Saturday, 14 November 2009

Bans & Burqas

With this subject Nuts & Reasons finds itself in something of a quandary. It is not sure which it dislikes most, the burqa or talk of an arbitrary government ban on it. This arises from a recent report in the Daily Telegraph (12/11/2009) which revisits the topic of burqa-wearing in France,  home to the biggest European muslim minority, and the ongoing debate on whether a legal ban is needed to avoid the undermining of the secular state. At least some of the momentum for this topic seems to be provided by Sarkozy's personal dislike of the burqa which he categorises as a sign of women's "subservience" and  "not welcome" in France.  This presumably feeds into the secular state argument because it assumes that  the woman under the veil is actually "subservient" to the extent that she is  unable or unwilling to play her full part in a secular society due to her religious beliefs or family pressures. This assumption may well be justified but banning the veil, as well as being an infringement on the basic liberty to wear what one pleases, would surely not alter a lifetime's indoctrination one whit. 

In France the burqa is already banned in Government Offices, Colleges and Schools. There is surely no objection to this being extended to any employment situation which calls for efficient communication and good relationships with colleagues or members of the public, or on safety grounds where flowing garments or lack of vision could pose a personal danger to the wearer. These are valid reasons. The only state input needed here is to ensure that employers who insist on these conditions would not be liable for court action on the grounds of religious discrimination. Otherwise the state should not interfere.  If, due to cultural pressures, muslim women continue to wear the burqa in other situations against their true inclinations, some other means of intercession should be found. Perhaps for example a targetted government advertising campaign. One hopes that, in any case, the more extreme aspects of immigant islam, exposed to western culture, will gradually wither away with succeeding generations.  In this respect the banning of burqas in schools was surely a significant step. 

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