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The Daily Telegraph tells us about a small, woman-led trend amongst certain ultra-orthodox Jewish communities: burqas.

Some Israeli Jewish women have decided to wear burqas as a way to fulfill their commitment to modest dress. And the men do not like it. As a matter of fact,

At the insistence of the husbands of some burka-wearing women, a leading rabbinical authority is to issue an edict declaring burka wearing a sexual fetish that is as promiscuous as wearing too little.

A small group of ultra-orthodox Jews in the town of Beit Shemesh chose to don the burka, usually associated with women in repressive Islamist regimes, three years ago in a bid to protect their modesty.

Yes, that’s right. Shlomo Pappenheim, one of the edict-writers, believes that the burqa is promiscuous. What the hell?

Also, what’s with the term “repressive Islamist regimes”? WTF is that supposed to mean? Hasn’t the latest burqa kerfuffle centered on France? Arg.

I hope that news of this incident will awaken people to the nuances of burqa-wearing, because I cannot bear one more ignorant comment from a white person about how “Islam oppresses women”. Attempts to control what women wear are oppressive and ridiculous no matter whether people are trying to force them to wear more or less. Full stop.

Forcing a woman not to wear a burqa is just as bad as forcing her to wear a burqa.

Nesrine MalikIn response to the recent French burqa ban, Nesrine Malik, a Real Live Muslim Woman, discusses her relationship with the burqa and why she disagrees with the ban.

Isn’t it great that France is so enlightened, and such a champion of women’s rights, that its government has begun to specifically target Muslim women for state harassment?

Fadela AmaraIsn’t that neat? Maybe, if we’re all lucky, they’ll have a “democratic” vote so that the white majority can decide which pieces of clothing to ban from the Muslim minority.

We have French Urban Regeneration Minister Fadela Amara, herself Muslim, saying that she is “in favour of the burka not existing in my country”. Perhaps she will soon take the path of Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Muslim-turned-atheist, who’s popularity in European and American conservative circles seems more fueled by Islamophobia than by anything else.

Ali once said, “The whole idea is for 1.2-1.5 billion [Muslim] people living in the world to start thinking, at least, I mean exercising some sort of intellectual activity, which we haven’t been doing…”

But Amara’s statements about burka-banning are not all.

Now it appears that the burkini, a swimsuit that is loose-fitting and covers everything but the face, hands and feet, is also a threat to enlightened France.

Burkini

Major public health threat.

Here’s a bit from an LA Times article about a woman banned from a swimming pool in Emerainville that is really, well, astounding:

Emerainville’s mayor and the pool management contend that the burkini ban was invoked strictly because of hygiene concerns, just as shorts, rather than Speedos, are not allowed, because they can be worn outside the pool area.

“This has nothing to do with Islam,” Mayor Alain Kelyor told Le Parisien, “because the pool rules prohibit swimming while dressed.

“Besides, Islamic bathing suits don’t exist in the Koran,” he concluded.

Nice one Mayor Kelyor! But if that isn’t islamophobic enough for you….

“This is the tip of the fundamentalist iceberg,” National Assembly member Andre Gerin said of the burkini issue, which he claims is part of a “larger national problem” of growing Islamic extremism in France. Wearing the garment in public is a “clear provocation” and “ridiculous,” while helping “undo years of progress toward equal rights for women.”

Can’t we just burn them as witches already? ARRRG.

Here’s what the offending woman, identified only as Carole, has to say: “My only battle is simply to be able to swim with my children in a pool.” Oh, the evils of Islam! The witch Muslim woman has spawned! THEY ARE TRYING TO OUTBREED WHITES!

I’ve already written a careful explanation of why I hold these opinions on burkas, in a previous post where I outline 10 Reasons a French Burka Ban Is Wrong.

Via Womanist Musings.

Please add to this discussion. However, please do not assume that I know nothing about Islam, women’s oppression in the name of Islam, or what a burka is. Read my 10 Reasons post to get a better idea of my stance.

