Posted by: sean | July 13, 2009

The dignity of man demands that he wear the burqa

afghan burqasMy friend Siad has been thinking a bit about masculinity in the Arab and Muslim worlds, which led me to share with him these pictures from Afghanistan and this article about the veil. The problem is that Siad doesn’t speak French, so I had to translate it on the fly over the kitchen table. Since I’d like to share it with my anglophone friends, I’ve done an unofficial and rough translation of it for your reading pleasure:

The dignity of man demands that he wear the burqa
by Pierrette Fleutiaux

If I were a pious man, this is what I would propose. Women are weak beings, submissive to all temptations, this we have known since the dawn of time. They are concupiscent, entirely the prey of condemnable impulses. Their bodies long for that of a man; society must master these bodies, from their earliest age. The burqa may seem like an appropriate response. Constraining the movements of women, bringing them back to modesty, checking the wild desires that are so natural to them, which disrupt their spirits and corrupt society, this is the responsibility of a man who respects the divine order.

However, we have perhaps erred not in the interpretation of divine law, but rather in its application. In effect, women’s eyes, even behind netting, even through the slit of a niqab, remain free. Peripheral vision is of course limited, but the natural perversity of women will allow them to find a way of getting around this small disadvantage. Women in burqas continue to see. We can only imagine what depravities are being stirring their spirits. Hidden behind their full veils, women can still give themselves up to mental debauchery.

One solution would be to blind them totally, by the means of a blindfold or in another non-cruel but efficient way. This solution should be avoided. Women would no longer be able to accomplish the tasks to which her subaltern conditions have destined them: feeding men and their sons, driving men’s sons to school, and all of the things that free men up from material tasks and make it easier for them to exercise their will and their study of the sacred texts.

I submit here a modest proposal to my brothers – that men wear the burqa, that they appropriate this garment which too easily leads women astray. Men are beautiful, the first creation of God, and women desire them indecently. Not giving them the freedom to lust, let’s not tempt their weak nature.

Imagine the man behind whom walks a woman in a burqa. Even veiled, in fact because she is veiled, she is free to contemplate the arms displayed by his short sleeves, the feet in his sandals, the agile behind and the legs showing beneath his pants, the male chest and the noble face. Men believe they have sheltered women from all dangers in the portable prison of the burqa. In reality, they have given them a scandalous freedom.

A man in a burqa will cleanly break the perverse impulse of a woman. These sparkling eyes that pierce even the thickest veil will meet a wall. Thus deprived during the day, in the house, she will be more inclined to respond to the legitimate sexual demands of her spouse.

So let women go in the street in their alluring attire that they’re sure to choose themselves. Their gaze will wear itself out on other women, and they won’t see anything there but a mirror image of their own indecency, their frivolousness will divert them away from any unhealthy competition with men. As for this exposition of femininity, it won’t be able to harm men. They will be comforted in their uncontested superiority. They will be able to recognize in the other burqas pious men who respect the law and thus will necessarily reinforce the beautiful and indispensable community of men.


Let’s get rid of this absurd belief that women have to be veiled so that men won’t be driven to covet someone else’s woman. Such a belief is miscreant: it gives credit to the idea that man was created lustful, rapist by nature and weak before his desires. And that, before any woman passing before his eyes, the impulse to jump her bones to consume the work of flesh. Men have in them the strength of spirit and natural respect for the divine order. Men have nothing to fear from the miserable lure of women.

Finally, let us recognize that there is a great danger in abandoning the sons of men to the care of a woman. Her feeble comprehension can only harm them. It is up to men to take charge of the infant, swaddle him, feed him, care for him. Once the reproductive task is accomplished, the woman should direct her erratic doings towards the exterior. Let her go chirp in the public assemblies, so long as her miasmas no longer corrupt the sacred hearth of man. The dignity of man demands that he wear the burqa. The burqa is made for man.



