We would love to get your opinion on this editorial from today’s National Post on this highly controversial subject. Please leave your comment below, remembering that they need to be moderated before they will be posted
French legislators are considering a measure that would impose a fine of more than $1,000 on women who wear a burka, a garment that covers Muslim women from head to foot, with a thin, gauzy slit for the eyes.
The government maintains the ban would be a statement in support of “French values,” which, as appears to be endlessly the case in France, are the subject of much public debate. Burkas have been denounced as “a walking coffin” and “a prison for women.” President Nicolas Sarkozy last year declared the burka a “sign of subservience and debasement.”
We share this abhorrence for such clothing: The burka signifies the notion that a woman is a piece of male property, which must be packaged and caged. Contrary to received wisdom, the use of burkas has no “traditional” basis in Islam. It is a vestige of primitive tribal practices from certain parts of the Middle East and Asia, where honour killings are common, and female sexuality is a subject of phobic paranoia.
Still, banning burkas is not the right way to battle the sexist ideas that burkas symbolize. In our society, women have a right to wear what they want, assuming they choose to do so of their own free will.
If women are being forced to wear the burka, that is unacceptable, of course. But even in such cases, the crime lies in the coercion, not the clothing. If radical Muslims forced their wives to memorize the Koran on pain of beating, we wouldn’t ban the Koran — we’d throw the husbands in jail. The same principle should hold with burkas.
Western liberalism means, among other things, the right to dress, eat, pray, and speak as we please. And so the government’s role in the burka debate should be to educate all immigrant cultures, including those that are Muslim, that women have every right to behave as they wish, whether or not it pleases their fathers, brothers or imams.
If a woman understands this fact, and still chooses to go around in a burka, well, so be it. Being free means having the right to make bad decisions.