Esoteric, repressive and steeped in cultural significance, the Islamic burka is said to symbolise not only feminine inferiority within the confines of Islam but indeed to fuel the undeserving perpetual discrimination against the Muslim faith as a result of its seemingly threatening appearance. Islamic women across Europe find themselves subject to discrimination as a result of their religious attire, and whether this be physical or verbal abuse, it is unacceptable in a world that strives for universal equality, and is in no way to be qualified by the enigma of a loose – fitting robe.
However, in spite of the burka’s supposed ability to kill all feminine identity and originality, one must never lose sight of the human beneath the shapeless layers of black silk. Disfigured and hidden, the Islamic woman is too often miscast in the same mould as violent extremists who breed anger amongst those touched by their attacks. The burka is no fashion accessory, though much like the unmistakable red soles propertied by Christian Louboutin, it draws attention away from the woman wearing the garment and rather to what the garment signifies. The burka is no paradigm of fashion progression, but has been seen to unwittingly personify and indeed aggravate cultural barriers that hamper social cohesion.
The burka’s suggested ability to breed discriminative behaviour was brought to legislative attention in France during the controversy over religious dress of 2004. The wearing of burkas was prohibited in an attempt to salvage French nationalism which was believed to be under threat by any outward signs of faith that did not conform to the country’s Catholic focus – our ground, our rules. However, after the recent attacks on Charlie Hebdo, the burka was incorrectly branded as a symbol of terror and extremism for the misinformed Parisian. Is it the lack of visible flesh that makes the burka such a threatening symbol of extremist behaviour? Or is it rather the fear of the foreign veil that breeds such anxiety amongst those making such ill-founded accusations?
As a progressive society it is our responsibility to protect and defend the innocence of these women who are susceptible to an abusive reception through the promotion of both their chastity and individuality – each of these women is a unique and individual human being whose inherent religious beliefs might dictate their manner of dress though should most definitely not dictate their public perception. The burka must not be perceived as an alarming encouragement of segregation or of extremism, but rather as an outward demonstration of an alternative faith and tradition; equally cohesive and credible as any other religion that happens to colour the canvas that is modern society.
It would be exceptionally unfair to discriminate between the various methods by which citizens choose to exhibit their faith, and as such one cannot criticise Islamic attire whilst at the same time endorse the wearing of a religious pendant. The exhibition of religious wear should rather be celebrated as a demonstration of multiculturalism irrespective of the item’s noticeability, and must not be branded as daunting as a result of blind ignorance.