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The Burka, should there be criticism of this headwear?

A famous British politician, Boris Johnson claimed this week that whilst he would not ban the full face burka, he did say that it looks ridiculous, and suggested that women who wear them look like bank robbers.

This comment has really divided opinion in Britain. What are feelings about this comment and why

RobH86 7 Aug 12

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I think women should be allowed to wear whatever the hell they want to; I am totally sick of people telling women what they should wear on or do with their own bodies.

Boris Johnson is a twat.

"I am totally sick of people telling women what they should wear "
You nailed the problem with the burqa right there.

@Gareth you do understand that many Muslim women wear the veil by choice, don’t you?

@Cassiopeia Many women stay in abusive relationships by choice too. I see little girls aged no more than 5 or 6 in headscarves where I live. You can train people to make certain choices but I don't think it's either healthy or desirable.

@Gareth I think that’s offensive to those who choose to wear veils, as is they are incapable of independent thought.

@Cassiopeia Religious people incapable of independent thought? Surely not!


I've never understood the obsession with the burka/hijab. Other religions have head-dresses, and you never hear anything about them.

Men and women should be allowed to wear anything they want. As long as I'm not required to wear something I'm okay with it.

It's not only a head-dress, it's a face covering.
My concern is whether women are wearing them voluntarily or under duress.

@Gareth Depends on your definition of duress. I'm sure, like other things, there are women who wear them under duress. I do believe that the majority wear them because it's their culture to wear them and wear them because they want to.

The reason why I say it depends on your definition is because a lot of Muslim women are taught from an early age to wear them for modesty. Some would consider indoctrination as duress.

@kiramea Let's look at it this way: what would happen to them if they stopped wearing it? If they received any criticism or punishment at all that would amount to duress for me. And I believe that the vast majority would.

@Gareth That makes absolutely no sense. When a person who is used to doing something is suddenly stopped from doing it, it usually gives them some duress/stress. Forcing them to stop wearing a burka/hijab would amount to the same thing. As for the "punishment or criticism", I already stated that a small minority is forced. I know many muslims (men and women), and not all women wear them. Also, I would think that NOT wearing them in predominantly Muslim countries would give them more duress than wearing them.

I stand with my original statement; men and women should be allowed to wear anything they want. As long as I'm not required to wear something I'm okay with it.

@kiramea Which closes the circle.


It has since been reported that women wearing veils have be harassed in public, out shopping or getting on a train etc. If a senior politician makes remarks like this it makes other people feel that it’s OK to harass and even physically attack people.

I hear that. I want to start by saying this is not my argument, but an argument that I have heard about people who are saying what you are saying. The argument is, that you are basically morally blackmailing people into never being allowed to criticise this religion. Criticism does not mean it is ok to go up to someone and remove their burka.
I hear your point but must confess that I am torn between the 2 arguments. I agree Boris is a twat though

@RobH86 saying that someone looks like a letterbox is not criticising their religion; it’s ridiculing them with an aimed insult.

@Cassiopeia Its a really tough one for me. The idea that someone hides their face from society to be closer to a god that just does not exist seems beyond stupid and people should have the freedom to criticise this idea. However, criticising ideas, and criticising people for those ideas are 2 different things


I am British. Johnson is an utter shitty racist. He openly called black children as “picaninnies with watermelon smiles”. He forced his lover into 2 abortions. He is disgusting and looks like a pig in a wig. He needs to fuck off telling women how to dress, and learn to dress himself.
There’s nothing wrong with wearing a burka and I have never found it a barrier to communication.

