The meaning of the veil and why some want to ban it

by , under All categories, Enrique

By Enrique Tessieri

Switzerland’s lower house of parliament voted Wednesday 101-77 to outlaw veils like the burqa when using public transport or visiting authorities, reports AP.  The measure, which is being spearheaded by the Swiss People’s Party, will go for a vote in the upper house before federal elections next month.

Oskar Freysinger, a Swiss People’s Party lawmaker, said that the aim of the ban was “to avoid a religious war.”  Freysinger campaigned in 2009 to prohibit the construction of minarets in Switzerland.

What is surprising about these types of bans is the extent some parties and countries will go to brush diversity under the rug. Lawmakers, who should know better in Switzerland, should understand that placing restrcitions on how Muslim women should dress in public is not the only issue. What they are doing is  making a mockery of our democratic values and the important role of  diversity in it.

What is the use of speaking of freedom of worship and freedom of thought if on the other hand we deny diversity?

A colleague put it in the following terms: “Acceptance of difference (and the creative energy from that acceptance) must be done on the terms of those who differ, not the terms of those with power.”

It is important that lawmakers throughout Europe as well as the public should remain vigilant against laws that limit our freedom to be different.

Veil-ban laws in Switzerland expose the weakness of such societies even if they can hide behind formidable military and economic might.

  1. Mark

    So this is okay:

    http://www.realultimatepower.net/ninja/ninjaparty.jpg

    And this is okay:

    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/c5/Sisters_%28Daughters_of_Mary%29_Roman_Catholic_Singing.jpg

    But this is not:

    http://uppitywoman08.files.wordpress.com/2010/05/3-veiled-women.jpg

    The argument about having too little clothes is public centres on how much cloth is needed to cover a nipple or a genital. The idea of wearing no clothes in public is something that the majority of people represents some kind of ‘decency’, or at least something to cover the christian shame attached to genitalia. But it’s really weird the idea that at the other end of the extreme, you would actually be able to wear ‘too many’ clothes.

    There is also an irony that it is historically religious propriety that bans nakedness in public. For Islamic women, that same sense of propriety would make them feel naked in public without a veil.

    Another very stupid argument is that terrorists could be disguised with a burqa and thereby evade detection. Gosh, this really is ‘terrorists under your bed’ paranoia. It is also a fact that some terrorists have hidden bombs in turbans, in shoes and in vests. Okay, so do we try to ban all those items of clothing too? Of course, it’s a ridiculous notion and defence of a veil ban.

    The argument about human rights and rights for women is a strong one. But by making it illegal to wear a veil, the authorities have undermined an even more fundamental right of women, the right to choose. Maybe the choice is not always theirs, but to take the choice away from their men-folk and simply put it into the hands of the (male-led) authorities is not exactly emancipating women, is it?

    Another argument that is made is that it somehow protects Western customs. This is an absolutely outrageous argument that is tantamount to turning western countries into religious states. The state should have no say in matters of religious taste, unless that behaviour was very obviously a threat to persons. I cannot see the threat of someone wearing a veil. Have you ever thought a bride about to be married was ‘a threat’? Why would we think of veiled muslim women as a threat?

    • Enrique

      Mark, you make good points. Thank you for the examples.Banning or telling how people should dress in our society is an afront to our democratic way of life. If you ban the veil you undermine in effect our values and our civil liberties.

  2. Jonas

    I find the veil a very difficult issue. I have to make an honest confession, it does make me feel very uncomfortable when I see women wearing the full veil. I am afraid it does come across as very oppressive to me. When I see young girls wearing it, I really do feel very sad for them. I know that many Muslim women will say that they choose to wear it, and I am sure many do, but I can’t help feel that some are wearing it because of societal pressure within the Muslim world, from their relatives etc – even if it is not direct pressure of the nature of a husband or father explicitly forcing with threats etc.

    That does not necessarily mean I would support a ban, and certainly not on the ludicrous populist grounds of preventing “a religious war” as the Swiss People’s Party is using as a justification. But I do have some sympathy for the earlier French ban on religious symbols in schools. I am not sure I would have taken things as far as their more recent legislation also banning the veil in public.

