don’t think only of the religious issues tied to the style of dress. I think about health and safety. In my high school days, the maxi-length coat was in style. Naturally, being the shy, young girl I was, struggling to fit in, I just had to have the ground-sweeping maxi. However, my mother would hear none of it. “They drag along all over the place out there and you’ll track all that dirt and filth into my house. You are not getting a maxi,” she proclaimed. So I ended up with the only midi- (mid-calf) length coat in my high school.When I see a burqa, I remember my mother’s admonition. It bothers me that any religious code would place so little value on women’s lives to force them to don an item of clothing that puts them at such a disadvantage and at serious risk to their well-being. Hemlines were raised for more than one reason, although the mini-skirt did go a bit too far. If she were able, I could see my mother scolding these women that they shouldn’t wear something that doesn’t let them see or move properly. For these reasons, more than the purely religious one, I condemn the wearing of the burqa.

  • Utahreb

    When a woman of any country comes to the United States and becomes a citizen, she is obligated to adopt our customs of language and dress. Our reporters, when going to an Islamic country, are required to wear head scarves since that is a manner of dress required in those countries. If you don’t want to become part of the American culture, then stay in your own country.

  • ChrisEverett

    Burkas and the niqab are forms of INDECENT EXPOSURE, plain and simple. Civil public interaction requires a peculiar balance of public and private – we are not so intimate with our fellow citizens that total exposure is appropriate, yet we are by necessity thrust together into the public square, which demands a show of solidarity and good faith that total concealment betrays. Both extremes indicate a situation that is out of balance and boundaries that are disrespected.Sarkozy is right to ban total concealment of women, or of anyone, in public, though his line of reasoning isn’t quite on target. Concealment is indecent. It is a violation of the social contract. It puts honest, trustworthy citizens on the defensive. Save it for Halloween.

  • ryanfries

    Currently, women throughout America enjoy the right to dress as they wish, given some limitations, under the law.Muslim women in America also have that right.Therefore, it is their choice to dress as they please. If a Muslim woman choses to remove her veil that is her decision. If she decides to keep it on because she believes, and this is the point that all those who’ve commented thus far have missed, that she is following her religion by only allowing her husband, blood relatives and other women see her face, then she is making her choice.It is not the place of non-Muslims to say what Muslim women can and cannot wear. Muslim women are not going around demanding that bikini clad women on beaches cover themselves, are they? When you are a member of a particular religion you have the right to speak on its behalf because you believe in its doctrine, no matter how you interpret its teachings.When you’re outside of the religion you don’t have that right because you neither believe in it nor understand its doctrine. Someone who is illiterate can run around calling people to illiteracy because he/she feels its the key to happiness. But what does he/she know about the literate person? Nothing.In conclusion, there are women who feel it is perfectly normal to wear a bikini on the beach. They were born and raised that way. And there are women who would never be caught dead in a bikini. They were born and raised that way. Forcing women or men to dress a certain way in America is currently against the law. Therefore either the law would have to be changed or deport all Muslims, Sikhs, Jews, Nuns, Priests, Rabbis and anyone else who doesn’t live up to the “ideal” dress code and life would be “perfectly homogeneous”.Western imperialism has many faces…

  • jbarelli

    “Violation of the Social Contract”? I don’t remember signing that one.People with spiked mohawks put me on the defensive, and I like to think of myself as both honest and trustworthy. Should they be banned?How about folks in goth, or with body piercings, or tattoos? I know honest, trustworthy folks that consider them disturbing. Should we ban tattoos?I haven’t heard of any burqa-wearing bands of bank robbers, and cannot remember ever hearing of a niqab-wearing bandit holding up a liquor store, so those arguments seem a bit disingenuous.As for that “social contract”. Bring it out, and I’ll have my lawyer look it over. But I doubt that I’ll sign it. It sounds rather restrictive to me.

