Should the Islamic Facial Veil Be Banned?

European Muslim women in full Islamic dress (Reuters: Jean-Paul Pelissier)

With the recent approval of a draft law in Belgium to ban the Islamic facial veil, as well as continued discussion of such a law in France, this controversial issue is very much in the news at the moment.

On the one hand, such a law can obviously be seen as being discriminatory toward Muslims, which could worsen relations between Muslims and non-Muslims. Even worse, it may result in Muslim men preventing their women from leaving the house, which would obviously be deeply concerning. Also, what about Muslim women’s right to dress as they please? I guess the key question here is whether they really want to wear such clothing, or are if they’re forced to. I’m sure many Muslim women think they make this choice of their own free will, but I find it difficult to believe that they really want this—social and religious conditioning can make it difficult for them to truly be objective about this issue.

On the other hand, such a law could actually enhance relations between Muslims and non-Muslims. The facial veil is a huge barrier to social interaction, and is a great source of resentment amongst non-Muslims toward Muslims. Also, it isn’t actually required by Islam anyway—in reality, it is just something that has arisen as a means for Muslim men to control their women, with only a vague and tenuous religious basis. Perhaps a ban on the facial veil could force some modernisation and greater integration of the Muslim community in western countries. It will no doubt lead to problems initially (such as what I refer to above), but perhaps in the long term, it will actually lead to greater harmony.

There are also simple practical issues to consider, such as the inability to identify people wearing a facial veil, which is obviously necessary for law enforcement and many normal, everyday activities. From an ideological perspective, this issue presents quite a challenge: freedom of religion versus the rights of women. And even that isn’t clear-cut: as I say above, it isn’t actually required by Islam anyway, but on the other hand, many Muslim women might argue that such a law would infringe on their right to dress as they please. Still, if they were truly objective, I’m sure they’d see it for what it really is: the oppression of women. So what do you think? Should the Islamic facial veil be banned?

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I fear this issue may be unsolvable until Islam becomes more modern and progressive and who knows when that will happen.

  
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Frank Wouters

Korigatachi

Hi Sachiko,

I think the Islamic veil should be banned. You are giving good reasons to do so.
But is law the only way to do this? Maybe education can help a lot in the good direction.

  
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Yes by all means ban the veil. Women I knew in Saudi Arabia hated the veil and all the other restrictions such as prevention of working, driving, going out alone, eating at separate sections in public and never fully developing careers. The horrible secret in Saudi is and has always been incest. Women are forced to marry brothers, cousins and endure rape by uncles, fathers and men in authority. Europe does not need to observe Muslim, Christian nor any other mystic cults that promote subjugating women with absurd and obscene rules. The faster we evolve out of the religious madness stagnation the better the world will be.

  
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Is it really discriminatory to expect people to adapt to a culture? If my wife is in Saudi Arabia, it would be wise of her to wear the veil since it is the culture for women there. But if a woman from Saudi Arabia comes to my country, it would be wise of her to discard the veil because it is the culture of my country not to wear it. The covering of women is a cultural artifact, not a religious one.

Where do you draw the line on religious practices? If my religion prescribes that I carry a bazooka around with me, does that mean I ought to be allowed to do so? The Sikh religion calls for wearing a kirpan (small ceremonial knife) which is legal in some countries and illegal in others. Should wearing a veil be legal in some instances and illegal in others? Where do you draw the line? How do you protect the public good while protecting the freedom to practice a religion of your choice at the same time?

Being an American, I hearken back to the words of Theodore Roosevelt:
“There can be no fifty-fifty Americanism in this country. There is room here for only 100% Americanism, only for those who are Americans and nothing else.” If you choose to emigrate to another land, how much of your previous culture should you give up? Must all countries allow female circumcision on teenage girls (absolutely not!) or forced marriages (another big “no”), just because a religion says it’s one of their edicts?

