Burqa Ban Spreads in Europe

Along with the start of the holy month of Ramadan, the last few weeks have seen an increase in momentum for laws that ban the wearing of the burqa and niqab in European countries. We’ve talked about France before, where the implementation of its law banning Muslim face covering began this past spring. Now Belgium, which passed a similar measure last year, has begun implementing its ban on burqas as of July 23rd, and in Italy, new anti-burqa legislation was just passed by a parliamentary commission this week.

In both countries, like France, a miniscule number of women actually wear the burqa or niqab, begging the question of why an increasing number of European nations feel so threatened by it.

In Belgium, the lawmaker who proposed the bill, Daniel Bacquelaine, “said it was necessary to forbid the wearing of clothes that ‘totally mask and enclose’ the wearer. He described wearing the burqa as ‘not compatible with an open, liberal, tolerant society.’ Peter DeDecker of the Flemish separatist NVA saw the ban as a way of defending ‘our fundamental principles of the enlightenment.'”

Just as in France, what I would argue (and have previously argued) is an attack on religious freedom is being justified with the rhetoric of freedom and liberty (and public safety).

And now Italy too. According to Time,

The legislation, which was approved by a parliamentary commission on Tuesday, occupies a strange place in the Italian political spectrum, uniting the socially liberal left with the xenophobic right. (A similar measure was floated by the previous left-wing government.) If approved by parliament, it would close a religious exemption to previous legislation that prohibits anybody in Italy from donning garb that would make their identification impossible. The proposed law has the support of the Northern League, a populist political party that has built its electoral success by fanning fears in a country being changed rapidly by immigration.

Interestingly in Italy, the bill’s main sponsor is an immigrant Muslim woman from Morocco, making it easier for the bill’s supporters to disregard accusations of Islamophobia. Also interesting is that she used to be a member of the National Alliance, an Italian political party with fascist roots.

Could criminalization of the burqa and niqab become the norm in Europe? The Netherlands, Germany, and Denmark are currently considering similar bills, and a city in Spain has already adopted such a law. What does this mean for Sikh Europeans? Could more countries follow in France’s footsteps to ban turbans in schools?

Reiterating what I’ve asserted previously, this question here is not about whether we think wearing burqas or niqabs is a good idea or not. The real issue is whether a government should be able to impose its notion of national identity on its citizens (and non-citizens for that matter).

According to Izzeddin Elzir, head of the Union of Islamic Communities in Italy (UCOII), the country’s largest Muslim organization:

[T]o reject the bill is to stand for religious freedom a devout woman should be free to cover herself if she wants. “We say we are for the liberty of all,” says Elzir. “If there’s a woman who is obliged to [wear the veil], let’s work together to help get her out of this situation. Let’s not make a law against her.” He believes the bill is more about politics than policy, a distraction from the bigger issues. “Our parliament should focus on issues that impact all citizens, not just one or two people,” he says. “The citizens of Italy need an answer to this economic crisis. And instead our parliament is studying whether our Islamic women should be covered or not.”


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19 Responses to “Burqa Ban Spreads in Europe”

  1. Blighty Singh says:

    I wouldn't read too much into any of these burqua bans in France and Belgium. France because its a country where 3rd world politics is played and Sarkozy is merely trying to buy votes before its courts overturn the ban due to its incompatitbility with EU Law. Belgium because its a country thats barely been functioning as a country without a government for the last 2 years and even its own King admits that it has barely a year of existence left as a country. From our Sikh point of view and our quest for freedom what will happen in Belgium this coming year is extremely significant. Political commentators and the European Union acknowledge that because of Begium we will witness an unprecedented and unstoppable wind of separation and independance blowing through the world. At this very moment, as we speak, the French government is in official talks with the Waloon half of Belgium for its to officialy split from the Flemish half. If this happens….and it most definately will…..there is no way the Canadian government will be able to stop Quebec going its own way too. The EU acknowledge that the most likely result is that Barcelona and the Catalonians will break away from Spain, the Basques will finally achieve their own independant homeland and Scotland will break away from the union with England. That momentum gathering wind of change will be our opportunity as Sikhs to break from India. These kind of winds only blow once every 100 years. Our chance….our opportunity…is just around the corner….We need to be ready for it.
    I honestly couldn't care less about an illegal and non-enforceable burqua ban. I have bigger things to think about when the word 'Belgium' is mentioned.

