Liberte, Egalite-De Feministes! Revealing the Burqa as a Pro-Choice Issue
Knief, Amanda, The Humanist
"BAN THE BURQA! Ban the burqa!" Across Western Europe this resounds as the rallying cry of the day among the public and politicians. At least Belgium, France, Austria, Italy, Switzerland, Spain, and the United Kingdom are in various stages of proposing, voting, or enforcing legislation that would prohibit a person from wearing a facial covering in public places that hides the identity of the person. The words "burqa,' which describes a Muslim garment that covers the body and includes a mesh covering over the face, and "niqab" referring to a Muslim facial covering that leaves only a slit revealing the eyes, do not appear in any nation's ban. However, the rhetoric accompanying the legislation in these countries leaves no doubt that it is Muslim women who are targeted--not those citizens who are wearing woolen scarves to keep their faces warm in cold weather.
Animosity against the burqa, the niqab, and even Muslim headscarves isn't new. France banned the wearing of conspicuous religious symbols in public schools in September 2004. The law had the effect of preventing Muslim schoolgirls from wearing headscarves. In spring of 2010 a sixteen-year-old Spanish girl was expelled from her school in suburban Madrid for wearing a headscarf, which violated the school's dress code. The student was readmitted after the national education ministry intervened, stating that the Spanish Constitution requires government institutions to respect religious beliefs. Turkey bans the covering of the face and neck; however, since 2008 loose headscarves are allowed. Some areas of Italy have used a national law against hiding one's identity in public, which predates any discussion of a burqa ban, to prevent Muslim women from wearing the burqa and the niqab in public.
It's worth noting that the burqa, the niqab, and other Muslim clothing traditions are not consistent among Muslim cultures. According to the Muslim Women's League, the Koran only states that women should dress modestly. From there, how women should dress is open to interpretation. The differences in how Muslim women dress reflects the diversity of the women themselves, which is often overlooked. The Muslim Women's League states that "stereotypical assumptions about Muslim women are as inaccurate as the assumption that all American women are personified by the bikini-clad cast of Baywatch."
The burqa and the niqab …
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Publication information: Article title: Liberte, Egalite-De Feministes! Revealing the Burqa as a Pro-Choice Issue. Contributors: Knief, Amanda - Author. Magazine title: The Humanist. Volume: 70. Issue: 5 Publication date: September-October 2010. Page number: 13+. © 1999 American Humanist Association. COPYRIGHT 2010 Gale Group.
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