Sarkozy supports burqa ban

President Nicolas Sarkozy says that burqas are “not welcome” in France, and supports a ban on women wearing the burqa in public.

[He] said the Muslim burqa would not be welcome in France, calling the full-body religious gown a sign of the “debasement” of women.
In the first presidential address to parliament in 136 years, Sarkozy faced critics who fear the burqa issue could stigmatize France’s Muslims and said he supported banning the garment from being worn in public.
“In our country, we cannot accept that women be prisoners behind a screen, cut off from all social life, deprived of all identity,” Sarkozy said to extended applause at the Chateau of Versailles, southwest of Paris.
“The burqa is not a religious sign, it’s a sign of subservience, a sign of debasement — I want to say it solemnly,” he said. “It will not be welcome on the territory of the French Republic.”

Banning the burqa doesn’t further women’s rights – it limits them. Now, obviously there’s a difference in Islamic women’s dress from the hijab to the burqa – but legally banning any of them erases all agency from Muslim women. (I’m especially wary of Sarkozy’s comments and this potential ban given that France banned headscarves from public schools in 2004.)
If you’re interested in hearing Muslim women talking about the hijab, here are a couple of interesting vids.
UPDATE: Jill has more.
Related posts: Only citizenship for some: France denies citizenship to Muslim woman
Malaysian women speak out on hijab

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103 Comments

  1. jenibelle
    Posted June 22, 2009 at 8:12 pm | Permalink

    Also, Sarkozy doesn’t give a flying flark about women’s equality.
    This issue is a red herring.

  2. cattrack2
    Posted June 22, 2009 at 9:02 pm | Permalink

    Last I looked at a map, France ain’t Albania…Somehow I don’t think the same peer pressure applies there as in Albania. Hell, the same peer pressure doesn’t even apply in Iran, where many women don’t wear burqas.
    The 1st Amendment makes a big difference, I’m glad we have it. This is just more immigrant bashing by Sarkozy–something he’s experienced at. He hasn’t met a brown/black immigrant he’s liked.
    Funny they don’t ban crucifixes, yamulkes, or habits over there.

  3. lyndorr
    Posted June 22, 2009 at 9:12 pm | Permalink

    1. I did know someone who didn’t choose to wear the headscarf but later chose to wear the niqab (which shows the eyes) so it is conceivable that someone would choose to wear the burqa. I can see why people find it hard to imagine though, which leads me to your second point.
    2. I’m guessing the difference people see between them is that for one your whole body including your eyes are covered making the woman unrecognizable. Because of this, it seems to take away a woman’s identity especially in public. Now, I’m not saying that makes it okay for the burqa to be banned but that seems to be why people would think burqas aren’t “okay”. I personally am uncomfortable when I can’t see any part of a person’s face (this includes certain Halloween costumes too) but we I agree with people that we can’t make laws based on discomfort. There are a lot of things that a majority of people are uncomfortable with.
    Still, no matter what I said above I don’t support banning because I support laws that try to get to the root of problems and laws that focus on the person who is actually doing the hurting or controling. Is wearing a burqa actually hurting anyone? Some people might be tempted to say it’s hurting the woman wearing it but are you okay with seeing her punished if she goes out with one on? This reminds me of sex work. It’s the sex worker who often gets hurt and yet in the States it’s often the sex worker who goes to jail.

  4. Mina
    Posted June 22, 2009 at 9:18 pm | Permalink

    “Last I looked at a map, France ain’t Albania…Somehow I don’t think the same peer pressure applies there as in Albania. Hell, the same peer pressure doesn’t even apply in Iran, where many women don’t wear burqas.”
    …and where, according to my mom, some of the women who cover their hair and bodies in chadors (and very occasionally even cover their noses and mouths in niqabs) do bare their breasts in public. The idea seems to be that covering one’s hair is modest and baring one’s breast isn’t immodest when one’s baby is hungry.

  5. Mina
    Posted June 22, 2009 at 9:22 pm | Permalink

    “There were several other right-wing Christian posters who agree that banning the burqa is more oppressive than allowing men to force their wives to wear it. It’s like the Twilight Zone.”
    WTF?
    Obviously forcing someone to wear it is oppressive and forcing someone to not wear it is still oppressive but less so!

  6. Mina
    Posted June 22, 2009 at 9:24 pm | Permalink

    “I’m guessing the difference people see between them is that for one your whole body including your eyes are covered making the woman unrecognizable. Because of this, it seems to take away a woman’s identity especially in public.”
    Speaking of identity, not everyone prefers to wear her or his identity on her or his sleeve. What about people who like concealing some of their identity, and maybe even like being a bit more sneaky than average?