    When gender equality issues and religion cross (regardless of which religion), I am afraid I tend to come strongly down on the gender equality side. I think it is a terrible sign if we start to introduce separate swimming times for men and women etc to accommodate conservative religious views, that’s a very retrograde step for equality in my book. But, a difficult issue as people should have a right to the religious beliefs of their choice too.

  3. Mark

    Jonas

    A sign of tolerance IS accommodating conservative religious views. This does not mean making everyone do what the conservatives seek to do. It means allowing them to do want they want to do, within reason.

    In this case, the proposal, as in France, is not defending your freedom to refuse to follow a conservative practice, but to actually that conservative practice illegal for those that want to follow.

    We should look for precedents here in other areas of cultural taboo. Take bigamy, for example, which is illegal, even for those that want to practice it as part of their religion. However, though ‘legal marriage to more than one partner’ is prohibited, we ARE all free to cohabit to whatever extent we want. If I could persuade fifty women to co-habit together with me, we would not be breaking any laws. The behaviour is not illegal; rather, it is not permitted to obtain for that behaviour the conveyance of specific rights of spouses through a system of state certification. In other words, you are not recognised as spouses. And to try to obtain that certification through deception (i.e. hiding the fact of other spouses), you are committing an offence. Fair enough. There is a lot of freedom in that. So what freedom is allowed in this ‘veil wearing behaviour’? None.

    You would think the interests of the state are to maintain the freedom to identify individuals as and when necessary, and for that reason, removal of the veil for identification purposes would be reasonable. So why haven’t politicians be advocating this instead? Or is remote identification becoming utterly acceptable in today’s society? Fascism, anyone?

    Oppression of women in some Islamic countries is a major concern. However, this legislation may have the complete opposite effect of helping women. It may actually mean that some men-folk will simply refuse to let the woman be in public, or a woman may feel she has no choice but to avoid being in public. In other words, this legislation may make some thousands of women prisoners in their one homes, travelling under cover of darkness. So tell me, how does this help in the relieving the oppression of women?

    As I said above, you don’t start helping women by taking away their choices and criminalising their (very innocuous) behaviours. Exactly how is a veil a threat that requires criminal or civil sanction? I really don’t get it, except to see it as Islamaphobia gone riot!

  4. Jonas

    Mark, I largely agree with you. I don’t at all like the idea of banning a religious practice, this is why I started my first remarks with stating that this is a difficult issue for me.

    I agree absolutely that the French law has the side-effect you state. Those that choose to wear it without being under any pressure at all are no longer free to do so, as you say. And I find that extremely troubling. I also share your concern about the fact that some women might end up even more oppressed if as a consequence they are not allowed out in public by their husbands. But, I also find it extremely troubling that some Muslim women feel that they have little option but to wear the veil because of pressures (explicit or otherwise) from their families or their wider community. As a strong believer in gender equality, I find that two values I hold strongly collide in quite a messy way here which is really why I have trouble knowing whether a limited veil ban (e.g. for children in schools) is an unacceptable prohibition on the freedom of religious expression or a necessary evil to prevent some children from being forced to cover their face at such a young age.

    I am simply being honest in my remarks. The veil troubles me from a gender equality view – but bans on it bother me from a religious freedom point of view. However, as a largely secular person, I find that when these two notions clash, I believe the gender equality issue to be of greater importance. It is difficult.

  5. Mark

    Jonas

    It is difficult, for me too. Are you sure that young girls are wearing veils in school? I thought that women only took the veil when they reached a certain age.

    I might consider keeping the part of the proposal that says forcing a woman to wear a veil is an offence. I haven’t heard of any men being prosecuted in France yet for that.

  6. JusticeDemon

    It’s interesting – though not altogether surprising – that the very same people who claim that their “culture and way of life” is threatened by the mere presence of visible minorities are so keen to attack the culture and private personal choices of others.

