I was born in India in a family that observed Muslim traditions faithfully. I have lived in the USA for more than 35 years, most of my adult life. I have not been a practicing muslim for most of my life. Yet I am familiar with most of its practices, good and not so good.
I want to comment on French President Sarkozy's recent proclamation that French Muslim women would not be allowed to wear the burqa. I found it amusing and somewhat typical of Western colonial attitudes towards Islam.
When I was growing up, my mother wore a burqa. She was a housewife burdened with raising six children in a household that had little or no modern appliances. Frequently during her workday, she needed to run an errand: buying a forgotten grocery item taking a sick child to a doctor etc. She always a burqa on these occasions. It was convenient..she did not have to worry about the clothes that she wore underneath the burqa or if she was having a bad hair day. On Sundays when the entire family went to the local square, she dressed in her finer clothes and did not wear the burqa.
Recently, I visited India. I had been in touch with one of my nieces, a tech savvy very modern woman in her mid twenties. She and her husband both work in large modern Indian companies. When she came to visit me, she wore a burqa which she removed before we went to a restaurant. Nonplussed, I asked her why the burqa. She explained that she liked to wear modern Western clothes both in her professional and in her personal life. Unfortunately, in the neighbourhood where she lived, her attire would subject her to catcalls and unwelcome attention. The burqa kept her safe and anonymous and incidentally allowed her to dress as she pleased.
The use of the burqa under both these circumstances was a convenience and a choice for the women involved. I wonder if Sarkozy would object to these women wearing the burqa.
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