The Burka Debate
Belgium just did it, France wants to do it and politicians in the Netherlands and Italy are pushing for it, but is it right to ban the Burka?
I’ve heard the arguments of both sides. I’ve heard muslim women say it’s a sign of oppression and others say it’s liberating. Some say women are forced by men to wear them, others say it’s a personal choice. Is banning it a broader statement about the Islamic faith in general or can the wearing of a Burka be treated as a separate issue?
I recently went to a curry house and saw a muslim woman eating at a table with two men. She was wearing the niqab (fully body covering with only eyes exposed). I found myself staring. I didn’t mean to be rude, but this is something I’d never seen before. As stupid as it sounds, I was intrigued by how she would eat wearing the veil (she would quickly lift it, put the food in her mouth, then replace it just as fast) and if she was even allowed out with two men. I’m willing to admit that this all comes down to ignorance on my part. But doesn’t that speak volumes? As someone who has lived in big, multicultural cities my whole life, I still don’t have an understanding of what is and isn’t a muslim woman’s choice.
To me, this is where the burka becomes much more than just a veil. It is, for all intents and purposes, a barrier. In western society, we don’t cover our faces. If you do, you’re considered to be hiding or disguising yourself. We favour openness, we prefer to look someone in the eye when we talk to them. By wearing the burka, isn’t it like saying you don’t want to engage with me, or anyone else in western society? How are we supposed to learn and break down these barriers if there is a whole section of society cutting themselves off from us?
When westerners go on vacation to the middle east, women are told to cover their bodies up, to respect the culture out there. Shouldn’t that work both ways? If you come to this country, shouldn’t you comply with the custom of showing your face?
I dislike that people use the Koran as a defence. The Koran only says that women should dress ‘modestly’. The Burka is taking ‘modesty’ way too far. If a man is telling you to wear it, he’s essentially treating you like a child or pet. If it truly is about religion, not oppression, the hijab (veil covering only the hair) is an adequate expression of faith. I don’t know if banning burkas is the way to go. I definitely understand points made on both sides of the argument. I favour diversity and merely see the burka as almost a preventative measure when it comes to understanding different faiths and cultures.
I truly intend no offence with this article, merely to open up a debate. If the banning of the Burka is becoming commonplace in other parts of Europe, it’s probably just a matter of time until that issue is brought up on British soil.
Bear in mind, this article is intended to open a discussion. Comments using any racist or offensive language will be removed immediately.