Your Face is Haram: Belgium Banning ‘The Burka’?
A few days ago, the news broke that Belgium was ‘on course to become the first European country to ban the burka after a parliamentary committee backed proposals to make it illegal on the grounds of national security and women’s rights.’
So much to talk about, but where to begin? I don’t know enough of politics to speak about it in those terms, so let’s start – as any sensible person would – with common sense and common decency. I’ve read dozens of articles, am a racemic mix of disgust, disdain and despair, and although I could take each one apart line by line, I won’t because that would result in a book, and I don’t have time for that. Let’s just look at two.
The first article is from the Daily Telegraph, an English broadsheet.
National security, as far as arguments go, is a valid and justifiable reason to be concerned about ‘the burka’. Women’s rights, on the other hand? I am not aware that forbidding a woman to cover is tantamount to liberation and every attendant bliss.
“Even if it’s on a voluntary basis, the burka is contrary to the dignity of women. It’s a walking prison,” he said. “We have to free women of this burden.”
I’m sorry? I’m SORRY? Do I even need to explain all of the things wrong with this statement?
Well, let’s try.
- ‘Even if it’s on a voluntary basis’: Bacquelaine has done the Big Bad: essentially accusing those women of false consciousness – that they think they want it, but they don’t really – couldn’t possibly. How officious. Is it really free will that a woman dresses in the manner dictated by the cultural norms of her present society? If you will accuse Muslim women of ‘false consciousness’, who is to say non-Muslim women are not equally victims of the same false consciousness? Who is this man to qualify a person’s subjective experience as neither real nor valuable?
- ‘The burka is contrary to the dignity of women. It’s a walking prison’: stripping a woman of her right to wear certain clothing is not contrary to her dignity? To take away her freedom of choice liberates her from this ‘prison’? Why are her clothes offensive, when her lack of them is not? If we accept that nudity is a valid expression of human freedom, there must, by logical extension, be a similar view of the opposite of nudity.
- ‘We have to free women of this burden.’: ‘free’ her of her uterus and an X-chromosome while you’re there, k? What a presumptuous prig. There is so much more wrong with this statement that you’ll just have to think about on your own.
To me, the inconsistency within the entire paradigm really only shows what anyone with an eighth of a brain knows to be true: logic and sense are suspended when confronted by what is perceived as a threat – as unmitigatedly alien*. The real reasons, masked in hysteria-inducing rhetoric, are little more than a collection of unacknowledged prejudices parading as ‘liberal secularism’. In reality, those people screaming for a ban of this kind – non-Muslim and Muslims alike – would be better served by examining their own minds and liberating their consciousness from ignorant bigotry, than liberating women from their clothes.
‘This is a very strong signal being sent to Islamists.’
No, Mr Ducarme. This is a very strong signal being sent to Muslim women who cover, and by extension, every Muslim, male or female, who believes in her right to do so, and the signal says ‘SCREW YOU MUSLIM WOMEN STOP YOU WOMEN WHO COVER HAVE EXCLUDED YOURSELVES FROM THE HUMAN RACE SO WE EXCLUDE YOU FROM HUMAN RIGHTS STOP KTHXBAI STOP’. I don’t think the ‘Islamists’ give a toss, and I also don’t think the ones you have in mind are women.
The second article is from the Guardian, another English broadsheet.
‘It is necessary that the law forbids the wearing of clothes that totally mask and enclose an individual. Wearing the burqa in public is not compatible with an open, liberal, tolerant society.’
I may be missing something here, but I can’t see a logical connection between NOT wearing clothes that cover you up and an ‘open, liberal, tolerant society’. Cognitive dissonance, Mr Bacquelaine. Surely in an open, tolerant and liberal society, we allow people to basically dress as they please, provided it doesn’t harm anyone? Perhaps these women might be afforded the same privilege as other minorities – that of ‘live and let live’. Is that not the hallmark of an open, liberal and tolerant society, that it allows the space for difference?
‘We cannot allow someone to claim the right to look at others without being seen.’
Um. I would like to point out to Mr Bacquelaine that I would be overjoyed never to have to see random undressed people again – men or women – and I’ll bet the reviled women would agree. They aren’t so much ‘claiming the right’ as ‘lacking the choice’. But that the same society that allows women – and men – the liberty to uncover as they please should prevent women from covering as they please lacks the internal logic that would make it at least rationally acceptable, if not ethically.
