Saturday, October 30, 2010

France and the Niqab/Burka Ban Revisited: The Doha Debates Chez Chiara


The French "burqa ban" or ban against women wearing the face veil (niqab) continues to provoke discussion within France and abroad. The topic is that of the opening debate for the 2010-11 season of the Doha Debates. I thought it would provide a good vehicle to resume our discussion of the topic here.

This Doha Debate was particularly heated, and the discussions sparked by the audience questions are wide ranging. There seems to be greater geographical diversity as well, among the panelists and the audience questioners. The whole debate is testimony to how much the niqab and the French initiative to ban strike the French and others as key issues of identity, rights, and social interaction. This time the Doha Debates also provides a backgrounder for those less familiar with the French context regarding the burqa ban.

For more information on The Doha Debates generally, which follow Oxford Union debating rules, see the website of  The Doha Debates, for more information on The Doha Debates and The Doha Debates Chez Chiara see the introductory post, and the blog Category Doha Debates (DohaDebates) on the sidebar. The following includes excerpts from the panelists' biographies, the debate transcript, and the final result. A summary statement precedes each of the dialogues with a particular audience member whose photo, where available, is included. Full information for this debate is here. The full transcript may be read here. The full debate may be viewed here, and the podcast link is here. A background briefing on the face veil in France is provided here.


The Motion
This House believes France is right to ban the face veil


TIM SEBASTIAN
Ladies and gentlemen, a very good evening to you and welcome to the first in our seventh series of Doha Debates. We really have come that far, broadcasting to you from the Gulf state of Qatar and sponsored by the Qatar Foundation. Was there ever a small piece of cloth that has created so much comment and controversy - the face veil or niqab, worn by some Muslim women, that has become a bone of contention not only in Western countries but in parts of the Arab world as well? Is it the right of every woman, and man incidentally, to dress as they please for whatever reason, or does each society also have a right to set limits according to its cultural traditions, and where should those limits lie? Well, our motion tonight, This House believes that France is right to ban the face veil. France of course is the only Western country that has so far passed the ban on the wearing of the niqab in public. Other countries are grappling with the issue and in the Islamic world too we're seeing partial restrictions in Syria and other countries as well. Your decision - as ever - to accept or reject this motion, and our speakers will argue passionately both for and against it.

Speaking for the motion


Jacques Myard is a member of the ruling conservative UMP coalition in the French national assembly. He is Mayor of Maisons-Laffitte, on the outskirts of Paris, and a member of the French Foreign Affairs Committee. Mr. Myard was the co-chair of the cross-party parliamentary committee set up to investigate the prevalence of the full face veil in France. The committee's recommendations resulted in France passing a law to ban the face veil in public.

JACQUES MYARD
Thank you, Tim, and I'm very glad to be here to try to explain what is happening in France. First of all I would like to tell you that the French society is a secular state, that means that churches are separate from the state and our laws are voted by the parliament and are not prompted by any religion of any kind, either Catholics, Jews, Buddhists, or any other religions. For centuries, we lived in a mixed society, that means women are really taking part in our debate, in our political life as of queens, and remember Joan of Arc, leading army against the barbarian English, who invaded France against our will, and she has been leading successfully the, you know, the battle against the English. Never in our history has anybody worn, you know, some piece of cloth in front of his face or her face, and this is a common standard in our country. Equality of sex is absolutely now a constitutional principle, even in France - compared to Turkey - only granted vote in 1945, when Turkey granted vote, to French women, you know, in 1920s. The face veil then appeared for the huge majority of the French nation as a blow, a breach of common will, you know? It has the sense of maintaining women in a minor status when men have all the rights and women not, because it starts with the veil but it continues with other aspects of this problem, and of course this is contrary to the dignity of a human person that we share altogether. So let me put very clearly: we ban practice but we don't ban a religion, you see, because other religions have been banned of practices as well. If you take the Sikh for instance, they are obliged to wear a helmet. When the Sikh don't want to wear a helmet in Britain, because when they drive a motorcycle they say: "I can't take it off." We say: "Sorry, you are going to wear helmets, this is a rule, so it applies to anybody."


Farzana Hassan is a writer and women's rights activist. She has authored a number of articles and books examining the Islamic faith in modern society including ‘Islam,Women and the Challenges of Today' and ‘Prophecy and the Fundamentalist Quest'. Farzana Hassan is a member and former president of The Muslim Canadian Congress. Founded in December 2001 in the wake of 9/11, the MCC believes in the separation of religion and state and is calling for the Canadian government to introduce a ban on the face veil in public.

FARZANA HASSAN
Thank you very much. I am supporting the motion because I believe that the burka and face veil have become a security threat leading to a number of bank robberies and suicide bombings across the world where the perpetrators have used the face veil to hide their identity and escape. The security of the public is paramount in this debate, especially in a tense political climate where the threat of terrorism is ever present. Permission to cover the face in public enables criminal elements to abuse the opportunity. I also believe that radicalism grows stronger by the day. The biggest challenge is that proponents of the burka are inherently evangelical and their ultimate goal is to spread this practice among all Muslims, especially by scaring them with theology. Women who choose not to wear the face veil are considered apostates at times. At other times they are told that they might be provoking rape or sexual assault if they don't cover their faces, and women often succumb to these pressures and they adopt the face veil. But can such choices be considered genuine? It is to protect these women that a ban is absolutely essential. In the absence of a ban, the burka is likely to spread in society, which is bound to have societal implications, and a society allowing the marginalisation, the disappearance of a sizeable number of individuals must be seen as a dysfunctional society. It has been my experience that many in the West are reluctant to confront extremism. The face veil has hence already proliferated in many western neighbourhoods, and Western governments are reluctant to pass legislation that is likely to affect a significant number of individuals. A similar scenario must be avoided in countries such as France where the observance of the burka as yet remains on the periphery and restricting certain individuals' rights to advance the common good is by no means outside the domain of democracy and pluralism. Individual freedom is not, in fact it cannot be, an absolute. Governments after all require people to be safe with compulsory seat belts and demand that they wear clothes in public.

