Sarko, His Burqa and Why I’m Confused
President Sarkozy is trying to ban the Burqa in France. There are mixed reactions towards this ban. Some say, that the move stinks of Right Wing Xenophobia. Others (feminists and some Muslim women) feel that it heralds a new era for Muslim women, and that not just the French, but other European countries too should impose such a ban. There is also that much publicised point of view that Muslim women choose to wear the Burqa and that their choice must be respected. It’s the different opinions that confuse me.
Sarkozy may be taking a firmer step than Obama, and trying to replicate the firm action the French had taken against the terrorists (when French journalists were kidnapped) but I think this may be going a little too far. Banning the Burqa in public places would give Islamic fanatics one more reason to hate the western world.
From what I know, it isn’t written in the Quran that a woman’s body must be covered by a black swath of cloth, just that women and men must dress modestly. The garment has become a way of curbing the freedom of Muslim women. Girls as young as 4 years old are sometimes forced to wear the garment, and never learn the freedom that comes from being able to smile publicly, or run freely, or even be proud of their god-given body. The idea of small children being forced to protect their modesty may, in fact, even invite child abuse. At the same time, banning the burqa may make it difficult for little girls to get an education. Families that force little girls to cover their bodies (sometimes on the threat of violence) are more likely to lock their girls up than follow the ban. Uneducated girls will be less able to logically think for themselves and counter oppression in any form.
I, personally, prefer Obama’s policy of providing education to all women (compulsorily), enabling them to make their own decisions. While it is not as ‘firm’ or decisive (or even divisive) a step as Sarozky’s, it will have a stronger effect in the long term. Not only will it make it easier for Islamic women to accept western culture (Obama is not antagonising them in any way, but is offering a friendly hand) but it will also reduce the influence of extremist forces. Osama’s defensive speech, on the eve of Obama’s speech at Cairo, stank of fear.
Barkha Dutt asks what you’d do when a woman says it is her own choice to wear a Burqa? It isn’t right to force someone to conform to a personal choice, or for that matter, even popular choice. There isn’t really much you can do for someone who does not want to change. Sarozky would, in this case, be going against the basic right of a person to choose how to dress.
While I do feel that such a ban is needed to curb oppressive and extremist forces, there does not seem to be much anyone can do for women who ‘choose’ to wear the Burqa. No one likes having laws forced on them. Where cases like sati or poaching are concerned imposing such bans is needed. (Some may feel that women being forced to wear a Burqa is as serious a case. Perhaps a double law, that makes it compulsory for all girls to receive primary and secondary education, and at the same time, bans the wearing of the Burqa in schools would work. Till then I stay as I am. Unsure and Confused.