Outlaw Clothing: Burqas, Islamophobia and Women’s Rights

The ongoing quest of the French government to preserve their country’s “secular traditions” came to the fore once again Tuesday when the lower house of France’s parliament voted to ban women from wearing any face-covering veil, such as the infamous burqa or the less “extreme” niqab — a move obviously targeting French Muslim women, of which perhaps 1,900 wear a face-covering veil. France has the highest population of Muslims in Europe, comprising about 5 million of France’s population of 64 million people.

I’m sure you remember the “no hijabs in public schools” ban France passed in 2004 after almost a decade debating it, barring students from wearing a headscarf or any other piece of clothing that would indicate the religion of the student wearing it. To be fair, that does include Jewish yarmulkes and cross necklaces, however, the surrounding debate was particularly focused on the Muslim hijab. It just seems that since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, Western countries have been not-so-subtly putting their Islamophobia on display.

Of course, this is not to say that all Muslim women disagree with the banning of the burqa or niqab. Some Muslim feminists have spoken out in favor of the ban. I fully support the right of Muslim women to not be forced to wear face-covering veils. However, I think banning religious clothing at the governmental level is taking the issue in a scary direction. I believe in choices, and banning burqas and niqabs eliminates the ability of women who actually wear the veils of their own volition to continue to make the choice to wear them, however few the women may be that make that choice. The author of the Huffington Post article, Caryl Rivers, makes a lot of good points, but I really do believe that in order to truly gain equal rights for Muslim women in their culture it’s going to have to come from changing Muslim men’s “hearts and minds” and not changing Muslim women’s clothing.

In the Salon article linked above, Eqyptian feminist Mona Eltahawy states:

I support banning the burqa because I believe it equates piety with the disappearance of women. The closer you are to God, the less I see of you — and I find that idea extremely dangerous. It comes from an ideology that basically wants to hide women away. What really strikes me is that a lot of people say that they support a woman’s right to choose to wear a burqa because it’s her natural right. But I often tell them that what they’re doing is supporting an ideology that does not believe in a woman’s right to do anything. We’re talking about women who cannot travel alone, cannot drive, cannot even go into a hospital without a man with them. And yet there is basically one right that we are fighting for these women to have, and that is the right to cover their faces. To tell you the truth, I’m really outraged that people get into these huge fights and say that as a feminist you must support a women’s right to do this, because it’s basically the only kind of “right” that this ideology wants to give women. Otherwise they get nothing.

I agree with her on basically every point she makes, yet I can’t reconcile my feelings about government-enforced bans on religious clothing. I just don’t think that simply legally preventing women from wearing burqas, niqabs, or hijabs is going to cause transformative change in Islamic culture. This is a crude analogy, but it seems like banning black women from relaxing their hair. Yes, black women would be unable to cowtow to the oppressive beauty standards forced on us by Western culture, but would their minds be freed as well? Would black men suddenly stop desiring women with long, straight hair? With the banning of burqas and niqabs, are sexist, oppressive Muslim men and the governments they run suddenly going to stop treating women like second-class citizens? I don’t see that happening. Western governments using women’s rights as an excuse to ban Muslim religious garments just smells like Islamophobia couched in “progressive” rhetoric. Some leaders in the U.K. have actually voiced their concern over the “growing threat of Islamism“.

So what can we expect this ban on face-covering veils to do for Muslim women’s rights in France? Eltahawy had this to say:

What I hope it will do is that it will create a situation where a woman can say to a man, look, you know that I have to go out and work so that we can continue to live here, and I can’t go out with my face covered, even though you want me to, because that’s what the law says. I hope the law gives women this kind of out. I have no idea if that’s actually going to happen or not.

I can’t get behind legislation like this when the only benefit for women would be that you get to tell your husband that you’re required by law to not wear the veil, and the many benefits for the government and Islamophobic French people include not having to be visually reminded there’s Muslims in their communities and also stopping the spread of “Islamism”. I don’t trust the women’s rights angle at all from Western governments when it comes to Islam. We continue to ally with countries that do much more than just expect women to cover themselves head to toe when in public — we’re in bed with countries that beat and jail women who have been gang raped and impregnated because the rape constituted the woman committing adultery. I personally don’t think her lack of burqa helped at all in that situation.

So I’m not exactly joining the cheerleading squad because France decided its Islamophobia was good for women’s rights. Of course I don’t want Muslim women to be forced to cover themselves head to toe. But I firmly believe true change in the Islamic world will never come via simply outlawing certain types of clothing, and I question the veracity of France’s reasons for doing so. The fact that they’re mentioning things like “defining and protecting French values” sounds eerily familiar and to me, is more of a nationalist concern than a concern for women’s rights.

There needs to be substantive change in Muslim men’s attitudes towards Muslim women rather than superficial change mandated by a government that seeks to erase those parts of immigrant populations they find distasteful.


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96 comments for “Outlaw Clothing: Burqas, Islamophobia and Women’s Rights

  1. cim
    July 14, 2010 at 6:44 am

    I find it difficult to believe that the effect of this law will be “women previously wearing face veils go out without them” rather than “women previously wearing face veils continue to do so but do not leave the house”.

    Either way, of course, it gets women wearing face veils out of public view so the government can pretend its “solved” the “problem”.

  2. matlun
    July 14, 2010 at 7:11 am

    One other argument could be that this is good for women in an indirect sense by fighting this very misogynistic variant of Islam.

    @cim: You do not believe the burqa is a real problem?

  3. H.Juliet Whiskey
    July 14, 2010 at 8:09 am

    I completely agree that this ban is more about Islamophobia and the false nostalgia surrounding French national identity rather then feminism.
    France is in a similar position to many western countries. The modern world brings changes and people hark back to the ‘good old days’ by which they always seem to mean 1950’s white nuclear families with dad as the bread-winner and the stay at home mum. Except they forget, that world never existed outside of sitcoms and canned food ads.
    France has been looking to the past with water-coloured memories and noticed that the modern world has thrown a lot of old traditions to the curb. And it’s easier to scapegoat the recent (by which I mean the last 60+ years) immigration than to look at why those traditions and values are dying out.

    P.S I should also point out the UK ‘Leaders’ mentioned are members of UKIP – UK Independence Party – which is a fringe right-wing party. They have no elected MPs in the parliament or any power. I’m sure there are many actual elected politicians who hold the same views but a mainstream politician wouldn’t risk their career by putting it out on record.

  4. July 14, 2010 at 8:16 am

    These kind of sexist and racist laws just make me wanna puke. It’s clear that this kind of law only get voted upon because the governments want to reassure their white citizens that they are dealing with the big bad black Muslim minority that they need to be scared of. Because the banning, the fining of wearing and imprisonment of people forcing women to wear the hijab is doing nothing for the women who are forced to wear one. It only isolates them further from society. And for the women who willingly wear them it only means more discrimination and lost opportunities.
    Yet to come to the men or forces in Muslim society who impose the hijab on women… well, they will only get reinforced in their thinking that “Western society” is out to get them and will go on oppressing women. But hey, It’s Europe. They don’t even know the word ‘inclusion’ or ‘integration’. They only know ‘assimilation’. And the fact that only 1 person in the French Parliament voted against this law proposal and other so-called ‘progressive’ parties as the greens and the socialist abstained only underwrites that statement.

  5. Niki
    July 14, 2010 at 8:36 am

    YES cim. I have been getting consistently frustrated throughout this whole dialogue taking part in the feminist sphere; the conversation is always about religious freedom, freedom of expression, yada yada yada. Yes, these things are all well and good.

