Why the French burqa ban upsets me as a secular feminist

Published: July 9, 2014
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Two women wearing Islamic niqab veils stand outside the French Embassy during a demonstration in London, England. PHOTO: REUTERS

The arrest of a young woman in France for wearing a full face veil caused riots and led to a key trial shunning the ban. PHOTO:AFP Two women wearing Islamic niqab veils stand outside the French Embassy during a demonstration in London, England. PHOTO: REUTERS

The European Court of Human Rights has weighed in on the face veil ban in France and, in a flagrant exhibition of institutionalised bigotry, has upheld the government’s decision. As goes France, so goes Europe.

The verdict breathes fresh air into an old debate, in which the opposing sides had begun to take comfort in the thought of this restriction being a French anomaly, not representative of the general European psyche. But we’ve faced disappointments before.

We’ve been led to believe that we may choose either one of the two positions:
– Burqa is benign, and must be allowed
– Burqa is a harmful, patriarchal icon, and must be banned

My position as a feminist rejects the false dichotomy, arriving at the opposition through a road less travelled.

I’ve made my position on face veils clear in my previous blogs. And the torrents of hate mail helpfully reminding me of my weight problem prove that my message has been understood. To put it simply, I do recognise a burqa as an obstruction to a woman’s social and physical freedom, robbing one of her public identity. It’s a sort of burden that’s unique to one gender, which would easily irk any proponent of equality.

Now for the ‘however’ part that an impatient conservative reader may have been looking forward to: Possibly even more perturbing to one’s feminist senses than gender segregation, is the idea of the government walking into a woman’s closet, telling her which dresses she is allowed or not allowed to wear. You know, “for her own good”. It’s as if the female, as an adult individual, is obviously ill-equipped to make such decisions on her own.

The woman, incapable of making the right choices for herself must be forced to do so with the threat of a fine €150, or “lessons in French citizenship”. The law stands as a right-wing dream-boat to which liberals around the world have ignorantly buckled themselves.

France appears to follow a grotesquely mutated form of secularism known as lacite. While overly strict with faith systems of the “non-traditional” people of France, it still somehow manages to declare national holidays in honour of Christian events like Assumption of Mary, Christmas, Ascension, Pentecost and the All Saints Day.

How about one for Eid, or would that completely devastate France’s pristine record of religion-neutral governance?

It’s established that two-thirds of communication is done non-verbally, in which facial expressions are imperative. A woman without a face would only go so far in a career where a good deal of social interaction is needed.

But that is not the point. It doesn’t matter if the burqa is lined on the inside with poison ivy extract and that the wearer receives a mysterious phone call telling her she’ll die in seven days. It’s still her choice. It may well be a bad choice and a feminist may socially discourage its use, but to have the government policing your wardrobe to save you from yourself is unacceptable.

As for the cases where a burqa is imposed on a woman by her family, banning the garment may be even more damaging. It is more likely that the woman’s overly conservative household would forbid the woman from leaving the house, taking away the little freedom she could previously afford with the burqa’s aid, and amp up the oppression even further!

If the ban is a crackdown on misogyny, you may as well ban feet-cracking high heels, overuse of make-up and Robin Thicke songs. If the ban is a security measure, you may as well ban bike helmets, Halloween costumes, oversized shades and high collars. For all I know, the guy in a plague mask in Italy’s famed Carnivale di Venezia is Mullah Fazlullah, and not being able to identify his face makes me queasy.

To descend selectively upon the garment of one culture or religion, placating the liberals with excuses of (faux) secular feminism, enunciates the reawakening of a new era of Euro-centrism.

Faraz Talat

Faraz Talat

A medical doctor and bubble-wrap enthusiast from Rawalpindi, who writes mostly about science and social politics (and bubble-wrap). He tweets @FarazTalat (twitter.com/FarazTalat)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • UzairH

    Faraz,

    I stand by on banning the burqa, with my rationale being that the women are not given a choice if they are born into a Muslim family and indoctrinated that burqa is their divine duty since they are babies. When we have true freedom of speech and freedom of religion in Islamic countries and families, then the burqa can be optional. Until then, the state must intervene.

