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Veils: who are we to judge?

18 January 2012 General 76 Comments Email This Post Email This Post
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Veils: who are we to judge?

No item of female apparel summons more attention, animosity, debate or censure in Western society than the veil covering Muslim women. That’s saying something in a culture inured to the sight of sweatpants with “Juicy” on the backside, Abercrombie & Fitch’s padded “push-up” swimsuit tops for eight-year-old girls, and women teetering on skyscraper porno heels as hobbling as the “chopines” worn by 16th-century Venetian prostitutes.

Governments are racing to restrict the veil in its various declensions: hijab, chador, abaya, niqab, burka. France and Belgium banned face-and-body concealing burkas and niqabs last year; similar legislation is in the works in other European countries, echoing campaigns to rid cityscapes of minarets. Last June, Muslim women were singled out by FIFA, the world soccer body, which banned players from wearing Islamic headdresses on the grounds they could cause a “choking injury.” The Canadian federal government drew its first line in the sand last month when Immigration Minister Jason Kenney announced a ban on face veils during the swearing-in of the citizenship oath. Quebec’s Bill 94, which would deny essential public services to women in niqabs in the name of “public security, communication and identification,” is wending through the legislature.

So what’s really going on here? Why are women many see as subjugated the ones being censured? Part of what’s driving this is the visceral response a veiled face summons in the West: it’s a mystery and a threat. Unless you’re a surgeon, a goalie, a bride or a belly dancer, masking one’s face is anti-social, a prelude to robbing a bank or attending a Ku Klux Klan meeting. Faces confer identity, legally and socially. Covering them can signal Darth Vader menace. It’s dehumanizing.

A covered or veiled woman summons more complex associations, given that female emancipation in the West focused on bodily autonomy and was mirrored in fashion trends—beginning with Coco Chanel, who believed women should share the same liberties as men and replaced restrictive corsets and long skirts with jersey dresses, knits and pants. Instructing a woman to cover up to preserve sexual modesty and prevent lustful thoughts is viewed as archaic and misogynistic—harking back to the Victorians hiding curvy table legs or the kind of dystopian theocracy depicted in Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. The “liberated” woman eschews modesty; any instructive to preserve it is code for oppression, as seen in global “SlutWalks” protesting “victim-blaming” after a Toronto police officer suggested women could avoid sexual assault if they stopped dressing “like sluts.”

Western women may be shackled by clothing and customs—six-inch stilettos, Brazilian waxing, cosmetic surgery, the imperative to be thin—but that’s seen to be their choice, their self-expression within a culture that often conflates female empowerment with female sexuality. A veiled Muslim woman is therefore even more freighted, thought to represent a second-class citizen deprived of identity and isolated from public life, a trapped victim of “gender apartheid,” as witnessed by the horrific acid attack on Afghani schoolgirls who abjured the offensive burka.

Yet we didn’t always see it that way. In the 1990s, the niqab, the veil that leaves only eyes exposed, was exotic, a marketing ploy: Loblaw put a photograph of a woman wearing one on the box for its “Memories of Marrakech” couscous. The “otherness” of a veiled Muslim could occasionally inflame bigotry, as seen in 1994 when female high school students in Montreal were expelled for wearing the hijab; the head scarf worn to preserve modesty was deemed an “ostentatious symbol.” But the burka was off the political radar, with the exception of feminist groups that protested the repression of women in fundamentalist Islamic nations, particularly Afghanistan, where Taliban rule in 1994 torched advances made by women.

Then came 9/11, and the burka was hijacked as a handy accessory for the emerging “war on terror.” The week after the twin towers fell, The Economist sent out a “free trial offer” mailer recycling a February 2000 cover of a woman in a niqab below the line: “Can Islam and Democracy Mix?” The image was sultry, destined to boost subscriptions, even if linking a veiled woman with all of Islam was below the magazine’s usual intellectual rigour. Not all Muslim women wear face-covering veils; many Muslims oppose the practice. The Quran, an enlightened text regarding gender equality, enforces no dress code; “hijab,” or cover, refers to the curtain that separates man and the world from God, not to clothing. Men and women are only called to “lower their gaze and guard their modesty.” Nor are Muslim nations in sync on veiling, which has come to represent an oppression-meter of sorts—from Afghanistan, where women faced a mandatory burka law punishable by death, to Tunisia and Turkey, where burkas are banned in schools and government buildings.

Turkish-born sociologist Necla Kelek dismisses the idea that the burka has anything to do with religion or religious freedoms, but rather represents an ideology whereby “women in public don’t have the right to be human.” France’s Fadéla Amara views the garment as a form of religious obscurantism, “a kind of tomb for women.” In her 2004 book, The Trouble with Islam, Irshad Manji rejects any notion of “spiritual submission” to the veil, calling adherence “closer to cultural capitulation”: “To cover my face because ‘that’s what I’m supposed to do’ is nothing short of brand victory for desert Arabs, whose style has become the most trusted symbol of how to package yourself as a Muslim woman.”

