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To Burka Or Not To Burka – That Is The Question!

June 23rd, 2009 · 26 Comments

To Burka or Not to Burka!If there aren’t enough problems in France with the Arab population not feeling integrated into French society (it’s not just a feeling, the majority are not) then French President Sarkozy wanting to ban the Burka in France will only add to the discord that already exist.

Today I will play Devil’s Advocate and say that there are always two sides to every story and the Burka is no different.  For most people in the Western World, the Burka represents suppression to Muslim women; a prison made of tissue.  The Burka is an outward symbol that the women wearing them are void of any freedom of expression.  We believe instead that these women are living under a male dictatorship imposed upon them by a religion, a father, a husband, an uncle or a brother.

Burka Battle!Yes, there are many women living under such circumstances, however, there are just as many women who are wearing the Burka by their own free choice.  As hard as it may be for many of us Western women to comprehend, that is the reality of the situation.  Yet, because it’s difficult for us to understand, we therefore assume that this is an obligation that has been forced upon these women.  (But!…..And it’s a big but!)  Is it possible that someone would choose to be covered from head to toe even in the midst of summer and oppressive heat?  Apparently so!

Nun’s HabitBy banning such attire, where is the freedom to choose what one wants to wear?  Where is this “Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité” that is France?  Imagine imposing upon nuns not to wear their habits?  For years Catholic nuns had no choice but to wear one, however, in this day and age, they have the right to choose whether to dress in a long habit, a short one, or not wear one at all.  Would anyone forbid a nun from wearing a long habit if she still wants to?

If a woman wants to wear a Burka (for whatever mysterious reason that many Western women Burka Battle!cannot comprehend ), then she should have that right!  However, if a woman does not want to wear a burka and she is being forced to do so, that is an entirely different issue and it should be banned!  The problem is – being able to discern the difference!

Maya Muses:  The majority of French people support banning the burka, but with an ever growing Muslim population in France, is this ban more related to fear?……And because of this fear, has France chosen to suppress the freedom of expression in deciding what someone can wear?  In taking away this freedom, this “right”, has France lost more than it will gain?

This is one battle that no matter what the outcome – people are not going to be happy!

Photo Credits:  Google Images and Flickr

Tags: In The News · Paris - Paname · Political Parlance

26 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Deena // Jun 23, 2009 at 11:12 pm

    Personally, I can’t imagine why any woman would want to wear one, but that’s just me!

  • 2 Maria // Jun 24, 2009 at 12:07 am

    Pretty cool post. I just found your site and wanted to say
    that I have really enjoyed reading your blog posts. In any case
    I’ll be subscribing to your feed and I hope you write again soon!

  • 3 Lynn // Jun 24, 2009 at 3:04 am

    Deena, I’m with you on that one!

  • 4 Lynn // Jun 24, 2009 at 3:05 am

    Thanks Maria!

  • 5 Tina // Jun 25, 2009 at 3:39 pm

    Like Lynn said there are two sides to every story, and no matter how many ways you look at it people are not going to be happy.

    The Quoran says that a woman should dress modestly. How she decides to adress that issue is up to her. Yes there are some countries where Woman are forced to wear Burqas. these “overalls” are more traditions from the countries itselves and not the actual Qouran.

    I mean there is a Law in Saudi Arabia where women are not allowed to drive?

    Someone like to explain to me where it says that in the Quoran.

    OK if women want to wear it fine. but what gets me is when male member of a family says she has to wear it because it´s our religion.

    Relgion or ego?

    God this is a big can of worms that got opened.

  • 6 Lynn // Jun 25, 2009 at 6:04 pm

    Good point, Tina! With all the rules and regulations accorded to the Koran, the book should be ten times larger than what it really is!

  • 7 Alan // Mar 15, 2010 at 9:29 am

    I like to think of myself as a tolerant person but a woman has just moved to our small Caribbean island, which has had medical students for years who wear hijab, and she wears a burka.

    I find it disturbing for several reasons. First, it is in fact (whether intended or not) a sign of the repression of females among some Muslims. We’ve all seen more subtle signs of this here before, but this is not subtle.

    And I don’t buy the argument that maybe she may wear it of her own choice; ever hear of the Stockholm Syndrome?

    Second, coming from a European culture, I don’t quite comprehend this collectivist thinking that someone coming to live in the West should be inconsiderate of local custom.
    A young female friend of ours visited Eqypt and apparently was dressed too Western for some, who spit on her and called her names in the street. Should she have dressed more modestly when in an Arab country? Yes! Would it be ok if people here spit on this woman in the burka and call her names? Of course not, but they did it in Eqypt.

    Finally, I’m bothered by what seems to be the exhibitionism of wearing a burka in the West. While no one can see her female shape, if they even wanted to, she certainly is drawing huge attention to herself by parading thus on our streets.

