I've been told to stop simply posting teases to my blog and start just posting my writing here. If I hear enough voices against this reposting, I'm willing to hear whatever suggestions people have. I hope you'll still visit my blogger blog and comment there if you like. Thanks for reading.

Allah forgive me, I'm about to back the Muslims. Just so we're all clear, this isn't a blog about bashing religion. It's calling religions out when they go too far. I mean, I'd love a world without religion, sure, but I'm a reasonable man. I know that's not happening and it's not important because there's something more valuable than a world with or without religion. And that's freedom. And Muslims deserve freedom as much as anyone else. Which is why what's going on in France appalls me. French President Sarkozy said today that Burqas are oppressive, and therefore, he wants to ban them.

"We cannot accept to have in our country women who are prisoners behind netting, cut off from all social life, deprived of identity," Mr Sarkozy told a special session of parliament in Versailles. "That is not the idea that the French republic has of women's dignity.

"The burka is not a sign of religion, it is a sign of subservience. It will not be welcome on the territory of the French republic," the French president said.

Yes, to stop suppression, Sarkozy plans to out-suppress the Muslims. And what's worse is some outside of France are calling for the same. Look, Sarkozy, you're right, burqas are oppressive. They are a sign of subservience. But that doesn't give you or any other government the right to ban them, and it's ignorant and hateful of you to try. It is a person's right to express their religious views however they want within reason.

Meanwhile, back in the states, Americans take that freedom too far. Because while a woman should, if she so chooses, be allowed to wear a burqa in public, no one should force that religion onto others in a professional atmosphere. A private organization is allowed to have a dress code. It sucks and I wouldn't want to work for them if they did, but if you go into a company and they say 'no nose rings,' NO FUCKING NOSERINGS. If a company says we're not going to keep you from being a Muslim, but in this building no burqas, NO FUCKING BURQAS. Don't like it? Get another job. But no government should ever step in and enforce a ban that is equally as oppressive as oppressive articles of clothing they're trying to ban.

Are there Islamic women who are forced into that lifestyle? Yes, clearly. But you can't fight that by shoving them further into the dark. You need to coax them into the light, Sarkozy. Islam will evolve, just like all religions, as soon as it stops being secretive. You're just helping Muslims feel needlessly persecuted by the west and forced to keep their religious practices hidden. And that's where the real danger lies.

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Comment by Billy Deaton on July 2, 2009 at 10:35pm

I can't agree more and I'm so grateful to be a part of a community that can at least approach a topic like this from the same standpoint, that is, that reason must prevail, but still argue respectfully over the specifics.

I realize I'm taking the 'libertarian stance' on this particular issue, I hope the popularity of this thread hasn't led anyone to think that I am a libertarian, that's a label I'd most like to avoid.

Finally, there's definitely a difference between French and U.S. policies, perhaps I'm a little U.S.-centric, but I, of course, have no influence over either country's policies, so I can only use my own reasoning to arrive at a conclusion. In other words, I'm not interested in taking French tradition or culture into account, besides that they're a democracy.

I'm glad everyone participated and some even found their way to my blog, which of course was my evil ulterior motive all along.

Comment by Daniel W on July 2, 2009 at 10:13pm
This discussion is really interesting. I think that it points out some underlying philosophical issues for each of us. Libertarian vs. communitarian come to mind, but there are other philosophical and political points of view as well.

I also think it's different whether thinking about "Is this something that I would support in the US" vs. "The French have a different political philosophy compared to the US, different social and security issues, and the level of Muslim impact is greater.

Anyway, it's interesting to read the varying points of view.
Comment by Billy Deaton on July 2, 2009 at 6:23pm

Say there's a vicious kidnapper who abducted a woman and set her in chains and brought her to his secret orgy club where all the other kidnappers show off their chained women.

When the police burst in and break this up, do you think there should be a discussion about outlawing chains?
Comment by Ralph Dumain on July 2, 2009 at 5:21pm
I'll reiterate what I said before and emphasize the key question: on what basis is the government really banning the burqa and where does such legislation begin and end? If there have also been bans on non-obtrusive articles of religious apparel such as yarmulkes and head scarves, then there is a problem, regardless of whatever doctrines such religious expressions are actually embodiments of.
Comment by Billy Deaton on July 2, 2009 at 4:31pm
You predicted by retort when you mentioned cigarettes.

But yes, there are several reasons why burqas are bad. In fact, I can't think of one reason why they're good. But at issue is not whether burqas are good or whether they're a diminished form of slavery or whether they count as freedom of religion — it's about whether a government should be the ones to make that call. For me, the answer is certainly not both because it's immoral and because it's impractical.

I don't think legislation on an issue like this can effectively achieve what the French government seems to want, which is integrate Muslims into regular society. The information you gathered on health risks would be better distributed to french Muslims, all Muslims. Education is what needs to defeat this sort of oppression or else it'll just be more secretive and pushed further into the dark where no one can be helped.

by the way, here's an amusing little clip from the Daily Show.

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Burka Ban
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political Humor Jason Jones in Iran
Comment by Daniel W on July 2, 2009 at 4:04pm
There is evidence that burqa-wearing results in health risk for the women who wear them, and for their fetuses. The reason is that they may cause vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D is important for calcium metabolism, building strong bones, and has been implicated as being protective against breast cancer.

