Sunday, February 05, 2006

Ban The Burqa

If we really want to get serious about this war, we need to understand that Islam needs to fundamentally change. After World War II, we banned certain tenets of the state-religion of Japan; Shinto-Buddhism. We decreed, unilaterally, that no more would the practice of Emperor-worship be allowed.

Winning this war is not, simply, a matter of defeating Jihadis. It is a matter of ending certain tenets of Islam.

No more preaching of Jihad.

No more strict Sharia (if Muslims want to redefine Sharia, that is fine).

And no more Burqas.

Burqas are an abomination.

The burqa is the chains of female slavery.

Burqas need to stop.

If I had my way, this would be our rallying cry.

People think that women have the right to wear burqas. No, we must understand that some slaves would have chosen the chains. Many slaves stayed on with their masters after the Civil War. Does that make it slaver ok?

Hell no!

Many slaves, mired in the midst of their slavery, would have said they would choose the chains. Does that make it right?

The Case For Democracy by Natan Sharansky, explains how this kind of self-deceit happens. Coercion through threat of violence makes people become double-minded. They profess one thing in public, and think another thing in their heads. This leads to confusion, and after awhile, people will forget who they are and what they want.

The Burqa dehumanizes women. It is a tool which instantly turns a living, breathing human being into a slave. When the shroud goes over the face of a human being, they are dead to the world. The human being, so enshrouded, can see out through the veil darkly, but no one can see in.

She is windowless, and alone.

From Act International:

"Women you should not step outside your residence. If you go outside the house you should not be like the women who used to go with fashionable clothes wearing much cosmetics and appearing in front of every men before the coming of Islam."
--- Edict (religious decree) announced by the Taliban’s "Religious Police".

Two months back, I was on an assignment in Afghanistan. Defying another Taliban edict - this one banning taking photographs of "any living thing" - I looked for ways to illustrate how three years of drought and 22 years of war had affected the lives of men, women and children in Afghanistan. In an environment created by the edicts restricting the behaviour of women it was difficult to get a single picture of women. Basically, I had to "steal" such pictures while pretending to be tying my shoelaces, looking the other way or trust my luck in accidental drive–by snapshots from car windows.

In the end, I tried another approach; one I felt more comfortable with. This approach did not force me to try to cheat the women within range of my lenses and, it even appeared truer to my own experience of travelling as a male in Afghanistan.

Over 14 days, I had next to no interaction with Afghani women and saw only three women’s faces directly. As a sort of compensation, I started focusing my lenses on some of the traces of the women I glimpsed or sometimes just missed where ever I went – villages, streets, bazaars, hospitals, clinics or restaurants and mosques. Traces of the millions of Afghan women concealed by the rules of the Taliban, the cloth of the head to toe long blue Burqa, local traditions and in some cases the 4 to 5 meter high mud brick walls surrounding their own homes.

One day we will look back on the burqa and we will wonder how it is that our civilization allowed such cruelty to human beings.