Bombs, Bans, And Burqas

Bombs, Bans, And Burqas

Banning The Burqa: What's the Answer?

This ongoing debate on whether the burqa ought to be banned or not has revolved around this idea that they’re inherently violent and tyrannical. This dialogue consists of two overarching opinions, those that believe the burqa should be banned and those that believe it shouldn’t be. But what’s the morally right decision in the legal fate of the burqa?

Why do women wear veils? Historically speaking, PBS in an article explains that head coverings vary by culture and that they have a great deal to do with wealth and class rather than religion. Wealthier women tended to be more clothed and educated while poorer women tended to have more freedom of movement, be less clothed, and have fewer educational opportunities. In regards to the Western myth that the veil is a symbol of female Muslim subordinance, the Quran explicitly states that men and women are to both dress modestly.

And the violence that comes out of the Middle East isn’t derived from Islam itself but rather from local practices, and the same ideology can be applied to the high rates of abuse in the United States having little to no correlation to Christianity which is the predominant religion. Ironically enough, Islam gives women many rights which Western women didn’t even have until the 19th century. Muslim women have always retained rights to their assets, but women in England didn’t have this right until 1882.

One stance in the debate supports the banning of the burqa for the reasoning that it is oppressive toward women in countries where the burqa is worn have higher rates of abuse. Afghanistan is one of the top countries for burqa abuse and FrontPage Magazine reported that 87% of women in this country report domestic violence and that Saudi Arabia also faces high rates of abuse.

It’s true that in nations like Saudi Arabia women are legally forced into a dress code. However, the burqa is more of a cultural norm rather than used for the purpose of abusing women. The reality is that if a man is to attack a woman he’ll do it with or without the burqa, because if he intends to harm her then that’s all the motivation needed.

This side of the ongoing discussion also claims that the burqa in nature justifies sexual assault on those who don’t wear it, but this can be boiled down simply to rape culture. In societies in every nation, there is victim blaming and that is wrongdoing on the societal culture neither by the women nor the garment.

Also, many European nations support banning the burqa on the grounds that the veil poses a national threat to security. In fact, many nations have banned the use of the veil. France was the first to lay out such laws banning the burqa and niqab in 2011 with the consequences of a $43,000 fine or jail time.

Italy has banned covering one’s face since 1975 and even fined a Muslim woman in Novara for wearing a full Islamic veil. In Russia, things appear to be even more appalling after the Hijab ban in 2013. Ramzan Kadyrov, head of the Chechen Republic has been reported by the BBC this January, to voice “support for men who fired paintballs at women deemed to be violating the strict dress code.”

Other countries that have pursued banning the veil are the Netherlands, China, Canada, and Germany.

The claim that the veil itself poses a threat to national security falls short. Many supporters of this side of the debate on the burqa assert that veils are used as a guise to camouflage for criminal activity, but this terminology is offensive in nature, as it suggests veils aren’t culturally or religiously significant and are used only to conduct unlawful activity.

To associate every veil wearer with criminals is ludicrous. It’s the same as suggesting that if a few Jewish citizens wearing kippa’s were found to commit similar crimes, then all Jewish people must be criminals if they wear this religiously symbolic clothing item.

Take away the religious and cultural associations the burqa has and just consider how could a piece of fabric possibly be the cause of a security threat? Could a woman hide a bomb under her burqa? Possibly. Is that likely? No. This argument doesn’t make sense because it’s not the burqa that inspires and commits acts of terrorism rather a person’s mind.

Ultimately it appears that nations are being contradictory when they claim that the burqa must be banned on the terms of lack of assimilation and threat security. Countries preach that they are melting pots and are accepting of all, yet they outright say that they won’t include Muslim women that wear head coverings. It’s contradictory to claim that one wants an open society and to destroy just that by isolating individuals based on their culture and religion.

It’s not a matter of assimilation rather the preservation of Islamophobia. Many countries have realized that banning the burqa is a deliberate infringement on freedom of expression and religion and have lifted their bans, namely France and Turkey.

It’s also naïve to assume that women are inherently oppressed in the Middle East based on the way they dress. It’s a misconception Westerners seem to hold that says that because women in the Middle East wear veils they must be oppressed and that to fix that issue it’s vital to ban the use of them, but by doing such the oppression of this demographic is actually perpetuated, as well as Islamophobia because it suggests that Muslim veils are evil in nature.

UNILAD decided to ask Muslim women who wear the burqa and niqab their opinions and reported that many felt, "It is more representative of female comradery," or the burqa made them feel "empowered as a woman." Those that oppose the burqa tend to primarily be Westerners that think they know what’s best for Muslim women rather than allowing for the principle of self-determination that these Western nations believe in.

Banning the burqa innately penalizes women for their choice in clothing themselves. Criminalizing the burqa won’t fix the barrier in gender inequality in the Middle East and banning the burqa is yet another attack on the faith and culture of minorities for not conforming to Western ideals, despite not actually inflicting harm upon others.

