Segregation and Burkas

Warning: contains comments on Islam

Disclaimer: not Islamophobia

I am pathologically predisposed to not being current. So although some crazy bastards killed a man in London the other day, apparently in the name of Islam, that is not what I want to talk about. I don’t want to talk about it because I don’t know how to address it. Although what they did was in keeping with their own Book, I’ve recently had a discussion with ChosenRebel about how similar behaviour is perfectly consistent with the Christian’s Book. And yet, all the Christians and Muslims I have ever met have perfectly rationalised that they are good Christians and Muslims despite feeling no guilt about preferring peace. If we could pin point what makes most people separate from the ghastly content of the Books we might be able to make some headway.

As I am predisposed to being out-of-date, let’s talk about Lawrence Krauss and the Debate that Wasn’t (I call it that because it devolved into something else, and almost didn’t happen anyway). Krauss was involved in a debate with a Muslim to discuss the question of which was more sensible. The debate was terrible. Before the debate Krauss complained that he had been promised a non-segregated audience, but that segregation was clearly being enforced. He wouldn’t have turned up if he had known, because he doesn’t want to be seen as condoning it. Also, he felt lied to.

At the end of the debate an audience member discussed the fact that she wanted to be segregated from a late-attending man who was sat near her. And this brings up the issue of liberties. Krauss was right to want the audience to be free to mingle and mix. But, the woman was right to note that her own sensitivities were being infringed upon by that man expressing his Krauss-given right to mix.

I have certain sensitivities. Public execution is one of them. I will not go to a public execution, no matter what country I am in. Notice, I take that responsibility upon myself. The woman was as free as I was to wait for the debate to come out on Youtube. The event was advertised as non-segregated, and if that would have been offensive to her she should have either accepted the risk or not attended. She should not have accepted the risk and then complained.

Stop this being an Islamic gender-segregation issue for a moment, and see it as a race issue. Imagine a person going out into the public, where they know full well people of all ethnicities are, and then complaining that a black person stood behind them in a queue. That black person has every right to be in the queue, and not wanting to be near a black person is simply an outdated sensitivity you need to get over. Imagine the issue again, where one of the people is gay. Imagine it again as an age issue, between the over-65s and the under-65s.

The same issues come in for the burka. In countries that enforce the burka, the burka is oppressive by definition and infringes on a woman’s rights. A woman may find the burka empowering, but its enforcement is subjugating. In countries that do not enforce the burka, women that wear the burka are either showing respect to their religion, feel empowered by wearing a burka, or are under pressure to wear a burka from their family, partner or community. It is only the latter one that goes against one’s freedoms. The response of some countries (I’m looking at you, France) to ban the burka is a violation of one’s right on par with enforcement to wear it.

Burkas can, however, be banned in some circumstances. Assume it can be demonstrated that a child’s emotional development can be stunted by being unable to read the facial expressions of the adults around it. Now, imagine, that a teacher in a school—who will see children for 6 hours a day, 5 days a week for several years important to that child’s emotional development—hides her emotions behind a full-face burka (until this point I have been using the word “burka” the way may do in the West: wrongly. I have been using is as an umbrella term for the full-body covering and face-covering. However, the garment that also covers the face is actually called a niqab).


10 thoughts on “Segregation and Burkas”

  1. In my view (local view), Mix classes have a meaning a girls and boys are being teach in a same class with girls sitting a right and boys at right depend, vise verse on their preference.
    I believe in Western culture, “mix” have a meaning boys and girls can sit side by side.

    I don’t see a segregation is a big issue where sometime it can solve many sexual abuse. Example, in Japan, trains are being encourage to segregate due high number of tits/ass grabbing in commuter.

    Burqa issue. Sometime I look this issue as total Western’s propaganda. I never really heard any country that enforcing burqa even in history of Muslim world. I really don’t know where the news get their facts. Correct me if I was wrong.

    1. It gets a bit complicated here. Certainly in some countries (often called ultra-conservative countries, like Afghanistan under Taliban rule) it is the law.
      I chose Afghanistan as the example so I could highlight this: even though it is not a legal requirement for women to wear a burqa in Afghanistan now, many people still enforce it by beating women who refuse.
      Both of those situations (one legal and one social) are types of enforcement.

      There are families in the UK where women are required to wear a burqa because otherwise her own family will treat her badly.

