Burkas – Why they are not such a bad thing…


Uncover your eyes

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Alright, this is going to be a slightly controversial one and is more than likely going to divide myself up from  the rest of the world but what the heck. No one writes to be popular. So here’s me jumping into the abyss.

First point is, while I am going to be addressing the Burka  (or Chadri/Paranja) in this post, the same could be said to other garments such as the Niqab and to some extent, the Chador and Hijab.

For those of you who aren’t aware what the differences between these are, the schematic below should help explain.

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burqa-niqab-hijab-chador.

Right, let’s do this

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How to recognise the Bad Guy

We’ve been getting a lot of issues at the moment with the Burka. I noticed a rise since 2001 when a certain sector of the world became associated with incidents of terror. As a backlash, these demographics were incorrectly honed in on as being the enemy. We do like to point fingers in a time of crisis.

In situations like this, the powers that be,  decide the potential threat needs to be monitored for security purposes, in order to provide assurance to the main populous that another similar event is not imminent. This is, not necessarily purely for the sake of national security, more social control, an angry and scared society is far harder to control than a subdued, melancholy one.

Society also tries to liberate people from these cultures as another means of reducing the potential threat. Unfortunately, the ones who get targeted are usually the most different looking, modest, and peaceful members of any society.

The only reason they get it from both sides is because first and foremost they’re an easy target, and secondly, some of their practices, which are not understood by everyone, are taken out of context. They essentially become a scapegoat for public misdirection to remove focus from the real problem at hand.

I very much associate it with the old practices of hanging innocent people, who just happened to be near by, when a heinous act took place, just because of the public outrage against it. It’s the ‘someone has to pay’ mentality. How often do we see the police arrest someone within a few days of a high profile tragedy, regardless of whether they believe they are guilty or not?

Which leads us to where we are now with the Burka.

Based on this need to monitor potential extremist threats, various countries have now banned the usage of the Burka. Some have made outright bans. Some countries are too chicken to take on the religious persecution ramifications and have banned it through a shift in business and social norms (no religious symbols in the workplace, restaurants, stores, etc). Other countries have instead started to strongly enforce pre-existing laws, refreshing us on clauses about not being allowed in public places with your face covered up. By stating these laws have always been around, they remove the ‘stigma’ of being culturally alienating and there’s no need to mention any garment names specifically. Clever girls…

All in all, I find behaviours like this are usually how modern day racism exists and more importantly, how it thrives thrives. But here are some interesting questions I’d like to try and address with this post.

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  1. What is the threat that the Burka poses to modern day society?
  2. Why do those who wear one continue to wish to do so. and more importantly,
  3. Is there anything we as a civilization can take from this practice going forward?

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Having grown up in a country which has a pretty much 50:50 split between Islamic and Christian settlers, I would like to bring to attention, why I do not see the Burka as anything we should worry about. Right, on with the show.

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What is the Burka?

So with that nice little warm up, I’ll quickly go over the Burka and what it is supposed to represent here .The main articles come here from the Khuran and I’ll just leave the Wiki Page here for you to go over in your own leisure.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burqa

But see while it states men and women should dress modestly, there are no specific entries that states how anyone should dress per say, and one’s modesty is likely to shift with culture , the times and also in regards to what you are doing. It’s just like any other value system in the world.

Modest beachwear is not modest office wear. On the beach, it could be deemed as modest to wear a one piece suit rather than a bikini or perhaps a pair of long shorts and a t-shirt rather than speedos. You can already see the issues in modesty with regards to gender specifics because men and women are built differently.

If you want to look at the impact of cultural differences, in some parts of the world, bikinis are not allowed, while in others, a lady would be fine on a beach with just bottoms.There are also locations in the world where men and women are allowed to be totally nude on the beach. You can already see the varying levels of modesty, with no there being no united consensus but it ultimately comes down to the judgement of the individual and their core values and beliefs.

So here, modesty is a relative thing for the individual to determine first and for society to determine second. The ideal would be for both to match but this isn’t always the case, as with Burka wearers in the west. There is clearly a cultural difference in what is considered modest.

Even if you take modesty out of it, the article has implied that the Burka is used more as a traditional garment in certain countries around the world. A form of cultural identity so to speak, which is fair enough. Cultural garments are worn in pride by many athletes representing their nations in the Olympics during the opening ceremony.

So with that, why would anyone find such a garment offensive?

