In 2003, I saw the Burqa emerging in Morocco. It’s visibility in Casablanca, Rabat, Sale and Kasar Kabir marked its path down to Tangier. Later trickling down to Asilah, a small coastal town I often visited. The trend was growing and begun encroaching on the national costumes impacting attitudes at the same time.
The Burqa seemed then, and still does, a very odd phenomenon, foreign to Morocco’s environment due to its unfamiliarity and its stark contrast with Moroccan clothes. How this strange and alien gown, without having had any previous links with the country, suddenly and rapidly began surfacing in the local communities, in women’s private wardrobes and spread so quickly? I couldn’t quite work it out, but figured that the Burqa was surely an imposter, advancing exclusively upon a female invasion.
I was troubled to see women covered from head to foot, in such a way, and being totally obscured from view. The Burqa was threatening to replace females, not just the national and modern costume.
Women suddenly started acquiring a new form, moving through Souks and Medinas, creeping silently like shadow-people not humans. Just as those shadow shades extended from their draping burqa sweeping the floor alongside and behind them.
The Burqa, was black, austere and bland; markedly distant from the vibrant colours to which the Moroccans had been accustomed.
I disliked it at first sight. The thing was positively hideous, with it’s dark accessories (gloves, socks, head-dress, eye and face masks). It was spiritually unsettling and disrupting the country.
By 2007 the Burqa was common place, compared to the few that were dotted around in the previous years, when I had initially questioned its existence. In retrospect, I could say that it had been steady, but a fast and widespread social infiltration, which marked its place publicly and privately on Moroccan soil and its interior.
The brooding and ominous Burqa was an unnatural culture, not grown from Moroccan shoots, or, anything godly, but rather, the Spirit Cookers. Those dark forces, who had previously thought it JUST to bury females according to their preferred ideological or cultural subversions. But who lay low.
The Burqa would start emitting negativity all about it and stressing the country with its attempted gender segregation and female obliteration. It was the symptom of something deeper and felt utterly unwholesome -Dark forces cannot so easily be contained for any great length of time, they must surface.
Paradoxically, though the Burqa had affected Moroccan culture with religious and social dissonance, the females just kept on wearing it. Giving it traction, until it seemingly proved more powerful than its wearers. Its prolification sought to submerge the mainstream norms.
The fact was, the Burqa was extending globally. But whilest it was in the above named cities that I experienced it’s rise directly (and in London), I had hardly realised that it was spreading everywhere. Descending literally from thin air. Natural evolution doesn’t usually happen like that, it is a gradual organic process. This was steady but artificially fast.
The Burqa was far from normal. Later on, it would be confirmed by its link to extreme religious occults, their prominence and global expansion, which were being, falsely, linked with moderate Islam and Islam per say.
If at first, I might have entertained the idea that the burqa was a perverse fleeting fashion, a later indication showed me that it did not have the transience of trends. The burqa rooted and erected itself throughout Moroccan culture. Fundamentally, it was obsessed with covering up the female since its inception and continued with the same momentum fragmenting society.
The growth of the Burqa was more than a developing, warped, fashion, it had a new religious mind-set that was pulling a sizeable number of normal and moderate folk under its fold. Armoured with a religious discourse bolstering the burqa’s so-called ‘brother hood’. Or in this case “sisterhood” of which it was Symbol.
Semiotics were structuring and giving the Burqa legitimacy. It became a cultural fact, a narrative, a potent symbol, not merely one allegedly pointing female modesty but blatantly cloaking her, while purporting to protect her both in the public and private sepher.
Burqa’s impact on Moroccan fashion
The traditional Moroccan garments suffered the same fate as the women under the burqa. A partial social extinction. The first casualty (apart from the female), was the Jalaba. It was being ousted and replaced by the Burqa by those who’d chosen it, or, upon whom imposed.
The burqa’s rise was threatening not only the existence of the Jalaba but the entire rich and vibrant Moroccan attire. The associated traditions, customs and memories, the beauty of the decoration, colour, craftsmanship and shimmering brilliance of the Kaftan, were all being dimmed in the Burqa’s wake .
Morocco’s traditional clothes have been, for decades, defined by a medley of colours, the: Kaftan, Andora, Bediia, Hayyek, and Jalaba (outdoor body garm’), the Shede, and Sa’bnia (for the head), and Al’belgha (for the feet, and so on). Should the majority wear the Burqa, the effect would be disasterous for Morocco, casting Moroccan Modernity back into the dark ages, that ocean of blackness.
As I saw it, the Burqa was poised to go beyond the decimation of the Jalaba and towards definitively ending a Culture, where, the Moroccan female and the Kaftan et al, spoke no more.
But crucially, it sought to blot out the female by shrouding her in the burqa.
Thank you for reading. To Be Continued. Part2 coming soon: