Lady Gaga’s burqa is good for Muslim women

gaga_burkaThis article approaches the question as to whether Lady Gaga’s recent choice to wear various “Islamic” items of clothing, is a shameless exploitation of orientalist fetishes to promote herself as a pseudo-edgy ‘artiste’? Which she argues it is yet at the same time feeling strangely satisfied at the uproar caused by her neon pink burqa, because it challenges the discursive monopoly on the meaning of Muslim women’s clothing.

 

In 2009, Lady Gaga held a press conference to which she turned up wearing a bizarre full face covering. Unfazed by her typically outrageous fashion choices, the journalists proceeded to quiz her on her music, none storming out in protest that it was “impossible to read her facial features” or concerned about the “true identity” of who sat before them – no, not one even complained that it was “hampering communication”. Because so much of the public narrative – from justifications for war to bans on Muslim women’s attire, depends on the perception of veils as inherently misogynistic, any suggestion they could be empowering is met not merely with consternation, but faux indignation at the poor brown women presumably insulted by this.

 

The accusations of white privilege levelled at Gaga do hold some sway – after all, it is absolutely and unequivocally because she is white/wealthy/famous that she goes unchallenged in her choice to cover her head, hair or body. But the inherent double standard in the treatment of white/powerful women who cover their faces versus the treatment of poor/disenfranchised/ brown women who do.

 

Now it’s unfortunate for Muslim women who choose to wear some sort of veil that there are sadly a number of oppressive countries who like to dictate to women what they consider to be Islamic clothing and that the easy assumption often follows that wearing one implies support/sympathy/approbation of the latter. It does not.

 

The contention levelled at Gaga on this occasion is that by wearing an overtly glamorous face veil, or a neon pink transparent burka or using lyrics which appear to ‘glamorise’ (God forbid!) aspects of some Muslim women’s clothing, she is unwittingly supporting the patriarchy and insulting those women who are forced to wear the garb in question. The fact her act subverts the monopoly on meaning typically associated with the face veil as the evil imposition of male domination. Perhaps now there’ll be a little more room for different Muslim women to contribute their understanding of these symbols and in so doing, move from object, to subject in that discussion.

 

Although Lady Gaga isn’t changing the game for Muslim women – she’s far more concerned with selling records than with taking a political stance – but rather than be offended by her latest outlandishness as the author point out, she might be stopped by French officials while shopping in Galeries Lafayette or harangued at JFK airport as she returns to the US. Of course she probably won’t be. But the exceptionalism she’s afforded reveals a double standard far more concerning than the absurdity of a transparent burka.

Final suspect, imam from Trinidad, convicted in plot to blow up fuel tanks at NY’s JFK airport

NEW YORK — A 65-year-old imam from Trinidad was convicted Thursday by a federal jury of participating in a failed plot to blow up jet fuel tanks at John F. Kennedy International Airport, a scheme that authorities said was meant to outdo the Sept. 11 attacks and avenge perceived U.S. oppression of Muslims around the world.

Kareem Ibrahim was convicted of five conspiracy counts after jury deliberations that spanned two days. The mastermind of the operation, Russell Defreitas, a former cargo handler, and co-conspirator Abdul Kadir, an engineer and former member of Guyana’s parliament, are serving life in prison after their convictions on conspiracy charges.

A fourth man, Abdel Nur, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 15 years.

Time Square Incident and Timeline

On May 1st, a smoking vehicle parked in NYC’s Times Square raised alarms. Times Square was evacuated and investigations confirmed that the vehicle was set to explode. The law enforcement agencies immediately engaged in tracking back the vehicle and identifying the suspect(s). President Obama reacted and speculations began about potential international links. The investigation led to the arrest of Faisal Shahzad, a Pakistani-American resident of Connecticut, two days later. The suspect was arrested while boarding a plane leaving JFK for Dubai.
LA Times: Pres. Obama: “We will not be terrorized.”

US Appeals Court to Rehear Maher Arar´s Torture Case

A US federal appeals court will reconsider its decision with regards to a Canadian engineer’s lawsuit over torture he endured following being falsely mistaken for an Islamic extremist. The decision by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan was, according to the International Herald Tribune, unusual because the circuit assembles for a case but once or twice a year and because Maher Arar’s attorneys had yet to request a full hearing. The Syrian-born, Ottawa, Canada-resident was detained in 2002 after switching planes at JFK International Airport as he returned to Canada. Arar, 37, spent nearly a year in prison being tortured prior to being returned to Canada without charges. The Canadian government agreed to pay him almost $10 million and acknowledged it passed incorrect information regarding Arar’s participation with al-Qaeda to U.S. authorities. Arguments are scheduled for December 9th.

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International Herald Tribune

The National Post

The National Post

US Appeals Court to Rehear Maher Arar’s Torture Case

A US federal appeals court will reconsider its decision with regards to a Canadian engineer’s lawsuit over torture he endured following being falsely mistaken for an Islamic extremist. The decision by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan was, according to the International Herald Tribune, unusual because the circuit assembles for a case but once or twice a year and because Maher Arar’s attorneys had yet to request a full hearing. The Syrian-born, Ottawa, Canada-resident was detained in 2002 after switching planes at JFK International Airport as he returned to Canada. Arar, 37, spent nearly a year in prison being tortured prior to being returned to Canada without charges. The Canadian government agreed to pay him almost $10 million and acknowledged it passed incorrect information regarding Arar’s participation with al-Qaeda to U.S. authorities. Arguments are scheduled for December 9th.