Speaking against the motion


Nabila Ramdani is a journalist and commentator who specialises in Anglo-French issues, Islamic affairs, and the Arab World. She is a columnist for The Guardian in the UK, and has worked with a variety of publications in France and the Middle East including Le Figaro, The National and Gulf News. She has held teaching positions at Oxford University, and Paris 7 University and earlier this year was nominated for the inaugural European Muslim Women of Influence Award.

NABILA RAMDANI
As a proud French citizen, I was always brought to respect people, other people within a diverse democracy, not the autocratic, intolerant republic that this ban represents. The ban has nothing to do with unity. It is aimed at stigmatising a small number of women, and in turn, the Muslim community from which they come. But putting all its resources into publicising such deceit, the French government has done nothing but divide people. Salacious arguments about national identity and secularism have captured the kind of anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim sentiments which have made parties like the National Front so successful. This government's campaign has corrupted the very meaning of the secular society, which should be all about reconciling diverse, different life-styles and not suppressing them. It is my firm belief that all the arguments used to support the ban are based on a myth. Where are the statistics which link face veil with threats to public safety? What have vicious comments about people's clothes got to do with unity? When did the secular society stop to ensure or to guarantee dissent or religious devotion? And the argument about the oppression of women is also a myth. The idea that an abusive man will stop his crimes because his victim cannot wear a full veil in public any more is illogical. If these women living on estates are uncomfortable with the kind of consumerism and over-sexualisation of an increasingly materialistic society, why shouldn't express their dissent against it? They harm nobody, and they should certainly need not to be protected against themselves. I feel sure that European courts are set to challenge France's ban, just as they are set to challenge other tactics like the persecution of Roma gypsies, and for all these reasons I would implore everyone to reject tonight's motion.


Mehdi Hasan is the Senior Political Editor of the UK publication, the NewStatesman. He was formerly a news and current affairs editor at Channel 4 in the UK and at 29 was the station's youngest commissioning editor. He commissioned the film , ‘It Shouldn't Happen to a Muslim' for the channel's investigative journalism strand, Dispatches, which addressed the issue of rising Islamophobia since 7/7. He makes frequent appearances on the BBC debate programmes, The Big Questions and Question Time.

MEHDI HASAN
Thank you,Tim. Let's be very clear. This is not a debate about the face veil and I'm not here to defend the face veil. I'm not a fan of the niqab or the burka. I'm not a fan of tongue studs or belly-button rings. I'm not a fan of Jacque's tie either. The point is that this is a debate about the French ban and there are three very, very simple reason why we should all be opposed to the French ban. Number one, it's unnecessary. Number two, it's self-defeating. Number three, it's morally wrong. It's unnecessary because less than 2,000 women in France wear the face veil. That's 0.1 per cent of the two million adult Muslim women in France. That's 0.003 per cent of the French population as a whole. This is not just taking a sledge-hammer to crack a nut. This is like reaching for a bazooka to kill a fly. It is totally disproportionate and unnecessary, and it's self-defeating too, because all it does is alienate an alienated Muslim minority in France and it encourages young women in France to act defiantly and break the law and be different, and in fact we already have evidence, that the ban which is supposed to liberate women is already secluding and marginalizing and isolating those very same women. You look in Italy in April this year, where a Tunisian-born woman became the first person to be fined for wearing a veil in public - her husband promptly announced that she would no longer leave the house, so he would avoid paying any more fines. So instead of being imprisoned in her veil, she's now imprisoned in her home. That's what the French call women's liberation. But above all else it is morally wrong for the state to infringe on women's freedom to choose what they want to wear in public. Whether you like the veil or not, the French ban violates freedom of thought, of conscience, of expression, of religion, a whole string of fundamental human rights which can now no longer be taken for granted in modern France. There's a reason why leading human rights groups from Amnesty International to Human Rights Watch are opposed to this ban, because restricting a woman's freedom to wear the face veil in public is as much a violation of her human rights as it is to force her to wear that same face veil, and I wonder what's happened to the liberty, equality and fraternity in France. Instead you have this illiberal, iniquitous, unjust ban and the parliamentarians in Paris should hang their heads in shame.


