Subversify Magazine » The Niqab ban: A Study in Stupidity

The Niqab ban: A Study in Stupidity

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By Bill the Butcher

On the eleventh of April, it became illegal to veil one’s face in public in France.

This is something that seems to have made a lot of people happy, and they defend their being happy quite vigorously.

The arguments, if one can call them so, run along three fairly broad and predictable lines:

First, that the burqa, in whatever form (hijab, niqab) is against “French/European culture” and said culture has to be protected from it

Secondly, that the burqa is, by its very nature, oppressive to women; and

Thirdly, that the burqa is a security hazard.

Each and every one of these arguments is hollow and self-serving.

Let’s take the first argument first.

Now, I’m not denying that to people who aren’t exactly used to seeing masked faces, the sight of a woman in a veil may be momentarily unsettling. But that’s all she is…a woman in a veil. If a woman in a veil is a threat to one’s culture, I submit that said culture has problems far greater than can be cured by merely banning the veil.

Besides, while culture is of course a plastic item and changes, albeit usually rather slowly, over time, exactly how great is the threat to French culture from the niqab? Actually, we don’t have to resort to guesswork. France has roughly three million Muslim women. The French police did a survey to check how many wore the niqab. The answer? 367.[1]

Now you tell me what kind of culture is at threat from a miserable three hundred and sixty seven veiled women? And in Belgium, which is also planning to ban the veil, there are half a million Muslim women, of whom a humongous two dozen wear the veil [2]. Amazing.

I think, for the moment, we can put the culture issue aside as a shoddy excuse.

The second argument is the idea that being made to wear a veil is “oppressive” to women.

On the face of it this might seem a seductive notion, and it is…so long as you don’t ask those veiled women what they think of it. If you do, the reactions might be surprising.

This is what Kenza Drider, a French Muslim woman who wears the niqab and is determined to violate the ban, has to say [3]:

“This whole law makes France look ridiculous…I never thought I’d see the day when France, my France, the country I was born in and I love, the country of liberté, égalité, fraternité, would do something that so obviously violates people’s freedom.

“I’ll be getting on with my life and if they want to send me to prison for wearing the niqab then so be it. One thing’s for sure: I’m not taking it off.”

So here we have an “oppressed” woman prepared to go to prison rather than remove the symbol of her alleged oppression.

In fact, worldwide, the burqa or niqab can be seen to be an empowering garment rather than an oppressive one.

How so? In order to answer that, we must ask first this question:

Who, precisely, are the people who wear burqas, hijabs or niqabs? Aren’t they fundamentalist Muslims? They are.

Now, the burqa or other veil is actually not required wearing in Islam. It’s more a cultural thing, and it’s mostly a coincidence that those cultures which traditionally veiled their women also tend to have the more fundamentalist interpretations of the Islamic faith. But the fact remains that the veil is worn by women, primarily, in cultures where they have to wear it in public if they go out at all. Tradition, reinforced by their menfolk, ensure that they keep the veil.

Often, in fact, the veil is just a temporary garment, for wearing in public. Women in many countries will dress to kill, put on the burqa over their hip-hugging jeans and low-neck tops, and go to all-woman malls and discos, where they will dump the veil in the check-in and turn into birds of paradise for the night. You’d call that oppression?

For many women it’s much more of a necessity. I myself knew a dentist in Calcutta who worked in her clinic in the regulation white coat, latex gloves and face mask. But when her clinic hours were over, she would put on a burqa for the trip home. And this was a well-educated professional. There are many more who do the same, whose lives outside the home take place within the folds of a burqa.

Now, suppose you ban the burqa. Will those veiled women suddenly gain the freedom to go out without their enveloping garments? Of course they won’t. Instead, they will find themselves confined within the four walls of their home, prisoners of their inability to put on the veil that set them free.

Pretty strange way of enforcing female emancipation if you ask me!

Then, the third excuse is the “security” one. In these days of Islamophobia and terrorism-mongering, this strikes a raw nerve. In fact it’s so clearly designed to strike a raw nerve that you know right away that it’s a fake argument.

Let’s think about a veiled woman in the street. Sure, she could be hiding a bomb under her niqab’s folds. Hell, if it’s winter, any guy or gal in a heavy jacket could be hiding a bomb under said jacket. Do you ban jackets?

Then, in a world where Al Qaeda has already produced and used intestine bombs [4], a burqa-clad suicide bomber would be rather…obvious, no?

But let’s not even go to all that. A burqa-clad woman stands out in a crowd, instantly. If you are in a situation where you need to check her identity, just ask a policewoman to do it. It’s a system used in India, for example, where a large number (yet very, very far from a majority, let alone all) of Muslim women are veiled, and so far it’s worked more or less perfectly.

In North India, a lot of Muslim women,who are otherwise poor, semi/illiterate,and from fundamentalist families,wear the veil. They go shopping,work,even drive,wearing it. I’ve treated veiled Muslim women many times. You ban the veil,and what happens to them? Answer-they’re, instantly, disempowered.

The irony is that the nations banning the veil have almost no veiled people,while nations full of veiled women don’t seem to have any problems with them. You’d think India might have more problems than France with the veil,wouldn’t you, assuming of course that said problems exist?

Right.

But of course all this veil-banning has nothing whatsoever to do with any of the three “arguments” advanced. It has everything to do with scoring cheap political points in an environment where Muslim-bashing is an easy way to popularity, so long as you don’t openly call it Muslim-bashing. The fear of Muslims has seeped so thoroughly into modern Europe (replacing the fear of Jews) that anything that targets them will get electoral support, no matter how ridiculous it is.

