A girl can get really tired of writing about burqas, so I’d sworn I’d give it a rest. But this is just so nuts I had to break my vow:
The first time I saw this photo, some months ago, I knew it had to be a hoax. You know, one of those photoshop deals. Besides, it could be anywhere, right? Nothing to indicate that it was, as claimed, in the Israeli town of Beit Shemesh, and that these women weren’t ultra-conservative Muslims but ultra-Orthodox Jews.
Still, who could resist such a delicious idea? Clearly not that grande dame of British journalism, The Daily Telegraph, which today ran the same photo with an accompanying story from its Israel correspondent:
At the insistence of the husbands of some burqa-wearing women, a leading rabbinical authority is to issue an edict declaring burqa-wearing a sexual fetish that is as promiscuous as wearing too little.
“A sexual fetish?” Interesting. “As promiscuous as wearing too little?” Have the venerable rabbis been reading The Accidental Theologist? My previous post on Sluts and Veils?
Clearly we’re in Daily Show country here. Jon Stewart couldn’t have done better than the way The Telegraph went on to report, with the print version of a straight face, that several hundred ultra-Orthodox women in five Israeli towns have taken to the burqa (though disappointingly, it fails to follow up on the rabbinical view of the slutty erotics of fleshlessness).
If I needed any further confirmation that The Telegraph had really taken a bath on this story, it was right there in the by-line:
By Adrian Blomfield in Jerusalem 6:40PM BST 30 Jul 2010
That is, dated nine months ago. QED! Hoax! Suckers!
Except then the reporter in me stood up on its hind legs and said “Hold on a moment: double check.” So I did. And I’m truly sorry I did.
Because the only mistake in the whole Telegraph story is the date of that by-line.
Yes, Veronica, there is indeed a new ultra-Orthodox Jewish sect in Israel in which women wear burqas (with full-face veils — not even a slit for the eyes). Apparently they even shower in them, so that they never lay eyes on their own bodies and thus, presumably, avoid the devilish temptations of auto-eroticism.
Once again, extremism trumps faith. It really is a religion all its own, and its fanatical adherents the real co-religionists.
With which, I hereby renew the Accidental Theologist ban on burqas.
This time, I hope it lasts…
Obviously I’m not a burqa proponent.
But seen from the back, they look an awful lot like old-school nuns — remember I grew up in Montreal — and given the patriarchal power of the church in the old days, how else did a woman get to be powerful, to run hospitals and schools, to study, to travel to exotic places. to be a force in the world?
It’s complicated — not that I’m advocating, on the contrary, but just saying — in a patriarchal context, it can be a move towards power.
i read the article, i didn’t even notice the date like you did, but i would like to say something about the picture. It is not unusual at all to see pictures not directly related to the article, and the paper doesn’t claim the picture is in Israel. if you notice next to the caption: “Photo: Tim Whitby / Alamy”
Alamy is apparently a privately-owned stock photography agency, where people can sell their pictures and other people can buy it and reuse it. So i suppose they just bought a picture from there with women in Burka to have a picture somewhat related to the article.