A guest post by the wife – One of her assignments was to write a critique of an Op-ed and she chose to Critique Linda chavez’s piece on banning burqas.
Linda Chavez in “banning the veil” supports the French/European trend to ban burqas and supports banning them in the united states also. She makes three of the commonest objections against burquas, but fails to present any real evidence apart from personal experience and broad generalizations to back her statements. Her main argument seems to be that burqas are a sign of oppression, and so must be banned, by which she confuses something that has a potential for abuse with absolute evil, not to say takes a patronizing stance towards all Muslim women.
She begins by stating that the question of Religious freedom vs. Security of “others” is a complicated issue, however, her arguments and conclusion show none of the dilemmas she alludes to and are simply one sided. By her opening statement, she also creates an “us vs them” divide, as if burqa wearers are in no need for security and are separate from those whose security they compromise. This is the first indication that her batting for oppressed women is more politically motivated than genuine concern.
Her first argument is that since burqas conceal the whole body, they are a security risk. To support this she refers to a couple of instances of burqas being used to conceal weapons and evade detection. There is no doubt that this does happen, but then, a long trench coat, a loose sweater or practically any loose clothing can be used to hide weapons. Also, criminals use all sorts of methods from face paint to stockings to hide their faces. A majority of crimes committed, terror included are done by people wearing jeans, t shirts and other forms of clothing, so an argument from statistics makes burqas the least of the threats. Clearly, banning clothing all together is the only solution, if one were to ban all clothing that has ever been worn to hide weapons. (remember the underwear bomber?) Interestingly enough, the perpetrators of both the crimes she alludes to were later caught.
It is also good to note that Muslim women are not the only ones who wear body-covering clothes. Khasi women in India, Buddhist monks, a large number of African traditions and more have clothes that can be considered “security risks”.
She then goes on to say that burqa is worn by a minority, and the Koran does not stipulate its use. To begin with that is a misrepresentation. Burqas have always been more common in certain geographic regions and among certain religious sub groups among Muslims, and among these, majority are burqa wearers. Furthermore, I am not sure what she is saying here, because clearly a religious stipulation is no defence against something that is a serious threat to security. She also forgets to mention that the Koran is clear that women should dress modestly, a point that she takes an exception to in her next and most elaborate objection against burqas. People of all faiths choose what they wish to follow from their religious teachings, and being allowed to choose what one wishes to follow is the absolute basis of religious freedom, or freedom it self. So an argument from theology does not serve an purpose here at all.
Her final and most elaborate argument is that Burqas are a sign of male oppression. Sure burqas can be sign of oppression, but then, any clothing can be. In a patriarchal society, anything, from clothing to posture can be used as a tool for oppressing women, and this can happen in any part of the world. But then, it can be argued that women who wear high heels- shown to be bad for their backs- are being oppressed by a society with narrow views on beauty and are being oppressed. Should shoes made in sweat shops or clothing made by underpaid workers in china also be banned? The greatest tragedy of this argument is the generalization, and the authors ignoring of the fact that women are increasingly choosing, by their own free will to don the burqa. She mentions that the burqa is increasingly available in the west, indicating that more women in the west are wearing burqas, but implicit in this argument is the belief that western women are increasingly being oppressed by men. An argument that is unsubstantiated and frankly absurd. Universities in the US are full of burqa/hijab wearing young women pursuing careers in everything from medicine to philosophy, if the authors generalization were to be accepted, it would mean that all these women were in fact oppressed and helpless.
She goes on to imply that since burqas are hot and uncomfortable, women would not wear it by their own choice, by this argument, all clothing worn by women in the east would be oppressive, Indian women wear saris in higher temperatures, yet no one questions their volition or freedom.
Just because something has a potential for abuse does not make it evil and more, does not warrant banning or disapproval. It is clearly more important to reduce the potential for abuse by ways that have been tested and proven over these last decades of womens emancipation- helping women with education, dignity and freedom.
In conclusion the author tries to build a case for women, against burqas, and her lack of paying any attention to the facts of the matter betray her underlying political bias, not her passion for womens emancipation.
In conclusion, I, the husband agree with my wife, clearly demonstrating the patriarchal need to be in control.