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The Burqa: Tool of Oppression? (In the News)

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The burqa—the controversial head-to-toe covering some conservative Muslim women wear outside the home . . . what does it signify? France banned the wearing of the garment in public in 2010, on two grounds: (1) that is a token of women’s subjugation, a covering designed to make women invisible and erase them from public life, and (2) it offers explosives-carrying terrorists an easy disguise. Belgium followed suit in 2011, for the same reasons. Since then, several sub-Saharan African countries have also banned the burqa, according to a recent article in The Economist.  And just last month Air France ran into trouble when it decreed that its female flight attendants must wear the less-confining hijab (hair-covering scarf), as well as trousers and a long-sleeved jacket, when debarking in Iran (France recently resumed flights to that country). Several flight attendants refused; the unions took up their cause; and management has agreed to allow stewardesses the right to refuse duty on flights to Iran.

How do Muslim women feel about the burqa—the garment that former French President Nicholas Sarkozy called “a sign of enslavement and debasement”?

The online magazine OF NOTE has brought together 18 Muslim artists and writers to create a special issue devoted to “The Art of the Burqa.” The issue’s editor, Grace Aneiza Ali (who edits Women’s Voices), explains, “While many employ the burqa as fodder for debate, the Artists Of Note we’ve selected for The Burqa Issue use their creative voice and art practice to examine the complicated experiences of the women who actually wear the burqa—by choice or by force. These multi-disciplinary global artists employ the burqa, actual and symbolic, in their photography, documentary film, poetry, graffiti, street art, murals, sculpture and painting, to trouble our perceptions . . . . The team behind The Burqa Issue are all women. They bring to bear roots from Afghanistan, Algeria, Canada, Guyana, India, Iran, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, United Kingdom, and the United States to elevate the voices of the women who wear the burqa.”

READ MORE at OF NOTE magazine.

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