  • csintala79

    One should be able to dress as one chooses unless doing so impinges on others. If Sarkozy objects to the burqa why didn’t he use the rationale, as others have, that its coverage poses a security risk as it conceals one’s identity. This would be an objective objection not based on personal prejudice, but he, apparently, wanted to be offensive to those who don’t think as he does. Objective reasons for opposing such Western clothing and accessories can also be made. Stiletto high heels present a safety risk; more than one woman has been injured when their heel un-expectantly breaks, such as when a heel gets stuck in a sidewalk grate. The woman wearing them is not the only one at risk; anyone in close proximity can be injured as the woman flails about. Bikinis present a health risk; it is doubtful that slathering oneself with sun screen really is that effective in reducing the danger for skin cancer presented by such an expanse of naked flesh; life style health problems raise costs for all, and, as they are volitional, they can be restricted, such as with smoking. Also no argument that they serve a utilitarian purpose can be made for either item; both are manifestations of subconscious Western cultural affectations and serve no compelling useful purpose. Is the burqa more degrading to women than the bikini? The answer to that is subjective, i.e., it depends on one’s prejudices. Such an argument has no conclusion; neither position is based on fact; rather they are based on opinion. It is only possible to take an argument to finality if it is based on objective criteria that can be scientifically or mathematically evaluated.

  • arancia12

    padmanabhan40 wrote: “Only Muslims have the obsessive need to get back to the literal rendition of what the Koran says in respect of each and every social issue.”Excuse me? What about fundamentalist Christians? There are a few of those floating around America and you can start with the Promise Keepers who believe women can only find their glory in God through men.

  • arancia12

    As fat and obese as American women are getting these days, I wish they would start wearing burkas. You would not believe the obesity down here in Florida even in a hot climate. By the way, I’m a male in great shape- 6’3″ and 190 lbs.As well as a pig who judges people on weight and looks. You make the point about superficiality.

  • kimk1

    How could a burka be ‘worse’ than a bikini? What does that even mean? I guess the French president thinks so. Well, I guess that’s how France is. They want one culture in their country: French. I hope in America we live up to our values and respect all religions and cultures. If Muslim women want to wear burkas, why not let them? I read one comment that said: “If we moved to a burka wearing country in mass, would they let us wear our clothes?” Well, they probably wouldn’t. That’s because they don’t share our value of the American Dream, that anybody who immigrates here and works hard can be successful and accepted. That is partly why America has been so successful. We have attracted top talent from all over the world in medicine and technology. That’s why top scholars leave countries wear the governments force them to behave a certain way. I don’t see how a burka can be compared to a KKK uniform. Should be ban Christian crosses because some people don’t like them? The burka itself is not an act of aggression, unlike the KKK uniform. In the defense of the burka: (First note that I am not Muslim). I believe it is possible to wear a burka and be respected, even if you have a traditional female role. If society views the aspects of the traditional (or Islam) female role as valuable, even if it is different from that of men, then I don’t believe it is oppressive. I imagine that a burka could enhance the relationship between a man and a woman. A burka may make the woman feel more special and protected because only her husband will see her without it. I can imagine it as a protective thing, not as a necessity because of shame. Some women must feel that way. Of course, forcing a woman to wear something she doesn’t want to is certainly oppressive…

  • calexo

    “One should be able to dress as one chooses unless doing so impinges on others.” csintala79Wearing a costume in pubic that completely hides one’s identity including the ability to see what that individual has in his or her hands should cause all law-abiding citizens great concern, especially in a climate where terrorists and gun-wielding criminals prey on the innocent and can cause harm to others. I happen to agree with Sarkozy and other leaders who would want to ban burkhas and all other forms of costumes which conceal the identity of people using public areas. As long as one can see the face of fellow citizens and their hands as well and make sure that they are identifiable while using public places, we should have no other restrictions on what anyone can wear.How does one know whether a burkha-clad person is not a male or a female terrorist or criminal wielding a firearm or an IED? This is a serious issue.

  • robertjames1

    I believe that tolerance means that we permit diversity without one group telling another that it will decide who can be diverse.The French President’s wife has gone to another extreme. She has had her naked photos spread around the world. Apparently, the President has no objection to being unclothed.What does he have to say about pornography? What else will he seek to ban?In my opinion, he is making a fuss rather than dampening the fires of nastiness.I am a very bad dresser. Should untidy dresssing be banned? Let’s widen the issue. Should ugly buildings be banned?Who decides who makes these decisions?