    But for me, the big problem with the ban has nothing to do with any of that. If a woman lives in a home where she has no power, and she and her family truly believe that it is wrong for her to leave the house with her face showing, then by disallowing burqas, the government is keeping her locked inside. For those Muslim women who are stuck in abusive relationships, this is hardly a good thing. I’m bothered that none of the commentary about this is revolving around the strong potential for violence that comes with confining women to their homes.

  6. Ama
    July 14, 2010 at 8:37 am

    I don’t want to seem lazy but, you just voiced some thoughts I have been stewing over for months. I find it difficult to weigh in on my feminist view of covering the female face and body against my desire not to silence a culture and other women’s choices.

    Just… Word.

  7. RMJ
    July 14, 2010 at 9:06 am

    Great article.

    I think that it’s always a problem when governments or other strongholds of authority tell women how and when and what to wear. It’s up to women to negotiate their body and clothing -period.

  8. maggie
    July 14, 2010 at 10:38 am

    I don’t recall where I read it, but a few months ago I read an article which included (paraphrased): “This is another law telling women how to act.”

    I don’t like anyone feeling they need to cover up to be pious or a good woman or safe. But I also don’t like anyone not being able to if that’s what they want.

    It would be much freer if all clothing was viewed as just that. Something to put over yourself. Burqa = jeans = bikini = pantsuit = ballgown. No more of this freaking valuation of a woman based on what she’s got on.

    THAT is the problem, I think. Not the burqa. The burqa is just some cloth.

  9. July 14, 2010 at 10:40 am

    It just gets me that in all the hoo-ha about burqas around the world (and guess what! they’re not the only Muslim headcoverings out there! Not the only RELIGIOUS headcoverings too!), no one’s actually bothered to ask the women who wear them. You know, the ones actually affected by this law. People claim to be fighting for her “freedom”, but no one’s giving her agency to speak.

  10. Holy!
    July 14, 2010 at 10:41 am

    “but I really do believe that in order to truly gain equal rights for Muslim women in their culture it’s going to have to come from changing Muslim men’s “hearts and minds” and not changing Muslim women’s clothing.”

    I completely agree with that statement; however, it is unlikely to happen. Western governments-and even Muslim reformers-have proved unable to change many hearts and minds.

    Call it Islmaphobia if you want, but it’s not the French who are treating their women like common chattel.

    • July 14, 2010 at 11:18 am

      Call it Islmaphobia if you want, but it’s not the French who are treating their women like common chattel.

      “Their women,” huh? What was that about treating women like common chattel?

  11. GinnyC
    July 14, 2010 at 10:45 am

    Word. The situation in France reminds me of the situation in Mexico where upper-class mestizo men use women’s rights as a reason to object to indigenous rights. It’s the same old colonialist rhetoric; saving “their” women from “their” uncivilized culture/men.

  12. Noelle
    July 14, 2010 at 10:49 am

    It comes down to, in part, I think, how much any scarf-wearer is wearing the scarf/veil because she wants to follow the letter of her religion, and how much she’s wearing the scarf/veil … “hypocritically”? Without believing it’s really required, and only because she’s being bullied into it by men/her family. (side thought: would a muslim/any man harass a muslim-looking woman on the street without a headscarf more than he would harass a white/western-looking woman?)

    Because – if most scarf-wearers consider the scarf/veil necessary, and not wearing it is immodest, and attracts them bad attention from men, the only thing I can think to compare it to is being required by law to wear something ‘immodest’ – going topless, or in a skirt skimpier than I was comfortable with. It would make me feel like the law was enforcing the (western) cultural demand that women be on sexual display for anyone with eyes.

  13. Sheelzebub
    July 14, 2010 at 11:08 am

    Matlun, if France were run by the likes of the Taliban, you might have a point. But the Taliban isn’t in power in France and women weren’t forced to cover up before the ban. They certainly aren’t going to be now.

    I’m no fan of the burqua or those who would impose it on women, but I’m also not a fan of policing women’s dress, appearance, or (legal) behavior. This is the other side of the same sexist coin.

  14. Rebecca
    July 14, 2010 at 11:24 am

    Call it Islmaphobia if you want, but it’s not the French who are treating their women like common chattel.

    Yeah, it’s not like the French are forcing French women to put their bodies on display for the public.

  15. CombatQueer
    July 14, 2010 at 11:57 am

    Clearly legislation of religion by governments is always a bad thing, pro or no. It creates ugly power situations.

    As governmental legislation doesn’t work, what would y’all suggest to work to stop specific sorts of abuses within religious contexts?

  16. Sheelzebub
    July 14, 2010 at 12:04 pm

    You know what I hate? I hate when “women” is prefaced with “their” or “our.” We aren’t fucking property.

  17. prairielily
    July 14, 2010 at 12:19 pm

    I am going to make this comment now, early in the thread, in honour of your other post about minorities being absent from the largest blogs, Tasha.

    I am a Muslim woman. I am not particularly religious, and I live in Canada, but I still identify as Muslim. When Feministe posts about issues that pertain to Muslim women, the post is always good. The thread then descends into such hostility that I have stopped reading and posting in them.

    In this situation, it is likely that a number of women who are being forced to cover themselves will simply stop going outside, regardless of whether their income is necessary for the family to survive. Society will lose out on the life experience and contributions of those women, but France has decided that is unimportant. Their contributions are therefore being erased because of their clothing.

  18. Rebecca
    July 14, 2010 at 12:21 pm

    In this situation, it is likely that a number of women who are being forced to cover themselves will simply stop going outside, regardless of whether their income is necessary for the family to survive. Society will lose out on the life experience and contributions of those women, but France has decided that is unimportant. Their contributions are therefore being erased because of their clothing.

    QFT.

  19. matlun
    July 14, 2010 at 12:24 pm

    @Sheelzebub: I am not sure what you mean with this. I was referring to this kind of extreme islam getting a growing influence in society.

    While I am not convinced that the anti burqa law is a good attempt of a solution (I am somewhat ambivalent about this, actually), I do believe there are real problems in Europe with conflicts between the “traditional” culture and Muslims. Both the growth of far right, racist (or at least anti immigration) parties and radical Islam in Europe are two sides of the same coin. Hopefully this is a temporary trend and we will be able to find a way to live together in harmony, but it does worry me.

  20. July 14, 2010 at 12:33 pm

    In this situation, it is likely that a number of women who are being forced to cover themselves will simply stop going outside, regardless of whether their income is necessary for the family to survive.

    This is one reason why burka bans are a bad idea. Men are just going to force their wives to stay inside because they can’t wear the burka. And it’s not as though Islam is going to change its rules about women not being allowed outside unless they’re fully covered just because France passed a burka ban. This is only going to make the situation worse.

  21. Holy!
    July 14, 2010 at 1:09 pm

    “Their women,” huh? What was that about treating women like common chattel?

    That’s right “their women.” Do you think those women have complete control over their own lives? In most hard line Islam countries men essentially own women. Try moving to a majority muslim country and start a feminist movement. Try telling some mullahs you’re going to where what you want, say what you want to say, and go where you want to go. You’ll be in for the surprise of a lifetime.

    Then these folks want to come west and bring those belief systems with them. Good luck trying to change them too. You can’t acculturate people who have no desire to alter their belief systems.

  22. July 14, 2010 at 1:26 pm

    “Their women,” huh? What was that about treating women like common chattel?