    My two cents. Thanks for addressing the issue.

  • 8 Lynn // Mar 16, 2010 at 2:23 am

    Alan, you made some good points and I agree that probably 95% of muslim women wearing the burka do it not by their own free choice, but by male domination, whether it be family, religion, society, etc. The danger however is denying that 5% (or 1%) of women who wear it by their own free choice. When a government begins imposing certain restrictions on personal freedoms, it may start with one small thing, but can easily snowball into other liberties. When you remove the rights of one, you remove the rights of all.

    I agree that this topic is quite heated in many European countries, but what a lot of Europeans do not seem to comprehend (or perhaps do not want to admit) is: many of these women who are wearing the burka are not foreigners, they are European citizens! They are no longer “coming from another country” to yours, they are born and raised in your countries, but under a different religious belief. I think that’s where the problem lies at its core, Europeans want to remain homogeneous and it’s too late! This is 2010 and whether Europeans want to accept it or not, it’s too late, there’s no turning back, their countries have become a melting pot that sooner or later they must embrace!

    Yes, I know all about the Stockholm Syndrome, but I would wager that there are probably more young Muslim women wearing a burka for no other reason than to defy the government’s stance on the issue, rather than feeling a connection with her oppressor, or for religious reasons. If that is the case, then that is her right! The same reason that my generation wore their hair long back in the 60’s and early 70’s which was to defy the establishment .

    If the burka is banned, will the governments in Europe then decide to ban yarmulkas for Jewish men? Will Hasidic Jews no longer be able to wear black coats and fur hats? As ridiculous as that may sound, it would have sounded just as ridiculous thirty years ago if you would have said that there would one day be a ban on muslim women wearing a burka. That’s where the danger is and that’s why I am showing both sides of this debate.

  • 9 Lynn // Mar 16, 2010 at 2:37 am

    One final comment, when I went to Egypt, I dressed modestly and I was alone on the streets of Cairo. Yes, many times I did not feel secure and I didn’t know certain things were taboo, for example: I went up to an elderly man and asked for directions to the post office. Within seconds I was surrounded by about twenty men wanting to know why I had stopped this man in the street. When they realized my reasons, they were very helpful. I was never spit upon or called names, so I wonder just how modestly your friend was dressed to have called so much attention to herself. That doesn’t mean that I think it was right for them to attack her that way; it wasn’t!

    When we travel and visit other countries, we should act accordingly and respect other people’s customs. Concerning the burka, however, I think you’re mixing apples with oranges. We’re not talking about “visitors” visiting France or other European countries, we’re talking about citizens born and raised there, living in that country and their rights! There’s the difference! The rights of every citizen!

  • 10 anwar // Mar 27, 2010 at 7:56 am

    i am from Bangladesh, from a very liberal family. When i was 15 i wear burka for 6 month. i stopped wearing it because my dad didn’t like it and every time he show me in burka we would have a big fight. At the end i got to tired of fighting all the time. but i tell you this when i was wearing burka i felt free. I felt like i was shielded from all evil eye and thought. People think especially western people that burka confined a woman but in truth i never felt more confidant more protected going out after dark then when i was wearing burka. I don’t expect all to agree with me but i do expect them to not press there believe in me. I wanted to take the burka aging but i am not very regular in my prayer. Taking burka without doing the 5 times namaz would be very hypocrite of me. As soon as i get the namaz regular i will take the burka again.

    And in my country the temperatures range between 38 and 41 °C. When i was wearing burks the temp didn’t feel more warmer that usual. I don’t know why but i just didn’t even though logically thinking i should have felt warmer.

    As for France, can you guys help me understand what is the difference between the leader who forces a woman against her will to wear burka and the leader who forces a woman against her will not to wear burka. I both case a woman is forced to do what the leader thinks is best for her. She is oppressed in both situation.

  • 11 Lynn // Mar 27, 2010 at 8:04 pm

    Anwar, thank you for your perspective on wearing a burka. It’s very interesting to hear you say that it is quite liberating which is different from what most Westerners would believe to be true.

    I agree with you 100% that there is no difference between a leader forcing women to wear a burka and a leader forcing women not to wear a burka, both are suppressing the rights of women! A woman should have the right to wear what she wants without a man telling her whether she can or can’t!!!

  • 12 anwar // Mar 28, 2010 at 2:30 am

    Hi Lynn,
    I saw this when i was surfing the web. its exactly what we feel. I thought you might like to read it.

  • 13 janet // Apr 30, 2010 at 5:22 pm

    Stop Lying!

    Islam oppresses women 100% and any women who supports Islam is being brainwashed. Would you want this for your child? Ban the Burka!

  • 14 janet // Apr 30, 2010 at 5:24 pm

    Women who “choose” to wear a burka are being “forced” and you know it!

