Social Question

plethora's avatar

Should wearing of the burqa be banned? Consider this police video from Australia.

Asked by plethora (9570points) November 20th, 2010

I think wearing of the burqa for Muslim women should be banned in the US and in other western countries. But I have never seen more graphic evidence for it than this. Not only did the police officer not do what he was accused of doing, but the accuser was totally unidentifiable.

Burqa Bungle

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73 Answers

Seaofclouds's avatar

Where’s the video?

plethora's avatar

Its there now…sorry

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

I can’t the get vid to play anywhere on the site.

janbb's avatar

I just watched it. It’s a difficult issue of course, but I am really opposed to legislating against expressions of culture or religion in a free, pluralistic society. One case or even several does not override this basic principle for me. However, I do agree that a woman should have to show her face when asked to by an official.

Seaofclouds's avatar

No worries, that’s what I get for being bored on a Saturday evening.

I think that officer was lucky he had the camera to back up his side of things. I don’t think an all out ban is necessarily the right thing, but I think refusing to remove the burqa to prove your identity when requested should be something the person can get in trouble for (ticketed, arrested, or something along those lines).

Banning a burqa isn’t going to suddenly make everyone identifiable. Criminals wear ski masks and hooded sweatshirts to help hide their identity all the time, are we going to ban those things completely as well?

tigress3681's avatar

I do not at all agree with you on banning of any religious garments. In many countries the burqa (spelling?) is mandatory for enforcing modesty. This is not necessarily because no one wants to wear them. Many women choose to display modesty by donning burqas and other face covering fabrics.

plethora's avatar

Try this I tested the video on the site before posting and it worked. See if this helps.

iamthemob's avatar

Absolutely not. Freedom of religion is not absolute – certain religious practices are limited based on state marriage laws, animal cruelty, human rights, the best interests of the child, etc. It’s been established that officers can ask anyone for identification without any suspicion…and anything else needs a level of suspicion for further restraint or interrogation – therefore, there’s no need to ban the burqa, as anyone wearing one may be legally required, in the U.S., to remove it to prove identity.

In terms of principle, banning the burqa would be unconstitutional on its face as it targets a specific class of individuals. Why not ban all face coverings – and then what would Halloween be like?

the100thmonkey's avatar


Wearing the burqa is fine by me. One should be aware of the last line of the video: “it is permissible [for muslim women who believe they should wear the burqa] to reveal their face to a policeman, when requested”.

Kind of invalidates the argument. If the woman doesn’t want to reveal her face, she can be arrested for obstructing a police officer.

Moreover, this case is Australian. To make the argument for any other Western country is to overstep the very line you wish to draw. Hmm?

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

How odd I can’t get it to load on FireFox updated latest version. The page loads, but video box just stays white. I’ll try later on Chrome.

Joybird's avatar

Like hoodies in this culture a burqa makes identification difficult and it also increases the risk of weapon concealment. Add to this the idea that most people know there are interaction restrictions with a women who would be wearing a burqa and that insurgents and terrorists seem quite willing to use this knowledge against others and you have a prescription for women being forced to carry out terrorism under personal threat of harm to their families.

Linda_Owl's avatar

Considering that the burqua is not a part of the existing culture of the US, or Australia, or France, or Canada, ect. – then I think it is something that could, legally, be banned. After all, Muslim women can wear head scarves as an indication of submission to their religion, they do not have to be totally covered in a garment that conceals their identity. Probably, a great many of these women would welcome the opportunity to be required to NOT wear the the burqua. The idea of individuals who are completely covered so there is no way to say if they are even female, gives far too much opportunity to persons who would choose to blow themselves up (& anyone around them at the time). That this should be allowed is ridiculous. A woman does not have to be covered from head to toe in order to be properly clothed. Ban the burqua.

iamthemob's avatar

A burqa is a piece of clothing. If I started walking around everywhere dressed up like a mummy, but not for religious reasons, I would be gaining the same, essentially, dangerous identification-dodging as women wearing a burqa. But because it wouldn’t be a burqa, it would be totally okay.

I feel as if the movement to ban the burqa, although I appreciate the human rights motivation behind it, is a thinly-veiled (pardon the pun) attempt to de-legitimize the religious rights of Muslim individuals.

the100thmonkey's avatar

@Linda_Owl – the wearing of the burqa as opposed to a scarf or any other kind of veil is a cultural, social and religious decision.

The “they would probably welcome it” line has been tried before, and failed before.

I believe the “being covered up is an opportunity for terrorists” line has been dealt with above.

There is no reason to ban a piece of clothing.

Seaofclouds's avatar

@Linda_Owl Are you also in favor of banning ski masks, trench coats, hooded sweatshirts, dark sunglasses, etc since they all also provide an opportunity for someone to hide their identity? What about dying our hair a different color, colored contacts to change our eye color, and plastic surgery to change the look of our face? After all, all of those things can help hide ones true identity.

plethora's avatar

@iamthemob If you covered your identity in public 100% of the time, your behavior would also bring you under suspicion and you would ultimately pay some kind of price for such outlandish and idiotic behavior. The behavior itself, the fact that it does exactly what @Linda_Owl says it does is the issue. You are projecting, which is surprising because to my knowledge, Islam is the only religion you defend (on other posts).

plethora's avatar

@Seaofclouds You are deflecting. Yes, anything that is used to conceal one’s identity 100% of the time in public should be banned. I doubt you would ever find a person in a motorcycle helmet in the US who does not remove it when going into a bank.

That’s the custom in western society. It’s the way we all behave. We submit to airport screening whether we want to or not. Note that muslims are now objecting to even that.

Linda_Owl's avatar

To the100thmonkey & seaofclouds, you can make all the fun you want out of my answer. The burqua is not an established part of the culture of the US & since it is definitely tied to a specific religion & as it is all-concealing, we should have every right to declare it illegal (& give these Muslim women some true freedom from oppression).

Seaofclouds's avatar

@plethora Muslim people aren’t the only ones objecting to the airport scanners and pat downs.

@Linda_Owl I’m not making fun of your answer. My point is simply that people that want to cover their identity have the means to do so, burqa or not. If you aren’t willing to ban all the possible ways for a person to hide their identity, it’s not right to ban the burqa for that reason.