Yet as a symbol, the “desert Arab” packaging of women offered powerful visual shorthand for the indeterminate “war on terror.” It was harnessed to garner support for the invasion of Afghanistan, where the road to female freedom was measured in media reports in terms of women’s access to lipstick and beauty salons. Then the burka was tied to Islamic terrorism itself, linking the “war on terror” with a “war on Islam”: video footage that appeared to show one of the failed July 2005 London bombers wearing a niqab implanted fear that the garment posed a national security threat. That risk migrated to Muslim immigrants’ seeming unwillingness to conform to European and American mores. Even global cultural juggernaut Disney, whose 1992 Aladdin came under fire for promoting racist Arabic stereotypes, joined the hijab jihad last year, telling more than one Magic Kingdom employee that they were “not part of the Disney look.”

We can only await the Disneyfication of the burka, which has acquired near magical powers in its ability to turn right-wing politicians into situational feminists. French President Nicolas Sarkozy called the garment “a debasement” of women that rendered them “prisoners behind a screen, cut off from all social contact, deprived of all identity,” ignoring the fact that his ban would closet these women in their homes. As British writer Myriam Francois-Cerrah, a Muslim, puts it: “[Governments] have a funny idea of liberation: criminalizing women in order to free them.”

Sheema Khan, author of Of Hockey and Hijab: Reflections of a Canadian Muslim Woman, likens the paranoia over female veiling to another trumped-up distraction: “These new WMDs (women in Muslim dress) seem to evoke the same fear as those other WMDs (weapons of mass destruction),” she writes. Khan, who wears the hijab, sees a cultural disconnect over the female body and its display: “Muslim women value their bodies, they simply don’t believe in flashing skin.”

In their covering and attempt to disappear from the public sphere, veiled women have acquired paradoxical power in a society that pays attention to women for what they’re not wearing: as the most visible of visible minorities, they’re a measure of multiculturalism’s limits. And as a graphic reminder of the world’s fastest-growing religion, they test how much religious observation and cultural defiance we’re willing to accommodate—and accept.

Jason Kenney described a covered face as “un-Canadian” when announcing the new citizenship ruling: “Allowing a group to hide their faces while they are becoming members of our community is counter to Canada’s commitment to openness, equality and social cohesion,” he said. The minister admitted he found it “frankly, bizarre” that women had been allowed to veil their faces. Some 81 per cent of Canadians agreed with the veto, according to a Forum Research poll, which raises questions as to whether we’ll see similar rulings in other public spaces; Muslim women’s right to veil their faces while giving testimony is currently being challenged.

Canadian political scientist and Middle East scholar Katherine Bullock predicted that Muslim women would become “the visible link between Western power politics and an anti-veil discourse in the West,” in her 2002 book, Rethinking Muslim Women and the Veil. The University of Toronto professor, a convert to Islam since 1994, wears the hijab. She was prescient: Sarkozy’s targeting of the Muslim minority is viewed by many as a pander to voters on the extreme right.

Bullock challenges the common view that the veil is oppressive and degrading. While she acknowledges the horrific violation of women’s rights in Islamic states, she writes that these must be addressed by the courts, and that a woman’s right to wear the veil should be separate from other human rights issues. That argument is a hard sell in the West, where high-profile murders of Muslim girls and women are associated with their rejection of the veil in “honour killings,” the odious term that segregates extreme domestic violence: Aqsa Parvez, the 16-year-old Mississauga, Ont., girl who was murdered in 2007 by her father and brother for refusing to wear the veil, and the ongoing Shafia trial in Kingston, Ont., in which a husband, wife and son are accused of murdering three teenage girls and a first wife. At that trial an expert prosecution witness overtly raised the connection when speaking of Muslim mores: “A woman’s body is considered to be the repository of family honour,” he said.

That any woman would willingly wear an “ambulatory prison,” as Christine St-Pierre, Quebec’s minister for the status of women, has called the niqab, is a mystery in a culture focused on the exposed female body and the distorted “body image” resulting from artificial Photoshopped standards. Amid “Does this burka make me look fat?” jokes, female Western journalists took the garments out for test drives, reporting back that they were confining, isolating and even elicited hostility, which is predictable. Veiled Muslim women have become doubly dehumanized in the West—by the veil itself and incendiary responses to what it’s seen to represent—which makes them vulnerable to the kind of violent Islamophobic attacks seen in France.

Yet the defiance expressed by hijab and burka wearers confounds the stereotype that they are submissive and lack will. Disney’s hijab ban has been successfully challenged. Last September, Hind Ahmas and Najate Nait Ali made headlines when they were fined for disobeying the French burka ban.

Inscrutable and complex, the veil is a code that can’t readily be cracked. Many women are veiled against their will, it is true, yet many others choose it. The idea that the veil could represent an assertion of identity, defined by daily connection and devotion to God, is alien for many in a secular culture. Liberal ideas of equality and liberty, which distinguish want from need, trump other ways of looking at the topic, says Middle Eastern historian Christina Michelmore, a professor at Chatham College in Pittsburgh, Pa.: “A lot of women want to wear it because they have to,” she told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in 2001. “It was a commandment, and I would obey,” Bullock writes. That’s a mindset alien in the West, Michelmore observes: “For many Americans, cultural restraints on individual behaviour automatically look like oppression. I think that’s a very American look at the world. For lots of cultures, communal standards aren’t seen as inhibiting individual freedoms.”