    France has no choice but loose their freedom if they allow Islam to spread it’s power. The government is standing up for the powerless! Ban the Burka and ban Shira Law!

  • 15 Lynn // Apr 30, 2010 at 10:21 pm

    Janet, just because I’m trying to show two sides of this heated issue doesn’t mean that I’m lying! Nothing is completely black or white and my concern is more about our freedoms than about the burka per se!!!

    Of course I do not want women suppressed for any reason, nor any child for that matter, and just because I am raising both sides of this issue doesn’t mean I support it!

    Don’t you know what playing the Devil’s Advocate means???! Here, just for you…..

    “One who argues against a cause or position, not as a committed opponent but simply for the sake of argument or to determine the validity of the cause or position.”

  • 16 Alan // Jul 2, 2010 at 8:29 am

    Thank you Lynn for your input to this discussion but regarding the following matters I have some serious reservations.
    ……..”what a lot of Europeans do not seem to comprehend (or perhaps do not want to admit) is: many of these women who are wearing the burka are not foreigners, they are European citizens! They are no longer “coming from another country” to yours, they are born and raised in your countries, but under a different religious belief.”
    and …….”their countries have become a melting pot that sooner or later they must embrace!”
    It is difficult to see how citizens who purposely choose to take an isolationist approach to society, shunning real integration and actively pursuing change against the wishes of the broader community can be viewed as being part of a national melting pot.
    These thoughts are shared by my business partner Abdul who is Ishmaeli (a branch of Islam) and who has experienced fanaticism, isolationism, violence and suppression of his views.
    All this not as a Christian or an atheist non-believer – but purely because of simple intra-Islamic doctrinal interpretation.
    What future then for those countries experiencing broader negative population growths and rapidly expanding Islamic communities whose ideologies are so at odds with western society?
    It is the responsibility of any subset group of a nation to integrate and take a positive role in society, and that same group to foster leadership whose aspirations are not counter to those of the broader community.
    If this is not the will of the growing Islamic communities then the problem is much greater than that is any single item of apparel.
    The burka then may only be one symptom rather than the problem. A problem no longer to be ignored.
    Thank you and best wishes.

  • 17 Lynn // Jul 3, 2010 at 8:23 am

    Alan, a melting pot to me is not necessarily everyone becoming like one another, but living together with their differences.

    For example, most Chinese people who move to other countries maintain their individualism even in their new countries of choice. They live within a community that becomes known in most places as “Chinatown” and they maintain their customs as well.

    Often you see Chinese women still in traditional dress, the signs on their shops, banks, businesses and restaurants are in Chinese characters and yet no one makes an uproar as to why these people don’t integrate into their new society. Why? Probably because they are seen as hard working people who pose no threat to their new society. Is this where the difference is? You tell me.

  • 18 Lynn // Jul 3, 2010 at 9:22 am

    One more thing, Alan, as a Latina born in the early 1950’s in Pennsylvania, I experienced racism every single day that I went to grade school (from 6 to 11 years old) living in an all white neighborhood and us being the only Mexican-American family there; I know what racism is.

    When I first came to Europe at 19 years old and I met so many people from so many different European countries, I was amazed by the tolerance these people had for people of all races. They didn’t judge you for what race or nationality you were, they judged you for who you were. Unfortunately this has changed over the years.

    Just recently a young American girl I know, who happens to be part French/part Algerian was in a museum in Amsterdam looking at the paintings by the Dutch masters when a man working in the museum went up to her and told her to leave. “Why?” she asked. “Because we don’t want your kind in here. Go back to your country where you belong.” He forced her to leave the museum.

    She was shocked! She was alone, dressed appropiately, minding her own business, had just graduated from a University in Louisiana with honors, and had never experienced racism in her life.

    I was shocked and saddened that something like this could happen in Amsterdam of all places. I had lived in Amsterdam for a year in the early 1970’s and never would I have dreamed that this could have happened there. To me the Dutch didn’t know racism when I lived there. They had such an open spirit that I loved.

    It’s sad to see this change of mentality happening throughout Europe. It starts with one group of people that is targeted and then it snowballs into intolerance for everyone who is not like them.