Audience Input


Are all face coverings to be banned, what are the distinctions
AUDIENCE (F)
I'm Fatima, I'm from Pakistan.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Thank you.
AUDIENCE (F)
Hello. I just wanted to ask this question for Mr. Jacques or the speakers who are speaking for the motion. How will the French law that bans the face veil differentiate between these two people (points to two people standing next to her, one in a medical mask and one in a niqab)- one person here just wears a surgical mask for fear of getting a disease, catching a disease, and the woman here who is wearing the niqab, who would you fine the 120 euros?
[Applause]
JACQUES MYARD
It's very simple. You know, this question of veil is not a question of provocation, it's not a question of I'm negating any problem as you heard from the other side without being rational. You can provoke, you can have a medical veil and of course this is a medical veil and everybody will look at it and take care of that. The question which is at stake is either do we have, let's say, a certain amount of citizens living apart with special rules, having the veil on their face, going on with other matters like that without being examined for instance in a hospital by a male doctor, etc. etc. We see today in France that this movement is building a new kind of citizenship, living in a kind of ghetto, and this is not acceptable. This is why we believe that citizenship applies to everyone every women, a part of your religion, and I would like to say, to answer to Mehdi, because I've heard a lot of irrational arguments and negating, you know, speaking of the Romas, just to emphasise the Romas are Christians and we have a problem with the Romas in Europe. Germany has a problem, Italy has a problem etc.
TIM SEBASTIAN (to questioner)
Do you want to come back on that, do you want to come back for a moment?
AUDIENCE (F)
Thank you very much. Sir, with all due respect, you've still not answered my question: who would you fine the 120 euros? When you talk about the constitution, there is black and white. There are no exceptions, and then how would you justify banning a face veil for....
JACQUES MYARD
First of all, you know ...
TIM SEBASTIAN
There are exceptions for medical reasons, aren't there?
JACQUES MYARD
Yes, it says for medical reasons, this is easy to give proof to the judge - because this not the police who will fine, but the judge - because this is a judicial procedure. Secondly, if it is a woman - because the law will apply in six months and we go step by step - first of all we'll try to first have training citizenship, that means to teach people how citizens in our country should, you know, be responsible, and of course we will very likely and very easily see if it is a medical necessity or if it is a genuine veil and somebody who wants to behave this way.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Okay, let me bring Mehdi Hasan in here.
MEHDI HASAN
Just on that very interesting point about covering the face, a lot of the debate is about we need to be able to see each other's faces. You said: 'I'm a victim. I'm the victim because if I can't see the face, then I'm being set aside,' you said. So what I would ask is, have you asked all blind people to set aside in France, because they can't see any of the faces?
JACQUES MYARD
Rubbish, rubbish!
MEHDI HASAN
But according to you, if you can't see someone's face, you are not part of society.
JACQUES MYARD
You are talking this is absolutely a non-argument.
MEHDI HASAN
Why?
JACQUES MYARD
Because you are talking about a disease, not about having responsible behaviour. You should be ashamed of saying that. You are insulting the blind people, you are insulting the blind people.
MEHDI HASAN
No, what I said was, if you need to see someone's face in order to be part of society, therefore blind people are not part of society either - that's your criteria.
JACQUES MYARD
I am speaking of citizenship, I am speaking of citizenship and you just characterise what is at stake...
MEHDI HASAN
Well I don't understand the logic of your argument.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Farzana Hassan, you wanted to say something.
FARZANA HASSAN
Well, I find that the face veil is insulting. I find that it is an insult to people who do not cover their face because what it says is: 'I have the right to know who you are, you don't have the right to know who I am,' and that's really an affront to society.
MEHDI HASAN
Oh, come on. Do you feel the same way about sun-glasses?
FARZANA HASSAN
Sun-glasses don't cover identity.
MEHDI HASAN
Yes they do!
NABILA RAMDANI
Can I just point out the cynicism of the text of the law which effectively bans all face coverings, including face veils, crash helmets, fencing masks, ski masks, balaclavas, but if a woman steps out of her house tomorrow and wears a balaclava, she will be perfectly entitled to do so because it's not banned by the law and it happens to cover the face. So what's your answer?
JACQUES MYARD
My answer is that you are wrong. . You know, it's very clear ...
NABILA RAMDANI
So why is I a woman can't wear a face veil but can wear a balaclava? Could you explain that to me?
JACQUES MYARD
I mean, anyone who is hiding her or its face behind a veil shouldn't do it.
NABILA RAMDANI
So why can she hide here face wearing a balaclava but not a face veil?
TIM SEBASTIAN
If you keep asking questions and not giving him time to answer, it's not fair.
JACQUES MYARD
What do you call a balaclava please?
NABILA RAMDANI
A face mask?
TIM SEBASTIAN
It's a woollen face covering.
JACQUES MYARD
Okay. The one who will go on the streets by hiding his face, if he is not a policeman on a special mission, if it is not carnival, it's not making a film, will be stopped by the police and sent back home. It's very clear, so there is no derogation, it applies to anyone, that's full stop, okay.
NABILA RAMDANI
There are very easy ways around this law which make it unworkable.


Gays, lesbians, and strippers have rights in France, why not niqabis
AUDIENCE (M)
Why do the French government allow the gays, lesbians and the strippers to walk around the street and they have the right, why they don't ask them, but they do it to women who wear niqab or face veil, do you call it freedom or democracy, Mr. Jacques?
JACQUES MYARD
You know, I've never been to a gay party so I don't know.
FARZANA HASSAN
If I may briefly respond to that?
TIM SEBASTIAN
Yes please go ahead.
FARZANA HASSAN
The issue here is concealment of identity, it is not any other type of religious symbolism, it's not the [inaudible] that covers or conceals the identity, the issue here is the concealment of identity and whether people should be allowed to conceal their identity in public and walk with their faces covered, that is the issue here.
MEHDI HASAN
No, that's not the issue here, at all. There's a much wider issue here going on. In April in Nantes, a woman wearing a veil was pulled over by French police. She was fined 22 euros even though she lifted up her niqab and identified herself. The police said it was because her lateral vision was affected while she was driving, even though the niqab gives you eye-sight much more so than a motorcycle helmet with a visor. This is clearly, this is clearly not about identification or security. It's about picking on a garment that the French don't like, because the French have, like a lot of other European countries, do have a lot of issues with minorities in their midst..


