This is an OUTRAGE. Seriously.

I was getting ready for school this morning and heard this on Morning Edition. As I have said before, I am not in favor of enforced covering. If a woman chooses -- truly chooses -- to cover, that is her right.

Shouldn't it also be her right to decide whether to uncover?

France's Anti-Burqa Law

The two women interviewed covered voluntarily and will now be forced to conform to what Sarkozy and those who support this law are more comfortable seeing. They'll be legally obligated to expose parts of their bodies that they have chosen, for spiritual reasons and of their own human volition, to cover.

One woman, speaking of her niqab, said, "You are sheltered from all onlookers and completely cut off from society."Again, these are women who have chosen to cover, have opted to protect themselves from the eyes of others. Who, among women, has never gotten sick of being stared at and appraised all the damn time? What is so wrong with wanting to be "sheltered from all onlookers?" 

The second part of her statement is a little less comfortable for us to relate to, but is a desire to be "cut off from society" so different from those days when you say to yourself, "I wish I just didn't have to deal with... the world"? I realize that this is not a perfect comparison, but even so, shouldn't an individual be able to choose whether or not she wants to participate in the goals and ideals of the society she lives in?

In my opinion, this is a human rights violation equivalent to mandatoryenforced hijabThe government (with a male at the helm) is telling women what they can and cannot wear, and if a government official asks a covered woman to show her face and I.D., she must do so or face a fine and take "a civics class," as though women who were educated would never choose to cover. How is that different from telling a woman that she must wear hijab, or be penalized?

"Sarkozy says the niqab and burqa isolate women and take away their humanity. The French immigration minister called the burqa a 'walking coffin,'" says NPR's Eleanor Beardsley, but I don't think this is really about liberating women. These women's preferences for how they choose to expose or cover themselves have not been taken into account. This is about what those who look at covered women want to be able to see. These women's modest choices are being forcibly ripped from them like a woman's t-shirt at an out-of-control frat party, and it's just as violative.


  1. I am really torn about this issue. I see your point and agree that limiting women's rights to wear what they want is bad. But I see the other side as well - when we examine the reasons that the niqab and burqa exist, we must examine the history. The society that created such headgear and enforced its use is deeply misogynistic. Men created these garments and enforced their use to keep women from seducing men, which is patently ridiculous. Now they've become traditional garments, but the misogyny is still alive and well in many places. Some women choose to wear it for the reasons you stated, despite the fact that its original purpose was to restrict their freedoms.

    Do we free the next generation of girls from this form of misogyny by banning these garments? By saying women have a right to wear these, do we implicitly say it's OK for them to be oppressed? When do we, as a society, stand up against institutionalized misogyny? How do we balance that with individual rights?

  2. Meg,

    I totally agree with you about the tension between the history of covering and the rights of women to cover. However, I don't agree that by allowing women to wear burqa or niqab we are complicit in their oppression. If a woman is FORCED to wear something, that's one thing. But to me, I think it's even creepier to demand that a woman UNcover her body if covering is what she chooses to do.

    It IS a complicated issue, though.

    Wait a minute... I think we're talking about two different things here: covering, and donning hijab. The hijab has a history of oppression, but covering... well, it does too, but there's less of a "uniform" for oppression of women without traditional garments. Is that what you're saying, that burqa and niqab should be banned because of what they symbolize, but the women should still be allowed to dress modestly?

  3. I know I'm years late commenting on this and I wonder if the other posters will even see, but I think there is some ignorance about the niqab. The burqa, I don't know much about, but the niqab is something some Muslim women wear because they are trying to emulate the wives of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, the "mothers of the believers," as we call them. It is clear through narrations of the Prophet's life and traditional scholarship that niqab is not obligatory as hijab is, but it is FOR GOD, not men. Hijab does not have a history of oppression, people do. Culture does. Islam does not. Islam, especially at the time of the first generation of Muslims, liberated and elevated the status of women. When people say "Society created this headgear," it shows a lack of knowledge of Islam. Muslims believe that the Qur'an is the directly revealed word of God, and hijab is a *privilege* of women, it is worn so that we may be *known as Muslims,* we are the flag-bearers of our religion. Hijab is also not just a piece of cloth on our heads. There is hijab for both men and women (codes of outer and inward modesty).

    1. Thank you, Gretchen! Your comment is very informative and helps me a lot. It must take a lot of guts to be the "flag bearers" of one's religion. Thanks again!