Should Burkas, Niqabs, and Hijabs Be Banned? July 22, 2010

Should Burkas, Niqabs, and Hijabs Be Banned?

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?

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • My current feeling is that any dress that covers the face should be banned, at least in places where security is an issue. Besides, it’s really odd and uncomfortable to talk to someone without a face…it dehumanizes them. As for the hijab, I don’t see any good reason why it shouldn’t be permitted. The main issue to me is that their face is visible.

  • NoGodsNoMasters

    it strikes me as a bit odd that you’re not allowed to cover yourself up, but if you want to wear a skirt that looks more like a belt, and a tube top that lets a roll of fat show, that’s fine. I wear whatever I want, why can’t other people?

  • Hitch

    I am against the ban, but I am for strong legislation protecting individuals to make free choices.

    But yes, if other concerns are at place, religious mandates do not trump the rest. So if for example a government bans face concealing because of other concerns that is fine.

    I do not think that the debate is even had on the right terms.

  • Ottawaanon

    The reasons I have to show my face in banks, airports, drivers licence, etc. apply to women wearing these. Any place that it’s required to see someone face is a place to ban this form of dress.

  • NoGodsNoMasters

    I also object to having to take off my motorcycle helmet to pay for petrol, and having to prove I’m not a paedophile every time I want to work anywhere there are people, but people are small minded and self obsessed, so of course they are going to think along the lines of: “I don’t have the same customs or beliefs as them, so why should I tolerate it?” Also, I’m ugly as hell, you really don’t want to see my face, especially on a dark night!

  • Adam

    Isn’t it against the law in many states for an adult to wear a mask in public? Is this attire exempt simply because it’s religious? If so I would support whatever the current law is on non-religious attire. I don’t think certain items should be exempted just because of religion, but I also don’t think certain items should be banned because of religion or social issues.

  • sailor

    As long as some women are forced to wear these abominations (the burka and niqab)they should be banned.
    We probably would not ban people from walking round with chains linking their legs. But if some group was forcing some other group to do this I would ban the whole thing entirely.

  • Sally

    Although it is obvious that the burka “fashion” is indeed a way of keeping Muslim women “in there place” so to speak, I do not believe anyone has the right to say what a person is allowed to wear.

    In my opinion Muslim women need to find a way out of the abusive relationship that is Islam other than by law. Repression in this case my not end but if it does hopefully it ends because these women start seeing how opressive what they are involved in truly is.

  • silver fox

    Personally, I feel that the burka should be banned in any and all circumstances, seeing as it’s its only meaning is to serve to dehumanize women by making them appear all the same, As if a husband could replace one wife by another and no one would be the wiser.What freedom of expression is there when others can’t see your expression?

    The Niqab is a tough one, but if women want to wear one, they should be allowed, but it should be banned in public for security reasons; like in stores and airports and in places like schools where it’s important for teachers to read the expressions of their students to know if they have their attention or are boring them to death.

    I see no problem with the hijab, since the people could say that it serves a practical purpose. As anyone with dark-hair will attest, sometimes the easiest way to keep your head cool is to keep it in the shade.

    And as we all know, it’s not as if muslims live in the Antarctic or something.

  • Feminist Expat in the Middle East

    Syria is right: this is a case of fundamentalism growing more and more – they are trying to eradicate that.

    Personally, I straddle the line on the topic, but finally go with feminism and civil rights. The recent Syrian law resulted in women leaving their jobs at the university. That alone, to me, is a much bigger feminism issue that simply having one’s face covered in that it marginalizes intelligent women and excludes them from their chosen field of work.

  • Sally

    Also I’d like to add, it does make sense that the burka should be banned in places where security is an issue and all others are required to show their face.

  • If someone wants to wear a hijab I don’t see a problem with that.

    However, if someone wants to keep his “property” in “its rightful” place by covering “it” with a rag – well that is clearly wrong.

    I understand that there are woman who say that they want to wear these hideous things. And they are the losers from a ban.

    But, to paraphrase, it is better that a thousand nervous women feel ashamed than one women is oppressed against her will.

  • Ramon Caballero

    I’ll go with the “both ways”, I want (as the ultimate end) to be allowed to wear what I want as I please and I also want to be able as the owner of a establishment (bank, school, government building, church/temple) to ban certain clothing (or no-clothing) in the “name” of security (banks/government/work), common sense (schools/work places), decency (church/temple/work) and health (work/restaurants/hospitals).
    What I don’t want is an issue with religion to be above all of it; I mean, just because this is religion-related should not have a special treatment, but we know that will not happen.

    Now, I can understand how banning niqabs and burkas could be a medium to get to my ultimate end; ban it now, wait some generations and lift the ban later, because the law applies to everybody and if a kid is playing covering his head, does that makes him a criminal?

    I really don’t understand the banning of hijabs at all, I don’t see it fit in any of my reasons above. My grandmother (catholic) would feel awful if she is not allowed to wear a “scarf” in the head while in church. (She doesn’t wear that anywhere else)

  • This is what I’ve had to say about this elsewhere:

    When I look at someone wearing a burqa, I see Lavar Burton wearing a slave collar. It disgusts me that anyone can be forced to wear something like that.

    On the other hand, I can’t support the idea of outlawing it. Outlawing the burqa just exchanges religious oppression for government oppression. It’s not the government’s business to decide how people dress. That’s what they do in the parts of the world where women can be executed for not wearing this ridiculous costume. Do we want to lower ourselves to the same standard as a clique of theocratic dictators who long for the good ol’ days of the 6th century?

    If France wants to deal with Islamic oppression of women in their country, they should come down harshly on all forms of discrimination and violence against women from those muslims who demand they wear a burqa. If a man attacks a woman for not wearing one, put him in jail for assault and add an extra 10 years because it was religiously motivated. Attack the problem, not the victims of the problem.

    I’ll add the caveat that I don’t see a problem banning them from banks, airports or anywhere else where there’s a legitimate security risk. A blanket, can’t-wear-it-anywhere ban is out of the question.

  • Mary

    My only objection to the niqab or burka would be where security issues are involved or in workplaces where the wearing of these garments would compromise the health/safety of either employees or customers (medical personnel wearing them while attending to patients for example).

  • Amy

    I have no problem with the hijab. The other two, however, could pose a security risk. To me, this is not even an issue of women’s rights, one way or the other – it’s one of security. I think people’s faces should be clearly visible while in public. The safety and well-being of the surrounding people outweigh the religious observance of the niqab and burka wearer. Whenever two rights are pitted against each other, one has to prevail, and in this case, it’s the welfare of the general population.

  • Kela

    Individuals are not allowed to wear ski masks/bandanas (a la old westerns) that obscure the face in public places in the US. The same should apply to the Niqab and the Burka. I see no problem with the Hijab from that prospective.

    In the privacy of their own home and in other private spaces I see no legal problem with them. From the stance of female subjugation, I think that it is appalling for a man to force and for a female to submit to such but again what goes on in the privacy of their home (short of abuse) is none of my business. Just as it is no ones business what my husband and I do within the privacy of our home.

  • MaryD

    The issue is more complicated than a simple freedom to wear what you like.

    These face coverings are the visible expression of an alien, oppressive culture that seeks world dominion.

    How happy would you be with someone wearing a T-shirt with “I hate … [insert your own country]”? How happy would you be if you saw these T-shirts every few minutes as you walked down your street?

  • Brian Macker

    I see no reason to ban the hijab most anywhere. The other two are face coverings, aka masks.

    I think it legitimate for owners to ban any form of face covering on private property. Hell nudist colonies can require you not to wear clothes or please leave.

    There are other situations in public where the wearing of masks should be banned by law such as while driving a car.

    There are some libertarians who would argue that the requirement for licenses and insurance to drive on public roads are an intrusion on their liberties, (other libertarians do not make these arguments).

    I always point out that if the roads were private, as they desire, then the owners would also require licenses, insurance, etc. It’s not that the public roads are “unowned” and therefore we should be able to do as we please, such as putting up graffiti. It’s that the owners (the people who control an resource) are voted upon. I see no reason why voted in owners cannot decide to ban masks and face coverings on public property too. Since they are surrogate owners of the property.

    Of course if you are going to allow halloween goers to walk around with masks then you have to do the same for Muslims. You must be consistent with this.

    If they want to ban mask wearing they will have to do so in a consistent way.

    For instance, you could make it illegal to force someone else to wear a mask by violence or intimidation. You could have special days on which mask wearing is allowed like halloween. You might only allow mask wearing by children on such days. To allow for dress up and masks on other occasions you could require the granting of a temporary permit.

    I also think there has to be a compelling reason to enact any of these measures in public, like the prevention of crime. However, most laws aren’t passed for any compelling reasons, and that doesn’t seem to be the requirement. I think it should be.

  • bluezinnia

    Ban the burka and niqab in all public places.
    Security takes precedence over religious rights.
    Plus, I have to agree with the person who said that it is the equivalent of a slave collar.

  • No muslim woman wants to wear burqa, hijab, niqab and other form of veils if given free choice in their society.

    They do it in fear of punishment by their male guardians and conservative and autocratic governments.

    Among the women, the poor opt for the barbaric dress code thinking Allah would punish them. Religion always florish among the poor and uneducated.

    A miniscule modern women opting for such
    veils are the female radicals with hidden agenda.

  • Darwin’s Dagger

    You can’t with one breath tell someone that they are free and equal members of your society and then with another breath tell them that the exception to that freedom is that they can’t choose what clothing to wear. Not even theists are that hypocritical. For security reasons, in certain locations (such as airports), face coverings probably should be banned.

  • everettattebury

    Muslim women do not have the right to choose what they wear. The religion that enslaves them dictates to them how they must dress.

    They are not allowed to disagree. They are not allowed to change their religion. They must remain Muslim under the threat of death. They are not allowed to disagree with their husbands without risking being beaten. They are often not even allowed to live if they make the mistake of disgracing their families by being raped.

    Why are we all going along with the pretense that the issue of banning the burqa has anything at all to do with individual civil rights? Why are we pretending that there is any such thing as freedom of expression in Islam?

