… We know there is no Koranic injunction to cover the face, and we watch helplessly as organised brainwashing is leading to the blanking out of female Muslim presence and individuality from the public space.

… For me, the overwhelming argument against the burka (and various coverings for children, another growing abomination) is that there is such a thing as society. Community fetishes cannot override social communication, connection, obligations, equality, duties and understanding. Security and safety-measures too require facial identification. Politicians need to get assertive and argue that they believe in non-racist, universal human development. Effective policies to halt the spreading habit (in both senses) will then naturally follow.

And reformist Muslims too should speak up more frankly without fear or favour. A traditional Pakistani friend of mine – who always wears the shalwar kameez – recently refused service from a burka-ed librarian in one of our big libraries. The next time she went in, the face was no longer hidden. Maybe our new government should consult her. She could teach them how resistance, not acquiescence, gave us our past freedoms and will preserve our present ones.

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, The Independent

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5 Responses to “Now…”

  1. Alan Jacobs Says:

    You may be winning me over on this anti-burka crusade, Margaret, but I like it a lot better when it is combatted in the way it is in this anecdote: through the pressure of disapproval, even shunning, from one’s own community.

  2. Margaret Soltan Says:

    I agree, Alan. That’s the best way possible to combat it.

    But people have to feel able, as this woman did, to act on their disapproval, their shunning. They have to refuse to cooperate with the inhumanity of the burka.

    I think a public discourse in which high-profile people with integrity speak of the burka as an obvious outrage needs to take place. It’s beginning to happen, actually.

  3. Alan Jacobs Says:

    Agreed. And maybe that will give others the courage to speak out, and when necessary to shun.

  4. dance Says:

    I like that Alan called it your crusade, UD, because that’s exactly what bothers me about many of your anti-burka posts—the notion that the burka is an obvious evil, no analysis or explanation needed.

    This piece, however, is not like that, and is much more persuasive. Thank you for posting it. (Haven’t yet read it all, but saved to read later.)

  5. Margaret Soltan Says:

    Well, I’ve tried hard to provide lots of explanation on this blog for my strong objection to the burqa, dance. Searching through my burqa posts will demonstrate that, I think. I’ve written about security issues, health issues, the withdrawal from civic life, the rejection of democratic values, virtual imprisonment by coercive husbands, and so forth.

    With the pressure of anti-burqa legislation, this basically hidden cultural behavior is becoming less hidden. As the practice of putting women in burqas sees the light of day, yet more reasons will emerge to oppose it. I will continue to chronicle those reasons.

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