    And I agree, Robin Thicke songs and videos are misogynistic, distasteful, and should also be banned :)Recommend

  • kanwal

    My problem is that I think its true that women do have right to hide their face. But then, there are situations where it is very unfair to other involved people, for example in courts, in hospitals and essentially in schools. Whatever happens to the good old human interaction and face to face interaction’s importance in it? Why cant islamic scholors come out of their slumbering and try and sit to discuss and solve this instead of keeping this huge populations of muslims around the world totally confused and lost?Recommend

  • BlackJack

    I am in complete agreement with both sections of your argument. The garment is a symbol of patriarchy and is intended to restrict social interactions, and does so successfully. At the same time, if pastafarian women were found walking around in spacesuits, I am sure authorities would be more indulgent, although the choice of attire would most likely be much more restrictive than a niqab. The issue is brought to boil by the in-your-face sense of entitlement and outrage that Muslims exhibit in foreign liberal countries while maintaining a stony silence concerning the astonishingly regressive policies followed in countries where they are in majority; as result, with increasing public awareness, this simmering annoyance is now manifesting itself in outright hostility and selective discrimination, like in the burqa ban, which has widespread public support. I think women should be allowed to wear whatever they want in public.Recommend

  • Faraz Talat

    I acknowledge the exceptions.

    It would be understandable for an airport security officer, for instance, to ask a traveler to remove her veil. Or a shopkeeper to enact a private policy of asking customers or job applicants to uncover their faces while inside the store. But I see a complete public ban as an ethical violation.

    Also, we cannot expect Islamic scholars to reach any real consensus on this as Islam is simply not a monolithic faith. There will always be different factions with different opinions, but that doesn’t matter. A woman should have a civil right to wear a certain kind of garment, regardless of it being mandated by Islam.Recommend

  • abhi099

    I hope india follows the french in this matter. gulf countries place a lot of restriction on non muslims. It is time muslims understand how to live under non muslims.Recommend

  • Desont matter

    your argument is good only in theory but not practical.Recommend

  • Desont matter

    your argument is good only in theory but not practical.Recommend

  • Faraz Talat

    We internalize more than just religious ideals.

    We raise a little girl in a fiercely patriarchal place that glorifies feminine beauty; and when she grows up, she makes a ‘driven choice’ of wearing uncomfortable shoes and spending long hours making herself look pretty, to win society’s approval.

    Still, that is her choice. And though we might discourage those choices as injurious, we cannot relieve them of their right to be able to decide what to do with their bodies, hair and clothing.Recommend

  • abhi099

    Robin Thicke songs and videos are misogynistic, distasteful, and should also be banned

    well I hope muslims in the west be in their limits. If muslims demand for a ban of songs then there are a lot of things to be banned. Be careful what you wish for. Burqa ban is just a start of more things to come.Recommend

  • Moiz Omar

    I’m in favour of the ban. I don’t think the burqa should be banned because I don’t personally like it, or somebody thinks it is a symbol of oppression or such. Each to his own. But the plain simple fact is that it is a security threat. People need to be identified. If you want to wear it inside your own home or private residence, then you should have the right to wear it if you wish so but not in public.Recommend

  • Haris Javed

    I always wonder how the
    fundamental values of the French identity are jeopardized by burqa? Is French
    identity so vulnerable that an infinitesimal minority of women in France wearing a full body veil could threaten it by
    their mere attire?Recommend

  • Faraz Talat

    This is not a race to the bottom; a competition on who oppresses whom the most to teach them a lesson.

    When the non-Muslim countries enact despotic policies like these, they in turn legitimize the lack of rights for non-religious minorities in Islamic states. “If the French can stop women from wearing niqabs, why can’t Pakistanis ban short skirts?”. That’s an argument I’d rather not have with Pakistani conservatives.Recommend

  • Ahmed

    Sometimes it’s just the girl following her religion rather than the beauty aspect. This has happened more than once and in very educated families aswell.Recommend

  • Sara

    What a fantastic article. Totally agree! Wish more people would develop a similar stance of flexibility. It’s a woman’s choice to wear niqab. The security argument is equally valid, they should ban all forms of disguises and costumes, if they regard the veil to be a threat. Plus, to everyone whining about inconvenience in hospitals, courts etc, in such places, niqabis do take their veil off, they don’t go all rigid as they understand personal identification is important. Recommend