For me, the veil doesn’t fit into my culture and should be outlawed, except inside a mosque or other religious observance where I can understand it as a ritualistic expression. A woman can cover the rest of her body but there is no reasonable explanation of why she should have to cover her face in public or in the classroom. Plenty of Muslim women in the States cover everything (including their hair) without covering their faces. If they choose to do so, that’s fine by me.

  
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It comes down to a simple test for religious persecution?

Is it against the law to wear costumes and/or unusal garb in the streets today? No.
Would it be against the law to wear Jester/Halloween masks, motorcycle helmets, scarves, sunhats, balaclavas, cowboy hats, baseball caps, yermekles, wigs, buttoned up trenchcoats, fedoras, sombreros, bamboo hats, hooded capes/jackets or any other head feature obscuring component of religious or fashion sense? No.

So in this case it becomes an act of persecuting a single group of religious individuals for the religion’s widely known and yet highly personal choice of external attire.

I would say that Europe is really putting aside its disastrous history lesson when it tries to single out one religious group for “special legal status of personal garb”.
How soon apparently countries seem to forget, that if they come for them, and nobody helps, then when they come for me nobody will be left to help either.

Things are not so hot on this front already. The same voices on the right in many countries are anti-immigrant and anti-migrant/guest worker already. People are beginning to cite ethnic power, and are looking at their neighbors with a lot more scrutiny. I’d say these laws are the edge of the slippery slope. Hopefully we don’t slide down into an economic form of WWI, but these laws are soon to be the first strikes against the mostly economic underclass of non-citizens who refuse to assimilate, which as far as the UN charter states, is their basic and fundamental human right.

  
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@ Akacra: I was following you until you hit the dreaded “slippery slope” argument. The slippery slope argument is a logical fallacy, though I hear it used all the time.

Are you saying you can wear a cowboy hat, Halloween mask, sombrero, etc. to school or work? What country do you live in that allows this?

In public, even with a veil ban a Muslim woman could cover her entire body including hair, just not her face. Why is that unreasonable? As Sachiko pointed out and I reiterated, the veil is NOT part of the Muslim faith, it is a cultural practice in certain countries. So your “religious persecution” argument falls apart on that note.

  
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Oh let’s be honest “religious persecution” is just another way of saying wake up, evolve into modernity and stop being a member of a mystic cult you brainwashed moron. Faith? Faith in what? They’re just stories eventually printed by hand then printed into books, endlessly re-edited and transformed by men who created these cults solely for the control of power over gullible people. You want faith. Believe in educating yourself, sure it’s hard work but you only get once chance in this lifetime to learn and do everything. So if you want to be a jackass and wear a veil or a cowboy hat, go ahead but please remove it when you enter a bank of an airport. We need to see all the psychos eyes as you come in.

  
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Swamp Rat – The answer to your questions about school and work are – Yes, amazingly enough you can wear cowboy hats and masks to work & school on a regular basis.
In fact you can find work that actually requires you to wear such devices as part of your daily activities.

As to the specifics of the law we are debating about would be enforced even outside of special circumstances such as “company dress codes or school dress codes”. It outlaws the usage of these items for any and all circumstances in a public setting, which is exactly where this specific minority group has traditionally utilized these coverings. However it doesn’t specify any other types of headwear which maybe just as covering and just as ubiquitous in “Belgian Culture”.

In fact Belgium Law requires, as part of it’s legal system that all motorcyclists wear a protective helmet at all times.
http://www.imcom-europe.army.mil/webs/docs/safety/Motorcycle_Regulation_Belgium.pdf
Page 2

http://www.iihs.org/research/qanda/helmet_use.html
11 Do other countries have motorcycle helmet use laws?
Laws requiring motorcyclists to wear helmets are in effect in most countries outside the United States. Among them are Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, United Kingdom, and Venezuela.
The first motorcycle helmet use law in the world took effect on January 1, 1961, in Victoria, Australia.

