Ban on Burka in France

23 06 2009

France is considering a ban on burka. President Nicholas Sarkozy has expressed his desire to ban the wearing of burka in public places. A commission will ultimately decide on the ban. The discussion, however, has given way to much debate on the pros and cons of this expected ban.

Both the European Union and the French constitution allow the freedom of speech and expression. Wearing one’s religious identity is allowed under these laws. The interpretation of this freedom, on the contrary, has led to a friction between the Muslim organizations and the French society.

First they ban the wearing of scarves in schools. Now they are contemplating on a complete ban of burka. Isn’t that totally outrageous? First, the ban on scarves. They don’t cover the whole body of a girl and are just meant to cover the head. They are definitely a part of religious identity and ideally should not be banned as this is against the freedom of expression.

As far as burka is concerned, it is not essentially an Islamic compulsion. Burkas tend to cover the whole body, including eyes, face and lips. There are numerous interpretations of purdah in Islam but hardly a few of them ask for a complete veil.

The traditional burka is thus not an ideal Islamic dress. But, according to the proposed French ban, even scarves will be banned. This is actually quite a grave situation. There is a perception that many Muslim women had to wear these scarves out of pressure from their family. It is partially true but increasingly, many women are wearing them by choice. As there is no ban yet, we have to wait and see the dynamics of this ban. More on this later.

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