Lack of opinion (to ban or not to ban)

It doesn’t happen often, but occasionally I do not have a clear opinion. Really! Right now the only issue that comes to my mind upon which I’m undecided is:

Should the burqa be legally banned?

(I’m leaving the legal small print about whether I mean here or in Belgium, state-wide or local, &c, OK so no nitpicking)

Pro: I don’t like to see anybody wear them

Con: Unfortunately for me (and the general public), not liking something is not a basis for banning something. I also don’t like fat woman wearing spandex leggings, British men wearing nothing but shorts in summer, and chavs wearing… everything that chavs wear. The argument I read that in one Belgian town women wearing burqas were stopped by police because passers-by found them ‘annoying’ or ‘upsetting’ doesn’t sound like an argument to me.

Pro: It’s a signal of oppression to women

Con: The main problem here is that women who wear them fall into two categories. The ones that have been so brainwashed that they truly believe that they are wearing them out of free will, and the ones that are under so much pressure by their male relatives/spouses that they will claim to be wearing them out of free will. So trying to go this route doesn’t get one very far.

It’s like asking children if they are abused by their parents – you get the same two groups as above and no child will readily admit that their parents are abusing them.

(In my opinion this is really the same issue as with muslims wearing ‘ just’ headscarves except that these are less noticeable, but this would be too long a discussion here)

Pro: It’s a signal of religious fundamentalism/religious symbol

Con: Unfortunately, we live in a free society where everybody can follow any religion they like, however fundamentalist, as long as they don’t enforce it onto others.

But: Definitely true when it comes to public roles, where the state (at least on the continent) is bound by its constitution to be non-religious. You can’t have a police officer or judge wear religious symbols; what faith would a muslim have in a fair trial if (s)he takes a christian to court and the presiding judge is wearing a big fat cross around their neck?

We’ve had court cases here in the UK on a related issue – public sector christians who refused to marry gay couples. They’ve been resoundingly slapped down by courts forcing them to follow the law and not let their religions get in the way of their work.

Pro: It makes people impossible to identify. It’s a public safety issue.

Con: Only true in cases where you indeed have to identify yourself. In France apparently even when you withdraw money from a bank but come on, how often do we need to be recognisable? What about all these hoodies? I can grow a beard and dye my hair, too. This to me is a ‘technical’ reason, not a ‘real’ one.

Pro: it’s a health issue (vitamin D and all that)

Con: bikinis and UV

Con: It’s against freedom of religion/it’s islamophobic.

Pro/neutral: Freedom of religion ends where other, more important, freedoms begin. Whether women’s equality, public safety and the secularity of state are less important is up for debate.

It is my personal opinion that as long as in islamic countries women are forced not to wear short skirts, muslims have no grounds to complain if they are similarly forced to not wear something ‘here in the west’. I know that most religions have difficulties understanding they are not special, though, and they usually also have no problem with the asymmetry of claiming all their rights (under ‘freedom for our religion’ claims) whilst denying others theirs (under ‘freedom for our religion’ claims).

It’s not really about the burqa is it?

The real problem isn’t with the burqa, it’s what it represents. Shaving your head, wearing a bomber jacket and waving English flags isn’t bad in itself either (and isn’t prohibited, and won’t be, also in equivalent forms in Europe), it’s that it represents xenophobia, a penchant to fascism, and other signs of mental retardation.

On the flipside of the argument, it’s also not about the burqa but about people being scared of the perceived large number of muslims in europe and the islamisation of western society.

How to go about it?

So I can’t think of an easy solution to this problem – I actually think there isn’t one else we would have found it by now.

But I do think a solution might be found in carefully looking at how we deal with related problems, such as far right political views, and nationalism.


4 thoughts on “Lack of opinion (to ban or not to ban)

  1. Hello you!

    Well, I didn’t read the whole arguments you have, but I would simply say that every country has to keep its customs, religions and so on…. I am not against the burqa, really not, and I have no problem wearing it when I’m in the countries where it’s required; but here, in Belgium and France, I think it’s maybe not a bad idea to forbid them.

    You write really nicely, should come here more often!

  2. Pingback: Tweets that mention Lack of opinion (to ban or not to ban) « Same shit, different blog --

  3. Well, a balaclava (bivakmuts), which only leaves the eyes visible, is also forbidden to wear in public (at least in some countries). The burka/niqaab has the exact same effect. Of course, there is freedom of religion, but that freedom stops once you break the law.

    In the Netherlands, I think it’s not a law but regulated by the municipalities. Zie bv deze algemene plaatselijke verordening (Maastricht):

    Artikel 2.4.26 Maskers, vermommingen e.d.
    1. Onverminderd het bepaalde in artikel is het zonder vergunning van de burgemeester verboden zich op de weg of openbaar water of op een andere voor het publiek toegankelijke plaats te vertonen, gemaskerd, vermomd of op enige andere wijze onherkenbaar gemaakt.
    2. Het in het eerste lid gestelde verbod geldt niet van carnavalszondag na 12.00 uur tot de daaropvolgende woensdag te 02.00 uur.
    3. Hij, die zich op de in het tweede lid bedoelde dagen gemaskerd of anderszins vermomd, vertoont, is verplicht op eerste vordering van een ambtenaar van politie zich van zijn masker of andere vermomming te ontdoen.

  4. @Ann-Sofie: glad you like it here :), yes, do drop by more often. And leave comments, it livens up this place :).

    I agree with you that personally, I’d prefer it banned. Just that I disagree with specifically banning burqas and suchlike religious outfits.
    As lelijkebaas points out, it would be far better to cover this (excusez-moi le pun) under the laws/regulations that govern public safety.

    @lelijkebaas: interesting point, and it means that for most Dutch towns it’s unnecessary to ban the burqa – all they need to do is introduce a public space safety section to their local decrees. Makes me wonder about the fuss the PVV were making (in Almere and The Hague, right?) – totally unnecessary it seems.

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