  • Sami

    Secularism does not mean a complete freedom of everything. Moreover Secular Ethics could be followed by Non Secular societies as well. For example in Europe one of the example of Secularism is Quoted from the Empire of Punjab during the rule of Ranjit Singh . Every region have their own boundaries and their culture and there is nothing wrong in protecting your values. Just like in Pakistani culture Bikinis have no place similarly in French culture burqas have no place whatsoever and they simply banned it.
    France have a huge Maghribi Population ( Algerian, Moroccan etc ) and if you visit France then you will come to know that Honor Killings and crimes of passion in French Arabs are common. This led French to be wary of their culture and they took this initiative.
    Also we should Remember that European Society is built upon the Christian Values and there is nothing wrong that when they celebrate their Religious values that build that society in the first place.Recommend

  • Nawas

    Your arguments are good by themselves, however you devoted only two sentences to deal with the actual argument that French law makes: security. And weak ones at that.

    Bike helmets, Halloween costumes, oversized shades, high collars, and a guy in a plague mask all have a time and a place. Not to mention that if anyone doesn’t uncover any of these when asked, they would have a problem to deal with as well. It’s frankly understandable that a people in a non-Muslim majority country would get rather tired of involving their police, courts and related expenses every time a lady is asked to reveal her face for identification purposes. So from the law’s perspective, things look pretty fair and your arguments look pretty weak.Recommend

  • p r sharma

    the Muslim girl is taught from the childhood that burqa is mandated by Islam and the whole family and peers do firmly believe in it. Muslims in Muslim majority countries wear Islam on their sleeves. a girl not wearing face veil is looked down upon. once an impression in her brain is made about the niqab she is left with no choice but to wear the face veil and at this juncture the girl herself believe that face veil is her own choice and is not imposed upon. The suicide bomber too wears the bomb vest using his own choice and nothing is imposed thereupon, but is it his choice of free will ? certainly not. !!!Recommend

  • Ramchand Kapoor

    Not so. if you live in a certain society you must follow the laws and morays
    of that society. If you feel that certain laws are repressive then you must
    elect people who will change these. There is a clash between societies and cultures. Acceptable norms and practices of Islamic culture in a Muslim country will never be common in the West. The Muslim image has been severely tainted. Painted by a common brush. Nobody knows about a
    Muslim who feeds 100,000 orphans and indigents a day, for last 23 years.
    But everyone knows about a mulla Omar, Hakimullah, Radio Fazlullah or
    ISIS’s el Baghdadi. It does not matter if rest of the every day law abiding Muslims are Mother Theresas. The religion has been hijacked. Therefore
    you cannot blame the French or the EU to take every step to protect themselves from extremists.Recommend

  • Golnath Agarwal

    You are being sanctimonious. Which is freedom of speech.
    A shopkeeper asking female customers to take off the veils
    while in the store would be a public policy NOT a private policy.
    Would the shopkeeper, by the same token, ask male Muslim customers to take off any voluminous headgear they may be
    wearing? There are Hindus from Rajasthan who wear huge
    headgears. A shopkeeper or a bank can enact an EMPLOYEE
    policy regarding burqas veils or abayas. It would be called
    employee dress codeRecommend

  • abhi

    Is this ban only for women or for both the genders? If it is only for women and men are “free” to wear burqa it is a discrimination. If this is not the case then tell me again what is your point?Recommend

  • Abdil

    I think forcing someone to wear a black burka when the temperature outside is 48 degrees C is a crime.Recommend

  • UzairH

    That’s why instead of merely internalizing a set of “beliefs” or “ideals” the core thing I will internalize in my children is basic human decency coupled with rationality and critical thinking. I will empower them to ensure they make the right choices in life without being spoonfed all the time. Part of that will include the choice of what clothes they wear, and given the “human decency” aspect of my training, I would expect them to wear normal clothes, neither revealing, nor all-encompassing burqa or niqaab. My daughter will certainly not be taught to wear heels or spend long hours on makeup, but rather to play sports and spend long hours studying :)

    Doesn’t this sound common sense and a good approach? If yes, then why can’t this approach be adopted by all parents?

