In 2003, I saw the Burqa emerging in Morocco. It’s visibility in Casablanca, Rabat, Sale and Kasar Kabir marked the 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, was suddenly and rapidly surfacing in the local communities, in women’s private wardrobes and spreading so quickly? I couldn’t quite work it out, but figured that the Burqa was surely an imposter advancing its exclusive and all encompassing 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 them, not just, the national and modern costume.
Women suddenly started acquiring a new form, moving through Souks and Medinas, creeping silently like shadow-shades not humans, as those extended, from their draping burqa sweeping the floor alongside and behind them.
The Burqa, black, austere and bland was 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 me, and disrupting the country. But, by 2007 the Burqa was common place, compared to the few that were dotted about in the previous years, when I had initially questioned its existence. In retrospect, I could say, it was a steady social infiltration which marked its place publicly and privately on Moroccan soil and interior.
The brooding and ominous Burqa was an unnatural culture that did not seem to have sustained and grown itself from Moroccan shoots, or, anything godly, but rather, the Spirit Cookers. Those dark forces, such as the ones that perhaps never came to pass but laid low instead, and who had previously thought it JUST to bury females according to their preferred ideological or cultural subversions.
Dark forces cannot so easily be contained for any great length of time, they must surface. 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.
Paradoxically, though the Burqa had affected Moroccan culture with religious and social dissonance, and, it was clearly out of sync with the mainstream tradition and Moroccan society, Moroccans just kept on wearing it. Giving it religious traction, until it seemingly proved more powerful than its wearers, and by extension sought to submerge mainstream norms.
The fact was that, the Burqa was extending geographically, though it was in the above named cities that I had experienced it’s rise directly (and London) and where I had discerned it’s inevitable spread. It seemed obvious in the way that it had just manifested and dispersed itself everywhere, literally from thin air. Evolution doesn’t usually happen like that, it is an organic gradual process.
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.
But, if at first, I might have entertained the idea that the burqa was a perverse fashion, the fleeting nature of trends unfortunately did not indicate that. 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. The paralleled narrative that accompanied it, was a definitive religious discourse, bolstering the burqa’s so-called ‘brother hood’.
Semiotics, were structuring and giving the Burqa legitimacy. It became a cultural fact, narrative, statement and symbol, not just merely pointing female modesty, but blatantly cloaking while purporting to protect her both in the public and private.
Burqa’s impact on Moroccan fashion
The traditional Moroccan garments were suffering the same fate as women motioned towards their looming virtual 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 it was imposed. It’s rise was threatening not only, the existence of the Jalaba but the entire rich and vibrant Moroccan attire, imbued with 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 and its unfolding doom, darkness and gloom.
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 disaster would effect Morocco accordingly, casting its modernity back into the dark ages that ocean of blackness.
The risk, as I saw it, was that 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 volumes. In harmony, they had reverberated through time, space and the different ages across Morocco, imprinting their signature which characterised the Moroccan way of life and the rhythm of its heartbeat. A pulse, which the Burqa wished to disrupt and silence, through the female. But crucially, it sought to blot HER out, by throwing its black, shroud-like Burqa falling and settling about her, like fine dense dust. Primarily annihilating but only to resurrect her as Object – uniformed dots – doing away with her persona, identity, autonomy and agency at the same time.
Thank you for reading. To Be Continued. Part2 coming soon:
I am interested and interesting, having a vast appreciation for life and it's beauty which my writing can never reflect fully but endevours capturing just a small collection of some of my thoughts and the attempts to express them.
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