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Burqa Ban Passes Big Hurdle in France

July 13, 2010

“Ladies, show us your faces!”  By an overwhelming vote of 335-1, French lawmakers in the lower house of parliament have voted to ban the burqa and the niqab — the most extreme of the traditional Muslim costumes designed to conceal feminine pulchritude (virtually every square inch of it) from prying eyes. The French senate must still approve the bill before it becomes law, but the numbers garnered in the lower house practically assure a nationwide ban when the issue comes to the senate in September.  

Alien? Decidedly. Oppressive? Maybe. Illegal in France? Pretty soon.

Why all the fuss over Muslim women’s fashions? Does it really matter whether their wardrobes were designed by Givenchy or the House of Mohammed?

Most of us Westerners recoil slightly at the sight of a woman clad entirely in black from head to toe, with only a narrow slit over the eyes (or a mesh veil over the face) open to daylight. The burqa looks like a portable prison. So does the niqab.

When I see women walking the streets of Philadelphia encumbered with such preposterous outerwear on a broiling summer day, I want to shout at them, “Free yourself! You’re in America now!” But of course, most of those women were born in America, and probably the majority of them wear their portable prisons voluntarily.

That’s the angle the French may have overlooked in their zeal to ban the burqa (and an astonishing 82 percent of the French people approve of the ban). The world’s fundamentalist Muslim men have earned themselves a mostly-deserved reputation as oppressors of their womenfolk, but I’ve also read that many Muslim women wear their black tents freely and proudly. Why should any government be entitled to tell them how to dress? How can any reasonable government impose fines on Muslims simply for dressing like Muslims?

If Europe wants to stem the tide of Islamicization, it should focus a little less on women’s garments and a little more on the alarming rise of militant Islam in its midst — including death threats against cartoonists and sharia law courts in Great Britain and elsewhere. Remarkably and somewhat ominously, the British don’t seem to be putting up much resistance to these harsh medieval judiciaries popping up in their kingdom. Churchill would be appalled. A nation must operate under one set of laws for all its citizens, or it is no longer one nation.

13 Comments leave one →
  1. Priscilla permalink
    July 13, 2010 10:22 pm

    I remember the first time I saw a woman wearing a burqa – it was at a back-to-school night at the high school that my kids attended. I remember having an almost visceral reaction of anger and disgust – how dare this woman walk around an American public school – my kids’school! – parading her awful subservience? I have subsequently softened my opinion a bit…I got to thinking about how, as a child, I used to love to see nuns in their habits, and recalled that part of the reason that they wore them was to hide their feminine form and hair as a sign of their consecration to God. Some similarities there, I guess. Nevertheless, I am not surprised at the near universal approval of this French ban.

    But you are right – why focus on the easy, but ultimately pointless and discriminatory, act of banning a style of dress, while far more ominous signs of Islamist incursion are showing up all over Europe? I hope that it’s a sign that the French are not about to go down the same dhmmi route that the English are traveling…..but it probably has more to do with their obsession with style and fashion 😉

  2. July 14, 2010 10:50 am

    Priscilla: What surprised me was how nearly unanimous the vote was in France: 335 out of 336 representatives voted for the ban. That’s incredible, and it tells me there’s more to this issue from the French perspective than women hiding their faces or parading their subservience to men. Yes, I’m sure the burqa grates against French fashion aesthetics, but I think there are two big elephants in the room.

    First elephant: France has become a very secular (even atheistic) society; the churches have been virtually abandoned and the French don’t want to see religion — any religion — making a roaring comeback.

    Second elephant: with the Muslim population at 10% and growing, the French understandably want some control over the parallel (and alien) culture rising in their midst. They probably see the ban as a first step toward integrating the Muslims into French culture.

    Of course, the question remains: How can a government tell its citizens what to wear without becoming destructive of individual liberties? France has already banned certain political opinions (e.g., Holocaust denial) from being expressed. And this is just the start.

    By the way, I just saw somewhere on the Internet that only about 2000 French Muslim women currently wear the burqa.

  3. Priscilla permalink
    July 14, 2010 8:31 pm

    Yes, I’m sure you are right about both elephants. It’s sort of typical of the French that they would think that outlawing the burqa would actually enhance assimilation, as opposed to just pissing off the entire Muslim population…..sort of like they think that banning English slang from their dictionaries will actually keep people from using it.

    I do think that the fear of radical Islam is so great that many are willing to subvert individual liberties in order to suppress its rise. Scary stuff – on both sides…..

  4. valdobiade permalink
    July 15, 2010 12:52 pm

    Rick wrote: Of course, the question remains: How can a government tell its citizens what to wear without becoming destructive of individual liberties?