    As for choices and discouraging them, I would say that those who wear the burqa are victims of a deeper cultish-slavish-mentality because of the brainwashing they undergo since an extremely young age. Once we take away the scope for such brainwashing in our societies, I am all for giving the choices. Until then, let’s legally prevent the hiding of faces and the complete loss of identity as a human being that accompanies such hiding.Recommend

  • Parvez

    Nicely argued. So the French / Europeans are not as liberal or fair minded in thought as we expected them to be. We should ask ourselves why did we set such high standards for them…….after all they too are human and worry about their way of life being disturbed. Can we in all honesty blame them…….truthfully, no.Recommend

  • Gurion

    @ Faraz Talat
    In the same moral tone, would you support the rights of a naturist in Pakistan?Recommend

  • Rafeeq

    Tell me a few countries besides saudi arabia where the dress code is imposed on the minority or on outsiders. Have you been to Lebanon and seen the way they dress? Do you know you can buy pork and alcohol in select markets in the UAE/OMan/Qatar/Bahrain/Egypt etc? Have you seen the people who surround bashar al assad. He is a dictator but a secular one. One of the oldest surviving churches in the world is a heritage site in Syria (now that the saudi backed/US armed fanatics are knocking on the doors one never knows how long will it last). Please go and tour north african nations like tunisia or morocco or Egypt. And see what the majority wears there. You’d be surprised. And i have not even brought into discussion Malaysia or Indonesia or Brunei here. You have a myopic stance based on a traditional hatred of Muslims as well as misunderstood facts and half truths.Recommend

  • Queen

    I guess you have not seen how non-Muslims dress in countries like Qatar, UAE, Lebanon, Egypt, Malaysia, and Indonesia otherwise you would not have had expressed these views in the first place.Recommend

  • BlackJack

    Truly an impressive set of achievements that I seem to have completely missed. Please accept my apologies, clearly the West has much to learn from you guys in terms of providing freedom of choice and expression to their residents. On an aside, this is an example of the sense of outrage that I refer to in my comment, along with a perceptible eagerness to assume the role of the victim.Recommend

  • Tanveer Khan

    I’m still confused. I respect the choice argument but then why do we ban nudity in public places? I think this is not simply a matter of choice. The angle is society collectively come up with what’s an acceptable norm. Am I wrong here?
    Great blog. Recommend

  • Vish

    Here we go again. One more blog on the French burqa ban after umpteen blogs on the subject. For a change how about an article on China banning fasting, for Muslim government employees, during Ramazan. Or is that asking for too much. All criticism, over & over again, on a topic discussed endlessly, only reserved for the ‘evil West’???Recommend

  • Rust Cohle

    Although I am not entirely in support of a ban but banning doesn’t have anything in particular to do with Islam or security. All clothes with religious symbols are banned across schools in France. Also, reasons behind the ban are more cultural than anything. It’s offensive to the French people as well, it’s almost as if the the woman behind the burqa is assuming every male is a rapist.

    Very essence of the article and the grounds laid for the arguments are wrong.Recommend

  • Azhar Khan

    You know what else is an obstruction to not only a woman’s but also to the ability of a man’s ability to socialize? It is the choice and attitude to not socialize with someone if one does not want to. Not everyone socializes with everybody. It would be pretty odd for the law or government to enforce its citizens to socialize with someone or some people if they do not want to, because then that government would be a terrorist government that forces its ideology on its citizens. We just don’t do that. If I do not wish to socialize with someone, then that someone or government have no right to force me to. I still work and volunteer for the prosperity of our society, as do many of us. Similar is the case of the hijab and the veil, its the woman’s choice to restrict her socialization and verbosity.

    And you know what else is an obstruction to a person’s socialization ability? Those signs that people put up on their doors: I do not talk to strangers. Lol ban that! Seriously stop using lame excuses to attack the people of a faith you hate. Recommend

  • Faraz Talat

    Well, then throw the man in jail, who forces the woman to wear a burka in sweltering heat. What are you arresting the victim for?Recommend

  • Faraz Talat

    It’s private, if it’s up to the owner..

