Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Freeland Burkha

The Conservative Party of Denmark has proposed an all-out ban of the Burkha and the Niqab in Denmark. I'm getting this from the morning papers, so I'm probably getting all wound up for nothing, but as I understand it the proposal is to make it illegal for women to cover their faces as part of their observance of hijab.

There are so many issues. I just wanted to note, again, the difference between seeing hijab as a symbol and seeing it as a style. Symbolism denotes; style displays. Symbols are references, they mean something—some thing. Your style, by contrast, is your way of revealing and covering yourself—your self. The burkha does, of course, have a symbolic effect (it does refer) but it is very obviously also a style.

States that impose a high standard of modesty on its citizenry—i.e., states that require its citizens to cover themselves in public—are one thing. Here in Denmark, such states are exotic, ancient, faraway places. It is quite another to imagine a state that forces the women of a tiny minority to un-cover themselves. To violate their own modesty. William Burroughs, I'm told, said that Freeland was based on his experiences in Denmark. I can believe it.

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