Feminism Fodder

Burqa Ban

Most people probably know by now that France banned women from wearing the burqa and this was officially enforced yesterday.

Basically, it is now illegal for any woman to wear the fully covered veil in France and if they do, they risk getting fined and being asked to attend re-education classes. People who force women to wear the full-faced burqa risk being fined a higher amount and a year in gaol. The reason behind the law coming into force was that the full-faced burqa is a symbol of servitude and not one prescribed by the religion or the Koran. However, there are groups that believe this is targetting the Muslim minority in the country and is anti-Islamist.

Where do  I stand on this?

To be honest, I don’t know.

I am a feminist. I do not believe in women having to serve men and there are certain cultures that treat women as secondary citizens and it annoys me no end. To that extent, I agree with one part of the law: if anyone forces a woman to wear a full-faced buqa, they should be fined and/or gaoled. But, if that were the case, I think it should extend to anyone that forces a woman to wear anything and not let her make up her own mind. That’s only fair. Because I’m pretty sure there are women who are forced to wear only skirts (and not pants) or saris or salwar kameezes.    

Now, I have also read that the Koran does not in fact say Muslim women have to wear the burqa. All it says apparently is that Muslim men and women must dress modestly. Not having read the Koran myself, I cannot comment on the authenticity of this.

At the end of the day though, my personal feeling is that a woman should be allowed to wear what she wants and what she is comfortable in. No one needs to tell her what to wear or what not to wear. Not religion. Not her husband or boyfriend. Not her parents. Not the government. Making a law banning the burqa is the same as having a law that says women can’t wear a bikini at the beach (and I’m sure this exists in at least one of the fundamentalist countries!!) Either way, it impinges on the woman’s rights.

I know people are going to tell me that Muslim women choose to wear the burqa because they are brainwashed or that they are pressured. I won’t know. All I can say is that I have seen some young girls battle with wanting to wear the headscarf and trying to figure out their identities…and in one or two cases, the mother doesn’t even wear a headscarf.

What do you think?

Do you support France’s action and do you think other countries should follow suit?

Do share your thoughts…I’d really like to know!

Until next time,


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  • Prats
    12 April 2011 at 10:12 am

    Very honestly, I stand where you are… I don’t think forcing not wear Burqa by a government is not liberating… So I kind of part agree with that law and partly find a weirdness around it.

  • Rose
    12 April 2011 at 12:03 pm

    I don’t support France’s banning of the burqa. It is discrimination. I don’t support any group, religious or otherwise, being unfairly targeted with these laws.

    I too am a feminist and believe there are women who wear the veil of their own accord. But, I’m not naive enough to believe that many do not.

    I wouldn’t appreciate anyone (especially the Government) telling me had to dress or dictating my faith.

    Great post. It will surely be debated for the weeks (perhaps years!) to come!

  • Rose
    12 April 2011 at 12:05 pm

    Thought this link might interest you… controversial piece


  • Comfy
    12 April 2011 at 1:05 pm

    In a way to me the French govt. is doing what it is banning. It is forcing women to dress against their will. Do the women really want to be wearing a burka or are being forced only they can tell.

  • DustbinCricket
    12 April 2011 at 2:26 pm

    This is a hard one – you can argue for religious freedom, but others will argue that this side of religion refuses these women freedom and that many will thank the French law for this. Without the ability to look into the hearts and minds of others, it is tough to decide what is best on this one.

    I will say that I am pretty sure France is cracking down on all overt displays of religion – including the wearing of a crucifix. Someone can feel free to dorrect me on that if I am wrong, but I’m sure this is not just something aimed at Muslims.

  • Jake
    12 April 2011 at 2:44 pm

    well that’s the hypocrisy of the world,

    – they will say you have civil liberties and tap your phone
    – they will tell you it’s a democracy, but almost every decision is in the interest
    of oil corporations

    What makes you think they are going to say you have religious freedom and then adhere to it ?

    *they = the man, Lucifer, the ones that will make Godzilla run away with his tail in between his legs, in short TRUE EVIL who say one thing to the public but implement something else.

    Personally I don’t believe in religion and say we scarp them all and call it a day, BUT people should have the right to wear what they want at the end of the day

  • Aakash Johry
    12 April 2011 at 9:48 pm

    I agree to a large extent.. Let them live the way they want (if tht involves them wearing burqa, then let it be).. Anyways, it’s about time that religions also relook into the traditions, and redefine the ‘holiness’ in them..