Livia Level 6 Aug 13, 2018

I am curious as whether anyone commenting personally know some Muslim women? Have you had a conversation with them about their clothing choices? I work in a school with a substantial Muslim population and some of my friends at work are Muslim. They don't wear a hijab or niquab, but they do wear modest clothing. Most women wear shalwar kameez which are super comfortable (I wore one and it was like wearing my PJs to work) and a color coordinating head scarf. They wear it for religious reasons, for cultural reasons, and for their own level of comfort because that is what they have worn all of their adult lives. I asked my coworker how she'd feel in my tank top and shorts and she said she'd feel undressed. I think the whole modest clothing thing is bullshit. I doubt most women in burquas (and we do have a few from Somalia who wear them) are thrilled about it, but they also feel the pressure to belong to their community. We can parse out what WE think is best for other people, but we aren't them. We are imposing our own beliefs on them, and as I have said, and if you need to, please read this a few times slowly to let it sink in: Women are sick of hearing what we should and shouldn't wear from guys so please just stop it.

I have worked and been friends with Muslims and Hindus. I did ask a stupid question to a Hindu that I worked with (I was curious about the colors of his turbans and if they had any significance. He knew I wasn't being malicious; that I was just uninformed).

I did as a co-worker about slouchy pants and why they were worn. She was very nice and explained it to me. I don't remember the explanation since it was several years ago, but she had no problem with the question.

Most people have no problem answering questions if you are sincerely trying to learn. It's when you're implying that you're better than them is where they have problems.

Spot on Thanks.

If someone has a reasonable argument to put forward I don't think it should make any difference whether they are male or female. In a car, I think women should wear seatbelts (as should men). My being male in no way has any bearing on the matter.

@pepperjones I will relay that to my friends that their husbands are oppressing them because someone on the internet thinks so. Thanks!

@pepperjones Thank you for getting it. I despair of women who say they do not need men to tell them what to do while defending the instructions of an all-male-created creed.


He has every right to that opinion, regardless of whether I agree with it or not. Frankly, there are times I'd love to wear hijab, if only so I can be lazy about fixing my hair. It seems a lot easier. But, I don't recognize anyone's authority to tell me I must or cannot wear insert article of clothing here.

Which is the whole point. If I want to wear a plastic bag on my head and you don't like it - you should get a life, pal.

@skye724 It won't be the whole point at all though until all women have an absolutely free and unconstrained choice in the matter.

@Gareth The burka is clothing. No man gets to decide what a woman's freedom means. Your opinion is what it is, but it is not a fact that a woman isn't free if she wears anything in particular.


No one has the right to insist that I wear the burka and I have no right to tell someone that they can't wear one.
If a woman is gullible enough to accept the mandate (no matter how she justifies it to herself) that she must wear it to hide herself from lustful, out of control men, she has the right to choose to do that. Just as I have the right not to.

How many times must it be pointed out? : IT MANY NOT BE HER DECISION

@Gareth There is no need to yell at me. I do understand that in many cases it is not a choice and I don't see that banning it will help those women. In fact it will probably make their lives more miserable than it probably already is. I am not defending the burka in any way shape or form. As a decent human being I find it repulsive. I am merely pointing out that the banning of the burka infringes on our civil rights....a slippery slope. Perhaps I could have stated that a little more clearly.

@patchoullijulie I'm sorry for yelling, but I get so sick of seeing "women should be able to wear what they want" in regard to a dehumanising symbol of female oppression that they are effectively forced into.
If you doubt the truth of that, look at the 3 billion or so women who are non-Muslim and under no external compulsion to wear a niqab or burka. How many do so? Not one, as far as I'm aware.


Yes. We should always criticize mysogyny and textbook definition patriarchal control over women. The hell with anyone who glamorizes garbage like the niqab/burka.

Harsh (but maybe fair). What would you say about a muslim woman who claimed she wanted to wear it out of choice?

@RobH86 I say the same about any non-Muslim woman who wanted to wear a burqa out of choice - "I can hardly believe there are more than a dozen of you on the whole planet".

@Gareth, @RobH86 It's never a true choice. At the very least, women are brainwashed into wearing it. Talk to some ex-Muslims.

