In a post 9-11 world, perhaps nothing has come to represent the subjugation of Muslim women the way the burqa has. Despite the fact that it comes in various styles, each providing its own degree of covering such as the niqab or the chador, which many Muslim women choose to wear, it is the full covering scary black burqa with a slit just for the eyes, or the sky blue Taliban-made burqa with its infamous mesh covering, that has become an increasingly powerful political tool, widely used to exploit or justify fear of the Muslim world. Just look at the strategic use of images of burqa-clad Afghan women the US applied in its campaign for the war in Afghanistan.
I honestly thought the burqa had no more identities to take on until an article by Mona Eltahaway brought this video to my attention. Apologies for two video blogs in the last week, but you have to see this to believe it:
Is it not ironic that the very piece of clothing that is used to deny Muslim women their sexual identity, or any kind of identity as Eltahaway puts it, is now being used to make sexual objects out of the burqa-clad Muslim woman? Eltahaway rightfully points out that this ad does not just sexualize any form of Muslim covering such as the chador or the niqab, but goes straight for the most restrictive and most political of Muslim coverings.
Talk about a clash of civilizations.
Is it not just a tad bit hypocritical of a European company to give the burqa this sexy makeover just to sell their lingerie given the fact that the burqa has been so openly attacked and targeted by European politicians?
There is no shortage of quotes from French President Sarkozy on how he feels about the burqa in France, but the following is one of my favorites: “The burqa is not a religious sign, it is a sign of the subjugation, of the submission of women. I want to say solemnly that it will not be welcome on our territory.”
Most recently, it was the Swiss who used the image of a Muslim woman in a burqa, lined up next to missiles, coincidentally mirroring minarets, in its posters to promote the banning of mosque towers. The issue is currently a burning political topic in Switzerland.
Are we just supposed to ignore the fact that on the current European political stage the “Muslim question” is a rather large one? It is one in which the burqa symbolizes the domination of Muslim men over their women, and the general “backwardness” of the Islamic faith. All this gives ample propaganda for many Right-Wing European political parties’ stance on the general issue of Muslim integration.
Once again we see women’s bodies and women’s sexual identities being exploited for profit. It is all about marketing over politics at the end of the day. But hey, whatever sells, right?
If anything, this advertisement makes that point, regardless of politics, shockingly clear.
*This post of mine was also published on The Huffington Post.