  7. Mina
    Posted June 22, 2009 at 9:24 pm | Permalink

    “I’m guessing the difference people see between them is that for one your whole body including your eyes are covered making the woman unrecognizable. Because of this, it seems to take away a woman’s identity especially in public.”
    Speaking of identity, not everyone prefers to wear her or his identity on her or his sleeve. What about people who like concealing some of their identity, and maybe even like being a bit more sneaky than average?

  8. Mina
    Posted June 22, 2009 at 9:29 pm | Permalink

    “The few women who willingly choose to wear the burqa without pressure from any male in her life do so on a false premise of what the Quran requires a woman to wear.”
    Either that or not on a false premise but for some other probably-more-mundane reason, right?

  9. lyndorr
    Posted June 22, 2009 at 9:37 pm | Permalink

    Your comment’s a little vague. Are you thinking of anyone other than someone wearing a burqa? Just wondering. I do believe people should have the right to dress how they want. I believe in a secular government that allows freedom of religion so that the government to the best of their ability neither encourages nor discourages any religion. They should stay out of religion as much as possible.

  10. Mina
    Posted June 22, 2009 at 9:38 pm | Permalink

    “If the burqa is allowed, you will never, ever know if that woman is wearing it by choice or force.”
    Heck, if ankle-length trousers are allowed, how can you tell if a woman is wearing it by free choice or fear?
    Personally, I actually like shorts and ankle-length trousers and shirts and dresses with hemlines of all lengths except mid-shin. However, thanks to my Iranian ancestry and my PCOS my leg hair is stubborn, my leg skin is sensitive, and my surroundings are hostile to women revealing hairy legs. Since my leg stubble takes a few hours to grow back and my razor burn takes a few weeks to heal, I very rarely wear short skirts or shorts instead of ankle-length trousers (or, less often, ankle-length skirts).
    What if Massachusetts banned ankle-length trousers and ankle-length skirts, in the name of freeing people like me from pressure to wear them? That wouldn’t stop the local culture’s “hygiene” standards labelling bodies like mine dirty. It would just force me to expose my leg hair whenever I went out in public, and increase the odds of my being laid off from work, rejected at job interviews, ostracized when trying to make friends or flirt, etc.
    In other words, such a ban would be back-asswards. What we need is to have the discrimination ended first, and then we can stop camouflaging ourselves to evade it.

  11. LadyG
    Posted June 22, 2009 at 9:39 pm | Permalink

    WORD about #1.
    Well, for all those people who think that a woman can’t possibly choose to wear a burqa, all you need is one woman who chose it to prove you wrong! And I know a few who have chosen to wear niqaab, and read arguments from Muslim women about wearing the burqa.
    I have studied Islam for years, and many women take the Qur’anic verses and the ahadith about a woman’s dress very seriously. Many women quote different scholars and there are many different interpretations about what ‘jalabib’ is referring to, etc. etc. Some Muslims are very conservative about this and really do not wish to reveal themselves to men that are not of their immediate family. And the burqa is the extreme of it, but to state that a woman would never freely choose some of these things is, in my opinion, to underestimate how many people literally interpret religion. And that is THEIR CHOICE.
    Negating all of that, I see no sense in really banning it. As others have said, what does this address? It addresses how ‘good’ and free France looks on the streets, but it does NOT and WILL NOT really address women’s status in their homes, whatever they may be.

  12. Mina
    Posted June 22, 2009 at 9:41 pm | Permalink

    “Your comment’s a little vague. Are you thinking of anyone other than someone wearing a burqa?”
    I was thinking of how some people (including me!) choose clothing for reasons other than self-expression, and that probably also includes some of the people who choose burqa.

  13. lyndorr
    Posted June 22, 2009 at 9:50 pm | Permalink

    I see though I wasn’t even thinking of identity through self-expression. People in uniform can still be identified. I was simply thinking of being able to recognize a friend or acquaintance you randomly see on the street or on campus for example.

