I run a volunteer education and healthcare charity in an extremely rural and traditional area of Nepal. When we send students to villages to help, I always write them a list of cultural ‘do’s’ and ‘don’ts’ so as not to cause offence to local people. The list includes clothing, washing, food, people’s houses, money, gifts, temples and monasteries and so on.
In particular, about clothing: This causes more offence than anything else: ‘Do not walk around in public in shorts, do not wash in streams naked, do not wear skimpy clothing, do not wear shoes into people’s houses and so on.’ Although women’s clothing is likely to cause the most offence, men also can make themselves unpopular by not wearing tops or walking in temples wearing shoes and sun hats.
These things make the Nepalese feel that foreigners are disrespectful to both their religion (Buddhist and Hindu) and their culture.
So yesterday, whilst in Detroit, I ordered some Thai food via one of the internet delivery services.
I am staying at a small guest house and when the owner and I went to the door and I nearly fell over: There stood a woman in a full Burka, eyes and face covered, delivering my food.
Did it make me feel uncomfortable? Yes.
Do I think it is a deliberate attempt to be disrespectful to American society? Well it certainly shows an, ‘I don’t care what you think.’ attitude.
Is the rise in Burka wearing in Western societies provocative? It seems like it.
I cannot talk or have a normal human interaction with anyone in a Burka. They might as well be in the next room or in a tent. I am a friendly person and I am interested in people’s lives. So I always ask delivery people or supermarket workers or and people in similar jobs, ‘ What time do you finish? Are you busy? Is it a hard job? Are you tired?’ Normal human conversation. Even to porters in Nepal who speak another language, I communicate via signs or facial language. With someone in a Burka, I can communicate less with them than I can with my cat.
A lot of people reply, “Well people can wear whatever they like.” This is simply not true. All societies are bound by numerous dress codes, for both men and women. I cannot arrive at an airport in a bikini. A man cannot go to a football match with no clothes on. He would be promptly arrested for streaking. Clothes carry meaning: all sorts of meaning – uniforms, power, religion, sex, culture, identity. (Indeed I once wore a Burka for half-an-hour to visit the main Mosque in Damascus, Syria – and I felt it was appropriate to do so.)
Thirdly – a lot of countries already ban Burkas and these include some Islamic countries. Currently, according to Wikipedia, there are 13 nations that have banned the burqa, including Austria, France, Belgium, Tajikistan, Netherlands, Latvia, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Chad, Congo-Brazzaville, Gabon, China and Morocco.
Egypt is an interesting case:
‘In 2016 and 2017 the Government of Egypt and parliament made moves to ban the burka with leading politicians argued the full-face veil is neither an Islamic tradition, nor required in the Koran. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hijab_by_country#cite_note-52
Indeed evidence suggests that British and American Muslims are wearing more Burqas and Niqabs than in their countries of cultural origin. There now appear to be more Burkas in Dearborn, Michigan, USA and Bradford England than in Pakistan.
There are two cities, near Detroit, that have become almost total Muslim enclaves, something many Americans refuse to believe.
Hamtramck is thirteen miles North of Detroit and is the first (and soon to be not the only) Muslim majority town in the United States. It’s High School, now has Muslim girl only High School Proms concert. How this can encourage integration, I do not know.
Dearborn, Michigan is the second. I invite you to watch this fascinating video.
All this has happened within the last few years. Not only have people lost their jobs but now they feel they are losing their culture. Can you guess why Americans voted for Trump in vast numbers in the rust belts of the Midwest?
Have these Burka wearing women and their families never heard of ‘When in Rome, do as the Romans?’ or do they really believe that they are going to take over and become the majority, as in a video from the USA: ‘Angry Muslims Taunt School Board “We’re Going to Be the Majority Soon’. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NqLf8DTTqYc
There are currently 50 majority Muslim countries in the world. If these people really dislike it so much in the West, why do they chose to live here?
One can only ponder the answer to that question.[pullquote]