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What not to wear

I know this isn’t specifically about the Burka but thought I would throw it in here

When looking at clothing in general, my issue is that it’s been taken out of its generic function, of keeping us warm and our skin protected from the elements, to in order to express our individualism (or alliance with regards to uniform).

With regards to individualism, this is fine, it’s just another art canvass for people to express themselves on. I do think it goes further than just expression, most people use clothing as a means of personal identification and derive their worth from it.

However, the need to express one’s self in this manner is still a symptom of individuals who are part of an oppressive system.

I don’t want to take away from here but please find my thoughts on both oppressed west and the role of clothing in society in their respective links.

Right, back on track.

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How most people see the Burka

This is how I think most people see the Burka,  Either

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  • They fear the unknown of the individual and what they may be up to
  • Islamaphobic  or prejudice against  foreigners in general
  • Averse paranoia about masked individuals
  • They believe the person underneath is being subjugated and that it is a representative of a lack of human rights/sexist subjugation and blatant gender inequality

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I think that’s it, (if there are any others you think I’ve missed, please let me know).

A lot of these are irrational and the first three I will leave alone because I feel they are scare tactics brought about by the media and basic ignorance towards other cultures. I won’t waste too much time discussing them.

Instead, I would ask those of you who have Islamic people in your vicinity to educate yourselves of their ways and customs. I ask during this process not to judge but to just understand. We often fear what we do not understand, especially irrational things.

Simple things like the misconstrued issue of the Burka being black. The colour black is usually associated with espionage and dishonesty, synonymous with those who operate with false intentions under the cover of night. So some people will automatically assume Burka wearers are up to no good.

This isn’t the case.

They are black to help the wearers stay cool in the extreme heat. It is widely known that dark colours help people in hot climates cope better, hence why most people have darker skin the closer to the equator they live.

Simple misunderstandings like this, lie at the heart of most social problems and irrational hatred.

By having both sides talk about their interpretation of customs like this, you do a lot to bridge the gap between cultures and maybe form some sort of compromise that suits both parties going forward. At the very least, it will ease unnecessary anxiety and allow both cultures to operate in the same space with no issue.

If you choose not to learn, then the fault for the misunderstanding will always be on you. You’ll always be the problem in any situation that arises. If you are happy to live that way, no biggie, just be wary when pointing the finger and giving out blame to others.

I will though touch on the last point I raised.

For me the Burka is a tool that POTENTIALLY aids women  to be viewed  as more than just sexual/mothering objects and allows them be primarily judged purely on what they have to offer as an individual. To some extent, it could be used to obtain a true level of equality alongside many men.

Funnily enough, it could also be used in order to obtain a true level of equality alongside other women.

Now some of you would be scratching your heads as to why female-to-female equality is an issue but I think it’s probably just as important, if not MORE important than the point about men.

If you want to read up on my thoughts about that, have a peak at this post here.

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Potential Issues

99% of prejudice happens at face value, so for me, the Burka allows the wearer to be judged based on their personality and physical capacity first, and be free of said prejudice. Again, this is the Burka itself.

Now of course in an ideal world, people wouldn’t take advantage of their anonymity and use the garment to perform fraudulent acts or commit crimes etc.I have indirectly put my views on this in this post linked here

That’s not to say its introduction will impact on crime at all. But for those who are weary, It is possible with modern day technology to reveal the identity of an individual without having to show them your face etc. Again, a mutual option that suits all cultures involved.

Also, everyone would have the option to wear one and they wouldn’t just be limited to or compulsory for women to wear. which is where some of the issues we have now may come from.

Currently, only a small percentage of the population wear one, so the attention of the garment itself may cause more negative traffic than the issue it is trying to counter. This is however the case with anything new and in the minority, In society’s where 30% or higher of the population wear them, there is no issue. So widespread acceptance will eventually see the behaviours expected in this post. With that in mind people should give it time and not go on the immediate consensus, real change takes time.

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Uniform attire

Alot of people still think of the Burka as an alien concept but this isn’t the case.

Some of the same ideals t used to usher in its use have been adopted by many schools in order to mandate the wearing of a uniform. Standardised wear to limit our judgement, based on appearance alone, while at the same time, providing a sense of shared identity between the students.

Some could also say uniforms are a way of suppressing your individual feelings and identity in order to make you work and operate in a group like function with group norms being formed. They’ll follow saying it’s easy to control a group of individuals who all are wearing similar things (take the army for existence).

