Burqa Bans and Superficial Integration

Sarah Haider

For those not used to seeing them, a face veil can be frightening to behold on a person. One is tempted to gawk at women covered from head to toe with their individuality stripped away. If they are wearing a niqab, it is possible to glimpse a set of eyes through a slit in the garment. If they are wearing a burqa, even the eyes are hidden under a mesh cloth.

Normal body movements appear to become decidedly more challenging under the restrictive clothing. Eating, running, and playing sports are awkwardly accomplished (when not rendered impossible).

The physicality of the practice is not its worst feature. The doctrine that justifies and sanctifies the covering of women is far more objectionable to modern Western sensibilities. Islam is a gendered religion, and the rights and obligations of women compared to those of men betray not just a separation but a distinct subordination. The greater freedom granted to men in the realm of outer expression is a reflection of the broader freedoms granted to them in the law.

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