While this type veil may be forced on some denominations of women in the Middle East, it in no way is indicative of the situation all women face in the Middle East and in no way suggests that all women who wear the veil are oppressed.

At the end of the day one must ask themselves, is it morally acceptable to subject an entire demographic for the wrongdoings of others? Banning the burqa only perpetuates the idea of Islamophobia suggesting that anything culturally or religiously significant in Islamic culture is malevolent in nature. It wouldn’t help with the oppression of Islamic women, but instead would be oppressing them further by taking away their right to freedom of expression and religion.

It’s more important to break the stereotypes and stigmatization of the veil rather than trivialize the meaning it has to Muslim women. Often Western culture tries to trivialize the meaning of the veil and it only perpetuates the stigmas of Muslims being terrorists and women being oppressed. It’s not ISIS, ISIL, Hamas, or even the Taliban hiding under the burqa’s of Islamic women, for it’s the Western condescending nature of judgment and Islamophobia that resides there.

One must come to terms with the fact that hate is not derived from religion, for it comes from a sense of fear of not understanding. It’s not just nor is it fair for Westerners to question the cultural and religious validity of a Muslim woman’s head coverings, and it isn’t right for Muslim women to decide that for the entire demographic. If a country considers itself to be a free nation then there is absolutely no ethical justification that could possibly support the banning of the burqa or any type of veil.

When trying to spread tolerance and freedom, it’s vital to allow every woman the right to decide what she deems fit when veiling herself or not. The idea that Muslim women need to be liberated from their veils unintentionally suggests Western supremacy, but most importantly taking away the validity and freedom that veil gives them. However, when Pakistani feminist Alishba Zarmeen says “What I feel about the ‘hijab-is-my-identity’ apologists is the same thing I feel about Confederate-flag supporters.

Yes, free speech supports your right to sport one — but do not forget the history and traditional use of that symbol.” Before celebrating the choices of free Western women who don these garments, remember to think of the countless more women in Muslim-majority countries who never have the option of removing them,” she puts into perspective how this topic has so many layers that need to be addressed. The burqa has a history and that needs to be acknowledged.

Ultimately the debate on burqas is truly just a sidetracking smokescreen. The real debate is about how Islamic core values, with Jihad and Sharia law, conflict with those of free societies, and their self-determination and free-selves. At the end of the day, this debate isn’t just about the burqa, it’s about the fundaments of Arab and Western society, and until that is widely acknowledged, there can be neither justice for Muslim women nor real progress towards creating a better world where freedom is celebrated.

Cover Image Credit: Twitter

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This Is How Your Same-Sex Marriage Affects Me As A Catholic Woman

I hear you over there, Bible Bob.

It won't.

Wait, what?

I promise you did read that right. Not what you were expecting me to say, right? Who another person decides to marry will never in any way affect my own marriage whatsoever. Unless they try to marry the person that I want to, then we might have a few problems.

As a kid, I was raised, baptized, and confirmed into an old school Irish Catholic church in the middle of a small, midwestern town.

Not exactly a place that most people would consider to be very liberal or open-minded. Despite this I was taught to love and accept others as a child, to not cast judgment because the only person fit to judge was God. I learned this from my Grandpa, a man whose love of others was only rivaled by his love of sweets and spoiling his grandkids.

While I learned this at an early age, not everyone else in my hometown — or even within my own church — seemed to get the memo. When same-sex marriage was finally legalized country-wide, I cried tears of joy for some of my closest friends who happen to be members of the LGBTQ community.

I was happy while others I knew were disgusted and even enraged.

"That's not what it says in the bible! Marriage is between a man and a woman!"

"God made Adam and Eve for a reason! Man shall not lie with another man as he would a woman!"

"Homosexuality is a sin! It's bad enough that they're all going to hell, now we're letting them marry?"

Alright, Bible Bob, we get it, you don't agree with same-sex relationships. Honestly, that's not the issue. One of our civil liberties as United States citizens is the freedom of religion. If you believe your religion doesn't support homosexuality that's OK.

What isn't OK is thinking that your religious beliefs should dictate others lives.

What isn't OK is using your religion or your beliefs to take away rights from those who chose to live their life differently than you.

Some members of my church are still convinced that their marriage now means less because people are free to marry whoever they want to. Honestly, I wish I was kidding. Tell me again, Brenda how exactly do Steve and Jason's marriage affect yours and Tom's?

It doesn't. Really, it doesn't affect you at all.

Unless Tom suddenly starts having an affair with Steve their marriage has zero effect on you. You never know Brenda, you and Jason might become best friends by the end of the divorce. (And in that case, Brenda and Tom both need to go to church considering the bible also teaches against adultery and divorce.)

I'll say it one more time for the people in the back: same-sex marriage does not affect you even if you or your religion does not support it. If you don't agree with same-sex marriage then do not marry someone of the same sex. Really, it's a simple concept.

It amazes me that I still actually have to discuss this with some people in 2017. And it amazes me that people use God as a reason to hinder the lives of others.