  14. Mina
    Posted June 22, 2009 at 10:02 pm | Permalink

    “a native, predominately Anglo system singling out Muslim women and thus enforcing an ‘our way or no way’ approach to their culture.”
    Nitpick: Franco, not Anglo!
    Also, speaking of French culture and the hijab ban, see Muslim girl shaves head over ban, BBC News, Friday, 1 October, 2004, 17:20 GMT 18:20 UK:
    “A 15-year-old French Muslim girl has beaten the ban on Islamic headscarves in schools by shaving her head.
    “Cennet Doganay was banned from classes for wearing a headscarf – as it went against the new law banning religious signs in schools, introduced this term…
    “…Her mother said Cennet had tried everything ‘a beret, a bandana – but they still refused to let her into class’.
    “She has been traumatised since the start of term. But all she wanted to do was go to school like everyone else,” she told French news agency AFP.
    “Reports say about 120 schoolgirls across France insisted on keeping their headscarves at the start of term, but most have since given in under threat of expulsion.”
    Yes, the school even banned a beret supposedly in the name of the French state…

  15. Mina
    Posted June 22, 2009 at 10:07 pm | Permalink

    “Even if we assume that women who wear a burka in public are forced to do so – isn’t this something like a ban on unexplained bruises in an effort to prevent domestic abuse? Surely, if the family has so much control over what a woman wears in public, they would simply keep her from going out in public?
    “I agree that it should be illegal to force someone to wear an unnecessary outfit which is often seen as a symbol of oppression, but shouldn’t forcing people to wear it be banned, rather than the outfit itself?”
    Exactly!

  16. Gular
    Posted June 22, 2009 at 10:41 pm | Permalink

    Funny they don’t ban crucifixes, yamulkes, or habits over there.
    With the exception of habits, since you can’t both be a nun and go to public school, all of these things have been banned in public schools. No religious articles in public schools, at all, in France.
    I think the interesting thing about this comment is that, well, it’s wrong. These articles are banned in certain parts of French society to maintain secularism. As a result, many French Muslims are actually going to Catholic school so they can wear religious articles all the time and express themselves and their culture.
    While not exactly puzzle-pieced into what you’re saying, I felt the need to point out that there are places where these things are banned in France because France has a history of secularizing for fear of having people be different. France wants to homogenize — that’s where France becomes racist/xenophobic.

  17. Gular
    Posted June 22, 2009 at 10:47 pm | Permalink

    Just a small thing, the French pride themselves on not being English. Anyone who’s not French is an “Anglo”, so calling the French “Anglo” is inherently insulting to the culture.
    Other than that, TOTALLY ON BOARD OMG THANK YOU

  18. Gular
    Posted June 22, 2009 at 11:03 pm | Permalink

    I’d like to point out that a woman who would original wear a burqa wouldn’t wear a t-shirt because it violates Islamic codes of modesty. It’s rather culturally insensitive to set up this “test” for women who don’t believe they should be wearing those types of clothing because it would be in violation of God’s Law.
    It’s like saying you will think Mormon or Orthodox Jewish women will only be liberated when they can wear mini-skirts of her religion’s appropriately sanctioned clothing.
    That comment is privilege.

  19. SailorROX
    Posted June 22, 2009 at 11:17 pm | Permalink

    Let me say that if I had spent a longer time in Morocco last summer for study abroad, I may have very well chosen to wear a hijab. I believe it would have definitely influenced a lot of my interactions with natives in the street… and maybe some positive things would have come from it. Hmmm…. I don’t know…. less cat calls in the streets, less vendors thinking “oooh, American, let’s rip her off,” more friendly taxi service… Some people may claim that if I had done so, I wouldn’t have CHOSEN the hijab, just forced into it by the culture.
    I propose to you that each and every one of us is influenced by (our own) culture in almost everything we do, down to clothing choice. Could one argue that clothing of all types is oppressive on a hot summer day? Why don’t we take it all off and go nude? Why? Because our culture (read parents, mentors, society’s leaders) says it is inappropriate to go around without clothes. Would we willingly do so even if we didn’t think about the over-arching society? No, probably not because, according to our internal cues (“American” cues?) say that we feel too exposed. That’s ridiculous to blame that one on brainwashing from when we were children.
    For those who think the burqa erases the identity, no it doesn’t. Go a TALK with a women you find in the grocery store or on the street (well, actually more recommended for females to approach). You may actually find that her favorite color is purple, she likes the Mets, or that she chooses to wear the burqa because in her opinion she finds it oppressive that women in western cultures who wear skimpy outfits may do so to seek men’s approval. So point is, don’t assume any expression of religion means one thing by looking at it through the context of your own culture.
    But we won’t get to know that nice lady’s beautiful personality if she decides to stay home because the state feels free to regulate her clothing…

