The burqa ban and freedom of choice

Issue 

Freedom or at least women’s freedom is still defined by men’s perspective. There’s still a patriarchal attitude towards the woman’s independent decision making.

Society’s attitude towards women’s religious beliefs are defined by patriarchal values. So if we happen to cover ourselves it must be because of the men who control us, not our own choice or beliefs.

If we claim that we follow our own faith, it must be us who is brainwashed by a patriarchal society — but not a patriarchal society that tries to rip our headscarves off.

If we happen to say that we feel naked without a burqa it must be our weak mind that is raised under an oppressed family not our strength to stand up for what we believe.

Yes, it might be true that 1400 years ago, patriarchal society’s demands forced women to cover up more than they used to. But in 2010 we live in a time when there’s supposed to be sanctity of the individual choice.

No one’s values should determine other people’s personal choices, no matter how bizarre or sub-standard they might seem to others. Freedom of choice means the freedom to make stupid choices. Things which seem stupid to some people will seem logical to others.

The false claim that all women in burqa are under male oppression is used to cover up oppressive tendencies in Western society. It’s used as a cover for xenophobia, racism and religious intolerance, a cover for wars and a cover for the sexism that exists in Western society.

Gender-based violence exists in Western and Muslim societies, with Muslim men showing no more or less proclivity to it than non-Muslim men. If there’s no ban on alcohol in western societies because of gender-based violence by some intoxicated men, why discuss having a ban on the burqa because of gender-based violence by some disturbed Muslim men? It is a double standard.

All sorts of arguments are being used in support of banning the burqa, even suggesting that there’s a correlation between burqas and criminality. Surely hoodies are more related to anti-social behaviour than burqas.

So what reason is there to single out and attack burqas rather than any other piece of clothing other than prejudice? If we are going to embrace a mentality of censorship that extends even to clothing then where draw the line? Who is going to decide whose perspective is better than the others?

Feminists have always said: Just get your hands, and your laws, off women’s bodies. Our bodies are not vessels for a discussion on national identity or society’s values.

Comments

The West knows how to “liberate” people – make them more like us. “Ignorant savages” need to adopt the clothing we wear and “unliberated Muslim women” need to give up clothing that we don’t wear. Controlling what other people wear is all about controlling other people. Let's oppose all authoritative dictates about what women should wear and extend unconditional support to all oppressed women. Only a peaceful egalitarian society will allow women to make truly free choices about what we wear.