  • keddaw

    The best way to stop men telling women what they can wear is… for men to pass a law telling women what they can wear. ??? Sorry, that doesn’t work for me.

    When a person walks down the street I, and by extension the state, have no right to force that person to show me any part of their body, without good reason. (unfortunately…)

    Going into places where their identity has to be validated or security is an issue would obviously require the person to remove as much clothing as security or identification warrants.

    Many women wear these garments either against their will or they have been coerced or brainwashed into thinking its right and proper to do so. Heck the Victorians thought it scandalous if a woman showed a bare ankle. But that’s no reason for a free country to fine the victim and reduce all of our freedoms. We didn’t abolish slavery by criminalising people who were slaves.

  • Brian Macker


    I don’t have a problem with someone wearing a shirt that expresses their hatred of others. Those are personal feelings and are likely the truth, since a person who wears such a shirt probably hates the subject of the shirt.

    What I do have a problem with is someone wearing a shirt that defames others. That is, tells a lie. So a shirt saying “[All]Jews Are Greedy” I would think is something that is legitimate to ban. It’s just a legitimate or even more so than the fact that you can’t wear a shirt that says “Joe’s Butchers have loaded scales” if in fact that is not true. You are defaming Joe and interfering with his right to freedom association by making a fraudulent claim.

    Claiming that “Jews are greedy” is a gross over generalization. It’s impossible to prove such an over-generalization just as it’s impossible to prove that “All Swans are Black”. Any single Jew who is not greedy is being defamed by the shirt.

    We don’t need to ban shirts that say “All Swans are Black” because it is not an untruth that would tend to harm someone and therefore not defamation.

    I also don’t see any clear connection between these forms of dress any such messages in the first place. It’s perfectly possible for some other religion, a peaceful one, to require dress of this manner.

    So I don’t think you can ban Muslim dress even on the basis of a hate message. How can you tell when it is hate and when not.

    Before I said that banning the forcing of the wearing of masks is appropriate. That potentially is society wide. That is you could ban it even in private settings. If a religion requires a particular dress that involves face covering, and that religion does not allow members to voluntarily leave (either de jure or de facto), then in fact the face covering itself can be considered forced.

    If this were the case then it might be legitimate to ban religious face covering for that one religion, while allowing it for another which allows apostates to leave the religion freely.

  • NoGodsNoMasters

    Lolz at Mary D, are you American by any chance? I care about my country, but we had the sex pistols “God save the Queen” to put it all in perspective, and we don’t take as much notice of what the media says, I speak as a nation, not an individual. I can hate my government, my Queen, all forms of authority, but I can still love my country!

  • Liokae

    How happy would you be with someone wearing a T-shirt with “I hate … [insert your own country]“? How happy would you be if you saw these T-shirts every few minutes as you walked down your street?

    I wouldn’t care at all, because their *choice* of attire doesn’t affect me. Ditto to the clothing in question; it’s just clothing. Banning it explicitly isn’t necessary, just don’t give it exemptions that other clothing doesn’t have.

  • chrisg

    I support the ban as stated in France. In a free society, I don’t believe that people have “the right” to be oppressed. For if allowed, that right comes at the expense of those who would rather not wear the shame of Burka but have no choice via the will of their husbands.

  • Brian Macker

    “The best way to stop men telling women what they can wear is… for men to pass a law telling women what they can wear. ??? Sorry, that doesn’t work for me.”

    Hmm… a very loaded comment. There are all sort of other ways to word it. Isn’t it really “men and women” in the second part?

    Much closer to the reality is: “A way to stop religious fanatics from telling women what to wear (and what to believe) is for everyone else to ban forced dress for involuntary religious organizations.

  • Rajesh Shenoy

    I feel this is just a knee-jerk reaction on the part of the governments – they just want to spite the Muslim fundies somehow for all the terrorism, etc., even the ones living peacefully amongst their midst for decades, and this is the rather puerile way they choose to go about it.

    This has nothing to do with security – they can always ensure safety by mandating that faces should be uncovered at certain security checkpoints like airport check-ins, etc. Hell, I am made to remove my cap every time I pass through airport security. How is this any different?

    Regarding dehumanisation, I’d leave it to individuals to decide what makes them feel more human – covering up and calling it modesty / culture / decency / what-have-you, revealing all in public and calling it freedom / brave-new-world, or anything in-between in the name of latest fashion, boobquake, etc. Why should the government be legislating against / for one thing or the other?

  • I see this as a “yelling-fire-in-a-crowded-theater” issue. I couldn’t care less what adults chose to do to and with themselves as long as it does not have negative impact on others.

    Insisting on one’s right to wear a ski mask in a bank or his right to wear a stocking pulled over his face in a liquor store makes no sense to me.

    Thus, I’m with those who say societal bans are acceptable in public places where security is an issue or in private places where others might be threatened by hidden identity: I really don’t want someone in a burka coming into in my store–I have no way to tell if there is gun-toting thug under there or if it’s merely a religious nut job (granted, it could be both…).

  • Brian Macker


    “Why are we all going along with the pretense that the issue of banning the burqa has anything at all to do with individual civil rights?”

    Because it is hard to untangle the mess without brushing up against our own ideological sacred cows. Most ideologues have such cows. I can think of all manner of cows populating the fields of christians, libertarians, jews, anarchists, americans, etc. that would be threatened by this.

    Also because if you do it for even slightest wrong reason then being consistent you could end up banning something like Halloween.

  • L.Long

    If these burka women are so oppressed then why are they in banks, airports, etc????
    Its like anything else if the silly rule of burkas says its OK to show your face for security then why bother wearing them at all?
    But of course the IsLame-x know there is nothing in the kakaran that mandates them.
    Yes the burka is just a way of stomping on women and blaming them for their ‘little boys’ bad behavior. So what! If they like being schite on, let them.
    No one can free another until they wish to be free.
    And as long as they have laws against nudity I see nothing wrong with laws against burkas.

  • alex

    Okay, so should we allow public appearance in drag? Heavy makeup — like on clowns? What is this “security” you are speaking of? Sounds more like security theater, like forcing online posters to reveal their identity: you make the law-abiding folks suffer from unintended consequences, while the wrongdoers are hardly impeded at all.

    To me it looks like there should not be a special rule on religious gear: if face covers are at all permitted, then allow the religious face covers as well — otherwise, you’ll see people dressing up in something looking similar to religious clothing, but not quite, and challenging your stupid laws in court (to think of it, where does religion end and national tradition begin?). I say, they’d be in the right in that case.

    I understand the objection to this: Islamic face coverings are a symbol of oppression. Well, there are many other symbols of oppression, like yellow armbands or scarlet letters. Granted, they are no longer required by anyone — is that what makes them okay, then? If that’s the case, then deal with Islam and its abhorrent practice of subjugation of women, rather than subjugating the same women from the other side. Forced liberation is not true liberation: just something for the liberators to feel righteous about themselves.

    This, in turn, pretty much boils down to how much religious freedom should be allowed. As far as I understand it, historically the argument was something like, if the freedoms don’t invade others’ rights, then you have them; otherwise, you don’t. In this case, I’d say that wearing a burqa itself doesn’t encroach on anyone else’s liberties — allow it; forcing someone to wear a burqa, however, is a violation of another person’s rights and should not be tolerated.

  • Justin

    I agree with Rooker’s assessment above, except for the part about modifying sentences based on motive. Muslim men certainly shouldn’t get a pass because criminal behavior is religiously motivated, but jacking up penalties based on motivation seems discriminatory as well.

  • Matto the Hun

    I regard to the hijab, yes it subjugates women, but I don’t care about a woman who was brainwashed into submission to wear it.

    I did read an interesting article (sorry no reference link) talking about discrimination against women wearing the hijab, at least in so far as getting dirty looks.

    The article interviewed a Muslim woman who, for the most part seemed pretty smart.

    However, there were a couple parts were she hit logic-fail. This mainly happened when she said that the hijab is about preserving a woman’s modesty, preserving her beauty only for her husband or some such.

    That’s bullshit. First that’s the same reasoning for putting women in the burka. In some ways with regard to that reason, the burka is more honest conclusion of that (and proving the vileness of such a philosophy)

    Second, and most amusing, do she or anyone really think they are saving their modesty, beauty, or anything remotely like that by simply hiding their hair.

    I’ve seen women walking around in their hijab wearing typical American style clothes. Clothes that compliment their womanly features with all the right curves in all the right places.

    So a Muslim gal has a hot ass, a hot bust, but thank Allah I can’t see her hair!

    I don’t care about the hijab one way or the other but the reasons for it are clearly oppressive and full of crap.

    As far as the burka goes, it’s a security risk. At the very least there should be limits where it can be worn.

    Guess what you bronze age screw heads, if you like oppressing women that much go back the the middle east.

    I saw a woman with a burka at Publix not long ago. It’s one thing to see images on TV, but to see it in real life was disgusting. She might as well been made to walk on all fours with a leash around her neck* being led by the shit-hole of a man she was with.

    *to be fair that kind of thing is all fine and good for a spot of fun between consenting adults… though not in Publix)

  • I want a society where women (and men) are allowed to wear whatever they like, wherever they like with as few exceptions as necessary. If a woman wants to wear a bikini or a burka then the state has no business interfering. If someone is forcing them to wear a bikini or a burka then the state should afford protection to them if they choose to avail themselves of it.

    There are some situations where their choice of clothing is unsafe or there are measures that need to be enforced for public safety or security. A bikini wearing woman shouldn’t be allowed to endanger herself by working in an environment where her clothing puts her at risk (i.e. as a welder) and a burka wearing woman should expose her face when passing through airport security so she may be properly identified as the passport holder. These are reasonable and pragmatic exception to the freedoms that we all enjoy.

    A clothing ban is heavy handed and unreasonable and in the case of a burka it targets a group of people who adhere to religious and cultural rules. In my book that makes it discriminatory. I think that there has to be a very good reason for discriminating against a particular group. That you can’t see their face and that makes you a bit uncomfortable really isn’t sufficient.