    Some stores say, “No shoes, no service”, others don’t. Some don’t allow pets inside the store, some do. These policies are subject to the owner’s preference, hence “private”.Recommend

  • Faraz Talat

    We really ought to shake loose of the ban-mania. There are more ways to exact change than hitting the ‘ban’ button on every single thing we find even remotely unpleasant or harmful.

    Really. It’s possible to solve certain problems without bringing the government into the ladies’ wardrobes.Recommend

  • Faraz Talat

    >> “Secularism does not mean a complete freedom of everything”

    Yes, but it certainly doesn’t include restrictions on what private citizens may or may not wear.

    >> “Just like in Pakistani culture bikinis have no place…”

    Pakistani governance is not an ideal example of how nations ought to be run. If France wants to be more like Pakistan, that’s their loss.

    >> “(Honor killings and crimes of passion among French Arabs) led French to be wary of their culture and they took initiative.

    Thereby using stereotypes to met out a general punishment against their culture by banning niqabs, which has no association with honor killings (except that both are symptoms of a larger patriarchal system). May I recommend stricter punishments for honor killings instead?

    >> “Also we should Remember that European Society is built upon the Christian Values…”

    Then they should stop harping about this secular “religion-neutral governance” nonsense, and call themselves the Christian Republic of France.Recommend

  • 19640909rk .

    France appears to follow a grotesquely mutated form of secularism known as lacite. While overly strict with faith systems of the “non-traditional” people of France, it still somehow manages to declare national holidays in honour of Christian events like Assumption of Mary, Christmas, Ascension, Pentecost and the All Saints Day.

    @ Faraz Talat, did it occur to you that France is a western nation (of course “secular”). Here Christians form the majority. So they would like to have more Christian holidays. Nobody wants holiday on Diwali, Ramzan or other festivals.Recommend

  • vinsin

    Burqa is against the principle of separation of religion and state and religion is a private matter not to be display publicly.Recommend

  • vinsin

    India still has to get women rights first.Recommend

  • https://www.blogger.com/blogger.g?blogID=8559594100366660134#allposts Supriya Arcot

    I will be comfortable when the “Lady ” shows her face . Unless we see her face how Do we ascertain that it’s a woman inside and not a masquerading man ? Just a peeping pair of ( however pretty. ) eyes is not enough . I have no objection to her covering other parts like hands , hair etc ., Recommend

  • Faraz Talat

    You may be misconstruing the face veil ban for the ordinance preventing religious exhibitionism in state educational institutes. They are different things.

    Also, a person shouldn’t be arrested if her choice of clothing “offends” the goras (and vice versa, in countries like Pakistan). Me not liking your kimono is not a valid reason for me to demand a ban on it.Recommend

  • Reddy

    If a women is shy to show her face to public in public places she needs to stay at home and make babies. Its that simple, stop making it a women’s rights issue. Only insecure males want to hide their counter parts. Covering face is a security issue, ever wonder why terrorists, militants etc cover their faces when they do videos?Recommend

  • Faraz Talat

    Fair question.

    I would be on board with citizens enacting their own private policies: refusing to receive them as guests in their homes; mandating that their employees are fully dressed at all times; refusing service to naturists in shops (like the ‘No Shirts, No Service’ sign you see outside certain stores).

    However, ideally, I wouldn’t want him arrested. This is precisely my stance with burkas as well. We can debate on the matter, and if necessary, use social deterrents to mold the society into an efficient shape.

    To impose legal restrictions, would be to infantalize a citizen and assume that he/she cannot be trusted with decisions as personal as clothing.Recommend

  • Prashant

    There is absolutely no doubt that there is certain level of Islamophobia in the west but the Muslims need to take responsibility too and accept the fact that some among them have been intimidating the majority in Europe when they themselves are immigrants.Recommend

  • Sammy

    You don’t need to have that argument…because you already lost it decades ago: never mind ‘short’ skirt….outside of a few trendy boulevards in Isloo and perhaps Karachi’s Saddar with its remnants of Christians, a woman will get molested and stoned when wearing a skirt. Comparing rights for non-Muslims in Muslim countries and vice-versa is a nonstarter for a serious thinker. France may not be the perfect example of religious liberty in every nuance of the term….but comparing it to Pakistan or Saudi Arabia? Please, you are an intelligent man and know better.Recommend

