Thursday, July 09, 2009

Should France ban the burqa?


"The concept of secularism or "laicite" is sacred in France.

The separation of church and state is jealously guarded by everyone from school teachers to government ministers - and the constitution states the republic "does not recognise, subsidise or remunerate any religious body".
It underpinned the French Revolution, and has been a basic tenet of the country's progressive thought since the 18th century when French Enlightenment thinkers like Voltaire, Diderot and Montesquieu regarded religion as divisive, benighted and intolerant.

It was this same concept that was invoked five years ago to ban conspicuous signs of religion - including Islamic headscarves - from schools.

That decision sparked controversy and debate across Europe, with critics claiming it stigmatised Muslims at a time when France needed to be stepping up its fight against rife discrimination in the job market, which had caused so many youths of Muslim origin to feel forgotten by French society.

This latest call for a potential ban of the burka has prompted the head of the French Council for the Muslim Religion to warn MPs they risk stigmatising Muslims again."


Here's one way to see it.

French is a secular country and it is free to decide what kind of attires it will accept for its society. In Iran and Saudi Arabia, women must wear headscarves at all times in public. It's their country and that's their rule so that's that. How about if you are not Muslim? Well tough luck. That's the rule of the country.

A burqa is one end spectrum in attire and a string bikini is on the other. They are both valid way to dress but only in the context of the society it is in. If you come to a Muslim country, respect the traditions and dress appropriately. If you come to a Western country, repect their traditions too and dress appropriately.

We have a saying in Indonesia, "Di mana bumi dipijak, di situ langit dijunjung" which literally translate to "Wherever ground is stood on, the sky is hold high". It means wherever we go, we must obvserve local custom.

This can be offensive, depending on the place

This too can be offensive, depending on the place.

Wear this in cities outside winter and you will be arrested or at least questioned.

Fine and dandy at least in Ethiopia Mursi tribes.


Danny said...

Well tough luck. That's the rule of the country.

In the case of France though, it's a rule that can be created, modified, and eliminated by elected officials. And French democracy has been around a lot longer than headscarf bans and laicite. Plus, local customs change and I can't imagine that totalitarian secularism is gaining ground anytime soon considering France's demographic trends.

Dody G. said...

This applies everywhere though, regardless whether it is elected officials or kingdoms, as in any common norms. Burqa in Indonesia for example, is frowned upon. And if I'm correct, when you are doing Hajj, you are not allowed to wear Burqa either and instead wear headscarves.

What I'm saying is it is completely OK for society to decide what form of clothing it accepts/tolerates.

Jesse said...

my high school calculus teacher used to teach in malaysia. she said that there was controversy with the burqa in schools because girls would impersonate each other and cheat on exams.

in fact, with a burqa you can falsify your identity any time you are in mixed company. the burqa reinforces the sneakiness of women when they are around men. among men, only ninjas have such devices for sneakiness. so i am against the burqa in places of education and also places of law, and find a ban in such places common sense. but i think a burqa is a good device in entertainment districts, because a woman wearing a burqa will surely not suffer the indignity of being mistaken for a prostitute. you will probably object that eventually some elite class of prostitutes who wear burqas as their uniforms will rise, and ruin the whole setup. if that happens, i guess we really are fucked. likewise if ninjas start taking standardized exams.

Pierre said...

The interpretation of secularism in India is very different from Europe. It stems from the reign of Ashoka, an emperor who ruled over much of South Asia in his time.

At its heart is the tolerance of all religious practices and religious symbols, except maybe witchcraft. We're European that way :).

That is why Indians do not fear Sikhs who openly carry a kirpan or dagger or Muslim women wear a full burqa.

Interestingly, the Air Force is the only government institution that has been known to ban religious symbols - perhaps for safety because pilots need to wear so much equipment.