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Burqa Ban


The ban on the burqa imposed in Sri Lanka in the aftermath of the Easter bombings, inspired the Shiv Sena mouthpiece, ‘Saamna’, to demand the same in India. The party, later, disassociated itself from the editorial, but this has brought the issue to the fore once again.
If there are arguments against the burqa and the hijaab, these have more to do with women’s equality rather than security. There are other ways to conceal one’s identity. The Sri Lanka bombers, notably, were men and openly carried backpacks into the churches without being checked.
The issue with the burqa is when women are forced to wear them for religious and social reasons. A woman has the right to wear what she wants, be it the burqa or a bikini. This choice has to be determined for reasons of ‘fashion’, which is basically a psychological statement. If a woman feels a burqa provides comfort in public places, or from the gaze of men, she may use it. She must, however, not feel or be compelled to do so by others. In India, by and large, women have had this choice. The burqa has been a garment of convenience, easily folded into the handbag when not needed. Unfortunately, in recent times, it has acquired a new aggressive look – carried around like a tent, shouting out a political and religious identity – something imported from the radicalised communities of Western countries. Instead of indicating that the women come from a ‘conservative’ background, it explicitly emphasises a religious duty that cannot be violated. It speaks of male dominance and the female’s subjugation to his will.
It most likely does not find justification in the Quran as experts would have us know there are just two or three verses on the subject. These focus on giving women private space and are not an exhortation to have ‘modesty’ enforced on them. Modern day radical clerics have turned this principle on its head, instead, to ‘imprison’ women in their space.
It is, of course, a great inconvenience for working women, which is why it has been coming increasingly into disuse. It has been a gradual process as women enter the work force and take on non-traditional and leadership responsibilities. On the other hand, irrespective of religion, the plains of India in summer force all women to wrap up their faces as protection from heat, dust and pollution! Freedom from the burqa is coming gradually – it should be ensured there is no compulsion from others, either way, regarding its use. This way is the best, because it will prove the most effective!