    Rick, I lived in France for almost 2 years in 1990 and Muslims were at their home in France. As you know a lot of Muslims from former French colonies in Africa got their independence and started to come in France. For what I know, France has given a lot freedom of religion to Muslims, more freedom than England, Italy, Germany and ex-Communist countries.
    Let’s not criticize France for the simple fact that burqua is totally primitive and oppressive part of Muslim religion, and France has to say “enough is enough”.
    I would be safe if I see nuns, as Priscilla pointed out: “I used to love to see nuns in their habits”, but let’s get serious: would you be safe in a room with people having their faces covered? It would look like hold-up than a religious gathering.
    It is said that Osama bin Laden actually shaved his beard and run in burqa. Who dared to tell Osama to show his face by “destroying” his individual liberty?
    How can a free society feel safe if there is the “liberty” to hide your identity?

  5. Priscilla permalink
    July 16, 2010 9:20 am

    Good point, Valdo – the whole aspect of the burqa concealing the wearer’s identity is what makes it seem so evil and creepy. It’s very difficult to stand for someone’s “liberty” when that person may want you dead, and you don’t even know who they are. Maybe a willingly submissive and oppressed housewife, maybe a terrorist……….

  6. valdobiade permalink
    July 16, 2010 1:14 pm

    Priscilla wrote: Good point, Valdo – the whole aspect of the burqa concealing the wearer’s identity is what makes it seem so evil and creepy.

    Thanks Priscilla, and by the way, I used to hate France for giving so much liberty to Muslims that came from Africa and part of Asia and Turkey. Still they were moderate Muslims, but now France is unfairly criticized for not letting “hardcore” Muslim from Taliban and other Muslim “orthodox” regions to come to France and wear burqua. It is like criticizing the government for not giving the “liberty” for Catholics to burn heretics at stake.
    Rick, we are moderates, aren’t we?

  7. July 16, 2010 2:40 pm

    Great analogy, Valdo. Freedom of religion has to stop where its free expression would oppress others. (And I’d have to agree that burning at the stake is a form of oppression.) We definitely have to place limits on religions that come with their own built-in set of laws. I still can’t believe that the Archbishop of Canterbury came out in favor of sharia courts in Britain. To me, that’s liberalism at its most ostentatious and feeble-minded. I’d have a choice unprintable word for him, and Churchill probably would, too.

  8. valdobiade permalink
    July 16, 2010 3:52 pm

    OK, OK, burning at stake was way off. I’ll settle for an analogy with freedom to reintroduce sellilng indulgences and not paying taxes. Well… I don’t know how oppressive it would be, but in this economy every cent counts for the believers…

    About the Archbishop of Canterbury… it’s not him making the laws after all. He’s just arguing that: “I tried to show how open our religion is, unlike French Catholic or French government… ” even if he may have his fingers crossed…

    (By the way, it is there still a difference between English Church and French Church, I mean in regard to Catholicism?)

    • July 16, 2010 6:16 pm

      Valdo, I wasn’t being cynical: I honestly thought you made a great analogy. Granted, burning at the stake is extreme, but setting up religious courts that punish women for wearing makeup is only a little less extreme. The point is that we can’t allow religious groups to import their own laws into their host countries. One nation, one set of laws (though I know the individual states have their own laws — it gets complicated).

  9. valdobiade permalink
    July 19, 2010 12:50 pm

    Rick, when I discussed your article about burqa and that situation in France, I was more concerned about the fact that religions have archaic aspects that want to be implemented in these modern times at the risk of creating insecure environments.
    I was not against burqa because it is oppressive, but because it does not help to feel secure in these times when Muslim religion is still a radical religion. Burqa is not necessarily oppressive for women who may believe that burqa help them spirituals or otherwise, but they have to understand that bringing burqa, an archaic element of their religion which is not wide spread or important aspect for the majority of the Muslims in a modern society, it doesn’t help to feel safe. It is ridiculous that banning burqa is seen as cutting the “liberty” of Muslim religion instead of being seen as device to hide identity.
    I was hinting at burning at stake and indulgences, archaic aspects of Catholic church, that were removed in time without hurting the Catholic faith as a way for Muslims to find a solution for burqa and still keep their faith. I don’t think that making burqa a thing of the past will annihilate the Muslim faith. I think that fighting for the right to wear burqa in a modern society, will alienate Muslim further in their quest to show that Muslim is a religion of peace or at least be able to survive in a free society.

  10. July 20, 2010 5:08 pm

    Let’s look at this from a different angle — What do you want to bet, after looking at these women, the French gov’t asks them to put them back on?

    • Priscilla permalink
      July 20, 2010 10:49 pm

      Haha. Best. Comment. Evah.

    • valdobiade permalink
      July 21, 2010 8:24 pm

      … to put them back on because the French gov’t wants to take only one picture for identity card that is good for all Muslim women? 🙂

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