Home » Lifestyle » Should Veils Be Banned?

There seems to be a storm brewing around the issue of women wearing burkhas in public. As you may well know, the French have recently introduced and passed a ban on the wearing of the Islamic veils. The ban went through with a vote of three hundred and thirty five to one. Women who go against the ban will be liable for the equivalent of a £700 fine and men who force their female relatives or wives to wear such clothing will face an even heftier fine.

The French Prime Minister, Nicolas Sarkozy outlined two main reasons for this ban. The first was that the wearing of a full face veil was out of place in a secular society, intimidating and alienating non-Muslims. The second reason was cleaner cut; Sarkozy described the veils as subservient and debasing.

While these reasons may be controversial, there is no doubt that it is a topic that needs serious addressing. Countries such as Belgium, Spain, Italy and countless others have already introduced bans on clothing that masks the face. Syria has even gone as far as to ban female students wearing a full face veil on University campuses.

Should this ban be introduced in Britain? Is it ethical? During a time where national security has had many shake ups it is arguable that, in public spaces, people should not wear clothing that hides their face. What, for example, happens in relation to passports and security checks? It also seems unfair that people are not allowed to wear hooded tops in some public spaces but Muslim women are allowed to wear burkhas.

However, there are a number of different types of veils and head scarves worn by Muslim women, some, such as the Burkha, conceal the whole of the face, while others, such as the Hijab hides only the hair and neck, leaving the face clear. However, if it is simply a question of security then it seems necessary to only ban those veils that cover the face and body, and there should be no ban on the simpler head scarves. But is it just a question of security, or a failing to understand the more subtle parts of minority religions in dominantly Christian societies? Or is simply an extension of ‘Islamaphobia’

So far Britain has no plans to ban the Islamic veils, in fact, earlier this year, Ed Balls former Schools Secretary stated that such a ban was ‘not British’ following a call by the UKIP party for the ban. The British National Party has also called for the veil to be banned in Britain’s schools.

There are of course, a number of not only moral and social objections but indeed legal ones. For example the European Court of Human Rights states that such bans could limit religious freedom. There is no clear cut answer here. Has France ended oppression or begun a different form of it? It seems for many Muslim women the decision to wear a Burkha is being made by everyone other than themselves. We have to ask ourselves, is this right?

Written by Rebecca Schwartz (Birmingham University Student)

Student Life is a place where we look at student lifestyle, having fun and study tips as well as advice on getting the most out of university, managing finances and...
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One thought on “Should Veils Be Banned?

  1. Alicia J

    With all due respect, I think there are some facts here that have not been addressed. First of all, it has been shown that most of the women in France that choose (emphasis on choose) to wear the burkha do not come from families where the women traditionally wear the burkha, but have made that choice out of their own personal beliefs. Any question asking whether France has “ended oppression or begun a different form” is fundamentally disrespectful towards the women that do make this choice and paints them as the victim either to the French laws or to their patriarchal families. It is this attitude towards Muslim females that I feel is most dangerous as it promotes a victimization of the women and a demonisation of the husbands and fathers.

    Also, yes, the ban went through with an overwhelming majority but out of the 557 MPs in the French national assembly that could vote on this ban, only approx. 19% were female. To address “debasing” aspects of another culture when France is hardly a country of gender equality (with women earning on average 15% less than their male counterparts) strikes me as hypocritical.

    I commend Ed Balls for calling a banning of the veil not British, as I feel that the liberal argument for a right to express you own religion and to choose your own religion has been sidelined in favour of an attitude that supposes the larger French (and predominantly male) government should be allowed to control these decisions for them. Yes, there is a conflicted issue of women (Muslim or not) that suffer from forms of oppression in their private lives, but banning the burkha will not prevent these problems, and would instead alienate and frustrate more Muslim women who wish to partake in the public sphere in life in a manner that is comfortable for them. I think telling women what to wear at any point in time is a slippery slope, as whoever said that dressing in a certain fashion is the only way a liberal state could possibly accept? If liberalism is fundamentally about choice, how is this a step forward for females, Muslim or not?

    July 29, 2010 at 10:18 pm

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