If a business wants to say that a person must expose their face in order to gain service, that is their right, but a federal law telling everyone in the country that they are never allowed to cover their face (whether with a burqa or anything else) is not right.

I don’t see a person in a burqa and instantly think they are a terrorist and that they may be concealing a weapon or bomb, so maybe that’s why I feel differently than you guys do.

plethora's avatar

@Seaofclouds The point here is that it doesnt have to be a law in the US (or other western countries) because it it a part of our culture. It’s the way we all behave. Everyone, regardless of origin, race, gender, nationality or culture, dresses and behaves in a way that they can be easily identified. We don’t even think about it. Muslims have a religious excuse to push the envelope on this point and many do so. It is dramatically out of line with our culture. Further, anyone who consistently goes about in public concealing his or her identity should be under suspicion….at least in our culture.

But I am so happy that you are becoming so religious.

Seaofclouds's avatar

@plethora Ahh, but what is really “our” culture? Not everyone here has the same culture and we shouldn’t all be forced to follow the same culture just because we are here. That is one of the wonderful things about the US. You can travel to various places and see many different cultures, all in one country.

Imposing a ban would in fact be making it a law that it is illegal to cover your face. It would have to be covering your face, because just saying it’s illegal to wear a burqa would not solve the issue of people covering their face. Religion has nothing to do with it.

As long as the person in question is willing to uncover their face so that they can verify their identity when questioned, I don’t see why they shouldn’t be able to cover up if that is what they want to do.

AmWiser's avatar

It may not be so much that the burqa should be banned, but that rules should be in place as to when it should be removed (while in other cultures). This person was clearly in the wrong and then (IMO) lied about the officer and lied to the authorities. She could have easily said that she didn’t understand the laws of Australia regarding showing her face, instead she (and her lawyer) chose to say it was her twin sister behind the veil. Well, bring the sister forward to face~ the charges. And now the Islam community says she shouldn’t spend 6 months in jail because she has 7 children. She is really getting off easy compared to the price the police officer would have paid if the tape wasn’t rolling.

plethora's avatar

Part of the greatness of America is that anyone can immigrate here and retain their culture while also “fitting in” to our culture. No one is objecting to anyone celebrating their own customs or anything else until it begins to infringe on our culture…..yes, our culture. As one of the men in the video said. “This is the way we do it here” (in AUS).

You will be required to pass a test on “our culture”, or be deported.

Seaofclouds's avatar

@plethora Nice to see you changed it and that I’m no longer going to be deported…

Anyway, the point is, there is nothing in the US that says we can’t cover our face. I spend most of the winter with my face completely covered when I’m outside. If someone came up to me and said I couldn’t do it because they couldn’t tell who I was, I’d tell them tough luck unless it was a police officer that needed to verify my identity for some reason. We may not traditionally walk around covered head to toe, but that doesn’t mean other people can’t do so. As long as they are willing to show their face when requested to do so by a police officer, I don’t see the issue. If they refuse to remove whatever covering they have over their face when requested to do so, that is a problem and should be dealt with at that time.

If I was going to hide a weapon or bomb under my clothing, I have plenty of options to do so that do not require me to cover my face. As a matter of fact, I doubt there are many people hiding bombs up around their face anyway…

If someone is up to no good, they are going to find a way to do it regardless to what they are wearing. The point still remains that if you are going to argue that people should not be allowed to wear a burqa because we can’t see their face and thus they can’t be identified, then the same thing could be said for having a scarf wrapped around your face, wearing a ski mask, or various other things. The argument of it being for identification purposes alone does not really make sense considering there are many other ways we are allowed to cover our face.

iamthemob's avatar

@plethora – I really do wonder if you’re serious when you state that it seems that Islam seems to be the only religion that I defend on the threads here.

(1) There is nothing in my statement that is particular to Islam, really. What I and @Seaofclouds has done an incredibly diligent and patient job of trying to explain is that this is legislation that appears to be targeted at Muslims (even religion generally) because of certain perceptions of the Muslim community. The issue is that there is no way to try to ban the burqa without it being incredibly hypocritical – you would need to ban any and all clothing that covered one’s face.

(2) The last thread we were on together, I directed you to the many posts in which I have attempted to defend Christianity against what I found to be unwarranted and generalized criticism. I’ll direct you also to my profile, where you can see that my greatest question is, in fact, an attempt to defend Christianity.

Perhaps the reason why you feel I’m projecting is that we’ve only had about three or four interactions here. In mine, I attempted to show you that my interests were in defending freedom of expression. You appeared to hold onto an opinion, in each one, that Islam is built to raise terrorists, and they are a danger to us.

So, I really would hope that the next time you attempt to claim someone is projecting, and behaves a certain way generally here, it will be in an actually honest manner, where you weren’t provided specific and numerous examples to the contrary recently, and it wasn’t a clear untruth that seemed to be stated solely to dismiss one argument and privilege your agenda.

I don’t want to claim you have the agenda I’ve seen on the three or four times we’ve interacted on these threads – that might be construed as projecting.

FutureMemory's avatar

@plethora Yes, anything that is used to conceal one’s identity 100% of the time in public should be banned.

I agree with you to a point. If I was a shopkeeper and someone tried to shop in my store wearing a bag on their head I’d tell them to take it off or get out. That being said, where exactly do we draw the line? What about people that like to wear big hats and sunglasses every single time they go out?

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

When online, we’re all wearing a disguise.

plethora's avatar

Thanks for all your comments. This is about 6 minutes. Watch as much or as little as you like.
FYI….the guy is an atheist so don’t be putting any religious deflection on him.

Seaofclouds's avatar

Okay, I will admit I didn’t watch it. I have no desire to hear anything more about the Mosque near Ground Zero and I think we’ve discussed that issue plenty of times here.

Let’s say you ban the burqa. Okay, the women stop wearing them. Instead they start wearing scarves to cover their faces. Are you going to ban scarves next? Say you ban scarves next and they start using a shaw to cover their face… the point is, just banning one specific article of clothing will not do the trick, there are many alternatives that can be used to cover ones face (which has been my point all along). If you wanted to do something about covering a person’s face for identity sake (which is what the original issue was), you would have to make it illegal to cover ones face at any time for everyone, not just Muslims. That is my point.

