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The Burqa Is A Coffin: A Muslim Feminist Speaks Out

By Yasmin Alibahi-Brown

Yasmin Alibahi-Brown, a Muslim feminist, speaks out against the veil (hat tip to Alison of IBA-UK):

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Jack Strawís politics usually make me either furious or bilious. That stammer, that fake sincerity, that oily handshake he extends to Ďethnic minoritiesí, his immoral support for the ignominious war in Iraq and domestic laws that curtail civil liberties, the unholy fiefdom he runs in Blackburn- the list is long.

Suddenly the expedient appeaser has come out against the veil and I find myself agreeing with his every word. It is time to speak out against this objectionable garment and face down the Islamicists who endlessly bait and intimidate the state making demands that violate its fundamental principles.

A blizzard of protest has blown up and Straw has been denounced an Islamaphobic by these ideologues who have reverted to what they do best, group blackmail. As reactionary have been the views of feminist white women who attack Straw for being aggressively proscriptive. As a man, they say, he has no business telling women what to wear. As an MP, I say, he has an obligation to express his concerns to his constituents. We donít yet live in an Islamic Republic where men and women are forced to live on separate planets.

Millions of Muslims in Europe abhor these obscurantists. That they have brainwashed young women, born free, to seek subjugation breaks our hearts. Trained creatures often prefer to stay in their cages even when released. I donít call that a choice. A liberal nation has no obligation to extend its liberalism to condone the most illiberal practices as long as it ensures genuine equal standards for all.

The media lurches drunkenly between pandering to Muslim separatists and maligning us all as the aliens within. It is hard to be a Muslim today. And it becomes harder still when some choose deliberately to act and dress as aliens. The young women in niqab who claim they have made the decision without coercion understand nothing about the sacred Islamic texts, struggles for gender equality, history or the unpleasantly sexual symbolism of what they claim is just one more lifestyle choice.

ĎOh I wonít have that green coat, think it is the black shroud for me, suits me better donít you think?í

Britons who support them are clueless about the silent march of Wahabism. I have been uncomfortable for years about the rapid spread of the hijab too because for Islamicist puritans it is the first staging post on a road map that leads to the burkha, where even the eyes are gauzed over. Some young hijabis say they feel wanton and must go Ďhigherí to the niqab.. So when does this country decide that it does not want citizens using their freedoms to build a satellite Saudi Arabia here?

We canít answer that question because Islamicists say we are not allowed such national conversations. Straw isnít because he is a white man; Deborah Orr isnít because she is a white woman; parliament canít because there is no Muslim woman MP in it; I am not because I am a bad Muslim. Well stuff that I say.

The Koran does not ask us to bury ourselves. We must be modest. These fools who are taking niqab will one day suffocate like I did but they will not be allowed to leave the coffin.

They are choosing something they donít even understand.í The sexual signals of the hijab and niqab are even more suspect. They are physical manifestation of the pernicious idea of women as carriers of Original Sin whose cheek or a lock of hair turns Muslim men into predators. In Denmark a mufti said unveiled women asked for rape.

As if to order, rape by Muslim men of white women is rising alarmingly. In truth half naked women and veiled women are both beings solely defined by sexuality. One group proffers it, the other withholds it. A six year old girl in a boob tube and in hijab are both symbols of unhealthy sexual objectification. Western culture is wildly sexualised and lacking in restraint. There are ways to avoid falling into that pit and the veil is not one of them

The niqab expunges the female Muslim presence from the landscape handing the world over to men. It rejects human commonalities and membership of society itself.

The women observe fellow citizens but remain unseen, like CCTV cameras. They dehumanize themselves and us.

There are practical issues too. I have seen appallingly beaten Muslim women forced into the niqab to keep their wounds hidden. Veiled women cannot swim in the sea, smile at their babies in parks, feel the sun on their skin. How are passports to be checked and exams taken? Women can wear what they want in their homes and streets, but there are societal dress codes. Public and private institutions should have the right to ask citizens to show their faces to get goods and services. Hoodies and crash helmet wearers already have to. Why should niqabis be exempt?



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