I saw recently a tweet from a young Muslim woman comparing Switzerland to Saudi Arabia for dictating the clothing choices of Muslim women. I think that is a mistake. Saudi Arabia has a lot more in common with the USA than it does Switzerland on the clothing front. Sounds ridiculous? Good.
I’m over 99% sure that every single person reading this has been taught to be ashamed of their body since they were young, or at the very least since puberty. Almost every society teaches its citizens that the human body, or at least parts of it are very private and should be hidden from public view by clothing, and it is a source of shame or embarrassment if those parts are accidentally exposed. In most cases, covering those ‘secret parts’ is not optional. In my home country of England (where we are all very proper), a man caught in an improper state of undress at the wrong time will be committing a criminal offence. If he breaks the clothing code – he will be punished by the state. Women too are compelled by law to keep parts of their bodies covered or they will be punished by the state.
Saudi Arabia follows the same principle. Men and women must keep their bodies covered with clothing to an amount determined by the society and the state, and will be punished for breaking this dogma. The only thing that differs in a country like Saudi Arabia is the amount of the body which should be covered.
What countries like France, and now the canton of Ticino in Switzerland have is a very different thing. They have laws compelling women, on threat of state violence NOT to wear certain items of clothing and to keep parts of their bodies visible at all times.
There are many Muslim women who are coerced into wearing the burka. And there are many who have been sufficiently indoctrinated to the point where they WANT to wear it. But let’s be clear on two things:
1. To ensure a patriarchal control system, the Abrahamic faiths are obsessed with controlling the female body and female sexuality, and as a result we have the cults of virginity, purity and modesty. Islamic clothing like the hijab, the niqab and the burka are an extension of this – they are designed to hide the female form, her shape, her hair, her face – all the time trying to make her as asexual as possible.
2. Laws against Islamic clothing are not passed in support of the liberation of Muslim women. They are attempts to use state power to attack Muslims and the visible signs of Islam.
You cannot legislate away bad ideas. Attacking the liberty of adherents of a faith will not serve any purpose other than to cause them to close ranks and become more insulated from the normal pressures of integration.