Monday, April 11, 2011

The French Burqa ban

Isn't. Despite what the media keeps stating this is a ban on "conceal[ing] one's face in public". There are exceptions on the grounds of safety, medical and festivities or in religious facilities. That means you can wear a motorcycle helmet while riding your motorcycle; you can wear a Halloween mask on Halloween; a surgeon etc. can wear a protective mask in a hospital and a Muslim women can wear a veil in a mosque; but not outside those circumstances.

One could argue that this law came into effect because of the Muslim face-coverings and that its intent was to prohibit them, but the law is not specifically aimed at them. As such those looking to challenge this in the European courts can only state that they have a right to conceal their identity in public; not that this is discriminatory against their religion.

Except how would that play out if a new law was drafted prohibiting head coverings in public. No hats; no caps; no turbans... ah. Would an exception be made on the grounds of religion? No Khalsa Sikh would be able to set foot outside otherwise. So if such an exception were to be made; shouldn't a similar one be added to this law?

It depends. To a Khalsa Sikh the wearing of a turban is mandatory to their religion; it's not open to interpretation; the wearing of a veil for Muslim women is. There is nothing specific stating that one must be worn and as such it can be defined as a non-religious item of clothing. Just as a Christian can wear a crucifix, but doesn't have to.

The way this law is worded I don't think they have a case.


walkerno5 said...

It's only open to interpretation if that is how you've interpreted it. If your personal choice of religious leader is very clear that you should be wearing a burqa, that certainly wouldn't feel to you like you had a choice.

There is a danger that France has just given a slightly bigger stick to some of the more extreme branches of Islam to oppress women with within its borders.

FlipC said...

But when you deal with religion it's not how you interpret it, it's how your religion does.

If your holy text states that you should where a veil in public; that you should wear a crucifix; that you should hop around every Saturday. That's what you do.

If your holy text states you should dress modestly and someone else says that therefore you should wear a full veil; that's an interpretation.

If you want to take that as mandatory you need a schism and a new revealed holy text which does specifically state that.

To take a Christian form - Deuteronomy 22:5 (NLT) "A woman must not put on men's clothing, and a man must not wear women's clothing. Anyone who does this is detestable in the sight of the LORD your God."

Define women's and men's clothes. Styles now, or styles then?

As for a stick to the extremists. Well yes if the media keeps portraying this as an attack on this one religion sure, but who's to blame there?

One 'joke' is that for those who do treat this as a matter of faith this law essentially imprisons all those women in their own home.

walkerno5 said...

"But when you deal with religion it's not how you interpret it, it's how your religion does."

Ah, but there are very few religions that are internally homogenous. One Christian is not the same as another and one version of Christianity is not the same as the rest. So if your vicar or Imam or Rabbi tells you that you are going to hell unless you shave your left leg, despite this being illegal, and you really believe them, you are certainly going to shave your left leg and to hell with the law.

Your distinction between Sikh Turbans and Muslim burqas appears to make sense at the level of considering the overall body of religions - but at the personal and congregation by congregation level, the distinction disappears. It is all a matter of personal conscience ultimately, and given that people have the freeedom to believe any old nonsense as long as they're not hurting anyone else, this law discriminates against some muslims, and some ugly people, and ninjas, and Frank Sidebottom fans.

FlipC said...

I agree, some people will place their religious beliefs above the law and as you say if it's not hurting anyone who cares.

The true flaw here lies in religion getting special treatment or that those who impose religious restrictions upon themselves expecting such not to interfere with everyday situations.

Take the carrying of a Kirpan for example. It's been declared a religious item or as being carried for religious reasons in several countries and thus places the carrier in a position beyond that of a non-believer carrying the same type of item.

In this instance if the veil etc. is considered a religious item than this affects restrictions. A private property owner or a public official may legitimately exclude entry to those wearing balaclavas, masks, motorcycle helmets because they conceal that person's identity. However attempting to exclude someone wearing a veil will rally cries of discrimination. Might as well put up a sign on the door saying "No Pets, No Blacks, No Irish".

However if the French authorities had simply declared the veil etc as not being recognised as a religious garment provided any such official/owner treats all such face-concealed people the same there's no case. I'm not preventing your access because you're Muslim; I'm preventing your access because I can't identify you.

However French law has turned this around and rather than placing the veil in the same category as other head coverings have essentially placed other head coverings in the same category as the veil - we don't people wearing the veil so we'll prevent anyone from wearing any such garment.

Next up - in the interests of public safety and security all French citizens must obtain and display their forehead barcode tattoo at all times.