If you want to turn this into something more, such as Islamisation, I’d say start a new question because that’s an entirely different issue than banning a burqa for identification sake.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

If we’d just all get a set of these, there wouldn’t be a problem for anyone.

plethora's avatar

@Seaofclouds Well you might be right on starting a new question. Actually, I think this deals more with Islamization (which has everything to do with banning the burqua) than with the mosque, notwithstanding the title. Do you think I would feed you something not entirely apropos?

Seaofclouds's avatar

@plethora But is it really fair to say only Muslims can’t cover their face? You would be singling out one group when any of us can cover our face completely at any time we want to. It’s part of the freedoms we have. Can we really tell one group of people they can’t do it when the rest of us have the right to do it anytime we want to? Being against Islamization is a bit different than being against people having the right to cover their face.

the100thmonkey's avatar

@Linda_Owl – I’m not mocking your answer, what I wrote were simple statements.

Saying “X isn’t part of our culture, therefore ban X” is the basic argument, and it’s nonsensical, particularly from inhabitants of a country whose basic premisses are, allegedly, freedom and tolerance.

>> Whether or not the burqa is an established part of American culture is irrelevant.

>> Whether or not Islam is an established religion in the US is irrelevant. As I recall, there is a clause in the constitution interpreted as barring the establishment of religion by the state.

>> Many of the Muslim women you would save from the evils of oppression are American citizens.

The security issue is relevant, but in my first post in this thread I reported the quote from Muslim leaders in Australia stating that it is acceptable for women wearing the burqa to show their face if requested by a police officer. Therefore, there is no problem.

iamthemob's avatar

I would like to address that @plethora has still not addressed why he had attempted to claim that I tend to “defend Islam” as opposed to any other religion when he had personal and publicly demonstrated knowledge of the contrary.

This entire question, I’ll say, and perhaps because of the comment directed at me, seems like an attempt to spread Islamophobia. And the posts regarding Islamisation, which takes the burqa issue and expands it to make it suggest that there’s an attack on the west supports the feeling I have.

plethora's avatar

@iamthemob Oh, get over it. I am not going to deflect from this question to argue that non-issue.

Peaceful Muslims Love Us

Seaofclouds's avatar

@plethora Do you really believe all Muslims are bad and can’t be trusted?

iamthemob's avatar

@plethora – I love that it is, apparently, a non-issue when you state that I do something you know isn’t true. It’s not a non-issue when you clearly lied.

However, on the thread I linked to, you accused me of refusing to answer a question by attacking the person who asked it or attacking the question itself, and that I should respond. When you did the same to me, when I asked for a clear answer, you evaded again. And here you do it again.

I call on you here, yet again, to answer why you stated something about me in your response, in an attempt to undermine my response, when you knew and there was public evidence that it clearly wasn’t true. I’m not insulted, upset, but mostly I just refuse to allow you to spread misinformation.

plethora's avatar

@Seaofclouds No, but I do believe you are bad and can’t be trusted….well, you can be trusted, but I think you are a bit twisted.

I don’t think I have ever said that all Muslims are bad and can’t be trusted. I do believe that all Muslims are under a system of belief that, in it’s most virulent form, seeks to destroy Western culture and that all Muslims, if they are devout in any degree, can be compromised. I also believe that it is a cunning system of belief that makes its objectives plainly known and that we should believe them when they say they seek to conquer the world and especially destroy western world.

So there ya go.

plethora's avatar

@iamthemob Oh come on. I don’t even take issue with most of what you say even though I believe it to be skewed or plainly wrong. I’ve forgotten what I said. I take it back.

Seaofclouds's avatar

@plethora Wow, so I’m bad and twisted because I don’t think that Muslims should be banned from wearing the burqa? Or is it because I don’t see them the same way you do? I have not said anything in this thread about Muslims except that I don’t see one and instantly think they are hiding weapons and that I don’t think banning the burqa will solve the issue of people covering their face. If that makes me bad and twisted, well damn…

If it’s just because of the burqa thing, why is it so hard to understand the fact that banning the burqa will not stop someone from covering their face if that is what they want to do? There are many things we can use to cover our faces and you haven’t addressed that issue, no matter how many times I’ve asked you about it. How about you stop talking about how bad Muslims are you actually discuss the issue at hand with them covering their faces (since that is what this was about, and not if they are good or bad)? If you ban the burqa and they decide to cover their face with a scarf or shaw, are you going to ban scarves and shaws next? Are you going to ban facial coverings for everyone (since we are all free to cover our face anytime we want) or just for Muslims?

iamthemob's avatar

@SeaofcloudsAre you going to ban facial coverings for everyone (since we are all free to cover our face anytime we want) or just for Muslims?

I believe that is exactly what @plethora wants. In fact, I believe that’s only step one of what he wants.

plethora's avatar

@Seaofclouds @iamthemob There is no problem with anyone in our society covering their faces and concealing their identities. It is a given. Even cyclists remove their helmets as soon as they dismount. So don’t throw that up as a straw man or any other construct that has nothing to do with reality.

Further there is no other garment as totally concealing as the burqua (you did watch the video, right?) And if you come up with one, then Hell yes, ban it too.

The reason my response is delayed is that I think this line of objection is patently unnecessary and without merit. But both of you are masters of deflection, so I expect no less. Now I know I am going to hear from you @iamthemob as to examples of how you deflect. Stay tuned. I’ll be happy to call you on it every single time I see you do it in the future. That habit, with you and @Seaofclouds is also a given. (Assuming you’d like to hear from me, of course)

iamthemob's avatar

The problem is you have not presented a legitimate government interest that is effectively served by such a ban. Any private business owner who does not feel comfortable serving a person whose identity is not readily verifiable can refuse to do so. The police have been given the authority to ask someone to prove identity without suspicion being a prerequisite. Therefore, targeting the burqa doesn’t appear to be necessary for any reason other than cultural disapproval.

