The Burqa Incident.
July 21, 2002 5:00 PM   Subscribe

The Burqa Incident. British freethinker Sarah Lawrence dresses in a burqa to make a point at the US Libertarian Party Conference, and causes a hotel-wide security alert. Looks like one of those systemic sense-of-humour failures that conspire to spiral out of control these days. But isn't it a bit worrying when even Libertarian Party officials start threatening to report their own conference speakers to the FBI for suspicious dress sense?
posted by ntk (17 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Simply put, people are dumb.

I find it especially funny that the convention staffer claimed she had to file reports. Fear the day when every average American feels it's their civic duty to report anything that seems "suspect." Combine xenophobia with the tendency to overreact, and we're looking at many more swarthy-skinned and/or ethnically-dressed innocents being treated like common criminals in the name of "increased security."
posted by precocious at 5:19 PM on July 21, 2002

A burqa-wearing person shows up at a conference on July Fourth when Ashcroft's Terror Alerts are at Color-Code Plaid, and is surprised when she's not immediately escorted to the most densely-populated room in the convention center?

I don't get it.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 5:26 PM on July 21, 2002

Wow. Her message to the Libertarians - that non-governmental tyranny is just as bad as the state-sponsored kind - is something we just don't hear enough, especially from a more-or-less-libertarian. A refreshing challenge to the oppression-of-women-is-just-their-culture conventional wisdom.

I don't think the point of this was to underscore the indignity of not being allowed to wear a burqa in public in the U.S., but that the existence of the burqa is an indignity unto itself.
posted by transona5 at 5:29 PM on July 21, 2002

Maybe the Libertarians aren't making much forward progress because they keep shooting themselves in the foot...

It's a little difficult to make the point that you're in favor of greater freedom, when this is the track record you're leaving behind.

And mr_crash_davis -- you can't be serious... if that's how most Americans think than this country is in far deeper trouble than I suspect most could possibly imagine.
posted by clevershark at 5:33 PM on July 21, 2002

Wow. Not much to say beyond "wow." These are the best lines from the article.

"This is supposed to be the party of freedom-lovers, not fascists!" said one incensed Libertarian Party candidate, as he apologised to me for the behaviour of the Libertarian Party representative who had accosted us.

"No wonder the Libertarian Party is doing so badly: they are too fearful of innovation and fun," judged another libertarian. "Anti-entrepreneurial authoritarianism! You shouldn't let these people get away with it!" he fumed.

posted by mathowie at 5:34 PM on July 21, 2002

hehe... "help, help, I'm being repressed!" :-)
posted by clevershark at 5:37 PM on July 21, 2002

clevershark, I'm not sure if I was serious or not. I meant to be facetious: "Color-Code Plaid", but after I posted it I realized that maybe I wasn't too far off from the pulse of the American public after all.

I'll have to ponder it and get back to you later.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 5:40 PM on July 21, 2002

hehe... maybe I shouldn't throw stones at people who over-react after all :-)
posted by clevershark at 5:48 PM on July 21, 2002

What a waste. She cut it short and rubbished all that effort by explaining the joke.

I must admit that I liked this quote though,
He was effectively saying, If you might actually be an Islamist terrorist I'm a poop head, a blooming poop head, I wouldn't dream of searching you, I'm a poophead, do you have any moon rocks?   Effectively, that was what he was saying.
posted by holloway at 6:20 PM on July 21, 2002

This article simply proves what many have known all along -- that libertarians can be enormously level-headed people open to all sorts of unconventional ideas, while the Libertarian Party USA is a fanatical freakshow of reactionary, and exceptionally humorless, nutjobs. (And we haven't even included the Randroids in our analysis.)

There are a lot of libertarians in American who loathe the Libertarian Party with a passion.

Also, Adil Farooq rocks, apparently even when he's not updating. Libertarian Samizdata is also pretty interesting, and a nice bunch of people for being critically rational libertarians.
posted by dhartung at 10:56 PM on July 21, 2002

There are a lot of libertarians in American who loathe the Libertarian Party with a passion.

::Raises hand, moves along quietly::

Yep, I hate em too.
posted by insomnyuk at 11:06 PM on July 21, 2002

I really like to wear some of the clothes that are considered traditional Indian (from India) clothes, like the salwar kameez, because they are incredibly comfortable, feel fabulous on, and always look good...even during pregnancy.

However, because I'm olive skinned and dark haired, I've noticed that now if I wear something like that to a public area, such as a mall, I pick up a security guard, who will follow me like a puppy. People in stores tend to shy away, and it becomes much harder to get a salesperson. One particular lady at Neiman's refused to help me, claiming that "they didn't want my type in their store." (Needless to say, she was jobless 15 minutes later and I had a formal apology from the general manager. I have no sense of humor when it comes to nonsense like that.)