  • ender2

    Muslims in Europe have made inroads into replacing those nations secular laws with Sharia law. First women have the choice of the burka, then soon they have no choice other than the burka. A muslim in Germany recently used sharia law in a successful defense of his practice of polygamy and beating his wives.I hope France will make a stand against the advancement of this ancient tribal misogynistic and violent religion from religion to political power. This is where the line in the sand really begins, with the encroachment of Islam into the operation of secular nations and peoples.

  • caribis

    Lets be clear, France bans wearing most religious symbols, nut just Islamic symbols. They want to add the burqa to the list because it offends France’s official state religion: state secularism.The separation of church and state means the state cannot impose a religion on its citizens. France does not abide by the principals of the separation of church and state. Instead, they strip certain signs of religion from the public discourse. Inside a church/temple/mosque and inside your own home you may wear what you please. Once outside of those two places, France reserves the right to strip you of display’s of religion. This is not the separation of church and state it is the imposition of religion on its citizens: French State Secularism. France is like Saudi Arabia with a catwalk.

  • kimk1

    If burkas are a security concern, we should also ban dresses and baggy pants and perhaps all clothes. Banning burkas might make some people feel safer, but that’s just naive.

  • LostInsideTheBeltway

    CALEXO: “I happen to agree with Sarkozy and other leaders who would want to ban burkhas and all other forms of costumes which conceal the identity of people using public areas”Then what about clowns? Should they remove their red noses and make ups too?CARIBRIS: “France reserves the right to strip you of display’s of religion”Have they banned crosses? (necklaces, t-shirts, etc.)

  • LostInsideTheBeltway

    Out in the wild, the rest of the animal kingdom strides around on their birthday suit/fur/shell/wings, whatever. Us, we’re high-order mammals and we like to make things complicated. True enough, sex is the triumph of passion over intelligence, and look at where that all has lead us:On one corner of the world, women want to/must be covered from head to toe.On yet another corner, it is illegal for women to walk around top-free while it is ok for men to do so. Only a few states/municipality allow public top-free display of the female bare chest.

  • trenda

    If we are going to critique the burqa as denigrating to women, then we must also critique a culture where the never-ending quest for beauty has lead to an epidemic of anorexia, plastic surgery, and billions of dollars wasted on face paints, hair dyes, and debilitating fashions.”—————————-I agree!Simple female nudity is plenty for me. Plastic surgery, Botox, Tatoos, Piercing, etc., just spoil the view!

  • Terrils

    ” In America we choose whether to wear a bikini or not-it is not decided by men only or the government only.”That’s actually pretty amusing given how unhappy so many American women are with their perfectly healthy bodies, the lengths they’ll go to to starve themselves and artificially inflate themselves due to the impossible pressure to fit into a socially constructed falsehood regarding the “perfect” female form – all of it deemed “necessary” to earn the ultimate reward – male lust. And most of them would claim they did all of it by “choice.”There are many different ugly social pressures women are subject to – it’s interesting that some people only see the ones that are external to their lifestyle.

  • mschwalm44

    Ignorant, obsessive, sexually perverted, long-bearded, intolerant, religious fundamentalists with their suppression of women be they Muslim or Christian flies in the face of American values. These creeps are a scourge on humanity. The Middle East and Pakistan is crawling with these dangerous sheep.

  • donlibes

    Bikini was in the title but not mentioned in the essay. So why are bikinis required in the US for beachware? Why do we accept the capricious rules that women must cover their breasts in public? (Actually, it’s more like just the nipples on the beach.) First amendment? Milk-substitute companies? Similar question for nether region for both men and women.

  • trenda

    “If we are going to critique the burqa as denigrating to women, then we must also critique a culture where the never-ending quest for beauty has lead to an epidemic of anorexia, plastic surgery, and billions of dollars wasted on face paints, hair dyes, and debilitating fashions.”—————————-I agree!Simple female nudity is plenty for me. Plastic surgery, Botox, Tatoos, Piercing, etc., just spoil the view!

