Justin Lambert © Justin Lambert

Recently, a discussion with my partner about the burqa ban in France and, in particular, the latest decision of The European Court of Human Rights to validate such prohibition, got me thinking about the different sides on this issue. Regarding the ban itself, my position is very straightforward: I would never support a way of making politics that is based on the idea that I can force people to behave accordingly to the cultural patterns that I find more adequate; I oppose laws that should never be anything more than guidelines or suggestions; I oppose laws that force an universal moral upon a personal ethics, and so on. To sum it up, as I see it, this is a human rights issue, a question of the free will to behave accordingly to my cultural heritage given that it is not harmful to myself or others.

My partner then call my attention to the significance of the burqa itself and all the oppressiveness associated with it, putting forward the argument that it would be coherent with my ideas to support attempts to help emancipate women. Although I agree with it, the state is not my nanny, and I don’t think the burqa ban in France has anything to do with that.

France’s ban on the Islamic veil has little to do with female emancipation is the title of an article by Joan Scott that sums up the issue.

Here’s an excerpt: The issue isn’t women’s emancipation, for all the pious rhetoric we’ve heard about equality being a “primordial value” of the French nation. It isn’t the danger that terrorists and robbers will hide behind burqas in order to blow up buildings or rob banks – the exemptions in the law for motorcycle helmets, fencing and ski masks, and carnival costumes quickly dispel that argument. And it isn’t about enforcing openness and transparency as an aspect of French culture. / Outlawing what the French call “le voile intégral” is part of a campaign to purify and protect national identity, purging so-called foreign elements – although many of these “foreigners” are actually French citizens – from membership in the nation. It is part of a cynical bid by Sarkozy and his party to capture the anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim animus that has brought electoral gains to the rightwing National Front party and to disarm the Socialist opposition, which has so far offered little resistance to the xenophobic campaign.

burka+gunimage taken from here

The nationalist and neo-colonialist take on this issue is then supported with images (and news) such as the one above and the perverseness of such rhetoric should not be overlooked. This is the same premiss used in several other dimensions of social life than serve to justify the banning of immigrants and so on. It’s an open attack on everyone’s freedom and the discussion about the significance of the burqa is an all different matter…

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