Since Motorcycle helmets can look like the follwing -
http://www.helmetcity.com/index-nd.php
or
http://www.webbikeworld.com/r2/motorcycle-helmet/dainese/jet-stream-tourer/

Why aren’t these things going to be illegal –
One could argue that it is because the helmets are protective for everyday activities.
But that is exactly the same arguement that the Muslims have for having their women covered. It protects them from the hungry and competitive gazes of those around them, and thus keeps them less likely to be coveted by others outside of their social groupings.

Like I said the law is illogical and enforcing the usage of one type of head covering over the other is rather disingenuous, as you can wear the helmets up to the bank teller drive through, ATM, shopping mall garage or on the street just as readily as the small proportion of Muslim women who choose to do so, can wear their veils in public.

As to the “Slippery Slope” issue, unfortunately it is not a logical fallacy – I am using the phase instead as a “warning” that the logic of the issue at hand (ban of full face covering veils) is not a rationale basis for a law and as such unfortunate circumstances could come about if it isn’t halted at the initial phase.

Doug Ross – Yes, in a perfect and rationale world, I agree that religion would have been cast off during the age of enlightenment or perhaps during the contemporary period of the 50′s-70′s, but as silly as it seems, we don’t live in a perfect and rationale world.
In fact as the past 10 years really continue to show, people continue do a lot of things based on belief and faith – economically, socially, environmentally, and culturally, where instead they should think independently, thoughtfully and have the best information from which to choose from.

So back to the question at hand: Should there be a law that targets this one “backward” cultural minority because they choose to dress as they want?

Should we next have a law against these people?
http://twitchfilm.net/news/2009/12/belgium-has-a-vampire-problem.php
http://www.gothicbeauty.com/gothic_product_reviews/vampire_wine_product_review_3061.html
http://www.travelpod.com/travel-photo/hikinggirl/1/1224734400/weird-van-gogh-mimesxxx.jpg/tpod.html
http://www.pantomimes-mimes.com/pantomime/flanders-international-mime-festival.html
http://www.stockphotopro.com/browse_images_of/Mime
http://www.clownswithoutborders.net/
http://forum.eurofurence.org/index.php?topic=834.30
http://furry101.com/
http://www.travelpod.com/travel-photo/hachbach/1/1253390421/traditional-flemish-dress.jpg/tpod.html

Then there is the real problematic component, and that the law also targets the lowest socioeconomic group in the Islamic culture, so if the women were to be “unveiled” and follow this proposed law, then Sharia as interpreted by these unbridaled sexist fundamentalists would allow for them to be attacked and potentially killed by their own Right wing extremists.

I am sure that the women will be thrilled that they will be “liberated” and “free” to be vilified, punished, beaten, and potentially killed by their own culture. So again the law doesn’t offer any incentive for it to be followed by those who will be sanctioned by enforcement of the law if they break it. They will most likely just stay inside and not be active at all in the outside world. I don’t think this will help for modernizing that family instead it will force it further inside its own cocoon.

Talk about solving a non-issue with a non-solution. Illogical law, doesn’t serve any purpose unless the true purpose is that you want to rabble rouse the right wing idealogues that just want an excuse to throw them out of the country for being “foriegners taking their jobs”. Even if the “foriegners” are actual citizens of the country, it doesn’t matter to the right wing idealogues, they just look and act different, so they must be put out to maintain their own idealistic cultural fantasies.

Finally, the “Fundamental Human Rights” described in the UN Charter should play some role in determining what constitutes a valid law as well. Since this law infringes upon about 5 different rights – self identity, religious identity, expression of creed, cultural identification, and right to self protection, again it fails the sniff test.

This law stinks up the room, for those who are willing to call a turd a turd.

  
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Finally we see that stupid laws exist everywhere, but aren’t enforced. Like in France:
“Women banned from wearing trousers in Paris”
Still on the books TODAY, in 2010!
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/fashion/fashionnews/6583074/Women-banned-from-wearing-trousers-in-Paris.html

Lol!