@TheDarkNolanite ...said the white American guy.
I am a woman. I am married to a Muslim. I don’t wear anything on my head. It’s not obligatory in the Koran and my husband wouldn’t dare push that on me, because he knows I don’t believe and don’t want to wear it. It is a choice for many women in the West who wear one. A choice that I respect. Men...please stop speaking on behalf of women!

@Livia What does my skin color have to do with the way I criticize bad ideas (of which Islam is the mother lode of)?

@Gareth Just because its a small number it does't mean the number is zero. Again, if a woman really wanted to wear one, why shouldn't she have that choice? (I am not yet swayed either way)

@TheDarkNolanite because the society we live in allows white men to exercise their agency, but restricts agency for others. White men are in a position of power that minorities and women are not allowed to occupy. When a white man uses that agency to criticize women’s clothing choices and thinks for them (she is oppressed) and speaks for them (it’s never a true choice...women are brainwashed) you actually are using your agency and power to patronize us, and remove our voices. Women have personalities and are human beings and can speak for themselves as to whether we are oppressed or caught up in some kind of mind-control - yes, even women of color and Muslim women can think and speak. So please, don’t attempt to do it for us. You couldn’t fit a stereotype of chauvinism better if you tried.

@Livia Again- talk to some ex-Muslims. Google "Yasmine Mohammed." Look at her Twitter. She has stories to tell.

@Livia Stop ignoring the plight of women who have it forced on them.

@TheDarkNolanite No, you stop talking like all women have it forced on them. Some do, some don’t. What you are failing to understand is that not all Muslim women fit your preferred stereotype: Oppressed, suppressed, compliant and meekly brainwashed. Some women wear it because they feel naked without it. Perhaps like if you had no socks and sneakers; it would make you feel uncomfortable. For other busy mums it’s convenient - throw it on and no one can see you are still in PJs. For others, it’s a statement of their inner feelings on wishing to be viewed by others as modest and pious. At the end of the day you have a completely generalized idea of what it is to be a Muslim woman, and you are using confirmation bias in your example of Ms.Mohammad to back up your belief. You don’t get to speak for any women, especially not women of color or Muslim women because you are not them - in fact you couldn’t be more removed from their experiences.

@Livia "Some women wear it because they feel naked without it."

Textbook brainwashing. Birds born in a cage think flying is an illness.

@Livia You just compared the burka to my socks and sneakers. Only one is a necessity in the 21st Century. I don't think you could be any more of a regressive leftist if you tried.

@TheDarkNolanite Have a prize! Has the penny only just dropped? Let me spell it out. Marxist, trans-inclusive feminist, pro-black empowerment, LGBTQ rights and against Anti-Semitism and Islamaphobia and against the white capitalist patriarchy. Seems you are a bit slow on the uptake ?

@Livia Islam is against LGBTQ rights. Just FYI.

@TheDarkNolanite So are all Abramic religions. That’s what’s wrong with religion. It’s shit. I don’t believe. But I am not going to discriminate against people on the basis of their faith. Any faith. Many feminists are not trans-inclusive. They exclude trans-women from meetings and other spaces. Just because people are fucking stupid and choose to hate each other, it doesn’t mean that I have to be a turd and join in with the prejudice!

@Livia No one is discriminating against Muslims by criticizing their faith. You sound like Ben Affleck.


I do not object to the wearing of burkas, certainly not on the grounds that "it could be terrorists under there" or "Muslims are bad mkay?" like I've got into several Facebook debates about. If I was to oppose it then it would be on the grounds that it is an outdated symbol of patriarchal oppression, but this doesn't make Islam any more ridiculous than any other religion tbh.


People should be able to wear whatever they want. I sometimes wish I had a burka.

I think I will. Do they have them at Costco?

Isn't the whole problem that we can't be sure that the wearer actually wants to be covered? Should you have to wear what I want you to wear?

@Gareth Maybe they can put messages on the backs of their burkas. “I want to wear this. Y do u care?”