Women wear the veil as a rejection of Western values, Michelmore notes: “They see it as part of their identity, as separate from this globalized McDonald’s world.” Many of the veil’s most vocal proponents, ironically, are Western women who’ve converted to Islam, among them Tony Blair’s sister-in-law, Lauren Booth, German broadcaster Kristiane Backer, author of the 2009 book From MTV To Mecca, and Yvonne Ridley, of Islam Channel TV. Ridley extols the veil as offering freedom from Western sexism—the male gaze that renders a woman “invisible” after a certain age and undue judgment of women based on their appearance: “What is more liberating: being judged on the length of your skirt and the size of your surgically enhanced breasts, or being judged on your character and intelligence?” she asks. Yet to frame the debate as an either-or duality between two cultures is to ignore the continuity that exists. There’s synchronicity in the burka being stigmatized at the same time female display in the West has geared into cartoonish, hyper-sexualization—the mainstreaming of the stripper aesthetic, the creepy Toddlers and Tiaras commodification of girls, and billboards like Estée Lauder’s: “Beautiful gives her daughter something to look forward to.” A new study from the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism reveals women are increasingly under-represented and overly sexualized in top movies: they’re far more likely to be seen in “sexy” clothing (25.8 per cent, compared to men at 4.7 per cent) and to be partially naked (23.6 per cent compared to 7.4 per cent). Yet the barbaric repression of women in fundamentalist Islamic nations—stoning for adultery, being denied the vote and access to education—renders complaints about continuing gender inequities in the West trivial by comparison, when, in fact, they are all extremes on a vast continuum.

Legislating what women wear under the guise of freedom is a worrisome portent, one Human Rights Watch calls a “lose-lose situation”: “[Burka bans] violate the rights of those who choose to wear the veil and do nothing to help those who are compelled to do so,” Judith Sunderland, a senior researcher with the group, said last April.

Art allows an exploration of the ambiguities that politics cannot. Canadian photographer Lana Slezic captured a fearful complexity in her famous portrait of Lt.-Col. Malali Kakar, Afghanistan’s most senior female police officer, who was murdered by the Taliban in 2008. Taken in profile, the image shows Kakar shrouded in a half burka, holding a handgun, her fingernails painted bright red. The image of the Afghan police officer working to emancipate Afghan women wearing a symbol of oppression upends the assumption that an unseen woman can’t yield power. Last week, Michelle Risinger, an NGO worker, blogged on GenderAcrossBorders.com about a successful uprising in Kabul by women disguised by their burkas; it forced her to redefine the garment “from a symbol of repression to a means of protection, and even the sustainment of women’s empowerment activities.”

Parisian guerrilla artist “Princess Hijab” explores the power of the veil in her work, using a black marker to “hijabize” and “niqabize” billboards to subvert consumer imagery and push cultural boundaries. “The niqab is very powerful, not just religiously,” the artist told Al Jazeera in 2010: “It has been used in fairy tales, it’s part of the collective memory, a symbol of religious observance, mourning and death.” The veil doesn’t belong to a single religious or ethnic group, she points out: “It’s an empowering piece of clothing but it also can be frightening.”

Exiled Iranian artist and filmmaker Shirin Neshat, known for her “Women of Allah” series, similarly creates haunting, powerful images of veiled women, some with guns, their bodies superimposed with Farsi poetry. “Western culture generally tends to mystify women behind a veil,” Neshat told hEyOkA magazine: “It seems ironic but true that the more a female body is covered, the more desirable it becomes. Therefore much of the credit goes to the phenomena behind Islamic culture that by controlling female sexuality, it ironically heightens the notions of temptation, desire and eroticism.”

That would explain the bizarre spectre of the increasing sexual fetishization of the burka in the West. In 2003, rapper Lil’ Kim appeared in a half-burka, naked below, on a magazine cover. In 2009, Mattel endorsed a “Burka Barbie.” The pneumatic plastic doll, once banned in Iran as a threat to “morality,” was outfitted in lime-green and Day-Glo orange “burkas” and auctioned off at Sotheby’s for Save the Children. A few months ago, Kim Kardashian, of sex tape infamy, pranced around in a burka in Dubai. Paparazzi swarmed. It was defiant, outrageous, more shocking than nudity. And anyone who sees it as cultural progress hasn’t been paying attention.

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76 Comments »

  1. Some churches have dress codes and customs to preserve modesty. This article mentions the exremes in Western dress.

    This article also realizes that concealment = criminal endeavor in the West, for which I am grateful. Usually we get the bland disregard for everybody else which is the hallmark of muslim thought imho.

    As usual, there is no recognition of the aggression and murder perpetrated against others by muslims, which may be foremost in everybody’s minds except theirs.