  • pspox

    Re:”Western modes of dress, [Sarkozy] believes, liberate women, while Muslim dress codes are restrictive and oppressive.”

  • Saty13

    My dear Ms. Taylor,You are in deep denial of the origins and meaning of the burqa. Just because you, personally, freely chose your religion and your manner of dress does not mean that all Muslim women do the same.Imagine that you’re a young Muslim woman living with your parents or husband and you prefer NOT to wear the burqa, but you are compelled to do it by your family/husband, who will ostracize or reject you — or worse, beat you or kill you — if you don’t comply. (Even in liberal Canada, a 16-year-old Muslim girl, Aqsa Parvez, was strangled to death by her father in an “honor killing” because she rebelled against wearing a hijab.)Winning freedom for these girls and women is far more important and urgent and meaningful than protecting your own self-aggrandizing “right” to wear a burqa. You are simply using the burqa (or hijab or whatever) to express your so-called individuality. Why should I, as a woman, care about YOUR right to express your self-centeredness and your adopted religious/political fanaticism by wearing a burqa? I choose to stand up and support women who don’t have even basic freedoms, not privileged women like you who have nothing better to do than play “dress-up” and make empty intellectual arguments while their sisters suffer real oppression.Finally, you should acknowledge that there is no legitimate need for the burqa or hijab. Can you seriously argue that western clothing, with its infinite variety and styles, is inadequate to fulfill the needs of women who simply wish to dress modestly? Face it, you don’t wear the burqa or hijab or niqab, to be modest. You wear it draw attention to yourself, to symbolically separate yourself (perhaps thinking you are “elevating” yourself) from everyone else.The logic of what Mr. Sarkozy is proposing is undeniable: If no woman can legally wear a burqa, then no woman can be forced into wearing one. Women like Aqsa, who feel like aliens or freaks every time they step out of the house, would no longer have to give in to that lunacy.

  • mstratas

    The burqa is an insult to all women: its message is either: you are ugly & not worth looking at or you are lovely and a temptation. It is suffocating!!!! Does Ms. Taylor really think that the burqa is a clothing worthy of wearing? It screams control of a woman, a walking prison with tiny holes of breathing. Even a pig wouldn’t last inside it. And the choice is eithe burqa or bikini. that’s a disingenuous debate. There are hundreds of modest attire for women; a bikini is appropriate for a beach & it is not a sin.

  • ameyasoparkar

    I was reading some of the comments below and saw the two extremes, revealing two much and covering all of it. As someone mentioned revealing too much has led to the artificial quest for superficial beauty. Why don’t the women decide for themselves whether they think that they want to wear the burqa or not. If they believe in the interpretation that burqa should be worn, then be it. If else, believe in dress conservatively. Banning anything just causes outrage and religious tensions. Laws and rules in all religions were mostly based on that time period they were written, if religion evolves with time, things go well. Maybe logically women had to wear burqas for personal safety during those times to feel safe against bandits but now the world is not a nomad’s tent anymore.

  • squier13

    Where are the bikinis? Religious people are always suckering you into these kind of inane discussions with promises of cool stuff. You know those fake dollar bills you unfold and it’s some nonsense about finding Jeebus? This is just like that.

  • jromaniello

    Generally, I agree with Ms. Taylor. However, she implies that women choose to wear the burqa. They do not. Women have no choice, and if they violate the rules and not wear one, they are subject to harsh punishments and death. They are veiling out of fear, not choice. To keep a woman veiled, away from the world is an atrocity. Keep her hidden away, so that she won’t tempt the man! What a wonderful way to absolve men from any responsibility for themselves and their urges! They are unable to control their p@nises, but thus women must pay the price. Sad. However, I’m very glad some things were cleared up. I have believed Islam to be about modesty, not female enslavement. I find it very interesting that there is hardly ever any mention of how a woman ought to dress! It makes me thing of the Fundies and Evangelists– who make up rules that are not based in Scripture whatsoever, or cherry pick the parts that suit their personal agendas. Thank you, Ms. Taylor 🙂

