Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Burkhas and Religious Freedom

CNN reports that the French Parliament is debating a ban on Burkas. I'm ambivalent about this one. The main argument appears to be that Burkas function to demean women and restrict their freedom. On the one hand, if a woman is forced to wear a Burka and barred from all contact with the outside world, that is obviously not good for women. My (admittedly limited) understanding is that Burkas are not in fact a prescribed piece of religious apparel, but are a cultural expression of a woman's modesty in Arab culture that was origianlly inherited from Byzantine culture! So there should be no offence to Muslims if Burkas are banned. Even so, should the state be allowed to prescribe dress and clothing for people? If a woman consents to wear a Burka, for cultural or religious reasons, who has the right to stop her? Isn't this a matter of religious and personal freedom? Moreover, what about those churches that mandate that women must wear hats in public worship (Closed Brethren, Free Presbyterian, Free Church Continuing, and some Free Church) as a symbol of their submission to their family head? Could they end up being banned too?


hrobins said...

To me, this is the equivalent of the US government debating whether to force the Amish to use technology that they've deemed inappropriate. It just seems unnecessary and potentially unethical, though I do not wish to get into such murky arguments at the moment. I'm sure that some Arab women do wear the burkhas by choice in the same way that the Amish refuse to drive cars. There are far greater problems in the world than women in burkhas and quiet people quietly refusing the industrialization of Western culture. We (and the French) ought to be concentrating on those more important issues.

Anonymous said...

In France there are areas where the French police dare not go, much less nonmuslim girls. Gang rapes of nonmuslim women are on the rise in France. The extremists in France are slowly encroaching on large parts of France. If they impose sharia, (in sharia, women are required to cover everything) then even nonmuslim women will be harassed into wearing them.
I think the french PM was right to pan this form of islamic extremism. I'm not talking about the hajib or veil...but the full bag over the head burqa...it's not good for women, and it was not something Muslim wore except in areas of the strictest sharia laws, like deep in Saudi Arabia.

CeceB said...

I just wanted to alert your readers to a prayer movement that’s been going on for the past dozen years or so led by the French ministry Objectif France. For the past three years, the campaign Pray for France (in English) has been translating their 21-day prayer guide with current prayer topics for each day. Pray for France allows English speakers to pray alongside their French brothers and sisters during the three weeks before Easter and it’s FREE for those who visit the website www.PrayforFrance.org and register… All the information is on the site…!