Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Right to Cover Up?

France has been getting a lot of flak for the ban on burqas and other face veils they recently began enforcing. According to Christian Science Monitor, the law's supporters claim that the veil "oppresses Muslim women, violates the French value of gender equality, poses security concerns as it allows people to conceal weapons or hide their identity, and undermines social cohesion." Naturally, the law's opponents argue that the ban stigmatizes Muslims and promotes intolerance.

While I realize that the amount of what we call First Amendment Rights isn't the same in Europe as it is in the United States, I think that this ban is going a bit too far. To me, this is the equivalent of banning crosses worn as jewelry or "What Would Jesus Do?" paraphernalia. I was raised Ukrainian Catholic but now consider myself an agnostic, and to be honest, I really don't care what other people do with their religious or cultural iconography so long as they are not shoving it down my throat, but clearly that doesn't fly in France. I think that the French government has shown remarkable intolerance and fear by instituting this ban because even in spite of the stated purpose, the ban reads as attempt to suppress a culture that France is not comfortable with. Although articles of clothing worn in connection with religious affiliation are certainly not a new concept, ignorant and intolerant people view veils as more frightening than a set of rosary beads or a yarmulke.

What are your thoughts on the ban?