Dress sense and dress nonsense – burqa bother

A score and more years ago I recall being in an airport queue, regaling a fellow passenger with my views on shell suits. My somewhat uncomplimentary remarks were terminated when I realised that the gentleman behind me was so attired. This taught me two things: the obvious one about foot-in-mouth avoidance techniques, the other that taste is personal and I should not rush to judgement as per pro things sartorial.

Going further back I remember the dress sense of my mid-teens, a time of dressing to shock and to make a statement. Jackets adorned with sewn-on badges that advocated legalising cannabis, The Rolling Stones, and other trappings to indicate my state of hippyness. These were later replaced, on my conversion to all things punk, with badges proclaiming allegiance to XTC, the Stranglers and The Buzzcocks. I wore jackets decorated with loo chains, sink plugs, and false teeth, dressed in old macs, baggy trousers and shirts with granddad collars, and wore PiL tee-shirts, brothel-creepers and dayglo socks. I occasionally dyed my hair – usually with peroxide that made my naturally very dark hair go somewhat ginger, and sometimes I dyed it black. I avoided swastikas, though this was not true of some punks, and one of my punk friends would berate those who did – even dressing to shock had its boundaries.

Clothes make statements, sometimes unintended. Dressing in adapted second-hand chic showed how with-it I was (I hoped), much like my conservative attire of today demonstrates the opposite. Clothes identify us in many ways; even those trying to be different have uniforms. My days as part of the burgeoning alternative scene saw my occasionally bizarre dress sense merely mirroring what many of my friends were doing.

I cannot see the sense in trying to dictate to people what to wear, excepting that there must be standards of decency (and even these are constantly challenged). Whilst I may find some forms of attire odd, ridiculous, or even offensive, who am I to tell someone else how to dress? My teenage self would have objected; my fifty-three year old self is not much different. In the end the overwhelming majority of people conform; even punks become self-parodying in the end.

And so to the burqa: am I offended when passing a lady dressed to cover everything but her eyes? No. Is this a vestige of a society that seeks to demean and oppress women? Possibly. If the body must be covered in public why does this only apply to women? If nothing else there is something distinctly sexist in this distinction; but is this so different in traditional western attire? Western women may give the impression of being the polar opposite of the burqa-wearing Islamists, but sexism is perhaps even more pervasive in Christian culture – I do not see many men baring their cleavage or arse (or both). Men do not totter about in high heels, and anyone reading about the psychology of clothes will understand why women wear things designed to constrict and inhibit movement whereas men do not.

I accept that there are places where covered faces may cause problems (checking ID for instance), but a burqa is not so far removed from what nun’s wear, and I have yet to hear calls for the habit to be banned. Orthodoxy in many religions often means clothing designed to be unflattering and modest – to single out the burqa and niqab does look like one group is being picked on. I think the one thing to guarantee allegiance to the burka is to ban it; if you really want to see it disappear I suggest you just ignore it. In the meantime, if you really want to see examples of daft clothing I suggest you flick through a book of British fashion through the ages; if you think wearing a dustin liner or bondage trousers was silly have a gander at Regency dandies. Anyone for a spot of naked rambling?

9 Responses to Dress sense and dress nonsense – burqa bother

  1. rayandsue says:

    Julian, I enjoyed your latest article concerning the changing clothing attire throughout the ages, and yes, you made good Reference to some of the more unusual fashion’s of yesteryear, I went through those changing periods too, the ‘ finger tip’ drape ‘ The winkle pickers, and the Italian mod look! I even had a Lambretta LD 150 scooter, with a dozen or so lights on the front and the obligatory Davy crocket tail’s hanging from the six foot arial on my chromium luggage rack,

    But that was then,
    we are no longer in the 16th or 17th century or the 1950s or 60s, we are now in the 21st century man has been to the moon and back, and according to the latest polls on the wearing of the Burka, modern day Europeans find it alien in 2013 to see Muslim women walking around with just a pair of eyes peering out of a slit in their clothing!

    On a more practical note.
    How is a speed camera or a police officer expected to gain the evidence to prosecute someone wearing a Burka?
    How can a store detective pick out a suspect if she is covered from head to toe in a black garb with just a slit to see out of?
    Does he show the jury a pair of eyes peering out from a slit and expect them to deduce that the hidden 99.99 % of the rest of the suspect belongs to the same pair of eyes that were peering out of a slit?
    How can we expect the Social Services to determine who is who, going into and out of homes by people on benefits who may need monitoring, when all they have to go on is a pair of eyes looking out of a one inch slit!

