Wow. My little rant certainly inspired some interesting dialogue on Facebook last week!
For the sake of clarity, the item that inspired the rant was reposted from a FB site called “Britain First”, under the caption “It could be anyone in there! – give a share if you think the Burka should be banned in Britain. Britain First”.
A visit to the Britain First page will reveal that their banner reads: “Fighting Islamification – No to Sharia, Mosques, Patrols, Terror”. It also sports a logo that includes a Mosque that has been circled & struck through. Comments regarding banning the burka read as follows: Ban the burka… “…and those that support them… Anyone caught wearing one is to be deported immediately!”, “it should be banned right now and they are a security risk, cos you don’t know who is under it, male or female or just another bloody terrorist?”, “not the burka, the chuffin Muslim”, “deport the one wearing it and the rest of the family as well”, “join the culture you are living in or leave!” and so on… A quick peruse through the rest of the site will reveal plenty more of the same sentiments.
THIS IS RACISM.
Interestingly, the issue of racism was quickly overshadowed by the idea that this kind of ban is acceptable if it is done in the name of feminism.
One FB friend supported the ban on the basis that “men imposed this law of wearing a burka on women, why can’t a Muslim woman have a choice”.
First, let’s be clear that the idea that “It could be anyone in there!” is not about whether or not a woman is being oppressed. It is about whether or not someone could use the burka for the purpose of deception. It clearly implies that everyone wearing such a garment is a potential threat.
Second, while it is true that feminism has been instrumental in changing the conditions of women’s lives, we do need to remember that North American feminism is just that – NORTH AMERICAN. This means that whatever North American feminism says or does, it says and does through the lens of North American culture, religion, politics, ideologies, discourses, experiences, biases and values.
Third, even if one’s issue with the burka is rooted in a North American feminist analysis of what it may mean for women who are forced to wear it against their will – banning the burka does not bring about greater choice for Muslim women. It simply changes the face of the imposing ruler & re-names the laws these women are forced to submit to.
It is important to consider where we are focusing our attention. Whether or not one agrees with the wearing of the burka, taking away a woman’s right to choose to wear one if she wants to, only oppresses her in a different way. Let’s focus instead on making sure that what any woman, in any country, in any tradition does or doesn’t do is based on what she chooses as being right for her, rather than on what someone else (including you and me) determines she should do – however seemingly altruistic our biases and opinions…