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Burqas, Niqabs, etc.

Reader comment on item: Ban the Burqa - and the Niqab Too

Submitted by Richard Goodman (United States), Aug 2, 2007 at 15:06

Interesting discussion, and we need to think through the issue of whether someone should not be allowed to wear a burqa because it might present a security threat. Are we really worried about a burqa as a security threat ? Aren't we concerned about it because it signifies that the person wearing a burqa is identifying herself as a member of some "other" group not ours ? Do we interpret the wearing of a burqa as a statement that the wearer doesn't want to be one of us, doesn't like us enough to want to be one of us ?

If we are going to say that a woman should not be allowed to wear a burqa because this poses a security threat, then we should ban the use of dresses and wigs. Couldn't a male criminal try to escape by trying to pose as a woman ?

I think "the burqa as security threat" is a red herring.

I taught a number of Muslim students this past year, including a young lady who always wore a burqa. She was always nicely dressed in color-coordinated outfits, had a beautiful face, animated eyes, and was a pleasure to tutor.

What's going on here is that certain things make us feel uncomfortable partly because we are not used to them and partly because they make it more difficult for us to make judgements based on our own cultural methods of making those judgements.

I have no discomfort dealing with African-Americans who wear dreds. Yet I feel faint but perceptible discomfort dealing with African-Americans who always wear sunglasses and whose eyes cannot be seen. This is because in the Western world, to quote Shakespeare, "the eyes are the window of the soul." If I cannot see someone's eyes, I cannot judge what he or she is feeling. Without seeing someone's eyes, I have fewer cues about how a person is reacting.

Does the type of clothing some Muslim women wear make it more difficult for us to read their body language ? Is this what bothers us ? Or are we just intolerant of differences ?


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