    I wonder how the average PS-Finn would respond to a campaign by Moslem organisations to ban the public consumption of pork or to require swimwear in public saunas in Finland? Any such proposal would certainly be greeted with outrage as an oppressive assault on personal freedom of choice. Something along the lines of nobody is forcing you to look.

    There are suspiciously many Western men who evidently feel that a complete lack of female Moslem acquaintances qualifies them as self-appointed experts on the situation, needs and rights of veil wearers: WE don’t accept your right to be here at all, but we are also desperately concerned about your personal freedom to dress as WE see fit.

  7. Antonio

    Sad that the common sense displayed in here doesn’t make it’s way into politics. What’s wrong with the world…? Why don’t these people with common sense gather in a sauna and decide to make the common sense party? The nonsensical ones do that.

  8. BlandaUpp

    My mother and grandmother wear headscarves almost all the time. My sister wore headscarves as a kid and it’s still very much part of Finnish culture. This garbage is nothing but Islamophobia.

  9. BlandaUpp

    I was just thinking back to my trips to Geneva for work over the last few years and the only people I ever saw wearing Burqas were rich Arabs buying expensive jewelry. I guess they’re gonna lose out on those customers now.

  10. Risto

    I am against a ban on the veil because it will only strenghten the puritans, fundamentalists as well as the more moderate muslims who propagate, impose, defend or simply wear it, for whatever their reasons are – in the end that is their choice. But I get sick to my stomach when I see 3, 4, 5, 6, yes even 12 year old girls wearing that symbol of female chastity. Think about how perverse this is…The veil is worn because it should protect women from the lustful looks of men, it is worn as to not provoke the lust of men in the public space. That is the explanation and justification for women to wear the veil, mind you. Now, if grown up women wish to subject themselves to retrograde views on the relation between men and women (in the public space or at home) , well I’d say: go ahead. But imposing those on children is perverse, the more because you are actually turning kids into sexual objects. Ask Iranian women how they feel about the veil. Not an argument as such. But food for thought… Personally I know a good deal of women, through my professional experience as a teacher teaching my mother tongue to foreigners (many of them refugees). I have some Moroccon acquaintances as well. They will never say nor believe that all the women wearing the veil are obliged in any way to do so. Most of the time it is an habit, or a free choice or a form of rebellion. But many of those with whom I have discussed the subject talk about the enormous pressure from the male counterparts in their communities. It is shocking to forbid the veil in a democratic society, it is as shocking to close your eyes on the pressures exercised on many Muslim women in our Western societies of today. To conclude, a link to an interview with Nawal el Saadawi, an Egyptian feminist – who once described the veil as a sort of psychological circumcision – :http://www.darkmatter101.org/site/2008/02/13/nawal-el-saadawi-in-conversation/

    Anti-fascist greets

    • Enrique

      Hi Risto and welcome to Migrant Tales. Thank you for sharing your opinions with us. Why is dress so important to you? Why not let cultural bygones be cultural bygones? Don’t you think at the end of the day that the person who has the final say on how one should dress is the person? This may not be as easy as it sounds, however. There are a lot of brave women in Saudi Arabia that have rebelled against antiquated laws like not allowing women to drive, dress etc. There are, likewise, brave women from other cultures living here who, despite the hostile look of some, continue to wear their traditional clothes. As I mentioned, I personally don’t consider it an issue but a personal matter of that person. I hope one thing that people learn in our culture is that there is freedom to choose lifestyles.

      One of the big problems in this type of debate when public is when we have politicians involved and placing bans only to lure more votes to their party without any consideration for the woman.

      Didn’t Finnish women use veils before? Wasn’t that required and a sign that the woman was “a good” member of society?

  11. Mark

    – “But I get sick to my stomach when I see 3, 4, 5, 6, yes even 12 year old girls wearing that symbol of female chastity.”