  • iftekhar

    When Europeans met the Pacific Islanders, they were shocked by their lack of clothing and induced them to cover up; today they are shocked by the reverse.Those unfortunate enough to be under the control of Europeans have to put up with their eccentricities. For Europeans must have control – not only over people’s clothes, but especially over their minds. Europe is, after all, the cradle of totalitarianism. Post-modernist thinkers have unveiled (no pun) the amount of duress that European society brings to bear on the individual. Compared to that, we have a positively easy-going culture – like those poor Tahitians.

  • iftekhar

    When European met the Pacific Islanders, they were shocked by their lack of clothing and induced them to cover up; today they are shocked by the reverse.Those unfortunate enough to be under the control of Europeans have to put up with their eccentricities. For Europeans must have control – not only over people’s clothes, but especially over their minds. Europe is, after all, the cradle of totalitarianism. Post-modernist thinkers have unveiled (no pun) the amount of duress that European society brings to bear on the individual. Compared to that, we have a positively easy-going culture – like those poor Tahitians.

  • iftekhar

    When European met the Pacific Islanders, they were shocked by their lack of clothing and induced them to cover up; today they are shocked by the reverse.Those unfortunate enough to be under the control of Europeans have to put up with their eccentricities. For Europeans must have control – not only over people’s clothes, but especially over their minds. Europe is, after all, the cradle of totalitarianism. Post-modernist thinkers have unveiled (no pun) the amount of duress that European society brings to bear on the individual. Compared to that, we have a positively easy-going culture – like those poor Tahitians.

  • billy8

    What the hell is wrong with bikinis?

  • imzadi

    A few years back, I happened to be at a carnival in the parking lot of Landmark Mall in Alexandria. Among the people there was a family with the wife and the little girl, who was maybe 6 or 8, dressed in burkas!!! I can’t believe it was the little girl’s conscious choice to wear one. To me this constitutes child abuse, especially as I have seen the young children of some robed women dressed in western clothing. I can only imagine how the little girl felt, seeing girls her own age dressed in comfortable, pretty clothing. I wish I’d had the guts to say something. Poor kid! Of course, she was probably browbeaten into thinking of the other kids as little sl*ts in training.

  • dotellen

    European women in the Middle Ages wore head coverings very much like the hijab. I suspect the real reason was not modesty but hygiene. With limited bathing facilities, cleanliness was more easily achieved by preventive measures. Long skirts had a similar function. With no indoor plumbing facilities, (well, you figure it out).I agree with ABHAB that alternative coverings are available. Take a looser version of a baseball cap (something like the cap that painters wear), add something like the French Foreign Legion cloth neck sun protector, with a section that velcros together in front. Start a new fashion in head coverings.And all this stuff about modesty is flaming hypocrisy, since what founder of Islam actually did was to rape a nine-year-old girl.

  • Lilycat1

    To me it’s a symbol of the opressive world in which Muslim men imprison and control women. And not to put too fine a point on it, it’s hard to hide a bomb under a bikini.

  • bunduo

    Taylor’s essay sheds light on the political and cultural consequences of wearing a burka. Women should have the freedom to choose what she wants to wear. With that said, depending on the culture, there are the invisible but powerful social pressures to conform to the cultural norms of wearing or not wearing a burka. A couple of points. First, having lived in both cultures, I have seen the positive and negative consequences. Violence against women by strangers is more common in western culture. Perhaps because men cannot control their more animalistic urges. Meanwhile, domestic violence in the more conservative Islamic cultures is more common and easily hidden behind the burka and the more closed-off Islamic households. Lets not forget America’s Puritan background which is still alive and well. We, as Americans, associate nudity with sexuality and value the chaste over the randy. Christian and Islamic fundamentalism share much DNA. One last point. There is one very big practical reason for the burka. In dry, hot climates, being covered keeps one cool. I know the burka is black but it is still cooler than desert sun beating on your bare skin. Men wear similar clothing but theirs is pure white with a head scarf. Of course, I am speaking of the countries in and around the Arabian peninsula. The burka has to be miserable in the tropical climate of Indonesia.

