Playing Burqa-Ups

Rilla pointed out this article about a kid (a 7 year old girl) in Canada wanting to wear a burqa for halloween. The article is a critique of an earlier article in which the author said it wasn’t a good idea – but the critique is only of the reasons for the no, since the critic agrees that wearing a burqa at halloween is unacceptable. Interesting.

The earlier article offers reasons such as the (Canadian) muslim community being conflicted over the meaning and appropriateness of the burqa themselves. The criticism of this in the newer article is that this isn’t really all that relevant and makes implications about “good” and “bad” muslims. Well, maybe, I don’t really claim to know what it means.

The critical article rests its case on the idea that the kid wearing a burqa leads to Islam being “objectified, commodified, and appropriated.” The final reason given? “Some things are just offensive when some people wear them.” Uh… huh.

I think we can all agree that some people would be offended by seeing a 7 year old (presumably white?) girl dressed in a burqa on halloween. It stirs up all kinds of things, no doubt – are the parents encouraging her to wear it because they want to make fun of Islam? Is it some sort of commentary on the political/social implications of the burqa? Is it a trivialising of a complex issue? Definitely there will be offended people – probably on all sides, muslims and non-muslims alike.

On the other hand, as per free speech, some people being offended by something you do (or wear) isn’t the world’s strongest reason not to do (or wear) it. The kid, according to the first article, wants to wear a burqa because she’s curious about it, which seems like an alright reason and pretty low on the offense scale. Why not just calm down and live about it? Is the kid seriously infringing on anything so important that people need to be super worried and prevent her from going ahead? Is this an ethical issue at all? I find it hard to see it that way.

If people shouldn’t wear “things that are just offensive when some people wear them”, then it’s pretty obvious that this would apply to the burqa generally (as well as countless other pieces of clothing) – lots of people find it offensive. But equally obviously, it’s not like no one should be allowed to wear the burqa just because it’ll piss those people off. Those people can go ahead and be offended. They may even live through the ordeal.

I can see how it might feel a bit tasteless to people, particularly in the context of halloween (burqa as “scary” costume), but it doesn’t sound like that was the intention. And even if it was… just move on with your life.

7 November 2010
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