French President Nicolas Sarkozy has urged parliament to form a commission to move toward banning the wearing of burkas in France--following the 2004 French ban on the wearing of Islamic headscarves in state-funded schools. In his speech, he said 'We cannot accept to have in our country women who are prisoners behind netting, cut off from all social life, deprived of identity,' and added
'the burka is not a sign of religion, it is a sign of subservience.'
It's pretty awesome to hear a male head of state speak up so strongly in favor of the dignity and autonomy of women. There's something thrilling in his calling bullshit on the notion that the burka is purely an expression of religious feeling and never a tool of oppression.
On the other hand, I think that the issue of Islamic dress is too often simplified and poorly understood by those in the West, including myself. Traditional dress can also be a strategy for preserving cultural identity in a globalized environment--a move that some Muslim women embrace.
We're sort of divided here at BUST, with reactions ranging from euphoria to skepticism. The legislation of what a woman can and cannot wear makes me uneasy, but then again, I can't deny that I think it's great that a President is seeking to radically and directly make womens' rights a priority. I'm gonna listen to some more of the NPR stories I linked to above and see if I can make more sense of it all. Tell us what you think! Is a burka always bad? Is a ban always bad?-Devan via BBC photo AP