Azad Essa
Azad Essa

Shape without drape: Muslim fashion du jour

Tens of thousands of Muslims marched through the streets of Paris yesterday to bid farewell to the burqa that is due to make its way out of French society, just in time for Summer 2010. Demonstrators cried, sang victory songs and waved an array of screaming banners: from the eccentric “Free at last” and “Thank you Sarkozy” to the more obscure ones like “Mum, I’m on TV” and “Kill the boer”.

It was a scene of extraordinary festivities as Muslim women from all over France, and Belgium united in a cacophony of naughty noor. Voluntarily dressed in this season’s uniform of movement constricting skinny jeans, slinky T-shirts proudly bearing “Adieu à la burqa” across well-proportioned chests and boldly accessorised with pink hijabs and yellow pumps, thousands of women completed the look with this season’s must have mahrams. Fashion insiders profess it to be the biggest movement since the French Revolution.

Liberté, égalité, fraternité the crowd chanted.

“We are here to demonstrate that while the burqa might be out, pumps are still in,” screamed CEO of Fashion Paris Simin Leveque over the loudspeaker to the boisterous crowd.

The burqa, a type of face and headgear created in pre-Islamic times to protect women from sand storms and kidnapping during tribal wars, was banned in Belgium last month, and moves are in place to ban it in France in time for this year’s Paris fashion week.

“Look, Europe has cobbled streets now and Eastern European women are the only ones trafficked these days,” says one demonstrator, Fatima Mumkhin.

“Muslim women are no longer under threat … can’t say the same about Romanians though,” adds Mumkhin. Organisers of the commemoration, a collaborative effort between Fashion Paris and Free the Women (FTW), a gender consultancy firm based in Colmar, say that they wanted to give the burqa “a flamboyant, post-modern send-off befitting an antiquity destined for the museum”.

“It belongs to the Louvre — and not on people’s faces,” laughs Leveque.

Leveque says that the response of Muslim women has been overwhelming.

“The thirty women who once wore the burqa in Belgium are here and they are thrilled to blend into the crowd in their new skinny jeans and tank tops”. “The boys love them,” Leveque smiles.

It is estimated that about 2 000 women bear the burqa out of a Muslim population that borders about 5 million in France.

Radwa el Sherbini, originally from Egypt says that she cannot wait for the new law to be instituted. She says that living in the tent had often brought stares from pensioners, children and stray dogs.

“The mutts used to snigger and bark at me … it was demeaning,” says El Sherbini.

She says that living in Europe as an economic migrant gave her the freedom to work, unlike millions of women denied this basic right in the “Muslim World”.

“I work 16 hours a day here, cleaning toilets in people’s houses — it is wonderful,” she says with a smile. But El Sherbini, no relative of Marwa, says that Muslims need to understand that if they abide by the rules, it is relatively easy to live in Europe.

“Europeans are tolerant and open-minded, and as long as you never say anything about the Holocaust, you are safe in this place,” she added.

Another woman, Almas Rafiki, from Morocco, married to an Algerian and living in Brussels, says that she couldn’t understand why the Muslim world was upset about the ban.

“European men appreciate our bodies more here,” she says angrily.

“And I love being a sex symbol,” Rafiki adds with a laugh.

Afreen Athiyabaushna, an Iranian now living Paris, says that the French government went into painstaking detail to establish whether the ban should be implemented.

“They went to each and every Muslim woman in this country and asked us if we were forced to wear the burqa,” Athiyabaushna says.

With glazed eyes she affirmed how grateful the malnourished and often starving migrants were for this progressive piece in legislation.

“Some of us go to sleep hungry, but our hearts are full, knowing that government doesn’t take our struggles at face-value,” said Athiyabaushna.

Athiyabaushna says that no matter what any expert said, the impending legislation did not mirror the continual shift to the right in Europe.

“Today it’s the burqa, tomorrow it will be the scarf and then they will tell us to change our names,” she smiles.

“But it’s a small price to pay to be Muslim in a free country … we are the promised virgins in paradise,” Athiyabaushna concludes.

The commemoration rounded the Champs Élysées and ended with a rock concert including Bono, Ricky Martin and Sami Yusuf, completing an extraordinary day in French history.

Toure Hergé a wildlife photographer said that in all his years documenting animal migration patterns in West Africa, he had never experienced such an inimitable energy.

“I don’t suppose Tintin could’ve ever imagined this,” said an exasperated Hergé. But sources within the usually impregnable right-wing groups say that the celebration has sent shock waves across the continent.

According to unconfirmed reports, there is growing concern that French President Nicholas Sarkozy’s fixation on emancipating Muslim women from the clutches of their uncivilised life might set an unhealthy precedent.

Jean le Marc, one member of Merde Mossalman said that the new law banning the burqa would shift the social structure of French society.

“I am not sure if the economy can handle a sudden rush of free Muslim women in the job market,” said Le Marc.

“People think they are uneducated, socially inept and only good for making babies but we know for a fact that most of them have read The Kite Runner, he added.