Thanks to Shagufta Pasta at Terry* for this rad post: Telling Other People Exactly what You Think: A Tip Sheet to Make Your Online Commentary Really Count.

It’s about the recent discussions surrounding French President Sarkozy’s call to “eliminate the burqa”.

A quote:

These are scary times. Without asking your permission, Muslims are daring to write articles, create films, develop radio programs, and produce art that unabashedly celebrates the complex and textured role Islam plays in their lives. They say Islamic feminism is alive and well; that they’re perfectly capable of saving themselves thank you very much, that they aren’t a monolithic lot, and their identity as Muslims isn’t their only influencer. Concerned? Enjoy the tip sheet below and tell those people exactly what you think. After all, who needs thoughtful, community building dialogue anyway?

***UPDATE 4/3/09: I’ve noticed this post floating around the web in a bunch of different places. That’s fine, I’m glad ya’ll like my thoughts. Please, just be sure to credit The Czech and put in a link when you do so. Thanks.***

What Dori said.

The New York Times and Le Monde both reported today on certain remarks from French President Nicolas Sarkozy calling for the elimination of the burqa.

To wit:

“The issue of the burqa is not a religious issue. It is a question of freedom and of women’s dignity,” Mr. Sarkozy said. “The burqa is not a religious sign. It is a sign of the subjugation, of the submission, of women.”

To enthusiastic applause, he said: “I want to say solemnly that it will not be welcome on our territory.”

STOP IT!

There are a thousand things wrong with this. Let me count them.

1. Mandating how women should dress is mandating how women should dress, whether it is a mandate to wear a burqa, or a mandate not to wear one. When a man tells a woman how to dress, it’s paternalism and subjugation one way or the other.

2. Plus, as Dori points out, a man telling a woman that too much of her body is covered, and that she needs to expose more of it to his view, is pretty weird. How much modesty is too much? How much exposed flesh is enough to satisfy Sarkozy?

3. A Christian man imposing rules of dress upon Muslim women does little to actually foster the kind of gender equality he claims to be advancing.

4. Sarkozy talks as though there is no “subjugation of women” among the non-Muslim denizens of France. As though France is a wonderland of gender equality. According to WikiGender: “Compared to other countries, France has always been rather late in adopting gender equality as a goal and designing policies to achieve it.” So why suddenly all this concern for a certain subset of French women, who just randomly happen to come from a community hated and feared by many in France?

5. What other items of clothing does Mr. Sarkozy disapprove of? Do they also happen to correspond to certain disfavored, marginalized communities?

6. Any attempt to “eliminate” burqas in France will only serve to further marginalize the women who wear them. Burqas, for some women, represent a compromise. Some individuals believe women are not supposed to be seen in public, or be looked at by men outside of the family. In this extreme view, women would be entirely confined to the house and removed from outside society unless they can put on a burqa and go out. Eliminating the burqa for these women would mean eliminating their access to the world. Better conditions for such women require a little more work than outlawing a piece of clothing.

7. Eliminating burqas in France would not mean that women’s oppression in Muslim communities would end. It would simply be a cosmetic change that would do nothing to actually work with communities and empower French Muslim women to achieve equality. It is a measure that ignores all nuance and avoids all honest work to actually tackle the heart of the problem.

8. All this “eliminate the burqa” talk fits just a little too snugly with the popular “Islam oppresses women” meme that Christian Westerners like to toss around, particularly when they are trying to frame a “War of Civilizations”.

9. Also, doesn’t this just come off as a cheap attempt at burnishing his Women’s Issues credentials while effectively only harassing a marginalized, already-persecuted minority? And doing little to nothing to further true societal equality for all women in France?

10. What real issues do French women, and French Muslim women in particular, actually face that Sarkozy is completely avoiding by diverting attention with this stunt? Why randomly target French Muslims now?

Ok, so that was only 10 things. Huh.

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