Ruined by Reading

Banning the Burkha in Britain?

Posted in Culture, Feminism, Politics, Religion by M on June 27, 2009

Saira Khan is a British Muslim woman who, in the wake of Sarkozy’s controversial move to try to ban the burkha*, wrote an article, explaining the reasons why she supports it’s ban in Britain. You can read the full article here.

She starts off by telling a little anecdote about how she was amused by the irony of women wearing the burkha, shopping the latest fashions in Harrods. Right away, I was offended. Does she think Muslim women who cover don’t deserve nice things simply because they won’t wear them for everyone to see on the street? Does she think women who wear the burkha are uncultured, with no fashion sense? She is contributing to the idea that women who wear the burkha have no personality and no sense of self – the same idea which she is so strongly opposed to throughout the rest of the article.

Later, she makes a statement that she has no problem with grown women who wish to wear hijab. However, she later contradicts herself by equating hijab with forced marriages, abuse, and women who aren’t allowed to go to university.

However, despite how ridiculous the overall article is, I found myself agree with several things.

Khan brings up the health aspect of wearing the burkha. Women who wear it don’t get enough Vitamin D, and as a result, they develop health problems. I definitely agree that this is a problem. However, banning the burkha doesn’t solve this. Educating women on the health risks associated with fully covering, and making sure they’re aware of it and take Vitamin D supplement does solve this problem.

Fundamentalists are blamed by Khan for the rise of the burkha. I agree with this. I also agree that some fundamentalists think that it makes you a bad or improper Muslim woman if you don’t wear it. Fundamentalists who refuse to tolerate the legitimate differences of opinion regarding it’s use.

I agree that even among women who claim that they wear it out of their own free choice, many of them probably do not. Besides women who are directly forced to wear it, many women are pressured by their community, family, or friends to wear it. It’s not as if they wake up one day, and out of the blue they decide to wear it. I’m sure any Muslim woman can tell you that there is at least some pressure from community, family, or friends, to simply wear hijab. Doesn’t it make sense to think that similar pressure exists for some women to wear the burkha?

Khan claims that the burkha is dangerous to society. I agree. However, her reasoning is mostly that it doesn’t allow full integration with British society. I completely disagree with this. If the government bans the burkha, the women who wear it won’t be okay with it. They won’t wake up the next morning, put on a t-shirt and jeans, and go about running their errands. They will most likely stay inside, further marginalized and restricted. The ban would be more restricting and damaging to women than it is to allow them to wear the burkha.

But I do believe it’s dangerous to society in many cases. I believe that it takes all responsibility away from men, and places double the burden of responsibility on women. I think it makes it much too easy to dismiss women, stereotype them, and marginalize them. I think it contributes to misogynistic ideas and treatment.

However, no matter how much I may disagree fundamentally with the wearing of a burkha, I disagree even more with the idea that the government can tell citizens what they can and cannot wear. This isn’t an episode of What Not to Wear, or 1984. This is England, France, etc. – countries and governments which pride themselves on freedom. By Sarkozy or Saira Khan telling people they cannot wear the burkha, they are no better than a man who tells his wife she must wear it.

* “Burkha” in this article refers to this which is also called a niqab, not the typical blue burkha you’re probably used to seeing in Afghanistan.


One Response

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  1. Sunday Salon: Long Time, No See « said, on July 5, 2009 at 6:07 am

    […] to wear hijab, and the issue of working and independence while wearing it, and I addressed the issue of banning the burkha. Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)Sunday Salon, Monday SalonSunday Salon: Breaking […]

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