Comments: Classic Interviews: "What's With the Burqa?" - Part II

If women are the "weaker sex" then why are you against them having an "unfair" advantage? Personally, I think they might be weaker, but are given so many advantages in life by USA culture that guys are emasculated. Forget burkas, I say we make them shave their heads.

Man, I just can't stand a girl without a baldy!

Posted by tim at July 8, 2009 01:41 PM

Where is the WOMAN'S opinion on this?

Posted by Mike Meyer at July 8, 2009 02:30 PM

I dunno.

Posted by the WOMAN at July 8, 2009 04:55 PM

Having grown up in a secular country but with religious population, I saw women in burquas everywhere. There were denominational schools ( Catholic, Muslim, Jain etc ) where boys and girls were segregated and to me as a school kid, it did not seem out of place.
But there were college students in my class who wore burquas when out on the street but removed them when in the class room. It just seemed so very normal, for a segment of the population which I considered relativley conservative ( like a Hindu woman covering her head with her sari when she was with her in-laws or Christian women covering their heads when going to church on Sundays ). However none of my Muslim friends wore a burqua and do not remember seeing anyone in a Hijab.

However, few years ago, on a visit to my family, I was shocked to see a friend wearing a burqua for the first time. She had never worn it. She is an artist, a designer and had love marriage. Apparently, her husband had become THE assistant to their spirtual leader, who decided on how his followers should live and she was required to wear the burqua. What was amazing was, when I went shopping with her, she took out her burqua in the shop, bought expensive fabrics for burquas ( she was going to design them and get them made for some women who were getting married--a fashion statement as Prof Chazelle mentioned ) and then put her burqua on before leaving the shop. Now, my friend has apparently TOTAL FREEDOM to do anything she wants, go wherever she wants, meet anyone she wants BUT when out on the street, she has to wear the burqua.This is just one person's story but it can be multiplied thousands of times. This is NOT Total Freedom for me but for her, she has not rejected it.

Prof Chazelle, your "interviews" are great and I had never thought of 'burquas' the way you have described them. However, when you stated, "But, patience, the burqa will go away on its own," were you referring to their disappearing from the western society only? They have not disappeared from secular India ( with second largest Muslim population ) and I do not claim to be an expert but I do not believe they will be disappearing soon. Is it because it is such a regular part of the society and seems so normal that does not merit a second glance? Something similar is, without any relation to level of education, economic class or gender, a significant part of the population thinks, it is normal to not question the societal norm of arranged marriage. Individuals grow up with the idea that that is the only way though some wish it to be otherwise.

Posted by Rupa Shah at July 8, 2009 07:29 PM

One little thing.
I have a hard time completely seeing the burqa as cutting people off from the public sphere because of something I read once (I know, I know) that said that some folks did a study to verify anecdotes and found that indeed, people who grow up seeing people covered a lot learn different ways of recognizing people they know and, well, do a better job of distinguishing who's who in a crowd of covered women than an outsider would. So I do think maybe just like you talk about people who can't understand French opinions about the burqa because there are French opinion "givens" in general that they don't understand...I feel like maybe in the same way, both of your articles are rather off the mark the whole time because of this "given" that isn't in the back of your mind. (That is, the lifelong "given" that it's quite possible for people to be recognized while wearing the burqa out in public.)

Another thing to remember about double standards is that it's not JUST "accepting your oppression" to live your life according to the standard set for your sub-group. It's...more complicated than that. I just posted about Sarkozy's comment on my blog, myself, and there I wrote that just because I think men and women shouldn't have different sexual behavior expectations put on them doesn't mean I approve of the one given to men. I live, sexually, as I feel would be a good way for PEOPLE to live (sexually). And that is pretty darned close to my culture's expectations of white, upper-middle-class, young female sexual behavior. Of course I picked that for myself because it was the path of least resistence. I don't deny that. But...that doesn't mean I'm not fighting to change my culture's standards. But one can't tell whether or not I'm fighting to change my culture's standards by looking at the fact that I 90% chose the path of least cultural disapproval for my own behaviors. One just. can't. tell. by. that.


Posted by Katie at July 8, 2009 07:53 PM

Rupa Shah & Katie: THANK YOU BOTH, I live in Wyoming and everybody does pretty much what they want and they damn sure wear what they want, women and men. Women are commonly HUNTERS in this society of which some have the better gun collections. Its against OUR 1890 State Constitution to discriminate against women although I noticed they STILL get paid less. I suppose The Ledbetter Act changes all that.

