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at3p's Avatar Comment 1 by at3p

This ban would also affect some left-wing protesters who use scarfs and costumes to hide their identity from the police (and there are a lot of them in France).



Tue, 11 May 2010 06:20:01 UTC | #468716

besleybean's Avatar Comment 2 by besleybean

I don't know whether you meant that in a naegative or a positive, or if it was a nod to Hitchens' radical past!

I have mixed feelings on the issue and as ever, I was delighted to read Christopher Hitchens view on the subject.

Do we have to allow for the possibility that even a minority of women may actually choose this attire?  I say that appreciating that ' choice' is a loaded issue in itself.

Basically, I would rather attack the oppreessor than the oppressed.  I say again, I wonder if there is a real need for our nations to legislate against the oppression of women.  This would be rather than attacking one symbol.  I do not want to see women prisoners in their own homes, because they are not allowed to leave without a veil, but are banned from wearing the veil....

Tue, 11 May 2010 06:35:51 UTC | #468722

201curzonst's Avatar Comment 3 by 201curzonst

Some women call me antifeminist when I speak of my dislike for the burqa. I'm starting to think that they have this romanticized notion of being all cozily secluded from the world like a bunch of latter-day Emily Dickinsons.


I'll never forget the first time I travelled to the Middle East: I saw women in cafes having to be fed by their husbands/ male relatives off of long spoons. People want me to believe that these women have chosen to have their personalities and individualities obliterated, to be rendered as helpless as infants? Sorry, I don't buy it. 

Tue, 11 May 2010 06:38:28 UTC | #468725

besleybean's Avatar Comment 4 by besleybean

Well if you read excellent Ed Husain's fine book The Islamist, you will indeed find that some women actually do choose this attire- tho possibly for the wrong reasons.

The one instance I would accept it being banned is in school.  The only option for muslim men then, would be to have their girls educated at home and I would suggest strong legislation to provide the right education.

Tue, 11 May 2010 07:03:45 UTC | #468733

Lapithes's Avatar Comment 5 by Lapithes

His reasoning comes across as a bit far-fetched to me. Should the freedom to be unrecognizable not outweigh the "freedom" to recognize others in an untotalitarian democracy? The right not to be considered a criminal or be handled as one before or without having committed a felony? Should the empowerment of women not be a triumph of reason instead of one of the hand? Does the empowerment of women not require a change in the behaviour of men first, and women secondly?

Tue, 11 May 2010 07:44:28 UTC | #468745

dte's Avatar Comment 6 by dte

As soon as a state prohibits citizens to freely choose what they are wearing, their freedoms are, and that is a fact, limited

The question we really have to ask is: what reasons do we have to limit those freedoms? And there we have some very good and persuasive arguments that make perfect sense.

But let's not pretend that we are actually doing something for citizen's freedoms here. 


Tue, 11 May 2010 08:28:04 UTC | #468761

Lu's Avatar Comment 7 by Lu

I totall agree with the above poster (dte):

It doesn't matter what the reasons are that women wear the burqa - the fact of the matter is, you have no right to pass a law telling people what they can and can't wear.

I can see a good reason to ban covering of the face in educational institutions, government buildings, banks etc. That's just common sense.

But to ban a piece of clothing just because you disagree with it, is as bad; no, worse (cos you should know better, Mr Hitchens)  than banning Western women from showing their faces in places like Saudi Arabia.

Yes, in many cases it's not their choice, and even when it is, it's for stupid reasons, but they have a right to dress how they like. Just cos you don't like it, that's no reason to force your opinions on them via law. Even if it is "for their own good". Patriot act? War on terrorism? Great firewall of China, Australia and soon the rest of the world, Big brother watching you in every major world city, X-ray cameras at airports, etc. etc. All for our own good, apparently.

This is a VERY slippery slope the French are on, and I'd expect better than this from the likes of Hitchens and Dawkins (whose tacit agreement I'm assuming, perhaps incorrectly, from his reposting of the article).

Remember, I may not agree with your views, but I'll defend with my life your right to hold them. That includes your right to "oppress" yourself or allow yourself to be "oppressed", unfortunately.

Tue, 11 May 2010 09:09:00 UTC | #468781

DeepFritz's Avatar Comment 8 by DeepFritz

It would be like banning Jedi Knights from wearing their religious garb of Darth Vader Masks...

Tue, 11 May 2010 09:14:45 UTC | #468785

Ygern's Avatar Comment 9 by Ygern

This is one of those areas where I disagree with Hitchens, even though I appreciate his argument.

