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
Daniel,

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.

-b.
Comment by Billy Deaton on July 2, 2009 at 6:23pm
Judith,

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
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political Humor Jason Jones in Iran
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.
Comment by smb12321 on June 26, 2009 at 10:14am
You are taking a very libertarian view (that I agree with wholeheartedly). Governments have no right to tell us how to dress (or what to eat or smoke for that matter) unlike private firms can do on their premises. The burka reeks of slavery, medievalism, barbarism and chattel. But I have problems with the State setting dress code. I often wonder what those wearing the burka - particularly when they are the only one - are actuallly thinking. I can't imagine a worst fate, knowing folks consider you an object. The burka is not even required by her religion and probably arose from the desert climate and culture.
Comment by Ralph Dumain on June 26, 2009 at 9:09am
A lot of this debate is silly. The dividing line should be how obstructive a religious practice is in the public sphere. A completely veiled woman--it's the polar opposite of public nudity--is obtrusive in our society: the only people in western societies who cover their faces are bank robbers and anarchist demonstrators. But Muslim women here in Washington all wear head scarves at work, which are not in the least obtrusive or offputting. Yarmulkes, Muslim skullcaps and head scarves, turbans--should all be permitted in public spaces as reasonable expressions of the right of freedom of religion. Veils, burqas--on the streets, yes, but in official capacities, in offices, on the job, probably not. Other practices which are deemed to violate human rights--clitoridectomies, withholding of medicines, etc.--should be outlawed.
Comment by Jason Spicer on June 25, 2009 at 9:07pm
It would be great if the prisoners of the burqa would throw off their chains. Unfortunately, subjugated people often have difficulty unsubjugating themselves. I don't care if misogynistic slaveholders get upset if the government busts up their little party. Not really my concern. What matters is that the powerful come to the aid of the powerless. If that causes a negative reaction on the part of those who would continue the subjugation, like, say, cross-burnings or lynchings, then the government needs to go after those transgressions as well. It is distressing to think that there is any hand-wringing in sympathy with the oppressors in this picture.

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