Thursday, 2 October 2014

Our Prime Minister finds the burqa

"confronting". I find it unnecessary.
There is no requirement in the Koran for women to wear the burqa or the niqab - or even the hijab. There is a verse, which I cannot find at present, which requires women to dress modestly. That is all.
It is that verse, written by a male and interpreted by yet other males, which is used to demand the burqa and other forms of dress which mark some women out and isolate them from the rest of the community.  It is a form of dress demanded by men as a means of controlling women.
And, before anyone suggests that I am being anti-Muslim, may I point out that other groups do the same thing. The most notable example in our local community are the Exclusive Brethren - a rigid fundamentalist "Christian" sect. The women of that sect are not permitted to wear trousers (or any other item of male attire) and are required to wear head scarves over their long hair in public. Married women also wear a ribbon in their hair as a token of their submission to their husband - a fact rather awkwardly explained to me by one of the women in question.
I find all that unnecessary too.
I find men requiring women to dress in a certain way insulting. It doesn't matter who they are or where they come from.  
Some Muslim women will say they choose to dress that way. They may genuinely believe that. I think it is much more likely they have been brought up to believe that is what they must do. They will do it because, like a Brethren woman, to rebel is almost unthinkable. It means losing your family and your support network. It might even, in some parts of the world, result in your death.
The notion of dressing "modestly" does not bother me - if it is taken to mean that you are appropriately dressed for the circumstances in which you find yourself. Yes, you need to consider other people up to a point. I would find it a little odd to have a High Court judge deliver a judgment in a bikini. It would be disrespectful of the office they hold. Going to your child's wedding in your dirty old gardening clothes suggests a lack of respect for the importance of the occasion. But, covering yourself in certain ways simply because someone else says you "must" even when a majority of others do not do it in the same setting suggests you are being controlled rather than controlling your own life.
I do not own a skirt or a dress. I have no need of one. I once wore a sari to the wedding of an Indian friend. Her father gave me the sari - as he gave all her friends a sari - and told me he would be "honoured" if I wore it but he made it plain I did not need to, especially if I would find it too difficult. I did wear it because the idea appealed to me and I felt I was respecting their culture - and we both laughed later about how nervous I had been about the whole thing falling apart. I have often considered having the whole thing cut up and turned into trousers and tunic - his suggestion.
I dress as I want to dress. I dress with due to consideration to the circumstances in which I find myself but I won't cover myself from head to because a man demands I do it.  Is that wrong?

Perhaps people could argue I was being controlled by a man on that occasion. I hope not. I seriously considered trousers and then decided that the challenge of wearing a sari just once was not to be resisted. I have not spent the rest of my life wearing a sari. If I lived in India I would not wear one on a daily basis. I might if I was "dressing up".  

1 comment:

jeanfromcornwall said...

You must remove a motor-cycle helmet when going into a bank or Post Office: it would be unacceptable to wear a full-face balaclava, so why should a piece of cloth covering everything be acceptable? And how is anyone to know that the person under the burka is actually a woman. and not a man being deceptive?
There was a colony of Exclusives near where I used to live and we saw the women around with their ankle-length (denim) skirts and their miniscule head triangles. I think the thing that disturbed me most was that there was no marker to distinguish the men - the bookshop bought maps from a local wholesaler, and I had no idea that it was one of theirs until the chap we usually dealt with sent a young woman from the office with an urgent order - and she was marked by her clothing, and the yards of hair that so needed the split ends trimmed off.