Collective freedom vs individual freedom
While your point about freedom of women and the right to choose what to wear is valid and it's important that this is upheld, I can't help thinking that it's a step forward. The reason I say this is because if we were to go to an Arabic country, we would be forced to cover up and wear veils or risk being stoned, abused, etc etc.
Those are their beliefs, and that's how things are done in a country like that, right or wrong. They are free to practise their religious and cultural beliefs in a predominantly Muslim country and if that's how they want it, I'll defend their rights to do so.
However, France is not a Muslim country. Those standards do not exist. If this predominantly Christian country doesn't condone the wearing of burqas, then so be it. Any Muslims who don't like it can exercise their democratic right to go and live somewhere else.
It might sound a bit harsh, but with all the nonsense in the news and all the stories coming out of the UK in particular where it seems that the rights of Muslims, minorities and immigrants (and I'm naming just a few examples) are upheld even to the detriment of the general non-Muslim, non-minority etc population, I have a problem with that.
I'm not saying persecute them. Basic human rights and freedoms apply. But if that's how things are done in that country, accept it or get out. It's not like other countries offer the same courtesies. Maybe that in itself seems petty - and we should be more open-minded than that, but until there's a bit of give and take, time for them to learn the had way.
If I recall, Australian Prime Minister John Howard (I think) took a stand on Muslims insisting to be allowed to wear veils in a CHRISTIAN school. Basically he said that it's a Christian school - they knew that on enrolling and as such Christian rules and values are upheld. If you don't like, find a school that does allow the wearing of veils.
If I for example, wanted to attend a Muslim school, I guarantee you that no one would support uproar caused by me wanting to exert my right to NOT wear a veil - in a MUSLIM school.
The issue here is one of collective freedom vs individual - all freedoms can't be upheld everywhere. In fact, it's better that it isn't because it means that cultures get preserved and that there are little pockets of "safety" where one can express one's beliefs in peace. If you don't like where you are, please go where your beliefs and customs are shared. Seems fair to me.
A tough issue, indeed…
With regards to France’s ban, although it seems overly dictatorial, it does present a major problem in the fight against terrorism. Not because of any Islamic ‘threat’, but merely from a practical perspective – how on earth do you ever identify anybody in a burqa?!
We have a fully covered Muslim woman in our office; she is ‘faceless’ in every sense – nobody knows who she is or what she looks like…
You are right that we shouldn’t judge what we don’t understand, but I also believe that most (if not all) of these women THINK that they are doing so out of choice, but they have been so indoctrinated for centuries, that I doubt that ‘choice’ is a concept that they actually truly understand.
I encourage you to read ‘The God delusion’ by Richard Dawkins, and especially the chapter on the anti-women nature of most religions, and how it has been used since time immemorial to keep women ‘in their place’.
Read Sam Wilson's column on banning the burqa.
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