    Could a Police officer be expected to tell if just a pair of eyes belong to a disqualified driver? Or belong to a wanted person?

    Before anyone points out that the chance happening of any of my pointers taking place, ‘is to small to worry about!
    I would just remind the critic that the Muslim contribution to our population is not decreasing each year but growing apace, therefore the Burka will become common on our high streets as a pair of jeans are today, when that happens identification of a very large section of our society will become impossible ,
    No Julian, the Wearing of a Burka cannot be compared to past clothing fashions or trends no matter how you wish it to be so!

  2. a burqa is not so far removed from what nun’s wear

    I beg to differ – unless you are confusing the burqa and the niqab?

    With a nun’s habit you can see the whole face, with a niqab you see only a slot through which the eyes and bridge of the nose can be seen, with a burqa the eyes are also shielded by a mesh/grill.

    I do however agree with the general thrust in your post that within reason people should be able to wear what they like – although we often caveat that comment with “subject to decency”!

    The burqa, niqab and habit appear to me to denote different levels of detachment from the public world, and so I guess I have little trouble with:
    - people in burqas walking down the street
    - interacting at a minimal level with people in niqabs (e.g. giving directions, serving / being served in a shop)
    - interacting with people in habits at a more critical level (e.g. being given medication – I want to recognise who is giving me a pill and my ability to recognise people based on a letter box sized strip is minimal – it might be greater if I was blind and consequently enhanced my ability to distinguish more from sounds)
    I would say that these graduations of interaction probably approximately match the different levels of detachment that I perceive from the level of dress. I am unlikely to be served by a waitress in a burqa, or to receive medication from someone in a niqab. So there is probably no problem.

  3. rayandsue says:

    I also beg to differ, not with Julian ware Lane. But with the ‘ outsidethemarginals’ blog.
    When the writer explains that he expects no problems himself, (reference the above blog)
    Of course I would agree with the main thrust of his blog.
    But would disagree with his suggestion that it should not affect him personally, In due course the passage of time will make it impossible to distance ones self from the consequences of our complacent nature, The problems that may eventually surface may become ‘incidental’ to the wearing of the Burka or Niqab,
    For instance, Feelings may change if a Niqab wearing driver run over someone’s child and was not able to be prosecuted because the evidence was incomplete or not forthcoming because there was no identification possible. or a corroborative nexus available!
    Of course. Today, the prospect may be seen as slight, but the world is not ‘coming to an end’ tomorrow morning! the numbers of niqab wearers will grow as the Muslim population grows! They have worn it for a 1,000 years and are not about to give it up easily, Therefore the Burka- niqab – will inevitably form ‘incidences’ that may very well affect those who today cannot perceive such a link to their own circumstances being disrupted by people wearing the garb,..Ray

  4. So far my experience is of no encounters with burqa or niqab wearing residents in Milton ward, a ward of some eleven thousand or so residents. I admit to not having met everyone, but I am trying to give an indication of the scale of the problem (if problem it be). There is a great deal of exaggeration regarding both immigrant numbers and adherents to fundamentalism.

    I accept that there will be times when wearing face coverings is not appropriate, but it is not just Muslim women who do so. What of those with beanies, hoodies, sunglasses, balaclavas, motorcycle helmets? It is a far from clear cut issue. If what we wear is to be dictated by how good it looks on CCTV and whether easy identification is possible will we be banning wigs and hats next? Will men be allowed to grow beards, or shave? I can change my appearance by not shaving and dyeing my hair.

    Are there any examples of burqa wearers committing crimes even? Even if there is, should our freedoms be limited? I think we should live and let live.

  5. rayandsue says:

    Julian, firstly, I wish to thank you for allowing me to use your ‘ Pages to express views that some may find controversial,
    I will try to answer some of your points expressed in your comments within your Blog (above)’

    (1) yes, Burkas are already used in criminality, recently a gang of ‘criminal men’ hid their identity whilst robbing a Jewellers ‘ all wearing Burkas,’ it was widely shown on TV!

