When Respecting Freedom of Choice Equates Respecting No Freedom of Choice

Mario Testino for Chanel, 1993. Did Lagerfeld make this Tschador for Chanel? I've yet to research it.

We all have to live in the borders of the boxes our dads or husbands draw for us.
—Zahra, 25-year-old Saudi woman, April 7, 2016 (taken from the Human Rights Watch website, https://www.hrw.org/publications)

We find ourselves in the crucibles of conscience. The war in Syria and Iraq rages on and the picture of a boy covered in dust and blood will surely be used to fuel further military intervention. The covert arms trade will be less covert and war will be declared.

Meanwhile, Europeans find themselves distracted by a debate about symbolic dress: What should be allowed and what should be forbidden by the state? It has long been illegal to wear any garment emblazoned with nazi insignia. In Germany and France, at least. Elsewhere I wouldn’t know. Perhaps it is seen as “freedom of expression” in other countries.

The sensationalist snapshots of women in the being forced to strip off their banned burkinis in the south of France confused the matter at hand in Germany altogether. But apparently, here in Germany, there are only some 100 wearers of the blue Afghani burka (a far cry from a burkini) which has come to be synonymous with the Saudi black “full ninja” niqab or abaya.

Recently the Foreign Ministry made the proposal that burkas and niqabs be banned from schools and public transportation.  It set off a furor of ignorance, of purported left-thinking proponents proclaiming freedom of choice, freedom of expression: let the woman decide! But the burka and niqab are not cultural accessories that a woman simply choses like a fedora or faux fur stole. The women who wear them (largely) are not wearing them by choice. The burka “fashion” is no fashion. It is a symbol of repression. It is a walking-talking cloak that signifies a human being hidden underneath who needs permission of her male guardian before she does anything. 

Even if that means release from prison. 

After serving a sentence, for example, for having accused her husband of rape.

There are those women, of course, that say that the burka/niqab makes them feel safe. Consequently, there are those that say we should allow them to feel safe. But shouldn’t we be getting to the root of their not feeling safe? How will they ever feel safe if they are always a part of the subaltern?

If this is not enough to convince you of the moral imperative of a burka/niqab ban, let’s move the argument to a very basic level, a basic human need to feed. What woman, tell me, in their right mind would willingly deny themselves access to food and water when outside the house? We don’t have curtained off areas of restaurants, as they do in Saudia Arabia, for families so that the female population of those families don’t have to starve while out of the house. That a simple fact that should be enough to convince any “politically correct” adherents that we should and must dictate (here in Germany, yes) these so-called “fashion” choices of others. Even if that means only 100 women here in Germany, we still must act on their behalf.

To hammer it in: to say that we should and must respect the religious garb of others, that we cannot impose our (free- wheeling bikini) culture onto theirs, that we have to let those women make their own initiative to remove their burkas is akin to saying Jews could have made their own initiative to get the hell out of hell, that they could have simply bought a train ticket in 1938, that they could have made a “choice” in leaving Germany before it was too late. (Need we be reminded of the current quotas in accepting refugees? How are you meant to get out if no one will let you in? see http://www.nytimes.com/1991/07/02/opinion/l-jews-couldn-t-leave-nazi-germany-easily-078991.html) Or to put it another way: what if Abraham Lincoln had left it to the plantation owners to decide whether or not slavery should be legal? “Let the muslims decide on what they want to wear. We cannot mess with their religion.” With a burka/niqab ban we are not even doing that. Leftist thinking here is akin to thinking that the slaves could have simply left their masters.

In the fashion world it is oft said now that the 1990s are making a comeback. But with the trashy slacker style (dresses over jeans, combat boots with long flowery skirts, all fine and good), the idiotic ideology need not follow suit. I mean the advent of Political Correctness. What was intended to help us sensitize to Otherness as ok and no-need-for-conformity here ended up being a means of censorship to any loud-mouthed opinion at all. Repeatedly I find myself amongst friends who say that we cannot dictate their fashion. Repeatedly I say: can we stop and think about this? What are we supporting when we tacitly support a woman’s “decision” to wear a burka?

Apropos other discussions out there: I find the comparisons of burkinis to wetsuits an insult to our collective intelligence. Even a comparison of a burkini to the habit of a nun is outrageously stupid. Nuns eat in public (and here I add a religious expletive: for Christ’s sake). 

Let this be said: Burkas are not banned in banks. The day will come when a band of bandit burka wearers will rob those banks. The big banks that reap in the profits of covert arms trade fueling the fury of the Middle East. Then and only then will we have a truly enforced burka-niqab ban in all countries of the world.

A ban is not a right-wing, anti-immigrant, lack-of-respect for another’s culture thing. A ban in Germany demonstrates quite forcefully to the world that we are different yes: we believe in equality, that the female sex does, in fact, have a right to eat and drink in public. The female sex does have a right to drive, a right to work, a right equal wages, a right to exit prison without the permission of her guardian. 

If we allow the burka/niqab we are complicit with a regime of terror: keep the woman in her solipsistic tent as if she were in a protective bubble. (Protected from mosquitos and machos alike.)


As long as we cannot see into the windows of the soul, into the eyes of this tent-wearer, she remains a non-entity. Someone whose “cultural-religious” wishes, we politically-correct (stupidly) proclaim, we should respect, when it is in fact her rights as a human that we must stand up for.


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