  2. Anon
    Theyre speakin of one topic which has nothin to do with murder or thaf stuff. Why bring it in? Does a hijab symbolize murder? No. Oppression? Not even, its a form of respect and modesty so a woman is looked at and judged based on her actions, not her looks. Men tend to ogle their curves and hair and beauty. The concept of hijab is to not necassarily conceal it, but to highlight the beauty from within. To gain more respect and self confidence. If theyre forced to by their families, then we have an issue. A woman should never be forced, if she is, then Lord knows whats gona happen to the people who forced her. Well we all kno, they go to Hell, but they probably think if they force something good on someone its ok but its not. The men have their own concept of hijab, to also dress n speak modestly around the other sex.
    Anyway, i kno why theyre talking about the extremities here in America. I like that practicing christians and jews cover up too, in their own ways, But is that the stuff being promoted on TV? Jersey Shore, Real Housewives, the kardashians… They advocate for the exact opposite. If you cover up, your too “matronly”, and if your modest, you need to “get laid” like seriously admit it this society does that…i only wish more good clean things would be in the media but for now i havta sit thru this gross crap.

  3. http://m.youtube.com/index?desktop_uri=%2F&gl=US#/watch?v=j4lAeloANYA

    If it doesnt open, look for stuff hijabis say by sister randomina, SO realistic…absolutely hilarious.

  4. The media? The media is hopelessly interested in extremes, always has been. Nowadays serious news is mixed in with absurdities.

    Freedom of speech in US has been instrumental in solving some problems. When I was a child, Smoking and drunkeness was widesperad, AAs could not go to most universities, police and fire depts in many cities were maintained as Irish men’s clubs. It was still possible to kill AAs and get away with it.

    Muslims seem in full denial that there is anything involving them going wrong that ought to be fixed or even worked on.

    It is simply ok to kill or maltreat non muslims. Why on earth would non muslims want to see you coming? You want to take over the gov and commence the same miseries you are inflicting on other parts, including forcing women to dress in certain ways, locking them up separating them.

    Like a great blind dinosaur stamping about.

  5. Anon
    You just said it yourself. The media drips with overexaggerated extremities…so why do you believe in whAt they say about us? Yea, isnt drinking and smoking still a big thing? I mean, its basically all over.
    And no muslims arent in denial of anything. Ive been going on and on about all the things Middle Eastern countries and their leaders, extremists and all that. Lots of muslims are ignorant, like the girl who defended Osama Bin Laden but didnt even know who he was. But really muslims kno wat goes around them, and no they dont like it. Thats why we have Native Deen, Rami Nashashibi, Sami Yousef, Boonaa Mohammed,Lupe Fiasco, Outlandish, me in the future God willing, who spread good Islam through music and poetry and powerful speech, the way its meant to be. Were not in denial. Were trying to correct mistakes. like what do you want us to do? Wrap our heads with black scarves toting guns yelling “halalalala” as we march into saudia arabia and blow stuff up cause we dont like how things work there? Um no, thats confirming a stereotype we are trying to shake off. Were trying to do stuff the peaceful way.
    Mmmn
    No lol were really not trying to take over anything. In the Quran it says “obey the law of the land. If its dangerous for you to live their, move out or in the direst of situations, you may lie abt your religion to protect your own life. And when i say dangerous, and dire, i mean like theyll kill you or imprison you or starve you for being Muslim. Which happens.
    Not really. If you see someone of a different religion you can smile, make salam to them, some people invite them to dinner, no joke. Really like you think everytime a muslim walks past you, theyre thinking “your next infidel” lmfao rofl caaaaaallllmmmm dowwwn lol. Sorry someone said that and i just died it was so ridiculous. Infidels, kufar, were the quraysh, the arab pagans who buried their daughters and worshipped statues and treated orphans and widows like crap, which Islam came to abolish. The same type of kufar were Pharoah and his crew, the ones who tried to kill the Israelites and Moses, whom is one of my favorite biblical Prophets, i think his story is wonderful. So unorthodox but i have sucha little girl crush on him lol. Anyway, Judas was a kafir. Why? Well he tried to kill Jesus, he disbelieved and not even a real
    practicing Jew. And not even that. You kno those ayahs “kill them all,” yea, those were referring back to when the quraysh (1000 strong) waged war against the 300 muslims who ran away from mekka because of persecution. The ayah was sent down to confirm to the muslims that it was ok to fight them now. Pact of medina. Jews and muslims lived in harmony, were supposed to, at least. The prophet married a jewish woman for a reason. The starvation/fighting thats not supposed to be done on a regular basis. If your in a war, and they are bent in fighting you to the death, then fight and do that…but if your in a store and some nonmuslim walks by are expected to hiss at them? Call them infidels? Wat else? Blow them up? No!

  6. The wearing of the veil and full body covering of Islamic women is voluntary for the majority of Islamic women in the west. However, when you enter Muslim dominated areas refusal to abide by the dress code is sanctioned legally or socially or both. In some countries even women who are not Muslim must abide by this dress code. In other western countries such as England Muslim women have reported physical threats on their bodies and lives if they do not wear proper dress and abide by the strictures of a proper Muslim woman.