    An argument that I heard recently was the Mickey Mouse Test:

    Would it be acceptable for the person to wear a Mickey Mouse mask?

    In many circumstances the answer would be (bit weird but) yes. However, in some situations where positive identification is required (banks, airport, etc) – it would be a clear no.

  • While I don’t like that they treat women like they’re the problem for rape, and how many are treated when they live in that sort of lifestyle, a ban probably isn’t going to free the Muslim women. If you believe that strongly that your husband has all the power, and if your husband believes that strongly that you should wear a burka, do you honestly think that now that they’re banned, the husband is simply going to say, Okay, honey, you’re liberated! It’s just as likely that this ban will further restrict Muslim women in that now they won’t go anywhere at all. I would like to see these items of clothing disappear off the face of the earth, but I don’t think banning them is the solution.

  • I’m no fan of face veils, but you can’t force people’s ways of thinking to change by banning their clothing (ask any high schooler).

    However, that is not to say a ban on facial veils doesn’t have its place. I can’t wear a ski mask or a Ronald Reagan mask to the supermarket, bank, or airport without (at best) causing anxiety or (at worst) getting myself arrested. Therefore, there is absolutely good reason to ban the Niqab and Burqa in public places except for those rare exemptions (Halloween, political rallies) that exist. I don’t know the particulars of the exemptions, but it’s not something based on attitudes towards a particular religion.

    So no problem for the hijab, and the burqa/niqab only goes because of practical/logistical reasons, not ideological ones.

    I really think France et al. are doing it all wrong. If you want to make sure women aren’t oppressed, strengthen your social and education programs, increase penalties for domestic violence, whatever – don’t ban the cloth someone’s wearing (unless it’s unsafe or a security concern).

  • I don’t think the articles of clothing should be banned. I do, however, think there should be laws in place that restrict men from forcing women to wear them.

    She should be free to choose what she wears, and if she chooses to express her modesty by wearing a hijab or a burka, more power to her.

  • I don’t like them. As a feminist I see them as the epitome of all that is wrong with misogynistic religion.

    I can make a case for banning them where security concerns trump civil liberties–airports, for example.

    But banning them in secular institutions like universities will have the effect of simply keeping women out of those institutions, and back in the kitchen and bedroom where their religion says they belong.

    Let them be educated. Let them throw off their own shackles. And stay the hell out of their way while they do it.

  • I have no personal issue with any of them, although for purposes of safety (both of the public and the person), I would say only allow the Hijab.

  • Hijab, fine, the face is visible.

    Niqab and burqa? Ban them for security reasons.

  • If it’s against the law to let people walk around naked, the flipside of the coin is that people also may not be allowed to cover everything but the eyes.

    A nudist may think no one should be offended by him walking around freely, and that they should respect his lifestyle choice, but that doesn’t mean we allow him to do it.

    No matter how civil libertarian we want to be, there are still accepted limitations on our freedoms to dress (or not dress) as we choose.

  • It seems to me that forcing women to veil and forcing women to unveil are two sides of the same paternalistic coin.

    Spend more time working on education and women’s actual agency through economic opportunities and less time fussing about how you want them to look to make you feel less uncomfortable.

  • Hitch

    See that’s why I’m saying we have the wrong discussion. Rather than discuss whether people have the right to wear whatever they want, we should discuss the cultural backdrops that limit those rights and how we can protect individuals to exercise their freedoms.

    To make that plain, anybody thinks that I, as a guy, could wear the burka today anywhere I want? Or would that cause a massive outrage perhaps even violence?

    No, we are not free, at least not in the proper sense of the word. And we don’t really discuss the real limits to our freedoms, but surface issues like the niqab.

    In a free society people can wear the burka or the revurka, and they are free to choose. Man and women can make that choice and it’s their individual choice.

    The problem is that the burka and the niqab are not in a neutral context. They indeed mean something and while some defenders of the right to wear them claim it’s a free exercise issue, in reality it is an issue of protecting a certain cultural doctrine, one that is in fact sexist both against men and women.

    But we won’t be addressing this sexism by explicit bans of freedoms. After all the goal is to elevate the freedoms.

  • plutosdad

    I think Syria is passing the worst law of all: women who wear burkas cannot attend universities. So now not only are they forced by husbands and brothers to wear that, but now the state won’t let them get an education either!

    It’s the same as banning anything: 1. no ban in history has ever been successful, even in police states, 2. banning causes a host of other unintended consequences.

    In the case of the burka and niqab, banning them will just mean women in oppressive homes will not be allowed to go outside at all. And if she somehow gets the courage to leave, at least the covering would protect her identity, without it her family may see her and kidnap her and drag her back.

    The security argument is a red herring, because we already implement similar laws in high security areas. For instance, try going into a bank with a mask. If there are other areas that we think we should be more secure, then add rules for those areas only.

    The hijab is the one for which arguments against it seem almost silly. My catholic sicilian grandmother and other women of her generation wore scarves over their heads almost every time they went out. I never thought it was a big deal. (they were sheer material though).

  • concerned S

    Things that so dramatically obscure the identity of someone should not be permitted in places which require easy identification. I think the potential for misuse is too great here, and it really worries me, but I don’t think banning this clothing specifically is the right way to target this — it could be umbrellaed under legislation requiring x% of the face to be visible (things like glasses can be very obscuring as well). Legislation is always tricky and I don’t think there are the best motives behind this, but the security threat legitimately worries me.

  • Aaron

    Unfortunately, you cannot force someone to be free. Banning the garb because it is a sign of submission is pointless. They want to be submissive or they would flee that situation, just like you cannot stop an abused spouse from returning to their abuser. They have to want to leave. It is sad, but there is only so much you can do.
    However, people walking around in masks is a safety issue. I would think that any business owner would not allow anyone in a mask to enter their business, and would have the right to ban it. Anyone could be under that burka doing anything. They could be stealing, carrying weapons, pretty much anything. The burka could also be useful for concealing bruised faces and broken teeth from a beating, but until the woman wants to be free, you can’t force her.

  • frank

    I think burkas and niqabs should be banned in public places – businesses, restaurants, schools, government facilities, basically anywhere that isn’t a private residence. The security issue is one reason. The dehumanizing issue is another. You can’t have normal interactions with people if you can’t see their faces. There is even an area of the human brain specialized to processes other people’s faces. This is an essential thing that people should be able see.

    I don’t see freedom of expression as an issue here. If women want to express their modesty or devotion to islam or whatever, they can wear a hijab. That is their right. Muslim women aren’t the only ones who ever cover their hair for religious reasons, and no one ever objects to seeing a nun in the airport with her hair covered.

  • Tilia

    In my eyes it’s just impolite not to show your face when speaking with somebody who does.

    If I have to speak with a woman wearing a niqab or a burqa, am I allowed to treat them like I treat all other impolite people? (I’m generally not openly mean, but it’s rather easy to see that I’m not very fond of you…)

    I’m living in a town with a large Muslim population, and I’ve only seen a niqab once and never a burqa.

    Maybe most Muslim women here don’t want to get the looks they would get, if they would run around with their faces all covered?

  • Phoena

    What bothers me about this issue is that if I go to their countries, I’m forced to cover up, restricted to where I can go, and often must a male escort to go anywhere, thus being forced to follow THEIR customs, yet they’ll complain if we expect them to follow our standards in our countries. Why the double standard?

    I think it’s a valid question to ask: If they have no respect for us and how we choose to dress, WHY should we have any respect for them?

  • Hangnail

    I do not believe there should be a law banning them, however, if it is unlawful to wear a ski-mask that covers your face then all face covering hats should count. If a woman walked into a bank with one on, the employees should act as if it were a man with a ski-mask.

  • Guy G

    I think burkas and niqabs should be banned in public places – businesses, restaurants, schools, government facilities, basically anywhere that isn’t a private residence. The security issue is one reason. The dehumanizing issue is another. You can’t have normal interactions with people if you can’t see their faces. There is even an area of the human brain specialized to processes other people’s faces. This is an essential thing that people should be able see.

    So you would be in favour of banning anything that covers anyone’s face outside of their private residence?

  • Feminist Expat in the Middle East

    everettattebury Says:
    Muslim women do not have the right to choose what they wear. The religion that enslaves them dictates to them how they must dress.

    That is not accurate. I live in a Muslim country governed by Shariah law and covering is choice for women. Some do – others don’t. Not every country is Saudi Arabia. Muslim women DO make their own choices in many places in the world.

  • RavynSkyes

    Banning head scarves is one thing, but isn’t it discrimination for universities not to allow niqab-wearing women to even register? I understand the reasoning behind it, but it seems like it’s got the issue turned around. So you’re keeping someone who might truly benefit from the financial freedom a college degree would allow from getting that degree? I really doubt that ban is going to have the desired effect.

  • Aaron

    Another thing (I wasn’t fast enough to edit the previous post), if burqas are banned in public, won’t that make the husbands forbid their wives from leaving their houses at all? Couldn’t an unintended consequence of the ban actually cause a greater oppression of the women in question? I doubt the husbands are going to say “OK, well burqas are illegal, I guess I have to let you go out without one.” I think it will trap the women in their homes and reinforce the Muslim perception that the world is at war with Islam.

  • Aaron

    I think it’s a valid question to ask: If they have no respect for us and how we choose to dress, WHY should we have any respect for them?

    Because they have no respect for freedom, and we do. Someone else’s bad behavior is no excuse for your own. I think most three year olds have heard that one.
    “But Bobby set HIS cat on fire! Why can’t I torch Fluffy?

  • @Phoena
    You’ve got a good point. The Muslims immigrating to Europe have an unreasonable and unrealistic expectation.

    Muslims move to where the culture is completely different, then start demanding that the local cultures change themselves to suit them. That is childish and unreasonable.

    I think that is the real reason Western nations are talking about these bans. They are worried about the impact of large Muslim populations moving in and then trying to impose their own culture on everyone else. These bans are the pushback.

