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Wednesday 14 July 2010

Burka Ban - Coming To a Town Near You...

 Liberated or Supressed?

Who knew clothing could be such a big deal? Yesterday the French MPs overwhelmingly approved a bill that would ban wearing the Islamic full veil (burqa) in public.
The ban has had full public support in the French country with President Sarkozy fully backing the ban. The debate has been heavily covered in the media especially surrounding the debate of French identity. 
The bill would make it illegal to wear Islamic garments such as the niqab or burka, a full-face veil, anywhere in public.  Anyone caught wearing a burka or a niqab in France will face a £120 fine. Any man caught forcing a woman to wear a burka or niqab will face a year in prison or a £25,000 fine. 

Justice Minister Michele Alliot-Marie said the ban was a victory for democracy and for French values:

“Values of freedom against all the oppressions which try to humiliate individuals; values of equality between men and women, against those who push for inequality and injustice."
And it’s not just FranceBelguim banned the burqa in April this year and Spain are debating similar legislation, with the likelyhood other countries will follow suit. 

Schools Secretary Ed Balls said it was “not British” to tell people what to wear in the street after the UK Independence Party called for all-face covering Muslim veils to be banned. Whereas Ex-UKIP leader Nigel Farage said the veils were a symbol of “an increasingly divided Britain ” that “oppressed” women and were a potential security threat.
So what has spanned the requirement to ban burkas? Terrorist attacks? Immigration? Biased media reporting? Supressed predjuiced views? The list seems endless. We live in a multicultural society and this has increased over the last 20 years due to the large-scale of immigration in European countries.  The subject of identity has become a popular topic within European.  Open any tabloid paper and you will be fed the usual headlines of immigrant benefit cheats, foreigners taking “our” jobs and notably Islamic terrorists.

At a time when the world is dealing with an economic crisis and there are concerns about Europes changing identity and struggling to manage its diversity, has bias media reporting played an important role in banning burkas?
Despite all the media scare stories of burka wearers concealing bombs under their robes, many critics have pointed out that only a tiny minority of French Muslims actually wear the ful veil.
Many people may not be aware that the Koran does not state that a woman must wear a burka or niqab, which cover the entire face and body in a layer of heavy black cloth.  Instead, it states that Muslim women should dress modestly, covering their arms and legs. There are also other clothing that can be worn but only conceals the hair, such as the Hijab, also popular with Islamic women.  

French’s Council of State has warned the ban may be illegal because it infringes freedom of expression and may go against the European Convention on Human Rights.  Yet Muslim fundamentalists have been criticised for using these human-rights laws to encourage the use of the burkas.  Despite burkas not being a mandatory requirement of the Islamic faith, shouldn’t this garment be discouraged by the Islamic community? 

Unfortunately, in today’s society there still remains a threat from terrorists.  Every country has a duty to do everything in its power to prevent extremist behaviour and protect society.  Should we demand to see people’s faces in public if there is a risk of attacks and it breaches security? Yes. Is banning religious wear for the fear of potential terrorist attacks a breach of human rights? Absolutely.

If the western world want to see fewer women in these types of Islamic clothing, that conceals people’s identity’s, perhaps it would convey better if the message came from a respected Imam, rather than critics or government ministers in western attire with no understanding of the religion.
Ultimately, underneath the burka is a human being after all. With or without bad intentions?  Well, that is harder to prove.

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