    Articles such as this can talk all day long about the liberation of Islam, however, I am not biting. I admit that people raised in certain traditions who see or hear very little to challenge their belief structure will continue those traditions. Women, all over the world, have been raised and trained in conditions that treat them as mere servants subjugated to their husbands. When exposed to other ideas such as freedom to choose, vote, divorce, work, receive and education these ideas of traditional roles and morality break down and woman who previously had no choice choose to be more than what was “allowed” them in the past. Muslims can write all day about the freedom the Burka represents, the love Islam shows for its women by requiring them to be escorted by a Male in the family in order to leave the house, the advantages of a segregated life that allows them to focus on what is important in their lives and so on. However, the vast majority of Muslim women, given the chance moved away from these “representations of love and respect” to being actually free to choose the nature and course of their lives. Islamic women have spoken all over the globe where they are not killed or beaten for their beliefs and have chosen to be doctors who may leave their house alone and help male patients, they have chosen to be social workers, teachers, scientists, and even stay at home moms. But they have done it on their own terms not others.

    I realize that there is a movement to reclaim full body covering in Western Society which I see as fine so long as the women and girls who are wearing such clothing, do so with no pressure to conform and they suffer no social Islamic sanctions if they choose not to. From what I see in the Middle East and other parts of the world women are being herded back into traditional roles and dress against their will and against their personal best interest.

  7. Some of us who would never show our cleavage at the grocery store nor put an 8 year old in a push up bathing suit also do NOT want the other extreme of wearing a veil.

  8. I’d rather see women go naked than wear this sign of religious repression and male domination.

  9. somedays i NEED to wear a veil.

  10. somedays i NEED to wear a veil.

  11. ^ men would love that – more reason to objectify. ;)

  12. ^ men would love that – more reason to objectify. ;)

  13. its none of your business!!! You dont like it don’t wear it ! If they do its their business not yours!

  14. its none of your business!!! You dont like it don’t wear it ! If they do its their business not yours!

  15. Lily..you apparently dont know women personally who don the veil. While I dont see the need for them personally, I also know many women who wear them…by choice. They are far from repressed and are not male dominated! I would rather see a woman veiled out with the family..or alone for that matter than a woman in daisy dukes with her boobs falling out!

  16. Lily..you apparently dont know women personally who don the veil. While I dont see the need for them personally, I also know many women who wear them…by choice. They are far from repressed and are not male dominated! I would rather see a woman veiled out with the family..or alone for that matter than a woman in daisy dukes with her boobs falling out!

  17. Yeah yeah. The hijab is a sign of oppression. Whatever troll.

  18. Yeah yeah. The hijab is a sign of oppression. Whatever troll.

  19. I think women in hijabs are beautiful. As long as they’re not forced by their countries, communities, or families to wear them, and they wear them of their own accord, it’s a beautiful thing, and their decisions to cover themselves should be respected. Women have just as much right to cover their faces and their bodies as they do to expose their bodies and wear provacative clothing. Personally, I respect the first one a hell of a lot more, but that’s irrelevent. The point is, they have every right to cover themselves, and as long as they’re not forced into wearing them, hijabs and burqas shouldn’t be an issue at all.

  20. I think women in hijabs are beautiful. As long as they’re not forced by their countries, communities, or families to wear them, and they wear them of their own accord, it’s a beautiful thing, and their decisions to cover themselves should be respected. Women have just as much right to cover their faces and their bodies as they do to expose their bodies and wear provacative clothing. Personally, I respect the first one a hell of a lot more, but that’s irrelevent. The point is, they have every right to cover themselves, and as long as they’re not forced into wearing them, hijabs and burqas shouldn’t be an issue at all.

  21. wearing a veil on the face is not mandatory in Islam, and if a woman wears it, why is it any of our business? is a nun that wears a habit repressed or male dominated? who are we to tell anyone what to wear?

  22. wearing a veil on the face is not mandatory in Islam, and if a woman wears it, why is it any of our business? is a nun that wears a habit repressed or male dominated? who are we to tell anyone what to wear?

  23. In most countries it is completely optional. Of the women that i know have worn them, they say this: “If my friend wears one to the market, and I don’t it means i am trying to draw excess attention and it is simply rude to my friend. If we go out, we make a group decision weather or not to wear them. Understand, this was in Egypt, nor Saudi Arabia. SA are NOT our friends, nor anyone elses. Don’t let the polititians fool you. They are the MOST restrictive coutry over there, not the least. Of the people I have met from Iran, (2 work here, and are citizens now), they say burkas and viels are not a requirement, or cause for shame, either way. We have been LIED to.

  24. In most countries it is completely optional. Of the women that i know have worn them, they say this: “If my friend wears one to the market, and I don’t it means i am trying to draw excess attention and it is simply rude to my friend. If we go out, we make a group decision weather or not to wear them. Understand, this was in Egypt, nor Saudi Arabia. SA are NOT our friends, nor anyone elses. Don’t let the polititians fool you. They are the MOST restrictive coutry over there, not the least. Of the people I have met from Iran, (2 work here, and are citizens now), they say burkas and viels are not a requirement, or cause for shame, either way. We have been LIED to.

