http://thehumanist.com/news/international/france-upholds-ban-on-burqas - includes a poll where we may vote on whether we're for or against
... and my blog about it
A nun's habit is closer to a hijab, which covers the body but leaves the face exposed. The burqa and the niqab are closely related in that both cover EVERYTHING but the eyes, and I see neither as acceptable to western society or ANY society where concealment of identity is anathema to the general well-being of the whole.
We live in a time when societies are becoming less isolated, yet we drew the lines defining our own society in an age of tribalism. In other words, we haven't quite figured out this very new civilization thing yet. Some of us still live in places surrounded by oceans or strong political borders, and have our particular take on what is or is not acceptable in the society we feel that we own, even if we only recently stole and overhauled it. To my Cherokee ancestors it was entirely acceptable to work their hot Carolina cornfields naked. To my Christian Scottish ancestors it most certainly was not. One viewpoint overtook the other, and now I have to wear fucking clothes to pick corn when it's 100 degrees. A burqua is just an extension of that mindset, with a strong component of religiously sanctioned misogyny thrown in. And some of my Cherokee ancestors owned African slaves -- no clear lines.
I don't yet know quite what I'm trying to say here, so I beg that you bear with me while I work it out as I type. Some societies have a deep tradition of oppressing women or outsiders or whoever. To me that's reprehensible, but if it's not my society then my opinion of it is not important. When our cultures mix, then my opinion becomes part of the discussion about which parts work and which don't. As a nation, the US doesn't permit an immigrant to import slaves, even if they are part of the immigrant's tradition. You could see the Muslim interpretation of women's rights through that lens and that's pretty much what we do, largely successfully. If you are a Muslim woman in the US you have a guarantee of equal rights (if not opportunity), not 50% as in Saudi Arabia. And you don't have to wear a burqua to satisfy any US law, and there are certain legal restrictions on what your husband or imam can make you do. Those restrictions may not be solidly enforced, but they exist.
We are constantly worrying over and revising just how much control we want our society to exert on its members. That's sort of what "society" means. In the US we have a brilliant document called the Bill of Rights, and that means that you can't be a legitimate citizen without accepting the tenets there spelled out. You can't claim that your particular religion demands that women are chattel (though recent Supreme Court decisions put that in question).
We are nominally a nation of laws, unique in the world at its beginning, and set on a foundation of genocide and slavery. We did accomplish something important, but it was by no means perfect. Most of my Cherokee relatives are now in Oklahoma, courtesy of the Trail of Tears and the guy who scowls out at you from a $20 bill. Every thriving society modifies itself intensively as it goes along, else it wilts. We would not today send Cherokee families on a death march to get rid of them, but we once did, and those doing it thought it right.
There are cultures extant that firmly believe that they are preserving women's virtue by forcing them to wear burquas, and there are some women in those cultures who agree. I don't, but I'm not a woman in one of those cultures, and so my opinion means diddly.
I see that I've rambled all over and not gotten anywhere. So here's my take: The banning of burquas should not be a political action, but a matter of social education. Give oppressed women the legal opportunity to be free, put in place laws to restrict those who oppress them, and wait patiently if painfully for society to evolve. In the meantime, step in personally to help those most in need.
Honor killing. That's a term that I can't think about without becoming both incredulous and extremely sad. I cherish and adore women, and find it hard to understand those who don't, and impossible to understand those who carry out such acts while claiming those same values. What must it be like to be a traditional Muslim man and see your wives and sisters as property? If one experiences shame, even if by no fault of her own, such as rape, then she has devalued your property and atonement must be made through her death. It seems completely insane, and it's hard to imagine that there are those who think that it isn't. But there are such people, and even entire societies in which this is the norm.
I wonder how Thomas Jefferson saw Sally Hemmings? Did he own her -- did he love her -- both? I wonder what she though of the situation? In those days, even in the new liberal bastion of the USA, wives were not much more socially legitimate than were slaves; they just had different household privileges. It was a long, hard fight for women to get equal legal status in the US, and even today there's unjust imbalance.
The Cherokee were matrilineal -- descendance was traced through the female line, which makes good sense. We males are famously bad at guaranteeing our parentage, while childbirth is hard to fake, In Cherokee council, women did the negotiating while men delivered the speeches. and went out to fight wars when necessary or desired. I relate all this in past tense because that's what it is. That culture no longer exists in any functional sense. Patriarchy has reigned on this continent since the Europeans established a foothold, Mormons practiced it to a rather extreme extent with polygamy (was there ever a Mormon woman with multiple husbands?), while Southern Baptists and Catholics cling to specific misogynistic tenets. Just how much real difference is there between Southern Baptist doctrine that wives should submit totally to their husbands and requirement of a burqua? I think it's only a matter of degree of enforcement.
