My late wife, late Najma’s family, was having a leisurely breakfast at our home. Out of nowhere, she said, “Mike, I will wear the burqa from now on.” Thank God, my response did not come out of my mouth, which would have been, hell no, you are not wearing it, and I am not going out with you in the Burqa.
Being a firm believer in freedom and free will, I said, “It is your choice” Then her whole family burst into laughter. She told me that they wanted to test me, as I talk about “respecting the otherness of the other,” which is pluralism. I am grateful to God that I had the common sense not to tell a woman what to wear or not wear. No one should have the right to dictate to others.
The Burqa is not a religious garment; all Muslims would have worn the same throughout the world if it were. It is different in each place. Culture has a firmer grip on people than religion. For example, if I had told my mother that she could not wear a saree in America, and she should wear what others wear, she would have told me to go to hell.
Likewise, in small towns in the subcontinent, if you tell them they have to eat with a fork and spoon, they will ask you to go to hell.
Would Hindu, Buddhist, or Muslim mothers from the subcontinent living in America be comfortable wearing mini-skirts? A Muslim woman who is used to wearing Burqa feels naked if she takes it off. Is that what we want?
Yes, it is not a religious garment; both men and women are required equal to be modest. Let the educational process begin, and let the women consider their own volition to give up if they want. There should be no compulsion.
Let’s not have the temptation to compel others unless you give them the same right to force you to change.