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News Bhurkas and oppression

  1. Aug 10, 2009 #1

    DaveC426913

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    Not sure how close this is skirting to being banned, but we'll see. Please, let's stay on-topic.

    We are seeing more and more middle-eastern garb here in the West. I am particularly talking about the full-length covered outfits. I believe they're called burkhas or burkas or burqas, but I think there are similar outifts by different names. Please educate me.

    My wife sees these as a sign of oppression - as do many other people. Women are forced to wear these head-to-toe outfits - even in the heat of summer - as part of their religion (so as not to excite and entice the men).

    I'm not refuting whether is is viewed as a sign of oppression, I am questioning the generalization. And this is what I've come here to ask.

    It seems to me that it is quite possible that any - or even many - women wear the traditional outfits voluntarily, to support their religion, much like Jews wear a kippah/yarmulke or Amish wear their traditional garb. The key here hinges on not knowing whether an individual is being forced.

    If this is the case, then one cannot, by rights, look at any individual wearing a burkha and decide that they are being oppressed. In other words, there cannot be a crime in principle, there can only be a crime in circumstance.

    Just like it is unfair to look at porn mag models and decide they are "symbols" that are setting back the women's movement 20 years (this is actually objectifying her, labeling her, removing her individualism) - so it is unfair to objectifiy an individual as being any symbol of oppression without knowing their specific circumstance.

    What think? Are all women that wear bhurkas - even hypothetical women that might do so voluntarily - being oppressed? Is it generally accepted (outiside of the Mid-East) that the bhurka is a symbol of oppression anywhere it is found?
     
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  3. Aug 10, 2009 #2
    I very rarely see women dressed like that around here. Usually they are elderly women and may as easily be eastern european and just wearing a head scarf.

    There is actually one young lady I see frequently dressed like this though. She works at a coffee house. I have no idea whether her family owns the store but either way she is regularly there out on her own at a job with no parental supervision. I get no impression that she is being forced or oppressed in any way.
     
  4. Aug 10, 2009 #3
    I think there can be some health risks involved namely vitamin D deficiency.
     
  5. Aug 10, 2009 #4

    ideasrule

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    I disagree. Almost everybody in North Korea supports the government voluntarily, but that doesn't mean the North Korean government isn't oppressive; it simply means the citizens are brainwashed since birth to worship their leaders. Similarly, a large percentage of Islamic women (but not as large as the percentage of North Koreans who support the government) may willingly wear burqas, but that doesn't mean they are not being oppressed; it means they've been indoctrinated since birth by religion to accept the oppression.

    A similar thing happened with the Canadian, and presumably also American, women's rights movement. In many cases, women's rights advocates received less opposition from men like their fathers than from women, who censured them for violating tradition. It would be ridiculous to say those women weren't being repressed by society, despite being denied jobs, forbidden to vote, and having little property rights on the basis of nothing but their gender.
     
    Last edited: Aug 10, 2009
  6. Aug 10, 2009 #5

    ideasrule

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    It's also difficult to define the meaning of "voluntarily". Is the fear of ostracization enough to make a decision involuntary, for example? How about fear of being perceived as "weird"? How about hearing a story like this one:



    about a girl who was murdered for standing up to religious oppression?
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 25, 2014
  7. Aug 10, 2009 #6

    Vanadium 50

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    Pun intended?
     
  8. Aug 10, 2009 #7

    Doc Al

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    The most insidious (and effective) kind of oppression is one that is voluntarily self-imposed.
     
  9. Aug 10, 2009 #8

    arildno

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    "women wear the traditional outfits voluntarily, to support their religion"

    And why do they, if they suddenly realize they forgot to buy tomatoes, go to the elaborate length of taking on the burka before going out, rather than just run over to the shop in their everyday clothes?

    Or, even worse, that they think they must wait to go out until a male guardian (say, a son) can accompany them to the store?
     
  10. Aug 10, 2009 #9
    I've seen the Burka worn a few times here in Toronto and I admit it bothers me. I'm not really sure why though.
    It's a bit like seeing a person with a ski mask on in the summer. I associate it with concealed identity.
     
