Dear Alicia Keys


Dear Alicia

No time listener, first time caller. I have no doubt that you are a very talented artist, and I have friends who adore your work, but…


…Please. Stop. Romanticising. And. Fetishising. Niqab.

It’s not sexy. And it’s not meant to be sexy. It’s not figure-hugging to accentuate all the curves and an ample bust. It doesn’t have a front – or any other – split to reveal a shapely leg in all its naked glory. Your photo is a weird fantasy.

Every┬ákind of female attire now in vogue throughout the Islamic societies is designed to preserve “modesty”; they are all loose and shapeless garments that nullify the human body.

In addition, burqa and niqab, which you promote in the photo, cover not just the body and hair but also face. While niqab at least (?) allows you to show your eyes; in burqa even they – the windows to the soul – are hidden behind a mesh. Sheer curtains are drawn on these windows.

I’m glad you value differences and diversity. Sadly, burqa and niqab are meant to eliminate them. They kill any personality or individuality. A woman enclosed in either of these garments is just that: a woman; an anonymous, generic woman, unidentifiable and indistinguishable from any other. She is in effect a private property of her husband or a male guardian, in as much as only he has the right to see her as her. She is disguised and hidden from all others and from the world, and she is not meant to be approached or spoken to in public (at least not by a man), either as an individual – and thanks to her clothes you wouldn’t be able to know it’s her anyway – or as a person. In fact, burqa or niqab make her a non-person.

So when you write that “We are so beautiful/All of us/When we see each other/We see ourselves…” you must clearly mean it as a high level metaphor. Because when you see someone wearing a burqa or a niqab you see neither somebody else or yourself. You see a blank, a thing not a person, an abstract not an individual, and that’s all you are meant to see.

We are all beautiful as human beings – though I suspect strictly speaking only in a very general way, as in every one of us being a marvel of creation or evolution, whichever you believe in – but burqa and niqab are insurmountable barriers, fabric walls, that are meant to prevent you from ever discovering the real, true beauty – in whatever sense, physical or metaphysical.

All this has nothing to do with questions of banning these sorts of garments. I suspect that for every woman who does feel empowered and liberated by wearing them, there are several out there who forced to do so by the religion and the tradition, as enforced in their societies or their families. But that’s not the point here. By all means, defend the right of women to wear what they want to wear (if they indeed want to wear it), but stop pretending that there is something sexy, charming, romantic or beautiful about a woman wearing what in effect is a uniform and a disguise – something that you would never wear of your own free will.