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The Belgium Burqa Ban (and the possible French one too…)

May 28, 2010

There has been a lot of talk this spring about Belgium’s move to ban the burqa.  Towards the end of April the law passed through Belgium’s lower house of parliament with flying colors – not a single person voted against it.

Though the law still needs to go through Belgium’s senate and wording could be slightly changed there, as the law stands now it would ban all clothing that “obscures the identity of the wearer” in public places, including streets, parks, and public buildings, …so, pretty much everywhere…

A burqa ban is also popular in France, and in both countries the two main “reasons” for the ban are security and preventing domestic abuse.

  • First off, let’s address security: in most countries, including Belgium and France, you can require women wearing the burqa to lift their veil in order to be identified.  Also, only 30 women in Belgium wear the burqa.
  • Secondly: domestic abuse is definitely a big problem in Belgium.  In 2006 1 in 5 women reported being abused (plus, how many incidents go unreported?)  Over 13% of women are hospitalized due to abuse.  So, how on earth could you think the burqa ban would prevent domestic abuse, when only 30 women in the entire country of Belgium wear the burqa!  (Even if you though the burqa was directly related to domestic violence in the first place – it’s a stretch.)

There are far too many assumptions being made here:

  1. A woman would only wear the burqa by force, not by her own choice.
  2. Muslim men are abusive.
  3. Conservative Muslims are “up to something.”
  4. Domestic abuse happens to burqa wearing women more frequently than the rest of the population.

Isn’t it ironic that Belgium and France are telling women what to wear in a so-called “attempt” to keep them from being “told” what to wear?!  (Yeah…, I think we’ve got some other things going on here, and it really has nothing to do with what the ladies want.)

It doesn’t appear that anyone’s actually asked these 30 women what they’d like.  Amnesty International, thankfully, is trying to give those women a voice in this debate, saying that the Belgium law would set a “dangerous precedent” if it’s passed this summer.  Amnesty International went on to say that the law would “violate the rights to freedom of expression and religion of those women who wear the burqa or niqab as an expression of their identity and beliefs”.   Not to mention that the law would completely alienate these women, and for the most part force them to stay in their homes (since it is their convictions that determine their dress, and it’s not as easy to opt out of convictions as it is a style…)

I saw a recent poll in The Economist that showed how popular the burqa ban really is in Europe.  It’s actually surprisingly popular (or at least it surprised me), with 70% supporting the ban in France, 65% in Spain, 57% in the UK, and 50% in Germany.  I’m happy to report that the poll found only 33% of Americans believe the ban would be beneficial – and in reality, you can find 33% of Americans that believe in almost anything (including ESP, magic spells, and that the effects of global warming won’t occur in their lifetime… don’t get me started!)

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