Banning the face veil is disrespecting Islam
AUDIENCE (F)
Okay, so some people may argue whether the face veil is required in Islam or not, but no-one can argue that it is a symbol of Islam, so when a country such as France bans the face veil, aren't they debasing a religion, like when a religion is being fixed by a man, by a head of a government, how valid is it as a religion for Muslims and non-Muslims?
TIM SEBASTIAN
Where are you from?
AUDIENCE (F)
Jordan.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Jordan, okay.
JACQUES MYARD
I'm going to answer you because in fact the French law has always opposed sometime practices of religion of any kind. I think for example if a priest is going to toll the bells at 4 o'clock in the morning, he won't be able to do it, he will be forbidden to do it. If a Sikh, you know, Hindu religion in India, flogging themselves to blood, if he does that in France, he will be forbidden to do it. So you see, religion stops where [the] secular state begins, and this applies to anybody, anybody, so we are not aiming at and targeting Islam. We are aiming at a practice - which, because I must say, you know, I have heard a lot of negating arguments - we have heard the Muslims' leaders in France. We have a French citizen of Muslim faith, women, saying to us that in 99 cases they were forced, in France, to wear such by family pressure and so on, so we have been inquiring and all people in France, Muslim authorities said to us: 'This is no religious requirement.'
TIM SEBASTIAN
Do you want to come back on that? No, I want to hear from the questioner first.
AUDIENCE (F)
So in this case France cannot say that we respect the practice of religions because they're not respecting the practice of many religions.
JACQUES MYARD
Who?
AUDIENCE (F)
France. The state of France.
JACQUES MYARD
Why?
AUDIENCE (F)
Because when President Sarkozy banned the face veil, he said: 'We respect the practice of Islam but we're going to ban the face veil,' he's contradicting himself.
JACQUES MYARD
No.
AUDIENCE (F)
You cannot respect a religion and ban one of its practices. You cannot act like you are superior to that religion and still say it's valid.
[Applause]
JACQUES MYARD
No, no. First of all it's easy to say such things but it is untrue. I am not a priest, I am not a Rabbi, I'm not a Buddhist priest. I am a legislative MP acting in a civil court and the way we do, we vote this law because we believe that it is a strong you know, cases of inferiority of women in our country. It never happened before, never. It is a new phenomenon appearing for about now ten years, you see, and it's not a question of a [inaudible], it's a question of principle. Society is based on principle, on respectability of woman and dignity of a human being.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Okay. Nabila Ramdani.
NABILA RAMDANI
Can I just make a quick point about the bells ringing at 4am in the morning. It's nothing to do with the fact that the bells are Christian or anything else. It's to do with a clear case of noise pollution. If you ring the bells at 4am in the morning, you're breaching the law because of noise pollution, not because the bells are Christian. It's nothing to do with religion.
JACQUES MYARD
My dear, my dear, this is a clear case, it's very clear, that the law stops the church doing things that it would like to do.
NABILA RAMDANI
It's a clear case of noise pollution, not because the bells are Christian.
JACQUES MYARD
This is very clear, it's the Catholics ...
NABILA RAMDANI
Can you just tell me that it's a clear-cut case of noise pollution?
JACQUES MYARD
Go back to the 1905 vote of the law which installed secular system in France ...
NABILA RAMDANI
Article 1 of the French constitution....
TIM SEBASTIAN
Okay, if you both shout...
MEHDI HASANI
Calm down Jacques...
JACQUES MYARD
When we voted for this law aimed at Muslims, we just installed public order, social order, according to a secular state.
NABILA RAMDANI
Article 1 of the French constitution states that France shall be an indivisible, secular, democratic and social republic. It should ensure the equality of all the citizens before the law, regardless of the origin, race or religion and it shall respect all beliefs. And that's what the social bond is all about.
JACQUES MYARD
Okay. The constitutional council said very clearly four years ago...
TIM SEBASTIAN
Okay please could you not all speak at once, please?
JACQUES MYARD
Okay. The constitutional council said very clearly four days ago that this law is absolutely in compliance with our constitution, so the debate is over.
NABILA RAMDANI
Well, many misguiding laws... It is not over.
TIM SEBASTIAN
We still have a little bit of the debate to run.
JACQUES MYARD
This law respects the religious freedom as well as the European Convention. Look at the cases between Turkey, in Turkey. Let me go to the end, because you confuse things. You said something, you are putting the Article 1 of French constitution, it is absolutely in compliance with [it], the Constitutional Council said it very clearly.
NABILA RAMDANI
Let me say what the Constitutional Council said. There are many misguided legislation which are passed in France and are not challenged by French courts - it doesn't make them right. The latest example of that is the rounding up and deportation of the Roma population in France ...
JACQUES MYARD
Oh, come on, come on! You are confusing things!
NABILA RAMDANI
... and is now being challenged in the European Court of Justice.
TIM SEBASTIAN
We're not actually discussing that here tonight.
JACQUES MYARD
No, no, no.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Okay, what I'm going to do...
NABILA RAMDANI
I am making a clear point here.
TIM SEBASTIAN
You've made it once before.
NABILA RAMDANI
...that I'm not challenged by the French courts, they can be discriminatory, can be taken to the European Court of Human Rights and that's what happening with the Roma case.


