Nov 20, 2011

The Burqa Ladies Fight Back..

To continue the discussion of the burqa ladies and the Eida's fight against them...

In what claims to be the earliest video of the Israel, really Palestine at the time, numbers are discussed showing that there was always a Jewish majority. In the images shown, an early look at the women of Jerusalem of the time, over 100 years ago, you will see the Burqa women of Jerusalem...

Back to the story, the Badatz Eida has put up their pashkevil warning people away from this group, and had it signed by 45 of the Eida poskim:
Despite signing the pashkevil against the group, Rav Moshe Bransdorfer (I counted four Bransorfers signed on the pashkevil) responded to a "shal-wearer" who called him to ask if she would have to stop wearing the shal now that the Eida has come out against it. Rav Mosh Bransdorfer's response was that the Eida did not come out against wearing the shal (veil or burqa), rather against the group who do it in a non-tzniyus way and also change other traditions of the Jewish home.

Rav Bransdorfer said that she could continue wearing the shal if it was done in a tazanua way, with the husband's approval and without all the surrounding issues, and he strengthened his words by adding that his own mother wore a shal. Ladaat has an audio recording of the call.

Interestingly, the group of shal-wearers have responded (do they have an official spokeswoman?) to the Eida's onslaught with a letter/pashkevil of their own. They say the Badatz has no authority over them, and each person can chose ask his or her own rav to listen to and ask what to do. As well, they say the attack on them is just giving strength to those who attack religion. And, attacking the group because of claims that some of the women are doing bad things is similar to those who attack the entire general haredi community because of the bad actions of a few haredim.

They weren't going to take this sitting down...

And last but not least, in Saudi Arabia wearing a burqa is no longer enough. Now women with sexy eyes peeking through the burqa are going to have to cover those up as well. I'd say that the local burqa women would be next, but they already cover their eyes...


  1. A "Shal" is a shawl - not a burkha - 2 totally different things

    Many women wear the shawl but only the crazies wear the burka

    Not too hard to understand

  2. its more complicated than that.

    Kat Ha'Shalim includes the burqa ladies and the regular shal wearers.

    Shal is not just a shawl. it is also numerous layers of clothing, and many times also has a unique head covering as part of it but that leaves the face exposed.

    For an individual woman, it might just be the shawl, or shal, but as part of the group (aka cult), it often also includes other crazy behavior in other realms, and that applies equally to burqa wearers and to shal wearers, if they are part of the group.

    That is why i include both in the discussion, as the discussion is on the group which includes both, and not on any given individual..

  3. For those looking for further visual confirmation of this style of dress in the (pre-morally corrupted) world, here is a documentary that includes footage from the USA circa 1870's: (it's mostly off topic, but there are some really revealing shots). 1870 wasn't that long ago!!!

    I think that we are at a point where we can all agree, that regardless of our personal stance on the topic, this is a democratic country and were all entitled to freedom of expression, including the right to dress how we want.

    You won't find people getting violent (or even coming out against in the form of hateful/political patchkevilim) in the summer when most of the western world treats clothing like some necessary evil, and keeps things to the bare minimum.

    These women - whether there great tzidkanoius or misled individuals - have the right and freedom that we all demand for ourselves. Just like we wouldn't anyone to come out against our Srugi, Bent up, Shtraimel, Bent Down, Hamburg, Spudik, or lack thereof, shouldn't accord the same respect to others?

  4. The garb worn by the Jewish women in this film was influenced by the local custom, like everywhere... In Eastern Europe you had the babushka look - hence the scarf/snood-type covering. In more "modern" Western Europe, you had hats, wigs, or no coverings at all. In Middle Eastern lands, you had Arab-style dress & head coverings.

    With the Burka women (a.k.a. the "Burkawitz's"), it's different because it's coming from a counter-culture super-tzniyut ideology rather than adapting to the surrounding culture.

  5. David Meir,
    Without necessarily brining legitimacy to their ideology, if they would all decide to start wearing mini-skirts would there be the same uprising?

    NO! The proof? Look around at latest craze of the "best-of-the-best" BY girls who wear skirts waaaaaay above the knee (when not in school, obviously). Did you notice anyone getting worked up or protesting that? Do you see anyone getting hysterical over the BASICS of modesty?

    Of course not. The people that are making noise, for the most part, couldn't care less about tznius. There is so much politics and garbage intertwined here that it reeks from a mile away. This storm has almost NOTHING to to with modesty, Judaism, or even religion.

    I digress. Let's just live and let live. We, ultimately, won't easily (ever?) agree that OUR ideas are wrong, and won't be switching sides any time soon. So lets turn our scrutiny inward, and clean up our own acts! Or not. Either way, lets let our neighbor live in peace and practice the religion of their choice - whether we agree with it or not. "Shal" we?

