Dear ‘Ban the Burqa’ advocates

Dear ‘Ban the Burqa’ advocates,

Many of you have expressed concern about the oppression of Muslim women.

Whether you’re, in fact, referring to the niqab, I do wonder whether any of you have seriously considered that the burqa represents a different way of occupying public space that subverts consumerism and judgements based on physical appearance.

I also wonder whether any of you happen to belong to the same group of people who have verbally and physically abused Muslim women in public. This brings me to a number of clarifications that I’d like to make.

  1.  Does your concern for the well-being of Muslim women encompass the destruction of so many lives resulting from the aerial bombing campaigns inflicted upon Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Palestine, and, now, Syria? Do you care when the infrastructures of these countries are so devastated that the Muslim women who live there will likely experience poverty and hardship for decades to come?
  2. Do you care that American, European, and Australian governments have so often sponsored the politically repressive regimes that have made life in the Middle East so difficult for the past several decades?
  3. Do you care about the human rights of the Muslim women who try to reach Australia’s shores by boat in order to rebuild their lives after experiencing so much destruction?

If you answered ‘no’ to any of the above, please accept my rejection of your concern, and I suggest that you refrain from false feminist rhetoric in the future.

Before you argue that Islam represses women, consider the way that vitriol towards the religion has often found expression in attacks against Muslim women. Gendered violence and sexual inequality are ongoing issues in the wider Australian community, as well.

The necessity and relevance of the burqa is already subject to diverse debate among Muslim communities. It does not help to have this issue hijacked by politicians and the media, who insist on framing it in terms of security risks and cultural assimilation.
Yours sincerely,
A Muslim woman.

Shayma Taweel is a Lebanese-Australian history and archaeology student at the University of Sydney. The original version of this article was published in the Autonomous Collective against Racism edition of the University of Sydney student paper, Honi Soit.
3 Responses to “Dear ‘Ban the Burqa’ advocates”
  1. Merike Johnson Ph.D says:

    The burqa and niqab are not simply items of clothing; they are symbols of the extreme subordination of women in parts of the Islamic world. The burqa is a flagrant violation of women’s most basic human rights. It imprisons them within a fabric prison, isolates them, deprives them of identity and turns them into non-persons. The vast majority of women in the world who wear the burqa or niqab do so because they are forced to wear it against their will through social or family pressure, and under certain regimes through fear. Full facial covering for women is not a religious requirement but a custom imposed by men to subjugate women.
    The impact of the burqa on women’s health is well documented. The consequences of limited vision, headaches, restriction of movement, heat effects, suffocation, sensory deprivation, and vitamin D defficiency.
    The burqa and niqab have no place in Australian society. Where are the feminists, why are they not strongly lobbying to ban this dehumanizing practice? Australia has already supported women from restrictive cultures by legally banning several horrific “cultural” practices such as “female genital mutilation” and child brides. By officially banning full facial covering in public places will give women support and confidence to gain emancipation and free them to become fully functioning members of Australian society.
    We can take a lead from France where the burqa and niqab have been banned not only for security risk reasons but also for the sake of women’s freedom.

    • I don’t wear niqab. I WANT to wear niqab but I can’t, because of my parents. Just as I cannot wear hijab. They don’t LET me, because they don’t want a Muslim daughter. They are more terrified of me choosing a religion that pushes me into love and to love than my rights being violated by them. THEY are violating my rights – just as a woman is entitled to wear a bikini or go topless, she is entitled to wearing a niqab or burqa. Australia does not support Indigenous women and their cultures and beliefs on their own land, and as an Indigenous Muslim, I am furthered denied my rights. I have never been protected on Australian soil, I am always a trouble maker, a thug, a terrorist. Bringing in a ban will only further this.

  2. Merike Johnson Ph.D says:

    Dear fcollective, why has there been only two comments here? What is the fcollective’s audience? I wish that this site would be a forum for women to discuss issues and be a voice for women. Is there any point in writing an article? How many would it reach?

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