    Most Muslim families let girls decide themselves when they want to start wearing the veil, though puberty is the ‘typical’ age. Some do choose to wear it before that, as a symbol of their own desire for purity. I think, having been an evangelical Christian in the past, that this is no more or less severe a restriction on behaviour than many Christian ideas about modesty and chastity, including the potentially destructive ban on male masturbation, though I did find one priest who talked to me in my teens and allayed my conscience a little over that one. Still, society has many squeezes on behaviour and codes of conduct, including on dress. I mean, it’s almost the same that you have to be naked in a public sauna, but for a foreigner, that could be seen a rather violating custom. It usually works that way, the other culture is perceived to be more extreme than our own.

    • Enrique

      Hi Mark, did you go to Catholic school? I did for two years. One of the things I noticed was how closed-minded and conservative some of my fellow students were. Our school had a problem, though, since one of the father’s was a pedophile. The school was Blessed Sacrament of Hollywood. You can find the story in the LA Times.

  12. Mark

    No. not a Catholic school – local baptist church; and no pedophiles that I knew of, but lots of nice people trying to serve a belief in something greater than themselves. The person who spoke to me about masturbation was the father off a friend and he was not violating in any way and I was very glad to hear it said by a priest, because that kind of thing can really cut you up as a young man who is trying to be ‘pure’ in thought as part of his religion and is a teenager with lots of hormones too. Sorry to hear about the Catholic priest at your school; so many of them have betrayed their trust; it’s crazy how that kind of thing seems to have taken hold in the Catholic church.

    In the evangelicals, it was an unspoken code that everyone dress modestly. While not as all body as a veil, it was nevertheless a restriction that governed the choice of clothes, even if the choices were a little different. Not so different in kind to codes of dress in Islam.

  13. Risto

    “Why not let cultural bygones be cultural bygones? ” read my post more carefully please. I started by saying that I am against a ban on the veil. That is not my point. My point is that there is lots of work to be done to emancipate women, whether they be Christian, Jewish, Muslim or other … or atheist for that matter. I just do not want to turn a blind eye onto the fact that the veil stands for a whole array of ideas which can be characterized as backwards … just like many Catholic ideas are backwards in nature… ideas that are used to maintain a male supremacist control over women. And when it comes to kids: a ban on schools until 16 years old.

  14. Risto

    “Most Muslim families let girls decide themselves when they want to start wearing the veil, though puberty is the ‘typical’ age.”

    Most women start wearing the veil because there is pressure from the (male members of the )community. If women do not wear the veil they are perceived as indecent, unmarried, not obeying the rules of a certain interpretation of Islam, wild women, as whores … Many men do not care that much about imposing the veil (or other things for that matter). Trouble starts when the self-declared leaders of islam start spreading the rumour that the wife is a whore, not behaving according to the rules of the community and so on. the presure mounts. What man wants his woman to be perceived as such? The thing is that a woman without a veil in many cities in Europe are declared outlaws. Since they are whores, indecent, etc… they can be harassed, after all they are whores aren’t they? So, in a perverse way the man is more and more pressured to impose a veil unto his wife, so that he can rest assured that she will not be harrassed on the street. So, finally the wife puts on the veil – in many cases because she wants to please her husband … mission accomplished, at least concerning the fundamentalist self-declared hatemongers of the so-called true Islam. That’s in a nutshell how it works. And anybody who has some understanding of how social pressure works (especially in closed communities, who are afraid of the outside world and have a (economic) minority position in society) and is willing to open his eyes can see that that is how it works.

    It is not a typical Islam thing, far from that. I could give a hundred similar examples from the Catholic, protestant and other cultural realms. Just think of how our mothers had to fight for their rights.

  15. Mark

    Risto

    I admire your passion for women’s rights, especially for Muslim women’s rights.

    – “If women do not wear the veil they are perceived as indecent, unmarried, not obeying the rules of a certain interpretation of Islam, wild women, as whores …”

    Really? Have you been living with the Taliban a bit too long? Let’s remember, the vast majority of Muslim women in the West (and we were talking about Europe after all) do not wear the veil. Do you really think the consensus opinion among Muslim men in the west is as you describe? Me thinks not.

    – “That’s it in a nutsell’.

