The Burkini Affairs – Burkini Bans

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Muscat, Oman – Racism rears its ugly head in France. Burkinis evoke the bathing suits worn by western women in the early nineteenth century right into the 1930s. Nobody banned those bathing suits then, and banning the burkini now is just creating an US against Them mentality. The French need to take a step back and chill. It’s baffling to me why the French, who are already targeted by terrorism. This is absurd beyond comprehension. It’s meant to say that they are nevertheless betraying their values and they did the same thing turn of the century to the Jews and it got them a fascist regime during the war.

The dominant discourse, on Muslim veiling is well known. The Catholic and Orthodox garb, is worn only by nuns. Ordinary women of these faiths do not dress this way. As for the Jews, only women in ultra Orthodox and Hasidic subcultures cover themselves up, and there is no expectation or pressure whatever on Jewish women outside these insular communities to conform to the practice. Such is decidedly not the case with Muslim veiling, which is a generalized societal phenomenon across the Islamic world and in Muslim communities outside the lands of Islam. Muslim women in their majority may choose to dress this way but in most Muslim societies it is not strictly a matter of personal choice. Women cannot simply decide on their own to dress otherwise. And in some countries – notably Iran and Saudi Arabia – they don’t have a choice. And in places where there semblance of a choice (e.g. in Arab capitals and other large cities), there is often intense pressure on women to wear the hijab. Muslim veiling has a political dimension which the other forms of veiling do not. The equation of Muslim veiling with the Christian and Jewish is a lot of bias.

Yet Muslim women have taken the highest leadership roles (eg, female presidents of Pakistan and Bangladesh) long before Hillary ran for the White House. That said, a distinction needs to be made between the dress and roles of women in so-called moderate Muslim countries vs in that of fundamentalist countries.(Afghanistan, Iran, Sudan, and Saudi Arabia). Again, The female presidents in Pakistan and Bangladesh have all been daughters or widows of presidents who were assassinated or judicially murdered. They were political heiresses.

The head covering is a symbol of inequality..I am no fan of the billions of dollars that Saudi clerics spend globally to radicalize a moderate religion. It is disgusting and destructive to everyone and should be outed. Be that as it may, there are women who choose this way, and the men should keep their hands off. This tendency for men to fight over women’s bodies is a cowardly response to terrorism and radicalism. There are better ways that work and most security analysts that I know this to be true. A ‘hijab’ which means a ‘curtain; or ‘something to hide with’ and is particularly made mandatory by the quran and sunnah.

In fact, women are called ‘aurah’ which has got very unfortunate literal meanings like; nakedness, imperfection, defectiveness, etc and Islam has no better name for a woman than ‘aurah.’ This is child abuse and women abuse. You want to protect yourself through a peace of cloth because you think you are a piece of meat. That’s the biggest insult to humanity. That’s an insult to a human not just a woman. I am not against traditions. Child abuse starts when you force your mental model on your children. Indoctrination of initial days program a growing child that he would become an automaton; a robot. It kills independent thinking when he is adult. Religious authority become the Satnav to guide his life’s journey. Will Shia Iranian system accept a woman in jeans and jacket. Never and we know that. They can choose whatever but then go where that garb is accepted. Mecca and Medina should accept all women who have a hunch to look like a Ninja Turtle.

Though I believe women should be able to wear what they wish, free from societal pressure or legal measures, I think too much emphasis is always made between the veil and the Muslim world. As if “lifting the veil” equates to the liberation of Muslim women somehow. What we wear and how we wear it, is sanctioned by the society we live in. To say whether it’s bad or not is beyond the point, for values and customs are all socially constructed. There are laws against nudity in public, however our ancestors as well as tribal societies today still practice such a custom. Who’s to say legal measures against public nudity aren’t fascist?

Mousumi Roy
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Mousumi Roy has a Masters (MA - Political Science) from Calcutta University and is a visiting professor of International Relations in Muscat, Oman

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