    That’s right “their women.” Do you think those women have complete control over their own lives? In most hard line Islam countries men essentially own women. Try moving to a majority muslim country and start a feminist movement. Try telling some mullahs you’re going to where what you want, say what you want to say, and go where you want to go. You’ll be in for the surprise of a lifetime.

    Then these folks want to come west and bring those belief systems with them. Good luck trying to change them too. You can’t acculturate people who have no desire to alter their belief systems.

    How about you stop ignoring the Muslim feminist movements that already exist?

    You know, if you really think treating women like possessions is a bad thing, don’t perpetrate that by referring to women as the possessions of other people.

    And shut up with the racist anti-immigration tropes.

  23. July 14, 2010 at 1:27 pm

    I don’t have anything new to add, I’d just like to agree with the commenters who point out that this might do nothing more than restrict veil-wearing women from leaving their houses. I also really liked the OP’s analogy about black women and their hair; excellent point. I really liked this post, Tasha, thank you for writing it.

  24. July 14, 2010 at 1:32 pm

    Seriously, Holy!, your posts on this thread are the low points. As Rebecca said, Muslim feminist movements do exist and I doubt they would be too happy with you referring to them as “their [Muslim men’s] women”. Hell, even if you’re not feminist no woman likes to be compared to property. Go educate yourself on the actual lives of Muslim feminists/womanists and stop posting ignorant tripe or I’m going to delete any further posts that contain that kind of language.

    And please don’t give me some censorship crap. I don’t have the time.

  25. Alyssa
    July 14, 2010 at 1:53 pm

    From my understanding, the law contains two parts. Women who wear the burqa or niqab in public face a fine, but anyone who forces a woman to wear the burqa or niqab faces a much higher fine and the possibility of jail time. If the French government really wished to treat women like human beings who don’t need to have their clothing decisions legislated for them, only the second part of the law would have sufficed. Of course it would still be problematic in the sense that it would only be illegal to force a woman to wear specifically Muslim articles of clothing, it would have been a hell of a lot better than a law that treats women as if they can’t be trusted to make their own decisions.

  26. Alara Rogers
    July 14, 2010 at 2:01 pm

    Then these folks want to come west and bring those belief systems with them. Good luck trying to change them too. You can’t acculturate people who have no desire to alter their belief systems.

    Actually, it is amazingly easy to acculturate people. Simply follow this quick, easy guide, and no matter how passionately a group wishes to follow “their” own customs, they will assimilate into the larger culture. It goes like this:

    1. When people emigrate to your country, help them get jobs. That will encourage them to spend time around citizens of your country, and they will start to adapt.

    2. When people with children emigrate to your country, make sure the children attend a public school where they are not abused or discriminated against. Here, the children will learn the culture of your country, and if they are not abused or discriminated against, they will want to adapt and assimilate into your culture.

    3. If there are stay-at-home mothers who have emigrated to your country with their husbands and children, reach out to them. Offer subsidized language lessons with day care. Print bureaucratic stuff in their language or offer translators so they can handle dealings with the bank or the government themselves, without relying on their husbands and children.

    4. Offer a path to citizenship that is achievable within seven to ten years, which requires learning about your country. They came to your country; they *want* to be citizens. They *want* the opportunities your country affords. Let them!

    If you follow these steps, they will lose their distinct nature as a culture and assimilate into your culture within 2 generations. Sometimes faster.

    If, however, you discriminate against them, pass laws that are intended to “help” them but inadvertently keep them locked in the house, treat them badly, demonize them, and make it difficult for their kids to get an education except in private school or by homeschooling… then of course they’re going to cling to everything about their own culture. Why wouldn’t they? You haven’t offered an alternative.

    Islam is not a special snowflake. Muslims were happy to assimilate into American culture, despite conflicts between America and the Arab world since the 1970s, up through 9/11, because America guarantees freedom of religion, freedom from discrimination on religious basis, and in general offered Muslims many positive ways to integrate themselves into American culture without having to give up what they truly held dearest — which, believe it or not, was not the right to treat women like chattel. Europe, however, despite being much more progressive than America in many ways, has been much more abusive toward its Muslim minority in many nations — which includes France — and when a minority is abused, they will turn to each other and cling harder to their culture. If part of their culture is the abuse of women, THIS IS THE WORST THING YOU CAN DO TO THE WOMEN. Because if you put a woman in a position where she must choose between “freedom” from the men that control her (who she loves, who are part of her family) at the expense of siding with a culture that treats her and everyone like her abusively, or siding with her men against the larger culture even if this means giving up all her personal freedoms… in culture after culture, in time after time, women side with their men when their culture is oppressed, even when the men actively oppress the women. *Only* when women feel free to identify with the larger culture as a whole do they stop feeling that it would be horribly disloyal to stand up for their own rights against their own men.

    My understanding is that this is actually a big issue in the United States’ community of black people — that black women who want to stand up for women’s rights are often torn because they feel that black male culture oppresses black women and yet if they fight back against black men, while all black people are being oppressed by white racism, they are disloyal to their own. (And meanwhile, half the time the white women who ought to have been their allies in the fight for women’s rights are ignoring them, ignoring their particular concerns, or generally treating them as unimportant or marginal… which makes it very hard to justify standing up against their fathers, brothers, sons, husbands and lovers to ally with people they feel don’t care about them.) But this wasn’t an issue with American Muslims until recently. American Muslimahs did not (prior to 9/11) generally feel so oppressed as Muslims that they could not reject the patriarchy of Muslim culture while keeping the parts of the culture they believed in most strongly. I suspect that this may change, now.

    The whole right-wing noise machine blather about Islamic supremacists and how if we don’t smack the Islamists down now, they will take over our countries and take women’s rights away from them… it’s baloney, and it’s counterproductive baloney at that. Let women live in a culture where women have freedom (or at least greater freedom than they had in the origin culture), and women will gravitate toward that culture. Young women whose parents were immigrants are perpetually embracing the greater freedoms that Western cultures offer them, to the point where it’s a *stereotype.* I mean, it’s half of what “Flower Drum Song” was about. If French Muslimahs were allowed to assimilate into French culture, in two generations French Muslims would not practice any greater discrimination against women than France in general practices. But by banning the burqa and the niqab, the French are forcing *exactly* the people who would have most gravitated toward French freedoms and pushed assimilation fastest to stay locked up in their homes and never meet any other French people.

    How ya gonna keep ’em down on the farm after they’ve seen Paree? Well, apparently, by making them feel like shit while they’re *in* Paree. It’s long been known that if you take people from a culture where they are not free and move them to a culture where they are, *they will embrace freedom.* Muslim women aren’t weird aliens who don’t do this. But if the culture imposes sufficient restrictions on them that they do not feel free, they will not embrace it, and they will cling to Muslim culture, and they will continue to participate in the honor killing of their daughters because France refuses to let them be French women, so they have no choice but to remain identified solely with their origin culture.

    (BTW, I am well aware that women in Western nations such as the US and France have problems of our own, and I’m not trying to imply that poor benighted Muslim women would solve all their problems if they’d just become good little USian or French consumers like the rest of us; I’m saying that in a culture which emphasizes patriarchal control of women and restrictions on female sexuality, when women move from that culture to one with significantly less such restriction, they will embrace that lack of restriction within a generation. Unless that lack of restriction comes with extreme discrimination against *them* and against the men they love. Then they will reject it and cling to their own culture’s ways to prove their loyalty to “their own people.” Women from *any* culture will do this, and history has demonstrated this numerous times. Thus, if you want to help Muslim women in your country be as free of patriarchal control as the majority of women in your country, the way to do it is to help them participate in the daily life of your country with women of your majority culture all around them, *not* to shame them or their culture or treat them like helpless children who must be ordered to take their medicine.)