  • begal125

    Why don’t men have to be covered head/toe? If they can’t control themselves, don’t let them out in public. It is such a ridiculous argument that I’m surprised an educated woman would make it. As a 60+ year old woman, I find the obsession with bodies amusing – after all, weren’t we made in God’s image, and therefore all bodies are beautiful. Some Muslim men want to control women – pure and simple, and some Muslim women can’t, or don’t stop it – that’s the pity. So speak up in this country if you see a woman covered up. Maybe you’ll give her something to think about.

  • tomchapman

    If certain muslim women are so very modest that they refuse to show their faces in public, then just what are they doing out in public? Their husbands should not be allowing them to leave the house unaccompanied, therefore they have no need for such things as driver’s licenses or bank accounts. They shouldn’t be shopping or working because men might look at them and have impure thoughts. Any husband of one of these burka or niqab clad lovelies should be able to support his household so that his woman has no need to work, drive, or perform any public function whatsoever. If he can’t do this, then he’s not much of a man, is he?

  • Annapolis3

    “I feel uncomfortable talking to women without the benefit of facial clues to the emotional content of their speech and the sincerity of their words. It’s spooky listening to a disembodied voice, hearing the woman in front of you but not seeing her lips move.”How do you cope with the telephone?

  • J264

    People are coerced into wearing a variety of silly things, including ties. It’s not our job to address every questionable religious instruction or right every perceived dressing indignity. If we did, UPS drivers wouldn’t have to wear that unfortunate color of brown. If there is no danger or infringements of others’ rights, people should be allowed to wear what they want. While I don’t get wanting to wear a burka, as long as one woman voluntarily does, it’s a freedom of expression issue. You don’t have to like it, and with you can express your dislike, but you do have to tolerate it.

  • jitl

    do i agree with the (burka) NO… but it is a slippery-slop!! if you can tell any religion YOU CANT wear this or that, then what??? who is next well maybe the jews for what they wear..what about —- fill in the blank. were do you draw the line.. its not what you wear,but whats in your HEART!! the muslim men will KILL a woman for not wearing a burka..www.vom.com its a heart problem!! they need the LORD

  • arancia12

    Saty13 wrote: Why should I, as a woman, care about YOUR right to express your self-centeredness and your adopted religious/political fanaticism by wearing a burqa? I choose to stand up and support women who don’t have even basic freedoms, not privileged women like you who have nothing better to do than play “dress-up” and make empty intellectual arguments while their sisters suffer real oppression.”So why do you support women being exploited for the size of their breasts or the whiteness of their teeth, the depth of their cleavage? Is that a choice? Hardly, when money is tied to bigger breasts and straighter teeth. If, by your reasoning, women have the right to express their self-centeredness with big breasts, big teeth, big cheekbones, and no cellulite then other women have the right to express their self-centeredness with a buqua or a hajib or whatever. The difference being, purient interest combined with money does not put women in a burqua. You do not see men throwing money at women in burquas.

  • probashi

    Does not matter for what reason, women who voluntarily elect to wear burqa ought to have the right to do so. The problem arises when they are coerced into doing so. Where in the Islamic scripture it is written that Muslim women must cover themselves in public is not known but the fact remains that many Muslim men insist on it. Classic example of double standard. Just a more extreme example of the conservative Christians who preach ‘family values’ when it suits them. Muslims, more than Christians, but the things they do in the name of God make atheists look good.As to wearing of bikinis, that is a different issue altogether. Some bikini wearing women look atrocious but if they want to show blubber they should have every right to do so.

  • scdem

    The idea that women in America or France who wear the burqa are doing it as a choice is an absurd argument. Having lived in France, I can say that the numbers of entirely covered muslim women has increased exponentially in the last fifteen years. But that is not all the result of female individual “choice”. There are muslim communities in France as tightly knit and patriarchal as anything found in Yemen. Even within some more conservative muslim families, the “choice” is being made by husbands–not women. The rest of the article is insightful, but the bit about Sarko and France was, it seems to me, willfully ignorant.