    2. Afghanistan – I called it illiterate (75%) and poor nation, so conservative idea were predictable. To compare Afghanistan and UK is were like comparing heaven and hell.

      In UK situation, a country that have high literacy, is it by banning burqa will make their family respect the woman? I believe the answer obviously- No.

      I believe every Muslim know that burqa is not a compulsory, it just a recommendation in our religion. As you already come to Malaysia, you know that no one wear burqa in my country.

      As an outsider, I see it was a failure by certain European government to educate and have a diplomacy talk to minority community. If, the local authorities have a nice talk to religious scholar regarding certain issue, I believe this issue can be easily resolve.

      In reality, no one want to talk and solve the problem. All people want to pin point and defense their system. As I know how the social argument can be very tense, I can just say “Good Luck to European”.

      1. This is exactly what my post is about: banning the burqa is as big a problem as enforcing it. Both situations get in the way of our rights.
        I saw maybe 1 person in a burqa while I was in Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur). I know it is not enforced everywhere. Having no legal comments on the burqa is the right idea!
        In my comment I wanted to point out that there is more than 1 way to force someone to wear a burqa. In Afghanistan it was the law. Now, in Afghanistan it is not the law, but some people will still hurt women that refuse to wear a burqa… and that is still forcing them to wear a burqa.
        The same is true in some families and small communities in the UK; women are forced to wear burqas, not by law but by the mentality of their family or community. Although it looks like the women are ‘choosing’ to wear a burqa, they are not! They still don’t have the freedom!

        I don’t mean to say that no women who wear a burqa are free. Some are. A girl I went to college with used to wear a burqa most days. But if she didn’t wear a burqa, no one was going to insult her or make her feel bad or hurt her. She was free to wear it, or not. And that is the way it should be.

        I think France, who banned the burqa, are as wrong as Afghanistan who used to legally enforce it.

      2. I really don’t want to comment about Afgans or Pakistani. Many Afgans or Pakistanis that I meets are really good. Yes, they are poor, but it doesn’t mean all of them have bad attitude.

        In our global community, everyone know that Middle East’s people are quite protective when dealing with woman, which is their culture. Some, Malaysian said: they have high level of jealousy, which is culture issue. Which, sometime I believe Middle East is “overprotective” and at the same time Western are over -liberal when dealing with woman… So. this is total clash of culture.

        I don’t know what is the real problem with UK or UK’s Muslim community. You also know this is happen within small community and some families, but it sound everyone Muslim have do the same things. (thanks to your media)

        As, Malaysian Muslim living outside UK and my country have a history rules under UK’ queen. I see this issue as Westernization of local culture, it has happen in the past, and it happens again today.

      3. I just want to touch a little bit about woman abuse in Afganistan.
        In Afganistan have a lot of problem which I can list down.
        1) The biggest drug supplier in world.
        2) There was a civil war. (“thanks” to US – sarcasm)
        3) Poverty,
        4) Illiteracy,
        5) Political chaos
        6) Lack of educational support

        I don’t want to defense Afgans for woman abuse, but how do you expect them to behave while they have all top world problem in one country.
        From my understanding, if I can solve all above problem, the woman right also can be defense.

        I think many educated Muslim aware about this, but they can not do much or it just another excuse..

        ***A story for sharing..
        Last week, I attend a charity visit to Hindu’s orphanage house in Penang, Mlsia with my engineer’s club. I heard from the founder said, we built up this house to help unfortunate kid that being left alone in house while parent go to works. Parent lock up their kids in house, put some foods in table. Let the kids grabs the plate on the table, the food splash on the floor, eat like the dogs. And many more….
        Did the parents want do that, she said- No. She said, the parent don’t have money to send their kids to nursery. The salary just enough to pay for the foods.

        So.. Can I blame them for become a poor people? or left their kids at home?
        I have a hard time to answer the question… Even the stories is not related with Afgans’s burqa. I believe you understand where I want to relate.

        A lesson learn here is – blaming others can not solve a problem.

  2. I totally agree.

    It is not really the place of any government, or just about anyone else to tell you what to wear, or not to wear. Clothes are an expression of identity. In case one is following a certain fashion trend, or strict religious rules, it is like relinguishing ones own identity for a group identity. Hiding in the crowd, so to speak. The question is, what kind of social pressure people hide from?

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