  
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I think a more accurate analogy to the Islamic facial veil would be the balaclava. Is it legal to wear a balaclava into a bank or a government building? As far as I’m aware, it isn’t, and with good reason: it prevents the visual identification of that person. Also, coming at this from the other end of the scale, it’s not legal in most countries for me to walk around nude, even though I’d like to. The reality is, we already have laws governing what people can wear in many situations, for reasons that have nothing to do with religion. As I say in my article, the ideological side of whether a woman should be allowed to wear a veil in public is not clear cut, but from a practical point of view, it seems that it is.

Oh, and I’m always weary of “slippery slope” arguments: I think laws should be based on what is a problem, not what might become one, as this is inherently unpredictable. If a new law does lead to problems later, deal with it then – a law should not be rejected on the basis of what it might lead to.

  
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Except in arab run banks, some women tellers wear the veil…

http://www.csmonitor.com/World/2008/1128/p06s02-wogn.html

The issue is “security”. It isn’t garb. I gave several examples of other people in the streets of Belgium obscuring their faces in public, and the issue of motorcycle helmets as being mandated by the law. For 99.9% of all functions, these garbs are completely a non-issue.

The law only targets the full veil. There are roughly 400,000 Muslims in Belgium according to the http://www.factbook.net/muslim_pop.php
Belgium 10,414,336 3.6% 374,916 ,
http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G1-110701492.html
Clearly a minority, and the women wearing full veils make up an even smaller proportion of these (3% or less) so we are talking about 5,000 people throughout the country.

Germany’s interior minister had this to say about this issue:
Such a move is “inappropriate and therefore not required”, Thomas de Maiziere said, according to excerpts of an interview published by the Leipziger Volkszeitung local daily.
http://www.news24.com/World/News/Minister-slams-burqa-ban-20100504

Kevin Rudd said this about the issue:
Kevin Rudd accuses opposition of double talk on banning burqas as John Brumby slams ‘divisive nonsense’

Also this commentary suggests bigotry not “security” is the issue:
http://onlinejournal.com/artman/publish/article_5844.shtml

There are already laws to punish people for their actions, if a Burka clad person breaks the law, then punish that person for their actions, its not like they can move very effectively and in Western societies they would stand out significantly.

Finally they could be tracked via camera without great inconvenience or putting people in harms way – since most European cities have extensive CCTV grids in place until the person in question can be detained by police.

Calls as “un-” are in general stupid, as for at least 100 years, people of all cultures have migrated far and wide, and only now is it a problem. I mean really, how many years have Burka’s been worn in Europe, and just now they aren’t supportive to the country?

Are there laws to stop, detain and overall contain criminals? Yes.
So, if the person is acting in a criminal way, use the laws already on the books to punish them. Don’t punish them because they choose to dress “funny – different”.

And anyways, Sachiko you, as woman can go 99% nude in 90% of the countries of the world today, just as men can also. The only real restriction is genetalia, and boobies don’t count in that regard.

I mean really “I can’t go naked in 26 countries” isn’t a valid arguement as a come back against someone essentially wanting to wear a protective hat/cowl.

As to the “slippery slope” I admit it is overused – however what else can you say as a warning other than “Cliff ahead use caution!” If you fall down it you might hurt yourself.

  
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I don’t mind a good discussion or a point of view that doesn’t agree with mine. After all, that’s the purpose of a comments board. But what I do mind are illogical arguments. The “slippery slope” argument is illogical, and is taught in every logic class I’ve ever taken as a specific type of illogical argument. When you try to make that argument, you lose credibility since you simply didn’t do your homework in terms of debate. Even a simple Google search is filled with definitions such as Wiki’s, something called the Nizkor Project, the Fallacy Files, etc.

Logic isn’t relative, it’s absolute. You can’t pick and choose when you want to apply the rules. So yes, the “slippery slope” argument IS a logical fallacy, no matter how much you might wish it wasn’t. If you insist on using such arguments, you can argue with yourself for all I care since it shows you really aren’t willing to engage in a serious discussion.

