Switzerland: here are my views on Burqa



German Translation:  click here

A few weeks ago, I was invited to a reunion of the association of freethinkers inSwitzerland, and was accompanied there by Daniel Stricker the blogger and youtuber, who happens to be also the president of freethought association in St. Gallen.

During our journey by train, we discussed a document prepared by his association concerning a bill presented by the Swiss People’s Party, which demanded a legal ban on burqa in Switzerland. My friend Daniel was hesitant, particularly because this topic is closely related to human rights issues, like individual freedoms, and women’s right to dress as they see fit, but he completely agreed with the local freethinkers’ point of view: ” I am against the burqa but also against the banning of the burqa.. because in Switzerland it is simply not a problem yet. And right-wing parties (members of these parties who are christians) want to make that an issue in order to gain votes. I cannot support that.

As a person with an Islamic background, who understands the implicit significance of burqa, I replied:

To me burqa enforces gender inequality and contempt for women. I may even say that it’s a denial of her existence, and her right to share the public space. It’s as if Islam, with its hijab and burqa, wants to tell us that the normal place for a woman is between the walls of her home, away from the prying eyes of society, in an attempt to isolate her and deprive her of her right to share experience in society, to communicate and make friendships.
So how can we accept such a grave infringement on women’s rights in Western societies without any attempt to fight such a backward and sick culture, where women are reduced to a hole for sex, and a machine to procreate and cook, when their counterparts in the West compete with men in all intellectual and artistic fields? We may accept with much pain and grievance to see women wearing burqa on TV or on the Internet, in Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan or Iran… but allowing such slavery creep into Western countries like Switzerland under the guise of respecting alternative cultures, would be unacceptable. How can I respect a culture that degrades the value of women and infringes on their basic rights? It’s like being asked to respect Nazism or stoning in Iran! Frankly, it’s an attempt to spoil European sophisticated taste, by exporting the culture of hijab and burqa to the West, where forward steps had already been taken in such matters since the beginning of the Renaissance and the Enlightenments, thanks to the great sacrifices of feminist movements.
Burqa, as a form of disguise, is a big threat to security in the social milieu, because the face is the best way we can recognize a person, and the means through which we can communicate with the people with whom we share the public space, thus sharing emotions implicitly, like the feeling of security or fear. How can I feel secure in a bus for example, when the person next to me is hiding their face, and I can’t know whether they’re a man or a woman, a friend or a foe?
Hijab and burqa convey dangerous religious and racist messages as well: a girl dressed thus conveys the idea that she would only marry a Muslim or someone who converts to Islam (after they had undergone a circumcision), which would severely hinder their ability to integrate into Western society. Every Muslim expects that his sister (in the religious or literal sense alike) would only give birth to a Muslim, and that’s why such mode of dressing, like burqa and such, should be prohibited in educational institutions, and other social and economic sectors. Hijab, despite giving off a similar connotation, remains a moderate form of Islamic dressing, and though I’m not in favor of that practice (why wouldn’t Muslim men, for the sake of equality, cover their hair as well?), I don’t think a legal solution regarding it should be sought at this point. I have to say that a legal ban would not suffice by itself to solve this issue: Islam has to be reformed, so that Muslim women can have the right to marry non-Muslims… and so that the old teachings are renewed, because they belong to the past, whereas the future is for freedom, equality, and human rights. But, because there seems to be no will to renovation and intellectualization within the body of Islam, the legal solution is the only one available.

During my visit to Zurich, I was surprised to see women sitting near the river that runs through the city, with their children, wearing burqa. The scene seemed exotic to me despite the fact that I was used to seeing women with hijab and burqa in my own country Morocco, because I was not expecting that such a sick mentality has gone beyond its borders, infecting everything like a cancer.

It is not a necessary practice of the religion as many extremist scholars try to depict it, but a mere recent invention in its present form by the salafist current. Similar forms of dressing existed long before Islam as well in nearby civilizations, but when they started to spread among the Muslim population, they were not stopped; instead, the then new dress was encouraged by many as a means to enslave women and restrict their movements even more.
Some people may say that burqa cannot be considered as a “phenomenon” in Switzerland, to justify a legal ban; but why not? Why do we have to wait until the problem becomes a phenomenon, with a large base of supporters, and then the challenge would be greater, and it would be quite difficult to ban burqa legally? It would be wiser to ban burqa and any cultural practice that degrades the value of women and diminishes their freedom.

I beseech human rights activists to discuss phenomena socially and historically before making any positive or negative judgment, instead of using the method of a sports critique, which is weak and unacceptable. Burqa wearing may seem like a right that should be protected, but in fact it’s no more than the manifestation of negative and inhumane culture.

Posted on July 23, 2011, in Secularism, Switzerland and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 14 Comments.

  1. I like your arguments.

    I wanted to add that before, slaves loved or worshiped their masters, But in parallel slave revolutions was in countries where it was a culture of human rights.

    And I think it is the same for girls wearing Burka, they are slaves, and the master is the husband or the father. furthermore they are protected by islam, an unclear and disturbing religion.

    Banning the Burka, will free them from some of the islamic instructions.

    I hope burka will be banned in Morocco too.

