French Burqa Ban

Why can’t a woman who wants to go from her house to the grocery store where a burqa in public?  I literally don’t. get. it.

But I will never say what I want to say as well as Tasha Fierce over at Feministe, so I will let her do the heavy lifting on this one:

Of course, this is not to say that all Muslim women disagree with the banning of the burqa or niqab. Some Muslim feminists have spoken out in favor of the ban. I fully support the right of Muslim women to not be forced to wear face-covering veils. However, I think banning religious clothing at the governmental level is taking the issue in a scary direction. I believe in choices, and banning burqas and niqabs eliminates the ability of women who actually wear the veils of their own volition to continue to make the choice to wear them, however few the women may be that make that choice. The author of the Huffington Post article, Caryl Rivers, makes a lot of good points, but I really do believe that in order to truly gain equal rights for Muslim women in their culture it’s going to have to come from changing Muslim men’s “hearts and minds” and not changing Muslim women’s clothing. […]

I can’t get behind legislation like this when the only benefit for women would be that you get to tell your husband that you’re required by law to not wear the veil, and the many benefits for the government and Islamophobic French people include not having to be visually reminded there’s Muslims in their communities and also stopping the spread of “Islamism”. I don’t trust the women’s rights angle at all from Western governments when it comes to Islam. We continue to ally with countries that do much more than just expect women to cover themselves head to toe when in public — we’re in bed with countries that beat and jail women who have been gang raped and impregnated because the rape constituted the woman committing adultery. I personally don’t think her lack of burqa helped at all in that situation.

So I’m not exactly joining the cheerleading squad because France decided its Islamophobia was good for women’s rights. Of course I don’t want Muslim women to be forced to cover themselves head to toe. But I firmly believe true change in the Islamic world will never come via simply outlawing certain types of clothing, and I question the veracity of France’s reasons for doing so. The fact that they’re mentioning things like “defining and protecting French values” sounds eerily familiar and to me, is more of a nationalist concern than a concern for women’s rights.

There needs to be substantive change in Muslim men’s attitudes towards Muslim women rather than superficial change mandated by a government that seeks to erase those parts of immigrant populations they find distasteful.

And today over at Shakesville, Maud gives the rundown on the voices we have heard from in this debate and, most especially, the voice we never hear from in this debate, namely Muslim women:

So, that’s everybody heard from, right? Well, except for Muslim women, of course. The people whose choice of dress and religious expression is specifically being limited by this law. No need to interview any of them. I mean, if their thoughts on this or any matter were of value, France wouldn’t need this law to tell the silly twits how to dress themselves, n’est-ce pas?

For the record, I do think the burqa/niqab is a tool of the patriarchy/kyriarchy. So is passing a law, in the guise of support for women’s rights, forbidding women to wear such a garment. So is a discussion as to whether such a garment should be banned which excludes the voices of the women who are targeted by it.

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