Expert comment: Banning of ‘burquinis’ is a step towards depriving Muslim women of equal citizenship

Posted by ap507 at Aug 22, 2016 12:39 PM |
Dr Saeeda Shah from the University of Leicester highlights how traditional dress signifies empowerment and equality to Muslim women and mentions their participation in the Rio Olympics

Issued by University of Leicester Press Office on 22 August 2016

The recent banning of the ‘burquini’ in Cannes is a step towards depriving Muslim women of equal citizenship, according to an expert from the University of Leicester.

Dr Saeeda Shah from the University of Leicester School of Education has written an article for Think: Leicester, the University’s platform for independent academic opinion, outlining how banning clothing by measuring it against secular and religious criteria is simplistic and problematic, and ignores how the hijab and dresses covering the body are being increasingly perceived by Muslim women as enablers in public spaces, such as in the Rio Olympics.

In the article Dr Shah says: “In most Muslim societies covering the body in public is considered ‘good custom’ emphasised by their ideology, although how this ‘covering’ is interpreted varies even across and within Muslim societies.

“Banning any type of clothing by measuring it against secular and religious criteria is not only simplistic and highly problematic, it rightly raises questions such as ‘why 'religious symbols' including the Jewish Kippa, the Sikh turban and the headdresses of Christian nuns were not being banned’.

“The perception that Muslim women are oppressed, silenced, invisible and confined to domestic is another force that Muslim women have to fight against besides the patriarchal structures in their own societies. Rulings such as banning of ‘burquinis’ is one more step barring them from participation in the public as equal citizens.

“The Rio Olympics are another evidence that Muslim women can successfully participate in any public place. Fourteen Muslim women won medals in the Rio Olympics and although eleven Muslim women Rio Olympics winners were not wearing traditional Muslim hijab, three of them did wear it.

“Traditional Muslim dress covering head and body is not just an identity statement, for many Muslim women it signifies empowerment and equality. Turning this into a secular versus religious or secular versus Islam issue can be detrimental to societal cohesion and peaceful co-existence in the emerging societies where increasingly people have not only to live with diversity but to learn to understand and respect diversity.”

Read the full article ‘Banning of ‘burquinis’ is a step towards depriving Muslim women of equal citizenship’ hosted on Think: Leicester here: https://www2.le.ac.uk/offices/press/think-leicester/arts-and-culture/2016/banning-of-2018burquinis2019-is-a-step-towards-depriving-muslim-women-of-equal-citizenship

ENDS

Notes to editors:

For more information contact Dr Saeeda Shah on sjas2@le.ac.uk

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