A Ban On Modesty?

Many Christian, Jewish and Muslim women wear head coverings or full-body coverings (known as burqa’s) as a sign of modesty. In Judaism and Christianity, the head covering further symbolizes our submission both to God and to our husbands (see 1 Corinthians 11, Isaiah 47:2-3, Genesis 24:64-65, etc.) These garments are an expression of a core religious value for many women across America.

Recently, I read an article regarding France’s recent ban on burqua’s, written by a woman who desires to see a similar ban established in America. In it, Bonnie Erbe’ writes:

“I have been to the Middle East more than a dozen times and have studied this issue both here and abroad. I must say that when visiting countries such as Egypt and Morocco, where native women cover all but their faces, I am not likely to go out in public in shorts and a T-shirt, as I do here at home. Some culturally tone deaf Western tourists do dress as if they’re touring Disneyland, but most have the presence of mind to cover up somewhat, out of respect for another country’s culture, beliefs and tradition.

I often wish Muslim immigrant women would repay the courtesy here in the U.S. Whenever I see a woman in full body garment or head scarf — and there are plenty of them in my community, where there are many immigrants — I take it as an affront … it feels to me as if they are holding American women back … I wish they would adopt a ‘When in Rome . . .’ approach and make full use of the freedoms granted to women in this great nation.”

I would like to ask Erbe’ what, exactly, are the standards in our American “Rome?” What are our American “freedoms” that these burqua and headcovering clad women should adopt in lieu of the their coverings? Should they be forced to adopt Westernized sensuality? American feminism? Should they be forced to violate their own moral conscious in order to embrace a society that is sensual and sexual at its core? Clearly, it isn’t our religious freedoms that Erbe’ would have them uphold. I would suggest that if America is going to consider banning burqa’s and headcoverings because they’re a “sign of subservience and debasement,” we should also consider banning miniskirts and midriffs, as a sign of rebellion and invirtue.

It’s foundational feminist thought to uphold the constitutional rights of women, yet it’s this same feminism that now seeks to remove a woman’s right to choose her dress as an expression of religious freedom due to its perceived affect on the feminist ideal. I would like to submit that if your feminism is threatened by my head covering, something is wrong with your feminism. Your miniskirt certainly doesn’t affect my modesty.

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9 Responses to A Ban On Modesty?

  1. Mrs. Parunak says:

    I loved this on Facebook. I’m glad to see you put it here, too.

  2. Elena Rulli says:

    Dear Rina, I’m a feminst and I’m contrary to burka and veil bans. Headcoverings are not only an expression of a religious free choice; often they are the only means for muslim women (and other religious groups, like orthodox jews) to get out of their home, even when they live in western countries. Therefore I believe it is better to have veiled women that can get out of their home to study/work/socialize rather than law bans that prevent them from every activity outside the domestic walls. If those headcoverings are the product of a free choice it’s a matter that varies from woman to woman, from family to family.
    This said, I can only be happy when a woman is free to choose.

    • Rina says:

      I agree with you, Elena… if our country were to ban the burqa, it would not make women of faith “free” to go without it, but my very well keep them from ever leaving their homes. To many Muslim, Jewish, and Christian women the headcovering is part of modest dress. For many, a ban against headcoverings would be similar to a ban against shirts, the feeling of nakedness would be the same as what would result from a law forcing women to go topless. They would not be “liberated,” but humiliated.

  3. Stephanie says:

    I am a Christian woman who has chosen to wear the veil, and it never ceases to amaze me (in a horrible sort of way) how the agents of feminism don’t match their practice with their rhetoric. “Pro-choice” suddenly means de-valuing life, freedom to get out of the house and work means a social ban from staying in it as home-makers, etc. etc. Thanks for sharing this.

    • Rina says:

      Stephanie, I was just thinking about this very thing the other day, how feminism’s original intent was to give every woman a “choice” (that’s a whole ‘nother blog post!), but how far it has come in demeaning those women who choose to stay at home, especially those who choose to stay at home and have children. It wasn’t long ago that taking care of the home was credited to a woman for righteousness, having many children was considered a blessing and being a “fruitful” wife was a badge of honor. Now, staying at home means we’re not intelligent enough to do anything else, or that we’re lazy, or that we’re being demeaned by our husbands. Having many children and being a fruitful wife means we’re labeled “irresponsible” and by many, even looked at as disgusting. Where has my freedom gone to “choose” what kind of lifestyle I want to live, without fear of repercussions? Isn’t that what feminism was supposed to be all about? Oh, I could go on and on about this, but I won’t. See, now I’m rambling. :)

  4. Diane says:

    What an interesting article… I have seen Bonnie Erbe on interview and news programs and I must say that I am not altogether surprised that she would make a proposal like this. This particular comment stood out to me:
    “I take it as an affront … it feels to me as if they are holding American women back …”

    Why would another woman’s choice (and she freely admits that it is the individual woman’s choice) be offensive to her? How would another woman’s choices… a woman who is not even from our culture… hold us strong indee-pendent American women back? It just doesn’t make sense…

    Maybe modest dressing women of faith make her uncomfortable because they are evidence that many women of the world choose this life on their own. I think women like Miss Erbe see everything through the lens of privilege vs oppression- the fact that there are women who wear modest dress not because others force it upon them, but rather out of free will and expression of their own personal feelings and faith. It kind of flies in the face of the foundation many feminists have built their own life upon…. and that has got to be a bit threatening. Maybe the “affront” she feels is a bit of guilt.

  5. Andy Bhavnani says:

    On burkha ban,there have been many opinions and many more could come, for and against. But the ban by the french is a yes, above all, because of security reasons. There have been proven incidents around the world on full face covered burkha women and even muslim men wear it to cover their true identity and reach a locations close enough to kill many enocent people including women and children. Security is not able to identify such people face covered with burkhas. Therefore as responsible Government, it would be right for France to ban full burkha in order to reduce tension amongst the security forces of that country and make it easy for them to safeguard the lives of enocent people. This issue of ban burkha would not have come about if these jihadis didnt use burkhas as a coverup for terrorism.
    The responsibilityof the French or any Government is to see the safety of its citizens. No other issues should be more important then that. On the other hand long cloths covered upto the feet should be allowed with face uncovered. It would solve the arguement of modesty etc. Covering face in public in the times of terrorism is not an expression of freedom but an intent of deceit.

    • Rina says:

      Thank you for your comment, Mr. Bhavnani. I understand what you have to say regarding the security measures France has taken in banning the burkha. My issue lies with the opinion of Bonnie Erbe’ that the burkha should be banned in America, not for security purposes, but because women wearing burkha’s are somehow “holding women back.” Her opinion has little to do with the reasons France adopted a ban on the burkha, but instead to do with the perceived idea that a woman in American society expressing her freedom to express her religious and moral conscious in the form of her dress somehow harms the feminist agenda. If modesty is harmful to the feminist agenda, I think we need to take a long, hard look at what that agenda is and ask the question: is this really what we want for the women in our Country?