  6. Anon,

    I was addressing the Burka phenomenon per se, not their pashkeville-posting detractors. I agree that the criticism isn't about tzniut. Tzniut isn't even about tzniut - it's about community norms, sacred cows, taboos, and politics thereof. Ultimately that's what people seem to care about most. Ironically, the burkawitzes are the only ones here NOT norm-obsessed. They're actually quite idealistic. Which goes to show, idealism itself isn't everything!

  7. BTW, I'm also a fan of "live and let live". I think we could use much more of that kind of thinking in the frum world.

    But it gets into a bigger discussion about the "laissez-faire" approach to religion. I think there's merit to such an approach, since it's a counterbalance against totalitarian thinking, but in certain instances there may be a place for stopping beyond-the-pale unhealthy practices from entering into the public sphere.

    And it could be that the burka (being that it covers a person's face) is so dehumanizing that we decide it qualifies for such preventative measures.

    (Again, I'm not saying this is anything close to what the pashkevilleniks are thinking.)

  8. Dovid Meir,

    Just south of "live and let live" is where we start ranking people and their ideas. We label them - frum, modern, religious, rebellious, Harade, crazy, Hasidik, Breslov, "normal", extreme etc. The problem is that we tend to judge people based on our perception, which is generally equal to OUR PERSONAL position.

    Hence, to pass judgement on what is ok and what isn't is (generally) to pin our position as the center and to build everyone around it. And thats where the problem starts.

    Not only do we think that WE are correct, but we also tend to judge our kind in kind. If were Belzer Chasidim, the Belzer Rebbi is out idol. Yerushalim's tend to turn towards the badatz. The Litvish/Yeshivish - Maran, Maran and Maran. And if were Dati Leumi, R' Shapiro might be the one we look up to.

    Which brings us to the Badatz. If we would be Badatz "Chasidim" (in the poetic sense, obviously) we might blindly follow their command and trust their assertions as Toras Moshe. Unfortunately for them, most of J'slm does NOT consider them the the reigning sovereignty. Even amongst their own people there is a lot of picking and choosing.

    Had that been their only issue, we can dismiss the issue as Shivim Panim L'atorah. However, it seems that with as "with great power (and the delusion thereof) comes great responsibility" ), so to come the desire for even more power.

    Recently, the fires of machlokes have been stirred by many passionate persons. The pot thats sitting on the fire? Thats the Badatz. Almost all of their patchkevilim, hafavanos, etc from the past few days (specifically) and agains the Shalists (as a whole) can be traced back to the venom spewed by a couple of unscrupulous individuals in the hope of PERSONAL GAIN. Most/all of their statements (on these issues) are politically motivated, or as a favor to this one or that, or to prevent their own families from doning the sacred/cursed garments.

    We don't have anyone these days that we can, as a Klal, look to for absolute guidance and Da'as torah. Even those who seem to be the righteous-est amongs us are corrupt from the inside out. The Rabonim are controlled by the Askanim, the Roshai Yeshivos by the Gevirim. Hence we are FORCED to back down and not try to "decide [what] qualifies for ... preventative measures". Not because we don't need to (G-d know we do!) but because were simply incapable. We dont have the tools nor the leadership to do so. Are we really smarter? Do we really know better? Are we really impartial enough, elevated enough, spiritual enough, learned enough to be judging other without falling victim to our own fantasies and delusions? Perhaps I speak only for myself, but I sure am not!

    We are like a sheep without a shepherd, a flock without a leader. Who is really to say what is right or wrong? If a woman WANTS TO cover her face, should we really be jumping out of our skin? If a woman wants to take a step that SHE feels is more modest - is that something we should resort to physical violence to stop? Is there really anything more de-humanizing than centering the focus of females as for our personal gratification? And yet its happening all over the place! Its gotten to a point that (western) society demands the the females THEMSELVES dehumanize themselves!!! Are we jumping out of our skin over the LACK of modesty?

    Were not. Hence we need to take a serious reality check and question our motives when we discourage those that are trying to do more.

  9. Anon, first off I'm sorry you're anonymous. I appreciate your thoughtfulness and wish I knew who you were or at least how to identify you.

    1. As much as we want to be coming from a place of absolute "ratzon Hashem", the truth is every society (even frum society) has to decide for itself, based on that particular time and place, what it considers within "basic civility" and what not. Yes, this involves generational and cultural/communal bias, and so the "judgment" may appear somewhat arbitrary, as you correctly pointed out, but this is unavoidable. And in this case the *concensus* of society (both religious AND secular - which may be a first!) is that the burka as a religious Jewish expression is totally unacceptable on the grounds of its being outside of "civil Jewish society" (in the way this society perceives itself).

    2. Regarding the arbitrary judgment aspect, a society cannot (nor should it be expected to) wait for the "right leader" or any sort of "absolute guidance" in order to properly care for its perceived needs.

    3. There is no "one principle", no matter how noble, which is rich enough to serve society and the individual's full interests without bringing in other mitigating principles. For instance, we recognize the great, even defining value of freedom of speech for the success of a democratic society, but even that requires limitations so that such speech does not undermine the very society that protects that speech. It's the same thing for freedom of religion - even that needs its limits and mitigating/competing principles in order to serve the perceived good of society. (Any one principle which is revered above all others, and is NOT properly mitigated, invariably devolves into totalitarianism.)