  2. kantay says:

    I agree that we are somehow inordinately in my opinion focused on one subset of issues here. The burial is not equivalent to the turban except that they are items of religious dress. The purpose and meaning of the turban stands alone and I cannot see that the use of the burkha should be tied so consistently to it. I’m France, Canada, Australia, let us present our belief system and history instead of simply asserting an assumed similarity with a belief system unique from our own. Orthodox Jewish men and women also have a religious dress code……where are the posts in solidarity there, or even just an exploration of this. Simply because in certain countries we are mistaken for members of another religion doesn’t mean we have to make the same inferences about ourselves. Our history tells us we are generally not to seclude women in purdah even while respecting freedom of thought and conscience to the fullest. The interacting relationship between Europe and Islam is something on its own. I feel there is almost a fetish of solidarity in only one or two directions to the detriment of our own history and culture. Yes we draw from a millue including Islam but also many other faith and philosophical traditions and our histories interrelate with many groups beyond the ones we are so often directed toward.

  3. kantay says:

    Sorry for the typos above….autocorrect giveth and taketh away.

  4. Egalitarian says:

    Don’t we, men, ever get tired of telling women how to dress? I hope we eventually fatigue, but, we are a stubborn bunch.

  5. MohinderSingh says:

    Sorry to burst your bubble,but the author seems to forget that sovereign nation-states have every right to formulate & enforce the laws for the well being of their citizens.

  6. Blighty Singh says:

    Oh deary me. Are you all philistines when it comes to worldly affairs ? What is so difficult to understand here ? There are some countries in the European Union that have a more developed rule of law…..as such they do not tend to deliberately pass National laws that they know will conflict with EU Law….unless there is a deliberate political will to pick a fight with the EU : The UK and Germany for example. On the other hand there are some countries in Europe that we know as serial flouters of EU law. They do it habitualy all the time : France, for example. They see their position at the heart of the EU as undesputable and natural and as such, they like to ritually play little games like ignoring EU Directives until they are forced to obey. Britain and Germany, on the other hand, obey Directives and Regulations immediately.
    Look, it's really very simple : Every one of us European countries has signed over our sovereignty to Brussels. We've given away thousands of years of sovereignty. EU Law is supreme over National Law. When there is a conflict between the 2….EU Law must prevail. Thus, each and every one of our national law must not contradict EU Law. Now….the French government and the lady in a burqua knows that the burqua ban is in conflict with EU Law. A lady in a burqua is brought before a local magistrate. The magistrate will have to make an Article 234 (Art 267 TFEU) reference to the ECJ for clarification before it passes judgment. The ECJ will state that that the law is clearly incompatible and thus the French law must be struck down.
    You see thats why very little fuss is made about this issue by us Europeans. We hardly ever mention it let alone start threads on message forums about it. We know how French politics work…..we know the mechanism of EU law and the time it takes…..and we know Belgium hasn't had a government for a couple of years and is now on its last legs of existence.
    But forget all that. Why don't you all do what you always do and give me some thumbs down negative markings.

  7. Rajinder Singh says:

    But forget all that. Why don’t you all do what you always do and give me some thumbs down negative markings.

    Last I counted you got only three thumbs down.

    Once in a while I get between 8 20 thumbs down even without commenting because there is this guy who comes along and makes scandalous comments under my name. Those thumb downs reminded me of mothers oil massage of my head as a child after a head bath. She probably was trying to rewire loose neural connections in my brains. I dont think that worked. It probably caused some damage on the right side. But I started doing better in math.

    I think its those guys getting thumbs up who need to be careful and wear safety glasses.

    Ideally I am aiming for a overall safety oriented zero response.

  8. Stop the War says:

    France, Belgium and now Italy seem to forget the notion of religious freedom. In all these countries, passing the niqab-ban law just increase islamophobia and Muslim-hatred among people. This law is restricting individual freedom (imposing a dress code with a law, really ?), stigmatising the Muslims and not helping integration. Even the Council of Europe's Human Rights Commissioner, Thomas Hammarberg, deplored the ban as a symptom of "Islamophobia and anti-Muslim prejudices which continue to undermine tolerance in Europe". To fight against the growing Islamophobia, join the Mass Protest of Stop the War Coalition on October 8th in Trafalgar Square.
    To get more information go to: http://antiwarassembly.org/

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