The motorcycle helmet example you gave addresses a safety concern and is a straw man argument. Wearing a complete face covering in public is a cultural issue, not a safety one. France has its own culture, as does Saudi Arabia. In Saudi Arabian culture, modesty for women is the law. In the completely different French culture, full covering is not the culture and so if Saudi Arabia has the ability to enforce cultural mores, why can’t France enforce theirs? Remember, this is not a religious prohibition but a cultural one.

If your religion or culture postulated or allowed that you need to nude sunbathe at beaches, try it and see how far you’d go in most countries. Name a government that doesn’t regulate its culture in some way. China allows only a limited number of non-Chinese movies to be shown each year so more Chinese produced movies can be seen. France does the same thing. They are regulating their culture by government decree. Finding opinions that disagree with a law is fine, but they are only opinions and there are plenty of opinions that would state just the opposite. That’s not much of an argument. It doesn’t matter “who”, it matters “why”.

  
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Slippery slope can be fallacious if it has no rigor of truth in its logical construction, but simply saying all slippery slopes arguements are fallacious is incorrect.

From the wikipedia article you referenced:
The heart of the slippery slope fallacy lies in abusing the intuitively appreciable transitivity of implication, claiming that A lead to B, B leads to C, C leads to D and so on, until one finally claims that A leads to Z. While this is formally valid when the premises are taken as a given, each of those contingencies needs to be factually established before the relevant conclusion can be drawn.
Slippery slope fallacies occur when this is not done
an argument that supports the relevant premises is not fallacious and thus isn’t a slippery slope fallacy.

So, it is a valid form of logical argument if A leads to B, B leads C=A leads to C are all supported by credible evidence.

Again from this site:
http://www.fallacyfiles.org/slipslop.html
“This type of argument is by no means invariably fallacious, but the strength of the argument is inversely proportional to the number of steps between A and Z, and directly proportional to the causal strength of the connections between adjacent steps. If there are many intervening steps, and the causal connections between them are weak, or even unknown, then the resulting argument will be very weak, if not downright fallacious.”

So, by comparison, when I was saying that this law leads us by the way of the slippery slope of persectuion of people, in my first post -

“I would say that Europe is really putting aside its disastrous history lesson when it tries to single out one religious group for “special legal status of personal garb”.
How soon apparently countries seem to forget, that if they come for them, and nobody helps, then when they come for me nobody will be left to help either.

Things are not so hot on this front already. The same voices on the right in many countries are anti-immigrant and anti-migrant/guest worker already. People are beginning to cite ethnic power, and are looking at their neighbors with a lot more scrutiny. I’d say these laws are the edge of the slippery slope. Hopefully we don’t slide down into an economic form of WWI, but these laws are soon to be the first strikes against the mostly economic underclass of non-citizens who refuse to assimilate, which as far as the UN charter states, is their basic and fundamental human right.”

I was using the history of the Nazi’s placing markers on those who were of certain religious, political, sexual, or physical differences. Which the natural response to by many, was to wear those markers proudly in protest of their selection as being different. In this case we know that the laws that singled out these people lead to horrible outcomes even prior to the concentration/extermination camps.

So I suggest it isn’t a fallacious argument that labeling the dress of a small minority group of people will lead to more violence being directed to this group. Also it is likely that many more of this minority group than before will take it upon themselves to dress this way, as a protest to the law. These are both strong cultural responses worldwide – In both India and Germany within the same periods of time – two completely different and independent societies both reacted this way when their traditional garb or their religious identities were identified as illegal.

Both of these outcomes are counter productive to the eventual goal of cultural assimilation, which may take 3 to 4 generations to achieve, but will be achieved just as it has in almost every society that has not made it illegal to display ethnic dress and relies instead on the common instruction and peer pressure to conform to the societal norms that leads into the breakdown of cultural differences and thus creating a new social norm that allows the societies to coexist better than before.

