The Instigator
Con (against)
0 Points
The Contender
Pro (for)
3 Points

Should feminists approve a woman's choice to wear a niqab or burqa?

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 11/2/2013 Category: Politics
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,683 times Debate No: 39848
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (1)
Votes (1)




I argue that a person who is feminist by ideology should be opposed to seeing a woman wearing a burqa or a niqab, even if the woman has made the choice to wear the garment. This is different from being in favor of banning a burqa or a niqab from being worn, as the reasons for this are varied and do not always relate to feminism. I argue that a feminist should receive the image of a burqa or a niqab as a Jewish person might receive the image of an Iron Cross: where the person wearing the Iron Cross would be understood to be promoting the ideas of the Nazi Party, or must in some way be promoting American victory by having stolen the medals, a person wearing a burqa or niqab would be understood to be promoting the idea that a woman is made responsible for the sexual attention she attracts, and that men are not required to regulate themselves or even use thought in response to sexual feelings they have for women they find attractive. I take as evidence for this the laws of the countries where the niqab or burqa are enforced or traditionally worn, and the symbolism that the niqab and burqa have held not only in the Western press, but in the Muslim countries that have experienced women's rights revolutions and theocratic/democratic government changes throughout history. I also contend that these are not religious articles of clothing, but are cultural items that have been given religious justifications through theocracy, and do not fall under the category of religious freedom.


My simple argument:

1. It hurts no one else if you wear a burqa or niqab.
2. Therefore, it should be approved.
Debate Round No. 1


ErinMagner forfeited this round.


Kumquatodor forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 2


Thank you for joining me in debating this topic. I am from a Western country where people are often cautious to take a stance on one issue that might conflict with championing the rights of minorities, even when it is made clear through the justice system that a reason for the conflict exists. One of the most compelling reasons for debating this topic today would be a notable case was in New Jersey, where a pregnant mother was beaten and raped by her husband, and was denied a restraining order after the husband successfully argued that his religious freedom permitted his behavior. This decision was later overturned, as it clearly conflicted with American civil law, and was not permitted under the guise of religious freedom.
My opponent presents a simple argument that wearing a burqa or a niqab (what I will sometimes refer to as "the veil") hurts no one, and it therefore should be approved by people who believe in feminism. I counter that the issue is one of great complexity, and that reducing it down to a simple matter of clothing choice not only minimizes the suffering of women under the system of purdah, but that pandering to this logic also threatens the freedoms that feminists have fought for and hold sacred. I want to make clear that I am not referring to the hijab when I refer to the veil, which is meant to convey Muslim identity, piousness, and modesty, but does not suppress women through sexual discrimination. I make the assumption that when my opponent says "hurts no one" he means that it does not inflict physical violence on anyone. Of course, it is an article of clothing, and although certain fashions can be painful or even harmful, the burqa and niqab do not inflict physical pain on the wearer. But by this logic, forcing or coercing women to wear the burqa or niqab would similarly hurt no one, and therefore no injustice is done, except that of denying a woman her free choice. This is of course not the case. Where the veil has been forced on women, it has always been meant to assert that masculine is powerful and dominant and feminine is weak and invisible. The veil is an abuse of power, is inherently unjust, and the basic tenants of feminism claim that all humans are equal regardless of sex, and that sexual discrimination is therefore unnatural. History has shown that feminists, especially Muslim feminists when fighting for women"s rights, were calling the veil, a barrier to women"s advancement, and associate it with the laws that keep women out of the public, barred from voting or even driving cars. In fact, Hoda Shaarawi, founder of the Egyptian Feminist Union, publicly removed her veil in May 1923 as a symbolic act of far-reaching significance. Any feminist from a Muslim country would regard the veil as being backward, anti-social, an expression of male dominance that asserts men as the sex-subjects and reduces women to mere sex-objects. The inequality is real, and women continue to suffer today.
Why is the veil itself so unjust? Is it not a religious garment that is meant to convey a woman"s purity, modesty, and piousness? Not at all! In some ways, the veil isn"t even a true part of Islam. Most Islamic scholars agree that a hijab, which covers a woman"s hair, arms, and legs, is required for women in Islam, and that both women and men should both avert their eyes when in public to respect each other"s modesty. However, while some say that the burqa or niqab are required or "preferred", the niqab actually is not allowed in the holiest of Muslim places: when you make the hajj to Mecca. If you wear the veil when you make the hajj, you have committed a sin, and you must take action to cleanse yourself of the sin. Instead of being used to convey a woman"s piousness, the veil has been used time and time again to hold women responsible for when a man acts on feelings of sexual entitlement, and punish the woman who is the victim of abuse and harassment, especially by those cultures that require the veil to be worn. In both Australia and Denmark, the Mufti have made statements in response to women being raped that echo this one by Sheik al-Hilali: "If you take out uncovered meat and place it outside on the street, or in the garden or in the park, or in the backyard without a cover, and the cats come and eat it..whose fault is it - the cats or the uncovered meat? The uncovered meat is the problem"If she was in her room, in her home, in her hijab (veil), no problem would have occurred."
Women in countries that wear the niqab and burqa are often the victims of domestic abuse, or disfiguring acid attacks, which conceals the abuse and encourages women to cover their faces.
The niqab and burqa therefore are a part of purdah, which is a cultural device meant to keep women concealed from men. It can be used to enforce male dominance, and it can also solve the inconvenient problem of women being sexually harassed or raped, without actually punishing the harasser or rapist, especially if he was respected in society. In many Gulf countries, often a woman will be punished for going to the authorities and asking for justice after being raped. Although it against the law and against Islam to punish the victim for being raped, the accuser gets punished for a different crime such as illicit sex or adultery, which makes it difficult to prove the rape. The punishments are brutal, consisting of lashing, stoning, and result with at least disfigurement, and often death. Keep in mind, this still occurs today.
Many women in violent Muslim countries will wear a burqa or a niqab for just this purpose: to avoid being sexually harassed or raped. In societies where women have won freedom from these oppressive circumstances, these horrors are unknown to us. Could you imagine wearing a short skirt to work, being sexually harassed by your employer, then being told by the justice system that it was your fault, punish you and brutally disfigure you, and that new legislation would be passed to prevent women from tempting men in this manner? This sort of thinking is ridiculous, and it is not a part of any religion, not a part of Islam. In a secular society, feminists have fought for legal protection for women from being sexually discriminated against by men, and punish men for harassing and raping women. Nearly every woman who says she chooses to wear the niqab or burqa cites as her reason that she feels free from harassment by men to focus on Allah and her religion. But with legal protection from harassment, why choose to wear a cumbersome piece of clothing that not only creates a barrier that requires extra effort to communicate (non-verbally), eat, and be identified, but also creates symbolic barriers because the veil is part of a system of backwardness and oppression? To see a woman choose to believe that she is responsible for a man"s sexual advances, and that he is not responsible to avert his eyes, or protect her modesty with his own actions, is absurd and completely against all feminist ideology. If this logic were presented to a court of law regarding a sexual harassment case, we would dismiss it as incorrect and against our beliefs.
By approving of this custom, we threaten the freedoms feminists have fought for. Just because it is wrong to ban women from wearing the veil, it doesn"t mean the veil is right. It might seem benign as an article of clothing, but as an idea it becomes clear why we need to separate the culture from the religion. In Australia, a man from Afghanistan tried to argue that "cultural differences" led him to rape women. The judge denied his plea, because sexual entitlement is not a religious belief. What he did was wrong. All feminists must hold men to a standard of self control, instead of opting to hide in veils.


