Monday, 26 July 2010

Ban The Burka?

I didn't comment at the time because I was on a blogging break, but I think it's now time to say my bit on the recent move in France to ban the wearing of the burka.

I have read lots of arguments supporting the ban. The main one seems to be that it's a symbol of the oppression of women. I've also heard the argument that, as it isn't actually prescribed by the Qur'an, the burka should not be seen as an expression of religious observance.

It is true that there may be some women who aren't given a choice as to whether or not they wear a burka. However, I do know that there are women who actively choose this attire. There is a parallel in the wearing of a mantilla in church - an argument against it is that it is a symbol of the Church's oppression of women. I disagree: I understand the wearing of the mantilla to be a sign of reverence and humility before God, and I feel intensely uncomfortable without a mantilla in church. If the burka is being worn for a similar reason, then that freedom of expression should not be taken away.

I think that making the burka illegal is a dangerous route to follow. I wear a crucifix and miraculous medal quite openly over my rollneck jumpers. It is not "required" by the teachings of the Church, however, I would be extremely upset if I were told that I could not wear these symbols of my faith openly, because they might offend someone else's views on what is oppressive.

Today, the burka is being banned. Tomorrow it will be the mantilla, and the day after it will be the crucifix... and then, maybe priests will not be allowed to wear clerical collars in public...

We need to stand up for the right to dress according to our beliefs.

(I might not be expressing myself as clearly as I'd like because of the painkillers I'm on... apologies for the - greater than usual - incoherence!)

16 comments:

Left-Footer said...

I agree totally in principle, but worry about the disguise the burka might afford a male terrorist or robber.
Banks ban the wearing of crash helmets for the same reason.

Seraphic Spouse said...

The burka, unlike the mantilla or the hijab, is a threat to the general public. It makes some of the people faceless and thus totally alien to those around them. It provides opportunities to men disguised as niqab-wearing women to commit crimes and to penetrate women-only spaces like the WC. (These things have happened, believe me.) It is a slap in the face of civil society.

Seeing one another's face has been THE basis for civil society in the West for millenia. Upper class women may have occasionally worn veils, but not as a matter of course.

I am sure some Muslim women don the extreme of pious fashion to get maximum domestic power in the only way they can--by being more religious and self-sacrificing and anti-West than thou. But I don't see why civil society should allow this, since it so obviously tears at social cohesion.

It should be against the law to cover your face in public. No bandanas. No ski-masks. No burkas. No niqab. It's not about religion. It's about civilisation.

I don't think the women who wrap up their faces in the streets of Edinburgh are oppressed. I think they're making a major power grab. They're like Goths, or chavs who wander around in S&M costumes.

Adele said...

I'm with Seraphic spouse on this one, although I believe that the religion in question is a vile religion and is seriously oppressive and viciously to women. See the Stoning of Soraya M and the women being stoned in Iran now or on death row.

Adele said...

Oops... seriously and viciously oppressive to women...

Victoria said...

If your mantilla or your crucifix or a priest's clerical collar covered the whole of the face then I would support a ban on them. I don't have a problem with the scarf which covers the head or the yards of material worn even on the hottest summer day (I am talking Australia here! lol) but total face covering should be banned for reasons outlined by other posters.

Stealth Jew said...

But surely covering your face is incompatible in a western society in a way that wearing a crucifix is not? Covering ones face makes normal societal interaction difficult. Is any type of dress appropriate, so long as it's according to some belief or another?

Patricius said...

"We need to stand up for the right to dress according to our beliefs."
Well...yes- up to a point and I love to see the elegant head scarves worn by, I think, Iranian women, but the complete face mask with eye-slits is quite scary to chaps of a nervous disposition like myself. Indeed I have a lot of sympathy with shopkeepers who refuse to serve young men in hoods.

catholicofthule said...

Like Left-Footer I also agree in principle but have concerns about the security aspect.

Now, I do not like the burka and the practice of covering one's face, but obviously do not think that anything at all should be banned on the basis that I, or others, may simply not like it. In fact, I have an even greater dislike for banning things people may desire to wear out of religious conviction. This may very well be because I know how important it is for me to be able to wear my mantilla in church or my crucifix/cross, religious medals anywhere. And I think it would simply be wrong to ban the burka on the basis that it is perceived as a symbol of oppression and may also be enforced in some instances, or that the public square should be 'neutral' (which really means some kind of stronghold of atheism/agnosticism, as if that were the neutral position).

