>Ban the Burqa?


In 1994 France began clamping down on religious symbols, including the Muslim headscarf, in state schools. In 2004 it banned all “ostentatious” religious signs, including the veil, from many public buildings.

Last year Sarkozy famously said that the Burqa (a head to toe covering with a narrow slit for the eyes) is “not welcome on French soil”. Since France banned it Belgium has also jumped on board, angering many human rights organisations because they didn’t launch any national consultations as did France.

Do you agree with Sarkozy? Do you think it should be banned in your country?


  • >Make it a misdemeanour like appearing naked in public is.I was shopping in Phuket on my way back from NZ last month, and lots of foreigners dress down, but i stopped and shook my head when i saw 2 guys walking around a shopping mall in jandals and speedos.i thought that it is not what they do in their country, and its not what thai people do in thailand either, so where did they get the idea that speedos in a department store was appropriate ? even the other foreigners didn't wear speedos outside the beach.we already have laws that dictate what can be done, said, and worn in public, so why not one for the burka too ?Many Islam clerics have said it is not part of their religion, so it can not be accepted as a fact that it needs to be protected on the grounds of freedom of religion.no need to lock anyone up for wearing it, but a $100 fine or whatever is the going rate for misdemeanours should be appropriate.

  • >In my view banning something like the burqa may not be the most effective initiative to fortify security measures. All it would do is hurt the sentiments of a community that is now forced to abide by the law and perhaps go against its own beliefs in the process. http://www.lawisgreek.com/burqas-in-belgium/

  • >I read on the link and some of the comments posted there. I have to agree that the law is somewhat pandering to Islam-phobia.I agree with Arvind in that banning the burqa for security reasons is a little absurd, as there haven't been any crimes committed by Burka wearing criminals, I think this is not the real reason behind the move.I think it is two fold.1. Protection of the rights of women according to Belgium's definition of male/female equality.and 2. An attempt to encourage/force greater integration within belgium society.I see the article linked stated there would be a fine of about 20 euro. In this instance it's only considered about the equivalent of illegally parking your car.

  • >Im not a fan of the Burka, i must admit that it freaks me out a little bit that someone is covered head to toe with only their eyes showing. That will probably come from the fact that it is not the norm for me. In much the same way that i wouldnt like to speak to someone wearing a bike helmet or similar headpiece it would feel intimidating to me. There are other options available that are more in tune with a british culture, and i would be happier to see them used instead.I would be happy to see the Burka banned. There isnt a need for it. If you feel that there is a need to wear one there are countries that will allow you to wear one and you are more than welcome to move there.In Response to Sean about Crimes see here http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/manchester/8665315.stm

  • >It may sound like a bit of a cop out but I think the arguments are almost equally balanced. However this is why I think Belgium made a mistake. Where the arguments are so equally balanced surely the decision must be as democratic as possible? Now on the one hand Belgium's decision was remarkably democratic considering the circumstances. Belgium is a country severely threatened by the split between Flemish and Wallonian groups. Yet the vote passed in the Parliament with a cross party consensus of 136 deputies and no opposing votes.Yet on the other hand they knew what a commotion this law would cause and so should have factored in the need for maximum consultation. The decision was made in such a rush that I find it hard to believe the deputies had properly consulted the people, especially the 3% minority Muslim community. At the end of the day we are talking about an enfringement of minority rights. So why didn't they try and at least make it look like the decision was well thought out?

  • >I stand corrected thanks Ashley.Yes Rob, it did sound like a cop out. All you did was critique the way the government handled the issue, and not your feelings on the issue of the burka's place in a western society. Will you leave that kind of comment to those who aren't afraid of being called racist/religionist [sic] ?To quote your comments about not allowing a direct democracy, you said "politicians are experts" and these things are best decided by them. Now all of a sudden you say there should have been nation wide consultations ? Even though there are only 3% muslims and the country of belgium has bigger problems, like keeping a government together ?

  • >Very political comment by you Sean. And in that I mean misleading. Politicians usually are experts. But some things are not clear cut (Pareto optimality). When you have weighed both sides of the debate and conclude that the judgement must be subjective i.e. a 'value judgement' then democracy matters more. However I'm not talking about direct democracy as I think in this matter the thoughts of the 3% Muslim minority matter proportionately more than the 97% majority.Next, politicians are elected not simply to keep government together, nor simply to keep the economy in good condition. It is their job to deal with all matters, and they should have known that an issue such as this was too controversial to push through the legislature so fast, and without proper research and consultation!

