Why Europe Should Not Ban the Burqa

There’s an article on CNN today called ‘French parliament debates burqa ban‘. It starts: “The French parliament begins debate Tuesday on a bill that would ban women from wearing Islamic veils, such as the burqa, that fully cover the face and body.”

I think that this is a terrible idea. The French government already banned overt religious symbols in public buildings in 2004. And the BBC reported that the Belgian government passed a burqa ban in April and it is expected to come into law in this summer.

This one sentence from the BBC article convinced me that banning the burqa is bad idea: “Only around 30 women wear this kind of veil in Belgium, out of a Muslim population of around half a million.”

The CNN article says: “The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life estimates that France has about 3.5 million Muslims”. So, if the same proportion of French Muslim women wear the burqa, then we’re talking about roughly 200 women in France and about 30 in Belgium who will be affected by these laws. Probably fewer than 250 women total, meaning somewhere in the ballpark of 100 to 250 households.

Here’s why I think these blanket bans (pun intended) are misguided. Let’s imagine how the male heads of those households will react to a law that says women are not permitted to wear the burqa in public.

Male Head of the Household A
“Ladies, the government banned the burqa today. I realize that we live in this country and therefore must abide by its laws. Our religious beliefs are deeply held, but nevertheless, this is a modern, secular nation and we must respect their liberal culture. Therefore, from this day forward, you are free to dress as you please. In fact, if you are going to give up this one practice, then I see no reason why you shouldn’t give up some other aspects of our Muslim lives as well. Go shake your tails on some dance floors. Perhaps sample the fine local beers. I hear this region is famed for their smoked pork products.”

Male Head of the Household B
“Listen up, womencreatures. I forbid you all from ever leaving the house again for any reason. From this day forward, your lives will be devoted exclusively to breeding and food preparation.”

Which of these do you think is the more-likely response? Banning the burqa, on the face of it, sounds like a simple way to ‘liberate women from oppression.’ But I think it’s more likely to do the exact opposite.

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