May 13th, 2010 by Hafiz Noor Shams
Elizabeth Farrelly at the Sydney Morning Herald writes that the burqa is an affront to feminism. She makes feminism sounds authoritarian. Quoting a friend of mine, “all this really is another case of someone trying to shove the politics of one kind of identity ahead of another.”
I am unsure how widely this view is shared among feminists out there. BBC seems to believe that it is a standard position. If it is a standard position, then I think the gulf between me and them has just grown wider.
My greatest issue with feminism up until recently is affirmative action. I cannot bring myself to support affirmative action for women and ending up living in a tokenistic system. Worse, some want more than tokenism. Through experience, radical feminists want inequality of rights in their favor rather than simple equality between genders.
The issue with burqa opens up a second front. If feminists seek to ban burqa, then it necessarily goes against the principle of liberty. If a person freely chooses to wear burqa, then to prevent her from wearing it is a violation of her individual liberty. It is a violation of liberalism. Therefore, if the burqa is an affront to feminism, then feminism has to be an affront to liberalism.
We all have our bias and some of these biases may be perverted and deserve criticism. Whatever it is, a person is free to hold whatever bias there is. But to act on the bias and impose others of one’s bias is unambiguously authoritarian. Clearly from her article, Farrelly is choosing the illiberal path.
If feminism indeed tries to push this agenda through, this is a sad development for all. Feminism can be a great ally in promoting liberty, especially in societies where women suffer from real discrimination. Liberals are fiercely in favor of equality of rights and that make liberals and feminists friends.
Sometimes however, I feel feminism simply goes to places when no liberal will follow and in fact, will oppose. This case of burqa is one of those impossible paths for liberal to tread on.
 — Democracy pivots on the universal franchise; the presumption for each individual of a public identity, as well as a private one. To cover someone’s face in public, to reduce them to a walking tent, is to declare them lacking such identity, destroying any possibility of their meaningful public existence. It is, literally, to efface them.
To hide the face is to hide the person. As Shada Islam, Europe correspondent for the Pakistan paper Dawn, wrote last week, most European Muslim women have little patience with the burqa or its wearers, seeing it as ”a sad process of self-isolation and self-imposed exile”.
And while you could see even exile as a personal right, it does directly contradict a public duty, the duty of public presence. The morality of identity-erasure may be (barely) acceptable, but the ethics are not. Brave little Belgium. [Let’s face facts, the burqa is an affront to feminism . Elizabeth Farrelly. Sydney Morning Herald. May 13 2010]