@Hermit Why do I care about human rights? Why don't you?


While I think Boris Johnson is pretty much an asshole, I can't say he's completely wrong.
ALL religion is evil, nearly ALL of it is completely misogynistic.
Expecting any woman to cover any part of her body, just because some stupid-assed religion says she has to, is bullshit.
I have no respect for anyone's religious beliefs. None.
I have even less respect for any religion that deliberately keeps women down.


When having a conversation with someone the facial expression are important indicators on how that person is reacting.

I have met a couple of Muslim women and neither wore face coverings. From what they have told me it is a cultural tradition not a religious obligation.

How people choose to dress is their business, fashion is always changing.

As for what Boris Johnson said...It was and insensitive comparison but not one that has not been made by others.

Betty Level 7 Aug 13, 2018

I have biker friends who are in no way racist. They object to being told to take off their helmet when they pay for petrol yet burkas are ok.


I have yet to meet anyone who doesn't object to a double standard yet it exists.

@273kelvin perhaps your biker friends are burly, intimidating men and women in niqabs are, you know, women and not intimidating in size etc.


I am torn over the burka! I never want to insult a culture, and yet the burka seems like an insult to women. All that covering up, to protect a women from the eyes of a man, is a bit much! I have not studied the rapes compared with women who have little or no coverings, but I wonder? But, I hate all that covering up unless I am freezing and on top of that it looks like work, have to live under so much material to get things done!


What should be ridiculed about putting a woman in a bag is the fact that it is a man's invention and the practice is enforced by men. If a vote could be taken among the women of a region where the burqa is worn to comply with regulation and they were able to vote without fear of reprisal should they not wish to be bagged, I think there might be a change in fashion in certain places. If they agreed with the regulation of living in a sack, then bagged they remain. No problem.

There are three basic types of "modest" apparel, the hijab, the niqab, and the burqa. Photos are in this order:


If I can't walk into a bank or jewelry store wearing a hat and sunglasses...


I don't think anyone should be allowed to hide their identity in public. It is asking for trouble.

I love trouble. I will just go on the record and ask for some right now.

Ha ha Be careful what you wish for bra! ?

@Flyingsaucesir I feel completely comfortable with my visualizations and wishes. 🙂

Hell, you don't have to go looking for trouble. Trouble will find you.

@Flyingsaucesir Trouble and I are long time friends.


A Burqua is the full body covering. The niquab is the covering for the face and the hijab covers just the hair and neck. I didn't see anyone in a burqua when I was in London but I did see many women wearing a hijab and an abaya. While I think women covering themselves so random guys on the tube don't get boners, we are generally really over random guys telling us what we can and cannot wear.

Not trying to sound like a know-it-all, but a burka and a niqab are the same thing.

@Hermit []


Politicians generally bore me. I'm in the other side of the pond, but this Boris guy seems like a right turd when from over here. More of the socially maladjusted coming into vogue lately. Oh, we definitely have that here, too...

He's right though - covering your face to be modest does seem kind of stupid. Still, people have the right to dress how they want as long as it doesn't interfere with public safety. Unless it infringes on other people's rights, then we have to let it go in order to have a free society. That's why we call it tolerance. Having a politician say the things is just asinine.

If he wants to put up a good fight, fight the elements of a culture that force this on women that don't want to do it. That would be courageous and worthwhile. That would be a principled humanitarian thing to do.


I don't know anybody that wear a burka, therefore I don't really know. Not for me to say either since I am not a Muslim. However, I have daughters and I don't think I would like it if they would marry a muslim and then being asked to wear it. Another comment, I have seen women dressed up head to toe in a market in Bangkok where climate is hot all the time. Poor fellow human beans, that's hard to watch. Also, at the same place I have seen women wearing on top of the burka some sort of metal collar to cover their mouths. It's something even more radical. How is that fair? I have never seen the husbands wearing such things. I know, that's another can of worms.