  • >I don't see how the issue of the Burka is controversial enough to warrant nation-wide consultation.Apparently only a small percentage of the 3% muslim minority wear burkas. I'm not sure of the nominal figure, but in france it is stated to be about 2000 people.With only 1/6th the population of france, a rough guess is that there are about 350 people who wear burkas.How extensive should consultation be when the affected parties only amounts to 350 people?I understand that we must protect minorities, but belgium is not voting to deport them, just to enforce a manner of acceptable dress.Do you really think that the Belgium government which is struggling to maintain its own cohesion, should take time out to consult the nation about a small by-law ?And if you answer yes (which I think you will), then what precedent does this set ? Everytime 350 people want something, there must be a nationwide referendum ?Second, you still haven't stated exactly why you think the arguments for and against are equally balanced.

  • >i have to say i am in agreement with Sean on this. Its not big enough to warrant having a nation wide consultation, especially as there are alternatives. If however it wasnt just the Burka that was being banned and it was including other religious dress then there would be a need.

  • >This is a controversial issue precisely because it affects a minority. It may not be a big issue to you but anything that is involved with religion is a big, and controversial matter. That's simply the way of the world. However even if it wasn't a religious issue it is still a negative one i.e. some people are likely to percieve it as a negative action against the Muslim community. No one would care if it affected a minority in a positive way. But the issue is that some people may see this as a racist/religionist trampling of minority rights.Sean you accept that we must protect minorities but what are we protecting? We are talking about what some people refer to as a right, and others as cultural and religious practices integral to their ways of life.I don't think it really needs to take a great deal of time. A commission/review could be appointed, and focus groups asked their opinions, so that government can carry on about its daily business while these processes are being carried out.What precedent does it set? It's not about just any wants of any minority. Tensions between Muslim and Western communities are increasing by the day in many communities throughout the world. By consulting with the people, in particular the Muslim community, the Belgium government would be sending out a message that it recognizes this, and that it does not reflect any of the hostilities. Laws such as this, unanimously voted upon on very short notice, can be very damaging to international reputations. It is very plausible that a diplomat from Indonesia could call off a meeting in protest at what he/she misinterprets as an anti-Muslim law.Why are the arguments equally balanced? Because on the one hand it will foster better community integration, the burqa is a worry for the police, and in some cases it may protect the rights of Muslim women. However, some people will see the right to wear the Burqa as a right, and many people will misinterpret the intentions behind why such a law was passed. In a hypothetical situation where we saw huge riots and mass killings in a decade or two historians would likely point back to such quickly passed laws as contributing factors in creating the culture that led to such violence.

  • >"Sean you accept that we must protect minorities but what are we protecting?"We are protecting their human rights according to the various International charters.The banning of the Burka is not a human rights issue, plain and simple.Belgium is not banning other muslim head-dresses or clothes, just this particular one which is at the extreme end of what is acceptable by belgian standards."This is a controversial issue precisely because it affects a minority".So all laws that affect minorities are controversial ? Back to my original point of the implausibility of having nation-wide consultations everytime 350 people prefer something.You state that "The decision was made in such a rush that I find it hard to believe the deputies had properly consulted the people".Are you saying ALL 136 deputies who voted for it, were out of touch ? Not a single one of them thought the decision through ?To me it looks like the facts are agreed upon and widely accepted when 136 to 0 vote in favour of the ban.Also you state that there are tensions between Muslim and Western communities. Why ? Can you name 1 other law besides the banning of the Burka that could be perceived as anti-muslim ?Why then should the Muslim community feel that there are tensions ?Because the West is illegally in their bloody countries that's why. If Blair stayed the fuck out of Iraq, and Arabia in general (as well as the US) then I guarantee there would be a lot less tensions between the muslim communities and the west.Rob supports invading their country without evidence and in defiance of international opinion, but thinks belgium should have a nation-wide consultation regarding the banning of the burka becuase it affects 350 people !Seriously warped sense of fairness Rob.