  • think about it

    You are the one assuming that a veiled woman regards every man as a a rapist. The simple fact is, what if a woman is simply comfortable in a burqa, comfortable with her face veiled? I admit I do not understand it, but that is irrelevant. If a woman wants to wear a veil, why should you stop her? It is her choice, why should anyone else be bothered? And furthermore, it is an item of clothing. Religious symbol? Then why doesn’t France ban the habits worn by nuns? Those are actual religious symbols, the veil is simply a woman dressing in the way she wants to. It is not expressly laid down in Islam to wear a veil, there is no Islamic veil. It is not a religious symbol, it is not even universally accepted by Muslims. The habit worn by nuns though, is worn by every nun and only by nuns. It is a clear religious symbols, why has France not banned it, following your logic? Please, I do not want the habit banned, for the same reason I do not want the veil banned. It just shows the hypocrisy, how the religious symbol argument is being used and exploited to justify a breach on human rights. The same goes for the christian cross, and the Jewish kippah worn by rabbis. While actual religious symbols are not banned in France, the veil is? Ridiculous. Absolutely ridiculous.Recommend

  • p r sharma

    do you really understand what socialization means. Walking on the streets
    ( without veil ) is not the socialization.Recommend

  • I agree with the author. As a liberal, I oppose the burqa but cannot in good conscience condone the idea of the French government telling women what not to wear and suppressing their right to express their identity and beliefs.

    However, France is not a liberal country and constitutionally does not believe in liberal rights. It’s a country founded on Rousseau’s Republicanism, where it’s the job of the sovereign authority- in this case the French government- to enforce a “rationally enlightened” political existence. That is, a philosophy of positive freedoms, based on actively telling (compelling?) citizens to live by standards defined by a so-called higher rational will. This is in contrast to the negative freedoms under classic, John Stuart Mill liberalism which focus on defining what citizens cannot do in reference to the effect on others’ freedoms.

    Hence, a worldview has grown over time in France which actively seeks to dismantle non-rational (as opposed to irrational) beliefs and tries to make French what it sees as non-French and therefore unenlightened. While this has resulted in patronage of unparalleled art and science, traces of this worldview are also visible in the ugliness of France’s colonial past and some of its contemporary cultural policies.Recommend

  • Live under? In a secular country, all citizens are EQUAL; not living “under” or “above” based on religious identity.

    That said, I’d like to see India try to suppress the cherished religious identity of 150 million people. The resulting mayhem would at least wipe the sneers off the faces of schmucks like you.Recommend

  • Really? Is that how fundamental rights are to be evaluated, ranked, or prioritized? Based on what it costs to secure them? Your argument is at best shortsighted and at worst pernicious in its monetizing of human dignity. There’s a moral imperative that forces a state to pay millions to enable far off villagers to vote, or to gain back a single abducted citizen in exchange for releasing terrorists, etc. If I as a citizen wish to cover my face, a modern state has to decide if it’ll make a pre-modern sacrifice of my liberty to secure itself. There’s very little reasonable about that choice.Recommend

  • gp65

    “We’ve been led to believe that we may choose either one of the two positions:
    – Burqa is benign, and must be allowed
    – Burqa is a harmful, patriarchal icon, and must be banned”
    There is a third option. Burqa/face veil is a security risk and hence must be banned. Thus reason for banning is not patriarchy but the security risk.
    Considering the ghazis who tried to don the burqa and escape Lal masjid, you I am sure are aware that the burqa can be misused.Recommend

  • gp65

    Strange argument. So if I can summarize your argument “France(insert name of any other country) denies rights to its Muslim population. Hence this legitimized the lack of rights for non-Muslims in Muslim countries”
    IF we were to go by this then the converse already justifies France’s action after all Saudi Arabia, Pakistan have constitutionally denied rights to non-Muslims for much longer than when France put this face veil ban in place.
    In any case completely denying non-Muslims the right to worship or to kill/forcibly convert non-Muslims or Muslims of not the right sect cannot be compared in severity with a ban on face veil.
    Your argument with the conservatives cannot be based on what France des and does not do. It has to be on the basis that these non-Muslims in Pakistan are Pakistani citizens who have nothing to do with France and there is no basis to oppress them based on something they have no control over.
    In India, we as secular people do not allow people to tell us how Hindus are treated in Pakistan and let them justify poor behavior with Muslims in India. The logic is Indian Muslims are Indians and deserve protectiopn of the Indian state and equal rights guaranteed by the constitution.Recommend