Whether the ban is anti-immigration, or anti-refugee, or anti-Muslim
AUDIENCE (F)
I'm from Canada.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Thank you.
AUDIENCE (F)
Yes, you said that this law is anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim. I find that rather disturbing because most of the people, Muslims who live in France right now, they are not immigrants. We have to take it seriously, that they come in as asylum-seekers, they are refugees, they come in and they take benefit of all the things that France has to give to them, like when they come in, many of them, I don't say all but many of them don't have jobs and they use the social welfare in France and they leave their own country for whatever reason, and they use the security that they have in France ...
TIM SEBASTIAN
Okay, are you coming to a question please?
AUDIENCE (F)
Well, the thing is, you cannot say they're anti-immigrant, they're anti-Muslim, because France has the largest community of Muslims in all the European countries.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Okay, all right, let's just have him answer that point.
MEHDI HASAN
And how does France treat those Muslims? Jacques hasn't mentioned that subject yet. If he's so worried and if you're so worried about Muslims in France, let's go look at the statistics about Muslims in France. Muslims suffer from discrimination in housing, in employment. Jacques is shaking his head. Are you denying the statistics that show that Muslim young men ...
JACQUES MYARDS
... there is no rationality in your arguments...
MEHDI HASAN
Let me make it very clear then...
TIM SEBASTIAN
Look, you asked him a question, give him a chance to answer.
MEHDI HASAN
Let me finish the question, are you denying, Jacques, and is the questioner denying that French Muslims suffer all sorts of discrimination, in employment, in housing, in education, living in rather poor parts of Paris, and that their problems are going to be solved by 1,900 women having their face veil banned?
[Applause]
JACQUES MYARD
I'm a city mayor. I employ, especially if you look at the computer division in my mairie, that's my city hall, they are all Muslims, you know, engineers and things like that. So when you speak like that, of course France has economic difficulties but it is absolutely untrue what you said, because in 98 or even 99 per cent [there is] integration and people become French citizens and are proud of it, and I can give you a lot of example of that ...
MEHDI HASAN
I agree, that's why I asked.
JACQUES MYARD
... and when you aim at this law, you have three fingers pointing at you.
MEHDI HASAN
I asked about jobs and housing, Jacques, not citizenship. You didn't answer my question. What's the unemployment rate? Jacques, what's the unemployment rate among young Muslim men?
JACQUES MYARD
Please, you can come to my city which is a bourgeois city and you will see...
TIM SEBASTIAN
Okay you've asked the question, it's up to him whether he answers it or not. We can't spend all the time you asking the same question. I'll go back to the questioner.
AUDIENCE (F)
The problem is not the problem with unemployment with Muslims, it's just the veil, we're talking about the veil. And when you come in a country and you take the citizenship, it comes to you as a privilege, it's not the right, and with that privilege comes obligations and the obligation is abiding [by] the laws of France, and the laws of France from many years ago, it said you cannot show your religion. You can follow your religion...
MEHDI HASAN
I don't want to offend the people of the Arab world, but citizenship is a right, not a privilege. That's half the problems in many countries of the world. I'm a British citizen by right, not because somebody gave me a privilege to be a British citizen, and therefore I don't accept where your argument's going.
AUDIENCE (F)
... when you go to a country ...
MEHDI HASAN
Why are you ‘going there'? You just said yourself that most Muslims in France are born there, so where did the ‘going there' come from?
AUDIENCE (F)
Well, their parents, their grandparents, their great-grandparents, they have come to that country, they are not originally French people.
MEHDI HASAN
Okay, what's an original French person?
[Applause]