"The scientific case against wearing burqas" - here. "Burka-wearing by pregnant women also has been linked to increased cases of rickets in their children." and

here ... Muslim women who wear the burqa in Ireland are at increased risk of pelvic fractures during childbirth because of vitamin D deficiency due to a lack of sunlight, a consultant warns....Babies born to women with vitamin D deficiency are also more prone to seizures in their first week of life..."

more here. a study that showed:

the researchers " studied vitamin D levels in 90 women who were breastfeeding and 88 women who had never given birth. Many dressed to cover their whole bodies, including their hands and faces, while outside of their homes.

Only two of the women, one in each group, were not vitamin D deficient at study. All the women were randomly assigned to receive 2000 IU of vitamin D2 daily or 60,000 IU in one dose each month. The investigators note that vitamin D2 is the only high-dose calciferol available in the UAE.

Although both monthly and daily dosing significantly and safely increased vitamin D levels, only 21 of the 71 women (30 percent) who completed the 3-month study reached the recommended blood levels."

Of course, this health risk does not make it "OK" to ban the burqa, any more than it makes it OK to ban cigarettes or liquor for pregnant women, or ban "Krispy Kreme" for all of humanity. But it does show that there is more to the issue than the psychological and sociological. There is also the biological. Women may harm their bodies and the bodies of their children, by wearing the burqa. And they are probably not even told that. As a human rights issue, shouldn't women be allowed to know the biological cost of what they are doing to their bodies, for themselves and for their children?
Comment by Daniel W on June 28, 2009 at 9:15pm
I have a suggestion. This pertains to burka-wearing as "freedom of expression".

How about wearing one for 6 months? Similar to the idea behind "Black like me" and other books where people made attempts to "walk in the shoes" of someone who had a very different life, it would be interesting and informative to learn, and hear answers to questions like, "Is the burka liberating?" "What's it like wearing a heavy black, heat-absorbing, whole-body-covering garmet, every day, regardless of the heat and humidity?" (Louisiana might be a good place to do this experiment). "What's it like wearing it in the rain?", " What's it like having everyone think that you are a terrorist? " "What's it like driving in it?" "What's it like carrying groceries up a couple of flights of stairs, while wearing one?"

This isn't as much of a commentary as it looks. Personally, I wouldn't want to find out. But if the burkareally is a mode of free expression, and the women who are wearing it really want to, and feel liberated by the lack of being a sex object, then it really would be interesting to hear what it's like from the point of view of people who support continuing them.

I only know one person who came from a burka-wearing culture. She hated it, and dresses completely western. She hated the patriarchal system, too. She wasn't allowed to drive until she 'escaped' to the West. But that is an example of only one person.

A man could do this as well as a woman. Maybe that would be even better. Who would know?

It would make a great book!
Comment by Jason Spicer on June 28, 2009 at 11:17am
Respectfully, Meabh Fitzpatrick, this has nothing to do with how the women wearing burqas feel about it. It doesn't matter if they're more comfortable in a burqa. Whether the slaves feel comfortable in their slave uniforms is irrelevant. To say that they wear them by choice, as protection, is like saying that people in bad neighborhoods put bars on their windows by choice, as protection. Burqa wearers are protecting themselves from the consequences of not conforming to a standard enforced by a misogynistic culture. That is not an expression of freedom. And I have actually read about this, and I understand that it is more a cultural than religious issue. I recently read Guests of the Sheikh, by Elizabeth Warnock Fernea. I understand the "when in Rome" aspect of this issue, as well as the serious risks of social opprobrium or outright bodily harm in nonconformity.

That is the point. The burqa and other similar full-body or facial coverings are not at all about what the women want, even if they've been conditioned to think so. To argue that it is is to give aid and comfort to the misogynists in charge of the cultures that require such uniforms.

It is tempting to emphasize issues of freedom here, but the key question is freedom to do what? Freedom to wear what you want? Freedom to force others to wear what you think they should? Freedom to wear what you know will get you in trouble if you don't? The answer is clear. If freedom means anything important, it means the ability to freely choose for oneself, without coercion. A governmental ban on burqas is not coercion. It is a prohibition of coercion.

I agree that masks put one in the same company as bank robbers, so from a public safety standpoint, the ban makes sense as well, but that is a secondary (though sufficiently compelling) consideration.
Comment by Jason Spicer on June 27, 2009 at 2:05pm
This has nothing whatsoever to do with personal liberty or libertarianism. The burqa is not a fashion statement. This is not a question of allowing women to wear what they wish. This is a question of whether the government should allow some people to oppress other people. Um, the unequivocal answer to that would be no, the government should not allow some people to oppress other people. I don't see how this could be any clearer.
Comment by Ralph Dumain on June 26, 2009 at 10:27am
I'm not impressed with the rights of private firms, either. Private firms that do business of a non-religious character should abide by the same general principles of permitting religious dress that is not excessively obtrusive or too far out of keeping with prevailing dress norms, as I outlined above. If a yarmulke or head scarf offends you, then go fuck yourself.


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