A storm is brewing in France over the burqa, the cloak that conservative Muslim women wear to cover their faces. The French government is in the process of passing a law that would ban Islamic veils such as the burqa or niqab. Lawmakers say this is to protect women's rights, but others argue the ban is anti-Islam. A French court has warned the law, similar to one already passed in Belgium, could be overturned as unconstitutional. The proposed ban has already inflamed racial tensions, with at least one incident of 'burqa rage,' when a woman ripped off a Muslim woman's headdress in public. Is outlawing the burqa a victory for women, or an assault on religious freedom? (Watch French women speak out against the law)
Women should stand up against this ridiculous garment: This incident of "burqa-ripping" is perfectly understandable, says David Lat at Above the Law. Not only is a full-body veil "vaguely ridiculous," it is "oppressive towards women." Why shouldn't people express their disapproval?
"Lawyer of the day: The burqa brawler"
France has no right to tell women what to wear: "Controlling what a small minority of women wear" is hardly supportive of their rights, says Courtney Martin at Feministing. Police would have the right to order a woman to remove her veil, and lock her up if she refuses to comply. Such "potential indignities" are proof this law is both sexist and "unacceptable."
"Breaking news: France imposes a fine on full-face Islamic veils in public"
The law doesn't limit freedom — it restores it: French lawmakers aren't imposing a ban, says Christopher Hitchens in Slate. "They are attempting to lift a ban: a ban on the right of women to choose their own dress, a ban on the right of women to disagree with male and clerical authority, and a ban on the right of all citizens to look one another in the face."
"In your face"
A ban could turn moderate Muslims against the West: Apparently the French concept of "liberty, equality, and freedom for all" does not extend to religious expression, says Jehan S. Harney in The Huffington Post. Too bad. A burqa ban will only turn "moderate Muslims" away from "Europe and the West in general," and perhaps toward the radical "fanatics and militants" intent on attacking us.
"Should the French veil ban concern the West?"
Banning the burqa reflects badly on Europe: This ban is "simply a symptom of insecurity within Europe about its identity," says Shelina Zahra Janmohamed at the London Times. Nobody knows where to stand on race, traditional values, and security anymore. And without the "self-knowledge and conviction to stand for what you actually believe in," it is very easy to hit out at something you don't understand.
"Europe vs. the burqa"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- How our botched understanding of 'science' ruins everything
- Mike Huckabee's head-scratching advice to Christian voters
- 6 things the happiest families all have in common
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
- The science of sex: 4 harsh truths about dating and mating
- How Scotland's independence movement lost the vote and still won everything
- 6 super-helpful iOS8 tricks you probably don't know about
- Obama knows he can't really 'defeat' ISIS. Americans need to wake up to that reality, too.
Subscribe to the Week