The niqab is not required by Islam, prevents integration, and polarizes French society
AUDIENCE (M)
Thank you. My name is Fahed, I'm from Qatar. I thought first we should acknowledge that the niqab is not a symbol of Islam in any way. There's nowhere written in the Koran that the face veil is mandatory or obliged.
[Applause]
And secondly, this is to the opposition, isn't the face veil a powerful indicator of a sharply polarised society of liberal French and conservative Muslims, and wouldn't banning the face veil encourage integration and reduce tension and Islamophobia?
TIM SEBASTIAN
Okay, Mehdi Hasan, would you like to take that?
MEHDI HASAN
No, as I said to Tim earlier, and Tim's going to say ‘give me a hundred examples before the law has started'... No, I believe that if you act in this way with bans from parliament which target small communities, that doesn't help integration. One of the strongest arguments against this ban - and I agree with you, the niqab is not a symbol of Islam nor does the Koran say it should be worn, I agree with you - but if you want those 1,900 women out of the two million French Muslim women to stop wearing the veil, I don't think you do so by the President of France saying: "It's not welcome here and we will pass a law, and we will crack down on you, and we will fine you and we will imprison your husbands". I just don't think that's the way you have a dialogue with a community which lacks jobs and housing and respect from the country as a whole, I just don't think that's the way you build communities. It's divisive, not unifying.
TIM SEBASTIAN (to questioner)
Would you like to come back on that?
AUDIENCE (M)
Yeah, I'd like to come back to that. If there is a law that's passed against it, and you remove the niqab as a visual indicator of this polarised society, then that would as a result integrate society. I think you gave an example...
MEHDI HASAN
What happens if they don't remove it? They stay at home, they're pulled out of school, they quit their jobs...
AUDIENCE (M)
If they stay at home, their husbands are persecuted because that's the law. That's called illegal confinement.
MEHDI HASAN
How would you know? This law is absurd. The idea that you're going to go after the husband...
JACQUES MYARD
The law is the law.
MEHDI HASAN
How are you going to implement it, Jacques? See, that's an attitude - that's an attitude that builds communities.
JACQUES MYARD
We are living in a democratic state, we are representatives of the people. We voted [for] the law, like it or not.
MEHDI HASAN
How do you implement this law?
TIM SEBASTIAN
I'm going to let Farzana Hassan have a say ...
FARZANA HASSAN
Okay.
TIM SEBASTIAN
... because the rest of you seem to be hugging the time, thank you very much. Farzana.
FARZANA HASSAN
First of all I am challenging the notion that this legislation is somehow going to stigmatise the Muslim community. I say that because the Muslim community is certainly not a monolithic community. You can believe that only if you believe that the Muslim community is monolithic. As a matter of fact there are many Muslims who are opposing the face veil and for the right reasons. It is coercive, it is misogynistic, it is steeped in patriarchy and I believe that it is antithetical to Islam. Not only do I believe that Islam does not mandate it and I am sorry I disagree with you that it's a symbol of Islam, it is not. I believe that it is antithetical to Islam for two reasons. One, Islam is a religion of moderation, okay? The face veil is a very, very extreme expression of religiosity. It violates a basic Islamic principle. Secondly, Islam believes in the equality of men and women and I'll tell you why this face veil violates the principle of equality. It places the onus entirely on the woman to ensure that there is decorum in society. That is how it violates the Islamic principle of equality, it violates on two very, very fundamental points.


France's ban on the face veil, compared to Saudi Arabia's arresting a priest
AUDIENCE (F)
I'm Egyptian. My question is for the opposition. I was wondering, when you're here talking about French, the French government banning face veil which is a piece of cloth, why are you not talking to Saudi Arabia which actually prosecuted a priest for doing his prayers and took him to jail.
NABILA RAMDANI
I agree completely. Precisely because we're talking about France and a democracy, we should not allow a state to impose its will on free women, and if France wishes to distinguish itself from countries like Saudi Arabia, surely it should empower its women to make autonomous decision for themselves. If they wish to cover their faces, they should be able to precisely because it's not Saudi Arabia.
[Applause]
FARZANA HASSAN
I believe that the niqab is being pushed as the norm. That is the fear here. I believe that the niqab is proliferating in society ...Let me finish, please. What happens, just think about it, what happens if the niqab does become the norm, what sort of an image of Islam, what sort of an image of Islam are we projecting to the world ... I'm sorry, let me finish please...
TIM SEBASTIAN
Let them come back.
MEHDI HASAN
On the point about this idea, you keep saying phenomenon, I mean, first of all where's your evidence? Second of all, let's look at where there is evidence. In Belgium which passed a ban on the veil, Belgium which has no government, the parliament couldn't agree on a government, but guess what, it took a day in order to pass a ban on the veil. Do you know how many women wear the veil in Belgium? 215, so few they could put an exact number on it. I had more people at my wedding than that.
[Applause]
NABILA RAMDANI
I wish to make the very basic point that if women were in fact forced to wear the veil, there is ample legislation within the French criminal system to deal with the matter without imposing absurd clothing bans...
FARZANA HASSAN
It is not absurd because...
JACQUES MYARD
I wish to come back on a few arguments which have been put forward. First of all I have heard from you, Mehdi, that if we ban the veil, then the woman will stay at home. We had the same argument with the school veils, you see. It was in 2004, I was for the law, I voted for it, and of course everything went smoothly afterwards, no more problems. So this argument is absolutely wrong and false.
NABILA RAMDANI
Can't you see the blatant...
JACQUES MYARD
Hold on. Secondly we have been, you know, inquiry for six months, and the ladies who were very much against the veil and the necessity to ban it, were Muslim French citizens.
FARZANA HASSAN
It is utterly dehumanising, the face veil is utterly demeaning and dehumanising. It renders the woman nameless, faceless and anonymous, invisible, absolutely. In answer to your question, Nabila, women would not be even allowed to come, you know, and state their oppression in public, you know, veiled women would not be allowed to do that.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Okay, you've made the point, you've made the point.
NABILA RAMDANI
Can Mr. Myard not see the blatant paradox when he says that on the one hand he wishes women to integrate into French society, and on the other side he's excluding them completely from taking part in French society by making sure they stay at home and can not take a step outside.
JACQUES MYARD
What you say is wrong. Integration works in France but of course we have minor problems. We have problems every year. It works!
MEHDI HASAN
Why do you have riots every year, Jacques? Why are there so many riots in Paris if integration works?
TIM SEBASTIAN
You've asked him a question, let him finish.
JACQUES MYARD
In my constituency I have suburbs with problems. And I have also... I see every day French citizens of Muslim faith entering the French administration, successful in passing, you know, the high school competition, they become judges, they become MPs, they become engineers - don't say that France is not integrated. This is not true.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Let her come back on that.
NABILA RAMDANI
It is wrong to say that French Muslims have the exact opportunities as other citizens. Why is it that a young person from a Muslim background sends a CV with an Islamic-sounding name on it, with an undesirable postcode on it, his CV ends up straight in the trash bin ...
JACQUES MYARD
I engage every day people with having, called Mohamed or Nabil etc. Don't say that...it may happen, but don't take a single case and don't make a principle of it. Integration is working in France.
NABILA RAMDANI
It is not.
JACQUES MYARD
It is working.


