The ritual hatred of women (specifically their reproductive systems) seems to be fait accompli in any organised religion that’s been around for a while. The misogyny in Islam is especially ingrained, and particularly heinous. You might have read about a woman in a Taliban controlled part of Afghanistan being caged up for three days before being flogged in public, and then shot thrice… for the crime of having an ‘illicit affair’.
You might think that my using the Taliban as the archetype for an Islamic society is misguided; surely most muslims are peace-loving and the Taliban is an aberration, and not the other way around? Perhaps. But here’s, for me, the flaw in that argument: Any cult/religion that proclaims its own unquestionable moral superiority, the unquestionable moral inferiority of everything else, and violence as means of settling the question, will inexorably lead to organizations the Taliban might count as friends. The absence of this means that people aren’t following the rules of the cult/religion. Will this subversion of said cult/religion happen a lot of the time? Possibly. Will there be significant instances of the opposite, i.e. of people following the ‘good book’ to the letter? Sadly, it seems so.
This progression to full-blown psychosis doesn’t happen overnight, in one big step. Nobody takes a decision to start locking women up in kitchens, ‘starting on the morrow’. Interpretations of ‘holy’ scripture only ever get incrementally holier. It starts with pilot ideas like the salary of a woman being declared haram; withdrawals are issued, of course. Or with the hands of a teacher who set a question paper that ‘insulted’ the prophet being cut off. Here’s a hint: it’s been twelve centuries since the prophet kicked his bucket and turned into manure. He doesn’t feel insulted. He told me.
So, when activists protest against the burqa being imposed on Islamic women, they are not just fighting the mobile tarpaulins. They are also fighting to prevent these and similar monstrosities from becoming the norm, becoming acceptable, becoming part of the culture. So much so that self-righteous people who could never have known oppression start proclaiming that the ‘right’ to choose to wear one of these tents is important, and that this ‘right’ shouldn’t be taken away from Islamic women. Surely. And the right to get whipped in public shouldn’t be taken away. Neither should the right to stay cooped up in a room for weeks together, till one starts suffering from rickets (vitamin D deficiency is found frighteningly commonly among women in regions that have strict ‘holy scriptural ‘ interpretations of what women are allowed to wear).