A lot of news coverage lately has been on the controversy surrounding the law in France that prohibits anyone from covering their face in a public place. The law, first introduced in 2010, has been noted as targeting Muslim women who wear a burqa and or niqab.
There are many mixed reactions to this law, some feeling very strongly towards one side, and others stuck somewhere in the middle. I am not sure where I stand, as I am trying to see both sides. I have talked people I know, and have tried to get their opinion on the issue. Here are some of the responses I received (The following are not my opinion).
- I agree with the ban completely. It is not about religion, it is safety. People cannot walk around in balaclavas all day and expect others to feel safe.
- If you want to follow that religion, you should keep it within the country that practices and accepts that religion.
- I think it should only be enforced in government buildings, and banks. Otherwise people should be able to wear what they want.
- The law has gone to far and is masking their uncomfortableness with other religions and calling it a public safety issue.
My thoughts on the issue is very scattered as I can’t seem to pinpoint how I feel. I think in a way the French government is covering up their distaste for Muslim head coverings by saying it is a public safety and communication precaution. I think there has to be a better way to approach the situation so as to not make Muslim women feel like they have to go against their faith to be included in society. The French government says this law is to promote social interaction and that head coverings make it harder for people to “live together”. I think instead of drawing attention to these women and how their ways of life do not fit in the French system, they should instead make the non Muslim population more familiar with the religion and more accepting. The argument that the head coverings are oppressive against women can easily be discredited as burqas and niqabs are actually a symbol of equality and not oppression, and as a way to strengthen the bond between husband and wife. I think there are certain security measures that need to be in place. In a bank scenario, if someone walks in with a balaclava on their face, it is going be alarming, whereas a burqa is not. If there is someone who is attempting to rob a bank, and knows that if they wear a burqa they will not be questioned, then we are giving criminals a potential opening. As awful as it sounds, that someone would use a religious head covering to commit a crime, I don’t think it is a far stretch.
On the other hand, (not saying this is right AT ALL) I think it is slightly odd that if I were to travel to a predominantly Muslim area, I would be strongly advised to wear the traditional head coverings or risk unwanted attention. If Western countries are supposed to be open to the ways of other cultures, should these cultures not be tolerant of Western ways?
I do not think the debate on this type of law is over, because this issue is not going to go away as borders become more blurred.
I would love to know what my fellow Indevours (or anyone) have to say about the issue, so please feel free to comment!