  20. evann
    Posted June 23, 2009 at 12:03 am | Permalink

    ?? huh? First of all, women unable to leave their home because of legal restrictions on their religious beliefs is not “slavery”. And the men won’t get sent to prison for anything.
    And I am not sure where you get this point either
    “But more importantly, they’ll never be able to force their daughters to wear it once they reach the proper age: once they get their periods and become ‘marryable’.”
    A) Parents can still force their daughters to wear hijabs, and they just won’t let them out of the house since they will not be dressed “properly”. B) what is this about daughters getting their periods? Parents are the legal guardians of their children til theyre 18- the parents will simply chose to never allow their children out of the house, which is totally legal, btw. They’ll homeschool them. How is that a good solution? Children never even leaving the house!?
    We need to provide opportunities for muslim women so they are empowered, not take away their choices and obstruct their unobtrusive religious practices.

  21. cattrack2
    Posted June 23, 2009 at 1:09 am | Permalink

    Its offensive and frightening that we would let a State seize women’s agency & decide FOR THEM how they can worship–or not. While its not insignificant that some men certainly force their wives & daughters into burqas, its FAR more offensive, and FAR more dangerous to let the State intrude into matters of conscience. Its far easier for a woman to leave her husband, or a daughter her father, than for a woman who just wants to practice her religion to leave her country. This way lies tyranny. Its not right when the Right does, and its not right when the Left follows suit.
    In the US this would be the equivalent of forcing female rape victims to get abortions because the State just knows that no rape victim would want to give birth to such a child. This is just dressed up Western-centrism.

  22. fatima
    Posted June 23, 2009 at 1:17 am | Permalink

    i read through half the comments and couldnt even stomach most of them.
    as a muslim woman who wore hijab for four years and then decided to stop, i am absolutely sick and tired of people telling me what to do with my body, how to cover it, how to UNcover it. from muslims AND non-muslims alike. muslim women are being attacked from all angles…and i wouldnt expect it here but…sigh
    i know many women growing up who took pride in wearing the burqa. holding on to their values and ideals in a place that so badly wanted them in bikinis. that wasn’t what they were comfortable in. and i took pride in wearing hijab as well – kind of a like a big fuck you to everyone who already thought of me as the weird nerdy brown girl in white suburbia. and when my mom started wearing hijab, her self-esteem flourished. it would kill her if she was ever forced to take it off. i actually think she wouldnt leave the house (and no, its not because my dad is a tyrannical oppressive terrorist…its because my mom would feel like she was naked.)
    the funny thing is, so many muslim women i know laugh at the way that they are treated (my mother included) as if we are all so oppressed. its so paternalistic. when really, so many times i have heard these same women talking about how they think women in the united states are the poor, oppressed ones! because “oh, they are forced to go around half-naked”…i dont necessarily agree with it but my point is that it’s another perspective.
    obviously, women shouldnt be forced to do anything by their families or communities. and they shouldnt be forced to do anything by their governments either. for muslim women this is especially relevant because our bodies are always contentious. but we aren’t poor little weak things like so many people in the united states think we are. sure there are women who are forced to wear burqas but if the govt bans them, it isn’t going to break down patriarchy – its just going to continue a cycle of control over women.
    we are fucking sick of being controlled.

  23. Vidya
    Posted June 23, 2009 at 1:20 am | Permalink

    If you change ‘leg hair’ to ‘facial hair’, you would have my predicament exactly. I am, in fact, quite envious of Muslim women for having these covering choices available to them (of course, I could do the same if I wished, but I feel it would be disrespectful to their faith, as I’m not Muslim).
    Instead of the *hour or more* I need to spend on ‘grooming’ (shaving, makeup, etc.) to do something as simple as go to the corner store without being harassed for my physical differences, I think I would quite enjoy the ‘freedom’ of a niqab.

  24. cattrack2
    Posted June 23, 2009 at 1:33 am | Permalink

    Yeah but its not enforced wrt yamulkes & crucifixes…in fact they wrote the law in such a way as to allow all but the largest crucifixes…so, sure, the ban was meant to apply to all religions.

  25. Vidya
    Posted June 23, 2009 at 1:40 am | Permalink

    This is a lovely comment. Thank you for posting it in the face of so much ideological hatred and Orientalist dehumanization on this thread.
    As a (non-Muslim) woman who practices modest dress for reasons of faith, I am shocked by the unwillingness of many here to try to understand this from the perspective of a Muslim woman who would feel naked without the covering of her choice. (Were I forced to, say, wear clothing that left my legs uncovered, I would no more leave the house than your mother would without her hijab.) That so many commentators can state that they would like the government to force women to publicly undress makes me lose hope.

