Daily Archives: February 17, 2010

Isn’t A Burka Simply A Mask?

Angelcel, of AC’s Scrapbook brought up a topic of the “Hey, that reminds me!” variety. See the inspiration for the following post here.

Angelcel’s post got me thinking. Isn’t a burka simply a mask? It conceals the identity of the person inside. It creates a nameless, faceless figure that is not easily identified.

Anti-mask laws are debated in the United States. In a simple google search I discovered that many, if not all, states have some form of an anti-mask ordinance in place. And for as many laws I found, I found just as many rebuttals, protests and appeals. Those against anti-mask laws are concerned about freedom of speech and expression. Those for anti-mask laws are concerned for public safety or to discourage offensive behavior.

Where I live, much of the hullabaloo centers around this kind of mask:

I find the above mask and robe offensive. I don’t want someone hiding behind it, spewing hatred towards others under the “safety” of a mask. I also find the burka offensive. But wearing it is an expression of religious affiliation. I believe those forced to wear a burka are victims of hatred. But there are some who willingly wear the burka as an expression of their religious beliefs. Who am I to tell them it’s wrong?

Which leads me to the “Hey! That reminds me…” part of the post.

It was July. My daughter was 8 years old and her US citizenship was finally approved. My husband suggested that we celebrate the fourth of July in Boston, his hometown. Perfect. A Boston fourth of July – there’s no better place to celebrate!

We had a wonderful time. Homes all decked out in red, white and blue. Picnics and Bar-B-Ques. Even a neighborhood parade (she decorated her scooter with streamers and rode with her cousins) that ended at the local park. Sack races and egg tosses. Pony rides and sno-cones. And the fireworks? Amazing!

We spent a week in the Boston area so we had plenty of time for sight-seeing. One particular afternoon, shopping at Faneuil Hall Marketplace, we all split up. Everyone wanted to see something different. When we met back up my mother-in-law was agitated.

“See? That person there? In the burka? It’s a man.”

Her husband scoffed. My husband laughed and called her paranoid.

“No. Look at his hands. His shoes. It’s a man under there. We should do something.”

She was right. Thick, hairy arms. Thick, hairy fingers. Large, black work boots. He noticed us staring and he scuttled away.

“What should we do, Mom?” my husband asked, “He wasn’t doing anything wrong. And besides, we’re not sure it was a man anyway.”

My mother-in-law was still upset. She had been watching him for some time. He appeared to be fascinated with the crowds and the buildings. We just brushed off her concerns. The date was July, 2001.

Two months later, America’s greatest tragedy happened. And the two planes that crashed into the World Trade Center originated in Boston.

Before 9/11, if you had asked me whether women should be banned from wearing burkas in this country I would have defended their every right to freely express their beliefs.

But now? No. No way. Never.

It’s a mask. Plain and simple. And in this country, we don’t wear masks when we’re in public. You are welcome to wear your mask on Halloween. But on every other day? No. In this culture, a mask in unacceptable on a daily basis. It conceals our identity and arouses suspicion. As angelcel pointed out, “If I were to go and live in a different culture I would accept that I should abide by the rules and accept the creeds and standards of that culture.”

So when you are in a western culture, burkas are not acceptable. Because a burka is a mask.



Filed under Soapbox, That Reminds Me!