[The views expressed here are that of the writer and not necessarily that of ScoopWhoop]

I grew up in the North-East, from the ’90s to the early part of the last decade, and as the stereotype goes, I was witness to a very eclectic style of dressing. School seniors, people in parties and even on the streets in the ‘cooler’ parts of the town I lived in – these were people who were proud of what they’d like to call their ‘style quotient’.

And then there was this one friend who wore a t-shirt with a Nazi Swastika on it. Ever since he had it, he’d wear it every other day. As if it that were a symbol he was proud of. Eventually, I realized that he was just going through a ‘Nazism is cool’ phase, just like some other friend was going through the ‘goth look is the absolute shiz’ phase. And the weird thing was, back then I didn’t think the Swastika was a problem at all.


Mind you, we were barely adults then. Junior college wasn’t exactly a time in our lives when we were politically conscious. This was when social media wasn’t a thing yet. No, having a Hi5 account doesn’t count. Fast forward ten years. Looking back, I have to ask – were we really that ignorant?


But more importantly, what we need to talk about is, do people who knowingly wear clothing with strong religious or political connotations realize that their use of free speech comes at a price? If (hopefully) not violence then at least by way of being judged.

Just a few weeks ago, they were talking about how the French administration was against Burkinis. There were debates about whether banning the Burkini from beaches was a right decision or not. As a liberal, I was against forcing anyone to wear or not wear anything against their choice. But as an atheist, I couldn’t help but scream ‘Stockholm syndrome!’ inside my head.


Last week, a student courted controversy when he wore a ‘Make America Great Again’ (the slogan of Donald Trump’s campaign) in a university in Calgary. The campus is known to be more left-leaning than most, and when the wearer of the hat was confronted by some students and asked to remove the hat, he refused to do so. Someone forcibly snatched it away from him and the incident went viral all over Reddit. Now, as much as I despise Donald Trump, I cannot condone the snatching of the hat. You can argue, you can indulge in debate, you can even have a sit-down protest, but there are some lines you do not cross. In some jurisdictions, forcefully removing part of someone’s clothing is a crime and if you do that, you’d be a criminal. Don’t be that guy.


Would you go to a Black Lives Matter meeting wearing a KKK hood? Would you go to a meeting condemning the Dadri mob lynching wearing a t-shirt that says ‘Jai Gau Mata’? Would you go to a 1984 Sikh Riots memorial event wearing an ‘I love Indira Gandhi’ t-shirt? Would you attend a feminist meeting wearing a ‘Go Make Me A Sandwich’ hat? Would you wear a red tilak in an event that talks about the deaths in the  Gujarat riots? Would you go to a Kashmiri Pandit meeting wearing a ‘Kashmir is only for Muslims’ shirt? The thing is, freedom of expression lets you do all of these things. But don’t kid yourselves or anyone else. The only reason you’d be doing any of these things is because you’re most likely a provocateur. And provocation comes with its risks.


When you’re wearing something like that, you’re in a way representing everything your ideology or religion represents, doesn’t matter if it’s good or bad. You might call it cultural, political or religious identity, but by doing so you’re creating the ‘other’. Those who do not subscribe to your views. And by wearing it, you’re telling them, “Here I am, ready to face you.”

I’m not telling you not to wear something you want to. But don’t be naive and call it ‘style’ or ‘fashion’. You’re making a statement. You’re taking a stand. Your choice of political or religious clothing carries with it some context, whether you’re aware of it or not.

PS – I don’t like the idea of religious clothing, especially when it’s restrictive. Which is why I’m not a huge fan of veils, hijabs, burqas and burkinis. But I don’t despise them as much as I despise an attack on personal freedom. Hence I cannot support a ban on burkinis either. If you want to wear one on the beach, go knock yourself out.