  26. cattrack2
    Posted June 23, 2009 at 1:46 am | Permalink

    “If the burqa is allowed, you will never, ever know if that woman is wearing it by choice or force.”
    And if it its banned BY THE STATE you’ll know this…how??? This is nothing but LAZY thinking. If its banned you’ll never even have the opportunity to find out if women want the ban. The woman has a better chance of standing up to her husband or father than she does of standing up to the state.

  27. Echidne of the snakes
    Posted June 23, 2009 at 2:13 am | Permalink

    Note that we are not discussing the proper clothes for men here at all. We are discussing how women should dress, and that’s because both religions and societies dictate this much more to women than to men. So I sympathize with fatima’s feelings of being fucking tired over it.

  28. insomniac
    Posted June 23, 2009 at 2:17 am | Permalink

    I would think that wearing a burqa emphasizes your identity (religious and cultural at the least) much more than not wearing one. Your comment is a bit contradictory.
    -anin

  29. klompen
    Posted June 23, 2009 at 4:30 am | Permalink

    I agree that banning the burqa in France altogether is ridiculous – a better solution would be to create legal protection and rights for women who want to file complaints against someone who is forcing them to wear it.
    I don’t agree with conflating the national burqa ban to the ban in public schools at all. While I’m sure many racist teachers and school officials abuse the law to target only hajib-wearing students (and they should be called out on it), the law specifically bans ALL religious attire and symbols, something I agree with completely in a school setting. Public schools, unlike the public sector, are not for absolute free expression of religion. If they were, kids could wear T-Shirts saying, “God hates fags,” “I hate Palestine,” “I hate Israel,” “The non-believers shall be tossed into lakes of fire,” etc., etc. the way adults sometimes do in public.
    With the burqa already banned in French schools, hopefully that alone encourages young women to question why they would want to wear it outside of school. If they freely decide they still want it, then yes, that is their right in public. If someone is forcing them, as I said before, there needs to be somewhere they can go to appeal it.

  30. Leonie
    Posted June 23, 2009 at 5:04 am | Permalink

    I’m really glad I’m not the only one who’s been shocked by some of the comments on this thread. I’m not usually one to accuse people of ignorance, but in this case it’s quite staggering and really rather upsetting. I’d have hoped for better from feministing commenters, though it is true that in the west these attitudes are so prevalent that even feminists aren’t questioning them.
    Whatever our personal feelings about the burqa the whole issue of “veiling” is really quite complex and tied up with a whole bunch of cultural, religious and political issues.
    It’s so frustrating that apparently a large proportion of western feminists are so blinkered as to be unable to see what limited assumptions they are making about this issue.

  31. earthling
    Posted June 23, 2009 at 6:05 am | Permalink

    Hmm.
    If wearing the burqa was really a completely free choice, then you would expect to see a normal distribution of people globally (in all cultures) who choose to wear it. This is not the case, so you can assume that the ‘choice’ is at least partly dictated by culture. In essence, you either choose to conform to what your religion/family/culture expect, or not. The first choice is always the best for an easy life. The latter choice may have bad consequences ranging from parental disapproval to being physically assaulted or even arrested in some extreme cases. So can we really blame a woman for ‘choosing’ what will get her the most approval?
    She might also agree with the theory behind it (religious in nature) but then she has more than likely only been presented one viewpoint on the matter. It is very hard to overturn religious conditioning and education in your own mind, let alone translate it into behaviour, when you never hear the opposing side of the argument presented fairly (Western ways of dressing often get criticised by Muslims as immodest and shameful).
    Only when we live in a truly secular society can people actually be free to choose what they wear. To all those people who say that the burqa is nothing to do with religion, sorry but it is. There are passages in the Koran that instruct a woman not to show off her beauty, and this is easily interpreted to mean that she shouldn’t show her body or face at all. The ideal of women’s ‘modesty’ is prevalent in all religions to a certain extent and it is this that we should be fighting against as feminists. The religious idea that women excite men through their very presence and that god therefore wants women to be controlled (not men, oh no!) lest all kinds of evil, wicked sex ensue – well this is an idea that should be openly criticised, and it is not racist to criticise it any more than it is ‘man-hating’ to be a feminist.
    As for Sarkozy’s proposed ban – I applaud the sentiment but I think practically, it will only serve to either a) make women feel like they have to stay at home, or worse, b) make men feel like they have ‘no choice’ but to force women and girls to stay at home to ‘protect their modesty’ etc.
    Part of the solution must be that the religion itself (actually ALL religions), and its ideas about ‘modesty’ etc, is criticised openly, and for this, integration and secular education are key.

