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In more than half the Muslim countries women wear skirts.

By Waseem Altaf

In December 2011 Canada banned wearing of “burqa” within its territory.

Earlier on France, Tunisia, Turkey, and Syria did the same.

The Canadian ban was meant to ensure that those taking the oath of Canadian citizenship were actually reciting the oath.

The fact remains that wearing of clothing that completely or almost entirely covers the face is fundamentally at odds with public life.

Is wearing the “burqa” a religious obligation?

Perhaps not!

Women do not wear “burqa” when they perform Hajj.

Does it have to do with culture?

Yes, but which culture?

Is this Culture of tribal areas where women wear shuttle cock “burqas”, or Punjab where we find those black “burqas?”

If the objective is “show of chastity” then for those women who are not allowed to leave their houses, the ones’ wearing shuttle cocks are immodest. To the ones’ wearing shuttle cocks, those wearing the black “burqa” are essentially culpable. To the ones’ wearing black “burqa”, the ones wearing a “chadar” are downright unchaste. To the ones wearing a “chadar”, the ones wearing a “dupatta” are promoters of obscenity.

So on and so forth.

In more than half the Muslim countries women wear skirts. But typical Pakistani women would prefer wearing a “shalwar kameez” worn by Hindu women, than wear a skirt put on by a Muslim Tajik or Turkish or an Iraqi woman. So local cultures determine the dress code and it is not appropriate to set universal standards of so called chastity; as every culture has its nuances and niceties, these have to be respected.

We find female visitors from the West coming to Pakistan and India wearing “shalwar kameez” or jeans while rarely visible in skirts or shorts.

Similarly the Western culture has its own values which should be respected by those who have opted to live there. Those who get remuneration in dollars, francs, pounds and liras; who enjoy full social security benefits in the West; who have sought asylum in there while their lives were not secure in their own countries.

Those who enjoy the Western lifestyle should also have respect for Western values and should try to assimilate them or should abandon the West and come back to Gujaranwala or Kabirwala and put on “burqas” of any color or texture.

From a purely scientific perspective “burqa” is not suitable to wear in hot climates. It obstructs peripheral vision. It also deprives you from the positive effects of nutrients you get from sunlight.

It also seems bizarre when we find pictures of “burqa” clad women on passports and NIC’s.

One should also remember that numerous acts of terrorism in many parts of our country were committed by women wearing “burqas”. Hence “burqa” is also a security threat. It also imprisons you and isolates you from your surroundings and distances you from those around you, creating a trust deficit. It also reminds of medieval constraints where despotic monarchs would hide their concubines from others lest they were exposed to an outsider, endangering their absolute ownership of the “live object”.

As “satti” was banned by the English which did have sacred connotations, banning of “burqa” by Western countries should also be welcomed.

Finally, if you have opted to settle in the West while begging for citizenship, you have no right to contaminate the West with nonsense.

Or if you think it is good to wear a “burqa” put it on in your own country — that is Pakistan or if at all you want to enjoy the civil liberties and social security benefits and human rights and special allowance for the jobless and pizzas and burgers and Western standards of health and education and lavish housing and entertainment and sights of bikini clad babes on the beach then please for God’s sake respect the cultural niceties of those who are providers of all this stuff which you cannot have here in Pakistan or for that matter from the so called heartland of Islam.

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Reprinted by permission of the author, Waseem Altaf; lightly edited for visual impact and heightened verbal sensibility.

Related Reference

Sherwood, Deborah.  “World Exclusive: Spooks Unmask Burka Death Squads.”  Daily Star, June 12, 2011.