The Niqabs and the Niqab-Nots

Thank God merry old England is finally starting to put its collective foot down on the subjugating Muslim fashion statement known as the niqab. I can just see the cartoon: a stodgy old pot-bellied magistrate in a powdered wig, turning up his bulbous red nose, stomping his bright-buckled boot down on the trailing fabric of some young Muslim college girl’s pup tent of a dress, tripping her and saying as she falls to the ground “Well!? Who knows what she’s got under there!” Recently Pakistan was asking itself the same question as it tried to squash a rebellion in “The Red Mosque” in Islamabad, where more than a thousand students were being held inside. One of two brothers heading the rebellion there tried to elude the police by leaving the mosque dressed in a black burka, officials said.

Apparently he lacked the daintier figure of the females surrounding him and hadn’t quite mastered his drag queen strut yet. Maybe it was his incredibly manly ankles that gave him away. But the Pakistani police cuffed that “Tootsie” faster than you can say “Maulana Abdul Aziz” (the culprit’s name). It is rumored that his younger brother is still hiding inside the mosque complex. One can’t help but wonder what adorable frock he hopes to wear to mask his mosque escape?

Maybe something like what Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis wore to get cozy with Marilyn in “Some Like It Hot”?

With Pakistani rebels resorting to old screwball comedy plots to elude the police, maybe the British government is not totally off base in creating a national fashion-police force. And I hope we see more of this. I long for the day when governments will lay down the law more frequently with women’s choices of dress. Maybe the U.S. will follow Britain’s lead?

Seriously, if governments are given the authority to dictate what a woman may or may not wear by banning women from wearing the niqab, I’m sure it’s just a matter of time before they will start flexing this muscle in the opposite direction. If a women covers herself head to toe and is called a dangerous extremist, couldn’t the opposite (wearing hardly anything at all) be considered its own kind of extremism? Maybe they will start posting U.S. government-issued charts and signs at public buildings to let us know what we’re allowed to wear depending on the color-codes for various security alerts – if the current security level is “orange,” women would be allowed to wear skirts at knee length but no shorter. And what shoes does one wear during an orange alert? Black? Gold? And what if it’s after Labor Day?

I really do hope that my government (like Britain) starts poking around in my closet instead of focusing on all those boys fighting that war. Personally, I need some bureaucratic fashion intervention sometimes. I recently saw a photo of myself from a party where, in hindsight, I realize I’d dressed way too slutty. That micro-mini was a bad call on my part, especially given my ample thighs. And that cropped T-shirt with the Jesus decal on it? That might have been horribly offensive to the host, who was a devout atheist! If only the government had stepped in and said, “Sorry, sister. That outfit is obviously objectifying you as a woman and is making us all uncomfortable. Get your barely-covered ass back inside to change into something more sensible or you’re under arrest.” Maybe if the United States thought more along the lines of Britain, the slutty-starlets that have become one of our prime national exports would be in serious trouble. And in France? In France they even lay down the law about women covering their hair in government-run institutions. So imagine if France started getting on women’s cases for also uncovering themselves. We could make Paris Hilton a French ambassador and see if she’d be executed! Think of the headline: “FRANCE GIVES DEATH SENTENCE TO PARIS!” Come on. Who’s with me?

If the British government is worried about more Islam-inspired terrorist attacks, fair enough. They have a right to be. But don’t they have some better way to focus their attentions than wagging their fingers at these Muslim women and deigning to suggest that it’s because they are being subjugated? Really? That’s what they’re upset about? Huh. That’s really cool that the British government is suddenly making feminist causes a top priority. Odd. But cool.

The contrary coquette in me will fight the urge to hop a plane to London and walk around in a bright purple niqab that says, “I look super sexy under here and I’m not wearing any underwear” and see what happens. Or maybe my niqab would just say simply, “That’s hot!”

And apparently the Brits aren’t about to stop at this niqab business anyway. Tony Blair, free from the shackles of his former post of Prime Minister, is getting his new position as Envoy of the Quartet on the Middle East off to a great start by running around London ripping yamulkes off of little boys. Next up: Hassidic women are left with no choice but to glue their tichels (kerchiefs) to their heads, and Gordon Brown, when he spotted a devout woman in a Tzeniut outfit (one that complies with the code of modesty), was quoted as saying “That is soooo pre-9/11. Off with her dress!”