  1. sean,

    i have a few comments on the articles:

    Fleutiaux’s article: she spends a quite some time rebutting the argument that a women has to wear a burqa in order to curb her lust. well, nobody makes that argument except her. the mainstream argument for the burqa is that it is needed to curb men’s lust (as flawed as it may be). she mentions that only in the very last paragraph, while she spends a good amount of time rebutting an inexistent argument.

    pictures from afghanistan article: the argument that men wear make up and hold hands hence they are gay is a purely western-centric argument. only in the west, it is a taboo for “straight men” to hold hands and wear make up.

    even though afghans do so, they wouldn’t necessarily identify as gays. human sexuality and interaction is way complex to conform to western categorical binaries (gay vs straight). gore vidal expressed it when he said that there are no homosexual individuals only homosexual acts.

    a similar example would be when some cultures consider the intermingling of sexes as tantamount to adultery. there would still be individuals who intermingle without self-identifying as “adulterers”.

    personal note: i do not condone any moral judgment about human sexuality, but at the same time i object to flawed labels. i think that human sexuality is far too complex for either.


  2. […] bodies long for that of a man; society must master these bodies, from their earliest age…. more here Leave a Comment No Comments Yet so far Leave a comment RSS feed for comments on this post. […]

  3. I honestly didn’t get the purpose of this article at first, because it is definitely the first time veil or burqa is looked at from this perspective. At first I thought she was being ironic. Then the article ended, and her point was still the same. So I went to the original article in French and read the comments or reactions of readers. Now after reading some of the comments, I was able to understand where she comes from. She’s definitely exaggerating, nonetheless it is a nice way to point out this other perspective … yeah why not. Need to think about it more though

  4. silly me, it is ironic. blame it on few hours of sleep and debugging a horrible bug

  5. Hayhtam, the burqa article is satire and should be read as such.

    As for Afghanistan, no one is saying that holding hands or wearing makeup is homosexual. What Ahmad Rashid was saying, and what I agree with, is that men having sex with young boys (bacha bazi, or boy play) is homosexual.

    Now I don’t know that there’s a link between the glamor shots and the boy play, or sexual norms more largely, but I can say this: wearing makeup while holding hands is definitely considered gay in Beirut and Damascus and I’d wager in Cairo too. Holding hands isn’t that uncommon in the Arab world, but with the limited exception of Oman, I don’t know of too much makeup wearing in the Arab world.

    Afghanistan, of course, is another issue, so I doubt chalking something up to “the west” is a very helpful distinction to make, especially since I’ve seen much more heterosexual makeup in the US or Europe (goths) than I have in the Middle East.

  6. Sean,

    I agree with your points. But at the same time, we should realize that both Beirut and Damascus are post-colonial cities in which people try to adopt everything “western” in their language, dress code, behavior and education system. The fact that holding hands is considered gay in post-colonial Beirut doesn’t necessarily make the judgment genuinely Arab. It is akin to saying that diesel jeans are not a western dress code because Beirutis wear them.

    I find the whole argument similar to male friends in Beirut hugging, or male relatives kissing: both behaviors might be viewed as “gayish” in the “west”, while considered “normal” in the arab world.

  7. Thanks for the comments, Haytham. I suppose what I’m saying is that neither the “Orient” nor the “West” are monoliths. Man on man cheek kissing is normal in France or Greece but might be considered somewhat gay in Idaho or Stockholm. Likewise, wearing Kohl might be normal in Muscat or Jalalabad but come off as homosexual in Khartoum or Baghdad.

    The Diesel analogy is actually a pretty interesting one to me, because it brings up questions of authenticity, or stated differently, what it means to “really” be Arab. Diesel jeans are originally Italian, so there’s that, but I could argue that they’re part of what makes a wazwaz, which is definitely an Arab (although not exclusively) phenomenon. Likewise, someone from a Lebanese village can consider an old early 1900s Singer sewing machine to be part of an authentic Arab home, even though Singers are originally from the US.

    All this to say that I’m not convinced that the “West” and the Arab world have ever been as pure or as isolated as your separation would suggest. There’s always been cross pollination, w al-hamdullah.

  8. agreed :)

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