Symbols of oppression

By 14:16

I hardly keep up with current affairs so imagine my confusion when I caught a clip on the local news of women dressed in burqas and niqabs. I immediately got on to Twitter to find out why these Muslim women were featured in the news.
I found out that on 11 April 2011, a law will come into effect in France banning the use of a burqa. The punishment will be a €150 fine or public service duty. Penalties for obligating a person to wear a burqa are also part of the law.

So a burqa is the loose outer garment that some Islamic women wear to cover their bodies and face. Now the Qur'an has many verses stating that women should dress modestly and only reveal their beauty to their husbands, immediate family and other women. With thousands of years of burqa use, the tradition of conservation dress is seen as being respectful and modest.
I’ve always been exposed to women dressed in niqab, purdah, abaya or burqa so it isn't unusual for me but I do understand the fear and concern of those not used to it. I imagine it would be the same feeling I'd get if people were walking around shopping malls in balaclavas.
It is these people that are not exposed to face coverings that have concluded that burqas symbolise oppression against women. Hence the French have passed this law saying that they will not tolerate female oppression in their country.
The problem is that the small minority of burqa wearing females that have made France their home will find it quite difficult to show their faces in public and likewise their men would feel uncomfortable allowing this. Perhaps six months isn't all it takes to wean off years of burqa use? And if the French are really concerned about female oppression, should they rather not tackle the problem of oppression instead of the alleged symbols?
 This clearly points to a discrimination against religion, tradition and culture but the old adage "when in Rome" comes to mind. In the Middle East, many countries require foreigners to conform to their rules such as forcing women to cover up. Why then should Arabs complain when they're forced to remove their covers to conform to rules of their new land?
Because it’s not the same thing! Forcing women to remove their burqas is similar to forcing a Western woman to remove her clothing so that she can parade in her underwear. It’s the same thing – it’s the level of comfort you’re used to and both types of women will feel the same humiliation.
No amount of complaining from me is going to prevent the law from taking effect. All I ask is that if we're going to ban burqas and niqabs with the excuse of eradicating oppression, then let us also ban a few other symbols of female oppression:
  • women should not be allowed to wear bikinis in public as this oppresses women to be seen as sexual objects for the pleasure of men;
  • we should ban the biblical verse that women should be submissive and obey and respect their husbands as the head of the households;
  • remuneration in the corporate world should be equal across gender regardless of time spent on maternity leave – we wouldn’t want to oppress women for the gift of life; and
  • Catholic religious clergy should be banned from refusing married women the use of contraception thereby harming their health and creating unwanted pregnancies.
What else do you think we should ban to free our women from oppression?

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  1. To be fair, France also banned showing Christian or any other religious stuff in schools. But i do agree with you about banning those other symbols of oppression.

    I feel it pertinent to continue and add some detail to a short twitter discusion ;)
    So here goes:
    The situation here in Europe is really tense when it comes to immigration. Most of the continent is leaning a little right at the moment in a way reminiscent of the 1930s. Coming out of a recession, many people are viewing immigrants as a threat to their individual economic stability. Sadly, the largest groups of immigrants that are obvious are the turkish and morrocan ( muslim ) population. They make themselves obvious because generally they struggle to integrate into European society and stick together in small obviously religious groups. Instead of focusing on the core economic problems, these groups are then seen as a threat. This leads to masses voting for groups such as the PVV here in Holland.

    A way of 'resolving' ( brushing under the rug ) this issue is to pretend like it isn't there. Which is probably best for long term because it will resolve itself given enough time. I think the idea is that if you solve the problem of integration, people won't notice. Problem is that it isn't working and France, Belgium and Switzerland have taken strong actions obviously targeting Muslims. As much as they cover up their religious oppression by justifying it with reasons like 'trying to correct oppression of women', it's just another attempt at discouraging muslim immigrants - specifically turkish and morrocans - from coming into Europe. It's all a load of nonsense, and mostly coming from rich native europeans who've never met a foreigner but like to blame the current economic crisis on them instead of the worlds love of debt and oil.

    What scares me is that the PVV are damn popular here, and they even suggested a form of 'camp' to keep unemployed foreigners in :/

  2. i have to agree that banning the burqa is a sign of discriminiation. these countries claim to be democratic and are all about rights and the freedom of choice but they are contradicting themselves in passing this law. Not all women are forced to wear the burqa. they chose to. secondly, these western countries go to war in islamic countries, claiming that they are there to bring peace and freedom when back at home, they are doing the opposite. i also have to agree on the fact that if they were concerned about female oppression, then they shouldnt allow people to wear revealing clothing like they do on billboards. if you think a women who choses to cover herself for the sake of being modest is being oppressed but a women who is positioning herself in a degrading manner is not oppressed then you are clearly messed up.