And of course this veil-banning is counterproductive. Leave the veil alone, and it’s fairly certain that the children of the veil-wearing generation will abandon it for what their friends and colleagues are wearing, or their children will. But ban the veil, and wearing it becomes an instant act of defiance, a badge of resistance against cultural diktat. I’d be very surprised if non-niqab-wearing Muslim women in France don’t now start wearing it as a mark of protest.

And since populism and tokenism aren’t the prerogative of any one party, the Islamic Right will (in case it hasn’t already done so) instantly leap on the ban as yet another proof of the evilness of the Crusader West, and use it as a tool to further raise anti-Western hatred. It suits their agenda perfectly.

In fact this kind of thing (like Switzerland’s banning of mosque minarets, another ludicrous bit of stupidity) is so tailored towards cleaving societies asunder that I’d be astonished if those responsible weren’t doing it deliberately.

Clashes of civilisations can be created in inventive ways.

Sources:

[1] http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/01/world/europe/01france.html?_r=3

[2] http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/8597142.stm

[3] http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/apr/10/france-burqa-law-kenza-drider

[4] http://www.thaindian.com/newsportal/sout….1002 56280.html

Further reading:

http://technorati.com/politics/article/the-french-ban-on-niqab-and/

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Posted on April 15, 2011

6 Comments

  1. karlsie says:

    When i think about the geographic location of early Muslims, i can’t help but wonder if the veil was first used as a matter of practicality. Like the rebozo, prevalently worn by Latin American indigenous people, it covers the hair from the harsh sun, and the face from blowing sand and reflected glare. Customs usually have an origin in practicality. Early Jewish dietary laws undoubtedly protected a lot of Jews from the unpleasant aspects of eating bacterial infested and undercooked pork.

    Although treatment of pork has become more sophisticated over the centuries, lessening the risks of contamination, Orthodox Jews still do not eat pork. Should we be scandalized if we set out a breakfast banquet and a small number of the people refuse to eat the bacon? Should we brood that these stubborn, Orthodox Jews are in fact subversive terrorists, attempting to destroy the income of pig farmers? Should we decide that religions that ban the eating of certain meats are repressive and the followers need liberating, at force if necessary?

    Customs dictate our sense of propriety for appearances, dietary consumption and even good manners. It wasn’t really that long ago that women who wore pants became acceptable. My grandmother, rest her soul, was an extremely old fashioned woman with some rather strong ideas of what constitutes lady-like conduct. When, as a small child, we made our first state-side visit, she was aghast that not only did my mother wear jeans, she dressed her girls in overalls for play time. She accused my mother of raising her children to become barbarians. Mary Tyler Moore first rocked her viewers when she began appearing on the Dick Van Dyke show with capri’s as part of her at-home, casual wardrobe. It wasn’t until the era of pant suits that pants became an accepted part of a career woman’s professional attire.

    Urban cities are plagued with high density industrial pollution and heavy carbon emissions. Gauze like head covering made from cotton or silk filters these particles, giving the wearer less exposure to these harmful elements. The futuristic vision presented to us by scientist is one in which these unsuitable for breathing conditions will only increase and people will only be able to go outside wearing protective gear. I think i would rather wear a burqa than a helmet, goggles and a gas mask.

  2. [...] France starts ban on full-face veil A good article on the Niqab debate The Niqab ban: A Study in Stupidity On the eleventh of April, it became illegal to veil one’s face in public in France. This is [...]

  3. Iordy says:

    Come on, there are 4 countries in Europe which banned burqas/niqabs: France, Belgium, Italy and HOLLAND! So stop talking bad about France… you forget the other countries! And then Israel and Australia are working on the same ban! What is this stupidity, we have to tolerate masked women on public places? Religion is a total freedom to have as a belief, BUT THE MANIFESTATION OF THAT RELIGION/BELIEF IT CANT BE TOTAL! ENOUGH IS ENOUGH ALREADY! BURQAS/NIQABS ARE NOT EVEN MANDATORY IN ISLAM, SO IF TOMORROW I DEVELOP A BELIEF TO WALK EVERYWHERE DRESSED IN CATWOMAN COSTUME, THEN WHAT? EVERYBODY WILL BE FORCED TO TOLERATE ME? WHAT ABOUT TOTALLY NAKED? WHICH ARE THE LIMITS OF SOMEONE RELIGIOUS MANIFESTATIONS? CAUSE THERE MUST BE SOME LIMITS! If France it’s secular and racist, what about Holland, which passed the same ban! looooool I had just enough with muslims, they invoke more human rights than any other people, they make a hassle out of everything, and they were nothing but tolerated and fairly treated! They have no limits cause they’re still dreaming at a Holy War and a New Order for Allah! And the number of the westerners converted to Islam is very very small, most of the Muslims in Europe are emigrants from Islamic countries! And back home, they dont have any human rights, but here they scream that everything is breaching their rights! We can’t passed laws that are legit and make sense because their beliefs! How is this fair to the others? It’s not!

  4. Iordy says:

    And Karlsie, a protective gear will not hide your identity like a burqa/niqab! Think about Michael Jackson, he was wearing one in public, but his identity wasnt masked, anyone could easily recognise him! So come on, dont justify burqa/niqab, cause they dont have any justification except that is a personal religious belief, which already been inforce upon the others to an extent that is affecting public order, security and is to much!

  5. Grainne says:

    I see no reason why a personal religious belief should to cover oneself should come under such outspoken attack in France, Holland or any other place anywhere. If someone wants to don a burqa they should be allowed to do so. If they want to walk around in 15th century armour they should be allowed to do so. No law should make someone uncover themselves.

  6. shh says:

    me thinks lordy just likes to look at women’s bodies in public..

    ..maybe some women don’t like it when you stare?

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