As a Booker prize winner and celebrity socialist, Arundhati Roy’s audience extends to intellectuals worldwide, and while the author/activist has made a significant contribution to literature and indian journalism on subjects like tribal rights in the past, her more recent attempts at political activism have been in the limelight due to their simplification of important topics- like feminism, coercion and choice. A lot of misplaced feminism goes behind Roy’s populist statements, and as most of her publicity stunts , these unjust rants often digress from real issues of consequence, as she skirts around touchy subjects, glosses over important facts, and sugarcoats opinions that are at essence neither liberal in political terms , nor rational in intellectual essence.
All those in support of Roy’s comment (in the picture) need to note the context in which it was presented : – she spoke about the ban on burkas in France, and remained silent on the same issue in Saudi Arabia. Today it is relevant as the ban has, due to the rise of IS, been imposed in States not just of Europe, but also Western Africa, for security concerns.
Technically, of course her statement on choice and freedom holds a moral high ground, but that is a superficial pretense, because her silence on real issues is as relevant as the stand she takes on perceived injustice, because the issue at hand isn’t just about coercion, and choice, it is also about the burka and what it represents.
Another thing to note here is the context in which the burka ban came about, true, choice is a must for everyone, but a burka is not a pair of jeans, it is a political and religious symbol, not just of Islam, but of the patriarchy within it, it is also today a uniform, for suppression and moralistic oppression, that is now so deeply entrenched in Islamic society that people today are condemned if they even question its hierarchy.
Ms. Roy and her supporters, the liberals and the intellectuals, must take another look at the cause they support, because the women of islam did not suddenly start to cover themselves in black fabric from head to to regardless of the weather or the season, they were forced to, and for every one family where women, out of a simple desire to display that they conform to their social norms or the role that has been assigned to them, and not chosen- they may wear the burka out of free will, but it isn’t to show their independence, it is to confirm their subservience.
Every war has its flag and its uniform, and a large number of the ulemas who speak in favor of the current extremists advise all “true muslims” to support the martyrs who fight the religious war by showing their solidarity through donning the hijab. I know that most women don’t don the hijab to support jihadists, but consider the liberation of the Iraqi women who wore skirts in the 70’s and burka’s now. The more governments crack down against this symbol of oppression domestically, the more international pressure arises on muslim states to do away with their laws which make it mandatory.
Western liberals are abandoning their principles by not confronting Islam about its treatment of women, and the ban here isn’t to restrict their choice, it ensures that muslim women cannot be preserved in the time capsule of centuries gone by.
In the end, then, it isn’t about whether you support choice, but rather, what choices you support.
- by swati singh