The Burka in Saudi Arabia, France and Syria

By batsman 

Some Malaysians seem to be in confusion with regards to the reaction to the laws and traditions on dress codes for Muslim women which are now current in Saudi Arabia, France and Syria. They flop around in a daze unable to get beyond labels and imagery such as secularism and extremism, pseudo-liberals and religious zealots. Consequently, it is an emotional decision which is made rather than an intellectual one with regard to this issue.

Let me try and alleviate the suffering. The problem is, when one gets both emotionally and intellectually stuck with dress codes, one is unable to go beyond to higher concepts of ethics, morality and relations between cultures and peoples. 

The trick to escape intellectual incapacity is to try and look at the issue from different angles. Is the issue simply one of dress codes or is it more complex and involves religious bigotry or even a question of minorities? 

To understand the different reactions to roughly the same things happening in France and Syria, one has to look at the differences between France and Syria. Obviously there is a great deal of differences – in fact a whole world of differences. But which are the pertinent differences? For this one requires some integrity and not distract with irrelevant differences and issues. 

One of the relevant differences is that Muslims are a minority in France while they are a majority in Syria so the treatment of Muslim traditions and cultural practices has to be different. Let me give some other examples. 

In China, Han Chinese are in the majority while some tiny minorities are swamped and even in danger of going extinct. In trying to control their overall population, the Chinese came up with the policy of controlling the number of children per family through incentives and punishments. Obviously this ethically should apply only to Han Chinese and an exception made for the minorities to make sure their numbers do not dwindle further. It is gratifying to see that the Chinese took the right ethical decision. Here some complications and unwanted consequences arose, but I hope people will maintain integrity and not distract from the issue to harp on them. 

France therefore has an obligation to see that its minorities are not suppressed whether in the physical sense (genocide) or in the cultural sense (cultural genocide) and are free to practice their own cultures and traditions even if they seem strange and difficult to understand to the majority of Frenchmen. 

Obviously a Negro looks strange and difficult to accept in an all white setting of Frenchmen and Frenchwomen (whether the Frenchwoman feels excited or fearful is another matter). But this does not mean the Negro has to be physically eliminated from French society. The same goes for strange cultural practices. 

In Australia, the strange cultural practices and value systems of the Aborigines were unacceptable to the All-white Australians, so they forcibly took away Aborigine children from their families and placed them in white Australian families in the hope that the Aborigine can be bred out of the children. They hoped (or used the excuse) that assimilation can be achieved when black-skinned Aborigines behaved and talked like whites and shared all the cultural values and traditions of the whites. The result was not just cultural genocide but real physical genocide. I believe the white Australians have apologized for this crime. 

I do not say the problem of minorities is an easy problem to solve, but precisely because of this difficulty, some greater tolerance and acceptance must be practiced. Obviously the French do not have this quality in them. 

In Syria, the Muslims are in the majority. Obviously what they do in their own country and what they decide is their own business. Why try and behave like the whites and question what the Syrians do or do not do with their own culture and their own dress codes? This is like practicing cultural imperialism. I think the Syrians are quite capable of doing the right thing. Obviously some Malaysians voluntarily and willingly try and behave like the whites, talk like the whites and share all the cultural values and traditions of the whites. They even apply whitening creams to make their skin look whiter and adopt the white man’s domineering ways. But this is your problem not mine. 

In Saudi Arabia, the Saudis have decided to do things differently from the Syrians. Obviously this is also up to them. The unfortunate thing is some Malaysians also try to copy the Saudis and behave like them and wear the same things as they do. This would seem to make Malaysians look like copy cats, so this issue now affects Malaysians too. Malaysians have to decide what the appropriate dress code is for themselves. 

The other problem is – there are not many choices. One either dressed like the westerners with western style clothes or dress like the Saudis with Saudi style dress code. So it would seem Malaysians are cursed to be copy cats all their lives. With this it is really good to see that some Malaysians still wear their traditional clothes on a daily basis. 

As for me, I really don’t want to worry about dress codes too much. I prefer to leave people to decide what they want to wear, unless of course dress codes become a big sensitive issue for domineering psychopathic types and the situation threatens to be uncomfortable and distressing for everyone. 

So I feel in a way, I have wasted my time writing this article on such a silly issue, but (sigh!) it is better than to see Malaysians trapped in a morass of intellectual incapacity and making funny, strange, disgusting and unacceptable noises. heeheehee