Flat White

The burqa defies our dress code

15 September 2017

4:28 PM

15 September 2017

4:28 PM

By any reasonable measure, the burqa is a complete anachronism in a society in which women enjoy the privileges of an open, secular, gender equal society. A woman in a burqa cannot reasonably participate in our society.

The burqa is neither a feminist nor anti-feminist symbol, nor a symbol of repression or freedom. It is neither obligatory religious dress for Muslim women, nor defensible when living in a different culture. It is a relic from a paternalistic and misogynistic tradition of the past in which (far back in time) women who showed their face were deemed to be immodest. “Men who see a woman’s body part, even her face, will be aroused and driven to sin.” Walk down any Australian city street and observe the mayhem of sinners.

In an ideal world, there should be no need for a legal ban on the burqa in public anywhere in the world; full-face veils should be voluntarily discarded as a matter of respect where the culture of the host country calls for it.

Dress codes are an integral part of our cultural communication and cohesion, confirming – within fairly broad limitations – the acceptance of and adherence to the values by which the host society lives. Hence there is a reasonably wide range of acceptable attire in most Western societies (but less so in other societies).

Just how subtly yet aggressively dress codes are applied in society is easily tested: many private and public establishments have their own, non-negotiable dress codes, from nightclubs to Wimbledon, from the Festival de Cannes to Royal occasions, from the beach to the bar and the barbecue. While Western society is tolerant enough not to arrest those who breach such unwritten cultural laws, entry is often denied or derision and scorn poured on the offender. We accept such unwritten culture laws because they evolved organically from within the society. In other words, we developed them organically.

So here is a Muslim perspective, for the benefit of the misinformed (such as George Brandis), who are confused as to the nature of the burqa:

In my more than 25 years as a Muslim, I have never known a single woman who wears the conservative face veil – not one. Indeed, the overwhelming majority of Muslims throughout the world do not believe the burqa is a mandated Islamic prescription. Not only is there a remarkable absence of textual evidence in the Qur’an and prophetic traditions for this heightened brand of religious modesty, but many Muslim scholars go so far as to discourage wearing the burqa because of its alienating effect vis-à-vis non-Muslims. Few are aware that the conservative Damascene jurist, Ibn Taymiyyah (1263–1328), discouraged Muslims living in majority non-Muslims lands to dress in a manner that was distinct from their compatriots. In his mind, conspicuously religious garb could prejudice non-Muslims towards a true understanding of Islam’s universal message.

Reflections on France’s Ban on the Burqa: An American Muslim’s Perspective, by Abid Quereshi, on Blood is no Argument, April 19, 2011.

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