  25. If women want to walk around naked at the beach, I should have the right at the same time to not be naked :) Modesty is required by all of the religions of Abraham. The Bible requires modesty. It is not as specific, so people have some wiggle room. One might say modesty means covering everything (some Evangelicals and many Muslims and some Jews) while others may think if they have on a bikini they are fine. I am not going to expect other people to dress like me, so I do not want Big Brother telling me what to wear each day. (Read 1984 if you have not)… FREEDOM!

  26. Saudi Arabia may not be your friend Dave…. Speak for yourself! Don’t pretend you know this country based on here say. People like you are as bad as the warped media!!

  27. It should be a woman’s FREE CHOICE whether to veil or not; no gov’t or clergy should FORCE her. j/s

  28. As long as it is the woman’s choice then I have no problem with what they wear.

  29. Burqas & niqaab are NOT mandatory in Islam. Also, if a woman chooses to cover herself to avoid being objectified by men then what is the big deal? If you don’t have to wear it, then why should someone else wearing it affect YOU?

  30. Some of us just don’t wanna walk around with our boobs out and camel toe showing

  31. i will dress how I please. Thankfully I live in a country that allows me too and not France, which doesnt

  32. I cover up too (I am male), I always make sure to wear a cap or something, and always cover my arms and legs (and of course the stomach, etc.) XD

  33. This is true, but at the same time dont you want people who you interact with everyday to recognize your emotions and who you are as a person? Islam does not tell you to isolate your self from the world to make god happy.

  34. I am all for letting people wear what they want. Whether it’s women who want to follow hijab or women who want to wear more revealing attire. It’s when people force their clothing views on others that I draw the line. This includes banning of the veil and forcing women to cover up. What people wear should be their choice. I don’t want to be forced into a veil, nor do I want to be pressured into wearing shorts and tank tops.

  35. I don’t care what another person wears, as long as it’s thier choice and not forced. However, I find it very strange that in the US, many who find hijabs and burqas offensive are the same ones who condemn mothers who nurse thier children in public because they aren’t covered.

  36. I wish people could actually have a civil conversastion about this without attacking. There is no other item of clothing that so conceals the person underneath as to make them unrecognizeable. Like it or not, a veiled woman is a symbol of extreme oppression to many people. It’s very disconcerting to see someone basically in a mask. I don’t think you need to dress scantily to feel that way. I think people’s natural reactions should be listened to and people need to try to understand both sides. But very few people seem interested in listening to anything about this topic.

  37. There is no need to discuss it anyway in my opinion. It should just be as simple as a womans choice, no juding, no assumtions she is or isnt opressed, etc. Let people wear it if it pleases them and just shut up.

  38. I agree that it’s every woman’s freedom to wear one or not wear one. I personally don’t support the wearing of burquas or habits because they were created to protect men from their own temptations and “evil” thoughts which puts this responsibility in a woman’s hand. In this light, it does represent women being subservient to men. In this country, women have come a long way, and still have to fight for equality.

  39. I have been living in egypt for one year. Forget about face veil the most common head wear is hijab. An egyptian muslim girl dare not go out without it. She will be verbally abused in the street. Her family will be accused of not caring for her. She will be deemed a prostitute. The weather in egypt reaches 47degree in summer yet they get no relief from this sweltering head wear. Look back to photos of 1978 egypt and you will see no one wore it. It was encouraged by the muslim brotherhood as a badge of membership of political islam. It has nothing to do with religion.

  40. Read up on this….coverage is mostly by choice. I would rather see coverage than seeing what we see here. Big butts, boobs,bare tummies,hairy cracks…..ALL HANGING OUT!!! NASTY

  41. I personally have zero interest in arguing the domination and subservience issues: I have no issue with “modesty covering” clothing, as long it’s worn voluntarily. However, “covering modesty” can very easily become “concealing identity”, and I think that’s a legitimate concern.

  42. I have a question for those who do wear a hijab. I’ve read a couple of stories where women were forbidden to wear them here in the USA at school while engaged in a game of basketball or on rides at parks for safety reasons. My question is can the women and girls wear another type of snug cap that would cover their hair or does it have to be a certain type of scarf? Thanks.

  43. I think the problem lies in culture. Islam may or may not say to wear the hijab, depending on the interpretation (hijab, not burka lol). But in my experience, only culture says wear it or be punished. The people who try and force niqab or burka have a hard time using Islam, and an easier to saying “it will shame them not to”. So the people who do try and force it, need to really step back and see if this is really out of the din, or because of cultural baggage. :p
    And on the other end, many Westerners need to see that it is okay to cover up, it doesn’t necessarily mean that one is oppressed. As was stated, those that are most vocal for the hijab, tend to be western (female) converts to Islam :p

  44. I have dressed both ways: Western and as a Muslim. I was never one to let EVERYTHING hang out, but I wore tight-ish clothes and maybe a button down shirt with one button too many open. I will say right out that the comments, stares, come-ons (from married men sometimes, ick), stopped when I started covering. It felt good, but was a little shocking because I realized how much my identity had been wrapped up in how MEN responded to me. It WAS a liberating moment, because my sum is FAR more than my boobs and butt.

