Could the Burqa Ban Come to America?

July 13th, 2010 at 11:36 pm | 17 Comments |

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The French ban on the burqa reminds us of another Western law barring face coverings: the ban of the KKK face mask during the reconstruction of the American South.

Here’s how the two laws are similar:  the ban on KKK hoods was to protect the rights of African-Americans.  The ban on burqas protects the rights of Muslim women.  It’s about both freedom and security.

The courts ruled in favor of equality over free expression because of security.  Men and women had as equal a right to see a face as did the man or woman who desired to cover it.  State laws banned full facial concealment in an effort to stop the violence.  (These laws eventually helped collapse the Klan because KKK membership winnowed in their new era of transparency.)

The takeaway is that if security is a consideration, no matter the sex, religion, ideology, or orientation, we are all equal in our right to view facial expression.  Women wearing burqas are likely not hiding a bomb, but the garment is used too often to conceal terror to be ignored.

Such forced equality because of a security threat should extend to other rights for Muslim women.  After all, women in the West wearing burqas certainly cannot be compared to Klansmen, perhaps notably because KKK members chose to don the mask.

It is unlikely that women in France or the U.S. wearing burqas exercise free will in an effort to segregate themselves.  France is not Afghanistan, where many women are forced to wear the burqa for their safety because of constant threats of violence. Women are hidden, oppressed, and valued as less than a man in a culture where honor crimes and killings, acid thrown in one’s face for attending school, and forced immolation for perceived crimes threaten women.

That the United States has witnessed a spate of crimes against girls and women in recent years—honor killings in Arizona, Texas, and a beheading in Michigan—reminds us why it is so important that all women of all cultures deserve the same freedoms, and that American law should set an example for protecting women.

Immigrants who move to the West have chosen to adopt the principle of human equality above all others, including religious freedom. The bitter irony is that when it comes to the emancipation of women from political Islam, we allow religious freedom to become distorted and elevated above protecting women—women in the West who are free and equal under the democratic law of their new homelands.


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17 Comments so far ↓

  • rbottoms

    Could the Burqa Ban Come to America?

    Uh, we don’t ban people’s religious choices in America, no matter how idiotic.

  • DeepSouthPopulist

    “Could the Burqa Ban Come to America? ”

    Let’s hope so, and as soon as possible.

    Or better yet, close the borders so we don’t have to bother.

  • Bebe99

    I think it is an incorrect assumption that women in France or the US do not wear the burqa by choice. Some of them have lived all their lives with this custom and are comfortable with it. And people who emigrate tend to cling more to the traditions of their homeland.

    That said I am not in favor of burqa wearing. Burqa wearing places women in a different category, one which diminishes them. However much they may be loved or respected at home, they lack the right to be full members of society in public. They are faceless. I can’t blame the French for passing their law. I think it would be very hard to pass such a law here without equating burqas as security threats or perhaps as a civil rights issue. Perhaps burqa wearers could form their own closed communities, as other groups have done, when their practices fall too far outside acceptable practice. Sadly that would isolate them even more.

  • drdredel

    @bebe99

    “However much they may be loved or respected at home”

    This sort of sentiment can only be made by someone who is not actually familiar with the practice. At some point expressions of “love” are so distant from what is actually good for people (and yes, there IS an objective “good” for people… see Sam Harris’ amazingly eloquent and poignant lecture at TED on this topic) that to protect these behaviors in the name of “tolerance” is simply to twist tolerance into a pretzel.

    I don’t feel like cross posting so I’ll continue my commentary in the other 2 threads currently running on this topic.

  • Chris

    It doesn’t surprise me that Republicans would argue for this — they’ve never really been advocates of limited government. But I would be very interested to know what the percentage of Tea Bags turns out to be that would argue for such a ban in America.

  • rbottoms

    At some point expressions of “love” are so distant from what is actually good for people (and yes, there IS an objective “good” for people…

    I’d be in favor telling snake handlers that their religious practice is stupid. And that whole prayer instead of doctors thing doesn’t make a lot of sense.

    Burqas are dumb, but not exactly genital mutilation.

    Basically who gives a damn.

    If they don’t want to wear the thing, tell hubby to piss off and move out.

    This is America they don’t have to take sh*t from anyone.

  • morristhewise

    The shape of a female body should only be known by family members. The burka is the enemy of infidels who prefer the curves of a woman to the words of the Koran. Rarely does a shopper wearing a burka return from the market place carrying the seed of Satan rather than a basket of fruit.

  • sinz54

    Jordan: The French ban on the burqa reminds us of another Western law barring face coverings: the ban of the KKK face mask during the reconstruction of the American South.

    Here’s how the two laws are similar: the ban on KKK hoods was to protect the rights of African-Americans. The ban on burqas protects the rights of Muslim women.
    No.
    The two laws aren’t similar at all.

    The KKK was a terrorist group, who wore masks to hide their identity. Those masks were banned as a matter of internal security, much as we now use X-ray machines to scan us at airports.

    Muslim women wear burqas not because they’re all terrorists (the vast majority aren’t), but because their husbands, families, or zealots in their communities, will beat the crap out of them if they don’t wear the burqas.

