“NiqaBitch”: Two French Women Stage Anti-Burqa Ban Protest

A statement from NiqaBitch on their protest via Rue89.com:

Nous avons toutes les deux une petite vingtaine d’années, et bien que l’une de nous soit musulmane, nous ne nous sentons pas directement concernées par le vote de la loi anti-burqa (bien que « niqab » soit plus approprié).

Nous avons néanmoins senti le besoin de nous exprimer sur le sujet. On a toujours trouvé cette loi un peu floue, et même s’il est difficile d’avoir un avis tranché sur la question, elle a au moins eu l’avantage de nous faire réfléchir.

Nous n’avons certes pas monté d’association, ni manifesté notre réticence à cette loi en défilant dans les rues, mais plutôt fait le choix de détourner la représentation classique que l’on a du niqab.

Mettre une simple burqa aurait été trop simple. Alors on s’est posé la question : comment réagiraient les autorités face à des femmes portant une burqa ET un minishort ?

On ne cherchait pas à attaquer ou à dégrader l’image des intégristes musulmans -chacun son trip. Mais plutôt à interpeller les élus de la République qui sont allés au bout du vote de cette loi que l’on estime être largement anticonstitutionnelle… Et puis finalement, le LOL c’est bien pour dénoncer non ? (Voir la vidéo)

The authors of Muslimah Media Watch, weighed in on how useful the “NiqaBitch experiment” is as a method of protest–thoughtfully speaking to (a) the playful way in which NiqaBitch uses the pairing of the miniskirt (read: a signifier for French notion of the liberated woman) and the niqab (read: a signifier for Islamic oppression) to complicate the discourses written upon women’s bodies and (b) an orientalist tradition of eroticizing and exoticizing the bodies of Eastern women of color. Read their full article here.

“Does the niqabitch experiment advance the debate on the burqa in France? Not really. The policy makers behind the “burqa ban” are just a bit too thick, and of course, President Sarkozy has his own pair of long model legs to ogle. But is what they are doing cute and funny for those of us fans in Niqabitch’s “affinity group” who get it? Of course. Team Niqabitch all the way.”

The Guardian had a similar take, adding, “what is encouraging is that the concept of the niqab is being decoupled from religion and incorporated into popular culture, examined and discussed in terms of freedom of choice, artistic expression, and redefinitions of sexuality and personal space. All in inimitable, indigenous French avant-garde fashion. It is a hallmark of integration and a repudiation of the state’s transgression into the realm of personal freedom.”

Muslimah Media Watch (featured in the Ambivigilante blogroll) describes itself as” a forum where [...] Muslim women, can critique how our images appear in the media and popular culture. Although we are of different nationalities, sects, races, etc., we have something important in common: we’re tired of seeing ourselves portrayed by the media in ways that are one-dimensional and misleading. This is a space where, from a Muslim feminist perspective, we can speak up for ourselves.”

So, what is your take?  How can the NiqaBitch experiment complicate common discourse?

You can follow NiqaBitch on Twitter, here.

To see their video in English, click here.

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