  • 19 Alan // Jul 10, 2010 at 8:59 pm

    Hi Lynn.
    It shocks and saddens me also that these seemingly small but genuinely unsettling and significant shifts are occurring in our societies.
    Tolerance is a two sided mirror that can catch both native and immigrant.
    We each must be willing to reflect upon our own condition.
    You speak off racism as being the problem but that is not my feeling nor the experience within my little fish pond.
    Ethnicity from my observation is largely irrelevant – we each observe, interact and exchange human experiences with friendship and respect.
    My real beef is with the zealots of this world (particularly religious) whose self-appointed mandates appear to be the infliction of their ideology and extremism upon the rest of humanity.
    All this while appearing unable to reflect on their own inadequacies and at times barbarism.
    Your Chinese reference brings to mind my friend and colleague Bobby who parents escaped persecution in China with their young son.
    Imposed ideology drove them out but no more committed friend and citizen exists in this world, freely and eagerly engaging a new and prosperous life.
    He brings no animosity and carries none of the baggage of political or religious extremism to infest his adopted country.
    Also I reflect on my partners in business all of which have comparatively similar ethical views and aspirations.
    These men (and yes they are all men) have represented a veritable United Nations of ethnic backgrounds. Nobody thought to limit them by pidgin-holing them into any particular racial group.
    They are a melting pot of willing participants.
    Not homogenized ………. but also not poisoning their foster country with inherited sociopathic ideologies.
    It you come as adopted sons and daughters ……… then come please, participate and share the wealth …………… but leave your baggage at the door.
    That’s my rant for the day.
    All the best.

  • 20 Lynn // Jul 11, 2010 at 6:32 am

    Alan, I am with you on that one!!!

  • 21 K dub // Jul 13, 2010 at 9:03 pm

    I went looking for an image of a nun in a habit to prove this very point and found your post. I could’t agree more. Thanks for simultaneously making such a good point! Liberation is choice. It is the opposite of a ban.

  • 22 Lynn // Jul 14, 2010 at 9:19 pm

    K dub, I do thing a nun’s habit makes a good point in this discussion…..we were on the same wavelength.

  • 23 MAY // Apr 3, 2011 at 7:39 am

    There are so many misunderstanding between the west and the east.

    Every ethnics has a culture which they follow. This is where many people gets confused. Islam and cultures aren’t the same. There completely two different things.
    let me give you an example. I am a British Muslim Bengali girl. my parents were born in Bangladesh, they used to believe that culture is part of their religion. They used to believe that men were allowed to control women. They were led to believe that in a marriage men has every right to treat their wife like a slave. They believed that women will have to be a house wife once they get married. They also believed that women should start wearing the burka after their marriage at the age of 30, they laughed at teenage girls who wore the burka.
    other so called religious men would force their wife to wear burka because they think that is what the Qura’n says. “Force your wife and your daughter to wear the jilbab” LOL

    These cultural belief goes against what Islam says about men and women.

    Islam gave rights to women years ago. Just recently western women earned their rights, but if they are equal than why is that a women is allowed to wear knee length skirts in banks and men have to wear trousers????? They are both equal aren’t they? Its because we know that a females body is much more attractive in comparison to male. This is why Islam tells women to dress modestly as well as men.

    Islam says that men and women are equal, but their not identical. Female are more attractive which is why we are asked to cover up. How ever whether you want to cover up is your choice. No one is allowed to force one another.

    I am 17 and I CHOSE to cover fully at the age of 15. No one forced me to wear it, as I told you my father and mother are traditional they laughed at me. But I continued to wear it out of my own will. I live in Britain, I knew how hard it would be for me, but I chose to challenge all the discrimination.

    I am not brain washed, I chose to wear the full Burka, I feel protected, I feel free, I smile back to those who look at me with a weird expression on their face. No one forced me to wear it, Its my own fashion, I belong to a group; a group that don’t feel bad about them self, a group that don’t feel scared to walk alone, a group who are strong to stand up for themselves, and a group that has own mind and free will. I AM NOT BRAIN WASHED, if any one is brain washed its the western young people. They follow the T.V and magazines. They look at celebrities and try to copy their style. Why would you follow celebrities when you have your own mind????
    and you tell me I am brain washed!!!! PSHT!!!

  • 24 Lynn // Apr 20, 2011 at 7:39 pm

    Good point May! As long as women do it by their own free will that’s fine and not because the men in their lives force them to do it.

  • 25 Terry Allard // Jun 13, 2012 at 8:05 pm

    I think you are off the mark about nuns habits in France.
    They cannot wear them if working in public institutions including schools.
    You hav not done your research very well on this fact and it throws everything else you attempt to put forth as fact into discredit.

  • 26 Lynn // Jun 14, 2012 at 6:59 pm

    Terry, thanks for your comment, but I am not talking about working in public institutions, nor in private enterprises, etc. Of course there are always rules as to what someone can wear whether it be in a public school, a company office, etc. A person cannot walk the streets naked, nor can a person go into many establishments if they aren”t wearing shoes.

    The difference here concerning the burka is we’re talking about a woman not having the right to wear a burka if she just wants to go out for a walk in the park, on the beach, or in the street.

    This is not the case for a nun who wants to wear a habit, as a matter of fact just last week I was walking down the street in Paris with a friend and we passed a nun who was in a full habit. We even commented on it because it’s not often that we see one nowadays.

    The difference here is this nun had the right to wear her habit walking down the street and didn’t run the risk that someone was going to give her a fine because of it, whereas a woman wearing a burka in the street would.

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