PS – I will accept the accusation above as potentially valid as soon as you explain why you blatantly lied about my posting tendencies. You don’t need to remember what you said – you can go back to the top of the thread and read it. ;-)

Seaofclouds's avatar

@plethora I have not tried to deflect anything. I’m trying to keep the conversation on the topic of banning the burqa due to identification purposes since that was the original topic. Either way, it is clear that you and I will never agree on this subject. I don’t agree with banning the burqa. Period. Just because we normally uncover our face at a certain point in time, it doesn’t mean we have to. That is what I’m talking about. We all are allowed to cover our faces anytime we want as long as we uncover our face when requested to to prove our identity. Unless that’s suddenly going to become illegal for everyone, I don’t think banning the burqa is right. I think at this point it’s best we just agree to disagree.

plethora's avatar

@Seaofclouds @iamthemob No further comments to either of you on any topic on any thread.

iamthemob's avatar

Thankfully, responses to either of us are not really necessary for, at least me, to comment on anything that I find disagreeable and/or patently untrue in what you post.

If that wasn’t the definition of evading, I don’t know what is. And also…how will I know I’m deflecting without you?!?! ;-)

mattbrowne's avatar

Seems to become a Fluther FAQ. I agree with @Linda_Owl realizing that we represent a minority opinion. Here’s my view which I have shared before:

Headscarfes to cover hair are fine if women want to wear them, although this has increasingly become a symbol of non-militant political Islam, for example in Germany. A face veil is not required to prevent women from being looked at as a sex object as many Muslims would argue, because this is the problem of ignorant men – and foolish men should not be the reason for women to turn into faceless ghosts whenever they are in public. If anyone has to change it’s the men, not the women. When I look at women I see human beings, not sex objects. Good parenting is required to raise boys so that they become mature men. When I look at a beautiful women I see beauty. When women look at attractive men, they see beauty too. No big deal.

Dehumanizing people by taking their faces away is very, very wrong in my opinion. Facial expressions are a form of nonverbal communication. They are a primary means of conveying social information among humans. There are seven universally recognized emotions shown through facial expressions: fear, anger, surprise, contempt, disgust, happiness, and sadness. Regardless of culture, these expressions are the same.

Face perception is the process by which the brain and mind understand and interpret the human face. Mirror neurons help humans understand goals and intentions of other humans and many researchers argue that the mirror neuron system is involved in empathy. The human face’s proportions and expressions are important to identify origin, emotional tendencies, health qualities, and some social information. From birth, faces are important in the individual’s social interaction. Face perceptions are very complex as the face expressions involve vast involvement of areas in the brain. Sometimes damaged parts of the brain can cause specific impairments in understanding faces or prosopagnosia (Source: Wikipedia).

As I said there’s no problem for women wearing a headscarf either as a symbol for religion or to keep the head warm in winter. There is a problem with face veils and moderate Muslim women should come up with creative strategies to make this unfortunate tradition disappear. Face-hiding garments are wrong except when walking to the south pole or riding a motorcycle at high speeds.

Women should participate in public life, show their faces and have a significant influence in society. Showing their faces in private is not enough. Faces is what makes us human. As social creatures we rely on face perception. Therefore taking faces away is a way of dehumanizing people. To many people a niqab or burqa symbolizes a mobile prison. Not even the eyes are visible through the bars of the women’s tiny prison windows.

In Western countries we got dress codes too. In a city it’s not appropriate to run around naked and it’s also not appropriate to run around fully cloaked. This has little to do with religion. It’s a matter of culture and dress code. When Western women travel to Iran, for example as journalists, they respect the local dress code which means wearing a headscarf. This is okay. We should respect that. But we also want some respect when it comes to our culture and our dress codes in Western countries.

Wearing face veils in Europe means disrespecting European culture. People made a choice to come to Europe and live in Europe. They cannot expect that it’s exactly the same as in Saudi Arabia or Afghanistan when the Taliban ruled.

The majority of Europeans doesn’t want niqabs and burqas as a part of our public life. I’m not sure whether there are better alternatives than declaring a ban. Maybe there are other ways convincing Muslims not to make this choice when they live in Europe. We need more dialog.

Perhaps we can generate ideas here how this can be done.

iamthemob's avatar

The fact that it’s illegal to run around naked in most Western countries is pretty much ridiculous. There’s nothing corrupting about the human form, inherently. Therefore, moral legislation against it is silly – and I doubt removing it would result in a flood of people being nude all the time in public life, as it is still “inappropriate” and also…kind of impractical.

However, there is clearly a split in Muslims as well as non-Muslims over the burqa ban. We want respect, of course…but it’s not legally required. Hassidic Jews dress in a manner that I find repressive and uncomfortable when I see it – but they have every right to do so. But taking away a right for someone to express their culture isn’t the way to encourage cultural inclusion – as with any case where you criminalize certain morality-based behavior, you essentially push it underground where it’s less seen, and more dangerous. If it’s the woman’s free choice to wear it, then she’ll feel oppressed by us…not her religion. If it isn’t, then for the sake of modesty women might simply not leave – or be allowed to leave – her home. How open will her mind become if she is trapped in her world completely.

The best way for the Western world to deal with this is through inclusion, rather than exclusion. People learn to question by seeing that there is an alternative. Outreach rather than law. Otherwise, we have reasonable reactions such as this: “It’s unjust,” Moustafa Khan, 35, of Nice, said today as he walked down the street with his three young children and his wife, who wore a chador, a modest garment that does not conceal the face. “This is our religion and our culture. The women ought to be able to wear what they want in accordance with our religion.”

Do we really want to make the burqa a symbol of freedom?

mattbrowne's avatar

But taking away a right for someone to express their culture isn’t the way to encourage cultural inclusion?

I beg to differ. Female genital mutilation has been part of the culture of many countries and is widespread even today, whether it’s illegal or not. As an example, at least 78% of all Egyptian girls are still victims when adults express their culture in this manner.

Burqas and niqabs do great harm too, as I tried to explain above. They are dehumanizing girls and women by taking away their faces.