  • gp65

    Dress code is not the only imposition that can be made to non-Muslims. Are non-Muslims allowed to eat openly during Ramzan? Many Muslim countries including Pakistan forbid that.
    Are you unaware of the discrimination against Ahmadis in the Pakistani constitution?
    If someone born in a Muslim family chooses to practice another religion or even become an atheist can they do that?
    Are you aware of the kidnap, raped and forced conversion of minor non-Muslim girls (about 1000 annually) in Pakistan?Recommend

  • gp65

    Societies in middle east do not have elections. So the idea that any unacceptable practices can be changed through election is unreasobale.
    Further election is not the route that can be taken to have concerns of any minority group addressed. That has to be through civil society/media advocacy.Recommend

  • gp65

    Security.Recommend

  • gp65

    BAn on burqa is not to force you to socialize with people you choose not to. IT is to ensure security so that burqa is not absued by criminals and extremists who may or may not be Muslim.Recommend

  • hni

    The problem isn’t religion, it’s that you can rob a bank in a burqa without being identified. The law is against facial coverings, not burqas.Recommend

  • Dante

    That’s the most burger term I’ve heard in a long time: “Secular feminist”. Does that enlighten you?Recommend

  • Ramchand Agarwal

    Good to see you using your grey cells. If you read carefully, you will notice ‘elect’. That can only be done in a free society. Like in the West. You do not have elections in the Gulf or Saudia. Therefore it follows if you want the burqa ban lifted,…elect politicians who will do so….In the WEST. Had no
    idea a simple concept will trip your mind.
    Hopes this will clear your confusion.Recommend

  • someone

    It is a great shame for the men of a society or country where a woman has to cover herself to keep herself safe from them.Recommend

  • Faraz Talat

    As I said, this is not a race to the bottom.

    Liberals like myself are tired of trying to loosen sartorial restrictions on women in Pakistan, and hearing the retort. “If the French ban niqabs to preserve their culture, why can’t we ban short skirts to preserve ours?”

    I have higher, not lower, expectations of the educated, developed nations when it comes to giving minorities their due rights. Two wrong don’t negate each other…they only make both sides of the world uglier.Recommend

  • Faraz Talat

    Consider the terrorists who hid bombs in their shoes.
    Off with your shoes, sir!Recommend

  • JayMankind

    By banning the burqa the victim is saved. Problem solved.Recommend

  • Faruque Malik

    The French government has ONLY banned HIDING A FACE. It has not banned any burqa which does not hide the identity i.e. the face of an individual. God gave everyone a face, and created humans as social beings. So it is very funny if someone is ordered by a dying redundant culture to cover her face. And the burqa has no mention in the Quran.Recommend

  • amoghavarshaii

    does this “Jeopardizing ” apply to islam too? where non muslims are not allowed to visit mecca?Recommend

  • Reddy

    Only if you recognize people with with their feet, get some common sense idiot.Recommend

  • Hobi Haripurwala

    They have large towels on sale in Rawalpindi where you live.
    Buy one, use it to mop up your tears. On behalf of the tortured burqa women of France.Recommend

  • I don’t see why you feel any woman has an obligation to make you feel comfortable? Many men will also vociferously argue that they’ll feel comfortable with your arms and face and legs covered under a burqa the size of a tent.Recommend

  • abhi

    I am a male, will you support my right to wear a burqa?Recommend

  • LS

    I think its just not veil but French schools have banned all religious symbols including christian crosses, Sikh Turbans, Jew Skullcaps and surprisingly no one is making a fuss except…Recommend

  • GordonHide

    I entirely agree with this post and Faraz could have added that sweeping a problem of misogyny under the carpet where you can’t see it is infantile and counter productive.Recommend

  • Hunza wala

    You are the doctor who has his own interpretation of the Hippocratic Oath. And now…. waxing poetic on the Burqa?
    You were on your way to Papua/New Guinea. Not yet.Recommend

  • Sohail

    France is an old world Christian country.
    They may have a modern constitution which promotes secularism, however the cultural fabric of the country is based on all things christian and Western and ‘white folks’.
    I think they have a right to limit changes from other cultures and religions which are moving into their country at a rapid pace. These new people need to assimilate; if they do not, them more of such ‘bans’ will keep coming up. Why blame the French in trying to remain ‘french’.Recommend

  • Faraz Talat

    I’m not sure you understand how ‘secularism’ works.