I know there is a radical difference between a law insisting that women cover themselves and a law insisting that they do not. The one intends to subjugate, the other does not. But it boils down to other people deciding what women can or can't wear and legislating it. There is something not quite right about that.

While it is a hell of a lot more difficult to enforce, legislators should rather be looking to penalise and limit the freedoms of those who apply duress to women to cover up and effectively keep them as second class citizens; and not those who out of misguided ideology choose to don medieval clothing.

I agree that banks & schools etc ought to have the right to insist on uncovered faces; but you are not going to improve the situation of the most vulnerable women in society by dictating by law what they may and may not wear.

Tue, 11 May 2010 09:32:24 UTC | #468793

Raiko's Avatar Comment 10 by Raiko

I have to agree with dte here.


This is not about giving anyone any sort of freedom. You can't argue that if you basically rule that you're not allowed to wear a certain attire, you're protecting someone's freedom of choice.

The twist is that we know that the reason this certain attire is chosen is usually not a free choice made by the one choosing the attire. However, it is very difficult to actually do something against that because the women would have to admit to themselves and others that it is actually not their free will to run around in their personal prison made of cloth.

However, Hitchen puts up some other good arguments why people should simply not run around veiled, but show their faces. In our countries, veiling your face is done by criminals to evade recognition, and not being able to see someone's face is making communication (which relies on looks, gestures and expressions) difficult. It also hinders sight, which means it's reducing safety and the ability to protect oneself.

There are good reasons why people should not be allowed to run around hiding their faces in public. And by "public" I mean any place that is not a private home. 


But no, we're not protecting anyone's freedom of choice here. What we do is trying to find a milder, state-imposed limit of choice to impose upon these women to effectively hinder the limit of choice their religion, husbands, fathers and religious leaders already impose upon them. This is a good cause, but our legal systems weren't made with such a case in mind, I suppose.

Updated: Tue, 11 May 2010 09:45:09 UTC | #468798

Disbelief's Avatar Comment 11 by Disbelief

Interesting points, I'm not in favour of banning the veil out right but I agree it should be banned in certain places.

A total ban won't work anyway. How would you enforce it during winter? Will you arrest everyone with scarves around their faces?

Tue, 11 May 2010 09:55:23 UTC | #468804

201curzonst's Avatar Comment 12 by 201curzonst

I didn't say I thought the burqa should be banned - I said I dislike it. The proposed law is counter-productive for just this reason - it has the extremists on either side drawing the line in the sand around their respective camps. I'm neither an accommodationist nor an Islamist. I have no problems, for example, with the hijab. You can wear a Sikh's turban, a yamaka or a damned jester's hat for all I care. None of these are in any way comparable to the burqa; they're just forms of headgear. They don't interfere with a woman interacting with the world in normal fashion - like being able walk around outside her home without an escort as if she were a criminal, or to be able to feed herself like any other adult human being.


And no, it's not something that women can choose, because they've been indoctrinated into the belief that as women their individuality, sexuality and humanity is worthless (or worth less than a man's). The indoctrination starts in early childhood and is backed up by religion. I've taught in several schools around the world with large Muslim populations, and whenever I encounter a family whose women wear the burqa, this is the culture of the home and the culture adopted by the children. The boys are treated as princes, and the girls are silent little ciphers. This is not my experience with children who come from Muslim cultures where the hijab or modified Western dress codes are the norm - these behave as any students from any background. It is only in the fundamentalist Muslim families that I've seen such a divide. If it weren't validated by religion, in many cases I would have to report these children for this behaviour. The extreme narcissism of the boys and the extremely phobic girls would be seen as abnormalities and possibly indicative of child abuse. 


I live in China; if foot-binding was still practised here and I opposed it, would I be anti-Chinese? The burqa is a form of psychological foot-binding - it's deliberately designed to smother a woman's individuality and restrict her freedom of movement. Sure, in a healthy society there might be a handful of women with the kink to be treated as an infant, and I'm cool with that. It's when it is so pervasive that people need to step back and stop kidding themselves that wearing such a garment was some kind of rational decision on the women's part.  


Tue, 11 May 2010 10:11:06 UTC | #468807

SummerSeale's Avatar Comment 13 by SummerSeale

I stand with Hitchens. =)

Having just returned from France, and having been there for a few months last year, and having been there many times before, I can say that most people in France are in agreement about this. France has changed in many ways over the last ten years. It makes me sad that a wonderful country like that has been affected by such a stupid piece of trash from the dark ages.