    Hihihihihi! Me thinks not.

    – “And anybody who has some understanding of how social pressure works (especially in closed communities, who are afraid of the outside world and have a (economic) minority position in society) and is willing to open his eyes can see that that is how it works.”

    Hey, Risto, we are all subject to social pressures, some strong, some not so strong, so we don’t necessarily have to have lived in ‘closed’ communities, whatever that means, to be able to understand what might make a woman wear a veil.

    What you do not seem to ‘understand’ or offer as balance is the alternate views of Muslim women for why they choose to wear a veil (and there are several kinds remember). In the same way that you might feel naked walking around in your underpants, some women feel naked walking around without a veil. Rather than attacking that as backward, it might be helpful to understand that it’s a perfectly legitimate feeling, and one that is no different in kind to the one that stops you from walking around in your underpants.

    And by the way, it was women who largely fought for the rights of women, so let’s not be taking any credit for that, my male friend. 🙂

  16. Marymekko

    When I have Muslim men on my tourbus in San Francisco, they somehow always get around to the question of sex, gender equality, women in their countries vs. mine, women driving (since I am driving a big bus…), etc. etc. They may want to know my opinion, but mostly, they want me to know theirs, which is that Western women are far too loose and they’re scared and intimidated by such societies. They can’t handle “equality”, much as some of the Catholic school boys were told to be very careful of girls. Girls feared the boys, too.

    What can I say? As a woman, I think these guys, often educated and well-off, are like laughable boys, whose parents never let them go out on their own or move out of the house. It’s a society where behaviors are wrapped up in fear, much as in old Europe when CAtholicism predominated. An obsession with sex as evil becomes foremost, throbbing! Women become the source of the evil since they tempt these poor uncontrollable men.

    Some day, perhaps they’ll all advance, probably because women there will push for change. SEcondly, they’re all inundated with Western influence through books, films and INternet. No one in the world can resist the onslaught, unless they live in squalid villages with no electricity, as in darkest AFrica.

    Meanwhile, as long as their men stay wrapped up in long dressing gowns, any untoward erections and other urges they can’t control can stay better hidden than wearing Western male pants. So if both the women and men stick to their traditional loose flapping garb, they’ll all be better off as far as too much titillation is concerned. Not to mention the heat!!!!

  17. Risto

    1) “Have you been living with the Taliban a bit too long?”
    2) ” Let’s remember, the vast majority of Muslim women in the West (and we were talking about Europe after all) do not wear the veil.”
    3) “Do you really think the consensus opinion among Muslim men in the west is as you describe?”

    1)Do not try to belittle me. I live in a neighborhood in Brussels, a multicultural neigborhood and I really like living there. 90% is of foreign background. I never talked about Taliban, I talked about backward ideas… I also talked about Saadawi remember.
    2)Not in my neighborhood, not any more.
    3) I never talked about or implied anything about any consensus. I talked about community pressure. Apart from that: yes, I think that most Muslim men in my neighbourhood have certain – very doeep-rooted, as such nothing to do with Islam, all the more with patriarchism –
    ideas about how awoman should be, act, speak, look like and so on.

  18. Risto

    “In the same way that you might feel naked walking around in your underpants, some women feel naked walking around without a veil. Rather than attacking that as backward, it might be helpful to understand that it’s a perfectly legitimate feeling, and one that is no different in kind to the one that stops you from walking around in your underpants.”

    Walking around in underpants is not the same as walking around with your hair uncovered.

  19. Mark

    Risto

    – “walking around in underpants is not the same as walking around with your hair uncovered.”

    Why? Because in your culture one thing is the norm and the other isn’t, perhaps?

    As a biologist, I can see absolutely no difference between legs and hair in terms of simply ‘parts of the body’.

