I must say that the Burqa ban in France (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-13031397) is one of those issues where I don’t know exactly where I stand. Many people have been online today coming out strongly for or against the ban, but if you will give me a moment, I will try (try, mind you!) and explain why I don’t think it is such a black and white issue.
Firstly, I should say that I am not a fan of Islam. But I am also not a fan of Christianity, Buddhism, Judaism or any other religion that you care to name. I am an equal opportunity atheist, I think all the religions are equally bat-shit crazy. I think that, like most religions, Islam has a habit of subjugating and discriminating against women and I think that the covering of a woman’s head and/or face is just another way that women are shamed because of their sex and removed from society by religion (again, this theme can apply to basically any religion). If it truly was not a way of controlling and subjugating women and their sexuality then please explain to me why pre-pubescent girls do not have to wear it and nor do men.
Having said that, I am not sure that outlawing the burqa in public is the best course of action. The ban is only for face coverings (eg burqa, niqab), so it will be perfectly acceptable for Islamic women to wear headscarves in the street. These women who wear only a headscarf are presumably (and in my own personal experience) more moderate in their (and their families) religious views, and thus would be expected to already enjoy more freedom to interact within society than those who wear the full face veil. So given that Muslim women will continue to wear Muslim headgear in public, what is the true effect of banning the face veil? Well, I would expect that there might be a reduction in the number of women wearing a veil in public, but this is less likely to be due to women going about without the veil and more likely to be caused by these veil-wearing women no longer being able to leave the house, for fear of facing either a government imposed fine or retribution from their families. The women who choose or are induced to wear the veil are more likely to live in a world where the Islamic beliefs and teachings are very strictly adhered to. A government edict is not, I expect, going to be enough for most of the people who live their lives in this way to suddenly choose to discard this tradition. So I suspect that roughly the same number of women will be wearing the veil, but that they will be less visible due to the ban – and therefore more isolated from the people, culture and aid services of society. It feels kind of like liberating these women from the burqa only to have them trapped in their houses. Not exactly a win.
I would love to hear other peoples comments on this issue – I clearly do not have the answer as to the best course of action, but I think we cannot approach this as a simplistic issue that will go away because of a ban.