Muslim, Religion

The Burka: An Unexpected Appreciation

Not so scary anymore

She looked like a ghoul. They all did, in fact, these women in burkas. You know what I’m talking about, the long garment—very often black—that hides everything but the eyes, the stark symbol of Taliban-inspired oppression that France has outlawed.

That I was in Malaysia, a Muslim country, didn’t matter. I was, after all, at a beach resort. The heat was stifling. At most, people were wearing loose shorts and tops, and those who gathered poolside wore far less.

Everyone that is, except the burka women.

They sat poolside covered from head to toe. They ate at the restaurant by lifting up the veil. They walked the hallways of the resort looking to my American eyes like spooks. Were they hiding guns under all that fabric? Were they made to wear them by the men whose sides they never left? I couldn’t take my eyes off of them, partly because they fascinated me, partly because I was scared they might at any moment blow up the restaurant.

But as the weeks passed, something strange and unexpected happened.

It was the pink sneakers that started it. My wife noticed her first—a burka-clad woman who, underneath all that black, had on pink sneakers. I don’t know what I imagined they wore on their feet. Sandals? Tissue boxes? Claw-shaped boots? But pink sneakers was not on my Top Ten list. She also had on jeans. We began noticing that the burkas, though uniformly black, often had ornate patterns and were individualized.

And the guys these women were with? They weren’t brutes. They were as nice as could be, and shared private jokes and intimacies with their mates just like all the other couples. Then came two sights I never imagined: a burka-clad woman with a life-jacket on, steering a jet ski. And the one who was parasailing, her ebony gown flapping 50 feet above the Malacca Straits.

Okay, so the burka women weren’t Taliban. They weren’t Al-Qaeda. They weren’t out to kill me. The burkas they wore were just garments, nothing more, nothing less. They were women now, no longer ghouls, no longer scary.

In fact, they were friendly too. On my last day—it’s always the last day, isn’t it?—my wife and I went to Batu Caves. It’s a popular Hindu shrine outside Kuala Lumpur that you reach by climbing 272 stairs. As we were leaving, my wife—who had already taken 1,000 photos in our two hours there—stopped to take shots of a long rail where pigeons had stopped to rest. Oddly enough, a young man had his camera trained on a parallel rail, which was also filled with pigeons.

The woman with him wore a burka. She looked at my wife. She looked at me. She looked at her husband. She looked back at me. I did the same then gave an exasperated eye roll. All I could see was her eyes, but like me, she was laughing.

—Bob Meadows

© 2010 The Peoples News

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Discussion

7 thoughts on “The Burka: An Unexpected Appreciation

  1. Great article Craig! Thank you for reminding us that, no matter what color the skin OR the clothing, we are all human beings after all.

    Posted by Keith Woods | October 29, 2010, 8:52 am
  2. I love this, thanks so much for posting it. I will share it on FaceBook. Thanks for reminding me to look past the surface and remember that there is always somebody “in there”.

    Posted by Joan | October 29, 2010, 9:07 am
  3. This piece was a delightfully pleasant surprise! Well done!

    Posted by Streetraker | October 29, 2010, 10:42 am
  4. Interesting. I’m dead certain that Juan Williams felt as you did, Craig. But, unlike you, perhaps never got the opportunity to see the burka-clad, muslim-looking persona in a less threatening situation.

    Posted by Leroy | October 29, 2010, 12:44 pm
  5. Well done. “Peoples is peoples” is my favorite quote from a Muppet movie.

    Posted by Renee | October 29, 2010, 2:15 pm
  6. Sad altruistic critisism of the law. The law is not meant to prevent nice, sweet, just-like-us females from killing innocents, it is meant to stop mean men from hiding behind them, sorta like the sign at the local bank that says “No ski masks allowed” doesn’t mean it is meant to prevent wild radical skiers from robbing the bank…

    Posted by Mike | October 29, 2010, 5:30 pm
  7. YES! Clothes are just clothes people!

    PS – I love this blog.

    L

    Posted by lola gets | December 21, 2010, 11:48 pm

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