    • EL HOUTI Youssef

      Rami, First of all I want to apologise for my bad english, second. A Morrocan saying that, sorry to say that you’re making me seek. Burqua or Hijab it’s a choice U want to bane Burqua and Hijab, and see naked woman? those woman waring scarf respect as and don”t show as there privat parts thay were as they like ho do U tink U are to ask them to show you here face or here hair, for here it’s privat and they reserve that for the man they love, I live in swizerland and I hate seeing all day this naked women exiting me all day long. they attempt to my freedom to sse where I want, i wouls like to go out and look wherever I want withoot having to sse naked women every where around me. if women where waring respectable dresses they wouldn’t be all this sexual harselment, and agressions. to end I would say it’s there choce there life there body U can’t ask them to show it to you that attempt to freedom not the opposite.

      • By “naked” I gather you mean (and I am not sure because your English is really confusing) women who do not wear strict islamic dress?

        Firstly, I do not see where you see “all this sexual harselment, and agressions”. I have to say, about 90% of men who sexually harrassed me were Muslims, not Westerners. In fact, sexual harrassment is much more a problem in countries where women dress “properly” (islamic), than in Western societies.

        This of course does lead me to the question: What is wrong with Muslim men? Do they have no honour? Of course the answer to this question is: No, they don’t. They think it is acceptable to behave like a dog running in the street, they are cowards who beat and kill their women. No crime is more misnamed than the “honour killing”. What man of honour would beat – or kill – someone weaker than himself? There is no honour there. It is shameful.

        The next question of course is: Why? I could probably spend the whole night arguing that case, but the short answer to the question is: Because your belief allows you to behave like dogs in the streets. It does not ask you to better yourselves, to become more honourable, more in control of yourself. Instead it tries to “hide temptation”, robbing everything from the women, and giving everything to the men.

        If you do not want to see “naked” women any more, I strongly suggest you leave Europe and go to a country where your fellow citizens will be just as dishonourable and un-disciplined as yourself. May I suggest the Iran, or Saudi-Arabia?

        Rest assured, we will not mourn your loss.

      • I didn’t realize that a woman’s face was a “private part.” If so, why don’t men cover up their faces? Why should I be forced to cover up, but you men don’t? Your “rights” end when they interfere with my rights. You get exited by a woman’s face? You’re a dog.

      • Hey Achmed. Get some explosives and go blow yourself.

  2. This article, to the lay man, should be very surprising: How a person from Islamic backgrounds can be this cruel towards his own culture. To me this is nothing but a trivial inconsiderable comment of someone who seriously suffers from a lack of amour propre inferiority complex issues.

    I do encourage intellectual debates, I would love to hear and witness a debate about the Burqa, or even more important subjects regarding Islam. I believe that while your Europe was wallowing in endless ignorance, Islam has raised the banner of debate since it’s emergence over 1400 years ago. This is because Islam is powerful enough to defend itself against all kinds of fallacies and misconceptions.

    The problem of the world now is not Islam. There are many and way more important issues that you should direct more focus on. 140 000 people around the world die of hunger every year. They die because of economic dependency to America and Europe. The west is killing the rest of the world while you are celebrating their morals. The same morals that Islam brought to humanity a long time ago.

    There are many examples in history of yourselves, people who strip themselves off their own values, culture and religion and wear the shield of their enemies.I think it’s pathetic that You and your alikes think that you refused to be slaves to their own “primitive society” while you are infact animals to your enemies !

    يريدون ليطفئوا نور الله بأفواههم والله متم نوره ولو كره الكافرون) صدق الله العظيم

  3. You all miss the point and use this issue of ”face covering” to defend your religious and cultural beleives. A woman’s face has absolutely nothing to do with sex and naked women like you describe, you just have a dirty mind and lust after women. That’s the big problem today in the world, educated people take a sensible subject to cleverly twist it around into a fondamental or ideological beleive they adhere to (or not). That’s maybe fine in your home-country, but dont export those rites around the world and impose them. Switzerland is a peaceful and neutral country but there are limits we dont want that any one trespasses, (face covering goes too far, thieves and criminals do that). Crimerate is alarmingly increasing these last few years in Switzerland and it would be very easy for a terrorist to hide himself behind a burqa of some sort.
    Why imposing? isn’t religion peaceful with the Holly-Book in one hand and free of weapons in the other? Dont push it my friend, too bad you dont understand and that we swiss have to turn it into a law.

    • Hi there,
      First of all, as it has always been the case for you, your opinions do not reach the level of intellectual reflexions. The words you use are vulgar and , just like a mentioned before, they are emanated from a severe trauma that you suffered from here in Morocco.

      I might have seemed to you that I was supporting the Burqa, that’s only due to your shortness of sight. I am a defender of human rights. I don’t see the borqa as a Islamic perscription but rather a widespread fallacy. However, You now are excercing your freedom of speech which is part freedom of expression. Wearing the Burqua is a freedom of expression. it is a nonverbal communication (80% of communication per se).So let people benifit from their right either. THEY DO NOT HAVE TO BE LIKE YOU. you’ll feel better when you start to accept change in this world.

      I agree that there might be rist in allowing that. But the debate between Muslim scholars have resulted in a practical solution: Any woman has to show her face to a policeman or any one with authority if need be.

      As a previously mentioned, people who wear the burqa are but few dozens in all Swizerland. They do not create any kind of threat for the country. and therefore, people who invoke that as a connundrum wants the citizens to turn the blind eye on the real problems that the country faces.
      To sum up my friend, I hardly need to tell you that you’re blinded by your hatred to Islam. do not confuse personal anecdotes with real issues. Your family and social mileu possess a mistaken interpretation of Islam, blame it on them not Islam.

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