[E]very wearer of burqa and niqab I have asked has viewed the garment as a blessing: a liberation not so much from the stares of men as from the stares of anyone at all. It freed them from caring about their appearance. They didn't have to do their hair. (Of course, since fashion abhors a vacuum, and when women's clothes are made forcibly subdued, they find ways to mark style by decorating the fringes of their abayas, say, or by paying heavy attention to eye make-up.) They could count money in public. They didn't get covered with filth, as I did, standing around waiting for the bus, and they could check me out and stare at me without risking the awkwardness of my staring back. No doubt there are women whose burqas are compulsory, but I have not met them.
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