In some countries – Britain is certainly one – such Muslim women are being given vouchers for Vitamin D supplements, fortified baby formula, fruit and vegetables . This is a typical politically correct reaction – but why is it not deemed politically incorrect for the state to encourage in this way a garment which is a prison for women, designed to protect one man’s sexual property from the gaze of other men?
Have people like Spelman never read what women who have worn the burkha or niqab say regarding what it feels like to wear these erasures of their femininity and personal identity?
Here, for example, is a British-born journalist of Pakistani origin, Zaiba Malik, describing her experience of the niqab (and remember, folks, that’s not the one with the grille, which must be terribly hard on the wearer’s eyes):
“The reality is, I'm finding it hard to breathe. There is no real inlet for air and I can feel the heat of every breath I exhale, so my face just gets hotter and hotter. The slit for my eyes keeps slipping down to my nose, so I can barely see a thing. Throughout the day I trip up more times than I care to remember. As for peripheral vision, it's as if I'm stuck in a car buried in black snow. I can't fathom a way to drink my cappuccino and when I become aware that everybody in the coffee shop is wondering the same thing, I give up and just gaze at it.”And here’s Elizabeth Wynhausen, a Sydney journalist, who similarly experimented with wearing the niqab:
“I found that even on a mild spring day, the outfit was suffocatingly hot. The cloak restricted my movements. The veil restricted my vision. The straps pressed on my eyeballs. With my head swaddled in cloth and my face covered, I felt I could scarcely breathe. The sense that I had become an alien being was more oppressive still.”The banning of the burkha and the niqab can be justified on the grounds of health and safety alone. It’s not just the risk of rickets. The restriction of peripheral vision has caused car accidents even for experienced wearers, and there have been accidents in which wearers have been strangled to death when the garments have become lodged in machinery – this happened recently in Australia, when a young mother’s head covering became entangled in a go-kart.
Tellingly, the disgusted stares that greeted Ms Malik and Ms Wynhausen as they went about their business fully covered was not confined to non-Muslims; there were plenty of dismayed glances from Muslim women dressed less drastically, in hijabs and long skirts. At a recent demonstration against proposals to ban the face veil in public held in Sydney, a niqab-clad speaker railed that "Islamic values are superior to flawed Western secular values”. For women like her (and the men who often compel them to drape themselves in what is effectively a portable form of purdah), the face-covering is emblematic of rejection of the surrounding culture and of integration.
But it’s not as if the Quran makes the all-enveloping garments mandatory. There is no shortage of imams and Muslim scholars who have pointed that out. Syrian universities have banned such garments even as western “liberals” strive to present bans as “Islamophobic”. As the Canada Muslim Congress observed in a long and thoughtful article:
"We believe that the facemask worn by some Muslim women [is about] political symbolism that reflects the contempt of radical Islamist groups for Western civilisation. Today, the only forces that demand Muslim women to cover their faces are: the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, the Arab World [and Europe], Al-Qaeda, and the Saudi religious establishment. All four groups see women as a source of sin and objects of sexuality, and Canada and the freedom of women in Canada and the West as manifestations of evil sexual depravity. Yet it is worth noting that leading clerics and scholars from both the Shia and Sunni communities have stated quite explicitly that the burka or niqab are not an Islamic requirement, but a cultural and tribal custom."There is also the security issue: male robbers and other criminals (not only in non-Muslim countries) have dressed in burqas to disguise themselves, and there is also the threat of terrorists concealing weapons.
And for a taste of life in Islamic London see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xdRfT76s7UQ&feature=player_embedded