  32. clochette
    Posted June 23, 2009 at 7:07 am | Permalink

    I am in no way favour of any culture which:
    - Makes unequal demands regarding the ‘modesty’ of dress for men and for women.
    - Regards women’s bodies as something which should not be seen in public
    - Forces women to wear anything they are not comfortable with.
    Now, for me, as a Western woman, wearing the burqa would fall under all three of those points.
    I believe that even for a woman who prefers to wear the burqa than not, it still falls under the first two.
    So, I’d rather women did not wear the burqa – because I don’t like what it implies about the culture they live in.
    HOWEVER – this is NOT an issue which should be decided by law. As a French minister said on our news last night, he is against the subjugation of women and generally dislikes the burqa but he will fight Sarko on the legislation front. This is a battle that needs to be fought through education, outreach and support networks, not through legal bullying.

  33. Mina
    Posted June 23, 2009 at 7:35 am | Permalink

    “If you change ‘leg hair’ to ‘facial hair’, you would have my predicament exactly…”
    Actually, I only left my facial hair out of my comment since I don’t wear clothing to cover it.
    “…I am, in fact, quite envious of Muslim women for having these covering choices available to them (of course, I could do the same if I wished, but I feel it would be disrespectful to their faith, as I’m not Muslim)…”
    In my case, I could do the same but I’m secular Muslim and I don’t want to send the “I’m very observant!” message.
    “…Instead of the *hour or more* I need to spend on ‘grooming’ (shaving, makeup, etc.)…”
    It used to take me that long just for the plucking before the shaving (for the hairs thick enough to show through the topmost and nearly transparent layer of skin after shaving)!
    Personally, it’s down to about a half hour now because I was privileged enough to have parents who could afford laser hair removal and cut down that growth (it’s not 100% effective, though) and skin light enough to reflect the laser (otherwise it’s dangerous) and hair dark enough to absorb the laser (otherwise it doesn’t work) but of course not everyone like us has those!
    “…to do something as simple as go to the corner store without being harassed for my physical differences, I think I would quite enjoy the ‘freedom’ of a niqab.”
    Good points! In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s part of why these customs were invented in the Middle East centuries before Islam and millennia before laser hair removal. Having most of the people in a culture pass on a trait is no guarantee the culture will accept the trait (and it’s not just us either)…

  34. Tara K.
    Posted June 23, 2009 at 8:09 am | Permalink

    What culture do you favour, then? I don’t know any culture that doesn’t make unequal demands regarding men and women’s clothing.
    And what about the cultural implications of Western clothing?
    “I believe that even for a woman who prefers to wear the burqa than not, it still falls under the first two.”
    Frankly, who cares? Why is your outsider perspective more important than hers? It’s not. And it’s just insulting that women want to decide what other women’s clothing means.

  35. Sophie
    Posted June 23, 2009 at 8:37 am | Permalink

    (Caton) “In no way can a woman wearing a burqa ever be said to have “chosen” it. She is either physically intimidated into wearing it, or brainwashed from childhood into wearing it, or culturally pressured into wearing it.”
    CATON, Have you ever ASKED women who wear the burqa why they wear it and how they feel about it?
    I live in Canada (born and raised in Quebec), and I WEAR THE NIQAB. And yes, I did CHOOSE to wear it. My parents and my family (even extended family) are not practising Muslims, and none of them wear the hijab, let alone the niqab, and one of my sisters is Christian. My parents have even asked me MANY times over not to wear it. They don’t have a problem with hijab, but with niqab, yes.
    I wear the niqab out of submission to GOD and not to any person or society.
    As to your theory above of why a women wears the burqa (which is like the niqab, except the burqa has a mesh covering over the eyes),
    1. I have obviously not been physically intimidated into wearing it since I have been asked by many who are close to me (especially my beloved parents) NOT to wear it,
    2. Being born and raised in Quebec, and never having been to a religious school, or having any religious friends up until a few years ago (I am now 24), I obviously haven’t been brainwashed into wearing. Then or now. I have friends who do not wear the veil, who wear the veil, and who wear the niqab. No one has ever even suggested to me that I should wear the niqab.
    3. And culturally, of course not, since Quebec is obviously not culturally inclined to push women to wear the niqab.
    And having MANY friends who do wear the niqab, I can tell you with confidence that NONE of them have been forced, quite the opposite…I know many who wear it while their family’s do not and would rather them NOT wear it.
    To force a woman who has chosen to wear the burqa, niqab or hijab, to REMOVE it, is like asking a woman who is not veiled to remove her clothes. You feel naked. Just as a woman who is not veiled believes that this is what she should wear, so does the woman who is veiled believes that this is what she should wear. I know this may be hard to understand, since I think I would have trouble understanding this similitude if I were not veiled, which I wasn’t for the majority of my life. But that’s why it’s important that if you want to know why someone is doing something and how they feel a about it, you must ASK them…not CNN or any president.
    I am not referring to women who have been forced to be veiled, this does happen but this is NOT the majority, especially in Western countries. You may think there’s a large number of women who are forced, but that’s because the media will show these stories, of course you’re not likely to hear on the evening news about women who choose to wear the niqab. The news shows mostly distressing stories to the public.
    -Sophie

