The face of Freedom?
“A month ago I was walking from my college to my house when I was abducted in the street by three men. They dropped acid in my face and on my legs. They cut all my hair off while hitting me in the face many times telling me it’s the price for not obeying Allah’s wish in using the veil,” Hania Abdul-Jabbar, a 23-year-old university student, recounted.
“Today I cannot see out of one eye because the acid made me lose my vision. I am afraid to leave my house. Now I am permanently disfigured with a monster face,” she added with tears rolling down her swollen and scarred cheeks.
“Our country is a Muslim country and women should respect this by wearing veils and long cloaks. I’m against the use of acid against them but something should be done to force them into wearing the clothes,” Sheik Hussein Abbas, a radical Shi’ite leader in the capital, said.
To read the quoted article in full go here.
One would think that forcing women to wear a Burqa could not be in any way seen as a Feminist choice of day wear. Unfortunately that it is not the case. In Australia it has actually been defended as almost a banner for Feminism!
In this febrile, hyperbolic and downright surreal moment in national affairs, every appalling action has a facile and opposite reaction. So it was with last week’s burqa controversy. Extremists in the Coalition tried to whip up fear against a vulnerable minority. In reaction, it seems we must now smother any hint of debate about the burqa. We veered from the toxic dog whistle about burqa-clad ne’er-do-wells, to near-blanket affirmation of the Muslim face veil as a measure not just of our tolerance, but of our support for women’s freedom. A symbol of the oppression of women in fundamentalist regimes, the burqa in Australia has all but metamorphosed into a banner for feminism.
On the Guardian Australia website Gabrielle Chan implied that on the subject of the burqa we fall into two camps: “the freedom camp or the fear camp“. In a similar vein Fairfax journalist Peter Hartcher lacerated Abbott for having missed an opportunity to demonstrate leadership “with a powerful affirmation of the freedom of women“. An Australian prime minister should be a forceful champion of freedom, “including the freedom of women in Australia to wear what they choose, whether burqa or bikini“. This affirmation was necessary, Hartcher said, “as the barbarians of the so-called Islamic State” impose oppression and sexual violence on women.
How something so clearly oppressive could be twisted into a right to choose day wear astounds me. I cannot imagine a true 70’s feminist sitting back and letting her fellow sisters be oppressed like this yet the pale so called Feminists that pass for Feminism these day actually SUPPORT the Burqa as a choice? Have they ever worn one? I have and it is the most disgusting thing you could ever imagine. You have to re breathe your own damp and stale air under there. It doesn’t take long till it stinks under there. You can barely see and a blinkered horse would have better vision.
Yet we also know that IS’s oppression of women includes forcing them to wear a burqa, reportedly favouring one as thick as carpet lest it blow in the wind and reveal a glimpse of face.
So we’re fighting for a woman’s right to choose … a burqa? I have trouble getting my head around the notion that “a powerful affirmation of the freedom of women” means endorsing their freedom to lock themselves in a mobile cage.
I was so aghast at the short-lived proposal to segregate behind sound-proof glass those burqa-clad women who wish to observe our great democracy at work — so undecided about which was scarier, the proposal itself or the fact these politicians believed they could get away with it — that it took a while before a sad irony dawned on me. The woman who wears a face veil is already segregated, her individuality erased and her voice muffled, albeit by choice. A choice that— revealingly—only women are called on to make.
In the United Kingdom, for instance, a family has petitioned the courts to allow a young girl to wear the niqab in school. If we genuinely embrace the live-and-let-live philosophy then the prospect of girls spending their formative years in a moving tent shouldn’t bother us one bit. If we’re secretly disturbed at the idea, if we quietly wish for the state to intervene to give that child the same opportunities as her peers, then our professed “tolerance” simply masks rank hypocrisy of the kind that would keep others locked in some sentimental notion of “culture” so the rest of us can parade our virtue. Is it at all conceivable that in allowing women to conceal their faces we might begin to erode the principle of gender equality in public space, subtly undermining the freedom of all women? Isn’t this a pertinent question?
No, said a chorus of ministers and politicians after last week’s debacle. The burqa is a non-issue. It is not in the least confronting. It is a sign of our confidence in multiculturalism. Who made us the fashion police?
Several Muslim commentators here and overseas have weighed in against the burqa, stressing that it has no basis in Islamic doctrine. Some like Ameer Ali even advocate a European-style ban. In 2010, Ali, vice-president of the Regional Islamic Da’wah Council of Southeast Asia and the Pacific, described face veils as “the lingering relics of a patriarchal, misogynistic and tribal culture”.
Provided it is respectful, robust debate is rarely “unfortunate”. Unlike the burqa, it is a freedom worth fighting for.
To read the quoted article in full go here.