The burqa. It
s related to headscarves and early sun lotion, and seems to be the enemy of women everywhere. Many Americans upon first seeing or hearing about this article of clothing jump to all kinds of conclusions. They think its about suppression. They think it
s chauvinists beating their views into their subdued womenfolk. They think its part of a terrible and evil religion whose sole purpose is creating mass murderers and plane crashers and suicide bombers. Wrong, wrong, wrong. People are jumping to so many conclusions, I
m starting to look for the rabbit holes, to be sure I dont fall into these traps of uninformed thinking.
So let`s get the low down on this, bottom to top.
For one thing, not all women who wear a veil wear the giant tent like veil that covers ever square inch of a person. Even in a place like DC that is a relatively infrequent occurrence. You are much more likely to see women wearing beautiful scarves that cover only a portion or all of their hair. The face and body are completely exposed. Except not actually, as you are not likely to see a pairing of any type of veil with revealing clothing. That kind of goes against the whole point.
And what is the point, you may ask? Glad you`re curious. The point is modesty. Now, hold your horses and steady your thoughts. “I knew it!” you`re thinking. “I knew it was a system of suppression!” Except not quite. As time goes on, we are seeing more and more that women`s rights are more about freedom of choice than rejecting traditions out of hand. Sure, women`s rights give celebrities the power to wear whatever they darn well please, or rather unwear whatever they darn well like. Those kind of outfits say, “I am woman, hear me roar!” And that`s cool. It`s not my cup of tea, but if you like catcalls and being valued purely for your appearance, more power to you.
The veil is also a symbol of power. You know how teens and adults feel like they can say anything on the Internet because they are anonymous there? That`s the burqa. If a woman stands in a crowd and says some great speech about women`s rights or politics or her favorite swimwear, she can turn down an alley and look the same as every other woman, safe from retribution. Sure, this is more of a plus if you are a Middle Eastern woman living in a dictator ruled society. I`m not sure it would help you so much in America. But the idea that you have this complete freedom from being judged on your true personality and vulnerable to the whims of others is nice. Sure, some people may think you look silly. Especially if it`s Summer, and especially if you are in the awful DC humidity. (It`s terrible, I assure you!) But they don`t know anything about you. And that makes you powerful, because you know a lot about them. A woman in a burka could be one of the best blackmailers ever, because she has the greatest wall flower outfit ever and convenient eavesdropping screening built into her outfit. How`s that for repression?
But women who wear the veil tend to fall into another category. They are women. That means they have the right to reject being viewed as sexual beings, and they want to proclaim that loudly and obviously by wearing a veil. They choose to do this, mind you. I know many of my friend`s parents and especially even fathers urged them to not wear a veil in our teen years, thinking this would make them stand out as points of contempt by ignorant Westerners. But I can guarantee you they didn`t have problems with sexual harassment like I did, and I always wore turtlenecks and icky shapeless jeans to try to dissuade such attentions. Maybe I should have worn a veil as well, now that I think about it. And head scarves are not such bad things. Many Middle Eastern friends of mine have gorgeous thick and long hair, and those scarves prevent wind or dirt attacking it. It can also serve as some protection against the skin cancer I`m sure to have by my fifties. And it`s so nice to just put on a scarf and save about an hour of hair styling everyday. I`m a little jealous now that I`m writing all of these pros out, actually.
But I can`t start to wear a veil myself, because it would be sending a false message about my religious beliefs. I happen to be Christian, and even consider that God guy to be a buddy, but I think of a different God than the one shown in the Quran when I say that. As such, even when I wear a scarf as my Winter hat of choice, I get weird looks and giggles. Actually, people of many different religions wear headscarves. Traditional Jewish, Amish, and Catholic groups all have the option of wearing a scarf to show deep dedication to God. I`m sure a ton of other groups I am woefully ignorant about do as well. In fact, only a small percentage of Muslim women living outside of the Middle East choose to wear a scarf at all. And I suspect that more wear it in their native region for practical sun protection reasons more than for anything else.
And then there is this idea that certain things apply to all Muslims. “Muslim” is not, in fact, a codeword for crazy serial killer. The first thing to understand about suicide bombers and terrorist groups like the Muslim Brotherhood is that the Quran does not encourage the random killing of non-Muslims. Though it encourages an element of separation from other religions, as do many religions, this applies to the idea that a non-Muslim wife or husband will weaken your own faith. It does not say that killing people is a good thing in any way.
Now, there may be some terrorist out there who genuinely believe that Allah wants him (or her, women can be murderers too) to kill the infidels. This is not a result of the genuine teachings of Islamic faith. Rather, it comes from having too many years of harsh dictatorships across much of the Middle East. Dictators are known for using a tool called brainwashing and scapegoating to create an enemy that will bind the people to their ruler`s own cruelty, usually choosing a completely innocent victim`s reputation to sully, in order to convince the populace to ignore his own jerkiness. Brainwashing is not the only tool at work, though. As has happened in every culture and religion through the course of human history, groups of ‘bad guys’ will don the name of some respectable group and then go out and do bad things. Cause that`s kind of how bad guys roll. And then that brings down the credibility of the people who really are part of the group, specifically Muslims in this case. Totally unfair? Yes. So why support this by buying into these ignorant prejudices?
Last but not least, may I add that plenty of terrorists are not Muslim. Many of them don`t follow any particular religion. They are doing it because something inside of them snapped, not because having a certain skin color or wearing certain clothes marks you as innately evil. So lay off on the burkha, will you?