Wear Burqa, lose benefits

// 19 April 2006

It has now been suggested in Holland that women wearing the Burqa who can’t find work should lose the right to unemployment benefits. So yet again women are placed in a position of having to chose between their right to religious expression and their right to be supported by government. What is so problematic here is that a Muslim woman choosing to wear a burqa but seeking work is going to be a strong mixture of religious belief and radical social beliefs. As such limiting her freedom either to engage with the citizenship rights or her religious beliefs is a worrying step towards further limiting the rights of women. The West vilified the Taliban in Afghanistan for forcing women to wear the burqa, now government spokesmen seek to vilify those in the West choosing to wear the burqa.

In all of this the overriding problem (on all sides) is men seeking to control and limit the rights of women as an expression of their own imperialist battles. Awareness is dawning that women’s bodies have become a battle-ground for the current struggle whether that is through the strapping on of explosives, the enforced wearing, or not wearing, of symbloic dress or the exploitation of women’s bodies through sexual violence. The only question can be how far are men willing to go?

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