    You know, there is an irony in your argument here, that covering up parts of the body isn’t ‘normal’ and it’s all about men oppressing women. It happens that, men, generally, wear more clothes and cover up more than women in the West. Have a look at the TV or films and note the level of ‘dress’ of men and women. Women reveal more – men reveal less. In fact, unbutton your shirt half way down to your cleavage and chances are, you would feel a bit ‘undressed’ and someone almost certainly would say something to you about it, especially if you had a medallion hanging around your neck! 🙂

    It’s all arbitrary to me, but that doesn’t mean I don’t respect it, or at least respect the feelings of those that follow dress codes.

    It’s all too convenient to say it’s about gender oppression.Risto, many of the opinions that Muslim men have about women that you attack are attitudes well entrenched among western men, even today. Patriarchy is alive and well, my friend, and not only that, but it is also in part maintained specifically by women, many of whom benefit greatly relative to other women.

    For Muslim men, attitudes about women’s behaviour it is also about showing respect to women, regarding them as many ways superior to men, morally. This ‘elevation’ is also true of Christian and western culture, so to attack it specifically in Muslim culture may leave you open to the charge of hypocracy.

    Criticisms of cultural habits are of course part of any social community. We need critics, people who can show a mirror to us to reveal our hypocracies. But there is a fine line between cultural criticism and racism when it comes to criticising a foreign culture. The question is one of balance. I’m especially suspicious of people who paint a black and white picture of us, the reformers, and them the ‘backward’ natives.

    Risto – aren’t you a little bit suspicious of this ‘gender narrative’ that says Western men must rescue foreign women from their male oppressors? Is our prize to keep them for ourselves and breed with them? 😉

  20. Mark

    Mary Mekko

    – “An obsession with sex as evil becomes throbbing…Meanwhile, as long as their men stay wrapped up in long dressing gowns, any untoward erections and other urges they can’t control can stay better hidden than wearing Western male pants.

    Gosh, you should write porn, my dear! Talented, you are!

    Almost everyone (men and women) wants you to know their opinion before they want to know yours. Sorry, my dear, that is not a stick to beat men with, or even foreign men.

    If these men are telling you that they are scared and intimidated by western women and societies, I have to say, then maybe they are excellent examples of ‘new men’, able to share their fears and anxieties, even with a stranger driving a bus! 🙂

    So, you are a woman who thinks that men who are scared, uncertain about social change, and are able to articulate it verbally to you are ‘laughable boys’. And you continue, saying that the reason is these men have not been allowed out into society by their parents – now if you were talking about women in that situation, we wouldn’t be referring to them as ‘laughable girls’, we’d be talking about them as ‘the oppressed’.

    – “Some day, perhaps they’ll all advance, probably because women there will push for change.”

    Yes, because men are just ‘laughable boys’, after all. Ever heard of the word ‘misandry’?

  21. Risto

    @Mark: 1) I do not attack anybody; 2) don’t “friend” me, it’s belittling; 3) I recognize that patrarchial thinking is as entrenched in western cultrures as it is in others, so I do not get your point about me being hypocritical; 4) the breeding thing: stop suggesting things and stick to the facts.

  22. Mark

    Who am I attacking? I’m not attacking you. I’m trying to bring some balance and perspective to your comments. I don’t have to ‘belittle’ you, you do that for yourself perfectly fine already. 🙂 I didn’t call you hypocritical, I said you open yourself to that charge. I’m trying to show you where your arguments are weak. I’m not saying there is no basis to your arguments, only that without some proper perspective, they are naive at best and hypocritical at worst. Take it or leave it. Facts? It is a fact that when men typically get into gender politics they like to take over in their typical ‘heroic’ way, by trying to save the day, whether that’s by slagging off that horror of horrors, masculinity, or muscling in and telling the world what ‘women’ really want, need or are forced to do. How about we leave just a little room for women to have a voice to, and to actually listen respectfully to that voice. I tend to give as much respect as i think is being given. In your case, I don’t think you respect the views of Muslim women who want to wear the veil – in fact, you make out the only reason they wear it is ‘oppression’ from men. As noble as I’m sure you think you are, I see you as silencing the voice of women by stating it like this. I’m not saying there are not elements of oppression in Islamic cultures, but there are equally oppressive elements in Western cultures too, the low paid service sector, health sector and child care sector being obvious examples where women are ‘oppressed’ by having their work valued less than more male dominated industries or service sectors. My advice to you my friend is just to take a moment to ask yourself ‘is it really the way I say it is?’ And then to qualify sensibly your comments. Then I won’t have to ‘befriend’ you and get shit from you for doing it. 🙂

  23. JusticeDemon

    Mark

    As a good rule of thumb, I tend to begin with the points of reform that are already live issues within a culture that is not (or not yet substantially) my own.