  • Psych Babbler
    13 April 2011 at 12:28 am

    Yeah exactly because it’s still forcing them in a way…quite confusing…

  • Psych Babbler
    13 April 2011 at 1:36 am

    I think Rose I would have preferred a law that says it’s illegal for anyone
    to force another individual re what they wear. Tht would make more sense in
    all contexts. Of course, enforcing it would be another issue totally. And
    yeah, looks like this is a hot topic that is going to be debated for a while
    to come…

  • Psych Babbler
    13 April 2011 at 1:36 am

    And thanks for sharing the link…

  • Psych Babbler
    13 April 2011 at 1:37 am

    Exactly Comfy…it becomes hypocritical then, doesn’t it?

  • Psych Babbler
    13 April 2011 at 1:41 am

    If it were up to me Kirby, I’d like to ban religion itself…all religions!

    If France is cracking down on all overt displays of religion, it is still
    impinging on people’s freedom or expression. And it may be that they are
    saying people can’t overly display the crucifix but I doubt there’s a law
    saying it’s illegal, is there?

    I guess then we come to other religions — Jews who wear the cap (forgive
    my religious ignorance) for example…are they going to make that illegal

    It’s a hard one but I think I’m leaning towards it should be an individual
    choice…else France is as bad as Saudi Arabia where women (of any religion)
    are not allowed to step out of the house without wearing a hijab or a

  • Psych Babbler
    13 April 2011 at 1:44 am

    I agree with not having religion at all — I personally think religion has
    been and continues to be the bane of mankind. What the French govt has done
    is not dissimilar to what governments in countries like Saudi Arabia are
    doing — in the latter, women of any religion are not allowed to step out
    of the house unless dressed in a hijab or burqa. It’s extremist.

  • Psych Babbler
    13 April 2011 at 1:45 am

    I agree with you Akaash in terms of religions needing to move with the
    times…although I think we should can religions as a whole.

  • Melissa Mitchell
    13 April 2011 at 2:53 am

    I’ve literally just finished blogging about this. I’m completely opposed to the ban. First of all, while I’m absolutely a feminist, I don’t believe that ALL women who wear the burqa are being forced to do so by their husbands. I think there are more women in the world being oppressed by their husbands than there are women wearing burqas.

    secondly – what’s the difference between a man saying I have to wear something and a government saying I can not? Where’s my freedom of choice?

    thirdly, and more importantly to me – there’s a very fine line between ‘rejecting the oppression of women’ and interferance with freedom of religion. I think that France (and several other European countries) have crossed that line with this ban.

  • Psych Babbler
    13 April 2011 at 5:14 am

    Welcome here Melissa…I agree with you that there are more women in the
    world being oppressed by their husbands than just those wearing burqas. The
    problem with these governments is they don’t recognise that, do they? And
    yes, what the government is doing by this law is exactly what they are
    apparently opposing! How weird is that?! At the end of the day, they are
    impinging on a woman’s freedom to choose by this law…would love to check
    out your post too…

  • Bikram
    13 April 2011 at 8:15 am

    In terms of human rights the answer is NO we should not be forced to wear what we want or not want to …

    In terms of Security i would say YES… I know how it is when I have to as ka question you never know whats inside … if you know what i mean ..

    But this is not the right way if i think … but as far as the nation is concerned then I am talking of all of us who immigrated abroad when we came we swore to be good citizens and do the best for the country but we are not fulfilling that PROMISe…


  • Jake
    13 April 2011 at 8:46 am

    Exactly, I’m all for people wearing what they want but I have mixed feelings about this cuz if it’s gonna be step forward in women’s rights then like I said good riddance. No better way to stick it to male chauvinism.

    Although I’m not an atheist, I don’t really believe god intervenes in human affairs,the god that designed the laws of physics cannot be petty enough to impose religious dogma upon us

  • Purplume
    13 April 2011 at 5:04 pm

    Those mothers who don’t wear the headscarves may be wearing a wig instead. Orthodox Jewish women sometimes wear wigs as their head covering. The idea I believe is not to show their own hair to anyone but their husband.