This has nothing to do with racism. In fact, many immigrants quietly support the ban - devout Muslims included. The head of one of the biggest mosques in Paris, a young Tunisian Imam, is under security protection 24 hours a day because he has spoken up and said that the burqa is not Muslim at all, but it is a cultural invention outside of religion and also that it targets immigrants as being extremists and makes people afraid. He says he is French and wants to show people that immigrants are not scary fundamentalists, and therefore (and for many other reasons) supports the ban. For this, the fanatics say that he must lose his life.

It is clear that this ban is not about curtailing the rights of French citizens. It has nothing to do with freedom and everything to do with the fight against extremism - in a strictly secular country, might I add. A secular country that we should be supportive of.

This ban would be hard to enforce, I agree. But it's a stand. There are many laws that are made that are hard to enforce, and for many worse reasons than this. But this is a public stand in a secular society fighting for its own identity to remain as such. So yes, I do support the ban. I've said it here before, and I'm saying it again.

I'd also like to point out that this ban is agreed to by the vast majority of the country - a left-leaning liberal secular country. I'm shocked that people here and in other places act as if the French suddenly didn't understand the issues. They do. They're far better educated on this than many others outside of their country. They have a proud tradition of secularism and liberalism. These are people who also understand things like freedom of choice, and are raised to understand and respect the same traditions we hold dear. They are, in effect, just like us in many ways. They are not fundamentalists of any kind of stripe in this respect, and I wish we would stop treating them as such.

French people on the right, the left, the center, Muslims, Catholics, Atheists, etc...a majority of them support this ban. We should stop acting as if they are not able to understand the nuances involved. It is an educated country, one with a tradition of the enlightenment, and they have put up a sign that says "This goes too far."

We should respect that. It has nothing to do with mob mentality and everything to do with watching a society, and women's freedoms, being assaulted from within.

Tue, 11 May 2010 10:12:00 UTC | #468808

rod-the-farmer's Avatar Comment 14 by rod-the-farmer

Sorry, I am with Hitchens on this.  Those who take the position that a person should be allwoed to choose their own clothing are forgetting that it is the men who are allowed.  Women are not.  Men never seem to choose the burkha.  This is primarily a blow against those who would impose the choice of men on what their women would wear.  Either we support equal rights for women, or we do not.   In the latter case we then support the rights of men to choose the type of clothing for women in their family, or in some countries, the rights of religious police to impose their choices on women in the street,  If muslim men want to impose the burkha on their women, then they should be forced (literally) to wear it themselves.  If they refuse (gee, ya think ?) then this is patently an issue of the rights of women to choose their own clothing.  Not the rights of a person, this right is exclusively denied to women only.

Funny countries where the burkha is worn, that all the women seem to have chosen this black tent.  You never see one in white.  How about sky blue ?  Nope.  This is then not a choice, it is being forced on them.  Pick any other culture.  It would be fair to say in most of them the women dress in colourful material.  Perhaps in the same general style, but almost always in bright colours.  The black tent is not a choice, it is the choice of men who want to hide their women from outsiders.  Note they allow their own women (an ugly phrase) to remove it whan in the privacy of their homes.



Updated: Tue, 11 May 2010 10:14:40 UTC | #468809

Ygern's Avatar Comment 15 by Ygern

Comment 14 by rod-the-farmer


I agree the intention of this law is an honorable and admirable one. But that does not mean it has been put together well. How clumsy is it that to strike a blow at "those who would impose the choice of men" you enact legislation that dictates what women may not wear.


It may be on the face of it the most straight-forward approach to getting rid of the veil on the streets of France, but it is like trying to treat scabies with a band-aid. It hides the problem, it does not treat it.

Tue, 11 May 2010 10:33:44 UTC | #468811

Krasny's Avatar Comment 16 by Krasny

I think there is a indirect Koranic requirement for women to wear the Burqua.


A woman should always be subordinate to a man. That is she should obey her father, husband, eldest son, or other male in charge, in all matters except where obeying would conflict with a central pillar of Islam.


Thus if a woman's man in charge of her instructs her to wear a Burqua, she must wear a Burqua, as wearing a Burqua does not conflict with Islam. Equally he could require her to wear a clown suit, or speak only in rhymes.



