Let us begin with Guha’s concern about the burka. One need not hesitate to posit that if women are dictated a dress code, this certainly should be a matter of concern. Having said this, we need to put this issue in perspective. Women not wearing the burka are no less oppressed than women in burka; what we need to fight for is not a dress code but the mindset that relies on religion to imprison the person of a woman. At the same time, the question of unilateral dissolution of marriage needs to be treated as far more important than the injunction to wear a burka.
But even if one agrees with Guha, a nagging question would still remain: If burka-wearing women are coming out to join a rally, should their burka be an impediment? Particularly, if it is understood as a marker of who they are? So the question is not whether or not the burka is a practice deserving abandonment; the question is whether a community be asked to hide its identity in order to be able to participate in public political activity. Wouldn’t we be scandalised by stories of Sikhs having to get rid of their turbans in order to avoid being targeted? Guha’s deep liberal concern notwithstanding, the current avoidance of the burka would surely smack of the dot busters? When somebody is bent on attacking you for wearing a bindi, wearing it suddenly acquires the resonance of defiance.
Two, Guha’s argument actually expands the concerns of Mander, because Guha combines the question of political leadership and the question of social reform. This is important because Muslim politics cannot become truly democratic unless, as Guha argues, it sheds the shackles of religious obscurantism. It takes us to the question of Muslim social reform and its relationship with Muslim politics and Muslim representation... read more:
Some more readings:
Arab women before and after Islam