    It is nowadays common consensus that Finland was not human rights aware in the 1970s, and it was not really until the authors of publications like Oikeutta ulkomaalaisille came through the system that we could begin to speak of any kind of human rights culture in our legal and administrative system. Nevertheless it was clear at the time of that publication that some Finnish lawyers were pushing a human rights agenda in relation to foreigners and immigrants. Key issues like the right of individuals to be consulted before a decision is taken that affects their legal status has been placed on the agenda already, and I felt much more comfortable pushing for reforms of this kind in the knowledge that people within the culture were similarly lobbying for change.

    As my Finnish improved, I became increasingly adept at promoting administrative and legal reforms in my adopted home, and even came up with a few original proposals of my own, at least two of which were eventually adopted.

    There IS a debate within Greater Islam about the veil, and a very considerable majority of Moslems in the West now feel that this is a matter of individual and personal choice. There is something highly objectionable in the conduct of obvious outsiders who insist that all veil wearing must be due to coercion when those outsiders have no interest at all in active engagement with Islam or with the religious traditions of the Middle-East in general.

    It is certainly NOT the case that ALL veil wearing is due to coercion, but veil bans enforced by fines are ALWAYS and necessarily coercive.

    I really wonder how many veil wearers were consulted before these bans were enacted, and whether the degree of consultation was sufficient to justify such an obviously targeted coercive measure. It’s not about face covering as such. Skiers and motorcyclists do this all the time. It’s about government interference in modes of cultural self-expression for the sole purpose of political point scoring.

    Anyway, it will be interesting to read the explanations of the French government when this question reaches ECtHR.

  24. Mark

    JD

    – “It is certainly NOT the case that ALL veil wearing is due to coercion, but veil bans enforced by fines are ALWAYS and necessarily coercive.”

    An excellent point, JD.

    – “It’s about government interference in modes of cultural self-expression for the sole purpose of political point scoring.”

    Quite. Politicians have absolutely no right prescribing cultural norms of dress in this way. In a relativist space, one can argue that the entire criminal code is based on ‘cultural norms’, but underlying the modern justice system is the basis of individual human rights, as you point out. This kind of legislation moves away from a human rights framework and instead gives politicians a remit to prescribe on cultural artefacts that have absolutely no impact on the rights of others. Opression is absolutely a red herring here, as this is being pushed by politicians that have shown they are perfectly capable of ‘oppressing’ minority groups, as the shipping out of Roma from France perfectly illustrates.

    Nice to hear about your efforts and impact in terms of legislation protecting the rights of foreigners. Very interesting, and good to hear from someone with some actual direct experience of the law-making process.

  25. eyeopener

    Hi guys. Why don’t we look inside our own society. I find the new trend that I like to coin as “the hooligan burqah” far more distrubing than the veil of Muslim women.
    Does not the saying goes: “It is easier the see the mote inone’s brother eye but not to see the beam in own’s own”

    To avoid inequality: I suggest that a law is issued to ban the wearing of the hoods of hooded jackets and baseball caps in public. One clause in this law should aggrevate the penalty when wearing a shawl covering at least the mouth. Especially it should be forbidden to wear these attributes when appearing in court.

    A tax should be implied on the sale of these attributes to allow the government the finance of a special police force that will supervise the correct way of clothing in public and in public organizations.

    Something for you here??

    • Enrique

      –Hi guys. Why don’t we look inside our own society. I find the new trend that I like to coin as “the hooligan burqah” far more distrubing than the veil of Muslim women.

      Excellent idea!

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