As a proud young Catholic woman, I wholeheartedly support the LGBTQ community with my entire being.

My God taught me to not hold hate so close to my heart. He told me not to judge and to accept others with open arms. My God taught me to love and I hope yours teaches you the same.

Disclaimer - This article in no way is meant to be an insult to the Bible or religion or the LGBTQ community.

Cover Image Credit: Sushiesque / Flickr

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The Gun Control Debate Comes Down To The Power Of God

My opinion on two parts to the most, in every sense of the word, "loaded" issue.

There are a plethora of difficult issues in a Christian's life, and despite what it looks like on social media and mainstream media, gun control is high on that list. It pains me to see such a divide on this issue. Liberals are painted as children who want to give up all their rights, while conservatives are seen as idiots who value guns more than human life. And Christian conservatives are seen as hypocritical Pharisees, not unlike the Nazis.

But we all know, at least I hope we all know, that this isn’t the case for either side. We all love our families, and we all cherish life. We all prefer a world where murder doesn’t exist or at least a world where mass murders don’t exist. We all want a world where our children, siblings, friends, and parents can live safely

So, what gives? If we value the same things, why are we so divided on gun control? The answer, I believe, has more layers and more depth than I could ever hope to understand, let alone write about. But I can share my own thoughts and concerns on the issue in hopes that it is a positive, edifying contribution to the dialogue.

There are two main parts to the gun control debate that most social media posts can be divided into: Gun Control Laws, and the reason for gun control. What I mean by Gun Control Laws tends to either challenge or support certain claims like “more guns= more deaths.” The second part, the reason for gun control, asks why school shootings and general acts of terrorism are happening in an attempt to answer if gun control is even needed. I think the reason why communication on this topic is so difficult is that people are often arguing on these different parts of the same topic. So, I hope my own thoughts, or rambling at this point, can help with the general discussion, even if it’s just a Conservative Christian’s (note: not a conservative that’s also a Christian) opinion on Gun Control.

The first issue, the gun control laws, is that the gun control debate is not about gun control, and it’s not about guns. I’m talking about the debate itself, the “dialogue” surrounding gun control. I think a gun control debate would look into methods and strategies of gun control. It assumes a bipartisan agreement that gun control is actually needed, which we haven’t reached, at least, not on a mass level.

Rather, the debate is about us: the people who are gunned down, the people that witness the deaths of friends and family, the people that hear about the tragedy on the news or social media, the people that want to do something. It is also about the people that seemingly don’t want to do something. It is also about the people who shoot other people, the people who go on shooting sprees in schools and other public places. The issue is about an enormous, democratic nation that is split on almost every topic, like a Giant with feet that does not want to walk in the direction its walking, arms that does not want to hold the things its holding, and a head that plans out things it does not want to plan out.

But the solution isn’t somehow forcing half of the individual body to a restriction or code. The United States isn’t a single body, it’s a group of people divided into 50 states, each with their own restrictions, which are at least just as strict as any overarching restriction. And in each state, there are municipalities. This is good because individual people are different! And oftentimes, people in a certain area tend to think alike, or agree on the same ideas.

It feels like people forget that there are stricter gun laws on the state level than the Federal level. For example, Minnesota has gun restrictions on the mentally challenged. If one feels those restrictions aren’t sufficient, one could work on changing the local, or state laws. In fact, it might be easier to work on the local and state level rather than the federal level.

The second issue, which is the reason for gun control, isn’t about us. It’s about God. The United States might work like some form of democracy, but any leader or government was placed there by God, and even they are subject to the authority of God.

But this doesn’t mean God is okay with the murderous lashes of people. God is very much against murder. He is against any form of action that places a person in the seat of the Judge. By judge, I mean defining actions, or cases, according to one’s own prescription, for example, the judge of who lives and who dies, who steals and who’s robbed, who’s to be loved and who’s to be hated… the judge of who’s judge and who isn’t judge, the judge of who’s God and who isn’t God.

Sadly, there are people who do play Judge, like the Parkland shooter, or the Santa Fe shooter, or even myself. To think that I’ve never judged in one way or another is a lie. I do it every day. But admitting that society is filled with self righteous people doesn’t solve anything, it won’t solve mass shootings, it won’t stop sin. The lamentations of the Teacher in Ecclesiastes comes to mind, “Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity.”

What I’m trying to say is that whether or not we have strict gun control, loose gun control, or no gun control, we won’t be any better off. The United States in 1918 wasn’t any better then than it is now in 2018. Horrors have been performed now that the people then could never imagine. And people then practiced things that were so horrible, we riot against them a century later.

I think my conclusion, then, would come from Ecclesiastes, “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.”

But I’ll also tack on a line from Paul’s letter to the church in Rome, “...God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” We can work hard to make this world a better place by pushing for stricter gun control, by lobbying for or against issues, and by protesting for what we believe in. But the most we can ever do is pray.

Cover Image Credit: Photo by Heather Mount on Unsplash

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