  • asoders22

    “What is worse, the Burqa or the Bikini?” the question is on the main page.The burqa is worse. Being nude, not as in pornography but as living in a warm climate an being a human going about your daily life, is the original state. So the bikini is closer to what is basically normal to us. The burqa is grotesque and the head scarf not that far behind. If you want to include the more bizarre, body-hostile forms of fashion, I’m with you.

  • jkoch2

    If womean “chose” to wear the burka, shouldn’t the males of their family dress likewise? Why not impose modesty on both sexes? If the purpose it to protect women from the predations of the males, why not shackle or blindfoled the men and let the women dress as they please?The fundamental inequality of the existing “tradition” is underlined by the fact that the male can take multiple wives, get custody and most of the assets in a divorce, and outweigh a woman when testifying in a sharia court. The women residing in the West continue to comply with these terms by choice: either obey “voluntarily” and cover themselves, or be ostracized or worse.

  • abhab

    Those who claim that women choose to wear the burqa, I refer them to al Qaeda’s threats to France because of Sarkozy’s plan to ban it. Reported in today’s issue of the Alquds newspaper issued in Jerusalem.القاعدة” تهدد بالانتقام من فرنسا لمنعها ارتداء النقاب” .Translates “AlQaeda threatens retaliation against France for banning the burqa.”

  • telesonic

    The point about burqas and bikinis is: they lack balance. Expose everything, hide everything – what’s the difference? A woman should not have to obsess about exposing her entire body to the lewd attentions of every man she passes. Nor should she have to obsess about hiding every square inch of skin from those same men. And the fact is: MOST NORMAL WOMEN DON’T. They have balance. Exhibitionist bikini-wearers and paranoid burqa-wearers do not.How about just being comfortable, looking appropriate for your environment, feeling pleased with the way you look, pleasing others with your appearance while not obsessing about fashion?As far as God is concerned: I don’t think God gives a c**p what you wear. He’s got more important things to think about – like the quality of your soul. But I also think it must be possible to honor God and whatever you believe his ideas about modesty are, without looking like a freak. How about giving it a try sometime, burqa-wearers?

  • mil1

    It’s not about the covering or lack of it–it’s about the person being able to decide for themselves what they can wear and who they are. Ok, neckties are a pain and may eventually lead to a problem at your place of business but very few men in business will be stoned because he didn’t wear one–

  • ajguzz

    Great article. The burqa makes me, as a woman, intensely uncomfortable. However, the reason I believe it should be banned is for public safety reasons- otherwise, no matter how uncomfortable it makes me, I would have to put it under the category of freedom to practice a particular religion/freedom of expression. Definitely curious to see what happens in France and how this debate plays out in the US.

  • telesonic

    It’s also pretty obvious that the Quran verses quoted in this opinion piece merely attempt to give God’s blessing to patriarchal cultural practices that already existed before Mohammed came along. They have nothing to do with women being modest, and everything to do with women being the property of the male members of her clan. Typical primitive tribal kinship/marriage customs. The 21st century West is no place for them.

  • bevjims1

    Oh let the fools wear what they want or even what is decided for them to wear by their dominant significant other. But for security everyone should have their face uncovered when entering a bank, jewelry store, office building or other sensitive area where any covered face (e.g., a face mask, stocking over the head, burka, etc…) would be considered a possible threat. If anyone wants to wear a burka or anything that covers the face in certain public places they should be prepared to uncover or not enter. In today’s world you can never leave your house and still shop online, get groceries online, pay bills online, etc. There is no reason we should accomodate the security issue of covering of one’s face in public anymore than we should allow masked men into stores or masked men to enter banks. I feel sorry for the women who are forced to wear them, but we cannot indulge every religious edict to the detriment of safety and all sensibility. If a burka is worn driving a car, fine, just be prepared to uncover if pulled over for speeding. If you go to the bank be prepared to uncover your face when you enter. If a man cannot do things with his face covered what makes a Muslim woman different in an equal society? You can’t yell fire in a theater, you can’t wear a burka in most public places. Safety trumps religion.

