Flat White

Modest mantillas and bashful burqinis: same difference

30 August 2016

7:19 AM

30 August 2016

7:19 AM

New tripe on the burqini ban, this time from Jennifer Oriel:

“When the Syrian city of Manbij was liberated from Islamic State, women burned their burkas, lit up cigarettes, laughed out aloud and embraced the female soldiers who had rescued them.

“Freedom isn’t a woman encased in head to toe polyester under a burning sun because her religion deems the bikini immodest. The burqini is religious fundamentalism writ large on women’s bodies. We should not ban it, but there are no grounds to celebrate it as a symbol of multiculturalism.”

Well, no, we shouldn’t celebrate it as a symbol of multiculturalism. Because it’s not that. It is – as Ms Oriel noted a few seconds earlier, but then curiously seemed to forget – a symbol of modesty.

Do you think she’s considered that maybe, just maybe, modesty’s worth celebrating in itself?

Or, if our society is now so thoroughly sex-crazed that we can’t celebrate modesty, could we perhaps just leave them alone?

There’s literally a world of difference between the Islamic State forcing women to veil themselves, and women choosing not strut naked across the beaches of France. It’s the difference between the Islamosphere and the Anglosphere. 

Here in the Anglosphere, we keep up the quintessentially British habit of allowing religious yobbos to go about their business unmolested, so long as they aren’t hurting anyone. It’s why we let the Amish grow their beards, even though it might be construed as ‘reaffirming a toxic ideal of masculinity’ or something. It’s why we let Aborigines perform the Welcome to Country, even though it’s a meaningless (if lucrative) fiction. And it’s why we let Rastafarians wear their hair in dreadlocks, even though they’re disgusting.

For that matter, it’s why we let devout Catholic women wear a veil to Mass. Yes, that’s a thing: it’s called a mantilla, it’s worn for the same reasons as a burqa, and no one’s ever compared it to living under Isis. That’s because this isn’t Franco’s Spain, and they wear the mantilla of their own free will. Just like Western Muslim women and their burqas.

Why, then, do we choose to pick on Muslims?

Believe it or not, I have a theory. I think we as a society – with our rampant addiction to internet porn and early, heavy exposure to sex on television – feel threatened when we encounter a culture that still honors the ideas of modesty and chastity. If there was a spike in pre-Vatican II Catholicism, I reckon they’d get the same treatment. It’s not about Muslims. It’s about us, and our deeply-repressed horror at how enslaved we are to our own base appetites.

But that’s neither here nor there. The point is, if Muslim women voluntarily adhere to a strict interpretation of female modesty, what gives us the right to stop them? And why should we suddenly feel the need to criticize them?

Yes, it must’ve been truly liberating for the women of Manbij to rip off their veils and light up. I don’t begrudge them that. But for the women of Paris and Nice, perhaps it’s liberating to ‘divert the male gaze’, to borrow from the feminist lexicon. Maybe it’s liberating to buck a culture that sees them as sexual playthings, which can drive them to suicide by objectifying them and demeaning them for their looks.  

Who knows? Certainly not Dr Oriel. 

And who really cares? Not me.

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