  36. clochette
    Posted June 23, 2009 at 8:55 am | Permalink

    The cultural implications of Western clothing also bother me. It bothers me just as much to see a woman wearing, say, something that suggests to me personally that she considers it necessary to make herself a sexual object in order to have a good night out. It bothers me that men can go topless without causing uproar and women can’t. But this is all my own personal interpretation… and at the end of the day the only person whose dress I can dictate should be MINE. That’s why I’m against enforced dress codes. If women (and men) are fully informed and as free as they can possibly be to make choices without fearing retribution for those choices then whatever they feel happy wearing is fine by me.
    That’s why this proposed law is so awful: it claims to be about freeing women from subjugation to repressive dress codes by…. forcing them to submit to Western codes of dress? Hmm, Sarko. Logic fail there.

  37. SaadK
    Posted June 23, 2009 at 9:27 am | Permalink

    Burka, as a whole, does not depict a very ‘agreed-upon’ Islamic dress. Scarves, however, are quite a compulsion in Islam.
    http://proamericanmuslims.wordpress.com/2009/06/23/ban-on-burka-in-france/

  38. spike the cat
    Posted June 23, 2009 at 9:30 am | Permalink

    I don’t know any culture that doesn’t make unequal demands regarding men and women’s clothing.
    Really? I think you’re just not looking hard enough then, lol. Because there are plenty of cultures that do not and did not impose modesty nor other unequal demands based on gender to anywhere near the degree that we see today. There are plenty of cultures, which existed without discord with regard to the issue of topless women. A clue is to look to indigenous cultures where the climate is at either extreme (very warm or extremely cold) and you should find plenty more examples.
    Even cultures that did have elaborate rituals of dress, this was usually imposed on the upper class–so really, we’re talking about very few people in the scheme of life on the planet. Until today, that is.
    I’ll never forget a picture in a text book from long ago, burned into my memory: It was essentially a woman of European ancestry sunbathing topless on an African beach (sorry don’t know which country). In the distance we see some local women mostly covered up strolling along carrying some baskets on their heads as is customary in some cultures.
    The sick thing is though when you think about it, is colonial fanaticism long ago implored the local women to cover themselves up: colonizers imposed their idea of modesty on people who had long managed fine without it. Flash forward to the photo and we see a flip-flop where European folk generally consider being uncovered a form of liberation. Well make up your mind already! What a mess!

  39. Concerned Marsupial
    Posted June 23, 2009 at 9:32 am | Permalink

    Like this move is going to solve anything. Now, if France were to pass a law making it illegal to brainwash your children into your bullshit beliefs, no one would be forced or pressured to wear burqas. I think it would be a pretty safe bet that they would become obsolete there (unless someone was a masochist or really self-conscious). Too bad it’s never going to happen.

  40. Tara K.
    Posted June 23, 2009 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

    And that’s just it, right? I can see how, to use a tired example, high heels can be considered patriarchal and oppressive. They inhibit a woman’s ability to walk, they were created in order to enahnce the female form by making her boobs and butt stick out more, etc. I can’t really argue that they do anything good for women.
    But I wear them sometimes because I want to, and it would be stupid for someone else to tell me that I shouldn’t be able to because of what they symbolize or because women feel pressured to wear them.
    NOTE: I am NOT trying to compare high heels and burqas, so no need to go down that road. I’m just using a non-burqa example of clothing to prove my point. Nothing makes me more angry than when people try to compare cross-cultural objects, such as people comparing foot-binding to high-heels (inappropriate and silly on many levels).

  41. bifemmefatale
    Posted June 23, 2009 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

    You want to curb patriarchy wherever you see it? Going to ban the bikini, miniskirt or corset next? After all, they’re all about the male gaze and objectification, right? How about high heels? After all, they’ve even been proven to be dangerous to women’s health!