  27. matlun
    July 14, 2010 at 2:02 pm

    Holy!: “Their women” is obviously how the men in these communities think about them, but there is no reason to validate that viewpoint. Just a very poor choice of words.

    We should also be careful and not do the classical error of considering the Muslim community as a monolithic whole. While trying to change the viewpoints of the fanatics is perhaps hopeless, we can hope for them to become marginalized within the larger community.

  28. Saoirse
    July 14, 2010 at 2:21 pm

    side thought: would a muslim/any man harass a muslim-looking woman on the street without a headscarf more than he would harass a white/western-looking woman? (Noelle)

    Unfortunately some do. :( I’m of South Asian origin and have been harassed so many times by South Asian guys who pretty blatantly ignore my white friends it’s insane. and embarassing. However I have no idea if it’s anything to do with the headscarf or religious/cultural issues. Most of them seem to be relatively recent immigrants and unfortunately I speak no SA languages so usually I don’t really get the nuances of what they’re saying. luckily for them the language of street harassment is universal.

    Anyway, I agree completely with the post.

  29. Sonia
    July 14, 2010 at 2:26 pm

    Well, its France and they have a right to run their country as they see fit but I find it funny that France bans the veil and the feminist blogosphere is up in arms about it. Saudi Arabia, Iran, Libya, Afghanistan, Pakistan, etc., etc. have massive restrictions on women from long back and we hardly hear a peep. The populations of these countries are far greater than that of France, if you were to increase the pressure on these countries to loosen their grip on women a bit, you could do a whole lot more for the sisterhood than you could by making France change their law which by your admission affects only 1900 women. Why is the right of 1900 French women to wear the veil so much more important than the right of millions of women to simply do things like choose their own life partner, or study further, or any number of other things. I understand it isnt an either-or issue, but somehow it seems millions of women in Muslim countries simply don’t count.

  30. July 14, 2010 at 2:27 pm

    @Alara Rogers your 4 step program towards assimilation sounds extremely racist as it goes out from a point of view where a “Western” way of life is the best thing for everybody and it neglects cultural identities as a whole (different cultural identities that can enrich every society not through assimilation but through inclusion)

    for those who are ignorant pricks about arab or muslim feminist, here a good link to get started ; http://www.nasawiya.org/web/

  31. July 14, 2010 at 2:34 pm

    Sonia, the feminist blogosphere is frequently up in arms about oppression of women in the countries you named. Pretending that we don’t talk about it just so you can argue in favor of Western oppression of women is disingenuous.

  32. July 14, 2010 at 2:56 pm

    @Sonia I did mention Saudi Arabia in my post:

    I don’t trust the women’s rights angle at all from Western governments when it comes to Islam. We continue to ally with countries that do much more than just expect women to cover themselves head to toe when in public — we’re in bed with countries that beat and jail women who have been gang raped and impregnated because the rape constituted the woman committing adultery.

    However my post was about the recent events regarding the veil in France, and I don’t see how that constitutes supporting majority Muslim countries that suppress women’s rights.

  33. james
    July 14, 2010 at 3:17 pm

    I don’t think there’s a tight logical defence of the law, but there is an emotional one. I think I can describe my opinion best by analogy.

    Suppose people are protesting against freedom of speech, and get arrested and thrown in jail for it. Now obviously what’s happened to them is wrong – they should be able to speak freely – but on the other hand do they really have much grounds to complain? They can’t legitimately be outraged by the violation of their right to free speech, as it’s not as if they ever believed in free speech in the first place.

    That’s what I feel about these women. People fixate on women who may be forced to wear the burqa, but that’s a distraction, the vast majority of wearers choose it. These women don’t for a moment believe that people should have freedom to adopt dress expressing their beliefs, since they’re Islamists who support a very prescriptive set of religious laws on dress. The only way that they can complain in a way which anyone who isn’t a theocrat would could agree with is if they disingenuously pretend to have a liberal viewpoint.

    That’s my thoughts on the law. Despite it’s logical problems it’s basically a good thing, as it makes theocrats see the benefits of liberalism.

  34. July 14, 2010 at 3:28 pm

    the vast majority of wearers choose it. These women don’t for a moment believe that people should have freedom to adopt dress expressing their beliefs, since they’re Islamists who support a very prescriptive set of religious laws on dress. The only way that they can complain in a way which anyone who isn’t a theocrat would could agree with is if they disingenuously pretend to have a liberal viewpoint.

    The hell?

  35. james
    July 14, 2010 at 3:31 pm

    Okay, point taken. The vast majority of wearers in the west.

  36. July 14, 2010 at 3:43 pm

    The hell?

  37. July 14, 2010 at 4:49 pm

    As governmental legislation doesn’t work, what would y’all suggest to work to stop specific sorts of abuses within religious contexts?

    My opinion- stop religious exceptionalism. For too long, we have given special preference, special deference to religious belief and practice. That has had disastrous results. Religion should be accorded no more special status than political affiliation, or the sports team you root for, or the fact you are an alum of X or Y school. I’m not saying ban religious belief, I’m just saying we need to open it up to the same critical examination as any other facet of life.

  38. IrishUp
    July 14, 2010 at 4:50 pm

    I do not see how it’s a feminist win to overide someone else’s oppression by imposing one of your own. I don’t care if some good may come out of it for some women – I am decidedly NOT a means-justifies type person. As others who would know much better than I have pointed out, and my own logic and empathy mus also conclude, it is just as likely that a substantial number of affected women will be harmed by the French ban. So, on the Con list is: still denies specific women their agency, nastily racist, and will certainly create predicatble hardships for segments of the targeted people. On the plus side is may help some of the targeted people. Nope, sorry, the SUX wins on this one.

  39. July 14, 2010 at 5:53 pm

    Neko Onna-
    Yeah, France just bends over backward for its religious citizen. Yuh-huh. No imposed secular state here.

  40. July 14, 2010 at 6:11 pm

    @Alara Rogers: I was fairly unsympathetic to the opposition of this law, but after reading your comment, I’ve changed my mind. That was very educational and made me consider immigration very differently in this context.

  41. July 14, 2010 at 6:11 pm

    Shoshie-
    1.- I didn’t realize this question applied solely to France. Clearly, this is a global problem;
    2. Yes, as a matter of fact, like most places in the world, it is considered impolite- even in France- to seriously question or scrutinize religious practice. Notice the great pains the French have gone to to cast this as an issue of “French secular identity”, NOT a direct attack on the actual beliefs Muslims hold that lead to the wearing of headcoverings by women. The fact that sexist religious views lead to the use of such garments isn’t the focus;
    3. The fact that France is a secular state is irrelevant. The point of the comment is that government intervention is not the answer. What the government does is significantly less important than the direction society takes in regards to ending sexist religious practices.

    On a side note-the French Burqa ban is a great example of how interests become conflated. The French are interested in maintaining some mythical purity- it is a very French issue. Look to the infamous policing of loan words in their language if you want to see another example of what I’m talking about. Even to the French, this is less about religion, and more about some idea they have concocted about what France “should” look like.