  11. Aug 10, 2009 #10
    Same reason that some people will put on makeup or hair gel just to go to their local shop for 5 mins. It isn't something that is difficult to put on and it is a norm for them. I have to put on my jeans to go to the shops which is an inconvenience for me. I am sure I wouldn't get arrested for indecent exposure if I didn't but I do it because it is a norm for me.

    Most of the women (just as the men) are very religious. They all believe in someones interpretation of the Kuran and that if they disobey, they will burn for an eternity.
     
  12. Aug 10, 2009 #11
    Its never really bothered me at all. Sometimes I even find it somewhat attractive. I really like a pretty face. Admittedly though I never really feel like I could just strick up a conversation with a woman in a burqa.

    Most of the women I have seen in burqas seem to be going about their life like any other person. Occasionally I see the woman walking behind her husband and being submissive though I can't say that I have never seen this among women of other cultures aswell.
     
  13. Aug 10, 2009 #12

    mgb_phys

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  14. Aug 10, 2009 #13
  15. Aug 10, 2009 #14

    DaveC426913

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    Perhaps so, but deciding that a particular person is being oppressed because they are brainwashed is, in itself, removing their human right to be treated as if they are a sound-minded, responsible person acting of their own accord.

    i.e. it seems to me, it is just as objectifying to judge someone without knowing them - even if you think you're helping them.
     
  16. Aug 10, 2009 #15
    You nailed it down.

    We have this law in France which forbids "ostensible" religious clothing in (some) public places (at least schools and official government buildings). The crucial concept is "ostensible". It seems to have a different meaning in English. In French it means "designed to show, whose purpose is to display a message". It's not an obvious concept to use in the public law. Besides, it seems to difficult to apply in the US altogether, because of the emphasis on the individual's freedom of speech. The emphasis in France compared to the US is more on the community (yeah, we're communists).

    I guess I should have read mgb_phys links before commenting.
     
  17. Aug 10, 2009 #16
    Does French law guarantee freedom of religion and if so, how does it mesh with the law which you mentioned?
     
  18. Aug 10, 2009 #17

    mgb_phys

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    It doesn't ban them (religous symbols) in public, it bans them in public (ie state) schools, the French constitution has a very strong separation of church/state rule. They are permitted in private religious run schools, ironically a lot of Muslim students attend catholic schools where the headdress is allowed.

    The ban on religous symbols in schools was an attempt to improve racial harmony in schools and prevent a "them and us" mindset. Remember France like most of Europe has a much higher levels of immigrants than the US and a lot of them from muslim countries.
     
    Last edited: Aug 10, 2009
  19. Aug 10, 2009 #18
    Yes.
    Freedom of religion in France
    laicite in general and the 1905 French law on the Separation of the Churches and the State in particular
    Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen
    to the extent that the cult has not been officially classified in a "sectarian list". The "official list of sects" again is not easy to define. Mostly it has to be considered on a case by case basis by an official "Parliamentary Commission on Cults". The most important criteria for falling into the sect category are risks for the individual (mental or financial hazards) and challenge to the collective order.
    As long as it has not been classified as a "sectarian cult", that is to say harmful for yourself or the republic, you have personal freedom in your own system of belief. As a consequence of "laicite", "ostensible" religious display is forbidden in public and republican places, preventing interferences between different individual beliefs. This is precisely the warrant of freedom of religion from the point of view of "laicite".

    From the above articles in wiki you can contemplate the depth of the philosophical gap between US and French politics in this context.
     
  20. Aug 10, 2009 #19

    Math Is Hard

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    Can you even see the face through the Burqa, though - through that little bit of mesh?

    150px-Burqa_Afghanistan_01.jpg
     
  21. Aug 10, 2009 #20

    russ_watters

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    A proponent of moral relativism would say that we cannot judge, but the reality is that we live in a moral absolutist world, whether people like it or not (and in my experience, people tend to be against moral absolutism at first blush).

    Simply put, the requirement that women cover themselves this way for the purpose of modesty is a direct, specific, and blatant form of oppression. It is a visible manifestation of the more abhorrent forms of oppression that permeate many islamic cultures.

    If it could be shown that there was no association between wearing a Bhurka and gender oppression, then a case could be made that this is just a harmless tradition or fashion statement. But I doubt that such statistics exist.
     
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