Let us reclaim what has happened in the last week for Muslim women. The 'Burqini Ban' entails women being asked to strip down for merely wearing clothes, I won't even list them, just clothes. I make it sound ridiculous, I know, but that's because it is. This incredibly complex problem has been reduced within media spheres to a simple uniform. This ban has come at no surprise to us, a symptom of state oppression over the politics of the body entrenched by years of colonial mindset and a system that consequently follows suit, through an attack on, and slow assassination of, identity. Stripping down integrity, and dignity purely to humiliate, and in the name of French secularism. History repeats itself and continues to do so, since the French colonial rule over our ancestors, imitating similar characteristics of policing and controlling the female body under the guise of cultural imperialism. Using similar tactics to dominate women through aggression. The latest twist, however, has France's top administrative court declaring the Burkini ban illegal, has deemed it a 'violation of fundamental liberties'. This begs the question as to why the global frenzy was forced upon us through our screens, to begin with.
Burkinis, on the other hand, have interestingly skyrocketed in sales reportedly by non-Muslims. Highlighting how the image of a Muslim woman sitting on the beach in a fragile, sensitive, and vulnerable position, was simply used for the consumption of media outlets for their particular agenda, as well as furthering profits in Burkini items. She has thus become victim to a system that is selling a product for media and global markets, at the detriment of her dignity. Even through her hardest endeavours to cover, and prevent herself being used as a commodity for sale and consumption in the public eye, she cannot escape the system that feeds her to a capitalist society. We have thus seen it is frustrating to a French society that is built upon hollow values of a clearly militant and homogenising secularism which sells a culture that seems to flourish through the exposure of the female body. For Muslim women to choose to maintain privacy, and modesty, withholding from the world's watchful gaze, invokes a frantic response. As Frantz Fanon reminds us,
"the woman who chooses to see without being seen frustrates the coloniser."
My mind drifted to last week when we saw such immensely talented Muslim women such as Ibtihaj Muhammad and Sara Ahmed triumph at the Olympics. Instead of only their talents and victories being championed and mentioned, headline after headline concerned itself most with their clothing. Or the many other articles stating earlier in the year, according to our mainstream media, how Muslim, female kickboxers or martial artist may only be so, due to her fears of falling victim to Islamophobic attacks in need of protecting herself, as opposed to entering the sport from a young age for the pure enjoyment of it. This further reminded me of a recent television interview I did along with a group of Muslim women about unemployment, located in an Asian restaurant, that seemed as if it had been orchestrated to ironically highlight what the broadcasters saw as our contribution and role in society: just a stereotyped group of brown women who ate ethnic food and liked complaining.
We are not a homogenised group of beings, we are multifaceted and multitalented- stop reducing us.
For some objective outsiders with little desire to speak to Muslim women directly, and with little understanding of the complex internal spiritual awakening we may feel, for covering. We look like poor oppressed little Muslim girls who have no voice and no right over whether we even want to cover. And yet so many voices speaking over Muslim women, from western feminists to academics, and journalists. Can confirm their deep-rooted (politically-orchestrated) prejudice about oppressed Muslim women all of whom are doing the very thing they claim we have become victim to, through Islam's ostensible misogyny: silencing us. Shout out to Katie Hopkins' embarrassingly ignorant LBC rant. As if we are so entrenched in oppression that we cannot see our apparent 'saviours'. A group of people that don't allow us to think of anything other than how Islam and Muslim men control us, by using forceful and controlling tactics themselves, through law and arms motivated by claims of a disingenuous concern to emancipate women in our dress. Such logic has lost all rationality.
The ban and the subsequent discussion from the international online community actually worked to affirm my values as a Muslim woman living in the west, who endures daily micro-aggressions. Personally attacking my identity, self-esteem and confidence, underlining just how massively transformative and revolutionary the act of veiling or wearing a Hijab, Burqa, Niqab, Jilbaab has become around the globe, and just how feared the act is. Muslim women who go about our daily business have managed to rock political spheres, courts, the rule of law, and media outlets, becoming the topic of debate on the lips of the world over, simply for what we look like. A platform created via scrutiny, I can't say any other religious group has been given. This serves as a further reminder, irrespective of your opinion on it, of the monumental personal shift of empowerment and self-confidence that I experience as a Muslim woman when choosing to cover in a world that has made it both challenging and dangerous to do so. Revealing the global impact these implications have. It is important to discuss modesty in this context, something that is not reserved just for us, yet we seem to the be the only group of women personally attacked for choosing to uphold such principles, and for how we choose to uphold them too.
Our duty here as Muslim women is not to convince the masses or pander to unwanted, subtle or overt, entrenched, and internalised misogynistic oppressive systems and ideologies. Adopted both by men and women, that dictate to us how we should think, or undress. Neither is it acceptable for Muslim and non-Muslim men to busy themselves with matters that do not/will never concern them. I am here on record to enlighten you on something only I am the expert of, myself. It will always be her decision and that should be as far as the discussion goes. It seems the only time Muslim women are mentioned with deep interest across the internet is by discussing their bodies or what they choose to put on them. The actual problem at hand, that perhaps someone could shed light on, is this internalised archaic colonial fetishization, that we are shockingly still forced to be a part of in 2016. There is a multitude of Muslim women with a multitude of firm voices ready to share a multitude of opinions because we are not a homogenous group, you are all just speaking too loudly over us to hear any of it.
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