I must admit when I see women wearing traditional Islamic garb, I wince. I can’t help it. Multiculturalists insist that women should have the right to choose to wear the all encompassing symbol of their faith. And if they wear the burqua or the hijab outside of Islamic controlled countries, then obviously they are choosing to do so since they have that freedom.
But do they really?
Is it really freedom to choose if your entire community has told you that if you choose differently you are evil, whorish and will burn in the fires of eternal damnation. Is it really freedom if you are beaten by your husband when you do not cover yourself in the way that the male leaders of your community say is necessary? How can a woman be considered free if her community tells her that her testimony is only worth half of a man’s? How can a woman be free if her community only allows her to inherit half of what her brother can? Simply because she doesn’t have a penis. Can a woman be free to choose if her entire life she has only been given one choice?
Do we believe that victims of abduction that have been held against their will, and develop what is known as “Stockholm Syndrome,” actually have the freedom to choose? When Jaycee Dugard didn’t run away from her captors after years of isolation and abuse, did she really “choose” to stay with them?
No. We consider people with Stockholm Syndrome and people who have been systematically denied education or are not conscious of their ability to say no to have a diminished capacity to choose. This is why consent for even basic medical care must be informed consent. People must know their choices and have the freedom to exercise them. If you believe the consequence of one of your choices is that you will burn for eternity, be shunned by your community and possibly even beaten or killed – even if you believe that this is all justified – then you do not have a choice.
I also wince at the thought of banning the burqua. It grates against every freedom-loving fiber of my being. I hate the style of wearing pants down below the butt and allowing boxer shorts to show, but I will defend your right to do so with my dying breath…no matter how stupid I think it makes you look. With the exception of showing one’s face for identification purposes, or ensuring that whatever you wear does not impede your vision in situations that you need clear sight (eg. driving), I don’t believe any government should be in the business of telling people what to wear. I would hope that through education and example the western world can show Muslim women that they are equal to men, that they are not second class citizens in countries that value freedom.
So much meaning has been instilled in the simple headgear of another culture. When I see it in the Western world, I could say to myself, “Well at least here, she has the choice to wear it.” And maybe she really believes she does have that choice.
I wince because I imagine what could happen if she chooses to say no.