  • Jake

    I believe you are on the wrong side of the issue. No problem with the Hijab but everything else should be banned. Respectfully.

  • keddaw


    I think it’s a valid question to ask: If they have no respect for us and how we choose to dress, WHY should we have any respect for them?

    Because we’re better than those countries.

  • phira

    Banning the wearing of religious clothing is unethical, especially in this instance. As a feminist, atheist woman, I resent the reasons why any woman in any religion must dress a certain way, and that includes the Orthodox Jewish rule that a woman must cover her hair (either with a shawl or a wig) when she leaves her house or is in the company of non-family.

    These bans specifically target Muslim women, violating what I consider a human right to practice your religion in a personal, peaceful way (i.e. I don’t consider it a human right to kill people in the name of a god, to impose your religious beliefs on others, or to harass familes during funerals).

    Banning clothing-purdah doesn’t actually SOLVE anything. It humiliates the Muslim women who choose to engage in the practice, it worsens Western-Islam relations, it alienates non-radical Muslims, and it might endanger women who engage in purdah at the demands of men in their lives.

    Many women choose to engage in purdah for reasons other than fear; I know that I often wish I were wearing some sort of body covering to avoid street harassment. And there’s something to be said for rejecting the Western idea that women should take pains to look good when they’re out in public.

    I’m not saying that I like the practice. But bans will not magically rid Islam of patriarchy, and “liberation” in this case (of Muslim women) is highly subjective.

  • longstreet63

    Seems to me that the answer is to treat these things like any other mode of dress. Forcing someon to wear one should be illegal. But if you do wear one, you may not refuse to uncover your face when directed by police, security people, or business management who feel a need to see your face, any more than with the ski mask argument.
    The problem is that they’re treated as religious clothing. Remove that.
    It’s no business of anyone’s if they choose to wear it. It’s only an issue if they refuse to show their faces where appropriate.
    We don’t try and force the Amish to take off those silly hats.

  • Aj

    I agree with many people here. People should be able to wear what they want. It’s acceptable for public and private buildings to ban face coverings because of security and communication reasons. It’s not just about freedom, I don’t think a ban will actually result in anything productive, and from what I hear it’s a very small problem in Western countries anyway.

    Nothing should be treated as “religious”, if an atheist wants to wear a veil over their face they should be allowed to as well. Practice of religion should not be a human right, it’s a privilege at the expense of others. If it’s not already covered in freedom of expression and movement, it should not be protected.

  • I never quite know how to feel on this one… sort of a sympathetic guilt. I want people to be able to express themselves however they like, and if that means wearing a headscarf, then they should be allowed to… it’s when that practice is forced on people that i get all worked up… but i find the line murky over lines of societal pressure. I thought that vanguard’s scarf wars gives some great perspective on the issue.

  • LeAnne

    Yeah, this one has me torn. I believe in the freedom to express WHATEVER it may be that you want to express, but I DO think that it’s oppressive towards women.

    I see it both ways.

  • mike

    I support the categorical banning of burqa-niqabs. It is an extreme security issue. It is not just that the face and body are obscured, but that so many people have their face and body obscured.

    Imagine that a criminal is hiding in a crowd. A few people are wearing very concealing clothing, so you look at those few extra careful. What if half of the crowd is in concealing clothing? Good luck.

    These clothes hide weapons and they hide identities. They are a smugglers dream. A suicide bomber puts a burqa over his/her vest and no one knows.

    To be fair, they are most used to cover bruises from domestic abuse (thank you Theo Van Gogh) and to oppress women. That is beside the point. If women want to cover up for whatever reason, that is fine. But you don’t need a Marine’s Ghille suit.

    These clothes are a clear security problem. They are great cover for illicit activities, because they normalize concealment in plain sight.

  • kokko92

    I’m definitely no supporter of what head scarves represent, but the fact that some woman want to wear them should make the issue outside of the power of the state to regulate. Religion can deliver terrible messages; still, the religious must have their freedoms. For this problem to be truly resolved requires a shift in the conscience, culture, and popular interpretation of Islam. The lack of progressive ideals in parts of the world cannot be substituted by restrictive legislation (assuming, of course, that the problem does not pose a physical threat to others, which is an admittedly thin line).

  • Roxane

    My bank requires me to remove my sunglasses and hat when I enter the lobby. Why should others be allowed to wear what amounts to a mask for religious reasons?

  • stephanie

    I completely support banning of burkas and niqabs in any secure situation- I’m not allowed to enter my local bank in a Halloween costume that covers my face, either. If a person refuses to let themselves be visually identified, they have no business being anywhere that would require that ID. But as long as they’re willing to forgo writing checks, using credit cards, flying, banking or what-have-you then it’s their business and I don’t have to like it.
    Hijabs I have no more problem with than any other hat and on a bad hair day I could totally even understand wearing one…

  • Aaron

    Imagine that a criminal is hiding in a crowd. A few people are wearing very concealing clothing, so you look at those few extra careful. What if half of the crowd is in concealing clothing? Good luck.

    Sound like winter in the northern half of the United States.

  • beckster

    Apologies if someone has already made a similiar comment. I did not have time to read through all the posted comments.

    Women should have the right to wear what they want. At the same time, the fact is that women who wear the burqa are certainly under pressure from their husbands, religious leaders, and families to wear it. Perhaps we should consider passing laws that say no person should be forced to wear something against their will. It could be classified as a type of domestic abuse. This way women who want a way out will have the law behind them. I am not sure how this would work practically speaking, but there should be a way to help women stand up to their oppressors without making victims into criminals.

  • Deiloh

    I fall both ways. Security and health considerations should be a priority -airports, hospitals. However, wherever Muslim women are not allowed to wear the religious garments, they will be required to stay away. The fewer places they are allowed to go, the more reliant on their oppressive religion. I’d much rather see aggressive human and women’s rights campaigns that focus on education and setting up shelters.

  • Angela

    This is a tough issue — arguing that people should be able to choose what they wear assumes that they have a real choice in the first place, and practically speaking, many of these women do not.

    On the other hand focusing on the veil as a tool to subjugate women ultimately just draws attention away from human rights abuses that are far worse than being told to cover up. To really engage with this issue in anything other than a purely symbolic way, we’d have to address all kinds of ugly problems like sexism in schools/workplaces, lack of access to reproductive choice, and domestic abuse — things that we haven’t done such a great job of doing away with in our societies, either.

    One of the things that I don’t understand about this debate is the assumption that Western female body-policing fashion is automatically less oppressive than moderate Muslim standards of fashion. Frankly, I’d take headscarves and long sleeves over most of the Western options any day — I feel far more oppressed by the message that I’m obligated to be starved down, plucked, and painted for display and judgment by others all the time than by the concept of “modesty.” If all women are really offered is two manifestations of sexism that just have different surface veneers, is there really any choice being offered at all?

  • This has torn our discussions as well.
    Freedom means free to wear what you please,
    buuuuut…. being forced to be meek, compliant and invisible raises my hackles.
    All 3 are symbols of female suppression in the culture they come from. The hijab, although not fully masked, represents the restrictions of an outdated, medieval culture.

  • Sexism, racism and other forms of discrimination are wrong. This is why we have laws against many forms of them in the USA and other nations. They are not only immoral, but also illegal.

    Question: How is making a woman to cover her face and body not sexist?

    Otherwise, one may think that if a woman in any given culture is so shy she can not show her face in public like her equivalent male counterpart confidently can, perhaps she may be a neurotic/insecure human who could use some therapy to help overcome her insecure fear of having any parts of her person (however innocent) being seen in public.
    Perhaps she is afraid of what ppl will think she looks like (e.g., ugly) (?)

    OR, perhaps her society is so sexist it forces her, unlike the men, to wear tent-like concealing clothing, or else suffer adverse social–or even punitive legal–consequences.

    Think: How would males like it if women enforced oppressive clothing rules upon them?

    O my gosh! That sounds ridiculous-doesn’t it???? Wow.
    of course it does. If that sounds very odd, it proves you are (at least somewhat) accustomed to a double standard.

    If you think it is ridiculous, then for the sake of fairness, equality, and all that is right, you must now ask yourself, “Why is it any more ridiculous when women are subjected to these restrictive clothing rules than when men are?”


    OR, why must females traditionally be subjects of repressive treatment when it comes to the two genders?
    …because men control them, perhaps?

    Regardless, yet very saliently, ASK YOURSELF what OTHER freedoms have women who are pressured to cover their faces, their hair and their bodies lost, overall, together, in their respective societies?

    ***Unfortunately, women in social or religious groups, or nations, which expect or require said women to wear such grossly concealing clothes do NOT possess ANYTHING close to equal legal rights to men.***

    And if, on national papers they do, their courts daily prove otherwise. To wit:

    Burqas are prevalent in places where men do not allow women to drive, even to ride bicycles (!), nor even to speak out loud in public to any male person who is not a close family relative.

    IN such countries, women may not venture out of their homes alone, unaccompanied by men. They need permission for almost anything. They are hamstrung. The man can divorce for many reasons, the woman may not. Beating one’s wife is accepted.

    Men have all the powers,while women have little to nothing that constitutes power.

    In such nations, men drive, ride bicycles of course, and go out of their homes and travel alone. they may speak way, way more freely in public.

    Such ‘rules’ are based on genitalia? How unfair!

    Freedom and equality is NOT well demonstrated any society where men (q.v. ‘religious police’) force or require women to wear tents or caftans w/ head covers or hoods that hide or disguise their faces, hair, and the entire shape of their bodies, right down to their feet.

    regardless of what ANY westerner thinks, still one must examine the muslim rationale for the burqa, the niqab, the hijab.
    First, ***why must only women, not men, wear these????***

    Second, *** what gives men the right to enforce them on women, and punish women if they don’t wear them???***

    A woman in Iraq was recently gang raped and beaten for going to work while not wearing “modest”-enough clothing. she was dressed in western-style clothing, nothing particularly scandalous.
    (and even if she was, would it give men the right to beat and rape her?)