    I know many Western women would hate covering, because that validation from men, as messed up as it is, would cease. We women need to realize our value is more than the attention we get from the opposite sex.

  45. Isn’t it amazing how we can see so much wrong in other cultures and not in our own and when it’s pointed out we go “where did that come from ?”

  46. And for the record, I’m a white, American woman.

  47. @norman …its mentioned in the The bible that if a woman doesnt cover her hair ..shave off her hair !

    Modesty in different cultures is different…so who can claim they are the best ? In islam we believe that ur creater can tell you about modesty as he created you ….. Women in islam dont cover them selves on gun point but they have their own will….many dont cover …. its upto them …. Humans dont have to teach each other on modesty !

  48. i may not be muslim but i have muslim friends and i agree with one of my friends that says its the girls choice with the veil. and it forces the men to look at the women for thier personality and minds rather than their bodies. to me i agree with her that ts the girls choice and people shouldnt jump to judge. although i think that even when women wear modest clothing aka non tight clothing not revealing top that men still are perverts i mean it all comes down to the girls choice but lets face is disrespectful guys are distrespectful guys pigs are pigs. i am not saying all guys are. i am saying that there are some men that will be disgusting no matter what you wear. veil or no veil. but i think if the girl wants to wear the veil than good for her. i actually although being a different religion considered the veil becuase if it forces people to see you as a smart successful woman and not just a piece of sexual meat then i am for it. but i also want to wear what i feel is comfortable and appropriate. if you argue the way my friend does. i say its the womans choice but that the issues is how men veiw woman.

  49. @Barbra…if ur identity is pressed just because ur society dosent give u a damn unless you dress like them and to get attention from opposite sex then ur society is sick !

  50. Zubair, I live in the United States, home to Hollywood, nakedness, pornography, rampant fornication & adultery, gazillions of children borne out of wedlock, etc. Yes, this society is sick.

  51. Hijab is beautiful and women who want it should wear it. I am aganist people being forced to wear something they are not compertable with, and I am also aganist banning it for people that want to wear it. No one should be forced to wear it, but those who want it shouldn’t face legal problems because of it.

  52. Whatever happened to freedom of choice? It’s not just about abortion; it’s about a woman’s choice in regards to her own body. I wish I had the strength of character that some of these women, who cover themselves, have. I would like to preserve my adornments for my husband, like a gift for him only. Unfortunately, as a Christian American married to a Muslim, those around me would either call me a traitor or simply assume he’s forcing me to cover. I wish I were brave enough to face the suspicion and scorn and cover myself with hijab, but sadly, I am weak and afraid.

  53. Zubair: first, you ignored my ONLY point – that certain forms of dress make it easier to conceal a person’s identity. Second, it doesn’t matter to me WHAT the Bible says; just because I’m American doesn’t mean I’m automatically a Christian, and I am not. My religion has no dress code.

  54. Brandi, don’t feel bad. Hijab has top come from the heart first, otherwise it’s just a piece of cloth.

  55. I don’t understand why people think they are liberating women by making it illegal. What happens to the ones that want to wear for thier sake of whatever. How is the french government or any government practicing democracy by denying them what they want?

  56. I think I should defend Egypt and islam since I’m Egyptian and Muslim, 1st, there is difference between Hejab(light and very thin cloth, you call it scarf ) to cover the hair and Niqab ( Hejab + cloth to cover face), Hejab is mandatory for a Muslim girl ( some Jewish ladies cover their hair), Niqab is optional , my mother wore Niqab though her mother wore normal Hejab , my sisters wore Hejab by their own choice and my mother did not force them to wear it or wear Niqab, in Egypt descent men do not consider ladies those do not wear Hejab prostitutes however both scarfed ladies and those who do not wear it are subjected to harassment by foolishs and indecent guys and not all egyptian men are indecent, scarf did not cause any problem for women in summer otherwise they have to walk naked without any clothes in summer, do not judge Egypt from photos , judge Egypt from Egypt itself, Muslim brotherhood has nothing to do with Hejab or can you explain to me why Muslim women wore Hejab in non-Arabic countries??

  57. A nun can be covered from head to toe in order to devote herself to God, right? But, then, if a Muslim woman does the same, why is she oppressed? maybe she is forced to lol

  58. well nuns dont cover their face for identity purposes like a police officer asking for your license and wanting to see your face…and if it isnt in the quran, than god wont be mad if you take it off for 5 minutes when going into the bank…there should be considerations given to those who wear religious attire, and those who wear it should be considerate of others and be considerate to those who require it removed for a monent,,,according to this article its not gods word, and god wants peace and harmony…so a compromise is in order…you can wear one, and you should understand that in some places there is a reasonable request to show your face to security cameras or for other id purposes because thats what security and id’s are all about that everyone else has to follow religious or not

  59. I have no problem with women covering their faces at all, for religious reasons or for whatever reason they choose to come up with.
    However I don’t think it’s a good idea for Muslim women to make a fuss when asked to take off the veil for identification purposes such as when passing through customs at an airport or for taking a driver’s licence picture.
    Most of them don’t make a fuss about it but the ones that do need to use a little wisdom and realise it isn’t a good idea to throw stones when you live in a glass house.

