Immigration and the burqa

3 04 2011

Growing up in America where rights to freedom of expression and equality are instilled since birth, the concept of clothing that discourages celebrating my body and my style, is completely foreign.

Wearing a burqa, an outer garment used to cover women’s bodies in public places, is still a common part of Muslim culture. Sometimes these garments are paired with a hijab that covers their heads, and a niqab that covers their eyes, stripping them of all individuality and personal image.

This is relevant to Spanish culture as immigration from Muslim countries to Spain continues to soar. According to an article on, “Spain currently has a Muslim population of slightly over 1 million, or about 2 percent of Spain’s total population. Spain has experienced a whopping ten-fold increase in the number of Muslim immigrants in just 20 years. The debate comes after the Spanish Senate, on June 23 [2010], voted 131 to 129 to “use all options under our legal system and to proceed with rules to prohibit the public use of the ‘burqa’ and the ‘niqab’ to ensure equality, freedom and security.”

There have been repeated accounts of discrimination and violence toward women in Spain dressed in traditional Muslim garb. This ban aims to ensure freedom, equality and security for these women.

The influx of Muslim immigrants also threatens to dilute Spanish culture as the Pew survey, sponsored by the Spanish government, reveals that only 46% of Muslim immigrants are fluent in Spanish. The survey also displayed a want for Muslim immigrants to maintain their culture and distinguish themselves from the larger Spanish society. They show no interest in assimilating to the Spanish customs or way of life.

“Almost 80 percent of the Spanish public sees Muslims as having a strong Islamic identity. Among those in the Spanish general public who see Islamic identity on the rise, 82 percent say it is a bad thing. Around 65 percent of Spaniards are somewhat or very concerned about rising Islamic extremism in their country,” the Pew Survey also reveals.

There are still questionable factors involved in this ban being approved based on the Spanish Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights. While the Muslim community has a right to maintain their practices and traditional dress, but when women are facing discrimination and even physical abuse, the burqa seems to be causing more harm than good.