In the commune: The French burqa ban
This week Syria banned the full face veil in unversities. France has also declared wearing a burqa or full veil illegal. The new laws have inspired support from some and been condemned by others. We asked Tribune bloggers whether or not the move is justified.
I don’t believe this debate should be taken out of context. People need to keep things in perspective. A veil is a piece of cloth, just like a beard is just facial hair. It does not say Muslim or non-Muslim. It is a physical symbol which portrays what an individual may feel on the inside, and as long as no one is banning you from what you believe, a piece of cloth should remain what it is, an inanimate object.
I think Sarkozy has been toying with this ban for a while and after a while it looked inevitable. As many Muslim feminists like Irshad Manji and Tasleema Nasreen have argued the veil is a symbol of oppression. But as a liberal, I am against banning anything in general, unless it is in the best interests of the nation, or a security threat. This doesn’t quite cut either criteria.
In countries that claim to hold democratic and liberal ideals, the move to ban the burqa is yet another form of extremism. It is infringing on women’s right to dress as they choose to (and yes, for many of them it IS a personal choice). The veil is worn by a minority of Muslim women in France. Yet the issue is important enough for the lower house to vote on it. I am amused.
Islam does not ask you to wear a burqa. This is a cultural trait originating from Middle Eastern countries. If any non-Muslim country wants to ban the veil they have the right to do so because a section of Muslims have expressed extremism towards them. Most importantly it is their country, with prevalent laws and culture of any majority. If Pakistani’s have a problem with this we can legislate to make sure European women come out of Pakistani airports wearing a burqa.
From a security perspective which is a very relevant factor in today’s world there’s nothing odd in this ban coming from the French authorities. However the arguments cited by the media in lauding the ban are rather weak. The burqa a ‘sign of oppression’ which Muslim women opt for and a ban enforced without social discourse with the relevant community will result in a backlash in the form of a rise in extremist sentiments.
As long as we recognize the right to territory, in terms of lines drawn on the globe, we also have to recognize a community’s rights to set and enforce any laws it chooses within those lines. The day we recognize those lines as imaginary/arbitrary will be the day we will properly be able to address issues pertaining to humanity in a holistic way. Is Pakistan allowed to set laws pertaining specifically to its citizens which other globally may abhor? Thus the burqa ban is justified, for now.
The ban on veils in wrong. It is a manifestation of the fear that most cultures have for anything that is foreign. While forcing a woman to wear a burqa is despicable telling her she cannot is equally wrong. If secularism is stuffed down our throats than it can be just as suffocating as religion. Freedom is the right to choose – not the absence of choices.
On the one hand, European countries are non-Muslims, so they can implement what ever that does not go with their culture and society. On the other hand so called ‘civilised’ countries should respect the traits of other religions and provide freedom according to their religious preaching. I support the second option.
The burqa is a hyped issue that has almost no bearing in France, where you have more than 6 million Muslims and 2,000 burqas. In any case, banning the burqa squarely violates the article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, passed by United Nations, which states that everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.
Religious beliefs are best left to the individual to judge. But, if a person makes a conscious decision to live in a secular democracy, they have willfully committed to abiding rules formed based on the opinions of the majority. Alhough ‘burqa bans’ have been implemented without a referendum, they have been imposed by democratically elected government. In my opinion, the only recourse can be a democratic move against such legislation.
Do you agree with the ban on the veil?
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.