Ban a Burqa, Ban a Muslim

In 2004, France banned Muslim headscarves, Jewish caps, Sikh turbans, and Christian crosses in its private schools. Now, it and several other countries, including Belgium and Sweden, are attempting to ban burqas, coverings for Muslim women that cover the entire body, including the face. The governments of these countries believe that burqas do not allow Muslim women to freely express themselves. Not only that, but it is also hard to determine the identity of a person when they are fully covered, which may make it a security risk. Nicholas Sarkozy, the French President, says, “The problem of the burqa is not a religious problem. This is an issue of a woman’s freedom and dignity. This is not a religious symbol. It is a sign of subservience; it is a sign of lowering. I want to say solemnly, the burqa is not welcome in France.” Belgian parliament member Daniel Bacquelaine holds similar views, “It’s a question of human dignity; the full face veil turns women into a walking prison.”

The French cabinet will meet to discuss and vote on the bill to ban burqas from all public spaces. If approved by the cabinet, it will go on to be debated at a National Assembly in July. Belgium’s lower House of Parliament approved of their bill and the Senate voted on it in April with the result being almost unanimous. The ban may become a law as early as June, but the phrasing is currently being examined. Belgian parliament member Denis Duncarne says, “We are the first country to break through the chain that kept countless women enslaved.”

There is one very important issue with this ban. When President Sarkozy and the Belgian Parliament members state that burqas are used to enslave women, show their inferiority to men, and turn them into walking prisons, they forget that these women are not forced to wear the burqa and that Muslim coverings are not meant to remove the equality between men and women. The burqa is not required in Islam; women are asked to practice pardah, the act of covering oneself modestly. Usually this simply means wearing a headscarf and unrevealing clothing. This is no way meant to oppress women, only to protect them from men who may look at them with lustful eyes. However, some have taken pardah to an extreme and have decided to cover their entire bodies so that nothing will be revealed. These women have chosen to dress this way, just as some women choose to dress in shorts and t-shirts. This is how they express themselves and they are free to do so. Junior Emily Roznowski says, “Personally, I’m all for the suppression of oppression of women, but I think this is a blatant affront to free exercise and that these Muslim women have a choice to do this.” The first article of the French constitution states that it shall respect all religious beliefs, but the French government is clearly not respecting these Muslim women’s beliefs in wearing a full body covering. Any country considering a ban on burqas should take into consideration the fact that burqas are, in fact, not meant to oppress women, but to protect them.