A movement toward limiting women wearing Muslim veils and headscarves, like a burqa, has been developing in Europe in the last years. Muslim women continue to be the subject of a great argument. On April 11th, 2011, France became the first country in Europe to ban the full-face veil in public. This law is also known as “burqa ban.” Its main aim was a security measure, as well as to promote freedom and respect for women. Under the ban, a woman cannot leave their home with their face covered with veil risking a fine (Hunter-Henin 96). In 2014, the European Court of Human Rights decided that the French new law prohibiting face-covering clothing in public, also known as burqa ban, did not breach the right to freedom of religion. The law goes against established French legal traditions and conflicts with the idea of Laïcité or secularism- the separation of government and religion. French government views burqa as a symbol of female and religious abuse affecting women’s’ rights and freedom that repudiate with the principle of secularism (Spohn 145). France should remove its ban on face-covering garments like the burqa or niqab in public. The law violates Muslim women’s right to privacy and freedom of religion.
First, France’s burqa ban violates Muslim women’s rights to privacy. Many Muslim women chose to wear burka out of their own free will. The new law imposes serious fines for women when wearing face coverings in public. While it was created to promote freedom and respect for women, it created the opposite effect. The ban stops Muslim females from every day social activities like using public transportation, going to the restaurants, and even going for a walk on the street. It violates Muslim women’ rights to freedom of expression (European Convention art.10). The ban motivated more Muslim females to wear face veils as an act of resistance against the state (Spohn 153).
In addition, the law violates women’s rights of freedom to practice any religion (European Convention art.9). Muslim women choose to wear burqas as a religious prerogative, a symbol of modesty (Hunter-Henin 110). They must be allowed to express their faith through dress. Wearing a burqa is no more damaging than wearing any other clothing. It might make some people uncomfortable, but it does nothing to intimidate the safety, liberty, or freedom of any other individuals (Laegaard 207). Muslim women, just like any other women, should have the freedom to wear what they are comfortable in.
Some people may argue that wearing burqas or niqabs is against women’s rights and freedom. The face covering imprints gender inequality. Face coverings, like burqas, prevent women from social involvement. They cannot dine, swim in public. They cannot be remembered by others since their faces are covered (Farrar 2010). These factors diminish a female personhood, which should not have a place in our society, that emphasize equality in general and gender equality in general. Arguably some studies claim, that the ban created security problems for women rather than helping to solve them. Several Muslim women wearing burqas have been attacked over the years in so-called hate crimes. In 2013, one pregnant Muslim woman miscarried after being attacked by two men. The data collected by France’s National Observatory Against Islamophobia suggests, that the women become main targets of Islamophobic abuse and harassment (Taylor).
Burqa law should be removed in France because it contravenes Muslim women’s rights to privacy and freedom of religion. Muslim women should have a choice of what they want to wear and why they want to wear it. They must be allowed to express their faith through dress and not be punished for that. Everyone deserves to have equal rights to freely practice any religion and freedom to express themselves. Muslim women should not be exception.
European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, as amended by Protocols Nos. 11 and 14. Strasbourg, 4 Nov. 1950, www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6b3b04.html
Farrar, David. “Pros and Cons of Banning the Burqa.” Kiwiblog, 11 Aug. 2010, www.kiwiblog.co.nz/2010/08/pros_and_cons_of_banning_the_burqa.html
Giles, Beau. “Ban the Burqa.” Flickr, Yahoo!, 22 Sept. 2010, www.flickr.com/photos/beaugiles/5014076101.
Hunter-Henin, Myriam. “Living Together in an Age of Religious Diversity: Lessons from Baby Loup and SAS.” Oxford Journal of Law and Religion, Vol, 4, Issue 1, 2015, pp 94–118, https://doi.org/10.1093/ojlr/rwu060
Lægaard, Sune. “Burqa Ban, Freedom of Religion and ‘Living Together’.” Human Rights Review, vol. 16, no. 3, 2015, pp. 203-219, https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s12142-015-0362-6
Spohn, Ulrike. “Sisters in Disagreement: The Dispute Among French Feminists About the “Burqa Ban” and the Causes of Their Disunity.” Journal of Human Rights, vol. 12, no. 2, 2013, pp. 145-164, https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/14754835.2013.784661
Taylor, Adam. “Banning Burqas Isn’t a Sensible Response to Terrorism.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 12 Aug. 2016, www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2016/08/12/banning-burqas-isnt-a-sensible-response-to-terrorism/?utm_term=.c08ead0c82b6.