The burqa at Sha’s place

I haven’t really been following the ‘debate’ about the burqa. I guess I know what I think, and I’m a bit bemused by the way some unlikely people are coming over all feminist as an excuse to tell some women what to wear and do a bit of Islam-bashing while they’re at it. Mostly, the conversation has been about Muslim women, with not that many female Muslim voices being heard. I recommend that you read this blog entry by Sha of Sha’s place, a Sydney Muslim woman who doesn’t wear a veil. This paragraph gives you an idea of her point of view

In Islam, women are considered precious. A woman is allowed to dress as she pleases, adorn herself and satisfy her vanity but only in front of people that matter – her husband and her family. While the Burqa is more of a cultural significance, the colour, shape, cut varying in different countries, the basic ruling is to dress modestly. The idea is that a woman should value her own dignity and present herself in a manner that befits a lady of high morale and character. By adorning the burqa, the Muslim woman exercises her right to dress according to her religious and cultural values. She feels safe and protected. Not to mention the convenience of a Burqa. A quick  slip-in and she is ready to go anywhere without much worry of how her hair look like or what kind of dress or shoes she is wearing.

Read the whole thing, go on.

5 responses to “The burqa at Sha’s place

  1. This reminds me strongly of the scene in Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale where a tour guide explains to a group of, if I remember rightly, Japanese tourists that the American women wearing something similar to the burqa, after a right wing religious coup in that country, are wearing it because they feel happier and more comfortable with this modest attire, for exactly the sort of reasons described here.
    The whole of the rest of the novel has told us that this is not the case, that these women have had all power of self-determination in this and most other matters removed from them, along with the power to safely speak for themselves about the situation.
    The original blog entry contains the exhortation ‘just remember this woman is only exercising her right to dress as she feels like it’. Rather than remember this I’m going to remember the fundamental insight of sociology, that things we think are personal decisions, views, feelings, behaviours and conditions of life are very often a reflection of our social situation and conditioning.
    I agree, however, that non-Muslim westerners trying to enforce their view of what is appropriate dress on Muslim women is just as bad.
    That’s what I think, I guess. But my gut feeling is with Salman Rushdie when he said ‘(Jack Straw) was expressing an important opinion, which is that veils suck – which they do.’


  2. shawjonathan

    Jane: Yes, but … I don’t want to speak on Sha’s behalf, and comments seem to be broken on her blog.

    I guess we were all relieved when most Catholic nuns stopped wearing their heavy veiled habits after Vatican Two, but there was no vocal public revulsion and no attempt to legislate against them. I think Sha is right in suggesting that, however sound the arguments about what the veil does to the wearer’s participation in society, much of the anti-burqa talk we’re currently hearing (and even more so anti-hijab talk) is also a reflection of our social situation and conditioning, specifically what’s now being called Islamophobia.


  3. Interesting comments. 🙂

    Thanks John for finding my views worthy enough to be referred on your blog. You are right, I was merely giving a personal reflection. My effort was in part for people who are non-Muslims and do not understand this phenomenon.

    I am glad it generated some discussion. I will re-iterate what you have already said. It is definitely a matter of social conditioning. The current spate of ‘Islamophobia’ has compelled people like me to give a moderate view. You may not agree and I do not expect anyone to agree. The discourse is valuable enough.

    You mentioned, comments seem to be broken on my blog, does that mean there is a problem in posting comments?


  4. shawjonathan

    Hi Shaista. Thanks for visiting over here. Yes, I tried to post a comment on your blog a number of times, and to tellyou that I had linked to it, but my comment just wouldn’t take.


  5. Hi Jonathan!

    Not sure why that happens. I have received a few comments lately, will check my settings again.

    Thanks for pointing that out.



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