  • Celestialrays
    13 April 2011 at 6:52 pm

    I agree to every single thing you said. I have never agreed so much with anybody’s post. Reading this was like hearing myself aloud 🙂

    My question – how much are people going to obsess over what women wear and in which century is it going to stop really? Aren’t there better things to make a law for?

    PS: I do read your blog, but like I said before, your comments section doesn’t open on my phone. I loved this post so much that I had to comment on it. So came home and used my lappy 🙂

  • Psych Babbler
    13 April 2011 at 9:29 pm

    Bikram, re the security thing, I do agree that a woman wearing a
    fully-covered burqa should show her face in places like banks or airports as
    well as if pulled over by cops while driving for a random breath test or
    speeding or whatever. After all, passport and license photos require
    everyone to show their faces so it’s not like they have never shown their
    face when required.

  • Psych Babbler
    13 April 2011 at 9:31 pm

    True…but maybe if they really wanted to free women from being oppressed,
    they should in fact fine all the men or the parents who force women to wear
    a certain kind of clothing…that may be a burqa or a hijab but it may also
    be a dress or a sari or a salwar kameez. How many Indian women are told that
    they are ‘not allowed’ to wear jeans after marriage??? Oh well…I doubt
    it’ll be easy to police though in any case…

  • Psych Babbler
    13 April 2011 at 9:33 pm

    Welcome to this space Purplume! I can guarantee you that the mothers I am
    referring to have their natural hair. Not everyone chooses to wear the hijab
    or the burqa and against common opinion, not everyone is forced to do so…
    I also went to uni with one girl who chose to not wear the hijab but still
    dressed modestly when wearing skirts or jeans.

  • Psych Babbler
    13 April 2011 at 9:36 pm

    Tell me about it Rays! I hope that in our lifetime we will see people stop
    obsessing over what women wear…but the cynic in me thinks that’s unlikely.
    Sigh. Also, re the comment on the phone…I’ll check the settings on disqus
    re compatibility. Not sure what I can do but I totally understand not
    commenting all the time…I read blogs and don’t comment some times because
    I’m too tired or reading it at work and therefore not really logging in to
    comment… 😛

  • Sandykundra
    14 April 2011 at 1:40 pm

    the point is that for the safety that they proclaim is the reason behind the ban, they could have worded the law differently- banning any sort of covering on the face whether man or woman, but they chose muslim women and burqa. Can you even imagine a law like that here or in the US? No matter how much we criticise India we are truly a true democracy.

  • Titaxy
    14 April 2011 at 2:50 pm

    I had the same thoughts as you when I read this news. It’s one thing to go after someone who’s pushing a woman to dress a certain way and it’s whole another thing to impose rules on what and what not a woman can wear.

  • Vyankatesh Narkar
    14 April 2011 at 4:52 pm

    Well, Frankly I don’t.

    I would ask Sarkozy one question – What if we ban girls from wearing skirts? Would any French ladies survive here?

  • sarah
    14 April 2011 at 7:24 pm

    hey! i m a muslim..and i have read the Quran too. let me try n give u some insight on the issue of hijaab ( veil):
    1) BOTH men n women have been asked to dress modestly, which includes covering their whole body except the face, palms n foot in case of women and covering the portions above the abdomen in case of men in Islam. – so its not really segregation or indiscrimination.
    2) there is certain degree of purda which all believers r suppose to follow and that includes avoiding eye contact for both men and women n anything immodest.
    3) Hijab (veil) contrary to the modern belief actually HELPS women…they can concentrate MORE on their work, not loose their confidence due to the looks (which one cant alter much), they need not spend big bucks in saloon etc. plus it gives them a sense of well being n security..y shud v women make ourselves a sight of gaze for men v dont like? y shud v throw outward our sensuality to just abt anyone..a total random stranger??

    what france is doing is a shameful sight…May Almighty give them a handful of mind to foresee what right n whts wrong!

  • Psych Babbler
    14 April 2011 at 11:21 pm

    I understand the safety concern most countries have around the fully covered
    burqa. As you said, they could have worded the law differently. But apart
    from that, just making it mandatory for people to show their faces where
    security is paramount would be a better option. So say someone wearing a
    fully faced burqa goes into a bank or an airport or is pulled over by the
    police while driving, they should have to show their face.