This "terrorist" thing has just gotten way out of hand. I can't even imagine how bad the situation must be for someone who can't/won't whip around on the morons like the trailing security guards and the big-haired salespeople for fear of being arrested, deported, officially harassed because they have a different skin tone or dress style.

In this speakers position...they would have needed to call the FBI...because I unilaterally refuse to be bullied. I wouldn't have removed the burka, I wouldn't have changed in the bathroom, hell...I wouldn't have gone to my room before speaking to the head of the Libs, the head of security...and goddamn it, bring on the feds if you're going to threaten. It's a federal crime to claim you filed an FBI report, if you didn't. It's also a federal crime to file a false FBI report. Let's see who goes to jail princess, shall we? And the media would have a freaking field day if the speaker *had* been arrested for nothing more than wearing a burka. That...that would have been good fun.
posted by dejah420 at 11:13 PM on July 21, 2002 [1 favorite]

Jeez ... where do you live, Texas?
posted by donkeyschlong at 11:42 PM on July 21, 2002

A few weeks ago, my wife and I were in a major outlet mall in Philadelphia. Walking down the long corridors of this symbol of American overabundance, we were takena aback by the sight of a woman (I assume) in a burqa. This engendered a whole lot of conversation for the rest of the day. Our responses ranged across the board...

...fear of the unexpected sight and symbol in such a familiar environment...

...pity for the woman who felt she must subordinate herself to such a repressive practice, and the other practices we assumed accomanied the burqa...

...anger/confusion that after trying to help people forced to subordinate themselves in such a manner, someone would willingly do so "in the land of the free."...

...curiousity about whether this was a sociological study stunt, a provocation, or real religious belief...

...curiousity about what she was doing in a mall largely devoted to apparel (given the limits on here outward dress, I briefly mused on whether there was a Victoria's Secret outlet in the mall)...

It was generally an uncomfortable feeling. The burqa has been one of the ambivalent symbols of this last year. If worn as a free choice in the expression of religious expression of modesty, there should be no fear, pity, anger, or curiousity involved. But then, it's another thing to consider a religion that seems so oppressive to one's own sensibilities that one finds it hard to accept the idea of willing acceptance of such a practice.

I suppose it's really not so different from more commonly accepted religious proscriptions on such things as celibacy for deep believers of Catholocism, or against ham sandwiches for Jews. It's only far more visible as an outward symbol of submission to one's beliefs. And far more disturbing to others exposed to it in unlikely environments.

I don't feel I've done this topic justice; it's a tough one.
posted by fpatrick at 7:13 AM on July 22, 2002

For some intelligent commentary on why a woman might decide to choose clothing like a burqa or veil, see the Veiled4Allah blog.

Although I like wearing traditional Indian clothing like dejah420, the venues where a person with my nordic appearance can wear a sari are somewhat limited; such as Hindu temples, social gatherings with people from India, costume parties, or places where hippies gather. It would be great if more of the traditional ethnic clothing styles would be recognized as appropriate attire for work or social events in the US.

The more flowing tradtional styles are much more flattering to women who are pregnant, or starting to gain the weight that comes with age, than standard tailored American business attire. Getting tailored business clothing to look sharp on women over 40 requires spending a small fortune! One female diplomat from Pakistan who I see on the TV every so often wears an elegant traditional scarf. This sort of traditional approach to formal dress would make it much easier and cheaper for older women to look good.

Similarly for men: Men in kilts always bring a certain energizing effect to any social group-- kilts really emphasize the strength and power that men can have in their legs, unlike the Hollywood emphasis on upper body strength. I did know one person who had the nerve to teach upper-level physics classes at an American university wearing his tradtional skirt-like dhoti, but he reported that some of the students had a hard time getting used to it. Sometimes I am starting to see the traditional "guyabera" shirts used as formal or business attire in the Latin American or Phillipino communities; it would be very liberating for men if this comfortable style for hot weather caught on.

The libertarian who was challenged regarding her right to wear a burqa had a very simple answer that she didn't use: "Yes, it's my religious belief to wear this burqa. I'm a libertarian, and I believe in freedom. Don't you?"
posted by sheauga at 7:18 AM on July 22, 2002


Pet peeve, can't help myself: it's "Filipino."
posted by lia at 8:32 AM on July 22, 2002

I really like to wear some of the clothes that are considered traditional Indian (from India) clothes, like the salwar kameez, because they are incredibly comfortable, feel fabulous on, and always look good...even during pregnancy.

I like to wear the skin color that's traditional in India, but when I do that while flying, they tend to escort the plane with fighter jets to its destination. Damned wacky fashion trends.
posted by anildash at 9:55 AM on July 22, 2002

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