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Anushay Hossain

Anushay Hossain
Washington, District of Columbia,
January 08
Bangladeshi Author, Analyst, & Advocate based in Washington. Read my blog,

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DECEMBER 31, 2009 11:27AM

Making The Burqa Sexy: A New Frontier In Advertising?

Rate: 3 Flag

In a post 9-11 world, perhaps nothing has come to represent the subjugation of Muslim women the way the burqa has. Despite the fact that it comes in various styles, each providing its own degree of covering such as the niqab or the chador,which many Muslim women choose to wear, it is the full covering scary blackburqa with a slit just for the eyes, or the sky blue Taliban-made burqa with its infamous mesh covering, that has become an increasingly powerful political tool, widely used to exploit or justify fear of the Muslim world. Just look at the strategic use of images of burqa-clad Afghan women the US applied in its campaign for the war in Afghanistan.

I honestly thought the burqa had no more identities to take on until an article byMona Eltahaway brought this video to my attention. Apologies for two video blogs in the last week, but you have to see this to believe it:

 Is it not ironic that the very piece of clothing that is used to deny Muslim women their sexual identity, or any kind of identity as Eltahaway puts it, is now being used to make sexual objects out of the burqa-clad Muslim woman? Eltahaway rightfully points out that this ad does not just sexualize any form of Muslim covering such as the chador or the niqab, but goes straight for the most restrictive and most political of Muslim coverings.

Talk about a clash of civilizations.

Is it not just a tad bit hypocritical of a European company to give the burqa this sexy makeover just to sell their lingerie given the fact that the burqa has been so openly attacked and targeted by European politicians?

There is no shortage of quotes from French President Sarkozy on how he feels about the burqa in France, but the following is one of my favorites: “The burqa is not a religious sign, it is a sign of the subjugation, of the submission of women. I want to say solemnly that it will not be welcome on our territory.”

Most recently, it was the Swiss who used the image of a Muslim woman in aburqa, lined up next to missiles, coincidentally mirroring minarets, in its posters to promote the banning of mosque towers. The issue is currently a burning political topic in Switzerland.

Are we just supposed to ignore the fact that on the current European political stage the “Muslim question” is a rather large one? It is one in which the burqasymbolizes the domination of Muslim men over their women, and the general “backwardness” of the Islamic faith. All this gives ample propaganda for many Right-Wing European political parties’ stance on the general issue of Muslim integration.

Once again we see women’s bodies and women’s sexual identities being exploited for profit. It is all about marketing over politics at the end of the day. But hey, whatever sells, right?

If anything, this advertisement makes that point, regardless of politics, shockingly clear.

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Having trouble embedding the video which can be viewed on the original post:
somehow I think both al qaida and sarcozy are mistaken somehow. maybe its not a political symbol but only because it is taken as one, it makes it so.
I am always amazed at how the traditions of one particular region can be generally interpreted as representative of a much broader cross-section of humanity. Assuming the burqa is representative of some larger section of Islam is somewhat like assuming Philippino Easter-time crucifications are standard to Christianity around the globe. To confound the burqa with a hijab is to compare apples and oranges. They are both coverings specific to women of a given faith, but beyond that they may in fact have little in common. The nuances of culture, personal interpretation of faith, and such become lost in all of this need to homogenize the entire Muslim population into one uniform "other".
I am neither Muslim nor Christian but I have at times in my adult life pined for the anonymity afforded by a chador or burqa. I can understand wanting to be heard for my mind rather than seen for my physical attributes.
And I realise that this view of such coverings is probably not the one espoused by most of the women wearing them. But perhaps it is still worth considering before we so ardently try to impose a switch from one type of uniformity to another.