  42. Bushfire
    July 14, 2010 at 6:38 pm

    There are some really great points in the post and the comments. Thank you for writing, everybody.

    I think this issue is important because it’s not just happening in France. Quebec has just passed a law saying that women may not wear a niquab while accessing government services and this has already had a very negative effect on a woman who wanted to go to court to testify against a man who sexually assaulted her. She was not allowed to wear her niqab in court. This situation really sheds light on why this law is wrong: can you imagine being used to covering certain parts of your body and suddenly the powers that be demand you take clothing off or else you cannot testify against an abuser? That is more sexual abuse. Imagine if all of a sudden the state decided that shirts are offensive and you have to take it off or you can’t go to school, court, or other government services. This woman wanted justice after being sexually assaulted by a man, and the men who make the laws demanded she take off clothing she normally wears. That is a disgusting re-victimization. It sends the message to other Muslim women who wear veils that they should not seek justice from Western law enforcement because they will be sexually assaulted again by the law. France did this first and Quebec followed, and who knows which country will follow next. They’ve set a precedent and the reaction from society will determine whether other lawmakers feel confident in passing more laws like it.

    The way to actually help women who are being controlled by husbands is to allow them to leave their husbands or seek justice on their own time, when they are ready, on their own terms, in their own ways. We as a society should be helping them to follow through on their decisions, not making decisions for them. Feminists have been running women’s shelters for years to help women who leave abusive relationships find shelter, safety and counselling. If Muslim women have abusive husbands they must decide what to do about it, not the state. We must help them with whatever decision they see fit. Banning clothing off of Muslim women is giving a punishment to women when it’s men who are to blame. It does not help them seek justice. It’s gives them another problem to deal with.

    If wearing head coverings is oppressive, then Muslim women will stop wearing them on their own terms. If they wear head coverings its because there’s a reason for it, and even if you do not understand it, you should not be banning clothing off of other people.

  43. July 14, 2010 at 8:02 pm

    At first I was really against this ban, feeling it was taking away rights, but this article has really put some perspective on the other side for me. I also wonder what it might lead to as far as religious items, but otherwise I am now in the middle and can’t really say one way or the other. It’s good on one side in some aspects, and good on the other side in others. We’ll just have to wait and see how women adjust to it.

  44. July 14, 2010 at 8:18 pm

    For me it’s as simple as not forcing women to remove articles of clothing in public. Not a difficult principle to understand.

  45. July 14, 2010 at 8:36 pm

    People may be interested in how the discussion played out about Muslim women wearing hijabs on The Innocent Smith Journal:
    http://innocentsmithjournal.com/2010/05/03/bill-maher-jingoist/
    and here:
    http://innocentsmithjournal.com/2010/06/13/a-feminist-beneath-the-niqab/

  46. July 14, 2010 at 9:20 pm

    From the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

    Article 2.
    •Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.

    Like it or not, religion is deeply intertwined with the other aspects of identity listed above. Even if one is personally not religious, one can have a religious identity ascribed to them by others based on other identity markers, and be treated as such; and one is still culturally influenced by the views on religion(s) that one was raised with.

    So, “opening religion up to critical examination” in practice tends to manifest as politically and economically powerful groups (whether religious or not) using their might to suppress and oppress marginalized religious communities. It’s disingenuous to claim that this is merely anti-religious bias that has nothing to do with ethnicity, national origin, history, bigotry….what have you. It does.

    Also from the Declaration of Human Rights:

    Article 18.
    •Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

  47. July 14, 2010 at 9:31 pm

    as always, the convo is never ever about talking TO THE WOMEN WHO WEAR THE FACE VEIL. the assumption that wearing the face veil is misogynist – wrong. the assumption that wearing it is most often forced upon women by men – wrong. talking to/quoting “muslim” women (who themselves admit that they don’t believe in or practice many of the most basic tenets of Islam) but never ever quoting the women being talked ABOUT – wrong.

    pretty much, it really is as simple as: women should have the right to determine how we dress. no one should be telling us what to wear, nor what not to wear. anyone who has the smallest respect for these kind of laws is, at best, a hypocrite. how can anyone say they care about women but dare to tell women what we should want/need? how can anyone say they care about us but then behave in such a paternalistic way? and, as Tasha mentioned, making it law is diving down a very slippery slope. it’s quite obvious what France’s intentions really are. and yes, the real effect will be that more women will simply not leave their homes – so saying it’s for women’s interests is simply not true. but the reason women won’t leave their homes without their face veil (and let’s be honest, the women who wear it are such a small minority anyway) will not be unable to leave because of the men in their families, but because the government has forced them to make a choice between their spiritual practice/culture/personal comfort and their ability to be a part of society.

    the myth that the face veil “hides” or keeps women out of society is such crap. it’s quite the opposite, in that it allows us the freedom and privacy to go into society and interact, get our needs met, and do what we need/wish to do while still retaining our chosen level of privacy. the myth that women who wear the face veil are promoting some greater piety is also crap. it is a very personal decision taken for very personal reasons and should not be construed as a statement against anyone else. maybe if people – especially so-called Feminists – weren’t so insecure in themselves, they wouldn’t be so worried about what other women are doing.

  48. Anisa
    July 14, 2010 at 9:43 pm

    I really enjoyed this post, and agree with most of it, except that it’s not just Muslim men’s attitudes who needs to choose, but Muslim society as a whole, including women. Islam does not mandate a face covering, but instead it is a cultural creation that is expected in some cases. I say this as a Muslim, and I realize that the change can only come from within Muslim society. That said, I’m still not sure where I stand on the burqa issue. I definitely don’t approve of the French ban, as it’s a western imposition, but as a Muslim I’m not sure if it is really a part of Islam or not. On the other hand, if that is how a woman chooses to express her modesty, then that’s her decision.

    Lastly, the French ban will only hurt Muslim women who wear the burqa, as it may cause problems for them to leave the house when they were once able to with a burqa.

  49. July 14, 2010 at 10:26 pm

    @Aaminah – Thank you for commenting. I’m really interested in hearing from Muslim women who do choose to veil themselves for their own purposes. In reading for this post, I could not find any statements from Muslim women who make that choice. I am editing an anthology on women of color and self-image (it’s called Occupied Bodies: Women of Color Speak on Self-Image and it’s open to all women of color), and I would be so happy if you would consider contributing an essay. I know I don’t get everything right regarding the truths about Islam and Muslim countries, so I apologize to you if my saying that Muslim men need to take women’s rights seriously did offend you.

  50. July 15, 2010 at 12:00 am

    Tasha, i was already planning to submit something. As to finding statements from Muslim women who choose to wear the face veil… this is the internet. There are LOTS of women that write/have written about this subject. In fact, i personally have stuff written over the years that still turns up in searches on the subject. There is no shortage of women speaking about this subject and it’s really problemmatic to me that people keep insisting they “couldn’t find” anyone or any such posts. At the same time, finding CURRENT writings on the subject are more difficult because it’s such a played out discussion that so many of us are tired of having. It’s really only non-Muslims that think this is a hot topic constantly. Most Muslim women are tired of the subject and tired of being reduced to the clothing we wear. We have moved on to talking/writing about other things and wish that non-Muslims would as well. (That is not a statement against what you have posted, btw, because you are responding to a current events issue, and i think for the most part you did an excellent job of it.) i do also think it’s high time that people stop couching stereotyping and general criticism of Muslim men in feminist ideals. Muslim men, in general, are not the problem any moreso than any other men. Most Muslim men are not abusive or overbearing. Most Muslim men are not unaware of or insensitive to women’s issues. Certainly, some Muslim men are. And patriarchy exists in ALL cultures. But the agency of Muslim women is being denied when people assume that Muslim men are the root of all ills and that we are oppressed by them. In my life, i have been oppressed by many men, but never by a Muslim man.