    Answer: these cover-up clothings are expressly “to enforce women’s ‘Modesty'”.
    This is necessary because as unpopular as it is to admit this in public, men in Islamic societies are often NOT held responsible to control their own sexual urges, therefore “provocative” women are unfairly BLAMED for men’s assaults/rapes/irresponsible, primitive failure to control their own violent behavior.
    IT is a horrible paradigm, in which the women must live with rules that men must not.

    these societies (yes, I’m talking about Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, AND OTHERS) who blame and WORSE, punish women for violent acts that have been committed against them – even when it is as very severe as BEATING, RAPE, and MURDER – these societies are the most vocal advocates of the burqa, the hijab, the niqab. Go figure.

    Time to make the connection, people.

    Why does this so called “Modesty” requirement not apply to men?

    Do not women also have perfectly valid sexual desires, like men? (or do sexist perpetrators of female oppression think women have no right to these?)
    Why should men not have to cover up their faces, their hair , their bodies?


    should your ability to think critically matter whether you are a westerner or from somewhere else?
    yeah-…the very idea is ridiculous on either side.
    (sexist much?)

    what is the definition of discrimination? the modesty argument is based on naught but gender.

    sexist double standards don’t get any worse than this – wrong is wrong by any measure. Double standards and gender based discrimination is (just like race, age, ethnicity, religion, etc., based discrimination) is morally, ethically, and totally WRONG.

    men need to be accountable for their actions. Whether a woman is wearing an overcoat or a bathing suit, no form of clothing EVER gives ANYBODY permission to assault her.

  • In most communities in the United States it is (normally) against the law to conceal your features with a mask in certain public places and/or scenarios for obvious reasons.
    I’m for banning the niqab and burka based on security reasons alone. As far as the hijab, who cares?
    I got a kick out of walking around my ancestral village in Lebanon a few months back, looking at all of the young women wearing hijabs AND ultra-tight(and I mean like they were painted on) pants and ultra-tight long sleeve shirts. There was nothing modest about their dress at all. Of course, there are still a ton of girls and women walking around in bags, like half of my relatives. Ugh and yuck. The whole damn thing is silly.
    I worked in Saudi and all I can say is that the women there have my deepest sympathies. The hot, black, bag-like abaya makes it even worse. The strange thing is, the majority of them don’t even know or understand just how crappy they have it. It’s all they know. They are used to it and if you tried to take away their abayas they’d probably freak.

  • Apologies to the people who have already said this – I didn’t have time to read through all the comments. I think it would make sense to take the gender out of the equation and then decide if that form of presentation is appropriate in institutions, businesses, banks, airports, etc. I don’t think a person should be allowed to completely mask their face, strictly for security reasons, with no regard for whether it’s a religious thing or a gender thing. If I run a business and a guy walks in with a mask that completely covers his face, I would refuse service to him. How could I check his identification? How could I describe him to police, if necessary? We put people’s faces on their ID cards so we can make sure they are who they are purporting to be. We shouldn’t make exceptions for religious people.

  • Stephen P

    So we are up to 77 comments, in a community of people who for the most part pride themselves on their rationality, and no-one has mentioned data or evidence?

    Before jumping to conclusions on what measures should or should not be taken, shouldn’t we have some data on how many woman are wearing these because they want to and how many are doing it because they are being bullied into it by men? Or for that matter by other women?

    True, this is not something that is easy to measure. It would take skilled design of the investigation to keep biases under control. But is no-one even trying? This is not a rhetorical question – can anyone provide links to any studies?

    I have followed the debate to some extent in four countries, and have not once seen anyone quote any data. In fact I’m not sure I’ve even seen anyone bemoan the lack of data.

    This is a subject which produces an incredible amount of hot air, but it seems that literally nobody has any real idea what they are talking about.

  • RPJ

    Should Muslim women be allowed to wear burkas, niqabs, and hijabs?

    Stop making me sandwiches and get out of the kitchen now, woman!

  • Robyn

    I think the niqab and burka should not be allowed in public places, especially where security is important. As a security issue, not because of religion. Hijabs are fine–it shows the face.

  • Jed Carty

    I think that this should be no different than any other dress code. It does not matter if my eyes hurt or I have a cold head, when I walk into a bank I am not allowed to wear sunglasses or a hat (I am also not allowed to be naked in most public places) so why should this be treated any differently? I have heard a lot of people argue that religion should not get any sort of special preference. I think that specifically banning something for its religious connotation would be giving religion special status just as much as allowing something that would otherwise be banned because of its status in some religion.

  • I agree with Ottawaanon. If you try and walk into a bank, or the DMV, wearing a head to toe burka then you deserve to be turned away. Stay in your home and stay out of civil society if that is your “choice”.

  • I agree with phira.

    I absolutely do not support the ban. Security reasons and whatnot aside, I do not feel that the best way to free muslim women from their oppressive religion is by dictating that they cannot wear certain clothing in public. Might it be possible that if they can’t wear a burqa in public, then they just will stay at home even more, alienating them even more from society? I think other measures would be more appropriate, like education and services available to help women leave islam or abandon some islamic practices if they wish without the danger of being murdered by an angry family member.

    If we are so concerned about security, then we need to remove the gendered and religious language from the ban. If face coverings are banned, then that would include the burqa and other forms of facial coverings without singling out a certain demographic. Last I heard, doing that was called discrimination.

    As far as I know, this ban would affect 2,000 or so women. I saw that in a comment on a feminist website, so it may or may not be totally accurate.

  • Phoena

    Aaron, I’m glad you see things on a three year old’s level, but that doesn’t add to this discussion.

    On one hand you say you have respect for freedom, but then argue that you can’t do everything you like. It’s okay to treat women as lesser beings, but not okay to set your beloved cat on fire. Oh, so only things you love are protected by this freedom? Is that where you draw the line? Cats have more freedoms than women?

    Supporting men oppressing and likely abusing women and chalking it up to “freedom” really seems tasteless, but I suppose it’s that black and white for a man who won’t ever have to worry about this being a problem for him.

  • @Stephen P

    So we are up to 77 comments, in a community of people who for the most part pride themselves on their rationality, and no-one has mentioned data or evidence?

    No, but now we do have one non sequitur.

    Before jumping to conclusions on what measures should or should not be taken, shouldn’t we have some data on how many woman are wearing these because they want to and how many are doing it because they are being bullied into it by men?

    No. There is no possible answer to this question which would address the actual topic – whether or not the government should ban certain types of clothing.

  • Like several other people have said, I worry that a ban on face veils would lead to women in oppressive homes not being allowed to go out in public at all. The veils are dehumanizing, but banning them might dehumanize those women even more.

    Muslim women aren’t the only ones who ever cover their hair for religious reasons, and no one ever objects to seeing a nun in the airport with her hair covered.

    I agree. I also wonder why Muslims are the ones who get the brunt of negative attention for this. It’s not like religious headcoverings are unique to Islam, and the phenomenon is not limited to women. Sikh men and boys wear turbans. Orthodox Jewish men and boys wear yarmulkes and/or hats. Amish men wear hats. In those groups, there are also strict rules about hair. Isn’t it oppressive that men in certain religious groups are required to wear beards? Do these men really have a free choice? If you’re a married Amish man who refuses to wear a beard, you’ll be cast out of Amish society. Religious clothing in general tends to be restrictive and coercive, but banning it won’t solve the problem. You can’t force people to leave an abusive situation.

  • Stephen P

    @Rooker: OK, so you don’t wish to make any effort to actually understand the topic. [shrug]

  • keystothekid

    A coworker and I were talking about this subject just the other day. His argument was that this attire, especially the burka, are meant to dehumanize Muslim women and keep them obedient. If French parliament made that argument, along with the security issues, I’d say there heart is in the right place. However, I’m not so sure that many of these Muslim women agree that they’re being forced to wear attire like this. I would suppose, many are happy to do so because it appeases Allah.

    Religion allows people to convince themselves to do ridiculous, dehumanizing things, often times not only to others, but themselves as well.

  • Delphine

    I would ban the first two in public but allow the Hijab. I think showing your face is a pre-requisite to participating in society. If you can’t show your face, don’t come out of your house.
    Currently DMV doesn’t allow people to wear visors when they drive because it prevents the police from identifying you. Our ability to identify people on the street is important. If people are allowed to completely cover themselves in public, how will you know if the person in a burqa walking towards you is just another Muslim woman or your ex-husband whom you took out a restraining order against?

  • @Stephen P

    I, and everyone else who has commented, understand the topic just fine. What I don’t wish to make an effort to do is to argue against the strawman you brought into the existing topic.

  • The Vicar

    I don’t buy the “a ban infringes on civil rights” argument. There are lots and lots of things which we are all banned from doing, and we don’t complain about it. You can’t make telephone solicitations to people who have opted out. I can’t park my car next to fire hydrant. You can’t relieve your sexual tensions with children. I can’t take a shotgun and shoot you in the face. (Unless I’m Dick Cheney, of course — and I think I would have noticed a thing like that by now.) There are, in short, many things which we simply cannot do if we want to have a civil society.

    We already accept that, in law, it is illegal to appear in public with your face covered to the point of obscuring your identity. So why is it that — on an atheist site, no less — we’re suddenly concerned about whether or not we ought to make an exception to the rules because there’s a religion that wants all women to be interchangeable? I’m a card-carrying member of the ACLU, and this boggles me.

    The obvious counterargument is “the majority of women wearing a burka are not terrorists and are not security risks, so we should not ban burkas” but you could also say “the majority of buildings are not on fire, so we should not ban parking in front of hydrants” with the same validity. It’s a dumb argument; the disadvantages to individuals of banning the behavior are dramatically outweighed by the disadvantages to society of allowing it.

  • Michael

    It would be SO easy to cheat on exams if you (or your friend) were able to just throw a burqa on anyone who knows the material better than you do. I’d wear a burqa myself if I could just ignore traffic light cameras.

    I’m more afraid of a society in which we have to constantly show our face and be watched than one in which misogyny is enabled. Maybe the burqa-fight isn’t one that we need.

  • Should Muslim women be allowed to wear burkas, niqabs, and hijabs?