Sifting through your wall of text, I have identified your argument.

It is true that these garmets are symbols of oppression. However, this does not matter, because the women can choose to wear them.

This is at the heart of any feminist movement: the right to wear whatever you want.

Now, I agree that forcing people to wear the garmet is wrong. However, we are debating whether or not choosing to wear them should be approved. It does not hurt anyone, so therefore, it should be approved.
Debate Round No. 3
1 comment has been posted on this debate.
Posted by ErinMagner 3 years ago
Pro's summary of my arguments is inaccurate. Remember, this is not debate about a burqa/niqab ban, but whether or not wearing the garment is fitting feminist ideology. Several of my points are still uncontested:
1. Feminism means that since all humans were created equal, sex discrimination is unnatural. Sexual harassment is illegal because it is a form of sex discrimination.

2. The niqab and the burqa are worn because men are free to sexually harass women where there is no legal protection (in countries where the veil is worn/required). This is evidenced both by the statements by the Mufti, and by the statements of the women who wear the veil themselves. It is therefore directly a part of a system of sex discrimination called purdah.

3. Purdah, and therefore the veil, is unjust. It therefore hurts women to wear one.

4. Women continue to suffer under the system of purdah, and are brutally beaten and often die from punishment for being victims of sexual harassment or of rape. The justification for the punishment of the victim is related directly to whether or not the victim is wearing a veil by so-called religious figures. It is therefore a legal garment that directly contributes to sexual discrimination, the elimination of which is the exact focus of feminist ideology.

5. Approving the garment is approving the legal system that condones sexual harassment, by which men sexually overpower women, effectively keeping them and their identity invisible, which is the exact opposite of equality between the sexes, and entirely against what feminism stands for.

I needed to provide evidence to support these arguments, but all these arguments are present in my debate, but simplified here as they seem to be misunderstood and are unanswered.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by SloppyJoe6412 3 years ago
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Total points awarded:03 
Reasons for voting decision: It is with some pity that I cast this vote, because I partially agree with Con's position, but the question was poorly posed. The feminist movements (it's not just one) are not in a position to approve or disapprove personal choices. At most they can cast their opinion, but one common trait of feminists is to empower women's personal choices. So the Con position can't be right by definition.