In 2015, different cultures are celebrated - rightfully. People of different religions, races, nationalities all live side by side, the majority of whom welcome the diversity. There is one question however, which seems to pop up repeatedly and cause debate, in regards to the religious dress of Muslim women; the hijab and the burqa.
Are Muslim women who wear the burqa or the hijab being repressed? Or have they made an educated, informed and personal choice and therefore should be allowed to wear whatever they wish to wear the same as everyone else? This is the question that seems to pop up time and time again. The Koran doesn't actually mention the hijab, there is simply a suggestion of women - and men for that matter - 'dressing and behaving modestly in society.' As I don't claim to be an expert on Islam - far from that - I may stand corrected, however, the idea of the burqa seems to me to be nothing but the ideas and preferences of men who wish to repress women; be it their wives or other female family members.
In this day and age, women have the freedom, in many countries, to make their own choice in regards to wearing any form of hijab. The argument for the hijab is generally that; the taking away of the right to cover themselves - as the secular society of France has done - is no less of a restriction of human rights as some might consider the burqa to be, which can barely be argued against logically. Why swap one supposed dictation for another? However, the struggle goes on when considering why burqas were initially introduced.
Personally, when I think of the burqa, I think of strict, conservative muslim societies where women are hugely repressed and are controlled by their fathers and husbands. Countries such as Saudi Arabia where women are obliged to ask permission from their husbands or fathers to leave the country and do not have the legal right to drive, or Afghanistan where over the past few decades, at times it has been law for women to wear the burqa at all times when in public. The covering of a woman's head and face is unavoidably providing a physical metaphor for the stifling of a voice.
Many Muslim women argue that they choose to wear the burqa of their own accord in order for them to be appreciated and judged by their intellectual merits rather than their physical appearance. This, I consider to be an brilliant idea, but again, I can never shake the idea of why the burqa came to be used in the first place. Women may be free to make that decision now, but isn't that due to feminism? And is that the case across the world? What about the countries that don't know the meaning of the word feminism? Does that mean that in countries who give women freedom and equality, the burqa is acceptable, but in countries that don't provide fundamental human rights for women and don't provide education other than the teachings of a religious nature, the burqa is debatably a tool or method of repression?
Many people are yet to come to a conclusion on whether the burqa is repressive or not and even to a conclusion as to whether the burqa should be a topic of debate, people arguing that it should just be accepted no questions asked. However, isn't that the nature of our society? To question everything, especially things which may seem controversial, to learn, to be educated, to try to ensure the freedom of everyone, especially the half of the population who have been repressed right throughout history by all religions and all governments?
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