But Le Marc is not the only one who says that Europe might just get more than what they bargained for by promulgating this law.

The domestic violence desk outside the Gare de l’Est train station say they stand to lose millions now that the burqa was on its way out.

“The burqa kept us in business; we will be suing the French government for damages and loss of income,” says Rene Durand.

Alberto Mattarazzi, a medical-sociologist in Rome says that there needs to be some regulation in the removal of the scarf or veil.

“Firstly, we don’t know what we will find under those veils,” said Mattarazzi.

“And secondly, if they stop covering their head as well, they might be prone to more colds and flu in the first six months; we might just end up with another break out of swine flu,” explained a candid Mattarazzi.

But he warns that that the newly emancipated women would have to be rehabilitated before they could face European society.

Fashion Paris CEO Leveque said the success of this commemoration signals the need to spread the love, with more events planned for Brussels, Berlin and Rome later this month.

“Ultimately, I want to take this road show to downtown Kabul to show them what European life is all about,” says Leveque.

“I would die for an opportunity like that,” concluded Leveque.

  • Robard

    Very funny, thanks Azad. I hope you don’t cause trouble by making jokes about the situation though. Apparently the guy who tried to bomb Times square was targeting the company that is responsible for South Park, the comedy series that had poked fun at Mohammed.

  • farzanarasool

    love the satire!

    you have highlighted excellent points.

    and it’s really funny to think about how ridiculous the mindset of the ‘hero’ europeans are, when you express it like this.

  • farzanarasool

    i especially love ““The mutts used to snigger and bark at me … it was demeaning,” says El Sherbini.”

    excellent! El Sherbini will just get a different type of mutt sniggering at her now.

  • Siobhan

    @ “Liberté, égalité, fraternité“… NON.

    Maintenant, c’est: Liberté, égalité, sororité toujours!

  • RSingh around

    got nothing to say. its too stoooopid.

  • haiwa tigere

    “I would die for an opportunity like that,” concluded Leveque. Ha 3 times. This is very funny turning out to be the regular Chris Rock here.
    Thank you

  • http://snowyheights Sofi

    LOL lol. i really enjoyed reading this – and yellow pumps + FTW == highlight!

    the title, shape without drape, says it all really.

    v refreshing to read.

  • Ant K

    What a lovely piece of writing! So refreshing when people can see humour at the end of the tunnel!

  • MLH

    Great piece!

  • Benzol

    … dare you while the burqa debate is still going on on a different channel.

    Just had 144 responses :-))

  • Azad Essa

    yeh Benzol :) this was inspired by the “incredibly insightful” debate on that channel….you guys can come on this side for a a cold shower. Take “RSingh around” to the other side.

  • e.c.

    Thanks Accidental Academic! It is good that you insist on being a journalist instead of an academic.

    I am glad that someone can talk about these issues outside the “war on terror” discourse.

  • sha

    Awesome as usual. Love it.

  • Hussein
  • Hussein

    “Today it’s the burqa, tomorrow it will be the scarf and then they will tell us to change our names,” she smiles.”

    Why does she smile when it concerns her self-identity?

  • Hussein

    In contrast,”Marwa el-Sherbini was stabbed 18 times by the man she had accused of racist bullying”.

    Marwa from Egypt was attacked and slaughtered in a German courtroom.She was three months pregnant.Her crime being hijab.

  • Hussein

    Liberties cannot be provided by pulling away other liberties.Why is individual choice being ignored?Women can assert themselves given the opportunity.Is the law being abused in this instance?

  • Naseema

    Was almost confused by “Today it’s the burqa, tomorrow it will be the scarf and then they will tell us to CHANGE OUR NAMES,”…..Thought for a moment u were talking about Mike Sutcliffe :)))

    Awesome piece!

  • Hussein

    Its very simple-allow all women real freedom of choice without male imposition or dominance.Marwa didn’t jump and dance having discovered her newly found freedoms when she landed in Germany-she chose to wear her hijab,protected her identity and it cost her precious life.Was she “insightful”.Yes.She chose to guard her modesty.

    Dancing for freedoms and making light of our choices is great if we are able to retain our individual rights to freedom of expression.But when a male figure is deciding what is good and what is bad for a woman,then it is open to interpretation.Is this newfound liberty free or will it come at a price?

    The war on terror cannot be excluded-it promises freedom dances yet delivers holy bombs.For the victims of suffering,satire loses meaning.Entertainment loses meaning.Everything loses meaning.

  • Hussein

    “42. At 03:27am on 10 Apr 2010, Aziz Merchant wrote:
    I do not believe in the maxim that humour makes all things tolerable. Comedians should not transgress the thin line between what is funny and what is insolence. If we go by movies, Charles Chapin, Harold Llyod, Jerry Lewis, Peter Sellers and their contemporaries were the best. There was humour in real mix those days. Today no doubt there are comedians but sans pure humour. The reason for such failing comedy is that they wallow in humour at the expense of the vulnerable and weak, religious prejudices and defects of people, race or cult and so on. This is not fun. The real comedian is one who laughs at himself and makes the world laugh with him”.

