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?