That "honour" (not the killings) is not so far away. Where I come from, I was taught to behave because my parents didn't want a blot on the familyhonour. They never bothered how their children felt, as long as the familyhonour was saved. The unforgivable sins? Addictions, homosexuality, atheism or even the wrong religion....
From the day I removed myself from their lives I have no familyhonour, and glad to be rid of it. I have my own moral rules, and they concern only myself. But I feel that familyhonour is only a few years in the past for many of us. And I gladly try to help the people who live under its shadow.
The banning of burquas should not be a political action, but a matter of social education
But how about the security issue? We can't have people going around totally anonymized by a loose covering of their entire body. They could be carrying a machine gun under it, too.
Laws should NOT single out a particular culture or ethnic group. Nobody should go around in public in a completely anonymous way, including Christian nuns with totally veiled faces, if they ever went around that way.
So whats to stop me wearing a full length poncho and a balaclava with a assault rifle underneath? Or a bomb in my underpants (ladies)?
I'm not aware of any act of terrorism on US soil perpetrated by a woman in a Burqa but plenty done by men in western clothes where you could clearly see their faces.
I think this is a weak argument that has more to do with fear then reality.
Personally I hate to see women in a Burqa. I think its one of the saddest sights and biggest indictments against religion I can imagine.
But I can't support banning it.
When religious freedoms are legislated away remember that freedom FROM religion could follow.
I think Ted said it the best;
"The banning of burquas should not be a political action, but a matter of social education. Give oppressed women the legal opportunity to be free, put in place laws to restrict those who oppress them, and wait patiently if painfully for society to evolve. In the meantime, step in personally to help those most in need."
Educate to eradicate religion.
Nice idea. Problem is that it's difficult, sometimes approaching impossible, to educate the indoctrinated and the willfully ignorant. Indeed, I've heard muslim women argue that the burqa is liberating because of some vacuous reasons which make zero sense (and I can't remember them).
As to declaring them illegal, this is no more problematic than the "No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service" policies of some restaurants, at least in public places. Burqas keep women down in much the same way that poll taxes kept black people down in the South before the Civil Rights Act went into force ... and even then it was still a fight.
The burqa is a mechanism of forcing women's submission. I have no problem throwing it out.
So when the precedent you set when banning the Burqa is used against you by Christians will you still be so happy?
Education of the indoctrinated will be a slow dripping erosion of religion that will take generations to work. But its the only one that doesn't compromise the integrity of all of us.
Just how do you think a Burqa ban will work?
If a woman goes to the local Walmart covered head to foot what will happen to her? Will she be arrested? Will the religious police come and forceably remove the offending clothing?
Will any of that change the mind of hard line islamists? Will it contribute in any meaningful way to the removal of this pestilence on our world?
All I can see is move like this giving the firebrand Immans out there more ammunition to spread hatred about secular society, making the poor subjugated women suffer even more and not move a millimeter closer to a real solution.
If it's OK to walk around in the park wearing a Mickey Mouse mask, but not a burqua, that's discriminatory to a particular religion. If a restaurant bans bare feet, that's not; though someone of a barefoot religion might feel it so. Whether the burqua is oppressive to women (and I agree that it is), and whether we should legislate against it for that reason is a discussion we can have, as we did regarding polygamy. I would prefer that laws be religiously neutral, and in the US they are supposed to be but are not.
A woman in a burqa. How would you know? It might be a man or a woman under that burqa.
So whats to stop me wearing a full length poncho and a balaclava with a assault rifle underneath?
If you go around with a ski mask covering your entire head and a loose body covering, police are likely to ask you at least to show your face. I've actually heard of that happening, with someone who was wearing a costume that covered everything.
Around Halloween, people do go around in costumes that cover everything sometimes. And a crime could be done under cover of Halloween, actually. This has happened, and it made ID'ing the criminals more difficult.
I'm not aware of any act of terrorism on US soil perpetrated by a woman in a Burqa
Why not a man in a burqa? Nobody can see anything about the person under the burqa except their height.
Very often criminals are ID'd from security camera footage of their faces and bodies, and witnesses who see them perpetrate the crime. If someone is clad in totally disguising way, that important evidence is not available. In what way is that a weak argument? We need to see the faces of the other humans around.