    There is an argument that intimidating Muslim women into wearing burqas is a matter of domestic violence, and those laws should be enforced vigorously. But if a Muslim woman claims she wears the burqa of her own free will, then I don’t see how the Government can legally intervene.

  • drdredel

    @sinz
    “But if a Muslim woman claims she wears the burqa of her own free will, then I don’t see how the Government can legally intervene.”

    You’re right that there are those that are telling the truth when they assert that their husbands do not force them into the practice and the government would have a hard time proving otherwise. However, if there is evidence of domestic abuse, a woman is not required to press charges for the state to proceed with a criminal prosecution of the man. It’s just that without said testimony such a prosecution is extremely difficult.
    However, in the Taliban controlled Afghanistan, for example, where women who had become accustomed to modern freedoms were suddenly forced to dress in this manner, suicide rates sky-rocketed.
    Both in France and in the States we are still a LONG way off from such drastic scenarios, so, I agree that the law might be overkill… but I think its intention is quite reasonable.

  • mars

    Support for banning the Burqa has nothing to do with fear of a religion, or support of a religion, or attacks on a religion!! It should be and must be outlawed everywhere. It is unthinkable that a modern society would allow an adult to hide his or her face. It is a security issue of high importance. All complete face masks need to outlawed for adults. I don’t care if it is a ski cap or a burqa. People need to be identifiable for safety reasons. If you were in a traffic accident and couldn’t identify the guilty party how would you feel? If you were robbed and couldn’t identify the guilty party how would you feel? ALL adult face masks should be banned in this country.

  • Diomedes

    “Muslim women wear burqas not because they’re all terrorists (the vast majority aren’t), but because their husbands, families, or zealots in their communities, will beat the crap out of them if they don’t wear the burqas”

    And how is this different from other religious indoctrination or dogma?

    One can make the argument that circumcision should be banned since it often occurs at a time when the child is an infant and has no say in the matter. What about forcing your child to say grace at the dinner table? What about Sheiks forcing their male children to wear turbans prior to adulthood? What about the simple act of just simply forcing your child to go to your church every Sunday?

    You see, you cannot possibly legislate all of this. Which is why its best to stay out of it except in cases of obvious abuse or confinement.

    Oh, and I’ve said it before and I will say it again: religion is STUPID.

  • rbottoms

    I suspect more people have died due to religious proscriptions against blood transfusions, immunizations, and seeing a doctor when sick than have expired from wearing a viel.

    Equally dumb, but protected religious idiocy thank goodness.

  • CentristNYer

    This is an interesting question and I’ve wrestled with it trying to come up with an argument that both manages to satisfy my libertarian impulses and my fear of oppressive religious practices. I’m not sure that there’s an easy line that can be drawn between what’s abuse and what’s not abuse and where one’s transparently archaic (and stupid) beliefs collide with the best interests of a modern (and mostly rational) society.

    My instincts are to err on the side of individual liberty and allow the burqa, but I think this is not an issue that will be easily settled. It makes me very queasy to think of these woman — despite their dubious claims of free will — being treated like possessions to be toted around in an airless sack. I don’t know that religious freedom is a defense for every inhumane practice.

  • Diomedes

    “where one’s transparently archaic (and stupid) beliefs collide with the best interests of a modern (and mostly rational) society”

    Unfortunately, therein lies the problem. The vast majority of stupid religious beliefs can easily clash with modern society. Lets not forget that southerners often invoked the bible as justification for slavery, since it is specifically endorsed in it. So as time moves forward, the dogma gets watered down further and further.
    Which is why I laugh when the whole gay marriage debate came to the forefront and religious zealots once again invoked their beliefs and ‘moral superiority’ on everyone while simultaneously ignoring numerous other things in the bible that they reject because it clashes with our modern society.

    In the end, progression away from stupid beliefs and archaic philosophies is best accomplished through education, not through governmental laws or edicts.

  • rbottoms

    >I don’t know that religious freedom is a defense for every inhumane practice

    Again, this is America and these women are free to say FU, move to manhattan and get on with their lives if they chose. They can also decide to wear cammo and run around in the woods with end times militia nuts if that’s their thing.

    As long as you aren’t violent or molesting kids, believe any crazy thing you want. Hell, you might even get to run for Vice President.

  • drdredel

    @ CentristNYer

    That was extremely well put and I find myself feeling exactly the same for the most part. However, I think that there’s a case to be made that filling your childrens’ heads with nonsense and making it difficult for them to compete in the modern world with the children of, well… me for example, is, in fact, abusive. Perhaps churches, like bars, should only be allowed to serve adults? I know this sounds silly, given how eagerly Americans subscribe to the (absurd) notion that these are places where our youth find morality and purpose, but while I am inclined to agree that perhaps the laws that pertain to domestic abuse should be utilized for protecting adult women from whatever mistreatment their fanatical husbands expose them to (rather than banning articles of clothing), maybe we should just insist that religious freedoms be available only to those old enough to make intelligent choices about said ideologies and not allow so many of our kids to be force fed this crap at an age when their minds are so impressionable?

    I realize this is a non-starter… I’m just thinking wishfully :)