    (2) you are right about crash helmets obscuring the identity of the wearer but are removed under most situations where’s the Burka wearer can leave it obscuring her identity ( without challenge) in almost every situation! There is a vast difference,

    (3) you point to there being a discrepancy in the number of Immigrants! ( Exagerations etc) Practically every time a record of numbers are calculated. ie by census or other means,
    the outcome is shown that there are far more Immigrants than expected or anticipated, Polish numbers were greatly underestimated! By many many tens of thousands! Illegal immigrants were grossly underestimated by something in the region of 600,000′.

    Now let us get back to the original subject- the wearing of the Burka and Niqab – there is a ‘highly respected professor of Islamic custom and practices ( with a Phd after his name) he recently featured widely in National Newspapers across Europe and on the Internet when he explained that the Burka ‘has no relevance in True Islamic custom’ there is no mandatory,nor compulsory need for it to be worn! So why wear it?
    Further to this point. ‘ why is it fair and reasonable for Muslim’s in their country to take offence at European girls wearing flimsy items of clothing whilst visiting Muslim lands, whilst we are deemed disrespectful if we demand a dress sense from Immigrants that is compatible within our Society? Please don’t get me on the racist theme! As I have a good number of Muslims within my immediate family, After an accident,My life was saved by two Muslim Doctors and I was cared for by several Muslim Nurses whilst I was in intensive care! When I broke down in darkened lane during a rain storm. It was three Muslims who come to my rescue! Not the forty or so fellow citizens who drove past me! ……from Ray…..

  6. rayandsue says:

    Muslims, may have let ‘other’ damaging aspects of their women folk waring the Burka ! If requested I can give a good example of why the Burka is working against the need for friendship, cohesion, and trust in this country of multiculturalism, All I need is someone to request my offering it for consideration…Ray…

  7. rayandsue says:

    Julian, i’v just Re read your most recent post, Whilst I admire much of what you say in your posts, you do say some ‘potty’ things occasionally !
    Of course you would not see the weight of Immigration ( and its downside) whilst living and spending much of your time in Westcliff!
    As I once said in a previous blog some months ago, The Immigrants themselves are now coming to terms with too much Immigration affecting them too!
    You remarked in your most recent post. ” live and let live” precisely Julian, lets live in an environment that can provide jobs hospital places and houses, that is what is needed, ‘ a breathing space so that we can all. ‘ live and let live’ ‘ not live under bridges and shop doorways!
    Next year we will have quadruple the number of fresh Immigrants than you would believe!
    Do you think present day Immigrants are going to be saying. ” ah bless their little hearts let them live and let live” as they watch their chance of that Roof over their families head’s slip through their fingers? Init! Human nature will come to the fore. ” live and let live” whilst being a desirable virtue is presently pie in the sky ‘Init! ….. From Ray….

  8. Christine Hills says:

    I have read all post with interest,and most are off course valied.Living in Westcliff almost 40yrs,im sorry to say im feeling less safe if walking at ceratin times,and also into Hamlet Court rd shopping the same.I have sat an watched the amount of people just hanging about especialy outside the betting shops,lots of Chinese,and other nationality,and im not happy espesialy when the security staff in shops are saying stealing,anti social behaviour is on the increase again,its a shame the police cant control more often.Re-the Burka in my view its fine,but I do not agree with the outfit with eyes only showing,sorry name slipped my mind,as anyone could wear it do a robbery or other crime and how could they be identified.We all know its the religion,but things are unsafe as it is in this world now without added issues.

  9. rayandsue says:

    Quite right Christine what you say in your blog (above) is understandable,
    The problem with these veils (that leave just a pair of eyes showing as an identifiable feature) is that ‘ because they are seen as a religious item they are left ‘ unchallenged ‘ for fear of causing offence,
    The scope, therefore, for criminals to use them as a perfect disguise is immediately apparent! Just recently the ‘ veil’ was used by a gang of ‘ men’ dressed as Muslim women who went on to rob a jewellers shop!
    So the first seeds are being sown for a revolutionary new form of identity evasion !
    Who would question or stop such a group of seemingly innocent people wearing a religious veil?
    of course there is also scope for this to impact on genuinely innocent Muslims who would become tarnished by ‘none muslims’ committing crime whilst dressed in religious Muslim garments,

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