  • mohamed

    God Save Mohamed alhady rojbany all the bad Amen Amen Amen God Save Mohamed alHady rojbany each and every bad makrooh Amen Amen Amen KADAFYBEST

  • bevjims1

    jitl wrote: “do i agree with the (burka) NO… but it is a slippery-slop!! if you can tell any religion YOU CANT wear this or that, then what??? who is next well maybe the jews for what they wear..what about —- fill in the blank. were do you draw the line..”Where security is an issue or identification is needed. Basically, where a man is not allowed to wear a mask a woman should not be allowed to wear a mask. I would imagine that most places where robbery is a concern would not allow the face to be covered. So wear your burka in a park, while driving, while strolling down the street, but don’t expect to wear it where any covered face is considered a threat in the nation you are living in. I cannot drink alcohol in many Muslim nations with no security reason for it. Why should western nations accomidate a burka against our existing security needs? If a man cannot wear a mask in certain places a woman should not either, religious reason or no.And just where is the religious edict? Its not in the Koran. Its a custom, a tradition. French women cover their breasts at American beaches, unlike at home. French women completely cover themselves when entering Mosques as required. What is the issue with asking women to not wear burkas when a covered face is considered a threat? Religious freedom is not an issue here.

  • nmoses

    I wonder if our forms of dress would be allowed if we moved en masse to Islamic countries.

  • padmanabhan40

    Only Muslims have the obsessive need to get back to the literal rendition of what the Koran says in respect of each and every social issue. Not to them the maxim best expounded by Samuel Johnson “Education is what is left after one has forgotten all that one was taught”!! To Muslims there is no such thing as imbibing the essence of ethics, morality and civic discourse and interpreting these time honored maxims to the needs of the present. No wonder this anachronism is exploited by the fanatical mullah crowd to spread their malevolent power over the masses and keep them in their thrall. The “fatwa” is a powerful tool in the hands of the mullahs to enforce their version of appropriate conduct on their flock. Deviant conduct is punished through social ostracism, denial of Muslim marriage rituals and even burial in Muslim graveyards. Even the most educated Muslim is thus socially intimidated from expressing dissent to this vicious conduct of regressive mullahs. No other religion keeps its “flock” (if indeed there was any) in such tight control as does Islam. No wonder creativity and innovation which thrives only in an environment which challenges established “conventional” wisdom is absent in Muslim countries. Though fanatical Muslims keenly follow innovations in the rest of the world and use them for destructive purposes as demonstrated by the Al Quaida terrorists and now the Taliban who use computers, satellite communications and the rest to spread mayhem round the world and Pakistan uses it to produce nuclear weapons while mired in deep poverty and crippling social unrest.

  • peacemaker3

    First of all, as we know muslim women have the right to practice their religion (by wearing islamic dress ) in America. But the question is do they have the right to continue practising their religion or not ? America is a free country ,so everyone has the right to do what ever he/she wants ( provided they don’t hurt anyone.) Practising one’s religion is a form of freedom. Besides, it’s just clothing ,that shows or expresses oneself. And is not a nuclear weapon or drugs .

  • fenwayfem

    Gee, i think this is such a great article, Pamela.

  • abhab

    I can never understand this obsession with the so-called modesty to the extent that an increasing number of women are wrapping themselves with head to toe shrouds. It is a statement that “I am holier than thou”. It is not different than those who choose street corners to do their ritual prayers, as commonly seen in Muslim societies. The Muslim prophet had 13 wives all living in one place and had guests visiting him all day long. He naturally wanted to protect his wives from the prying eyes of those stranger houseguests. His insecurity maybe understandable, even though he claimed to have the sexual prowess of thirty men, but that is no reason why all Muslim woman on earth need to be wrapped as such. A piece of cloth never protected a fallen woman from herself nor had an unveiled face corrupt a virtuous one.