What we need to do is having extensive talks with all imams and other influential Muslims in Western countries. We need to make sure that they tell their congregations about the limits of expressing their culture in Western countries. I agree that outreach is a better approach than laws. We should reconsider though, if all efforts at outreaching are failing.

iamthemob's avatar

I beg to differ. Female genital mutilation has been part of the culture of many countries and is widespread even today, whether it’s illegal or not. As an example, at least 78% of all Egyptian girls are still victims when adults express their culture in this manner.

Burqas and niqabs do great harm too, as I tried to explain above. They are dehumanizing girls and women by taking away their faces.

The burqa is a choice that they can make every day. Please, please do not bring up FGM as a comparison – it minimizes the harm caused by FGM. It is permanent and removes one of the most central expressions of their femininity.

FGM is a battery. We have criminal laws that religious expression should not violate. This is the difference. We don’t have laws against clothes. We have expectations. Let’s leave it at that.

mattbrowne's avatar

You make it sound like a harmless thing, which it isn’t. We are not talking about clothes here, we are talking about faceless human beings. The issue is about dehumanizing girls and women. We are talking about human rights violations.

To quote Alice Schwarzer: We are talking about men implementing ultra-orthodox sharia and considering unveiled women to be whores. That has nothing to do with religion, it’s politics. In Swedish and English schools, girls have already shown up in burqas. They are totally isolated from all the other girls. We fought arduously for our freedoms, like enlightenment and democracy, and we can’t allow ourselves to fall back from what we have achieved. Human rights are universally valid and indivisible, regardless of culture and religion.,1518,329261,00.html

Or to quote the Algerian woman Djemila Benhabib: The worst feminine condition in the world is in Muslim countries. This is a fact and we must recognize it. That is our first responsibility towards all women who defy the worst tyrannical regimes in the world.There is also a current of relativist thought claiming that, in the name of culture and tradition, we must accept the regression that confines the other to the perpetual role of victim. This thinking tries to make us feel guilty for our social choices in labeling us racist and Islamophobic for defending secularism and equality between the sexes.

Islamic politics is not the expression of a cultural specificity, as some people in this world claim. It is a political matter, a collective threat that attacks the very foundation of democracy in promoting a violent, sexist, misogynistic, racist and homophobic ideology.

In Algeria the Islamic Army Group (GIA) ordered that the women of my country must wear the Islamic veil. That day, I and thousands of other Algerian women, marched with our bare heads, to challenge death. We played hide-and-seek with the bloodthirsty GIA. The memory of Katia Bengana, a young 17 year-old high school girl who was killed as she was leaving school on February 28, 1994 was hovering over our bare heads.

Ever since that day, I have a deep aversion for everything having to do with the hidjab, veil, burqa, niqab, tchador, jilbab, khimar, in all their forms. Today you head a parliamentary commission charged with studying the wearing of the full veil in France.

The Islamic veil is often presented as part of a collective Muslim identity. It is nothing of the sort. It is the emblem of the fundamentalist Muslims everywhere in the world. If it has a particular connotation, it is political, especially since the advent of the Islam revolution in Iran in 1979. Let us not be mistaken about this: the Islamic veil hides women’s fear, their bodies, their freedom and their sexuality.

Like her I’m against promoting relativist thought such as the notion of faceless women expressing their culture.

iamthemob's avatar

@mattbrowne – It’s profoundly disturbing that you are couching my argument in terms of moral relativism.

Arguments against the banning of the burqa are not by any means an expression of a need to culturally approve of the burqa. As I stated, and apparently need to reiterate, banning the burqa might very well push isolationist communities into more repressive behavior that will become increasingly private and separatist, so that law enforcement communities will have no way of detecting that domestic abuse is accuring.

Consider below:

Despite the ban being canvassed by both left and right as a measure to liberate oppressed Muslim women, it is opposed by leading human rights groups. “At a time when Muslims in Europe feel more vulnerable than ever, the last thing needed is a ban like this,” said Judith Sunderland of Human Rights Watch on 21 April. “Treating pious Muslim women like criminals won’t help integrate them.” The irony of using the threat of prison to free women from the so-called prison of the burqa is not lost on Muslim commentators, either. “The Belgians have a funny idea of liberation,” says the British Muslim writer and activist Myriam François-Cerrah: “criminalising women in order to free them.”

Amnesty International has condemned the Belgian move as “an attack on religious freedom”, and Sunderland has said that “restrictions on women wearing the veil in public life are as much a violation of the rights of women as is forcing them to wear a veil”. The award-winning Iranian graphic novelist Marjane Satrapi, an outspoken critic of the veil, agrees. “It is surely a basic human right that someone can choose what she wears without interference from the state,” she wrote.

In his report, Hasan claims he’s not defending a ban and says he agrees with the 100 or so imams and Muslim religious advisers from 40 different countries at a recent conference in Vienna organised by the Islamic Religious Authority in Austria, who concluded that Islam does not make it a requirement for women to wear face veils. After all, the face veil is mentioned nowhere in the Quran, nor is there a Quranic injunction to cover the face.

According to him, even in the traditions, or hadith, of the Prophet Muhammad, there is no explicit command for Muslim women to cover their faces – only their hair. In fact, Muslim women are forbidden from offering the five daily prayers and from going on the Hajj – the religious pilgrimage to Mecca – if their faces are covered.

Mohammad Marmaduke Pickthall, the renowned English convert to Islam and translater of the Quran, observed in his 1925 lecture “The Relation of the Sexes” that the veiling of the face by women was “not originally an Islamic custom. It was prevalent in many cities of the East before the coming of Islam, but not in the cities of Arabia.” Muslim leaders adopted the face veil for their women, he said, “when they entered the cities of Syria, Mesopotamia, Persia and Egypt. It was once a concession to the prevailing custom and was a protection to their women from misunderstanding by peoples accustomed to associate unveiled faces with loose character . . . It has nothing to do with the religion of Islam, and, for practical reasons, it has never been adopted by the great majority of Muslim women.”

Hasan says his own Muslim wife, of Indian origin but born and brought up in the United States, wears a headscarf (but not a face veil). “She made the decision to wear the hijab at the age of 25, and it was a spiritual, not a political or cultural choice. I accept that, for many Muslim women, covering their face is not a choice, but is a ban the best response? There are many reasons to believe it is self-defeating,” he argues.

