European Bid to Ban Burka

Voters in four EU countries reportedly favour by a wide margin banning burqas from being worn in public. The Financial Times reports as follows on Nicholas Sarkozy's proposed ban in France and the public reaction.

"The poll shows some 70 per cent of respondents in France said they supported plans to forbid the wearing of the garment which covers the female body from head to toe. There was similar sentiment in Spain and Italy, where 65 per cent and 63 per cent respectively favoured a ban


The strength of feeling in the UK and Germany may seem particularly surprising. Britain has a strong liberal tradition that respects an individual's right to full expression of religious views. But here, some 57 per cent of people still favoured a ban. In Germany, which is also reluctant to clamp down in minority rights, some 50 per cent favoured a ban."


The idea of banning religious garb in the name of liberal and enlightened ideas is not new. In the early years of the secular revolution in Turkey, Kemal Ataturk banned men from wearing the fez. Some men who defied the ban were actually killed.


Where do bans on religious garb stop? What would Nadia Eweida of Great Britain say? She was banned by British Airways from wearing a cross around her neck on the job unless she concealed it. The web site "Clerical Whispers" reports as follows on the British court ruling that upheld Ms. Eweida's dismissal.



"British Airways check-in worker Nadia Eweida has lost her appeal against a previous court ruling upholding the airline's decision to ban her from wearing a cross necklace with her uniform at work.


Lord Justice Sedley upheld the Employment Appeal Tribunal's November 2008 ruling determining that the airline's ban did not constitute religious discrimination.


He said: "This case has perhaps illustrated some of the problems which can arise when an individual asserts that a provision, criterion or practice adopted by an employer conflicts with beliefs which they hold but which may not only not be shared but may be opposed by others in the workforce. It is not unthinkable that a blanket ban may sometimes be the only fair solution."


Those who support the burqa ban sometimes cite the presence of spousal abuse and poor treatment of women that is associated with radical Islam. There may be communal and family pressure to wear the restrictive garb.


Anyone who is not a hermit is subject to family and community pressure to dress and behave in certain ways. The unfortunate thing about Muslim communities in Europe is the murderous turn such pressure can take. Government and private charity already assist women leaving abusive relationships. Men who in Arab countries could get away with murder in the name of "honour" face prison for the same behavior in Europe and America. Muslim polygamy is already tolerated in Europe. Why is a ban on the burqa being proposed when this basic law is flouted? What about crimes against non Muslim women committed by Muslim men in Europe? Consider the following statement by an Australian imam justifying the rape of Australian women by Muslims.


"If you take out uncovered meat and place it outside on the street, or in the garden or in the park, or in the backyard without a cover, and the cats come and eat it ... whose fault is it, the cats or the uncovered meat?" the sheik said in his sermon. "The uncovered meat is the problem. If she was in her room, in her home, in her hijab, no problem would have occurred."


It is very easy to focus on garb that is bizarre to western eyes and to placate the public by banning it. If a Muslim woman wants to cover her face, that should be her right. But if she needs to show her face to a police officer or at customs, there can be no excuses. It is hard to believe that the open eyes behind the veils do not see the possibility of less restrictive variants of Islam. There are plenty of Muslim women who are adopting more liberal forms of Islam. Their rights should be protected from gangsters who would intimidate them, but not at the expense of those who remain covered.


It is a fact that there is a sector of the Muslim community that is radical. Security services should be gathering intelligence and cracking down on radicals. But banning the veil is a cosmetic measure. It sets a corrosive legal precedent, just like the ban on minarets. It is a bad idea, and it should be scrapped.

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