I just wanna be level 3 but hey what an honest asshole, take the burka off ladies be free


I have biker friends who are in no way racist. They object to being told to take off their helmet when they pay for petrol yet burkas are ok.
His comment is less about the burka and more about Boris jockeying for position in the Tory party.
May has ballsed up the brexit negotiations and is on her way out. Boris wants to get support from the right.


In my opinion, in the USA, it is a Muslim woman's right, as well as a potential requirement, to wear those garments. While they have the right, they should be aware that some people who they encounter may be made uncomfortable by it. A few thoughts come to mind. Like, isn't that really hot? Why don't the men wear something that also covers their entire body? It can be said that requiring only women to wear such ridiculous garb is a form of oppression. Not cool in the USA. So welcome to the greatest country in the world but we are free here. You dig? Assimilation? Got some? Driver's licenses? If you want one, that thing's gotta come off. We have to see your face on the ID. You can put it back on right after they click. I'm all about tolerance and acceptance but you know we have a certain standard of conduct that you have to adhere to. Or at least you should be trying to adhere to.

Seriously- who really cares if the burka look makes a middle aged American male feel uncomfortable. Men in shirts and ties make me feel uncomfortable all day, but I just live with it.

@Livia That's not a good response. It's tantamount to saying "I got my own problems, who cares about yours?". Coercion and depersonalisation of women in communities that have a history of treating them as second-class citizens makes me uncomfortable too. If you want to make a false equivalence with your phobia of neckties, so be it. That's on you.

Lots of women who wear it are not oppressed- it’s their choice. They like to make a statement about their piety and modesty. Who are you to say they cannot choose to display that through what they wear?
As someone who has lived in the Middle East and has relatives in the Middle East, I can say that on many occasions the women rule the roost. They can have agency and exercise their power in ways that aren’t yours culturally and so you don’t see it. Muslim women were way ahead of Christian ones as since the beginning they have had the right to own property and run a business.
You Americans confuse religion with cultural practice and have an opinion on things you don’t know.
Here’s the rules: men shouldn’t tell women how to be. Whites shouldn’t tell blacks how to be. Very simple. Non-Muslims shouldn’t make assumptions about people based on clothing. It’s not that hard.
I absolutely wasn’t making false equivalency about white middle aged men in suits. I work with them all day and tbh, their behavior is sub par. Sexist, entitled, patronizing- they actually do harm. The literally make me feel uncomfortable- looking at my tits when they talk etc. I have never had a woman in a hijab /burka do anything like that to me.

@Livia I think this is not the right forum to bring "piety" to the table as an argument nor to use Christianity as your baseline for favourable comparisons. I don't need Middle Eastern family dynamics or Islamic history to be womansplained to me either. I'm not the American in this conversation, so apparently that missile was misdirected. I'm sorry that you find the men in your environment objectionable, but that's not something that reflects on me, or can serve as the basis for discussion on an unrelated matter.
All that aside, I absolutely reject your "rules" that I cannot comment on any institution that I am not a member of. You don't have to be a slaveholder to be able to say that slavery is wrong. I don't have to be a Muslim to opine that its treatment of women is pernicious. I believe what you are propounding is called identity politics and I reject it. I believe that in the Muslim world there is a huge amount of disempowerment, control and oppression of women and I will speak out against it whether or not I am white, male, Western or atheistic.


Personally, I live in a humid area in the summertime and a burka and/or hijab look, well, hot. But if someone wants to wear it, far be it for me to tell them what to do. Side note: I saw saw Muslim ladies use their hijab as a hands-free cradle for their cell phones. Genius.


Its not the apparel, or even the dietary laws. Its the belief and dogma involved..


Doesn't Boris Johnson have anything better to do than bash Muslim head wear? Criticizing Muslim women is weak, bullying nonsense. His comment doesn't even rise to the level of a 6-year-old. That's y opinion.

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