For a start, state-imposed bans will poison relations between Muslims and non-Muslims even further. Bans often encourage defiance. In the words of the atheist writer Shikha Dalmia, of the Los Angeles-based Reason Foundation, “this law can’t help but inflame French Muslims, not encourage them to assimilate. Besieged minorities after all tighten – not loosen – their grip on their ways.”

During Britain’s own row over the veil in 2006, which was prompted by the then cabinet minister Jack Straw’s revelation that he had insisted Muslim women remove their face veils at his constituency surgeries in Blackburn, Islamic clothing stores across the north-west of England reported a rise in sales of niqabs, burqas and other veils. One Muslim teenager I later met told me it had been Straw’s remarks that prompted her to switch from wearing the hijab to the niqab.

Then there is the matter of enforcement. How will a ban work in practice? Will wealthy tourists from Gulf states also be prevented from wearing the niqab or the burqa as they shop along the Champs-Élysées? Or should the ban be limited to public buildings? If so, why the need for new legislation when a law already exists banning conspicuous religious symbols from public places such as hospitals and schools? Even Jean-Marie Le Pen’s Islamophobic National Front has questioned the need for new legislation, saying “it should simply be a police regulation”.

Most damningly, there is early evidence that a ban on the face veil could serve further to isolate and seclude the marginalised Muslim women whom it is supposed to help liberate. In Italy, at the end of April, Tunisian-born Amel Marmouri became the first woman to be fined for wearing a face veil when she was stopped outside a post office in the city of Novara. Marmouri was fined €500 – and her husband has said he will now ensure she stays at home so that she never again has to venture out without her veil.

Other opponents of the move point out that only tiny percentages of Muslim women wear such veils and that banning them risks isolating the women concerned and fuelling anger within the Muslim community.
If wearing the burqa is truly a sign that the individual is being oppressed, and it is outlawed, so that men are unable to ensure that their wives can leave the home without appearing immodest, it is a near certainty that the women will not be allowed to leave the home.

Oppressive practices are best dispelled not when they are shoved into the dark, but when they’re brought into the light. Your support of a ban on the burqa promises, not potentially could cause, as much harm as good, and could set back any community outreach and education we could provide for these oppressed women years, even decades.

I will celebrate the time when the burqa or anything comparable is a thing of the past. It’s your method, not your goal, that is wrong.

Response moderated (Personal Attack)
Response moderated (Personal Attack)
iamthemob's avatar

@mattbrowne – And you know that I’m a big fan of your reasoned approach. And you should know that we’re on the same side about whether the burqa is acceptable.

However, we do need to find the middle ground between open acceptance of the burqa and a legal ban. If I were you, I would reconsider my position knowing those who support it.

mattbrowne's avatar

@iamthemob – Yes, we are, and I do see the dilemma. But we have to keep in mind that the majority of women in Europe or elsewhere wearing the burqa are forced to do this. When we ask them, most will tell us that it was their choice. Why? Because they fear humiliation or even physical violence from their (extended) families.

This is a human rights violation. Sharia law is misogynic, racist, and religiously discriminatory. And all Americans, Europeans, Australians committed to the principles of freedom should not look the other way when these violations happen in their own countries. Of course, we can’t simply go to Saudi Arabia and free all the oppressed women there, although we can still show solidarity. We can’t get rid of all the dictators on our planet, although we should do something to stop genocide whenever this is happening. We failed in the case of Rwanda, but we did something about Kosovo. Darfur?

If there are good alternatives to a legal ban, I definitely do prefer them. As I mentioned above a serious dialog with imams and other influential European Muslims could work.

iamthemob's avatar

@mattbrowne – I totally agree with you. And I do think that the burqa should raise suspicion. If it’s banned, however, and these women are forced to wear it, we place these women in an untenable position – obey their god and their husband, as they’ve had ground into them is their duty, and cause their families to be fined or worse, not go out at all…or disobey and suffer what are likely to be violent consequences.

If we ban it…we don’t know which women are likely being abused (and forcing this upon them I absolutely agree is a form of abuse), and it is likely that many women would wear it out of defiance of the law as an expression of their freedom. If they are out in the public, I feel like the less intrusive, but still unfortunate, way to deal with it is to agree that wearing it does raise a suspicion of abuse. Police would then be able to stop and question them, briefly, in order to obtain their identity. Then we know who’s at risk.

I hate to say it, because it requires the police targeting of a certain segment, but the profound expression of gender inequality of the burqa warrants it. And considering that it’s not a religiously based action…it’s legally tenable.

The ban, again, would only push the abuse to places where we, as a society, cannot go.

mattbrowne's avatar

@iamthemob – It’s about obeying islamist husbands. Nowhere in the Quran and the hadiths is it written that the face veil is mandatory. The expression ‘properly covered’ is very general. Allah did not tell the Prophet via the angel Gabriel that women must wear face veils.

I agree with the potential consequences you outlined. We should should find other ways to make them disappear in our countries. I don’t want to see them in America, UK, France, Germany, Australia and all other countries of the Western civilization.

There’s some background information here too including some of the pros and cons

“On January 2010, scarves covering the face were banned in schools and hospitals, as well as on public transport. Women, who violate this requirement will be fined €150 Euros and given a course of lectures on the basics of the secular foundations of the French Republic. Men, who force women to wear burqa, will face up to a year in prison.”

plethora's avatar

@mattbrowne Thanks for the clarifications above. I have just returned today from Stuttgart. My son is a Naval Officer with a healthy respect for the German police. There is no such thing, so he tells me, as refusing to take a breath test if stopped by police. Here in the US we are so PC, and any fool can refuse a breath test and then get a phalanx of lawyers to defend his rights to refuse to take it. In Germany, refusal to take the test just means you are thrown to the ground and you take it involuntarily.

With most all public gatherings, the police are present when you don;t even know it and at the very first indication of trouble the troublesome parties are quickly seized and taken away, I know not where. At least away from the scene. Son tells me that this makes for very orderly crowds, but good fun too, because the police are preventing disruptions.

In Germany, it is against the law to talk on a cellphone while driving unless it is handsfree. It is against the law to drive in the left lane of the autobahn except to pass. It is against the law to drive too slow on the autobahn.