  • Psych Babbler
    15 April 2011 at 12:58 am

    Exactly T…and the French government is basically demonstrating hypocrisy
    by doing what they think shouldn’t be done in the first place! Go figure…

  • Psych Babbler
    15 April 2011 at 1:25 am

    Exactly…it’s as good as what is done in a country like Saudi Arabia which
    most other democracies have a problem with…there all women no matter what
    religion, cannot step out of the house without wearing a burqa/hijab. It’s
    extremist. And France has done something similar. Welcome to this space
    Vyankatesh…and keep visiting!

  • Psych Babbler
    15 April 2011 at 1:48 am

    Welcome to this space Sarah! Firstly, thanks for shedding some light on what
    the Quran says re the hijab. I understand that it stresses to dress modestly
    but not necessarily having to cover one’s face. In terms of your third
    point, I think it’s each one to their own. I think it’s a bit too black and
    white to think that if a woman doesn’t wear a hijab/burqa then automatically
    she must be baring it all to be ogled at. While there are women who do dress
    in a manner to attract the gaze of the opposite sex, there are probably a
    lot more in the middle…women like me who like to wear jeans and t shirts
    or skirts and dresses occasionally, as well as pants and shirts to work. I
    wouldn’t wear a sari because I don’t feel comfortable in one. I am
    comfortable in my own skin and wearing a skirt or a dres or jeans doesn’t
    distract me from my work. At the end of the day, if there are women who
    choose to dress in a way to attract the gaze of others, that’s fine. It’s
    her choice. The same way, if a woman chooses to cover herself up from head
    to toe in a hijab or a burqa, that’s fine too. Ultimately, what I am leaning
    towards is a choice. Not what France is doing by banning the burqa. And not
    what Saudi Arabia does by making it mandatory for all women (no matter what
    their religion) to wear a burqa/hijab.

  • HP
    15 April 2011 at 1:59 am

    The cynic in me wonders if it’s less about enhancing women’s rights or more about restricting open expression of culturual differences…France is, after all, quite nationalistic.
    I don’t agree with the ban for the same reasons already stated here…it takes away people’s choice and you know what? It will be the poor woman wearing the burqha that will be fined. I seriosuly doubt they’ll ever fine anyone for forcing someone to wear it…in that scenario, if you think about the power relationship, it’s unlikely the woman involved would ever admit that.
    They did recently try to ban the dispay of cricifixes in education settings in Italy but there was a massive outcy and that’s no longer the case.

  • Psych Babbler
    15 April 2011 at 3:30 am

    HP, I don’t think you are cynical for wondering what the ulterior motive for
    the ban was…I think you are right! And yes, unfortunately, despite the
    possibility that there is a penalty for anyone forcing a woman to wear a
    burqa, it is unlikely that will ever be the case because as you pointed out,
    a woman who is oppressed, is unlikely to state she was forced. It’s a shame.
    I didn’t know about the crucifix ban in Italy…all these bans impinge on a
    person’s freedom of expression. Especially when it’s not hurting anyone!

  • Rama Mohan Akundi
    16 April 2011 at 1:55 am

    It should not be ban. If there is any security problem, they should take care with metal detectors. Their intelligence departments should work well on finding the terror activists. But banning burqa is aginst to Muslims. It will hurt the Muslim community

  • Psych Babbler
    16 April 2011 at 7:34 am

    Welcome to this space Rama! As you said, it does feel like it’s something against the Muslim community as a whole rather than just a security thing. I’m sure most of the terrorists weren’t wearing burqas!

  • Angry Ganu
    16 April 2011 at 8:06 am

    First question is why are only Muslim women supposed to wear the burkha. Why is it not applicable for the men? The answer that I see is because the Muslim man is suspicious of his women and always want them veiled.

    I think the burkha ban by the French government is a good thing. I do not consider the burkha as a piece of clothing. It is not. Rather it is a way used by Muslims to supress their women. So it does not come under the purview of clothing. Burkha looks like you are trying to hide something from people. But then if you want to hide something that will make people suspicious.

    I think the burkha can only be considered as clothing if you keep the face exposed. Covering the entire face with a burkha should definitely be banned.