Nobody disagrees with a person putting curtains in the windows of their houses, seeing without being seen. Perhaps we should live in transparent houses? Will that make us a more transparent society? (Did you see what I did there? Punnishment!)
We accept that houses are private. It does not take too much more mental effort to extend that logic to understanding that some women define their limits differently. It may be uncommon and not what we are accustomed to, but nevertheless, that is not a reason to strip them of that right to define what their personal space is, or to take charge of the way other people can see them.
It is not one person’s inviolable right to see another person in a way they do not wish to be seen. And if that person dislikes what they see, it is their prerogative to look away – not demand that the object of their dislike conforms to what the onlooker deems as right and acceptable. These are values of personal freedom that are at the heart of the liberal, pluralistic society we live in. To deny them that right is to contradict the values that same society holds most sacred.
To my friends who still have difficulty grasping this: imagine these women are simply in mobile houses and you are postmen. A postman would not demand to see the occupant of the house where he delivers a letter: likewise for you. Heck, if it helps, imagine they have a mental disorder (you probably think they do, anyway) and can’t go out unless they are in their mobile homes. If you can have compassion for – and humour – a schizophrenic, a sane non-psychotic woman shouldn’t be too hard. And anyway, as I said, just PRETEND, if it helps.
‘Of the 500,000 Muslims living in Belgium – with big populations in Brussels and Antwerp – very few women wear the full veil, and there has been little public debate about the need to ban it. While Bacquelaine admitted there was little problem with full facial covering among Muslims in Belgium, he argued for a preemptive move, saying: “We have to act as of today to avoid [its] development.”‘
What? So basically, it is an almost entirely symbolic law? More for the sake of saying, ‘look suckers, we can do this’, than because of a genuine ‘need’? Seriously, what. Kind. Of. A. Rationale. IS this? Are they running out of stuff to talk about in Parliament or something? They have no economic, health or educational concerns, and now with a little time to kill and some money to burn, they thought they’d cool their heels banning a statistically insignificant number of women from wearing certain clothes? ARE YOU KIDDING ME?
‘Muslims who ignore the ban could face fines of £22 and a jail sentence of up to seven days unless they have written police permission to wear the garments’
Excuse me? You need WRITTEN POLICE PERMISSION to wear CLOTHES? Are you KIDDING me? Do you need police permission to wear a hat? A bikini? A surgical mask?
How do we know surgeons ARE REALLY SURGEONS?!!?
It could be ANYBODY behind that mask!! IT COULD BE OSAMA!!!!!!!111one
I demand a law preventing any medical staff from covering their faces. It’s fine if they do it in the privacy of their own homes, but it’s just not suitable in the workplace, in an ethical liberal democratic society that values freedom, equality and fellowship.
Blatantly trying to score points.
“The all-body veil is contrary to the dignity of women,” he said. “The answer is to ban it. The government will introduce a bill to ban it that conforms to the principles of our laws.”
Nic Teakozy** is contrary to the dignity of the human race, if it has any. The answer is to ban him. The government should introduce a bill to ban him that conforms to the principles of common decency.
Who’s with me?
I haven’t finished talking about this subject, by any means***. I don’t think banning specifically Muslim attire is an answer to Europe’s problems (which, by the way, are problems of their own manufacture). I think this proposal is the beginning of something very serious – something rotten – in the States of Europe, and is a forerunner of far more sinister things for Muslims settled in the Western World.
* Which you could argue as a lack of foresight in their Empire-crazy forebears. Perhaps if the savages had been left alone, they might never have thought about coming to our civilised countries. Moreover, they could not LEGALLY and JUSTLY claim a place in our great and free society, and would have stayed in the caves they were born in. Harrumph.****
** In my dialect of Bengali, we say ‘saa’ for tea (as opposed to ‘chaa’, for my ‘shuddo’ friends). Thus, the Bengali version of the gentleman’s name is, indeed, ‘Teakozy’.
***I’m just tired and too busy to write more 😄
**** What is French/German for ‘harrumph’? ‘Harrumph’, for the record, is a time-honoured Great British Institution.