There is a single point here. Germany has its laws. It is not necessary that I agree with them, but it is necessary that I obey them. I do not have the right to operate under my US laws in Germany. If I do not like German laws, I do not have the right to break them or to change them. My choice is limited to going back to the US. And Germany really doesn’t care which one I do.

In the West, we carefully separate church and state. Islam does the exact opposite and tie religion and state so closely together that a westerner cannot distinguish which is which. I see that as their problem, not ours. We do not have to concern ourselves with Shariah law. If a Muslim comes to a western country, then he obeys western law and customs if they conflict with their own. End result….if any western country wants to ban the burqua, they have the right to ban the burqua for any reason whatsoever. The Muslims choice is the same as mine. If I dont like the law, then I can return to the US.

Further, if any western country wants to pass a law that shariah law is null and void in their country, then so be it. If Muslims want to live by shariah law, then they need to do it in a land ruled by Islam, not here in the West. I don;t get to take Tennessee law to Germany and apply it. Germany does not recognize Tennessee law nor are they required to change German law so that Tennessee law can have some sway over affairs in Germany….period. No further discussion.

Bottom line….the West has the inalienable right to establish its own laws and customs and it is the height of arrogance for the citizen of another country to move in and force Islamic religious laws and customs upon us.

“Religious freedom” is afforded Islam, as long as Islam respects the inalienable rights of western countries to establish and enforce its own laws and customs. Where Islam conflicts with Western laws and customs, then they have no rights but to go back to an Islamic country. We are not even required to give Islam a reason that we are banning the burqua. We do not need a justification that is acceptable to Islam.

Finally, what I have said here is said far more eloquently in the Wikipedia reference by @mattbrowne

Issue resolved as far as I’m concerned. Case closed.

iamthemob's avatar


My problem with finding different ways to enforce any “ban” are that there are already neutral laws in place that can be used.

You don’t need to have legislation in place to have a court decide that forcing a woman to where the burqa qualifies as domestic abuse. One case would be quicker.

I do like the public area/transport idea. But again, this can be achieved neutrally. “Upon entering any public building (including transportation under public control) a person is required to remove any face covering which prevents identification. If one fails to do so and is approached by an officer and subsequently fails to remove as requested, they can be fined x dollars….” etc.

We can serve the purpose, prevent the behavior, and address more of the security concerns that we have by addressing it neutrally.

mattbrowne's avatar

@plethora – I think the reason for the clashes and potential clashes in the future is the following:

One of the most important values of Western civilization are freedom of thought and freedom of expression. But it becomes questionable when extreme “super freedom” is abused by people who have no other goal than dismantling this very freedom given to them. Some call this a form of cultural jihad. These non-militant islamists don’t use violence. They use tactics. But the goal is establishing the rule of God, not the the rule of people.

Democracy is the rule of people, for the people, by the people.

Political Islam is the rule of Allah, for the people, by Allah as given to the people by his messenger Muhammad. The rules don’t change. They were fixed between 610 AD and 632 AD. They remain fixed for eternity. The people can’t change them. Parliaments can’t change them.

Before the Third Reich, the Nazis were a minority. They actually used democracy to get to power. They never got a majority vote. But they used the parliament to dismantle democracy step by step. The second major step was this

Chancellor Adolf Hitler legally obtained plenary powers and established his dictatorship. It received its name from its legal status as an enabling act granting the Cabinet the authority to enact laws without the participation of the Reichstag.

Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves. —Abraham Lincoln

mattbrowne's avatar

@iamthemob – Okay, suppose we have no ban. What can we do to make sure that all women in our Western countries show their faces? That they participate in society?

What can we do to decrease the number of non-militant islamists?

At the moment their numbers keep rising.

Should we look the other way?

plethora's avatar

@mattbrowne Hitler’s “harmless” move to power is frightening. Just so Islam, using our own religious freedoms to destroy them and convert them to their own ends.

iamthemob's avatar

@mattbrowne – Should we just look the other way when Christians indoctrinate their children with Creationism? When they push through anti-gay legislation in order to federally discriminate against the group? When they undermine hate crime legislation because they feel it doesn’t protect them? When they suggest women should stay at home and raise the children?

Wait…we seem to already.

Religion has no place in politics, and the rhetoric of political Islam distracts us from threats that have already infiltrated the government.

I already answered your question as to how it should be addressed without being motivated by the religion – neutral laws that recognize the burqa as raising suspicion of abuse, without singling it out.

The fact that you’ve ignored that illuminates a fear of Islam as opposed to a resort to reason.

mattbrowne's avatar

Should we just look the other way when Christians indoctrinate their children with Creationism?

Absolutely not. This is what I wrote about the matter in the thread

“I believe in oversight of school curricula and the quality of teachers for this very reason: the children are the future of our societies. In South Africa for example there is a widespread belief that sex with a virgin will cure men from AIDS. Without oversight the chances such “knowledge” will be taught in home schools are high. For the same reason we have to make absolutely sure that creationism is not part of the biology curriculum. I’m very much in favor of talking about ethics, religions, world views in non-science classes. Creationism should actually be part of one of these curricula with explanations why it isn’t science, together with general knowledge about Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism as well as world views such as Agnosticism and Atheism. Lack of knowledge about other views is one of the reasons there is so much prejudice and mistrust.

But countries needs to think about their future. We cannot afford to go back to the dark ages, not when 6.7 billion people want to survive on our small planet. Without scientific method as one of the most fundamental principles we got no future. Having pre-science and pre-technology societies only on Earth means that our Earth can sustain a few hundred million people only.

Creationism doesn’t stop at messing with biology. It’s also about physics and chemistry.

How can Earth have cooled down so quickly when it’s only 6000 years old? The potential energy released by the accumulating small chunks of rock hitting the proto-Earth is enormous. We know the formulas and can actually measure this. The ground under our feet should be in a liquid state and our oceans would still be boiling.

Creationism is a full-fledged assault on science as a whole. To be honest I find it totally absurd that creationists are actually using web browsers, which were only created because of scientific discoveries. If parents choose to live in caves without electricity and cars and the world wide web teaching creationism to their kids, they would at least be authentic. Everything else is hypocritical.

