Houriya at The Spittoon – where one can encounter real Muslims – has a missive up which requires a re-read to appreciate the enormity of just what took place.
Three women, two police constables and one community support officer, decided to wear full face veiled burkhas and other ‘Muslim women’s clothing’ in Sheffield, South Yorkshire, as part of an effort to understand ‘diversity’ in a police initiative titled ‘In your shoes’. The three went out shopping to feel how it was to be a Muslim woman.
I have gained an appreciation and understanding of what Muslim females experience when they walk out in public in clothing appropriate to their beliefs.
We are keen to gain a better understanding of issues which our communities face.
And I am the Queen of Sheba. During the winter, when wearing a cycling balaclava, I gain an equal understanding of what Muslim women experience – i.e. apart from muffled hearing, nothing at all. As Houriya asked, why not wear jeans and t-shirt which is a far, far more frequent choice of attire for women from a Muslim background than burqas?
Even amongst religiously-observant Muslim women in the UK as a whole and, from anecdotal reports, definitely the Sheffield area, hijabs are far more common pieces of head-wear. In the discussion thread at Harry’s Place, Judy of Adloyada called this patronizing clap-trap and:
Absolutely the worst sort of religious tourism. Those women whose particular sect of Islam leads them to wear burquas bring a particular cultural tradition and religious mindset to doing so; they will usually have come from families where this has historically been the norm, including how they think of their mothers and grandmothers’ typical ways of appearing. A set of Anlgo (possibly Afro-Caribbean, Irish etc) women dressing in burquas can’t draw on those experiences simply by putting on the garments. The exercise is totally misguided and foolish.
I quite agree. For a start, as well as being sartorial sore-thumbs in many of the predominately Muslim council wards of British cities, I would wager that they plainly would *not* have been adopting a walking-style and posture of be-burqa’d Muslim women. Men walk differently to women, and be-burqa’d women walk differently to other women.
Furthermore, at the end of this jolly jape, Sgt Leonard (is it appropriate to ascribe personal names to individuals who have concealed themselves completely) and her colleagues would have removed their apparell and returned to a (more or less) equal status in mainstream British society. The same escape is not available for those SE Asian women who may be disempowered and pressured into retreating behind fabric barriers.
It is difficult to find sterile terms to describe the grossly patronizing attitude in which individuals who consider themselves entitled to be part of secular Western society to believe that they have attained any insight into diametrically opposite attitudes – be they religiously-mandated or culturally-dictated – just by donning a few garments. So, I will settle for wide-eyed Anglo twits.
I discussed in a previous missive the oft-seen disparity between some Muslim men who feel justified in wearing comfortable Western-style clothing whilst their chattels belabour under burqas, and the admirable rejection of these double-standards from an American female convert who blogs as the Southern Muslimah.
I have said before and will say again, a basic courtesy when expecting to be able to operate in Western society is to reveal one’s face. Not just out of courtesy, but also security. Back to my cycling balaclava: absent-mindedly wore it into a bank in Thurso. Even though my face was visible, hijab-like, and even though I was clearly a cyclist and recognized by several members of staff, I had one frantic cashier asking me to take it off.
Which I did willingly and apologetically.
I would consider it be a basic requirement to reveal one’s face when entering a school (not just for security, but also so not to suggest to children that a men are dire threats to women). Still in the vicinity of Sheffield, The Daily Telegraph recently reported that Police were called in April to Our Lady and St. John Catholic Art College in Blackburn, Lancashire when one woman refused to remove her burqa but continued to attempt to gain access to her son’s parents’ evening. Although Police were not called during a similar incident at St Mary’s Sixth Form Catholic College elsewhere in Blackburn, the Lancashire Telegraph reported that a visiting teacher from the adjacent Islamiyah School declined to remove her burqa and was required to leave.
The local MP is Jack Straw, who in 2006 had made public his desire for be-burqa’d constituents to reveal their faces when consulting at his surgeries. Not only to facilitate interaction but also because, as I understand, he is partially deaf so benefits from seeing lip-movements.
When discussing the Southern Muslimah, I linked also to a statement from the Lancashire Council of Mosques which decreed that the burqa is religiously-mandated and not culturally-dictated:
Islam places great emphasis on dressing modestly. The Almighty says in the Holy Qur’aan, “O Prophet! Ask…(believing) women…to draw their cloaks (Jilbâb) all over their bodies” (33:59).
Representing the Queens Park ward within Straw’s Blackburn constituency is Cllr. Salim Mulla, whose Islamist-inclined politiking and adversion to Harry Potter I have discussed before. Reported in the Lancashire Telegraph, in his guise as the senior vice-chairman of the LCM, he stated of the incident at St Mary’s:
“I think the college staff should be understanding towards the needs of the community.
“It is a belief they have themselves.
“I don’t think people should be forced to take it off, it is what they have chosen to wear because it is their belief.”
Heartingly, two 15 year old girls accompaning her appear to have accepted that their choice to follow a certain religious confessional should not over-rule societial rules, and removed their burqas and therefore entered.
So, back the the title story, it would appear that the LCM and Islamist ethos, of patriachial control and concealment of women’s fissogs has been internalized by in a neighbouring authority area and by at least one state institution. Whilst Lubna Hussein faces a flogging in Sudan for wearing trousers, Police women in Sheffield are free to hop into and out of whichever cute ethnic costume their choose and then wax lyrical about the culturally enriching experience.
The sound we have just heard is Malalai Kakar turning in her grave.