Outlawing The Burqa, Ctd

Shikha Dalmia, an atheist raised Hindu in India, smacks Hitchens around: Despite years of sectarian bloodletting [between Muslims and Hindus], if Indians…take a benign view of the burqa, it is hardly because they are inherently more rational. It is because their secularism has been shaped by India's dominant religion–Hinduism–whose non-monotheistic ethos allows the space for … Continue reading Outlawing The Burqa, Ctd

Outlawing The Burqa, Ctd


The campaign isn't confined to France. In Australia, an armed robber who used a burqa as a disguise has kicked up a political storm. In Belgium, the lower house of parliament recently voted 136-0 to outlaw veiled garments. In Italy, where face-covering has been illegal but unenforced since the '70s, a woman was just fined for the very first time. Alex Wilhelm wades through the debate:

For the Italian woman mentioned above, the fine for her attire (a steep 500 Euro) is the least of her concerns. Her husband has decided that if she cannot wear the burqa outside, then she cannot go outside. The woman is now effectively under house arrest for committing no crime. She will not be able to go outside to take a morning walk or an evening stroll. Her sentence is life in prison. […B]anning the burqa as an ancient hulking relic of sexism can backfire and take away what modicum of freedom that these women had enjoyed previously.

Below is more commentary and firsthand experiences from readers. One writes:

I am a modern, liberal, Muslim woman who has never worn a scarf on my head, let alone burqa. There is nothing Islamic or religious about it.

Outlawing The Burqa, Ctd


This thread has quickly taken off. A reader writes:

I work in a public library in a very large American city and have encountered several women in a burqa at the reference desk.  Immediately I am struck by how our culture is not set up for a woman to be almost completely covered like that. I am a woman, and have found myself several times by myself at the reference desk trying to converse with another woman, who happens to be veiled.  The veil made it difficult to hear these women since it covered their mouths. It occurred to me this burqa is not designed for a free society where women are allowed and actually expected to speak for themselves.  Body language communication was impossible to read from these veiled women which is such a huge part of conversing, almost as big as the words actually said.

Another writes:

Last week I encountered a person in a burqa in my crowded suburban Baltimore supermarket. I hadn't realized how much of our public interactions require "feedback" of one sort or another.  Even the minor "excuse me" requires some sort of feedback to properly "read" the other. When I moved closer, I was able to make eye contact and so complete the social dance.  Ironically, this moving closer required me to invade her social space.

Is all this discomfort important enough to outlaw? Of course not. In time with more interactions like this it will become easier to read the other. I will become fluent in reading "Burqa".  This is however a large problem if there is segregation like with Muslims in France.  However can you become fluent enough in other cultures and so adapt to one another in the public space if you have no experience with one another?


Let me respectfully disagree with your views. The burqa has nothing to do with religious freedom or a woman's "choice" or any of that crap.  It is a form of subjugation.  It is a way to reinforce the notion that women are dangerous and that they belong to men.  It says "you are allowed out of the house only if no one can see you.  Only if you are invisible." It is akin to wearing chains.  

Outlawing The Burqa, Ctd


The Economist explains why the French left supports the ban. The magazine's final paragraph:

Conseil d’Etat, the highest administrative court, has expressed worries about the legal grounds for a ban. If passed, Mr Copé says that it will apply not only to French Muslims, but to visitors from the Middle East too. Would such women be fined while doing their shopping on the Champs-Elysées? How can the government be sure that a woman is wearing the burqa under orders from her menfolk? Would it not lead to their further isolation, as they felt unable to venture out of the home? If that were indeed the upshot, it would be paradoxical for a law designed in part to ensure equality for women.

I have to say this encroaches too far on religious liberty for me. I find the burqa repulsive for any number of reasons, and the subjugation of women it represents appalling. But freedom for me is a more important value. I do not want to live in a society where such things are banned. It means that other things can be banned for the good of others. And we're not French, are we? A reader puts this a little more colorfully:

I get really pissed when people say a woman in America, or any other western country, should be banned from wearing anything she frickin feels like wearing. When I was a youth I had piercings, a mohawk, I wore doc martens and tried my best to look as scary as possible. I was punk rock, baby, and I loved it. And if anyone told me not to wear what I wanted, well I didn't give a shit. I was expressing my rebellion when I wore those clothes for everyone to see. Woman in burqas, veils or whatever are expressing their relationship with their God, and by extension their society, and accepting whatever harsh treatment they receive because it it, just like me with my punk rock clothes.

How Many Burqa-Clad Women Brush Past Me?

A reader writes: A bunch. I live in the extremely multi-ethnic Uptown neighborhood of Chicago. The high-rise across the street from me has a large fundamentalist Muslim community living in it, and there are several dozen fully-veiled women who live in the building. I run into them at the bus stop, the grocery store, McDonald’s … Continue reading How Many Burqa-Clad Women Brush Past Me?

On That Religious Freedom Question …

It might be worth asking various figures on the evangelical right if they are outraged by the decision today by the European Court of Human Rights to uphold the French ban on the public wearing of the full-face veil: At the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France, judges said the ban was a … Continue reading On That Religious Freedom Question …