    Why does it have to framed in terms of religion. The reason this has come up recently is that there were crimes committed by men wearing burkas. They may not have even been Muslim. Many years ago there were countries that had mob violence problems where assassins were wearing full face motorcycle helmets, shooting people and getting away on motorcycles, so they decided to ban full face covering helmets. It was simply a public safety issue. Someone would not have been able to make the claim that they needed to wear such a helmet for religious reasons any more then I could claim I need to wear a ski mask for religious reasons when I go into a bank.

    What if that was phrased…

    Should anyone(male or female) by allowed to wear clothing, masks, make-up, helmet with facemask, etc, that obscures the face from identification?

    Instead of picking on a specific item like the burka, it’s directed at the behavior (concealing your identity). It’s vague, and law enforcement might need to establish standards to follow. Would toupees be allowed? I would think so (not that I’m worried about that myself). What about a fake beard. It has problems, but I think that approach would be more justified and have a better chance of sticking in the long run.

  • Will

    When it comes to security or the need to identify they should be banned (airports, DMV, government buildings, driving, etc) otherwise free to do as they wish. I have to take my hat off for drivers liscence photos, I see no reason why a muslim woman should be exempt from that. Driving, flying on a plane, etc are priveleges not rights and you can’t wear whatever you want to do these things.

  • OneHandClapping

    I’ve read and re-read most of the comments here, and it seems they fall into 3 categories:

    1. No, to infringe on someone else’s rights to wear what they want is wrong.
    2. Yes, security is paramount over the “write to wear.”
    3. I see both sides, but don’t want to make a decision.

    I wonder why it hasn’t been brought up that this is only associated with Islam, and is not a tenet of Islam, therefore it’s a cultural symbol rather than a religious one. That removes some sticky issues in itself, for some. If we take away the sacred cow (pun intended) of having it be a religious debate, I think the light can shine on this more clearly. We already limit what cultural practices are acceptable when you immigrate to a country. If you need examples just look to honor killings. Though reprehensible, this act (honor killings) is perfectly acceptable and even expected in some countries, but we do not allow it in any Western States (that I know of). When looked at from the perspective of a cultural trapping, it is, I think, easier to accept when a limitation is placed on said trapping. When you emigrate to another country, you are expected to conform somewhat to that country’s culture. This just further delineates the line of “culturally acceptable here”, wherever “here” may be.

  • I, like many others in this comment thread, am somewhat bemused by the fact that we’re replacing authoritarian religious control of what women are allowed to wear with authoritarian government control.

    That said, I can understand the need for faces to be visible for security. That makes sense and I can buy that.

    But framing it as legislating against a piece of clothing because it oppresses women… that’s bullshit. It really is. A piece of clothing does not oppress women. Men and other women oppress women. They use clothing (and religion, and societal norms) to achieve that end. But I really doubt banning one visible aspect of the oppression of women is going to have much of an effect on the institutional oppression. Frankly, I think all it really does is act as a way for people outside of those communities to feel better about themselves and enables them to ignore the oppression that still may exist because it’s no longer so highly visible. Making it illegal for a woman to wear a burqa doesn’t mean shit if her male family members still think it’s perfectly acceptable to murder her for dishonoring them, for example.

    The Daily Show did a funny bit on this a while back, though I can’t currently hunt up the link to it. But I seem to remember one of the comments boiled down to, “Thanks men, for telling us women that we’re being oppressed. We totally could never have figured that out ourselves.”

  • Matt

    So, having read all the comments…

    Security. Yes, everyone agrees that there are special cases involving driving, airport checkpoints, etc. I see no arguments regarding this, so we should be able to lay it to rest.

    Oppression. Veils may very well be forced on women by their families. This is very likely not universally true, and if it were, it’s been mentioned that banning clothing attire is not the proper way to fix oppression of Muslim women.

    There have been a lot of straw mans,comparing the wearing of a face veil to a lot of crazy things that are (understandably) illegal. This *IS* a civil liberties issue, albeit a complex one. These women are hurting no one by making this personal choice (please note I already addressed security and oppression). This is in the same vein as a Christian wearing an anti-abortion t-shirt to school.

    Based on what I know of Europe and the info in these news articles, I’d say it’s likely the main motivation for these bans stems from a desire to discourage traditional Islamic culture. I’m not saying that I agree with their culture, but I don’t believe it is the governments place to do that.

  • Women should be free to wear what they want, even if what they choose to wear (to quote Sam Harris) is a human tent.

    I’m also reminded of how he showed a picture “of a typical magazine stand in America” at his TED talk of scantily clad women. He brings up the point that if women have the freedom to nearly expose everything why can’t they hide everything? Remember this is coming from Harris who dedicates a lot of “The End of Faith” to drumming up fears that the Muslims are out to get us.

  • Agata

    You presume that most women want to wear burka. Most of them have to do that. Freedom for them doesn’t mean that they can choose to not wear burka.

  • @OneHandClapping

    I don’t think it’s fair to compare veils with honor killings. Murder is already illegal in the West and it doesn’t matter if it was done out of some misguided sense of honor.

    Walking around in a veil doesn’t involve breaking any other law and, even if it did, it wouldn’t rise to the level of murder.

    If the issue is protecting the women, restricting their clothing doesn’t accomplish it. If the issue is pushing back against Islamic culture, this is a silly, ham-handed way to go about it. We can’t protect our culture by abandoning the freedoms that built it.

  • i’m with christopher hitchens on this one, who very clearly explains which ban is which:

    The French legislators who seek to repudiate the wearing of the veil or the burqa—whether the garment covers “only” the face or the entire female body—are often described as seeking to impose a “ban.” To the contrary, they are attempting to lift a ban: a ban on the right of women to choose their own dress, a ban on the right of women to disagree with male and clerical authority, and a ban on the right of all citizens to look one another in the face. The proposed law is in the best traditions of the French republic, which declares all citizens equal before the law and—no less important—equal in the face of one another.

  • In general situations people should be able to wear what they want. But for specific situations where security is an overriding concern (government buildings, banks) or anywhere seeing someone’s face is critical they should be banned without concern for cries of “religious persecution”. I couldn’t walk into a bank or government building with a sheet over my head or wearing a ski mask for obvious reasons. I likely wouldn’t get hired for many jobs in such attire either. It’s not unreasonable to ask these women to follow the same rules everyone else is expected to.

  • Perhaps in an effort to save energy and green-house emissions, the French can mandate that air conditioners not be used in government or commercial buildings during the summer and encourage the populace to dress with minimal clothing to remain comfortable.

    Then the Muslim women can decide just how important their full body coverings are to them. For practical reasons, many of them may opt to “show a little skin” to keep cool. On the other hand, women have been wearing burkas long before air-conditioning was ever invented. They might just sweat it out.

  • Arduinnae

    I live in Canada, in a city where being outdoors with your face uncovered during 4-5 months of the year is incredibly stupid. I see no way to ban religious head-coverings while still allowing practical head-coverings that wouldn’t be hypocritical.

    Personally, I am 100% in favour of campaigning against niqabs, hijabs, burkas, foot-binding, and every other practice cultures/religions have come up with over the years to prevent women from having any autonomy – but I am NOT in favour of turning the tables around and forcing my own clothing sensibilities on other women.

    How can I possibly denounce places like Saudi Arabia where women can’t go out into public with their hair uncovered if I then turn around and support my own country saying that women can’t go out into public with their hair covered?

  • Sophia

    Yeesh. It’s incredibly patronizing to suggest that the poor womenz are so pathetic and weak that they need the government to come in and save them from an article of clothing. It reminds me of those who want to ban pornography because clearly all those poor, silly naked ladies are only forced into the profession by the patriarchy.

    We don’t get to pick and choose what freedom of expression is acceptable, or which personal beleifs are acceptable. That misses the point. Pretty much the only limits are “don’t run around naked” and “don’t libel” and “don’t violate the rights of others”.

    Is sexism horrible? Obviously. Should women be threatened into wearing these covers? No, and such threats are already illegal. Are religious orders and families that promote sexism horrible? Yes. But does a family have the right to pass their horrible religious beliefs onto their children, including their beliefs on the role of women? Absolutely. And do those individuals have a right to practice their religious beleifs as long as it does not violate the rights of others? Yes.

    The French government should work to protect women who are being threatened by Muslim men to remain covered, or otherwise comply with a ridiculous standard of modesty. Instead, they’ve gone and made things even harder for Muslim women.

  • sarah

    in my humble opinion, the hijab is like wearing a hat. it should be completely up to the person if they would like to wear a head covering. i do agree with some of the other commenters that the niqab and burka pose a security risk.
    if they are allowed, i would like to wear a chimpanzee mask all the time. my “religion” believes in evolution, and i would like to pay tribute to my ancestors.

  • jose

    Ok let’s ban headscarfs. Now muslim women MUST wear headscarfs because otherwise their husbands will murder them or throw acid to their faces–But they CAN’T wear headscarfs because otherwise they’ll have to pay a fine or go to jail.

    What a great situation to be into!

    Will this law protect women from their husbands?

  • Aaron, I have a problem with this:

    “They want to be submissive or they would flee that situation, just like you cannot stop an abused spouse from returning to their abuser. They have to want to leave.”

    It’s not a matter of “wanting to be submissive” or “wanting to leave an abusive partner”. It’s a matter of “is it safe for me to leave?” We stay out of fear of what he’ll do if we leave. We return because he promises it won’t happen again, and we hold on to that small bit of hope that, maybe, this time, he really means it. The hope that, if you love him enough, if you’re a “good” partner, he will change. Of course, he never does change… much like Muslim men never will change.

    Sometimes you have to forcibly remove a person from a bad situation before they realize it WAS a bad situation, and I think that’s what’s going on here — France is trying (however clumsily) to give Muslim women a proverbial wake-the-fuck-up slap, to get them to realize, “hey, this is a bad situation.”

    The fact that women could, potentially, be in danger from male family members for not wearing the burqa/niqab just serves to underscore this point. What is needed is to protect the women, and damn the “concerns” of the “men”.

