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Are the veil and the burka forms of oppression for women?

Are the veil and the burka forms of oppression for women?

January 25, 2022

In the last decade there has been a meteoric spike in the use of the veil in Muslim communities and countries . Countries of a secular nature such as Egypt, Lebanon or Tunisia have seen an increase in the frequency with which women wear Islamic clothing, especially among new generations of young people who, a priori, should have a more Western social approach.

The veil has become a claim for some feminist organizations, which perceive it as the last element that men use to nullify the personality, identity and integrity of women. Other collectives, Muslim or not, defend the freedom for Muslim women to dress their clothes with the veil , as long as this election is free and does not come from an imposition, of course.


The burqa is also associated with certain forms of Muslim faith, and its use has also generated controversy. Is it the use of the veil and the burka an effect of oppression against women ?

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Islam and the veil

As bizarre as it may be, within the same scholars and specialists in interpretation of the Koran there are divergences when it comes to analyzing the attire to be worn by the female faithful.

In one of the verses or suras of the Holy Qur'an, surah 24:31 An-Nur, it is stated: "[...] and tell the faithful women to spread their jumur on their heads [...]". Jumur is translated by veil, mantilla, handkerchief, curtain among others. The etymology comes from the intention to veil , ensure the physical integrity of women against the provocative and adulterous looks of the male sex.


In this sense, complexity does not result from whether to cover the head or not, but what limits can be placed on the diameter or dimensions to be covered. Thus, in different countries we find different ways of covering ourselves with the veil , where you can see a small percentage of visible hair, the total coverage or half of the hair outdoors.

The Burka and female integrity

The burka piece, on the other hand, does have a more controversial origin . Without going any further, in some Islamic countries it is rejected outright and banned by legislation, such as Iran or Kuwait, where at least it must be able to show the female face for security reasons.

In this case, the burka does respond to a subjective interpretation of some Islamic societies like the Afghan one, of millenary tribes that understand that the totality of the feminine figure is beauty, which makes it necessary to fully cover your physique . In Pakistan, the use of such attire is also quite common, which is important given the large population of the country.


Oppression or freedom?

The controversy always extends around the use and its hidden meaning. Should the burka be banned? And the veil? Religious and image freedom rejects any debate, with the exception of some current amendment related to security, as long as all citizens must be able to be identified .

Any act of voluntariness must not suppose the conceptual punishment of oppression, since the freedom of choice should not burden the debate with value judgments, demonizing a purely individual decision. For some Muslim women, the fact of feeling obligated to uncover supposes the oppression itself .

Does the veil complement suppose oppression or freedom? In any case, that the affected decide, those interested in taking it or those who are thinking about it. If we put another example of different clothing, we found the Indian chador, which covers 90% of the woman's body equally , avoiding to mark the feminine silhouette. Who puts the cry in heaven for it? It is clear that there is an implicit cultural bias at stake, another thing is that its existence accounts for all the controversy that arose around this type of clothing for women.

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The Burkini, solution or problem?

The burkini is an aquatic garment that was invented in 2003 in Australia to, precisely, solve all the conflicts created for women who yearned to be able to bathe without having to uncover. The author of the design, Aheda Zanetti declared on the BBC: "I invented the burkini to bring cultures together, and that seems to bother someone".

The prohibition of burkini in the country of egalitè, libertè et fraternitè, it has been another hard setback to the conflict that already existed with the veil or burka . To do this, we can expose another analogy that serves to clear up doubts.The surfer neoprene suit covers from the neck to the ankle, for both men and women.

While the veil or the burka are everyday, it seems strange that a garment that is used from time to time generates so much or more controversy. But in reality it is not: the debate comes from the difference between the male and female swimsuit, and the possibility that religion, in the form of patriarchal imposition, condition the thought of Muslim women and those of other religious beliefs.

It can be said that this invention has been one more advance for the integrity of women that so many Western feminist collectives claim. Participation in the Olympics, regional international championships or the participation of women's water sports in Islamic countries would have occurred, among other things, thanks to garments such as burkini.

However, it can also be said that until now the female representation of these countries was limited by the material and ideological impositions that have been articulated through, among other things, the interpretation of the Qur'an. There is a lot of debate ahead.


Muslim Explains Why She Wears the Veil (January 2022).


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