The Swiss canton of Ticino has passed an amendment initiative to ban clothing which hides one’s face in public, in a not-so-thinly veiled attempt (pun intended) to ban burqas and discriminate against Muslim women. Before going into effect, the measure would have to be approved by the Swiss Parliament, which struct down a similar measure in 2010.
France famously instituted a burqa ban in 2011, as did Belgium. The prohibitions in both of those countries were worded neutrally, as a general prohibition against covering one’s face in public, and were claimed to be aimed at guaranteeing public safety.
Burqa ban-defenders have relied on a wide range of justifications: from public safety concerns to integration to women’s rights. To me personally, each of these reasons are shields for the true purpose of the bans, which is to discriminate. The justification of “women’s rights” seems the most offensive. The argument is that Muslim men force the women to wear the head veils, but do not similarly conceal their own faces. While the Western world might not understand the rationale or culture of wearing a burqa or hijab, many of the women wearing them are doing so based on their own deeply held religious beliefs. To remove their veils and show their faces in public would be offensive. Obviously, these feelings are a product of the culture the women were raised in, which many contest is forced upon them. But forcing an alternate culture on these women would be equally offensive. It is not fair for individuals raised with Judeo-Christian values to determine what is and is not offensive for someone else. How does stripping these women of their right to choose their attire protect their rights?
Are these bans aimed at increasing public safety, protecting women’s rights, and facilitating integration, or are they blatant attempts to discriminate against a religious minority? Regardless of this particular measure, are there legitimate motivations to increase (force) integration? Are there better ways to protect the rights of Muslim women? Do you think such a measure could ever be passed in the United States or do we have sufficient legal safeguards to protect religious minorities?
Photo Source: Frontpage Mag