The ban as restricting religious freedom vs enabling interaction and knowing the other
AUDIENCE (M)
Hi. I'm from Lebanon and is my question is to the opposition.
 Now, I want to ask, even though many of us may agree that the face veil is not a necessity in Islam, but don't you think it would be better to advocate religious freedom, higher levels of religious freedom in the country? If a woman is going to wear a face veil, whether she is forced or not is irrelevant. She is free to do so in that country. Why is it that you want to put restrictions on religious freedom?
FARZANA HASSAN
Well, I believe that this debate has been too narrowly focused on the rights of a miniscule minority within a minority. Why are we only talking about the rights of a few women? What about my rights, what about his rights, what about the rights of the ordinary citizen who need to know who they're interacting with? Why aren't we ever talking about their rights? Why aren't we ever talking about the rights of women who are being forced into wearing the hijab and the niqab?
TIM SEBASTIAN
Let this questioner come back.
AUDIENCE (M)
The face veil is not going to limit your interaction with that person. You're still going to discuss with that person and speak with them.
FARZANA HASSAN
Oh, absolutely it does. I don't know who you are if you cover your face, absolutely it limits interaction.
AUDIENCE (M)
Just because you can't see my face... what about when people go to confession in a church, they generally don't see the priest inside, do they, so does that mean I'm limiting, do I have to stand outside to talk to the person? Seeing your face does not limit my interaction. What about talking through the phone? I don't see a face on the phone, does that mean you're limiting interaction?
[Applause]
FARZANA HASSAN
This is not just about speech, it is also about driving cars, it is also about eating food in public. I have been to Saudi Arabia and I have seen the difficulty with veiled women, you know, sometimes balancing their niqab or a burka ...
NABILA RAMDANI
What about high heels? Why don't you ban high heels? Woman have difficulty walking in them...
FARZANA HASSAN
Well this is the thing, that's not just the only issue...the question is, the question is the concealment of identity.
MEHDI HASAN
So you're now telling me that the proposition argument is about the diet of women in Saudi Arabia - that is the case now for the ban in France...to ease the eating habits of Muslim women.
FARZANA HASSAN
It's not just a question of eating habits, it's a question of driving cars... you know, veiled women have very poor peripheral vision.
MEHDI HASAN
Where's your evidence for that?
NABILA RAMDANI
Should we legislate on that?
FARZANA HASSAN
Sorry?
NABILA RAMDANI
Should we legislate on that?


Does seeing someone's face mean you know them
AUDIENCE (M)
I'm from the United States. I was just wondering for the proposition, do you really know somebody just by seeing their face? I mean, that seems like, even if I can see your face, I don't know that you don't do horrible things in your own time, you know.
[Applause]
TIM SEBASTIAN
Jacques Myard, we you like to answer that?
JACQUES MYARD
You know, first of all it's as I said before, it begins with the veil but it goes further on, and in fact this is the entire status of women in our society which is at stake, because I have evidence, for instance as a mayor, I married a woman with two witnesses who had a veil, and I said, 'unveil.' She did, as well as the witnesses, but when you look at the case further on, you see that this woman will be forbidden to go to work, will not have possibility to socialise with other women that don't have the same habits as her. So you see, which kind of society do we want in France? Is it something where you live in special boxes, ghettoes, and you don't communicate? No. We are citizens of the French Republic on a non-discrimination basis. That's why we say we have common rules to be accepted by anybody.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Okay. Mehdi Hasan, you were going to come in.
MEHDI HASAN
Jacques, I mean the woman's rights argument is a very important argument, I'm glad to hear you make it. It's better than the diet and driving argument, but I have to say, you know, in France, my slight problem with this is even if I were to accept the legitimacy of your argument, the political capital that has been spent on this law in France, and across Europe, there's a Europe-wide issue in 2010, is bizarre. And you talk about women's rights, you mentioned Joan of Arc in your opening statement: 'Joan of Arc led us against the barbarian English.' How many presidents of the French Republic have been women? How many women are there in the French parliament? Less than a fifth. How many women in the French cabinet? Less than a third. How many French women are on the boards of leading French companies? Less than 12 per cent. If we really care about women's rights in France, why not correct all those wider issues before focussing on 1,900 women?
[Applause]
JACQUES MYARD
Stop, stop, stop. I can tell you one thing. I agree that France has still of progress to do as many other countries, but I can tell you one thing, that behind each male MP there are one or several women.
NABILA RAMDANI
Can I ask just a simple question? Is there any legislation in France which deals with abuse against women, yes or no?
JACQUES MYARD
Yes of course there are.
NABILA RAMDANI
Thank you. Then women who you feel are abused by men to wear the face veil, should be dealt within the existing criminal justice system in France.
JACQUES MYARD
No. This case has been raised many times and the advice we had from the administrative courts, the Conseil d'Etat, made clearly that if we wanted to ban the veil, we needed the law. This is very clear, because we are in the public liberties, public freedom and only the law can put limits to public liberty.
MEHDI HASAN
You're also going to send husbands to prison or fine them 30,000 euros if they force their wife to wear the veil. What I'm slightly confused about is a woman who allows her husband to force her to wear a face veil is then going to testify in court against that same husband.
JACQUES MYARD
You see, everything will be decided by a judge according to the evidence brought to the court, so we'll see. But what I can say is that I'm pretty sure,
[inaudible interjection by Nabila Ramdani]
JACQUES MYARD
Hold on - don't jump to your conclusions which are wrong. Very likely, you know, it will be very, we will see but I'm sure that as soon as the law is passed, everything will go smoothly because we have the moral force of the law.
NABILA RAMDANI
And I am sure that when the law is passed, it will be challenged by the European Court of Human Rights.
JACQUES MYARD
No, never, you are wrong. You are a very bad lawyer. You are a very bad legalist.


