Many Christian, Jewish and Muslim women wear head coverings or full-body coverings (known as burqa’s) as a sign of modesty. In Judaism and Christianity, the head covering further symbolizes our submission both to God and to our husbands (see 1 Corinthians 11, Isaiah 47:2-3, Genesis 24:64-65, etc.) These garments are an expression of a core religious value for many women across America.
Recently, I read an article regarding France’s recent ban on burqua’s, written by a woman who desires to see a similar ban established in America. In it, Bonnie Erbe’ writes:
“I have been to the Middle East more than a dozen times and have studied this issue both here and abroad. I must say that when visiting countries such as Egypt and Morocco, where native women cover all but their faces, I am not likely to go out in public in shorts and a T-shirt, as I do here at home. Some culturally tone deaf Western tourists do dress as if they’re touring Disneyland, but most have the presence of mind to cover up somewhat, out of respect for another country’s culture, beliefs and tradition.
I often wish Muslim immigrant women would repay the courtesy here in the U.S. Whenever I see a woman in full body garment or head scarf — and there are plenty of them in my community, where there are many immigrants — I take it as an affront … it feels to me as if they are holding American women back … I wish they would adopt a ‘When in Rome . . .’ approach and make full use of the freedoms granted to women in this great nation.”
I would like to ask Erbe’ what, exactly, are the standards in our American “Rome?” What are our American “freedoms” that these burqua and headcovering clad women should adopt in lieu of the their coverings? Should they be forced to adopt Westernized sensuality? American feminism? Should they be forced to violate their own moral conscious in order to embrace a society that is sensual and sexual at its core? Clearly, it isn’t our freedom of religion that Erbe’ would have them uphold. I would suggest that if America is going to consider banning burqa’s and headcoverings because they’re a “sign of subservience and debasement,” we should also consider banning miniskirts and midriffs, as a sign of rebellion and invirtue.
It’s foundational feminist thought to uphold the constitutional rights of women, yet it’s this same feminism that now seeks to remove a woman’s right to choose her dress as an expression of religious freedom due to its perceived affect on the feminist ideal. I would like to submit that if your feminism is threatened by my head covering, something is wrong with your feminism. Your miniskirt certainly doesn’t affect my modesty.