Tue, 11 May 2010 10:35:06 UTC | #468813

cheesedoff17's Avatar Comment 17 by cheesedoff17

I live in France and am in favor of the ban. There are those who are forced to wear it and others who chose to. I sympathise with the former but am exasperated by the latter. If they really want to embrace Islam to this point then they would be better off in Iran or Saudi Arabia.  Women have had to fight hard for equality here and are still fighting. France is a secular republic but all these religious groups have been nibbling away at many clauses of the constitution.     

Tue, 11 May 2010 10:37:01 UTC | #468814

Laurie Fraser's Avatar Comment 18 by Laurie Fraser

I agree with Hitchens. The opposition to his argument is usually couched in terms of individual freedoms, and I agree that these are to be, if possible, protected. But there must be a deep suspicion as to the motives of those who would insist that one half of this religious culture wear clothing of such severity. I'd be more inclined towards a liberal stance if men of the same culture sported the same kind of dress. That they don't tells a great deal about the inequity of the power relationship. 

Tue, 11 May 2010 10:40:26 UTC | #468817

NewEnglandBob's Avatar Comment 19 by NewEnglandBob

It should be banned in schools, hospitals, banks, sports and entertainment venues or any venue where a large group of people can be threatened by suicide bombers. It should also be banned for driving a vehicle, riding public transportation ( airports, bus terminals).

Tue, 11 May 2010 11:45:32 UTC | #468830

njwong's Avatar Comment 20 by njwong

In the Youth Olympics Games 2010 that is going to be held in Singapore (August 14-26), the Iranian girls football team was initially banned from participating because the Iranian government INSISTED that the girls must wear religious headscarves while playing football. Finally, the Iranian government relented and compromised on their girls wearing a cap instead of the religious headscarf. Allah forbid that the girls' hair should be seen by MALE AUDIENCES all over the world on worldwide TV. It would be an abomination! < end sarcasm >

It is absolutely ridiculous to think that covering up a woman's body with a piece of garment signifies her sanctity with god, and that the more that is covered, the more devout she is and the more favoured by Allah she will be. This is the kind of moronic thinking that unfortunately passes as rational thought in religious circles. Unfortunately, it is a vicious beggar-thy-neighbour / keeping-up-with-the-Joneses thinking of the religious kind. The girls are forced by their family to reveal less and less by covering up more and more just to show to others that they are devout Muslims. Even the more liberal ones will soon have no choice but to also don on the heavy religious garb so as not be a social pariah within their Muslim neighbours. And the end result is a gradual but predictable trend towards MORE AND MORE women wearing the burqa ("Islamisation of society"). This trend has been documented particularly in many South East Asian countries, including Singapore.

People who think that the Muslim women have a choice on this are plain deluded. The girls are compelled "to choose" wearing the sack to preserve the family's status as devout Muslims among their social circles. A ban is absolutely essential so that women's rights will not be even further eroded or curtailed.

Updated: Tue, 11 May 2010 12:09:14 UTC | #468838

gatotk4c4's Avatar Comment 21 by gatotk4c4

Basically it comes down to this:

".. the right of women to show their faces, which easily trumps the right of their male relatives or their male imams to decide otherwise... "

The problem with cultural-relativity is stupidity in understanding priorities.




Tue, 11 May 2010 12:12:55 UTC | #468840

seals's Avatar Comment 22 by seals

The burka makes me uneasy. It's a very conspicuous garment, whose purpose is well known, but tolerated. I think it should be outlawed for the sake of the rest of us, especially the women who see others wearing it and wonder if it could be the thin end of the wedge. Its wearing in public should be nipped in the bud before it gains a foothold and becomes seen as normal, by a generation who grow up used to seeing it. If some women would be forced to stay inside because of a law banning it, that is surely domestic abuse that should be treated as such. 


If there is a threat of disfigurement for women who refuse to wear it, no wonder they wear it willingly, who wouldn't in those circumstances?  After disfigurement, wearing the burka would become preferable - catch 22.  I wonder if a woman who starts wearing it willingly ever feels like venturing out without it and finds it's not her decision anymore?


Preventing its use by criminals is an added bonus.


Tue, 11 May 2010 12:21:30 UTC | #468846

rsharvey's Avatar Comment 23 by rsharvey

Comment 2 by besleybean
Do we have to allow for the possibility that even a minority of women may actually choose this attire?

I think it very reasonable to expect these few women who claim to 'choose' the veil, to give up that choice (whatever it may mean to them) in the interest of halting the oppression and abuse of other women who would like to live with the most basic rights shared by their fellow humans.

