City of Brass

City of Brass


of burkas, bikinis and postcards

posted by Aziz Poonawalla

In my essay The Burka and the Bikini, I argued,

The bikini and the burka are so far to the extremes that they meet
again. They both serve to reduce women, from a person, to an object. In
the case of the burka, that object is “slave”. In the case of the
bikini, that object is “sex”. The burka is forced upon women, for fear
of consequences, whereas women are induced to wear the bikini, out of
desire for consequences. But in both cases those consequences are to
please males.

The bikini and the burka can both be used by women as expressions of
power and independence
. The burka, or ridah, or hijab, can be a
powerful weapon of modesty, if chosen freely (and in fact, it is in
Western countries like America that Qur’anic modes of modesty in
women’s dress do finally take on the meaning they were intended to
have, because of the freedom of choice. America is the greatest Islamic
country on earth). Likewise, the woman wearing a bikini solely out of
her personal pride in her appearance has turned the bikini into a
weapon of self-expression.

This sentiment earned me a great deal of critique, I am proud to say. The view that the burka is not necessarilyily oppressive, and that the bikini may be so, is one that threatens the basic cultural-supremacist narrative of Islam as barbaric / West as enlightened.

To argue that Islam offers the potential (admittedly, largely unrealized in most of the present-day Islamic world) for more meaningful women’s rights than Western feminism is a kind of cultural blasphemy. That’s why at least one person felt compelled to express their dissatisfaction via anonymous postcard to PostSecret:

It is encouraging to see the dogma of bikini as liberation is being questioned. The burka and the bikini are just pieces of cloth, nothing more. What matters is why they are worn – and who makes the decision.



  • http://cwzymuslima.blogspot.com Zahra Billoo

    I think this line captures the essence of the issue:
    I have mixed feelings about men discussing the clothing we are forced to wear, but nonetheless appreciate the insight provided. Jazaks for writing/exploring!

Previous Posts

Vote now in the (delayed slightly) Brass Crescent Awards!
Voting in this year's Brass Crescent Awards is now underway, after a few months' delay. Here's the explanation from the official site: We would like to sincerely apologize for the delay in this year's voting. The reason for the delay was that we did not have sufficient blogsphere nominations as w

posted 10:30:42pm Dec. 18, 2014 | read full post »

Midamar halal beef - charged with fraud
This is disturbing news - the company Midamar, well known for its halal meat products, has been charged with fraud for falsely advertising its beef as halal to Muslims: The indictment said the companies told customers its cattle were slaughtered by hand by specially trained Muslim slaughtermen w

posted 10:45:40pm Dec. 15, 2014 | read full post »

men should accept blame; women should assert agency
The following rant was posted on Facebook by a friend of mine, and I have her permission to reproduce it in its entirety. Systems of patriarchy are sometimes so entrenched, we just accept them as part of normal daily interactions. Popular discourse often maintains that it's men who do such and s

posted 10:56:12pm Dec. 01, 2014 | read full post »

My first day of wearing rida to school
Zainab Jamali is a teenaged Muslim American girl in Los Angeles. As a member of the Dawoodi Bohra community, she recently took her misaq (an oath marking the symbolic pas

posted 10:08:13am Nov. 11, 2014 | read full post »

Muslims en masse for Modi at Madison Square
Newly elected Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke to a huge crowd of Indian expats in New York City on Monday night, outlining his vision of India's future and mak

posted 4:29:29pm Oct. 01, 2014 | read full post »




Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.