  • >"The banning of the Burka is not a human rights issue". The issue is not whether you think it is, but whether the Muslim community both locally and internationally does. French committees, meetings and consultations have found that the majority of Muslims are in favour of the ban in France. So then the ban should be enforced there. The message there is clear: 'we care about your rights, and realise how important this issue could potentially be, but still think it is the right and democratic thing to do.' At the end of the day it's all about perceptions. What kind of message do you want to put out about your government, people and country? France shows a liberal and considerate face (the ban there has perhaps taken too long to be put into force). Beligium shows a rash and inconsiderate one."So all laws that affect minorities are controversial?" Any law that affects a minority negatively is, yes. That is not debatable."you state that there are tensions between Muslim and Western communities. Why ?" Have you not been following the news in the last few years? It's not just the 2003 invasion of Iraq (which I did not support). Protests on the streets; mass killings in Nigeria and Sudan; Western invasions of countries succesfully labelled as primarily Muslim in the media; academic literature about the tensions such as Samuel Huntington's 'Clash of Civilisations'; the rise of far right extremist parties accross Europe; social and sometimes violent clashes between Muslim and Hindu communities accross the Indian subcontinent; widespread stop and search operations on Muslim citizens particularly in Britain etc etc. As for the next comments, please grow up! I never once said, and never will say in the future that I support an invasion without evidence. That does not mean I am in support of abandoning Afghanistan however as I assume you're advocating. We invaded and it is now our responsibility to finish the job, fight the remaining Al-Quaeda cells and training camps, and help the people of Afghanistan, who are faced with 35% unemployment, daily violence, corruption, and widespread malnutrition.

  • >You said that it is not important that I think the Burka is not a human rights issue. I agree. Unfortunately for you I never said anything of the like.You said that it is a human rights issue if the muslim community considers it to be. You are wrong. It is a human rights issue if it is covered under the various U.N. charters defining the human rights of people.Protection of burkas is not included in any of those charters.So I was right, you couldn't provide 1 more example of legislation that discriminated against muslim communities living in the west.What you did do was highlight that most of the tensions occurred as a result of foreign policy decisions.As for your support of Blair's invasion of Iraq, ok i retract that. I had confused your defense of Blair (in regards to being tried as a war criminal) with an acceptance that Blair was correct in his decision to invade.I don't think i've ever commented on Afghanistan one way or another.So, back to the Burka.The burka isn't protected by the U.N. charter on human rights, the Belgian vote was unanimous, the 350 burka wearers will not be unduly affected and can still practise their faith, and wear the burka in their mosque's.Simply, the belgian people have said that in public, people should not cover their faces so completely.

  • >For the first comment you might want to re-read what you and I said. I quoted you saying it! But I'm glad you've changed your mind nontheless, lol.You think that every single right is covered in the UN charter? Even if this is your opinion it is not the opinion of many others. And that is precisely my point; how it is percieved. Besides, even this is subjective. I'll highlight a few UN articles below that could be interpreted to use as arguments against this ban.Article 18 says: "Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance." This article is completely open to subjective interpretation, and you could easily say that this ban affected those freedoms. You could also use article 19, which says "Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression". You could also argue that such a ban does not accord with article 29b, which says "In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society.""What you did do was highlight that most of the tensions occurred as a result of foreign policy decisions." Sean, if you'd ever studied the causes of conflict then you'd realise that causes are very far reaching, and foreign policy decisions are rarely the most significant factors in cases such as this (if you want another question on causes of conflict I'm glad to discuss it; I did my dissertation on the subject). As for legislation, I don't think I ever said the main causes of such tension were related to legislation. However, you shouldn't be under the impression that there have never been any laws that could be perceived as anti-Muslim for the issues I discussed when I introduced this question highlight what France has done that could be considered anti-Muslim.Basically, the issue can be argued either way. It can be misinterpreted as an offence against Muslims, particularly by religious extremists who seize upon small things such as this and then spread exagerations and wild speculation on extremist websites and such. And this is why we need politicians to be as careful and cautious as possible. As I said if some sort of national consultation had been taken with the 3% Muslim community and found the community to be in favour, then that would be great. But this did not happen.

  • >No argument. We have to abide by their code of dress and behaviour when in their countries or face the consequences which are invariably much more severe than ours. When in Rome etc. etc.

  • >True enough DP. However the question is: what is our code of dress? It could be argued that our liberalism means that our code of dress is 'where what you want unless it infringes upon the liberties of others'. Did you hear about the MP who refused to see anyone in his surgery if they wore a Burkha? It was exagerated a bit by the press as what he was saying is something that is already done across most of the country. If a woman wearing a Burkha gets a job as a teacher the school can ask that she not wear the headpiece while teaching. If she goes somewhere where police identification is needed she can be asked to remove the headpiece for this purpose too. In this way the Burkha can be treated like a balaclava i.e. it's not outlawed but it is inappropriate to where it in public and people can ask that you remove it before speaking to them. In fact this fact is culturally engrained, so the liberal argument would go along these lines, and try to push for cultural rather than legal change.As I said I'm somewhat on the fence on the issue so I'm kind of playing devil's advocate. But what would you say to that argument?

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