    4. What do we mean by "limitation"? There is secular legislation, religious legislation (which as you say differs by community) and communal pressure. France tried to ban the burka, but that's not under discussion here. Here we're talking about religious legislation (which when it comes plastered on the side of a wall is rather meaningless anyway), and mostly communal pressure. This pressure can and sometimes does get expressed by way of violence. I certainly put any and all violence against a religious behavior (which doesn't physically harm another) into the "beyond basic civility" category and couldn't be more strongly opposed to it.

  10. (cont.)

    5. There's certainly a place to say, "Society is wrong - there's intolerance for X but really it should be accepted." (Or "There's tolerance for X and really we should abhor it.") Some of the most noble ideas have started that way. And if it's a position that's truly "ahead of its time", then eventually, over time, it takes root. Personally I wouldn't rank burka-acceptance as "ahead of its time". In fact part of the reason why people reject it (in a way that they don't reject immodest dress, as you pointed out) is that to them the burka is associated with societies they deem to be retrograde and oppressive, a society they'd never want to be a part of. It's in a dark, bleak, dreary category of society that even a sexually promiscuous society ranks above in terms of desirability. (It's an emotional reaction, granted, but I would count it as resoundingly "emotionally intelligent".)

    6. I would suggest, contrary to your assertion, that females as the focus of personal gratification can hardly be called "dehumanizing" - in fact it's perhaps as HUMAN (all too human) as it gets! Certainly it's not the most enlightened way to perceive a woman, and the way it's expressed in secular media/culture is way, way over the top, "unmitigated", but sexuality is part of a woman's power in this world. To totally de-sexualize a woman is to disempower her. And to take away her face itself, this goes another step completely - yes, I believe it is totally and utterly dehumanizing. I understand that drawing a line at "the face" is arbitrary - but it's as good an arbitrary place as any, and as I mentioned it seems to echo as a consensus in our current society.

    7. The burka may be dehumanizing, but I'm not saying it's not "spiritual" - it may be or may not be depending on the individual. And I'm also not saying it shouldn't be one's "choice" to wear one. But going back to #1, a society can also "choose" those things it wishes to encourage and those it wishes to discourage. So as long as we act within the law, within civility, it's our right to discourage the burka even in the strongest terms. Another point to remember - for someone who grows up in a burka home, the burka is not much of a "choice" anyway, is it?

    Well, that's it. I apologize for being at once very wordy and at the same time way too brief, and not doing justice to any of the major topics I touched upon.

  11. Briefly:
    1. Were talking about two different things. Like Anno1 said (that wasn't me) a Shal is not a burkha and vice versa.
    2. The story here is that "The Burqa Ladies Fight Back..". Aside for being factually incorrect (see #1), my point is that there shouldn't need to be a fight at all
    3. Your pretense seems to be rather western/democratic:
    a. "every society ... has to decide for itself"
    b. "we recognize the ... of speech for the success of a democratic society"
    c. "we're talking about religious legislation...and ... communal pressure"
    d. "To totally de-sexualize a woman is to disempower her"
    e. "the burka is associated with societies [that are] dark, bleak, dreary
    Going with your democratic flow (and without challenging it), I find it highly discriminatory to suggest that a society can chose to (democratically!) suggest that THEIR morals are upstanding and someone else's are not, and that they can enforce their ideas on the minority/weaker class
    4. (in a democracy) Your statement "So as long as we act within the law, within civility, it's our right to..." should be the prelude to ANYTHING that follows. If its Shalls or the lack thereof, or if its being vegetarian. If your using Democracy as your base in determining right from wrong, you need to accept EVERYONE and EVERYTHING as long as "[its] within the law, within civility"
    5. what in the world is a "civil Jewish society"? Who do you define it? Who defines it? And who sets that as the standard by which to live???!!!
    6. For the record, while I feel more liberal when it comes to Shalls as a whole, I dont extend that liberty to covering ones face.

    I purposely decided to post Anonymously, I think that my point (live and let live) is generic enough and doesn't need a background/platform to lend it more creed.

    Closing point: both the Badatz and the Shalists seem to agree that Shalls are a nice thing (not a Chiyuv, but commendable). And the Batatz very explicitly did NOT come out against Shalls, but rather agains a cult of women doing weird things (most of which never happened, but the facts take away all the fun). Said Shallists and/or cultists don't accept the reign of the Badatz. We probably all agree that physical violence (as there was on Sat, night Spet 19, 2011) is WRONG. In that light, can't we just move on? Or must we dwell on the right/wrongs of other all the time?!

  12. Anon, thanks once again for your comments. I appreciate where you're coming from. But given the limited ability in this forum to have the kind of detailed exchange these issues warrant, I think we'll have to agree to disagree on a number of points.

    In the meantime...


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