What does the ban on burqinis in Nice really stand for? A ban against oppression – have we ever come across such conflicting terminologies in the history of any oppressed minority group? Or does it imply exactly the opposite, a group of people with the assumption that they know what the greater good is for a society.

I understand the issue stems from a particular religious belief and revolves around the fastest-growing slur, the “M” word that currently stands for Muslims around the world. But I wish to side-step the religious jargon, in the same way I do not question why B.C. stands for “Before the birth of Christ”, and why Sundays are considered the ideal day off worldwide, despite statistics of different religious faith suggesting otherwise.

I want to answer on a very basic psychological level what the needs can be behind covering your body up. Are you covering up to safeguard yourself from possible physical or emotional assault that you anticipate from the society? I know it is a persistent trend in the Indian subcontinent, where if a bunch of men are caught leering at a woman, the parents/brothers/husbands or an older female relative would immediately ask her to cover i.e. hide herself to avoid trouble. Like you can ever cover to the point of making yourself invisible to men, to stop attracting men, as if that is the primary responsibility of a girl after birth, to protect them from the evil eye. So if we all are in agreement that the eye is evil, where are the protective measures to stop that from happening? Not just in India but everywhere else in the world, why do we see happy-looking couples who are happy only till a “more” attractive looking person walks by and for a second the husband or boyfriend turns into a person with an evil eye? Where is the whisper of admonishment when that happens and why is that so acceptable for the woman?

The reason I tie the contention over the “burqini” with the most common social reason for covering up is not only due to my feministic inclinations. It is also because somehow society almost always gets it wrong! If burqinis are inviting trouble into the society, if allowing burqinis is considered a show of weakness for the French government against regressive societal thinking, then should not the policing be focused on correcting laws themselves than harassing and stripping people off their dignity? If you think these women are forced to put that on, then why force them to take that off? As simple as that.

The key word missing here is CHOICE. How the choice of dressing (for WHICHEVER reason) has been warranted as a topic of national/citywide concern is beyond me.

What’s next? Would the government also decide at some point that g-strings are bad for you because, you know, they give you a wedgie? Because of course, as a woman, you need society’s consent to make up your mind, either to keep it on or take it off!

This patronising approach that society continues to take up towards deciding what is good for a woman is what is regressive. What if some women are covering up for the wrong reasons? There are an awful lot of things people do and feel superior about in this world, all for the wrong reasons. Have we not all made flawed decisions, based on whatever reasons, with our looks at some point in our lives? Showing cleavage for the wrong reasons, dressing provocatively to interviews for “wrong” reasons, men still wear certain colognes for the wrong reasons (but I guess there the focus on body image in terms of clothing is significantly less) but so what? We all need to come to our own conclusions, and not be chaperoned, and least of all with our own choices!

The main issue here is oppression. The society needs to work on creating a safe environment for all, where nobody feels forced to follow a certain lifestyle, not in the name of religion or any societal norm at that.

Besides smoking (all the flak from society is probably not enough because we end up harming others more than ourselves) or other harmful behaviour that disrupts society as a whole, there is no need for any other commentary on our lifestyle.

On this heady globalised world we live in, there is bound to be others with a belief system incredibly different from ours. It does not make them inferior necessarily, and if Muslims do their homework, it definitely does not make them any more superior either, especially if they miss the biggest lesson of being humble and kind that Islam primarily teaches. It is just bizarre and scary how the world is taking a sharp turn away from creating inclusive societies that promote tolerance and not further disintegration.

 

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