Here’s your brief lesson in Islamic fashion (via The Islamic Standard and the BBC):
And here’s the big question right now: Should Muslim women be allowed to wear burkas, niqabs, and hijabs?
It’s possible your answer is Yes — Muslim women have the right to choose what they wear. No one should take that right away from them.
It’s possible your answer is No — This clothing is oppressive and subjugates women. In the words of French Parliamentarian Andre Gerin, the veil may be a marginal issue but “behind the iceberg is a black tide of fundamentalism which is happening in certain parts of our country.” It doesn’t matter if Muslim women want to wear it. In places like airports where security is important, cameras should be able to get a glimpse of your face and the veil becomes a security hazard. Not to mention it’s necessary in schools and business to have face-to-face communication and eye contact. Headscarves have no place in a secular world in which women are supposed to be equal to men.
It’s possible you go both ways — In public places, women should have the freedom to choose what they wear, but private institutions like schools and restaurants should have permission to ban them.
There’s a long, controversial history of “Burka Bans” in Western Europe. For examples, Turkey currently bans all headscarves in universities. Last week, the lower house of parliament in France completely banned the niqab and burka — the Senate will vote on the issue in a couple months.
Most recently, Syria banned women from wearing the niqab at all universities, public and private. (Wearing a hijab is still ok, though.)
“We have given directives to all universities to ban niqab-wearing women from registering,” said an anonymous government official in an Associated Press report.
The ban is intended to secure Syria’s identity as a secular nation. Bassam Qadhi, a Syrian women’s rights activist, said that while many describe the choice to wear a niqab as a “personal freedom,” she believes the religious practice of requiring women to wear niqabs is oppressive.
I’m personally not sure how I feel about this. Right now, I side more with the civil liberty people — the symbolic meaning behind the headscarves be damned. Despite all the horrible things that burka stands for, we have no right telling women what they cannot wear.
Reader Matthew agreed and put it this way:
I would just as soon see fewer face veils myself, but I don’t agree with restricting a person’s freedom of expression in this way.
Are we on the wrong side of this issue?
Should all veils (in any form) be banned, only certain ones, or none at all?