The Burqa

While reading Lila Abu-Lughod’s study arguing about whether Muslim woman need saving or not, I remembered two pictures that I had recently come across.

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The first image reminded me of Abu-Lughod’s argument when she was referring to the burqa.  It is a common belief of those outside of the Muslim culture to believe that the burqa is a form of severe oppression, which is depicted in the first image as the burqa literally has prison bars running across the opening.  The second image continued to remind me of her argument, especially when she wrote, “as anthropologists know perfectly well, people wear the appropriate form of dress for their social communities and are guided by socially shared standards, religious beliefs, and moral ideals, unless they deliberately transgress to make a point or are unable to afford proper cover”.  Most people fail to see that the burqa is a piece of culture rather than oppression.  Westerners have learned to except other forms of conservative clothing (like in the images above) as culturally acceptable and respectable, but because the burqa is foreign; it is not understood and many do not take the time to understand the meaning behind it.  As Abu-Lughod said, “why are we surprised that Afghan women do not throw off their burqas when we know perfectly well that it would not be appropriate to wear shorts to the opera”.  This analogy summarizes what the image is saying perfectly, that the burqa raises the problem of “how to deal with cultural “others”, rather than how to protect/save these women from their own culture.