However, the security aspect gives me pause for thought. I don't know if the security aspect weighs heavily enough to justify a banning, but it seems to me at least a reasonable concern.

Shepherd said...

A female Westerner in Saudi Arabia (and many other Muslim countries for that matter)would not be permitted to wear shorts or even a skirt. They HAVE to dress in a Black abeya, from head to toe. When in Rome?
The same applies to men, we are not allowed to wear shorts in public in Riyadh, for example.
The veil is a dangerous element that creates a physical separation from the remainder of the British population. It has profound security issues attached to it and (get this) it is a sumbol of inequality! A British male would not be permitted to walk down the High Street wearing a bandana across his face. Heaven forfend should he walk into a bank or petrol station thus attired.
Ban the burkha by all means. Ban it before it is too late and it becomes a symbol of Islam for all Muslim women.

Seraphic Spouse said...

I remember listening to a woman with an Asian accent on the BBC assuring the studio audience that the niqab debate was not about "covered faces." And the studio audience shouted back, "Yes, it is!"

As we so often hear, she also made references to Catholic nuns, seemingly ignoring the facts that few nuns A) wear wimples & veils at all now and B)that nuns do not now and have never covered their faces entirely.

I would certainly support a ban on those extremely odd wimples that blocked a nun's peripheral vision. Not having periperhal vision would make her a danger to others, expecially if she were driving.

Dominic Mary said...

Actually, as well as the security issue - and I am quite satisfied that it is a major and entirely legitimate concern - there is the point vaguely touched on by other posters : namely that western women in Islamic countries are not allowed to dress according to their custom.

It does seem to me that, as long as they insist on maintaining their cultural opinions over those of legitimate visitors, then the interests of justice suggest that a much more modest restraint on their choice of dress is not unreasonable.

Of course, one might advance another argument . . .

madame evangelista said...

I completely agree with Mulier Fortis on this. There could be security issues, but I don't think an outright ban is the answer. Unless I've missed something, none of the terrorist attacks planned but discovered, or carried out, in Britain so far have necessitated a covered face in the plot.

As for people covering their faces in general, there are of course cases where this is done for reasons that are not religious or criminal, for example, if someone wishes to conceal a disfigurement.

Dorothy said...

Most of us have heard the saying: "First they came for the Jews, and I did not speak up ... then they came for the trades unionists ..." and so on until "they came for me, and there was no one left to speak up for me"; but the security and crime-prevention aspects really seem to be the most important things, in these insecure times and in a country with an increasingly balkanised population.

I seem to recall that the full face covering is designed not so much as a symbol of the religion - though it is said to be that - as to prevent men from having lecherous thoughts about the woman.

I don't know if this is a problem among Moslem men, but as for men in the general population, they would surely hardly ever react in this way at the sight of a face. Whether male or female, beautiful or plain, in the normal routine of daily life the face identifies the person, and that's all there is to it.

Do Moslem women fear to have their faces seen by all men? Or only by Moslem men? It sems rather harsh to feel you have to hide your face every time you go shopping, just in case you are spotted by a male co-religionist.

mundabor said...

I allow myself to disagree.

The ban of the burka must be seen, in my eyes, in the light of the Christian Civilisation of which we are part.

To ban the burka today does not mean to ban the crucifix tomorrow. On the contrary, to ban the burka today means to make the crucifix safer on our necks and walls.

Granted, the secular forces might well attack symbols of Christianity; in part, they are already doing it. But then it is for Christians to fight against it *defending our Christian heritage* instead of claiming a parallel right to that of Muslim women to wear a burka.

We can't defend Christianity and think secular. Christians and Muslism symbols are *not* the same. They must *not* be treated equally. We must fight for our Christian heritage rather than protect the Muslim one.

gemoftheocean said...

Well, if they want to wander around in sheets and head covering, fine---to a point.

I draw the line at face covering in a public place. That puts all of us in danger. They've already caught terrorist type men trying to pass themselves off a Burka faced women, so to that I say "nuts to them, let them stay in their Moslem built hell holes if they want to go that far."

Count Dencula said...

Wear however much covering garb as you want, but leave your face open and visible.

We don't live in Saudi Arabia. We live in the West where faces are seen.

The niquab is in no way a parallel to a nun, a mantilla, a crucifix, or a Star of David.

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