Maybe it should be named caveschooling instead of homeschooling. Sorry, but I have to be this blunt. Too much is at stake here.”

My opinion about your other negative examples created by a ultra-conservative Christianity goes in the same direction.

Yes, religion has no place in politics, except that citizen who might be religious too can voice his or her opinion. The design of laws has to focus on what’s best for society and every individual.

I’m afraid that you might not have grasped the dangers of political Islam. And arguing that negative forms of Christianity exist as well, doesn’t make political Islam harmless.

Many think Wahhabism is a problem inside Saudi Arabia. Let me quote Bernhard Lewis again:

“The outward flow of oil and the corresponding inward flow of money brought immense changes to the Saudi kingdom. The teachers and preachers of Wahhabism promote and spread their version of Islam to every Muslim country and also to Muslim minorities in Europe and America. Wahhabi indoctrination centers may be the only form of education available and is appealing to parents who wish to give their children some grounding in their own inherited religious and cultural tradition. This indoctrination is provided in private schools, religious seminars, mosque schools, holiday camps, and, increasingly, prisons.”

Bernard Lewis is a British-American historian, scholar in Oriental studies, and political commentator. He is the Cleveland E. Dodge Professor Emeritus of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University. He specializes in the history of Islam and the interaction between Islam and the West.

@iamthemob, if you belittle the trouble with political Islam, your criticism of ultra-conservative Christians sounds noncredible. I think you and I should join forces and criticize all ideologies which undermine the values we both share.

I can’t be more clear, no one has to fear tolerant non-political Islam. This majority of people in the Muslim world are our allies. They seek freedom. We treasure freedom. They are threatened by religious extremists. And we are. Their women don’t want to wear the burqa or niqab. And we want women who show their faces in public and get involved in shaping the future of society.

Seaofclouds's avatar

@mattbrowne “Their women don’t want to wear the burqa.”

I don’t think that’s accurate for all Muslim women. I remember reading somewhere that it generally takes 2 generations for someone to become assimilated to a new culture. While some Muslim women do not want to wear them, I think the ones that have only known that actually do want to wear them. Sure, it’s because of what they’ve been taught, but that isn’t something that is likely to instantly change the moment they enter the U.S. or any other country. Now, if they start teaching their children and grandchildren that they don’t have to wear it, those woman will probably not want to and we’ll start to see change. They still want to live by their culture and beliefs and it takes time for those things to change. Expecting an instant change in their culture and beliefs the moment they step on U.S. soil is very unrealistic in my opinion.

mattbrowne's avatar

@Seaofclouds – The majority of women in Europe or elsewhere wearing the burqa are forced to do this. When we ask them, most will tell us that it was their choice. Why? Because they fear humiliation or even physical violence from their (extended) families. Before the Taliban came to power fewer women wore the burqa, especially in larger cities.

Yes, there might be women who deeply wish to wear the burqa instead of a headscarf. And this creates a moral dilemma. But dress codes are part of our culture too. Consider this

Naturism or nudism is a cultural and political movement advocating and defending social nudity in private and in public. Is this acceptable in mid-town Manhattan. Why not?

Now suppose two nudists (married couple) from some European country gets a job opportunity in the US. They like being nude as much as possible, because of what they’ve been taught, but that isn’t something that is likely to instantly change the moment they enter the U.S. or any other country. They still want to live by their culture and beliefs and it takes time for those things to change. Expecting an instant change in their culture and beliefs the moment they step on U.S. soil is very unrealistic. Now what?

Well, I think it’s fair to ask people before they decide to move to another country what this would involve. No one forces a man married to a woman wearing a burqa to move to the US or France.

Seaofclouds's avatar

@mattbrowne True, but we already have laws in place concerning nudity. We do not already have laws banning the burqa. So, when one is preparing to come here, they should learn the laws and be expected to follow them. Following just culture alone is different in my opinion and varies a lot from one part of the U.S to the next sometimes.

iamthemob's avatar

@mattbrowne – I don’t agree with an outright ban on nudists either. But again, we have neutral laws.

(1) employers allowed to place limitations on what the employees wear, with limited exceptions for certain religious garb.

(2) OSHA and other safety standards would prevent nudists from working in certain industries.

(3) Nudism is not a religious choice, and therefore not outright protected. Those that do make it a religious choice are profoundly few, and they would be limited only to the point necessary by employers.

(4) “No shirt, no shoes, no service” is acceptable – that’s not even nude. Hence “If we can’t see your face, you can’t buy our stuff” would more than likely be a fine example.

mattbrowne's avatar

@Seaofclouds – Well, creating a new law to ban the burqa is only the second-best option. There are many problems with it. I sincerely hope we find other ways to make the burqa and niqab disappear in our countries.

Seaofclouds's avatar

@mattbrowne I agree and I don’t like the idea of a law banning it at all. I really think education is the best way to go, but it will take time. We won’t see an instant change, but unfortunately many Americans want things instantly and that is what causes the biggest problem in my opinion.

iamthemob's avatar

One of the most certain ways, again, to ensure that a certain practice will continue indefinitely, is to try to ban it.

raven860's avatar

Here is what I think in some very short cliff notes.

@iamthemob and @Seaofclouds have got it right.
@plethora can’t seem to see logic.
@mattbrowne has his heart in the right place but he is making some false assumptions and looking at only part of the picture. Here is a hint of what I mean:

Who am I?

I come from a “Muslim” family but I am not religious…. nor is my family really.
No one in my family or extended family wears burqas or head scarf. jeans is quite often their daily attire unless they prefer something more comfy and then they wear “salwar-suit”. In fact, we are kind of repulsed by it… and point light jokes towards people who do them… since they are terrible fashion wear. HOWEVER, we can respect a woman if she adorns it and chooses to wear it.

I don’t think burqa or hijab should be banned… that infringes on a person’s freedom. However, these women are expected to open their veil esp. if requested by an officer. I don’t believe that is going against the principle of burqa either.

This is not a case of law vs. burqa…. but more of law vs. woman not following the law.

Religion is either getting caught up in between (because people are not being logical) or is being used as a tool by her/lawyers to keep her out of trouble.

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