  • Psych Babbler
    16 April 2011 at 10:57 pm

    Welcome to this space Angry Ganu! Apparently according to the Koran, Muslim men and women are supposed to dress modestly and cover their head and from their chin to their ankles. In the Middle East I guess we do see men wearing coverings that way too. It doesn’t say anywhere for either gender to cover their face and I agree with you that it seems quite sexist and oppressive. I understand that it will make people feel suspicious but I guess I question the government’s motive behind the ban. If they truly wanted to ‘set women free’, they wouldn’t be forcing them to wear something either and they wouldn’t just be choosing the burqa. How many Indian women are forced to wear only saris after marriage? That’s a form of oppression too, isn’t it? At the end of the day, as a woman I would like to choose what I wear. Whether it’s a burqa or a skirt or jeans or a sari or a bikini. It should be my choice.

  • Magali
    17 April 2011 at 1:55 pm

    Very well written & detailed post.
    At first I too was unsure about where I stand. I am a feminist & find the burqa very degrading to women. Women don’t have to expose if the don’t want to, there is surely a lot of modest clothing out there that women can wear. I do think (know) that this a a ploy by men to keep their women in the control. But when France banned the Burqa, my feeling were mixed. If I was ruling a country (hah!) I don’t think I would do this because at first it does seem like a religious is being targeted, unfairly. Also, many (including me) thought & said that wearing a burqa should be a personal choice. But then I read a quote somewhere saying that then we should day suicide too should be a personal choice. It’s oppressive, there is nothing remotely empowering about it. I think it many ways it is very similar to Chinese foot-binding. Another question that arises is that whether wearing a burqa is a woman’s person choice or it is something that has been imposed upon her by parents/grandparents, her husband etc & now she misguidedly claims it is personal choice because it is the only thing she knows. And I think the final & most important point in this debate is the reason that France banned it: Security. There will always be suicide bombers but a loose, fully covered garment like a burqa makes it so much easier. Also, in the age of terrorism & CCTVs women (or men, for that matter. There have been cases here where men have worn burqas for robberies & I’m sure India isn’t the only place where this happened) to hide their identities for crooked reasons. ATMs, train stations etc need to be monitored. I know this may seem radical & intolerant but if these women are so scared of other looking at their faces they should just stay at home. Besides, they can still wear a hijab, a moest hedscarf that has the whole face area visible. It’s very common in Malaysia & Indonesia.
    And that is why I support the ban & hope to see many more countries follow suit.

  • Psych Babbler
    18 April 2011 at 9:51 am

    Mags, I’m not a fan of the fully covered burqa either. And yes, I agree with
    it being difficult to identify which women actually truly choose to wear it
    given that they may be brainwashed. In terms of the security issue, the
    statistics of those committing crimes using burqas compared to those that
    don’t is far less. The thing about suicide bombers is that they don’t care
    who sees their faces…they die anyway. The hijab is more common here in
    Australia and I agree it’s a lot better than the burqa but I still feel that
    France probably are targeting Muslims.

  • Magali
    20 April 2011 at 6:44 pm

    Hmm, I agree with the bottom line. France is targeting Muslims, no doubt about that. But they aren’t really targeting muslims practicing their religion peacefully, they are targeting one evil & archaic custom of the religion, something that is old, unequal & needs to go. I kinda see it like the Purdah system & Untouchability in India, & we all learnt in our history textbooks about how the British abolished those (some of the few good things they did for India). Of course the Indians were pissed then, but in the end in was in good interests of the people & everyone of the present generation understands that clearly. I see the same way. There will be some opposition towards it, France was brave to ban the burqa & I hope they are brave enough to stand by it & also deal with terror threats from all the various Islamic terrorist groups. But in the end I hope that future generations of the world will learn about how France was the first to take this revolutionary step in the emancipation of Islamic women. 🙂

  • Psych Babbler
    21 April 2011 at 2:09 am

    I guess I didn’t think of it in the way that the Brits tried to abolish
    Purdah and untouchability…I guess only time will tell in terms of this

  • Reema
    24 May 2011 at 5:34 pm

    wow!! lots of comments. I agree with u. by imposing this ban, the French govt has proved it is not better than the Islamic fundamentalists!! This is also just another restriction. Many women may like and may have taken to wearing it as their second skin. what right does French govt have to take that away from them? 

  • Psych Babbler
    25 May 2011 at 12:14 am

    Yeah I know…I think some lurkers de-lurked for this post… 🙂

    Exactly…for many women as you rightly said, the burqa is second
    skin…it’s like stripping them apart!