  51. Henry
    July 15, 2010 at 2:07 am

    Didn’t France beg, invite tons of immigrants from North Africa into their country? Now they complain when a subset of these immigrants and their descendants do not become “French”. France, like any country, controls its own borders – yet they act as if they have been invaded by some oppressive foreign power whose army is burqa wearing women. If you allow immigrants into your country, you have to be willing to accept their culture (so long as it does not conflict with the rights of others) because you are making them part of your country -which is now “our” country. Nobody forced France to become an immigration destination, the people living their voted in a government that supported it – they could just have easily decided to close their borders to immigrants. There are already laws on the books to deal with abusive situations where people are being forced to dress a certain way.

  52. July 15, 2010 at 2:12 am

    Aaminah, I can imagine constantly talking about wearing the veil gets tiring. I’m thinking I didn’t come across anything because I was searching for statements specifically related to this current event, and trying to narrow it so much limited my results. I’m searching more generally now and you’re right, I am finding a lot more talk about it, which is really interesting. I hate to be the “educate me” type so thank you for being patient with me. And I’m really glad you’re planning to submit something.

  53. July 15, 2010 at 2:37 am

    Thank you Anisa and Aaminah for saying what I’ve also been thinking while reading the discussion. I’m writing from Kuwait at the moment, where wearing the veil is a status symbol. For the most part anyway, only the most wealthy, beautiful nationals (or those wanting to look it) wear designer and brilliantly sequined abayas and niqaabs — complete with heavy makeup to accentuate the eyes.

    Many women in the Middle East who wear the niqaab do so because it’s seen as the national garb or a status symbol. They drive, smoke sheesha in the cafes, debate, fight for women’s rights, work as sexual health educators, lawyers, doctors, and housewives. Saying that does not ignore the section of niqaab wearing women in the Middle East who are also doing it because of a self-perceived notion of piety or because a family member is forcing them.

    Last week when I was returning to Kuwait from Nairobi, I met up with some Yemeni women in the female-only prayer space en route in the Addis Ababa airport. When their flight was announced a male family member blatantly walked in and started ordering the women around. They threw on their face veils and struggled with the luggage while I stared him down and wordlessly showed him the door when he caught my eye. He left abashed.

    @Bushfire — just some clarification, Bill 94 in Quebec has not been passed. Proposed yes, but it has not yet been voted into law. And the niqaab discussion in regards to the sexual assault case is in Ontario.

  54. July 15, 2010 at 3:26 am

    Thanks for this post, I’m French and it’s very important to me to have an “external” point of view on this topic. Besides, the feminist circles I know in France are almost all white, which means they’re often blind to racism and neo-colonialist issues if the “women’s rights” argument is shown.

    I just want to clarify some stuff I’ve seen in the comments :

    @Daniella Nobody : When you say “Muslim” to a French, s/he will picture someone from Algeria / Tunisia / Marocco, ie the old colonies of France. In France, “Muslim” is another race, as shown in the expression “Black Blanc Beurre” (Black, White, “Arab”) used to describe French Soccer Team during the 1998 World Cup.

    @ Alyssa : Yes, the law has two parts, one for banning the “face-covering clothes”, another one against people forcing women to wear something covering their face. But actually, another law exists against people forcing another personn to wear something they don’t want to wear, whatever the cloths already exists. Thus, the new law will “take the place” of an already existing one, but the new law has smaller punishment then the old one. This means that, with the new law, it will be less serious to force a woman to wear a burqa then before.

  55. July 15, 2010 at 5:14 am

    Léna, would you mind not using ‘blind’ as a metaphor? Cheers.

  56. July 15, 2010 at 6:32 am

    I’m sorry Chally. I just begin to learn about disabled people acceptance. (Is the term OK ?). I use a lot of vision-related metaphors in my native language (“You know what I mean” is literally “You see what I mean” in French”) so I’m going to do some research on the topic to understand fully why it’s wrong and hurtful. Thanks for pointing it at me and again sorry.

  57. July 15, 2010 at 6:48 am

    That’s okay. :)

  58. July 15, 2010 at 7:26 am

    When it comes to disability issues and niqaab (and for the record, Muslims of my acquaintance either in person or online have never called it the burqa – that’s a media term), if one comes across a group of Muslim women walking along, say, Whitechapel Road in east London, and three of them are in normal hijab (i.e. a headscarf with no face covering), a fourth has a niqaab on and a fifth is in a wheelchair and has a full-face cover on, it might be that the fifth has some sort of medical condition that makes her sensitive to light. Of course, a person in this condition can wear dark glasses as many of those with conditions like M.E. do, but she might have chosen the veil because she regards the veil as somewhat more feminine than the wrap-around glasses even if the majority population don’t see it as such.

    I’ve been a Muslim since 1998 and have come across a lot of women that wear niqaab. A fair few have chosen to wear it of their own accord, some of them against the wishes of people in their family, and none were actually forced; some wore it for a few years and then stopped. Yet it is taken as given in some sections of the media that many, or most, of them are forced because nobody would choose to wear niqaab. Pretty much all the arguments fail to stand up to scrutiny; it all comes down to “we don’t like it, let’s ban it”. I dealt with a few of them in this article.

  59. July 15, 2010 at 7:42 am

    As some have pointed out, how many women will be required to stay at home, now shut off socially as well as visibly?

    And if a woman does wear the niqab in public, who does the law punish?

    If arrested rather than fined and processing leads to exposure for someone who didn’t consent to it, and believes it to be similar to public nudity and violation, how terrifying is that going to feel at that very moment in time? Yes, openness is the goal, but forcing it on someone when they’re frightened and not prepared isn’t always going to make them think it’s the best thing ever.

    I’m not a defender of the way these garments isolate and marginalize women in society, but this is a case of a bunch of white people not taking the time to study the intricacies of the issue and instead assuming that they always know best, consequences be damned.

    Yes, there is Islamophobia. There is also a warped kind of sexism that invites Western women to participate and help justify it.

    Further oppression is not empowerment.

  60. Anisa
    July 15, 2010 at 8:09 am

    @Aaminah: I’m really glad you also bring up the point of Muslim women’s agency in wearing the hijab or burqa. Although I myself don’t wear hijab, I feel like I’m always having to defend myself or explain myself about my modesty, and it gets old. It is my choice! And also, I agree with what you said about Muslim women being tired of focusing on this one issue. It completely ignores all the incredible things Muslim women have accomplished and continue to accomplish, as if it’s the only thing worth talking about regarding us!

    @Woodturtle: I’m glad you bring up the point that wearing the burqa can mean different things to different women, i.e. it could be a status symbol, a national symbol, or a symbol of piety. It just shows the diversity in the issue. I think people also need to realize the differences among all Muslim-majority countries, and understanding that they do not all require a burqa or hijab. I myself am half-Pakistani and am constantly answering questions about Pakistani society’s expectations about head coverings. Not that I mind answering questions, it just shows that Muslim women’s experiences is so often seen as monolithic.

