Wednesday, February 22, 2006

To Ban or Not to Ban...

by Sarah Johnson

A town in Belgium did it and the Netherlands is considering it, too: a proposal to ban the burqa. This follows a vote by the Dutch parliament in favour of implementing such a policy.

Geert Wilders, the MP who proposed it, gave three reasons: firstly, security “in this age of terrorism” (as you can’t see who is under a burqa). Secondly, because the burqa is a medieval symbol of the oppression of women, and “that’s not how we treat women here”. And thirdly, because wearing a burqa prevents Muslim women from integrating into Dutch society, making Dutch friends, getting a job etc.

Of course, Geert Wilders' views on Islam are well known and his litany of motivations are a thinly veiled (no pun intended) attempt to continue his limitation of Muslim influence upon Dutch society. No surprises there.

What was a surprise was how seriously others have taken it, both politician and average Joe Bloggs Dutchman alike.

I recently conducted a highly unscientific survey in a few Amsterdam bars and got into quite a heated discussion with one woman who’d overheard me discussing the ban with a friend of mine. She made it quite clear that she was in favour of the proposal, her first argument being that women wearing a burqa scare her daughter. I suggested that if she explained to her daughter why the women were wearing the burqa, her daughter might not find them frightening anymore. This merely irritated her.

There’s no denying that some women are forced to wear the burqa, and it's not actually prescribed in the Koran. So, doesn't this argument really boil down to the question of freedoms: the freedom to choose what to wear, and the right to express our religious beliefs as we see fit. It's easy to see how some Muslims might see this ban as discriminatory – that is, unless it’s a blanket ban on everyone covering their faces, including Father Christmas.

If you want to hear that side of the argument, listen to the interview I made with a Dutch, female lawyer, F. Arslan by clicking here. Though she’s a Muslim, she doesn’t wear the burqa herself. But she says the ban would discriminate against women and Muslims.

You can also here more about the burqa debate, on this week’s EuroQuest.


At 8:22 AM, Blogger 2164th said...

What utter nonsense. Of course the burkka should be banned in the West. It is not a benign fashion choice. It is a symbol of repression against half of humanity. It represents fear, ignorance, intolerance, prejudice, subjugation and terror. No decent society should tolerate such utter nonsense and gender based bullying. It is time, way past time, to stop being defensive about our cultural values and grovelling before theirs.

At 9:30 AM, Blogger Jonathan Groubert said...

I am aware of the strong feelings about the burka and I'm no fan of it myself. But the greater issue is indeed about, as you say, the "cultural value" of freedom and the open society. It seems to me that basis of the open society is to tolerate unpopular ideas even if they seem to run counter to your idea of freedom.

At 5:06 AM, Blogger Beth said...

I am ambivalent because if you start with the burka, where does it stop? Will observant Muslim and Jewish women not be able to wear a head covering and modest clothing because it makes some people uncomfortable. Will their men not be able to wear skullcaps or yarmulkes inside their workplaces. While the Burka is a much more extreme version it swings the door wide open. And 2164th I must say you sound awfully closed minded and fundamental in your own view as those whose views you've chided.


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