    It implies religion-neutral governance. It doesn’t matter how much of a majority the Christians form.The government cannot prioritize their religion over the religions of minority groups.Recommend

  • Faraz Talat
  • itbeso

    “If the ban is a crackdown on misogyny, you may as well ban feet-cracking high heels, overuse of make-up and Robin Thicke songs.”

    Difference is if women all around the world decided they wish to abstain from wearing high heals nothing will happen to them. Absolutely nothing, nada, no honor killing to physical violence, nought.Recommend

  • LS

    Just to be clear… The ban by French Schools is not specific to one religion… in fact it does not even mention religion. It just says that “…as an application of the principle of the separation of church and state, the wearing of symbols or garb which show religious affiliation in public primary and secondary schools…” Thus it bans and thus bans all Christian (veil, signs), Muslim (veil, signs), Sikh (turban, signs) Jewish and other religions signs. So its not specific to one religion… or directed at a specific sex as this article seems to imply… Also if you are so adamant that you want to wear these religious symbols, join their private schools and don’t go to government sponsored Public schools.Recommend

  • Sarmad

    Actually places like Qatar are in fact regressing. I just left Qatar permanently after having been born and bred there. The dress code introduction under a campaign “reflect your respect” was the final kicker for me. This is very simple matter at its core: Muslims are leaving Darul Islam for Darul Kufr in hundreds and yet once they arrive their they want to be served by Shariah. No wonder this annoys the natives. As for treatment of non-Muslims in Darul Islam (from Malaysia to Jordan) the less said the better. A concerned Muslim.Recommend

  • Rafeeq

    Now common, before you ride your sarcastic high horse to glory let me tell you the only thing that I took an exception to was the way in which you painted a community of 1.3 billion people spread from morocco to indonesia with the same brush. How would you feel if I’d say every Hindu thinks the gujurat riots were a good thing, that the babri should have been demolished or the caste system is actually a feat of Hindu brilliance? You’d take a strong exception to it right? Then why don’t I have the same right to do that?Recommend

  • Iftekhar Khokhar.

    While in Rome, do as the Romans do.Recommend

  • Gurion

    Do you realize that your stance in the naturist case is technically the same as that of the French on burqa and just varies on level and scale of implementation?
    How about the rights of the cannibals to practice their cannibalism!Recommend

  • Nawas

    Fundamental right? You’re comparing the right to vote to donning head gear that “imprisons women, threatens social harmony, fuels distrust, has grave health implications and is a potent security risk”?

    No I don’t think a country should compromise on how much it spends on protecting fundamental human rights. But this is not it…

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2695181/Why-I-Muslim-launching-campaign-ban-burka-Britain.htmlRecommend

  • Nawas

    Ok, I admit my previous response deserved moderation. But on a serious note, you are essentially asking the right to public anonymity. No such right exists in any country. As such, no comparison can be made with a fundamental human right, such as a right to vote.

    Otherwise, I’m all for countries making no compromise in terms of how much they spend in defense of fundamental human rights.Recommend

  • Moiz Omar

    I don’t think you need to take off your shoes to be identified though.Recommend

  • Ever heard of the right to privacy? It’s the quintessential “unenumerated” right in liberal constitutions. It’s the basis of the “right to choose” for women in the US established by Roe v. Wade.

    Donning headgear as an expression of one’s conscientious beliefs is by definition a fundemental right. Get out of your utilitarian headspace. It’s not a respectable place to be for decent people.

    Also, please don’t be quoting the freakin’ Dail Mail to me.Recommend

  • Prashant

    “That said, I’d like to see India try to suppress the cherished religious identity of 150 million people.”

    You are not gonna see that happening in your lifetime.

    It is not 150 million people, it is around 180 million people if you are talking about only Muslims among the minorities.Recommend