Going back to the actual point of discussion, the law is stupid as it doesn’t solve anything and is simply trying to point the whole reason that its economy is only 4% better than Greece’s is due to all of the “immigrants” and their influence in “taking away jobs”.

That is why the Germans don’t like the laws, because it won’t cause Belgium or France to re-evaluate their social policies to help avert a possible dissolution of the Euro. Plus it looks bad for Europe, as everyone is slowly dying off that lived through the bad old times of Europe, and as living history fades so do the memories of what damage these types of disingenuous laws really cause over time.

  
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Akacra, that’s got to be the most convoluted reasoning I’ve read in quite some time. You never addressed my argument (cultural protection & criminal identification), compared it to the Nazis (irrelevant, I guess Sarkozy/Merkel are twin Hitlers and France & Germany will soon be killing Jews, Slavs and Roma? Hey, that’s ‘slippery slope’ to a tee!) and tried to justify your slippery slope fallacy with a logical progression one except that there is no logical progression in your argument at all. I’m sure you truly believe what you wrote but it makes no sense to me at all.

  
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I’ll try to clarify then:

1. “Slippery slope” isn’t always a fallacy – as the information suggests in the links you provided and the quotes that I highlighted.

2. The making of identifiable social/religious markings “illegal” typically is a way to make those who already are inclined to dislike this minority group, be more likely to act in ways that harm that group. Marking this difference as “illegal” significantly increases the likelihood that those in that group will wear the “illegal” garb in protest of being singled out this way. So instead of solving a problem, we have an escalation where one wasn’t before.

3. Belgium and France are using these dubious “laws” to shift internal attention away from the fact that their economies are not very stable at the moment. In fact Belgium according to scholars is only 1 or 2 years away from needing a bailout proportionately similar to Greece.

So I am suggesting that this law is not a good one, as it solves none of the issues at hand – security, assimilation of cultures, violence against minorities. Furthermore it distracts the people of Belgium and France from evaluating their leaders ability to recover from the Western Hemisphere’s worst economic disaster in 80 years.

Here is Belgium’s economic forecast produced by the OECD for 2009 – 2011
http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/6/62/20209195.pdf
Here is Frances 2008 – 2009 economic forecast suggesting 67% debt to GDP ratio beginning in 2009
http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m4456/is_83/ai_n28026339/pg_2/?tag=content;col1
Here is France’s economic forecast produced by the OECD for 2009 – 2011
http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/6/47/20209189.pdf

I use the historical contexts because there are some similarities between the failure of the Alliance/Treaty systems 100 years ago, and the economic failures of 80 years ago, that led to governments labelling groups as “responsible” for the state of the country’s economy to today’s situation in terms of the Euro and the EC as a whole.

I’m not saying that Belgium and France’s decision to blame immigrants for their unemployment and debt problems, and making the veil illegal will result in a conflagration in Europe, but the reasons why this law has been introduced and passed follow along the same lines. This type of reasoning is why the law “banning the veil” in any case is a poor example of law making, but should be especially apparent due to Europe’s last experience with these issues both economically and socially.
It is also not that much of a leap of the imagination to see that if the country of Belgium were in the throws of hyper-inflation, and extremely high unemployment that this law and the general blame of job infringement by outsiders could trigger a violent backlash against “those people”, which have been highlighted as being illegal by way of their garb and social interactions.

  
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The Burka is illegal in Algeria, a muslim country, because the government fears it is the thin end of the wedge. The ban prevents women being forced to wear it, because as soon as one wears it the others start to be pressured. Sadly this can be seen in moderate countries such as Egypt and Jordan where the veil is becoming more common.

Of course Algeria recently suffered a brutal Islamist insurgency, so wahabbism is unpopular.

What I don’t understand is why any young man would support women being covered. Where is the fun in that?

  
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Doug Ross,

doesn’t sound true.

  
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