  61. July 15, 2010 at 8:25 am

    Also, and I think Aaminah and Anisa can shed more light on this, but I used to be Muslim and one thing that I noticed then and notice now is Muslim women often have much bigger issues that are completely ignored in favor of the veil. There’s still public groping, pre-natal care, voting rights, and domestic violence issues to contend with that impact Muslim women in unique ways and often vary with the countries they live in.

    As a case in point, I didn’t see this myself, but someone else mentioned it commenting on another blog, Larry King did an interview with a woman from RAWA. She was veiled. By the end of the interview, after she’d gone off camera after discussing the multitude of issues facing Afghan women, King said something to the effect of, “She would be so much prettier if she wasn’t wearing that veil.”

  62. Anisa
    July 15, 2010 at 7:47 pm

    @The Chemist: you are exactly right when you say Muslim women often have much bigger issues than veiling. If people actually ask Muslim women what WE want, I imagine the answers will be quite different. This all goes back to letting specific groups of women speak for THEMSELVES, instead of just imposing western views on non-westerners.

  63. Mandolin
    July 16, 2010 at 1:01 am

    I like this post.

    But I wanted to point out that the hair analogy may not be totally functional as is. The emphasis in the post seems to lay the problem of problematic standards around black women’s hair at the feet of black men. I suppose black men may play a role, but it seems like white supremacy is the overwhelming factor, and of course there are work issues and other things beyond black male desire at play.

    I suspect you didn’t mean to cut out any of that other stuff, but the sentence in the post felt like it did.

    Anyway, I like the post, and from your pen to the French lawmaker’s ears.

  64. July 16, 2010 at 4:46 am

    About getting the opinion of women in burqas and/or niqabis…

    (disclaimer: This is just my experience and does not reflect every woman in my own religion, let alone Islam. But I know I am far, far from alone.)

    When I was in a strict, closed religious community, I dressed very “modestly” and stood out from others who weren’t in this community. Everything covered, regardless of weather and dangers of heatstroke, obsessing over the thicknesses of my tights and how close-fitting the shirts were, etc.

    A lot of people asked me why, and I always had a pretty smart answer, one that was well informed by feminism and concepts of personal choice, and involved counterattacks about expectations of secular society for women to expose a lot of their flesh (the “real” oppression, as I would put it).

    If you had asked me if I thought it was religiously oppressive, I certainly would have told you that it was not oppressive at all. ESPECIALLY if you were an “outsider.”

    For awhile I made myself believe that.

    In reality, I was under unbelievable amounts of pressure to conform and fit in. There was a huge amount of fear in my life over my modesty, and the people who subtly, oh-so-politely policed it (women are at least as bad as men, because it’s one social arena they can control). Even now, getting dressed is a stressful activity; I reject this concept of modesty but can’t bring myself to wear a short-sleeved shirt even in the hot summer, or I worry about it all day.

  65. July 16, 2010 at 6:57 am

    I don’t believe this law furthers women’s rights for a very simple reason: it uses the same logic as a number of other laws and norms that have been oppressive to women.

    Specifically, it controls women’s behaviour because of something men have done. In the case of the ban on the hijab in schools, the problem was men beating up women for not veiling. The solution was not the obvious: punish men who beat up women. Instead, it was to control the behaviour of women by making it illegal to wear the hijab to school.

    This is the same logic that is employed when we tell women how to avoid rape by severely curtailing our freedom. It is the same logic that makes women the gate-keepers of sexual purity. It is plainly and simply not a logic that leads to women’s empowerment.

    Martha Nussbaum has an excellent take-down of the arguments used to support these laws at The Stone. She notes that there are a number of other symbols of women’s oppression (porn mags, cosmetic surgery, etc.) that we do not outlaw. She also notes that many of us cover our faces (e.g. with scarves in the winter), yet we do not see this as a security threat.

  66. July 16, 2010 at 8:14 am

    Yonah, you’re assuming that women who veil are less self-aware or less honest than women who absorb any other societal pressure, such as the pressure to wear high heels or makeup.

    If you asked a bunch of women who wear makeup whether they think they’re giving in to patriarchal beauty standards and they reply “No, I like wearing makeup!”, are you going to assume that they’re lying either to themselves or to you?

    Sure, maybe women who veil do so out of ingrained social pressure, but that’s no different from other “Western” modes of dress.

  67. July 16, 2010 at 8:27 am

    I think I was clear about the modest scope of my claims. This was my experience and it’s that of some others, although who can tell how many (an insignificant amount? a vast majority? middling?). I should also note that I’m against the ban as counterproductive and targeting the wrong people.

    With regards to your makeup comment:

    When it comes to modesty, strict religious communities will revoke a woman’s membership if she dresses wrong. In my case, I stood to lose credibility and the most treasured aspects of my identity if I admitted, to myself or others, that I hated these laws.

    I have not experienced such pressure with regards to makeup, but it might very well be that way for many, many women.

    I also want to say that I think making yourself like something you hate is an incredible survival skill.

  68. John Wirtaker
    July 17, 2010 at 2:55 am

    There are many good points on both sides. Simply put. The principle of liberty is against the ban. But then. For the ban is the fact that people who wear the ban symbolize a misogynist culture and tradition. Just analyze women’s rights in countries where covering up for women is compulsory.

    It is important to point out that women who wear the burka do no longer make a choice. The burka wearer does not wear jeans one day and the burka another day. Instead, it is a life long commitment, likely strongly encouraged under peer pressure. It is still a free choice, but the more women wear it, the more it seems acceptable for society to hide women away. Namazi, the British ex-muslim calls it a mobile prison, not for nothing. The peer pressure put on girls in belgium was one of the reasons to ban the headgear altogether.

    We cannot have it all, society must make a choice. Banning symbols that oppose the very freedoms the women’s movement, such as the freedom to choose what to wear, stood and stands for is a good position. And whether you are for or against the ban, no one can honestly argue that the burka is nothing than a misogynist symbol.

  69. sonia
    July 17, 2010 at 6:39 am

    Looking more into it, there my be something to burqas, niqabs, et al. Reported rates or rape, violence against women, and so on are very low in countries with mandatory face coverings for women (outside of war situations).

  70. July 17, 2010 at 8:54 am

    @sonia You’re making a bad joke right? Becuase you seem really ill informed about the things feminists in those countries are working on.

    That isn’t to say the rate of rape and abuse is western countries is any better.

  71. July 17, 2010 at 10:16 am

    @Tasha You say “We continue to ally with countries that do much more than just expect women to cover themselves head to toe when in public — we’re in bed with countries that beat and jail women who have been gang raped and impregnated because the rape constituted the woman committing adultery.” I looked at the article attached and it is very poorly annotated, it’s one link being to the front page of the Saudi Gazette. As I can see there is no evidence to back up this article- though I patiently wait to be corrected- and as such, would certainly count the article and it’s dissemination as Islamophobia.

  72. July 17, 2010 at 10:18 am

    Migraine caused me to insert superflous apostrophe in ‘its.’ Please forgive me.

  73. July 17, 2010 at 10:56 am

    Here is an article that some people have been after- a Muslim ‘feminist’ describing why she wears the niqab.
    http://sweetshenu.multiply.com/reviews/item/1225

    I’ll be honest, her denial and self deceit had the opposite effect of what the author intended. It was clear that she was not making a choice and that her husband brought much more pressure on her than she was admitting (even to herself.) I have to admit I found the justification quite nauseating from a feminist perspective, and put me in mind of a woman defending an abusive/violent partner.

