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Wear and tear

india Updated: May 13, 2010 23:33 IST
Samrat
Samrat
Hindustan Times
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The French and Belgians are considering banning it. The Australians might follow. The Saudis and Iranians are quite appreciative of it. And in our own India, there are all shades of opinion about it. Considering all the excitement this garment generates, you’d think the burqa is, well, the bikini.

The battle of the burqa — or more accurately, the naqab, which is the veil that covers the face — seems to be about a lot of things. It pits the ‘liberal’ West against the forces of orthodoxy in Islam. It pits feminists against male chauvinists. It pits a secularism that denies individuals the right to exhibit religious symbols in public against those who wish to wear such symbols on their faces.

At core, the issue is really simple. It’s about the freedom of adults to choose their wardrobes. If a person wishes to go about in a bikini, that’s her choice. If she wishes to go about in a burqa and naqab, that’s her choice too. No priest or government has any business telling individuals what clothes to wear.

Of course, priests and governments love to take themselves seriously. They love to exercise control. And they have power, of a sort, so defying them is not always easy.

This is where the MIB should come in to zap those evil control freak aliens in our midst. MIB, short for Men In Burqas, would subvert the orthodoxies of both the governments and the priests simultaneously.

It would subvert the governments very directly, by defying the ban against the garment. It would also subvert the mullahs, because it challenges their use of the garment, which is to establish male control over women.

If men in all the places where the burqa is a contentious garment begin wearing it voluntarily in public, it makes a mockery of all the illiberal forces battling over it.