The French government is on the road to signing into law a national ban on Islamic full veils.
Is this a reasonable thing to do to protect the secular state of France or is this a law which clearly impacts upon the Human Rights of women who wish to wear these traditional garbs?
Well, unfortunately it’s just not that simple.
Jean Glavany, a Socialist MP, said he opposed the ban on the grounds that it was “nothing more than the fear of those who are different, who come from abroad, who aren’t like us, who don’t share our values”.
Wrong. This bill is really all about combating the unacceptable reality of male dominance over women in the Islamic world. It’s not about “us vs. them”, it’s not about national identity, despite the claims of President Sarkozy, it’s not about scary foreigners and their weird customs which we don’t like or understand. It’s about people who live in a democratic nation being forced to work by that nations rules and values. None of which condone, in any shape or form, the treatment of women as second class citizens, which is the reality for most women in the Islamic world.
What we secular, western people see is Islamic men forced Islamic women to wear certain traditional garb without concern for that womans wishes. This is what this law is all about. If any woman freely wishes to wear such garbs, then we are talking about a different situation. However, it is impossible for anyone to determine is their free will involved or not when we ask individual women do they truly wish to wear this garb. They may say yes out of tradition, they may say yes out of fear of betraying their identity, they may say yes for religious reasons, or they may say yes for fear of retribution from their community, or their husband, for betraying any of the previous reasons.
Our only reasonable solution is to ban it in all public arenas, which is in line with most reasonable practices around the world, America has “no shirt, no service”, most businesses have a ban against face-concelaing coverings like motorcycle helmets etcetera, however none of this extends into the private realm. For that reason, demanding that Islamic women not wear face-concealing garb in public acheives two goals: i) it undermines the power that the Islamic community has to treat women as second-class citizens and ii) it shows inclusiveness and consistency of ideals by making Islamic communities subject to the same expectations of any other community (in regard to face-concealing garb in public)
Certain people are however reacting to this as a Human Rights issue, such as Kenza Drider:
“I’ll never change my life, not for anything in this world. My niqab is my niqab, I will keep it, “ she said. ‘‘The government can accept my decision or not, I am not an outlaw. If I’m fined by the police, I will take it to human rights in the name of my freedom.”
While it’s unclear if this woman is truly independent in her wish to wear the niqab, since everyone is expected to remove motorcycle helmets when entering banks (which is an entriely reasonable expectation), so should she be expected to remove any kind of face-concealing garb when entering public areas.
Take the counter-example of Nudists/Naturists. Are they allowed to display their lack of clothing in public? No. Is this a Human Rights issue? No. Are they allowed to so in the privacy of their own homes/communes? Yes. Are their rights to freedom from repression being violated? No.
The same goes for Islamic communities and their repressive garb. If you want to wear it in the privacy of your own home or other private areas, feel free, but do not expect special treatment for your backwards, patriarchical, bronze-age machismo.