Liberation in a burqa or bikini?In Blog
France saying that all burqa-clad women are terrorists is like calling all scantily-dressed women whores. So, Burqa or Bikini?
At night I sleep holding a pillow close to me. I am alone. But now it seems I have many with me. There is no religion that protects women except Islam. At this age that is what I need.
This is what the late Kamala Das who became Kamala Suraiya said after she embraced Islam. The bindi on her forehead vanished and her multi-colored saris were replaced by the single color burqa.
In France, which recently banned the burqa, 32-year-old Kenza Dride has become the face (faceless?) of the country’s “Burqa Brigade”. Since the ban came into force on the 12th of April, women wearing face veils have been arrested and a fine of 150 euros (about Rs 10,000) imposed on them. Dride who was born in France says, “This law makes France look ridiculous. I never thought I’d see the day when France, the country I was born in and love, the country of liberté, égalité, fraternité, would do something that so obviously violates people’s freedom. It is my personal choice to wear a burqa.”
She adds: “If women want to walk around half-naked or wear tight jeans or walk around with their breasts hanging out, I don’t give a damn and I don’t object to them doing so. But if they are allowed to do that, why should I not be allowed to cover up?”
In fact, this is the point: Shouldn’t what one wear be a matter of personal choice?
Many believe that the burqa has been imposed on Muslim women by a religion which is intrinsically intolerant of women’s rights. Whereas the fact is that the burqa or the veil was in existence long before Islam was even born. As way back as 200 AD, the Roman African Christians praised the modesty of those “pagan women of Arabia” who “not only cover their head, but their whole face rather than prostituting themselves’’.
What the holy Koran says about the burqa is: “Tell the believing women to lower their gaze and be modest and to draw their veils over their bosoms.’’ If most Pakistani women – like the late Benazir Bhutto – wear just a veil covering their heads, Saudi women wear the all-encompassing black cloaks, Afghani women wear colourful cloaks with a kind of lace covering their eyes and Dubai women wear masks through which their beautiful eyes can be seen. Paradoxically, in Algerian Sahara, among a tribe known as Tuareg, it is the men who wear veils covering everything except their eyes and women go barefaced!
From a western or liberated point of view, the veil is a kind of a prison imposed on women by men in the name of religion. But most Muslim women wear it out of personal choice. If some of them believe that wearing the burqa is following the wishes of their Allah, some others feel safe wearing it. Other reasons for wearing the burqa range from evading unwanted attention from men, as well as the ability to bargain better at shops!
One of the reasons given by the French government to ban the burqa is to avoid terrorist strikes. Implying that burqa-clad women are terrorists. By the same parameter, are all scantily dressed women whores? This point is beautifully elucidated in a short play written by Sabina England. The play is a conversation between two statues; one in a bikini and the other in a burqa.
Excerpts from their conversation:
BIKINI: Here I am, wearing a bikini and showing the whole world my body. You wear that thing (burqa) because a man or your religion forced you to!
BURQA: Nobody forced me to wear a burqa! I chose to wear it because I want to please my Lord! My body is a jewel and I want to guard my jewel.
BIKINI: I see my body as a jewel too. I want to show it off to the whole world to see!
BURQA: (sneering) You feel the need to wear a bikini because you’re desperate to seek approval from males to feel beautiful.
BIKINI: Doesn’t it get hot under there?
BURQA: Don’t you feel dirty when guys look at you like you’re a blown-up doll?
BIKINI: I think YOU are oppressed.
BURQA: You call this oppression, I call this my liberation.
Let people live however they choose to. Let them think, pray, dress, eat, talk, behave, live and love the way they wish to. Isn’t it diversity that makes the human race so beguiling and charming?