The great burqa/niqab/hijab debate


Interesting arguments on the New Statesman here by Mehdi Hasan.

Two questions immediately come to mind:

1) In the middle of the worst economic crisis in living memory, how can France’s ruling conservative party justify focusing its legislative energies on banning an item of clothing worn by 0.1 per cent of the French population of adult Muslim women (or 0.003 per cent of the French population as a whole)?

2) Why did the “French internal security services” commission a study on the burqa/niqab? Is it now deemed to be a national security risk? Do French intelligence agencies have nothing better to do with their time? No other threats to deal with, apart from 2,000 Muslim women with covered faces?

Then there is the matter of the clothing itself and distinguishing between the various types. I’m no fan of the burqa or the niqab myself, and have yet to be convinced of the Islamic legal reasoning behind either garment, but I do recognise the difference between the burqa and the niqab, on the one hand, and the hijab on the other.



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5 responses to “The great burqa/niqab/hijab debate

  1. Well if middle eastern countries want foreigners (women) to cover themselves with a burqua, hijab etc. if not they chuck them in jail.So why is it wrong for another country to ban this piece of clothing. At least this way women dont feel oppressed coz the government is with them. 🙂

  2. It is precisely because of the economic crisis that people start focusing on things like this.When things are going well no one is bothered about such things.When things are bad, unemployment is high, the mood of the people turn ugly, and people unconsciously look for scapegoats to blame for their predicament.The Asian currency crisis lead to Anti-Chinese riots and the depression in Germany gave rise to Hilter and his anti-semtism.

  3. Resident Loner – There are two distinctions, every country imposes conditions on any foreigner. In that regard any middle eastern country is well with its parameters to impose restrictions to foreigners, the word to note here is 'foreigners', mind you – not citizens. In the case of France, a boastful secular democracy imposing such a ban on it's own citizens (born and bred, white and black) is where the problem lies.Jack Point : Indeed. It is also about political bankruptsy. The far right in France is gaining grounds and Sarkozy is becoming un popular, the burqa ban was nothing else but a means to attract some of his right wing supporters from those drifting towards Le Pen's party. David Cameron is in the same predicament, and his policies have also been intrinsically to attract core tory voters by hitting on the so called 'outsiders'.

  4. HZ

    These are relevant questions, but they make it seem like this issue cropped up only a few years ago with the onslaught of the economic recession. France – the state's – obsession with the veil goes back to their colonial encounters, especially in Algeria. This is discussed in Joan Scott's brilliant brilliant book "Politics of the Veil", you should check it out. Its a quick read & it also explains why/how the brand of "boastful secular democracy" France has adopted would allow for a ban on individual religious expression.I'm glad you didn't go in to moralizing the issue. Respect!

  5. Its true what HZ said, the issue is contextual to French society's deep seated awkwardness with the veil mixed with current perceptions and debates about inclusion and exclusion, terrorism and counter-terrorism. Whatever it may be it is women who are most affected by these debates and decisions :S

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