I remember when I first saw a woman motor cyclist eye slits protecting her face from Pune’s street grime and dust. I immediately thought of Western images of terrorists, even though I knew the cover was simply practical and used by both men and woman.
I think the real fear of the Burqa in some Western lands is not of dress, it is not even the pseudo argument a man could rob a bank dressed up.
I think it is an unconscious primal, or atleast historical, fear exploited by “Civilized Governments” fear of anarchy and piracy since the Middle Ages Roman/Byzantium versus Persia/Islam. Each ‘side’ has misrepresented the other. Arguably you could take his back to conflicts hat predate Islam, such as Persia versus Greece.
Unfortunately the Burqua is now a political symbol. In the West it is misused to justify arguments of oppression against women. Whereas, in the East dress has turned into a political statement of peoples sick of being ignored by the West.
When leading Egyptian journalist Amina al-Sa’id, interviewed Indira Gandhi in 1955, she was wearing a sleeveless, almost off-the-shoulder flowered dress and no one cared.
This changed. For example, in the 1960s and 1970s Safinaz Kazem, a well-known Egyptian columnist, wore “svelte and alluring in an assortment of slinky suits and Audrey Hepburn-type shift dresses. Then Kazem, in 1998, in loose clothing and a scarf covering her hair, says, “For years, we ran around in short skirts and bare arms saying to them, ‘Look, see, we’re just like you.’ Enough. It got us nowhere. We’re not like them, and they shouldn’t matter. We have to find a way to be ourselves.”” (Adhaf Souief, The language of the veil, The Guardian Dec 8, 2001.)
However, Western Stereotypes ignore that a women in a burqa can walk side by side a woman in blue jeans and lipstick.
Once a status symbol of the wealthy, now the covered face has morphed into a symbol of fear and terrorism. Another attempt to link ‘the other’ to fear and derision.
As it is. what most Westerners call a burqa is a niqab or perhaps a chador…..