    (I say “men” because real men don’t use violence or threats of violence to “keep women in line”.)

  • Canadiannalberta

    If you can’t see their face, then they got to go for security reasons.

  • jose

    “France is trying (however clumsily) to give Muslim women a proverbial wake-the-fuck-up slap”

    This might be like teaching a kid how to swim by throwing him in open sea and telling him “Ok now swim!” Maybe the husband could be a shark or a giant octopus or something looking for fresh, not covered meat.

    The first thing to do would be putting husbands in their place. They don’t own their wife. They don’t have any right whatsoever over their wife. Women are worth the same as men. If they do anything that may conflict with these three statements, they will go to jail and won’t be allowed to be near that woman again.

    Or something like that.

    I don’t know if it’s right to ban clothing, but shouldn’t we do something for women not to be murdered or disfigured by acid thrown at their face for complying with that ban first?

  • Arduinnae

    The problem with the idea that banning the veil would serve as a wake-up call for Muslim women is that Muslim women are Muslim. Very very few of them are closeted Atheists just waiting for the government to rescue them from their bad evil husbands, fathers, brothers, religion.

    These are true believers. In many cases, women will regulate each other and themselves far more than men will, at least in their day-to-day lives.

    They may well do it out of fear, but they also do it because they’re Muslim and they believe that serving their husbands submissively and wearing giant shapeless bags is what God wants.

    It’s like being in a cult. Passing a law telling people that they can’t be in a cult won’t wake them up. In most cases, even forcibly removing them from the cult won’t do it. There’s a whole lot of de-programming that has to go on before a person can escape from that kind of indoctrination.

  • Gwenny

    I have two points to add to the conversation.

    1) There are Muslim women who choose to wear these garments and who feel naked without the protection they feel they get. I’m a naturist. I believe clothing is unnatural. But I don’t expect the rest of you to get nekkid for me and I respectfully wear clothes in public.

    2) Covering the face is outlawed in many places, for security reasons. According to what I’ve read, many US states originally put laws on the books to target the KKK. There’s some sort of irony or something there.

    The bottom line, individuals should have a great deal of latitude in what apparel they wear, keeping in mind the local mores and security issues. But, honestly, if a woman only feels comfortable in public if she is totally encased in a prison of heavy fabric, maybe she just needs to stay home.

  • Nick Wright

    If it’s against the law to let people walk around naked, the flipside of the coin is that people also may not be allowed to cover everything but the eyes.

    I’m not sure about America but in England nudity in public is definitely not illegal. There are other offences where nudity can be taken into account but the lack of clothing itself is not an offence.

  • Liberty

    No muslim woman wants to wear burqa, hijab, niqab and other form of veils if given free choice in their society.

    That just isn’t true. I’ve worked with several Muslim women who wear the hijab as a way of declaring their cultural identity. They don’t have to wear it but choose to because they want to demonstrate that they are part of a community. Certainly they have been taught this but it remains their choice.

  • Wow. So now some people are even suggesting that Muslim women should just stay home. Very sad. 🙁 I am all for helping oppressed women in any way possible, but this legislation just is not going to work that way. So now they can’t wear a burqa, so they might just have to stay inside? How is that any better?

  • Oh and on the issue of security I’m reminded of the Benjamin Franklin quote: “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

    The liberty here is the right of citizens to dress however they choose whether you agree with it or not. It is the right of free expression.

  • Brian Macker


    “jacking up penalties based on motivation seems discriminatory as well”

    Criminality has been always “jacked up” based on motivation. That’s the whole point of first degree murder vs. manslaughter. The law has had the concept of Mens Rea for quite some time.

  • Have there been any other instances in which clothing has been banned?

  • Brian Macker

    Stephen P,

    “So we are up to 77 comments, in a community of people who for the most part pride themselves on their rationality, and no-one has mentioned data or evidence?”

    78 including yours.

    Regarding data, we don’t need to make numerical arguments to understand whether a policy is hypothetically justifiable. I think some people rely to much on “studies” and give them too much weight. It’s not like we can do controlled studies. We all know of evidence where masks are used to commit crimes. How about you do a internet search on “burka bandits” to see some evidence.

  • Hitch

    Just a quick word on nudity in the US. It’s a state law matter but being nude in public, even going topless on a public beach can and often will get you into trouble.

    The notion is that nudity is automatically sexual and lewd. And lewd conduct laws are used to penalize public nudity. The whole thing is also known as “indecent exposure”.

    Places where nudity is allowable are usually clearly marked and separated.

    Yes it’s a very puritan society. Italian and Spanish beaches are unthinkable here.

    That’s why I argue both for the right to wear the burka and the revurka. The revurka rights are already severely limited most of the USA, even though there are no identification problems (except lacking pockets to hold driver’s licenses).

  • OneHandClapping

    @ Rooker

    Yeah, maybe that example wasn’t the best, but the reasoning stands. When you come to a new country, you are expected to conform somewhat. Making laws such as this are certainly a harsh way of enforcing that, but not out of line.

  • Geek Gazette

    I know that if I wear a full face mask or a hoody that conceals my face when entering a bank, federal building, store or even just walking down the street, I will be asked to remove it. Ok maybe I can get away with a hoody while walking down the street, but it will have to come down almost every where else. Even in the dead of winter I’ve been asked to at least remove my scarf so my face can be seen. Just because I’m wearing something that covers my face does not mean I am going to do something wrong. However if I can get away with it, then the people who are planning to rob or kill can get away with it as well. It is a matter of public safety.
    It does infringe on your freedom, and that sucks, but I can understand the basis of the fear/unease that such dress can cause. I’m not sure I think it should be a national ban, but I think that institutions have the right request you remove such garments or leave. At home or in your house of worship wear what you want, but if you want to shop at store “x” you have to abide by their rules. It is the same as “No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service”, “Click it or Ticket”, “No Smoking”, “Must be 21 to buy Alcohol”, “Must be 18 to buy Tobacco Products”, “No one Under 18 Admitted”, “NC-17” and many other rules/laws we have in this country. We justify them by saying they serve some “good” or are “moral”. Regardless of our justification they definitely infringe on our individual rights to do as we please. If we decide to live in a particular society, we have consented to abide by the accepted norms of that society. If that society decides that you can’t cover your face, then accept it, move to another country or try to peacefully change the minds of the people that are against it.
    There are a lot of things I think are unfair or just plain stupid, but until I or someone else can convince people to change the rules, I have to abide by them or face the consequences.

  • Tony

    I do not support the complete bannination of any style of clothing. If what someone is wearing offends me I will tell them so and explain my reasoning. I may potentially refuse to associate with such a person if the problem is too severe for me to enjoy their company.


    You appear to be the only person that doesn’t acknowledge security as a valid concern. Is there any situation in which you would ban clothing which obscures the face and prevents identification? Surely a line must be drawn somewhere.

  • Tony, actually I did acknowledge that there were circumstances where there are some situations where certain types of clothing are inappropriate and someone’s actions could be restricted as a result. I maintain though that there is a significant difference between including some reasonable exceptions to freedom of expression and a blanket ban on certain types of clothing.

  • Many feminists in the west find the bra offensive and an oppressive garment that women are forced to wear by the patriarchy. Should brassieres also be banned in the name of “liberation”?
    Security is one issue and I think there is a legitimate concern about wearing the niqab or burka in banks, schools, etc. But if you support banning the hijab, then you are a hypocrite unless you feel bras should be banned as well. By telling women women they cannot wear the hijab (or bra for that matter) you will only anger the women who choose to wear these garments.
    These sounds less like “feminism” and “liberation” to me and more like ethnocentrism to me!

  • Tony

    Oops. Not only did I read that post, I almost went back to quote it to argue my point. The application of the Franklin quotation in this situation seemed to suggest that you believed in absolute unrestricted freedom of dress. My mistake.

  • Richard Wade

    I think that this mode of dress should definitely be banned.

    Big Hat and Shades

    Called the Big Hat and Shades, I increasingly see this in Hollywood, California. It was supposed to be exclusively for movie stars who want to be incognito, but now anybody and everybody is using it. It’s now impossible to tell who are the genuine movie stars going incognito, and who are the imposters. It has caused hardship among the Paparazzi and is a security risk at restaurants, Starbucks, and funky-but-chic boutiques on Melrose.

  • the way ive always seen this argument is quite simple, i belive people should be allowd to wear what ever they want, in the case of the burka and so forth i also belive people should not be forced to wear such a thing (if its there choice all for it) however anywhere where your not normaly alowd to cover your face however i belive should apply to all, i belive in equality in that sense (asuming that makes any sense ot people haha basicly if im banned from whereing somthing somwhere so should everyone else, needs to be 1 rule for all in things like that)

  • Liokae

    We already accept that, in law, it is illegal to appear in public with your face covered to the point of obscuring your identity. So why is it that — on an atheist site, no less — we’re suddenly concerned about whether or not we ought to make an exception to the rules because there’s a religion that wants all women to be interchangeable? I’m a card-carrying member of the ACLU, and this boggles me.

    Because bans on facial-concealing items like masks and sunglasses are *situational*, and what’s being questioned here is a *categorical* ban. It’s *not* categorically illegal to conceal your face in public, just in specific situations.

  • ihedenius

    However much I dislike this male domination of females it is wrong to forbid how people dress. Unless one can find secular reasons (absolutely are required to show your face on id cards for instance).

    Another point. It may well be a tactical mistake. As Bart Ehrman says, the persecution of christians (they were persecuted by ordinary people mainly, not the roman state, it’s complicated), the persecution could well have been what strengthened their communities.

  • cathy

    Wow, there is a lot of nasty in this thread. Trans/gay bashing (@alex, because us freaks in drag don’t deserve civil rights either?), assumption that muslim women are automatically criminals (have you ever SEEN the way a woman in a veil is treated in public in the west? Veiling in the west makes you about as inconspicous as being dressed in a bearsuit), asserting that women who don’t dress the way you prefer should be banned from public places…

    Also, maybe you people should look into how muslim women who veil in the west actually deal with security, which can be done in a way that respects her right and maintains security? Most western women who veil have a photo ID without a veil (picture taken by a woman). Upon entering a situation where she must show her face (airport? court appearance?), she goes into a private area with a female security officer and shows them her face. They compare it to the ID. Simple as that. You do understand that muslim women who veil are allowed to show their bare faces to other women, right?