  60. I have no problem with women covering their faces at all, for religious reasons or for whatever reason they choose to come up with.

    However I don’t think it’s a good idea for Muslim women to make a fuss when asked to take off the veil for identification purposes such as when passing through customs at an airport or for taking a driver’s licence picture.

    Most of them don’t make a fuss about it but the ones that do need to use a little wisdom and realise it isn’t a good idea to throw stones when you live in a glass house.

  61. The Burka ban is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard of. If a woman WANTS to wear it, you are forcing her to reveal herself against her will. Imagine if you were a shy girl, and you were forced to show more cleavage. Imagine if you had psoriasis and were forced to reveal your scarred body? Or, in the case of religious devotion, what if we went ripping the crosses off people’s necks? Or fining people who wore “I <3 Jesus" shirts? Or detained Jews who wore the yarmulke. Amish women are often forced to wear head coverings. Should we fine them into submission? Meanwhile, those who are forced by their family to wear it should not be punished for doing what their family wants. Forcing them to remove it only endangers them, or at least will strain their family relationship.

  62. David
    I wear the hijab. I go to school (its a muslim school) and even though im so unathletic (im basically a noodle) the girls in basketball and volley ball wear their hijabs because it doesnt really get in the way, they tie it around so it doesnt flap around or come off. The same with amusementparks. Ive been on roller coasters with the hijab, its not as big of a hazard as you think. We usually keep them pinned down, scarves shouldnt be loose even though us hijabis make jokes about how our scarves are too tight around our ears and how its forbidden. (its not really, but its just jokes about strict muslims out there) and yes, we can if its to protect us from an outside source, like hijabi-targeted violence, but if the intention is oh let me where this instead of the scarf cuz im too lazy, thats forbidden. But besides that….ya lol

  63. Head coverings or face coverings are two different things. Wear a head covering and no one is the wiser even if you are totally bald. Cover your face in a culture where no law abiding citizen shields their identity and you are seen as either a criminal or soon to be one.

  64. David according to Islam you are required to show ur face for security reasons. hence at the DMV, airport and such…..

  65. A nun once taught me that the most sensual thing about a woman was her mystery. I have no voice in the appropriateness of the various forms of dress being discussed here. I will tell you that I much more respect a woman of modesty than I do one who chooses to bare her breasts or her buttocks in public. To each her own. However, if near nudity is allowed, then it’s counterpart of modesty should so be allowed.

  66. What a thought provoking article! Makes me miss my Women’s studies classes where these type of articles were part of the course.

  67. Edith
    Thats a great point you brought up

  68. The egyptian lady – do you live in egypt? It doesnt sound like it.

  69. Why do muslims so love to ‘judge’? It is not a word normally used outside court.

  70. Just to prove to you doubters that the ‘hijab’ is nothing to do with religion and all to do with Politicising the religion. He is a photo of 1978 Cairo university graduates. you will see there was not one single woman wearing that scarf. I will give you further information that also proves that this was a plot by the muslim brotherhood to Islamify the population for their own purposes, which is to gain control of the middle east, which strangely enough they are managing to succeed with very well. The niqab is not the problem as hardly anyone wears it. The hijab though is manipulative and controlling and girls are ‘forced’ to wear it by family, mosque and society. Contrary to Egyptian lady, it is not mandatory in Islam otherwise why weren’t women wearing it until the 1980’s?https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10150529587019434&set=a.10150529586659434.427643.583794433&type=3&theater

  71. Sally LOL revisit ur first comment on ”Judging”…now whos being the bunny of The 80’s …

  72. Sally dont see the muslims to understand Islam ..as you cant know about the bible by knowing christians….In the bible its mentioned …women should cover their hair if not shave their heads….its in the bible for the men to keep long beards …..now tell me how many christians do you know who follow bible ? You dont know a single verse of quran and ur telling as your a master that their is no veil in Islam.

  73. Zubair: true….

  74. I think what will happen will be similar to Iran. Plenty of enforced Islam, while the population drifts away mentally.

    This is a waste of time, discussing women’s gear on and on.

    I think the naked/drunk/sex on the beach crowd are going to get a comeuppance. Who are those people? Let’s get a grip. Just go back to the old blue laws. Assert community standards. 99% modest dressers should not have to put up with the lewd 1%.

  75. Zubair, Paul visited non Jews and tried to get them to follow jewish veiling customs, they said thats not their custom. At the end of the chapter he throws up his hands and says do what seems best to you.

    At the beginning of Chritianity there was an idea that people should be made Jews first.

  76. There is certainly a great deal to find out about this topic.
    I love all of the points you made.

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