  • Hussein
    France. Ban on Muslim Burka: A Cynical Ploy to Stoke Islamophobia by Finian Cunningham

    “One Muslim woman, originally from North Africa now living in France, said: “Liberty, equality, fraternity – it’s all a big lie” and she compared the situation with 1939-45. “They are now doing to Muslims what they did to Jews.”
    Quote from article

  • mike hammer

    Can you provide a source for this article. I don’t want to doubt you or your facts but a search on google news under “Muslims march paris” finds nothing like what your are talking about.

    Why would someone carry a sign saying “kill the boer”?.

  • X Cepting

    @Azad Essa – I did not comment until now since I am not Muslim and feel I have no right to but, these are woman and as a great advocate of equal rights I feel bound to add something especially after reading some of the comments.

    Someone once sent me a picture of five Burkah clad ladies in front of the Taj Mahal, an obvious touristy picture. The caption beneath read: “What is the purpose of this picture?”. We all laughed and carried on working. What I read through the lines is:
    – That the French & Belgian govts consulted the women concerned to find out how they felt about it and what they wanted.
    – That these woman were overjoyed by having the ban on showing who they were lifted
    – That every single critic of this new law stood too lose financially if it be implemented, except for the inane comment about swine flu (wow, it takes all kinds!)

    So, is this whole protest not about men wishing to keep women unequal? I have not so far seen one single devout Muslim woman complain about their “rights” being limited by this law. It is a giving of, rather than a taking away of rights, as far as I am concerned.

  • Azad Essa

    Mike, western media sources were banned by right wing parties in France.

  • Hussein

    Please read this – only thinking and an open mind solves problems.Open minds are like parachutes.Closed minds speak the language of banning and imprisonment.

    Interesting alternate perspective about building bridges in understanding amongst muslims and Europeans.
    However,I DO NOT agree with banning as it pulls away an individual woman’s freedom of choice.Let here choose her own dress code.Cultural imposition has a long history of imposition.We need tolerance,not barring by more laws,no matter how good or bad the intent.

    Banning is intolerant in a secular liberal society.Just reinforces the war context instead of peaceful co-existence and creating conditions of mutual peace.

    Im a firm believer that deepest hatred needs to be replaced by great love.Love conquers all:)Lets heal not fight and self destruct-my motto.

  • mike hammer

    Are you playing with us? I can’t find stories about this “march” because “western media sources were banned by right wing parties in France.”

    Perhaps your source of information was an article on Paris Hilton?

  • mike hammer

    If western media is banned from France how do you account for the article:

    “Muslim Clerics band together to condemn terrorism: today in a joint statement muslim clerics from all over the world condemned terrorism. They presented petition signed by thousands of prominent muslims condemning terrorism in the strongest terms. the spokesmen n for the group, Iranian claric, Kazem Sedighi said the following:” We don’t want our silance on this issue to encourage young men to go out and commit violence. We see it as important to make it very clear the whole world that terrorists go to hell not heaven. No virgins for these guys”.

  • suraya

    the satire seems to be lost on some people here. great stuff, azad!

  • MJ Khan

    really enjoyed this piece. especially the kite runner bit.

    well done azad

  • Hussein

    @Suraya- I confess my own ignorance about the use/misuse of satire.Heartfelt apologies,Azad.Thanks Suraya for pointing out my mistakes.God bless you.

  • Rabiya

    Man! I love your sense of humor..will u marry me 😉
    So many good points made…well done!

  • Hussein

    Did some homework on the use/misuse of satire – Is the new Zapiro satire cartoon depicting Prophet Muhammad(peace be upon him)justified?In the name of freedom of speech,is it acceptable to insult the Messengers of God?Is it acceptable to insult a billion plus muslims with inflammatory cartoons?Are there limits to freedom of speech?Are there limits to satire?Where do we draw the line?

  • Hussein

    @Mike-what is the source of your article
    “Muslim Clerics band together to condemn terrorism: today in a joint statement muslim clerics from all over the world condemned terrorism…”

  • Amused Skeptic

    Excellent satire! And even after reading and enjoying it I still support a ban on the hijab, on the wearing full-face helmets and balaclavas in public spaces and in banks, and my right to feel safe in a society where I know law enforcement officers are able to immediately identify and verify a person’s features on a driver’s license by a contemporaneous match of their (uncovered) face. Go wear a hijab in your own home if that turns you on, dance a seductive dance and strip it off for your own pleasure, don’t wear it in my face.

  • the favourite vegan

    very well written, as always!
    quite the discussion you started, good job. – No discussion, no association, no break down of barriers. – Might be a challenge for some to pick up the serious and relevant comments behind the jokes, but atleast you did your part.

  • Saberah

    love it Azad … your writing is always getting better, i personally digggg the reference to The KiteRunner … i hope the UN gets to see this piece.

  • Abu Kad

    hahahaha! at first i thought that mabe this piece will be a serious peice, but then again you dont fail to amaze me! well done!

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