Why Islamic dress codes for women should be banned

I realise that those who came up with this idea of Australian women wearing scarves and covering their hair in support of Muslim women,  and those who support it are kind, generous, open-minded and caring people but the simple fact is that this is support for something which denies some Muslim women the right to live with the freedom they deserve.

It is akin with the repressions of times past when women were forced by social pressure to wear corsets, to control movement – a garment which harmed mother and often baby. It is a later version of the metal chastity belt into which men locked their wives centuries ago.

As a woman who grew up as the first generation in Australia to gain some gender equality and freedom I cannot find any solidarity with a backward dress code which is imposed only on women, not men, in the name of a religion and yet which is not sourced in Islam in the first place. In the generations before me women could not enter a church without covering their hair – hair long considered to be sexual enticement by patriarchy and a sign of the evil nature of women – neither was a menstruating woman meant to enter a church because she was unclean, and is still not allowed in Hindu or Buddhist temples in many parts of the world; was not allowed in a church after giving birth without undergoing a cleansing ritual by the priest, who could remove her unclean nature which resulted from giving birth…..

And so, when I see women who are not free to choose for themselves in a fundamentalist and patriarchal expression of Islam which demands they imprison themselves in clothes which restrict in some cases the ability to breathe fresh air, vision, hearing and in all cases, restrict the senses, movement and the capacity to absorb Vitamin D from getting sun on their skin, a deficiency of which predisposes to cancer and other serious diseases, I believe they need to be encouraged to be as free as the rest of us, instead of being encouraged to remain in their clothing prisons.

And to put such clothing on a little girl is criminal. In some cases as young as three where they can see their brothers run free with the wind in their hair and the sun on their skin and they cannot.

If such clothing were worn by men as well as woman one could not claim it is merely an expression of patriarchal fear and loathing of the feminine form. But it is not worn by men.

If Imams stated that no woman could wear burqa, niqab or hijab until she made a free decision at the age of 21 and that anyone harassing a woman who opted not to wear such garment, would be charged with harassment, and that any woman who chose to dress in this way could change her mind at any time without issue, I doubt anyone would have an issue with such clothing and everyone would support such a campaign.

But that is not the case and supporting such a campaign is supporting an abuse of human rights which is simply not to be tolerated in a civilized, modern world.

I believe that anyone who wore any of these garments for a week – most would only last a day, particularly in summer and men probably an hour – would throw them off and campaign to have them banned for public use. What people do in the privacy of their homes is their business. As the French have decided with their ban.

The fact of the matter is that the reason why we have modern democratic states is because people sensibly decided that religion and state should be separate. Religion is a private matter and should not be practised in any way which imposes itself on others. Australia is not an Islamic country where such dress is more of a norm and so Australians generally, and women in particular, because they remember the misogyny of their mother’s generation and misogyny which still exists, are likely to be deeply offended by such a demonstration of patriarchy at its most brutal, if not evil.

It is worth remembering, since many cite as an example, the nun’s habit, that it is nearly forty years since the Christian churches, including the Catholics, questioned this practice, no doubt because of complaining nuns, and declared that individual orders could decide whether or not to retain this garment, or discard it, or make it optional. It was realised that such restrictive clothing, and a nun’s habit is akin to a hijab, was simply not suited to the work many nuns had to do, nor conducive to proper function in a modern world.

And let’s remember that nuns, alike Moslem wives and mothers, were not out shopping in supermarkets, delivering and collecting children from school, breastfeeding babies, chasing toddlers around playground and doing everything that other Australian women would do in absolute freedom and comfort.

Those orders which were contemplative and closed off from the outside world where most time was spent in prayer and contemplation, with minor work commitments for the order, opted to retain the habit as a symbol of their commitment. All orders involved in working with the public where nuns had jobs, if not professions, opted to either discard entirely or make such dress optional.

No-one supports the harassment of the Muslim women who dress this way but that does not make this backward tradition acceptable either.

This campaign is a well-intended but terrible idea which supports a cruel form of misogyny which anyone of conscience should oppose.


About rosross

Editor, writer, poet.
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