Posted by Mike Meyer at July 8, 2009 08:31 PM

The Sherbini killing had nothing to with Sarko's slime but it might be an indication of popular feelings in Europe about Muslims and explain why Sarko thinks he has a winning issue. Of course it also works the other way. In a story on the Sherbini killing in the Guardian :

because it occurred just days after Nicolas Sarkozy gave a major policy speech denouncing the burka, many Egyptians believe the death of Sherbini is part of a broader trend of European intolerance towards Muslims
Posted by empty at July 9, 2009 12:29 AM

When the Muslims realize the obvious superiority of the Christian version of the Abrahamic god, everything will get better.

It shouldn't be too long now.

Posted by mcthfg at July 9, 2009 01:38 AM

So, it looks like there's no way to tell if the wearer of the burqa is male or female... seems to me to be a great opportunity for gender/fashionfuck. If women won't take them off, then men should put them on!

Posted by Currence at July 9, 2009 11:31 AM

Dear Professor Chazelle,
overall, you gave a very fair and balanced commentary. But I don't find any reason why the burqa will go away on its own. The freedom that exists in Western societies does not automatically "percolate" into the life of Muslim women (or men, for that matter). On the contrary, after almost 50 years of Turkish immigration into Germany, Turkish families in Germany are often more stringent than in Turkey. Hardly a year goes by without another case of a "honor killing" of a woman (=daughter, sister) who fails to comply by her family's standards. Whether the situation in France is similar and a ban of the burqa would remedy this situation is not clear, but it certainly does not promote integration.

Posted by Peter Hinow at July 9, 2009 12:35 PM

"But Westerners shouldn't be too smug. They have their own 'burqas.'"
Original image here.

Posted by roy belmont at July 9, 2009 04:38 PM


Actually that murder stunned Germans because you just don´t commit a crime like that in front of a court. It just isn´t/wasn´t done....
That guy will face a life sentence.
Not to mention that probably nobody involved even heard Sarkozy´s speech.

While murdering a Christian priest in Turkey or a nun in Somalia, of course, is just an action of a Muslim extremist? And in no way describes the feelings of Muslims?

Quite simply put, I´ve had it. Why is this murder that important?
I notice that no Muslim country was that bothered by (Muslim) honor killings in Europe. Obviously that was a-okay somehow.

Any country - regardless of religion - which wants to judge us...
Prove to us that you are treating religious minorities better than we do in Europe?

I´ve had it.

Posted by Detlef at July 9, 2009 05:40 PM

roy belmont:
Thanks a ton for the link to the Library of Congress...great material on the website.

Posted by Rupa Shah at July 9, 2009 05:52 PM

Detlef, you are right. All those honor killings in German courts have totally not been covered.

The point of the post was that while Sarkozy might be aiming to win support from the racist right with a wink and a nod, as evidenced by the quote from the Guardian, he might get more tightly tied to the racist lunatic fringe than he might consider useful to his political ambitions. Or maybe it not possible to be too tightly tied to the lunatic racist fringe nowadays.

detlef: Not to mention that probably nobody involved even heard Sarkozy´s speech.
empty: The Sherbini killing had nothing to with Sarko's slime

How on earth should we resolve these contradictions?

Posted by empty at July 9, 2009 06:24 PM

Any speech or action by an elected official or an ordinary citizen which causes animosity against an individual or a group of people leading to violence against them is just not acceptable. It is not a matter of Muslim countries not being bothered by honour killing ( I am sure they are but our MSM do not provide that kind of information ). It is about what kind of society we want to live in and it is not about judging your country but imho we should be the judge if we have indeed created such a society. What happened in Seattle yesterday would certainly not be acceptable to anyone.

"Man says threats against Muslims were to 'defend America' "

Posted by Rupa Shah at July 9, 2009 06:31 PM

I don't think a ban on the burqa would work. How would they enforce it?

Posted by Jenny at July 11, 2009 09:10 PM

Honor killings are outlawed in the Middle East IIRC.

Posted by Härj at July 12, 2009 09:07 PM

There is an excellent post on 'Honour Killing' on
"Obsidian Wings"

Posted by Rupa Shah at July 13, 2009 04:15 PM

A very good article by an excellent British columnist, supporting Prof Chazelles's point of view.

"Wearing the burqa is neither Islamic nor socially acceptable"
To deny face-to-face interaction is to deny our shared humanity.
By Yasmin Alibhai-Brown

Posted by Rupa Shah at July 13, 2009 10:27 PM