  74. July 17, 2010 at 11:26 am

    Fat Steve, this story has been covered everywhere. Look up the Qatif case. It even has its own Wikipedia article, it’s not some obscure thing.

  75. July 17, 2010 at 12:05 pm

    This article cannot be talking about the Qatif case. Firstly, the article mentions that it happened ‘in a city just east of Jeddah’ Qatif is on the opposite side of the country. Secondly the article was written in 2009, the girl in the Qatif case was pardoned in 2007. Thirdly, the girl in the qatif case. Lastly, I can find nothing that mentions a pregnancy/abortion related to the Qatif case.

    Here is an interview with the young woman:
    http://abcnews.go.com/International/story?id=3899920&page=1

  76. July 17, 2010 at 12:06 pm

    My third point was that the girl in the Qatif case was 19- the article referred to a 23 year old woman.

  77. July 17, 2010 at 12:07 pm

    Looking more into it, there my be something to burqas, niqabs, et al. Reported rates or rape, violence against women, and so on are very low in countries with mandatory face coverings for women (outside of war situations).

    There is no country on earth where there is compulsory face covering, at least not across the whole country (not even Saudi Arabia, although I understand that it is mandatory, or has been, in certain provinces — out-of-the-way ones).

  78. PrettyAmiable
    July 17, 2010 at 12:23 pm

    Reported rates or rape, violence against women, and so on are very low in countries with mandatory face coverings for women (outside of war situations).

    Well, yeah. Would you be more or less likely to report being raped in countries like Iran, where you can be put to death for getting raped by someone other than your husband? That’s not to say the face covering in Iran is mandatory; Indigo Jo pointed out that no country requires face covering. But there are other reasons reported rape rates are so low.

  79. July 17, 2010 at 1:35 pm

    @sonia “Reported rates or rape, violence against women, and so on are very low in countries with mandatory face coverings for women (outside of war situations).”

    Never mind the fact that you use the word ‘reported,’ which as PrettyA pointed out, is merely a reflection on the reporting. What’s worse is that marital rape is not a criminal offense in countries like Saudi Arabia, Iran, and lovely Afghanistan (what? you mean going to war with them didn’t make the place a feminist utopia?)

    To be honest I am sitting here shocked that someone on THIS website could actually be suggesting that mandatory face covering in public might be GOOD for women because it prevents rape. Really? Really? Why don’t you just cut all the men’s penises off if you’re going for Draconian measures to stop rape? At least that would affect the potential attacker rather than the potential victim.

    N.B. I am not actually suggesting castration to prevent rape. I am a man and have managed to go through 20+ years of maturity (well, if you can call it that) without raping a woman, so I know it can be done. No niqabs or rusty knives needed.

  80. July 17, 2010 at 6:46 pm

    @FS: ah, hadn’t followed the link and didn’t realize it was referring to a different case.

    also, yeah, fail!sonia.

  81. Ads
    July 18, 2010 at 12:33 am

    The ban is clearly anti-Islam. More so extreme-Islam. Then again France has been for many years anti-any extremist-wing of any religion. For example Scientology is not a religion in France. Parents whose beliefs don’t allow for medication forgo their rights to choose when it comes to their child’s health.
    France is a secular country. Keep your faith at home and don’t share it publicly. That’s a very big and cherished part of the culture.
    The thing with this Niqab ruling, however, that I find baffling is that there are less than 2,000 women who wear it (in a population of 67,000,000). It’s such a non-issue in the sense that you can go a whole year in France without ever seeing the niqab.
    As far as Women’s rights go it’s really hard for me to digest the government’s stand. Stating that women are forced to wear the niqab and then arguing that the ban solves this is ridiculous. If a woman is forced by a brother, father, husband, or a mother the government ought to allow for different avenues to tackle the issue. As their might be some women who choose to wear the niqab.
    And these are the people the people of France have a problem with, in my opinion. Those who choose to wear garbs reflecting their faith. And this is the real reason for the ban. It is anti-French. This is not a nation that completely rejects immigration, as it is very much built on immigration–the 50’s and 60’s saw thousands of immigrants from eastern Europe, as the father of the current president–but rejects immigrants that don’t integrate themselves. I believe that above all this is what the ban is about, not women’s rights, but France’s fear of immigrants who don’t want to identify themselves with the archetypal French citizen.

  82. sonia
    July 18, 2010 at 12:39 am

    There is no country on earth where there is compulsory face covering, at least not across the whole country (not even Saudi Arabia, although I understand that it is mandatory, or has been, in certain provinces — out-of-the-way ones).

    A friend of mine in the diplomatic services said it is mandatory (in Saudi Arabia) in public for all adult women even those with diplomatic passports.

  83. July 18, 2010 at 9:50 pm

    This is a great article. I cite it here: http://letjusticeflow.wordpress.com/2010/07/19/burqa-ban/

  84. calyx
    July 18, 2010 at 11:50 pm

    Political agendas playing out on women’s bodies yet again. You can’t punish and prohibit women into empowerment, for f*ck’s sake. And it’s not really about the empowerment, that’s just the justifying rhetoric.

    I got a little lesson about my regrettably Anglocentric preconceptions of Muslim women as on the extreme end of some perceived Western “meek and modest” spectrum – I visited a hamam in rural Morocco. Straight in the door and women were walking around naked everywhere in the steam, laughing and scrubbing one another and at ease. Sure there’s sexism. But Western-cultured women have their own competitive hangups and don’t know what solidarity is – another eye-opener for me was reading a woman from Iran saying she found quite as much sexism in America as Iran, but in a different way.

    I find the ban on the burqa/niqaab absolutely enraging and patronising and criminalising and vilifying and objectifying and… just yeah. The West completely ignored RAWA until it was convenient for colonialist reasons, I remember.

  85. calyx
    July 18, 2010 at 11:56 pm

    *America = the US
    Just learnt why it’s not a good term.

  86. Lidial
    July 20, 2010 at 1:10 pm

    @calyx – the side “benefits” of solidarity due to sexism… so it’s okay for gender segregation because it makes women less critical of each other? what are you trying to say?

  87. Beanie
    July 26, 2010 at 3:23 pm

    @ Holy, there is a group of people treating us like chattel, its people like you who assume we dont have a voice. france is using womens bodies as a battleground so their actions are not exactly nobel.

  88. Beanie
    July 26, 2010 at 3:27 pm

    @ matlun

    “@Sheelzebub: I am not sure what you mean with this. I was referring to this kind of extreme islam getting a growing influence in society.

    While I am not convinced that the anti burqa law is a good attempt of a solution (I am somewhat ambivalent about this, actually), I do believe there are real problems in Europe with conflicts between the “traditional” culture and Muslims. Both the growth of far right, racist (or at least anti immigration) parties and radical Islam in Europe are two sides of the same coin. Hopefully this is a temporary trend and we will be able to find a way to live together in harmony, but it does worry me.”

    explain what you mean by “radical Islam” and “Extreme Islam”

  89. Beanie
    July 26, 2010 at 3:30 pm

    hey Holy, just a note. Stop referring to Muslim women as a homogeneous monolith. there are some of us who can speak for ourselves and havent asked ignorant people like you to speak on our behalf.

  90. Beanie
    July 26, 2010 at 3:43 pm

    gonna make this clear-anyone who uses the following bullshit terms:
    Islamist,Islamic fundamentalism,Islamic conservatist,Muslimists, is going to be asked what the fuck they are talking about. Using media created terms to make you sound like you know about Muslims/Islam just diminishes your point and helps no one.

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