Opinion: Burqa Not Always a Symbol of Oppression

January 8, 2004

Source: The Age


On January 8, 2004 The Age ran an opinion piece by Fatima Shah, spokeswoman for women's affairs for the Australian Muslim Public Affairs Committee, in which she argued in defense of the burqa: "Whilst the mystique of the veiled Arab woman has captured the imagination of countless Western writers and travellers, it has also captured the unwanted attention of a number of leftists and feminists who view it as a symbol of patriarchic oppression. Feminists have reached such a conclusion based purely on their ideology. Ultimately, the reason they oppose the burqa is because they wouldn't like to wear it themselves, so wrongly assume no other woman would either. When presented with the fact that most Muslim women wear it out of choice, the feminist will typically explain away this phenomenon with the explanation that Muslim women are merely brainwashed and don't really know what is best for them. Of course, in doing so the feminists show the same contemptuous attitude to the rights and wishes of Muslim women as the Muslim men they constantly impugn as oppressive."