Why Banning The Burkini Is An Affront To Human Rights And Ultimately Counterproductive

When I was filming in Sylhet, Bangladesh in 2002, I was told I had to cover my hair. During the night shoot I was mobbed by crowds of people curious to see a female filmmaker. Finding the scarf annoying and distracting, it kept slipping off my head impeding my ability to work but in order to film it was mandatory to wear it. When filming ‘Connecting Faith’ – a film about three young Muslims in London, Kuala Lumpur and Dhaka in 2003 – I was filming on the campus of an Islamic university in Malaysia. Once again I was told I had to cover my hair. Choosing to tie my hair back and wear a baseball cap I was castigated for not wearing the headscarf. In my eyes I’d reached a compromise, but instead I was unfairly judged. Similarly on another shoot for a film I was making for the British Council in Bangladesh, the lady accompanying me was British born and white. She chose to wear traditional dress and reprimanded me for wearing jeans. I was there to work and needed to feel comfortable, I was covered up in my eyes and found it ironic that a white non-Muslim female was dictating what I should wear. In London on Brick Lane where I have exhibited, shot many films and taken numerous photos I have at times felt alienated and judged by my fellow Bangladeshis because of my choice of dress. It is a woman’s prerogative to cover up, just don’t tell me to do the same.

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