It was inevitable that the terror attack in Tunisia on Friday would lead to another barrage of Islamophobia over social media networks, and my own news feed didn’t disappoint. Well it sort of did. I was very disappointed and hurt to see how many people in my life ‘liked’ and ‘shared’ a poster of a Muslim woman’s eyes under the covering of a veil emblazoned with the slogan “Ban the Burqa Now!” Seifeddine Rezgui, the twenty-three year old man responsible for the cowardly assault on the beach, was not wearing anything that distinguished him as a Muslim. He wasn’t wearing a burqa or a niqab. In fact Seifeddine, who was dressed like any other tourist enjoying the sun, wasn’t even a woman when he opened fire. So it troubles me to see that the backlash – which to some extent is understandable – focuses itself on Muslim women and the traditional Islamic clothing that some Muslim women wear. It upsets me deeply to see people I love and care about deeply share these racist and bigoted memes without properly thinking through what they are doing. I’m biased of course; I don’t want to believe that they are racists and bigots, but the people responsible for these images are.
My own thoughts on the burqa are complicated. I know and have known a great many Muslims – women and men. I have even had the dubious honour of tearing a hijab from a young woman’s head. She did thank me for it though. It had gone on fire from brushing off a lit candle as we celebrated Shabbat with some beloved Jewish friends (yes – Christians, Muslims, and Jews have been known to welcome the Sabbath bride together). Some women have told me that they choose not to wear veils because they feel that it oppresses them, others, by the same token, have told me that they wear veils as an act of devotion to Allah (which is the same word Arabic Jews and Christians use for God). In my case the jury is out on the burqa, the niqab, and the hijab. It’s not my choice. I’m not a Muslim woman. Yet I do know a few Catholic nuns – some wear a veil and others don’t.
Ozer Khalid (@OzerKhalid) June 28, 2015
What happened in Sousse on Friday was horrifying, but trust me (as a lover of Tunisia) – this was not typical, and angrily demanding the banning of the burqa will have absolutely no chance of stopping another Seifeddine Rezgui or another Anders Behring Breivik for that matter. No sooner had the news of the attack on the beach swept over the city of Sousse than women were forming queues at the blood banks to help the wounded tourists in the only way they could. It would be interesting, had the medics on duty kept such records, to find out how many of the blood donors were in burqas.