This has never been the case with the Burka. It is not a uniform and their wearers do not all conjugate in a similar area to all be given the same message. The wearers exhibit just as much individuality as any other sector of society.

Now I know the current trend is to abandon school uniforms as they haven’t been shown to impact directly on academic results and many feel they help strangle their personal identities but one thing I’ve found is this.

If a child is confident, personality will find its way out REGARDLESS of what you put them in. It’s this confidence that parents and schools need to instill into our youth going forward. You can BE YOURSELF regardless of what you wear.

If kids learn this lesson early, they are less likely to derive their inner confidence from external sources and also are less likely to judge other people on their appearance or possessions.

Infact, it’s that kinda thinking that would remove the social need for the Burka to exist in the first place.

We’re not quite there yet but one can hope

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Don’t veil your nose to spite your face

A lot of people will also say that the Burka is the wrong way to approach things.

In the same light that some people think abolishing guns will not solve aggravated deaths in America. The issue is inherent within humans and instead of coming to terms with it, to deal come up with a true solution, we are introducing a permanent crutch, in order to push the problem to one side, potentially causing more issues than it solves.

Well the first thing I would say to that is that they are right and wrong at the same time.

Even though the America has the right to bear arms at its policies, it doesn’t allow everyone to bear everything. there are laws in place to control the access to some weapons. So you can say on one level, there is something in place by the system in order to both protect those who wish to be protected and also allow the wiggle room for society to make the changes it needs on its own.

Which is exactly why I feel the voluntary wear of the Burka should still be allowed. it allows those who do not wish to be judged on their aesthetics to be free from judgement and those who do wish to exert their sexuality on the world the same option, until of course society comes to a decision.

Because of the current cultural conflict with the Burka’s origins, this decision is likely to take some time to reach and we may never really get there. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as long as we are always moving in the right direction.

Also because of the current political and social issues, people in Burkas may not get judged on their sexuality but instead on their ethnicity/culture. Because they are easy to spot and hard to recognise, especially a faceless entity, you become a real easy target for abuse as highlighted again in this post here.

Again, no good change comes without some time and struggle but I think an outright ban just helps bury the real issue at hand, hoping it goes away. History has all but shown us, it never does, so why not tackle it in the here and now?

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The Reason I bring this topic up

It’s no coincidence that over this short time I have posted the following posts covering many interlinked themes.

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You may look like a million dollars but do clothes really make the woman?

What are people worth to you?

The self perpetuating self hatred amongst women

Are looks more important than personality when it comes to finding the love of your live?

Coverless Books – Creating a world where people aren’t judged based on appearance?

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The others were all originally part of this post but I ended up separating them all out for conciseness. In truth the motivation for all of them stemmed from one particular event I saw.

Coming home from work, I witnessed a young group of women in Burkas just walking their young children home from school/nursery after maybe stopping for a little shop and they were stopped dead in their tracks by this mature woman.

She was giving them a harsh lecture on why what they were doing was wrong. On how they were trapped and needed saving and on how they were sending out the wrong messages to people. This wasn’t in some random backstreet or isolated road either, this was in the middle of the town centre.

Throughout all of this, the ladies kept their composure and were highlighting they weren’t being forced into anything, this was their choice and they weren’t doing anything wrong, but their brainwashed defences just fueled the mature woman to get louder and louder.

Soon a crowd started gathering around them and their poor children were starting to get agitated because they didn’t understand why their moms were being harassed.

And that’s exactly what it was, harassment. It was really quite bad but I’m sure the mature lady was none the wiser of the ramifications of her actions, thinking she was helping these ‘poor women’ by showing them the light, out of some sense of social responsibility.

What’s also worse is that no one came to the aid of these women, not even me. Dare I say, not many people would come to the aid of a lady in a Burka  and that’s what really got to me

These lady’s were doing nothing wrong and were not a threat to anyone. They were clearly picked on purely because of the way they dressed. What more, they were made to feel this way by us.

But I thought we were supposed to be the good guys?

It’s funny how easily how even the most reserved of us, manage to flip from victim to culprit, sometimes without even knowing it. We end up hurting the very people we believe we wish to protect.

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Absolution

The whole event just made me feel ashamed and realise two things

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  1. If it happened, again, you can bet your life  I would react differently and
  2. If I can help in some way stop the prejudice towards anyone based on their practices, culture or personal choices, I would.

So here it is.

To the ladies out that night, I apologise for not coming to your aid, please accept my apologise of  my lack of duty to you, as a fellow human being.

I am sorry

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