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a dinner party to go to, to which I will wear my favorite sequined tube top and a blindfold. God bless America.

– Mary Birdsong


Comments

  1. Brian Murphy says:

    While I understand where you are coming from in terms of the rights of the individual and their freedom of expression. However, I would ask you to listen to your fellow activists, particularly Muslim and indeed ex-Muslim feminist activists, such as Maryam Namazie and Irshad Manji. While there is always room for satire and I don’t believe this piece really adds much to this complex debate.

    Personally speaking, I cannot see how anyone would think full niqab would be conducive to the independence, freethinking and personal fulfillment of women and also the healthy inter-personal relations with those they are close too. This is to speak nothing of their relations with members not of their religion even if they are as open minded as can be, you miss out on a lot of expressions when all you can see is a pair of eyes. Essentially, it is another way for men to keep their women subdued.

    While in principal it is important to protect people’s write to freedom of expression, we have to be realistic here. What we are facing is a very dangerous and subtle subversion of the modern liberal democratic values which go hand in hand with the feminist / gender equality agenda, all under the guise of multiculturalism. If one does not agree with this, one is branded a “racist” and an “Islamophobe”, this term has even been leveled at the the feminist activists mentioned earlier.

    We have to realise that PCness is not the ultimate and most important of goals here, protecting women’s rights and ndependence is. The nijab is the height of patriarchy, as it is not a question of choice for most of these women not just in Muslim countries but also in Western countries too, as Muslim communities / sectors develop which are becoming increasingly governed by their own Sharia courts in Britain where the testimony of a woman is worth half that of a mans.

    Sam Harris puts it best when he says;
    “Those who object to any attack upon the religion of Islam as “racist” or as a symptom of “Islamophobia” display a nauseating insensitivity to the subjugation of women throughout the Muslim world. At this moment, millions of women and girls have been abandoned to illiteracy, forced marriage, and lives of slavery and abuse under the guise of “multiculturalism” and “religious sensitivity.” This is a crime to which every apologist for Islam is now an accomplice.”

  2. While I understand where you are coming from in terms of the rights of the individual and their freedom of expression. However, I would ask you to listen to your fellow activists, particularly Muslim and indeed ex-Muslim feminist activists, such as Maryam Namazie and Irshad Manji. While there is always room for satire and I don’t believe this piece really adds much to this complex debate.

    Personally speaking, I cannot see how anyone would think full niqab would be conducive to the independence, freethinking and personal fulfillment of women and also the healthy inter-personal relations with those they are close too. This is to speak nothing of their relations with members not of their religion even if they are as open minded as can be, you miss out on a lot of expressions when all you can see is a pair of eyes. Essentially, it is another way for men to keep their women subdued.

    While in principal it is important to protect people’s write to freedom of expression, we have to be realistic here. What we are facing is a very dangerous and subtle subversion of the modern liberal democratic values which go hand in hand with the feminist / gender equality agenda, all under the guise of multiculturalism. If one does not agree with this, one is branded a “racist” and an “Islamophobe”, this term has even been leveled at the the feminist activists mentioned earlier.

    We have to realise that PCness is not the ultimate and most important of goals here, protecting women’s rights and ndependence is. The nijab is the height of patriarchy, as it is not a question of choice for most of these women not just in Muslim countries but also in Western countries too, as Muslim communities / sectors develop which are becoming increasingly governed by their own Sharia courts in Britain where the testimony of a woman is worth half that of a mans.

    Sam Harris puts it best when he says;
    “Those who object to any attack upon the religion of Islam as “racist” or as a symptom of “Islamophobia” display a nauseating insensitivity to the subjugation of women throughout the Muslim world. At this moment, millions of women and girls have been abandoned to illiteracy, forced marriage, and lives of slavery and abuse under the guise of “multiculturalism” and “religious sensitivity.” This is a crime to which every apologist for Islam is now an accomplice.”

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