  42. jenibelle
    Posted June 23, 2009 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

    The law banned all “ostentatious” religious symbols, though it was largely understood to be targeted at Muslim women. Hence the name “headscarf law.”
    Funnily enough, the people most affected by the headscarf law were Sikhs, who had to remove their turbans.
    The French tried to stick it to the Muslims, and got the Sikhs instead…oops.

  43. bifemmefatale
    Posted June 23, 2009 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

    Tell me, do you consider all religions “bullshit beliefs”, or just Islam? Are you seriously advocating for no freedom of religion?

  44. Concerned Marsupial
    Posted June 23, 2009 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

    I consider all religions bullshit, along with beliefs with psychics, the reptoids, Bigfoot and the like. However, let’s concentrate on religion for now. How ironic you should use the phrase “freedom of religion”. How can a small child being brainwashed by his/her nutty parents be in any way construed to practice religion freely? Or do children not have any rights in your opinion? Are they just property of whoever’s crotch they happened to come from? In the U.S. even parents whose children are removed get to determine their religious affiliation. It’s laughable. If there were true freedom of religion in society, it would be illegal to force religion on anyone, including children. How many women do you think we would then see wearing burqas and following some child molester’s instructions on everything down to how to wipe their asses? Or believing in cosmic zombies, talking snakes and virgin births, for that matter?

  45. bifemmefatale
    Posted June 23, 2009 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

    So in other words, you’d like to ban all beliefs except your own. You a fundamentalist atheist. How does this make you any better than any other fundamentalist?
    Also, calling Mohammad a pedophile is seriously offensive and I hope the mods delete your comment.

  46. baddesignhurts
    Posted June 23, 2009 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

    i agree with you that it’s insulting that some women want to decide what other women’s clothing choices mean.
    however, on this site, i’ve seen women who choose to shave their legs, or wear makeup, or high heels, or dress their daughters in pink, or what have you, told that those clothing choices enable the patriarchy, or that those are “unfeminist choices”. when those commenters reply with their reasons, whatever they may be, it’s often dismissed as “i choose my choice!” feminism.
    i’m seeing a lack of consistency in the overall reaction to these issues (not yours specifically, tara k.), and i think it’s important to get to the crux of why.

  47. Jjuliaava
    Posted June 23, 2009 at 6:07 pm | Permalink

    Hey now! Hold up!! The Prophet is considered to be a pedophile… then what of his first wife? I guess Khadija was the original “courgar” ??
    Let’s try to be more respectful of religious belief systems pretty please, Marsupial.
    I do agree that some (if not all) religious mythology IS kinda whack though.
    Yo, I don’t know where I stand on this issue…But I love the discourse!

  48. Concerned Marsupial
    Posted June 23, 2009 at 7:49 pm | Permalink

    Your persecution complex knee-jerk heuristic is clearly blinding you to the fact that I never said I wanted to ban anything. I just don’t want religion (or atheism, for that matter) to be forced on children, much in the same way I don’t think they should be given alcohol or had sex with because they cannot be considered competent to make such decisions until the become adults. If they grow up and decide to be religious, so be it. But at least we can then say that their decision was truly free of compulsion and the fear of hell and ostracism instilled into them by their fundie parents (which under any other circumstances would be considered emotional abuse, BTW).
    And you don’t seem understand what the word fundamentalist means. Atheists don’t have any texts or creeds they adhere to, they just don’t believe in god, hence there can be no such thing as a fundamentalist atheist.
    But, oh, keep the irony coming. “ZOMG, you think religions should be banned! You… you… should be banned!one!!eleventy-one!!”

  49. Mina
    Posted June 23, 2009 at 8:33 pm | Permalink

    “The sick thing is though when you think about it, is colonial fanaticism long ago implored the local women to cover themselves up: colonizers imposed their idea of modesty on people who had long managed fine without it. Flash forward to the photo and we see a flip-flop where European folk generally consider being uncovered a form of liberation. Well make up your mind already! What a mess!”
    This actually reminds me of when a guy complains “You say you weant a nice guy but that other woman over there dates a jerk, make up your mind!”

  50. Mina
    Posted June 23, 2009 at 8:35 pm | Permalink

    “Note that we are not discussing the proper clothes for men here at all. We are discussing how women should dress, and that’s because both religions and societies dictate this much more to women than to men. So I sympathize with fatima’s feelings of being fucking tired over it.”
    Me three.

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