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?
Sources: The Wall Street Journal, The Guardian,
Photo Source: Frontpage Mag
Something about this seems inherently wrong. Not only is it targeting a specific group of people, though worded in a seemingly broad way, but the rationale of safety and women’s rights makes very little sense. While this culture of covering a woman’s face for religious reasons may have been forced upon the women doing so, it is now engrained in them and something they take seriously. Making them change their ways through force of law is not the right way to achieve the goals that the government thinks these women want. In France, the women who reject the law are being attacked by patriots who will not stand for protest, probably leading to more aggression and violence then existed before the burqa ban. There is no real safety concern having to do with women wearing the burqas, and it is a clearly discriminatory attempt to forcibly change their ways. I highly doubt such a measure could be passed in the United States due to the heavy weight the judicial system places on constitutional freedoms.
I completely agree with Crystal that the justification of “women’s rights” seems the most offensive. It just makes no sense. These women SHOULD have the right to wear a burqa or hijab if they choose to. But, after thinking about it a little more, a law like this could be ultimately protecting their rights (such as to show their faces). It is true that it is a deeply held religious tradition and for some women to remove their veils and show their faces in public would be offensive. But, some women are being forced by their husbands and their religion to wear these burqas. So, in a way it is a double edged sword. Are some women hoping for the ban, so they can finally take these burqas off their faces without defying their husband and religion? Or are some women living in fear that this law will be passed? Can a country possibly support both views?
In my opinion, banning burqas has nothing to do with protecting individual rights and providing safety for the society. There are other measures that could be taken to ensure public safety. For instance, the public should be educated through publications and programs designed to teach what should be done when they see a suspicious activity going around them, and people should be encouraged to inform the police. Banning burqas will not create a safer society. As far as individual rights are concerned, this law will restrict Muslim women’s rights rather than protect their rights. How can a government protect one’s individual rights through restricting or banning the lifestyle that the individual chooses? We cannot ignore the fact that there are women in Islamic countries and around the world who cover up because they are forced to do. However, the majority of Muslim women chooses to dress up this way due to their religious belief. Further, what Western countries are doing is no different than some Islamic countries because they are trying to impose the same restrictions or banning on Muslim women but using different methods and justifications.
This law, if passed, will be in violation of basic human rights and fundamental freedoms.
This is a perfect example of the patriarchy believing they know what is best for a gender they don’t really understand. Yes, in some instances the husbands may have forced their wives to observe the tradition (which is another issue in of itself), but in the cases where a women chooses to express herself religiously, and in no way hurting someone else, she should be allowed to do so. Hiding behind a guise of women’s rights, while limiting a woman’s right to observe a religion in the best way she deems fit, is not only hypocritical, but disgusting and in no way benefitting women or legitimizing the women’s rights and feminist movement.
Another issue with this is the xenophobia embodied in this entire amendment. Many assumptions are being made about Muslims when you are denying them their right to religion for “safety” reason. People in western civilizations too off-handedly believe that all Muslims are terrorists or evil or are against the values and ideals of western civilization, when in truth he majority of Muslims are peaceful people who follow a religion based on peace. Only a small percentage of the all Muslims in the world are criminals, and anyone who says different is either woefully ignorant or just falling into the fear-mongering that the media perpetuates. If people spend more time learning about different cultures and developing tolerance and respect for them, there will be no need to address issues like these.
Although it may be interpreted as a form of religious oppression when fully evaluated in the context of the post 9/11 society that we live in, there are great security threats concerning women wearing burqas in public places. While for security purposes officers may ask the women to lift the burqa, this is insufficient when an individual wearing a burqa commits a crime and the security camera footage is only able to capture the color of their eyes.
Countries that have banned burqas such as France and Belgium have done so primarily for photo identification purposes. Women who adorn burqas also wish to take their photo identification with them on. Wearing a burqa obscures one’s face which is a direct clash with purpose of identification.
Terrorists and criminals in general have worn burqas in many instances to accomplish their attacks, using them as disguises. In 2005 one of the London bombers wore a burqa twice – once when fleeing the scene of the crime, then a day later, when fleeing London for the Midlands.
Furthermore, French Muslim leaders have noted that then Koran does not instruct women to cover their faces. If there is no religious need, than there is very little freedom-of-religion justification. (Jean Francois-Cope. “Tearing away the veil.” New York Times. May 4th, 2010:)
Lastly, those who wear burqas while driving present a risk due to it impairing their their peripheral vision.
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