Friday, April 30, 2010

Burqa Banning

Belgium just became the first European nation to ban full-face veils in public places, although there are lots of cities with municipal bans. Belgium is in danger of splitting because of disputes between Flemish-speaking and French-speaking populations, but they all got together to pass the burqa ban. The French government has promised a similar law, and bans have been introduced in several other countries.

I continue to think of this as a silly thing to worry about. As the NY Times notes, fewer than 2000 women wear the burqa in France, out of a Muslim population of about 5 million. The thinking behind the bans goes something like this:
The full veil has been condemned by European politicians of the right and left as an affront to the dignity of women and, because it hides a woman's face, as a security risk in schools, banks and government offices. André Gerin, a member of Parliament who led a nine-month inquiry into the full-face veil in France, also qualified it as the tip of an iceberg behind which lurk radical Islamic preachers seeking to impose a fundamentalist and politicized vision of their religion on French Muslims.
I think, if you want immigrants to assimilate into your country, you might start by treating them with respect. Bashing their customs for easy political points is the opposite of respect. It will only delay assimilation and further embitter the sort of people likely to be drawn to fundamentalism.

My advice on this, as on many other questions, is: resist the urge to tell other people what to do.

Once you let go of the desire to control other people's lives, you may find that the world is a lot less threatening and a much more comfortable place to be.

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