I’ve been asked to comment briefly on burqas. The question is, “Can I be sexy in a burqa?”
I hope the following response finds favour with my burqa-wearing readership. (And in the event that this blog is incorporated into Islamic jurisprudence, I have no quarrel with that. Happy to help.)
It’s primarily women themselves that are sexy – not the clothes they wear. Women can manifest their natural sexiness in various ways which a burqa cannot suppress, such as by the sound of their voices, or by the way they walk or otherwise move their bodies beneath the burqa. And let’s not forget that many women even smell rather good.
It is in the nature of women to be sexy, regardless of what they may or may not be wearing. Men are attracted to women because women are inherently attractive to men; neither a burqa nor a bikini alters this fundamental fact.
Sexiness, whether directed morally or immorally, begins with a woman’s thoughts and attitudes and then proceeds to manifest itself in her behaviour – and the way a woman dresses is only one aspect of her behaviour. The prostitute and the purest virgin can both wear a burqa.
If sexual modesty and decency are our concern, it is certainly true to say that the burqa is an effective means of keeping one’s body strictly on a for your eyes only darling basis. There are however many other items of clothing which sexually-moral women can wear but which are rather more practical for riding one’s bicycle, horse or camel. I do believe it possible for a woman to be dressed decently in public without wearing a burqa.
In a liberty-loving, civilised society, a woman should be free to wear a burka if that’s her choice – and she should also be free not to wear a burqa. When a woman is compelled to wear a burqa against her will – that’s wrong.
But I need to nail the answer to the question of “Can I be sexy in a burqa?”
The answer is actually ‘No’ – and I think it’s best explained by slightly amending the question to “Can I be a woman in a burqa?”
That is to say, is a burka a help or a hindrance to a woman in realising her full potential as a person, as God intends, and in doing God’s will for her life? It is a hindrance. It’s dehumanising. It is like the chains on a slave.
A woman whose face is never seen in public has lost a very important part of her personal, God-given identity, and she has denied or is being denied her full personhood.
Given that most people are fortunate to have the gift of sight (and are greatly influenced by this sense), the handicap of not being able to see a woman’s face is unhelpful to seeing her and appreciating her as a whole person worthy of love and respect.
An alternative to the burqa would be that we put out the eyes of every sexually-immoral man. Whilst to do this wouldn’t prevent lust or acts of lust any more than a burqa, the fact is, women would not be seen by men.
Once we see that the burqa is no more than a blindfold on the beholder, our eyes themselves bear witness that God intends for us the freedom to see and be seen in a way that burqas obstruct. To deliberately blind ourselves or others is life-denying and destructive.
Furthermore, the principles of Sharia law and Mohammed’s personal example both point to the truth that the covering up and seclusion of women proceed not from Islam’s concern to protect women but are rather means by which Islam strips women of personhood and identity.
Better not burqa; a decent dress will do.