    Also, I do know women who wear veils that cover their hair and bulky, obscuring clothing on a daily basis for religious purposes, including modesty. There’s a whole organization of them here…but wait, these are white Catholic nuns, so why would the racist, imperialist fashion police care about them? What about a skirt ban? Skirts are a gendered article of clothing traditionally used to oppress women as a symbol of modesty (particularly long skirts), let’s ban those too. There’s a huge double standard here that has nothing to do with security or with women’s rights and everything to do with anti-immigrant (particularly anti-nonwhite immigrant) sentiment. Like the posters above who felt that immigrants are automatically disloyal to the state and should be subjected to forced cultural assimilation.

  • Matt

    One thing I noticed was a tendency to paint this issue as something else, something acceptable. For example, if you read through the news articles about the French ban, there is verbiage that states the French citizens were afraid and irritated by the burka clad Muslims in their streets. It’s like a sort of cultural intolerance. They see a rise in Muslim immigrants sporting these religious decorations and see it as an invasion of alien culture. The government received many complaints of this nature which are cited in some news articles as motivation for these bans.

    Think about that. The ban was atleast partially intended to suppress a culture the majority didn’t feel comfortable with.

    Then. Those in charge, and their supporters go on to pretend the bans are all about righteous liberation of women from an oppressive culture.

    Ok, it seems someone has moved the mark.

  • Brian Westley

    Two things:

    1) any country that bans burkas, etc, is implicitly allowing a later administration to require burkas, since it has already established that the government gets to dictate to people what they can and can’t wear. I much prefer it when the government does not have this power.

    2) whether you look at governments banning or requiring burkas, it’s always men (or mostly men) controlling women.

  • Lore

    People should be allowed to wear what they want as long as it doesnt interfere with other concerns. At a government facility then security might be an issue. In a university setting it would be very easy to have someone else take a test for you if no one has ever seen your face. Other then that, i know lots of people who wear traditional outfits etc with their face showing and it is not interruptive at all.

  • Gibbon

    To add my two cents, I can’t speak in favour of the forms of Muslim dress that hide the face as it comes down to a matter of practicality, on the issues of communication and identification. We as humans rely on more than just the eyes and the sound of our voices when we speak to one another; we make a huge variety of judgements based on the contortions of the face as we speak, but any object that covers the face works only as an impediment to communication. In terms of identification such a large need is placed on being able to visually identify the individual for a variety of reasons, especially when it comes to issuing a license or passport, that covering the face becomes detrimental, and let’s not forget the need for security, but I think that has almost become a codeword for Islamophobia.

    That being said, I oppose any attempt to ban the coverings for two reasons. The first is a matter of basic human rights; it doesn’t serve to protect the individual’s rights when the government is forcing them to do something that is of no harm to anyone. The second is more historical in nature and goes back to European colonialism when the colonial powers tried to ban the veils. The only thing those previous attempts to ban the veil achieved was to turn the garment into a political symbol, particularly one of resistance. I fear the same thing or something similar would happen with the current bans, which would only give the fundamentalists. Aside from that, I also think that banning the veils might be aiding the fundamentalists in that it would be giving them something to rally around; it would only legitimise their opposition.

    I will also say that in the past year while studying at university I have seen a fair number of female students who can be clearly identified as Muslim by the headscarves or burqas they are wearing, but not one of them had their face covered. And from what I can tell even if they don’t choose that clothing they must still have some say in the matter, because the colour of these garments is extremely diverse, and a fair number of them have patterns as well. Even if the clothing it self is not a choice, it still appears as though these Muslim women have some latitude to make their own choices in fashion.

  • AxeGrrl

    Aj wrote:

    Nothing should be treated as “religious”, if an atheist wants to wear a veil over their face they should be allowed to as well. Practice of religion should not be a human right, it’s a privilege at the expense of others. If it’s not already covered in freedom of expression and movement, it should not be protected.

    Exactly. Thank you for expressing this 🙂

    In so many of the discussion on this subject, the cultural vs religious issue comes up ~ usually like this: ‘it’s ‘only’ cultural; but if it were mandated by her religion, that would be different‘……..which I think is utterly irrelevant.

    I’m so tired of things under the umbrella of ‘religion’ getting special treatment. A good example is drug use by certain religious sects in the U.S. ~ why should they be given a pass to get high while everyone else is prohibited?

  • forumlogic

    The civil liberties view uses the potent refrain of “a woman’s freedom to choose” and is profoundly seductive yet it does not stand up to scrutiny.

    Vulnerable people often do not know that they deserve to be treated as equals: often women have chosen to return to abusive relationships; women may be brought up to accept polygamous relationships; to be meek, humble and subservient – there were women who did not support the suffragette movement. All these behaviours can be honoured as being the woman’s freedom to choose when actually she is a victim (often in denial – Stockholm Syndrome?) and would benefit from being rescued.

    Society (you and I) have a duty to set laws that lead us to behave and think in more enlightened ways.

  • gribblethemunchkin

    I think we need to make a distinction between those coverings that cover the face and the hijab. The Hijab i have no problem with, it may be covert religious oppression of women, but thats something they need to to deal with themselves, i’ll support womens rights to be free to wear what they like, but banning clothing is daft.

    The burkha on the other hand, prevents good two way communication, has possible security problems and is much more sinister than the Hijab. It should be banned in certain roles/places such as teachers, airports, doctors, etc. Essentially any role where you have to deal with the public or where security is an issue, the Burkha should be banned.

    Walking down the street in a burkha though, i can’t see a rational for banning that.

  • @MaryD

    How happy would you be with someone wearing a T-shirt with I hate [insert your own country]? How happy would you be if you saw these T-shirts every few minutes as you walked down your street?

    I hate the Netherlands. I also love the Netherlands. Big deal, who cares. I’d be more worried about a t-shirt that said “I love Al-Queda.”

    The best way to stop men telling women what they can wear is for men to pass a law telling women what they can wear. ??? Sorry, that doesnt work for me.

    I don’t know where you’re from, but around here women are the most vocal supporters of such a thing. So it’s many women telling the couple of hundred women who like to wear burqas and niqabs what to wear with male sympathizers more than anything else, or alternatively simply men and women.

    When a person walks down the street I, and by extension the state, have no right to force that person to show me any part of their body, without good reason. (unfortunately)

    Same for the reverse, yet we’ve got anti-nudity laws on the books all over the place. Unless we get rid of those as well and go for complete freedom to dress, there’s no hypocrisy in telling someone that you can cover yourself too much. Note that I oppose laws against public nudity, though I don’t wish to be nude in public.

    But anyway, Muslim men don’t fully cover themselves. That’s just a little something to think about.

  • Freedum

    A nun can be covered from head to toe in order to devote herself to God; but when Muslim women does the same she’s oppressed.

    Any girl can go to university wearing what she wills and have her rights and freedom; but when Muslim girl wears a Hijab they prevent her from entering her university!

    When men marry men and women marry women, when they walk naked on the streets, they are practicing liberty and freedom; when a woman wears the veil, she is a threat to freedom!

    Very funny, innit?

  • Brian Macker

    Brian Westley,

    “any country that bans burkas, etc, is implicitly allowing a later administration to require burkas, since it has already established that the government gets to dictate to people what they can and can’t wear. I much prefer it when the government does not have this power.”

    Ridiculous. The government already requires you to wear clothes. The reasons for requiring clothes and for banning face coverings are completely different. Nor is the power to ban/require as arbitrary and easily shifted as you claim.

  • AnonyMouse

    Burqas and niqabs, legally speaking, should be treated exactly the same way as wearing masks as public. Personally, I’m for that level of personal freedom.

    As for the hijab – well, put it this way. Every woman in the church I used to belong to wears her hear long. It is supposed to be a manifestation of her glory; in reality it is a symbol of her subjugation to her husband or father. So what are we going to do? Pass a law that requires women to cut their hair? Admittedly, the hijab is not a fashion statement normally used by non-Muslim women, but the measure is no less silly. Muslim men will still dominate and control Muslim women no matter what they aren’t allowed to wear.

  • flashbackkid

    I feel that niqabs and burkas should obviously be banned in places where security is an issue and where everyone’s face needs to be visible for the CCTV cameras. (Banks, airports, etc.)

    I think adult women over 18 should be allowed to wear whatever they want in public or at home. However, I do think that it should be illegal to force a minor to wear a niqab, burka, or even hijab. Therefore I suppose that they should just ban all three items from schools in general because of the disruption to the learning environment (as they should ban any ostentatious religious expression ie crucifixes from public schools.)

  • jobsforamerican

    yes ban them…they are creepy and disturbing.

  • Umimran4

    what does that have to do with Islam

  • Umimran4

    we are not “taught this” .  Wearing a veil over our hair is a religious obligation, mentioned in the Holy Quran.  We do not mind wearing it because we are pleasing Allah SWT and serving Allah and not serving people’s judgments gives us great pleasure.  If you don’t understand something you shouldn’t comment on it.

  • Anonymous

    Tell the faithful women to lower their gaze and guard their private parts and not display their beauty except what is apparent of it, and to extend their scarf to cover their bosom  – Koran, 24:31

    Where does it say to cover your hair or to dress in a full body covering?  If this is not a teaching of your faith then where did you pick it up from?  I don’t understand so I comment and ask questions.  Feel free to enlighten me.  I won’t object.

  • Pilgrimshelly

    This is Canada  and yes they should be banned. We have not asked these people to come to our country with their own rules and ways of life if you  choose to live in Canada act like you deserve to live here. To many people coming here from other countries trying to take over our country and how we live if your not happy with they way of live in Canada then go back to your own dam country because we don’t need you..Hope you can appreciate my CANADAIN values……….

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