The recent ban imposed by France on burqa (niqab), the Islamic face veil, has created a lot of buzz across the different blogosphere of the world. The law does not say anything explicitly about the burqa and it is called the “law forbidding the covering of the face in public space”. But in effect it is all about Muslims and Islam.
Some South Asian bloggers have been discussing this issue.
Sadiq Alam at Technology Of The Heart provides some background of banning of face veils in France and the the 2004 law banning the wearing of religious symbols and clothing in public schools. He argues:
Majority of Islamic scholars agree on the point that Full Face Veil is NOT something which is a requirement of Islam or mandatory to observe (even though some observe it believing it as part of their religious observation). Many Muslim leaders have said they support NEITHER the veil nor the ban. [..]
Thanks to various culture from where people came and accepted Islam, various pre-existing dress code and idea of modesty became part of Muslim culture and they must be viewed as cultural element than religious. Dressing modestly is possible independent of culture, race, or existing practices of any other land or nation.
He comments on the French burqa ban:
While its understandable that full face veil is not necessarily a religious obligation from Islamic point of view, but an age old cultural practice, yet banning it creates a very different situation for it. From the point of individual freedom this becomes some what disturbing. A state or country telling its citizen what to wear and what not to wear contradicts with democratic, civil values – the very values French republic so high upheld.
Journalist and blogger Dipika writes after weighing on several issues:
Perhaps there are women who want to be freed of wearing a veil at all times throughout their lives- and are secretly happy that now they can.
But on thinking about this for a while, I come to the conclusion that this law is still wrong. Because my leaning towards this law is based on the assumption that the women actually don't want the veil, but are being forced into wearing it by their men. But this is an assumption. I am sure there are a lot of muslim women in France. Some may not want to wear the veil, but are being forced to by their family. Some, however inconceivable it may seem to us, may want to wear it! And if a single woman in France wants to wear a veil, she has every right to do so. Having a law that denies her this right is wrong.
All bans are wrong when they tread on your personal freedom. The ban on veils in France, and the ban on sale of tobacco in Bhutan.
Raza Habib Raja writes at Pak Tea House:
The ban opens a whole new philosophical debate on concepts like religious tolerance, freedom, the meaning of secularism and even liberalism. It is the ongoing debate between those who take liberal and secular positions which interests me and there is a lot of merit in discussing the issue in liberal and secular context. [..]
Secularism has to blend in with religious freedom and tolerance and only then it can be a true liberal version of secularism. The French brand of secularism will not make the concept of secularism popular and will not work in a pluralistic society. It will rather defame and further intensify the confusions surrounding the concept of secularism.
To conclude the debate Sadiq is hopeful that this ban may have a positive effect:
The sum effect of banning of Burqa most probably going to have positive effect because it encourage integration, it forces even Muslims (in Europe they have tendency to live in their own bubbles) to understand their own customs, educate themselves and separate cultural baggage from authentic teachings or practices. This also offers opportunity for Muslims to educate non-Muslims about their beliefs and the fact that those who practice Islam do not belong to a Mono-Culture.