French Ban Burqas: Gender Equality or Religious Intolerance?

The French lawmakers passed a law Tuesday that imposes a partial ban on any veils that cover the face in public places like hospitals, schools, and public transports, but not on the street.

Is that fair? Well, it does promote gender equality and “liberate” Muslim women who are forced to remain apart from society by wearing burqas. It also keeps them free of men who would force them to wear one (a fine and possible jail time for that as well). The French claim it has nothing to do with religion and only hopes to support women’s freedom and dignity.

France is not the only country with a burqa ban on its mind. Majorities in Germany, Britain, and Spain are also talking about the potential benefits of a ban. While 2/3 Americans are opposed to the idea, the ban is gaining support in Europe.

But the obvious problem is, the burqa is a long-standing religious requirement for Islamic women. By banning the use of a veil in public places and when receiving public services, the women are showing their faces to strangers, something which was at one point was considered punishable by death. While that is an extreme, it shows the dedication the people have to the particulars of their religion. A legal requirement forcing a change is, in a way, religious persecution and may only serve to further intensify negative interactions with middle-eastern cultures.

I think that the ban is eventually going to be revoked because of the obvious conflict it will bring up. The pending resolution on the ban (making it legal to wear a burqa but lending public officials support when asking a woman to remove the veil) will only exacerbate the problem, making the removal seem arbitrary and sexist and giving the wearer grounds for argument (ex. “If it’s legal, why do I have to take it off for you?”)

I don’t agree with the Islamic law of making women wear burqas, but I also don’t approve of a law forcing them to change an aspect of their faith. I’m interested to see where this goes. Your thoughts?

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