Wednesday, August 24, 2016

On Burkinis and Bikinis

There is this unhealthy obsession with the bodies of women. Muslim women in particular. The thematic discussion regarding women’s bodies is always in policing what Muslim women can and cannot do with their own bodies supported by a strict interpretation of religious texts and a botched sense of liberalism.
Right from time immemorial, Muslim women are forced to have to choose between covering up and not covering up, making the Islamic ruling on hijab/headscarves a black and white affair whilst ignoring the grey area. Due to a patriarchal interpretation of Islam, women of the Islamic faith have often found themselves having to choose between wearing the hijab and not wearing the hijab with both choices been politicized.
Muslim women are stuck--going forward, a liberal western society that claims they refuse to integrate and--moving backwards, meeting a religious society that claims they are forcing westernization upon themselves hence losing their virtuousness and the essence of being “flowers” (or whatever metaphor they use to describe the reasons behind forcing women to cover up).
The recent Burkini (a type of swim wear Muslim women wear to the beach instead of swimsuits) ban in France is no different from the forced hijab in Iran. What differentiates forcing women to cover up and forcing them to not cover up? Whilst in the process of this discussion, the ability to choose which is a fundamental aspect of being human has been removed for the Muslim woman hence, absolving her of her humanity meaning, objectifying her.
Whether it is in Iran or in France, the politicizing of Muslim women’s bodies is the biggest play in the disappearance of women. You cannot help but wonder why there is an excessive amount of fuss over a piece of clothing.
The forced hijab in Iran is a political act to stifle women. If you force women to hide behind a veil, you force them to remain in their place (usually at home without any real influence in governance or leadership), and if you force a woman to take of her hijab, you force her to literally have to hide at home and not be out in public space. Here is the part where some of you would ask “Well why don’t they take it off?”. It is not as simple as that.
The hijab is a lot more than a political/religious symbol, to some women, it is a spiritual act of worship. Women who choose to wear the hijab do so in accordance with the wives of Prophet Muhammad S.A.W whom were deemed the most pious of all women, they choose to protect their sanctity with a hijab, to cover their body while in the presence of people whom were not immediate family. To some women, it is an empowerment tool and taking that away from them is taking away their power over their body. It is a violation of human rights. The hijab is no different than the scarf nuns wear. If a woman can wear a bikini to the sea without humiliation, why can't another woman wear a burkini to the sea without humiliation? Double standards? 
This hijab discourse has polarized Muslim women into two different ideological positions. To accept the hijab is to be extremist and to reject the hijab is to be secular/western. This is the part where we insert a grey area where a woman can both be Muslim+not wear the hijab and also Muslim+wear the hijab yet still active members of the society.

The west wonders why Muslim women do not integrate when an inclusive environment for the successful integration of Muslim women into their communities is not created. The recent burkini ban in France if anything, has set the west back hundreds of years. In 2016, where western women are granted the freedom to walk the streets wearing close to nothing, Muslim women have being rejected the freedom to be fully covered, citing “security” concerns as supporting grounds. 
This is the absolute hypocrisy of secularism and we should all be rightly outraged.


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