If they disagree with this, they make themselves the strongest allies of the oppressors, and deserve nothing but contempt in return.

Tue, 11 May 2010 12:40:09 UTC | #468854

Standing Moai 's Avatar Comment 24 by Standing Moai

I agree with rod and cheesedoff17.

And please don't mention the fact that some women choose to wear these garments. choose? choose to wear it, because it will stop the blows from their husband, or because they have been so endoctrinated that they think it is part of their function in society to be treated like inferior beings and subjugated to another person they are not allowed to choose? it reminds me of those children who, after being abused by priest, couldn't say anything because in their mind, the priest, being this (supposedly) amazingly good being, could not be wrong, or evil, and therefore it was their own failing if they didn't agree with the treatment.

Would you wear a burqa? imagine your life wearing it...really, imagine it...or imagine that somebody appointed by your parent to lead your life decide on everything for you...maybe he will decide you have to walk backwards all your life, never say a word again, or flagellate yourself everyday. For your life. You have to apply a hefty dose of cultural relativism to go from your thoughts now to thinking it is OK for it to happen to even one person.

Should the burqa be banned? Yes. Laicity as practiced in France is in my eyes the best way forwards, and the only way to ensure the society doesn't plunge in religious war (France has more or less invented religious wars in the western world, it knows about it). keep religion at home! and yes, at time it means you have to do things like banning a burqa, or wearing crosses in public places, but I really think that the resulting society is worth it.

btw, I am french, but having lived in the UK for the last 4 years, I have come to see the difference between laic France and a society were religion is in the public place.

Laicity started in France in the early 20th century, when there was really just one religion in France. I think if France sticks to it, it wil reap even more benefits from it in a multi religious society.

Give me laicity any time.

Tue, 11 May 2010 12:42:33 UTC | #468857

rsharvey's Avatar Comment 25 by rsharvey

Comment 7 by Lu
Remember, I may not agree with your views, but I'll defend with my life your right to hold them. That includes your right to "oppress" yourself or allow yourself to be "oppressed", unfortunately.

That is not who this law is aimed at. You are protecting those who choose to oppress others. Is that a freedom we should have?

I simply don't believe that the majority of Muslim women make these choices for themselves. Everything about Muslim society and family structure tells us that women are subordinate to men and make few choices of their own. They cannot leave the house without the man to whom they are subordinate. If this were for their own good, it would not need to be enforced.

It is an ugly set of laws and one to which it is immoral to pander.

Tue, 11 May 2010 12:50:04 UTC | #468859

Lu's Avatar Comment 26 by Lu

Look, none of us like the Burqa or what it symobolises etc.

But when government starts intervening on behalf of the individual on issues like what you're allowed to wear - it's all downhill from there.

What next, Nuns can't wear habits in France?
No ski masks until you're on the ski lift?
Apparently motorbike helmets are already banned if you're not actually on your bike.

You Europeans give up your freedoms way too easily. Thankfully I'm in SA, where we don't have a camera on every corner and in every building. Where we aren't watched 24 hours a day, at least for now.

Tue, 11 May 2010 13:11:28 UTC | #468869

at3p's Avatar Comment 27 by at3p

Maybe a more intelligent governmental action would be to increase the penalties for domestic violence and the support for women who seek help in getting away from violent partners. Battering is the issue here, or is there some other reason those women obey the rules and wear those clothes?

Tue, 11 May 2010 13:21:28 UTC | #468872

nancynancy's Avatar Comment 28 by nancynancy

I support the ban. The women who "freely choose" to wear a burqa are brainwashed from birth. This isn't about "freedom of dress" it's about freedom from religious extremism and women's rights. The burqa is an affront to all women.

Updated: Tue, 11 May 2010 13:54:08 UTC | #468881

zirconPhil's Avatar Comment 29 by zirconPhil

For all the people with the 'removing freedom' argument, it's not like we really have full freedom anyway.

Look at this;

If a New Guinean was to go to the USA wearing only his penis sheath (which is legal in New Guinea), he would get arrested for indecent exposure because his butt cheeks are showing. There's no big deal in showing butt cheeks, it's nothing disturbing, but the American culture doesn't accept it, and therefore regulates it in the way it wants to. Same applies to France and the burqa.

Updated: Tue, 11 May 2010 14:08:18 UTC | #468883

82abhilash's Avatar Comment 30 by 82abhilash

Even in Iran there is only a requirement for the covering of hair

Even in Iran.


Updated: Tue, 11 May 2010 14:30:12 UTC | #468891