The issue of Islamic dress codes for women came up in conversation today and I seemed to shock some people when I said that I consider both the burqa and the hijab to be evil and, the hijab, when imposed on young girls, amounting to criminal abuse.
It is seen as cultural insensitivity to criticise such things, I was told and in a free country like Australia we should accept the right of others to dress as they choose. I don't disagree with that, unless, as is the case of burqas for women and hijabs for girls, that right represents a fundamental denial of human rights, common decency and amounts to a health risk to boot.
It is, say some, about standards of modesty. And the truth is, this standard of modesty is sourced in a patriarchal religion and culture which believes men are superior and women are no more than sexual objects, who, if allowed to reveal their flesh or the odd loose hair, will reduce every man in sight to some sort of deviant sexual animal. The result of course being the fault of the offending woman and not the deviant man.
Well, Standards of modesty are fine but the fact is, if we really allowed freedom on dress codes then we would allow nudity which is an 'extreme' dress code. I consider the burqa to be an extreme dress code and for that matter, the hijab as well, particularly since both represent health hazards because they limit skin exposure to the sun which we know reduces Vitamin D absorption and which predisposes to cancer and other serious diseases.
There is an irony that we impose sunscreen and hat rules on children for their own good, although new research is showing the chemical cocktail of sunscreen is harmful and the lack of exposure to sunshine is reducing Vitamin D, and yet we support little girls being imprisoned in hijabs because it is cultural. Many things are cultural but it does not make them right.
I do think burqas and hijabs, beyond being health hazards are evil in the same way that circumcision of any child is evil.
I would be prepared to bet that if Islam decided men should also dress this way, the dress-code would change in a day, perhaps in an hour if it was a hot day.
And yes, I have seen the research, which supposedly says Muslim women are happy, nay delighted, to walk around covered up in 'blankets' or imprisoned by hijabs. But, I would be prepared to bet that if Muslim women were given freedom to dress as they please they would give it up in 99% of cases. A few might continue but most would not in the same way Christian women, when given freedom, stopped wearing head-scarves or hats in church and went to services while menstruating and without being 'cleansed' after childbirth. It is called progress in a civilized world.
Burqas and hijabs are backward and cruel. I live in Africa and I travel in Africa and I drive through a Christian village and then a no religion village and then a Muslim village and in the first two men and women dress for climate and comfort in the same way. In a Muslim village the men are dressed the same as in the other two villages and the poor women and girls are wrapped up in the heat in horrible nylon hijabs, trying to do the same work in the fields, walking the same distance on hot, dusty roads, in hideous garments which are quite simply not required and in the climate, cruel.
And I sit too often in restaurants in Johannnesburg, seeing poor women in their burqas, trying to eat their breakfast by pushing food up beneath this blanket prison while their husbands, fathers and sons, sit by their side, dressed in light linen short-sleeved shirts and trousers, generally Italian by the look of them, eating their breakfast like any normal human being.
It is cruel. The only thing you can see are their eyes and I just feel so sorry for them. The burqa is pure evil and any sane woman, given the chance would never wear one and that is a simple fact of life. Ditto for hijabs and putting them on children is a crime - or should be a crime. And if that is culturally insensitive then I am prepared to be culturally insensitive in the same way that people were being culturally insensitive when they spoke out against slavery, child labour, repression of women and campaigned to free them all and for universal suffrage.
If being culturally insensitive means one is defending human and civilized values pertaining to human rights then perhaps it is time more of us were culturally insensitive. And if it offends those who deny others human rights then all to the good.
I am sure living where I do, that I am reminded more than most of how horrible things like burqas are. Every time I sit in a restaurant, and I do it often, and watch these poor women trying to eat I want to go up and demand their husbands put it on and try to eat their breakfast.
Every time I see a Muslim woman struggling to work in the fields in a hijab while a non-Muslim woman down the road is free to do the work she needs to do, carry huge containers of water for kilometres, in sensible, cool clothes in stinking heat, I cannot help but be convinced of how evil such dress codes are.
They reflect a primitive, backward and barbaric attitude to women which was once a part of all religions. I would have less of an issue if men dressed the same but they do not. It is the pure poison of patriarchy manifesting through religion.
As a counter, some will cite the pressure on young women in the West in regard to how they look and what they wear, but here is the difference, the woman in the West wearing six inch heels and tiny skirts has made a choice to do it and can change her mind at any point. The woman in the burqa or hijab has not made a free choice and she cannot change her mind. In many places she is likely to be flogged, hung or even beheaded if she tries.
So, to commit the sin of political incorrectness by speaking out against a 'tradition' which has no place in a civilized religion let alone a modern world ... does it matter if people are offended? Men raged, ranted and fumed and predicted all sorts of horrors if the evil of votes for women or education for women were to happen. But those who opposed them were wrong.
I believe all women, regardless of race or creed should have the freedom that I have and if that means pointing out what is evil in their religion, as was done I might add with Christianity which is why I and other women living in the West, and I might add, many in the Third World who are not Muslim, are free, then so be it.
And I am sure many women get used to the hideous sweat box which is Islamic dress, but would they wear it given a choice? I doubt it. Sure they seem calm, at peace with their lot, although how much that is projection and how much is reality is hard to say. My mother's generation were oppressed compared to mine and they seemed calm enough, in public at least. That is how patriarchy works.
It is when you get close to women who are so subjugated, as I did living in India, with both Hindus and Muslims, that you realise how they appear on the outside is not how they are on the inside.
I think some people are prepared to believe the propaganda that women who dress this way are humble, modest, and doing no more than reflecting the humility and 'goodness' of their religion. Although if that were so then why is it just women? Why don't men dress the same?
And that is because the burqa and hijab are covers in more ways than one. They hide the truth of the titillation factor for husbands in particular and perhaps Muslim men in general, and that is the knowledge that underneath that plain and modest exterior there is the body of a woman dressed in a way, that we in the West would expect to see in a woman who makes her living selling sex. In other words, as a whore.
Let me just say, think tawdry, whoreish, with, once they get home, six inch heels, skirts at crotch level and a taste in clothes of which your average well-dressed hooker would be proud. The true evil of the burqa and hijab is seen in such hidden dress codes where Muslim men can 'get their rocks off' because they know what is underneath.
No wonder Muslim men believe that it is necessary to cover up their wives and that if allowed out in the world there would be sexual chaos: the burqa covers up the reality of 'legalised prostitution.'
Beneath the burqa lives the shadow of the so-called modesty touted by patriarchal Islam. I have seen Arab women, wrapped up in their black rags, shopping in Dubai, London, Johannesburg - places I frequent - and since they do not have their own shops and are forced to shop with non-Muslims, it is easy to see what they buy in clothes and shoes and sometimes lingerie.
And perhaps the fact that they dress like 'whores' is what keeps Muslim men terrified and titillated.....obviously this does not apply to poor Muslim women but the rich, beneath the robes, could do business in an instant standing on any street corner. They are, these humble Muslim women, as often as not, beneath the drab exterior, ladies of the day and night of which most men can only dream. Except one presumes they don't get left a wad of cash on the side-table.
Although perhaps they do if they perform well, in that their credit card limit is extended for more lascivious clothes.
It is that hidden hypocrisy which to me demonstrates the true evil of it all.