Faces and Facebook
AUDIENCE (F)
Okay, my name is Aisha, I'm from Qatar. My question is, let's say you meet someone on Facebook, you don't even know their real name, so what's the difference between them wearing a veil and someone you're meeting and you don't even know their name?
TIM SEBASTIAN
Farzana Hasan, do you ...
FARZANA HASSAN
Yes, I mean, Facebook you do have your face there. That's why it's Facebook, isn't it? This is all about concealing...
AUDIENCE (F)
What if you don't? But if you don't have your name or it's not your real name?
FARZANA HASSAN
I may choose not to interact with you, and this is all about when you enter into public spaces, it is all a question of the social relationships that you establish. This is a question about, you know, bringing the face veil into the public area, you know, we don't want to know what you do in your private life, that was your question, and this is all about banning the face veil in public spaces, and you know, I can choose not to interact with you on Facebook but when you are coming into the public realm covered with your face, I don't really have a choice, which is why it is an injustice to me.
NABILA RAMDANI
Surely the social bond, the social bond, as it is referred to in the French constitution, is about allowing diversity, allowing the manifestations of different lifestyles...
FARZANA HASSAN
Diversity cannot be understood as an absolute. There are no absolute ... When it's a question of individual rights and collective rights, and when there is a conflict, obviously the individual rights have to be subordinated to the collective good.
NABILA RAMDANI
Where is the conflict? You're creating the conflict.
FARZANA HASSAN
I'm not creating the conflict.
NABILA RAMDANI
There is no conflict. There is no evidence showing that there is any conflict within French society. You are pitching citizens against each other.


France is pro-Christianity rather than secular as it claims
AUDIENCE (M)
Mohamed from Yemen. According to your brief statements proposition, you guys have mentioned that France is placing this law in favour to separate religion from state, but on the other hand Christianity benefits from multiple advantages such as vacations during public holidays for Christmas holidays, payment by the government of salaries of teachers working in Catholic churches, fish in school lunches on Fridays and so on. This just shows how selective and [the] discrimination that is happening now in France. What do you say about that?
JACQUES MYARD
Well, you are most wrong what you said.
NABILA RAMZANI
Again! Surprisingly...
JACQUES MYARD
Please! You know, first of all those who are in so-called religion schools, they are either today Catholic, Jewish and even now Muslim, so this is applied to everyone, if they are schools under contract with the state. So the state pays for the teacher allowance, whatever your religion is. Secondly, I can tell you that on Friday in our canteen you can have meat as you can have fish. So what you said is the past France, and now it is very diverse.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Okay, Mehdi Hasan.
MEHDI HASAN
I'm a great fan of fish and chips on Friday, and actually on this one issue, I have to say, I would be with Jacques on this, because actually to be fair to the French they are actually opposed to kind of most religions in the public space and they impose their bans on crucifixes etc, etc. But one issue that hasn't really been explored properly in this debate and that is the wider European context. This is not just about France. We're here to debate the French veil ban, but it's part of a wider trend across Europe. You cannot come to me and say: 'This is just about women's faces or Saudi women's diets or driving vision.' When I look at my continent of Europe, I'm a British Muslim, and I look across the continent and I see Switzerland banning the minaret, I see Belgium and France banning the veil, I see Geert Wilders in Holland joining the government calling for a ban on the Koran, and I'm supposed to say that none of these things are linked, this is not part of a rise across the whole continent, of a very far right, a very dangerous, a very anti-Muslim attitude?
[Applause]
TIM SEBASTIAN
Why is it anti-Muslim attitude?
MEHDI HASAN
I just gave you several examples Tim.
TIM SEBASTIAN?
Why isn't it just concern, why is it always anti-Muslim?
MEHDI HASAN
Well, let me put it this way. 80 years ago when Europeans got really concerned about a religious minority in their midst, it didn't end too well, so forgive me for being rather worried ...
TIM SEBASTIAN
That has changed a little bit since eighty years.
MEHDI HASAN
Tell that to the Bosnians of Sarajevo, Tim, in the heard of Europe, 10,000 Muslims butchered. Let's not be relaxed about the rise of the far right. In every European country, the far right is on the rise and they are using Islam to bait and get votes.
[Applause]
FARZANA HASSAN
They are not using Islam.
MEHDI HASAN
Let's not pretend that Nicholas Sarkozy is not trying to play to the gallery.
FARZANA HASSAN
It is a question of radical Islam and the growth of radical Islam....
MEHDI HASAN
Oh you're so naïve Farzana, you're so naïve. You should meet some of the people in the British National Party - they're not worried about radicalism, they're worried about Islam.
FARZANA HASSAN
No, no. Let me finish. If the face veil becomes the norm it's going to give my religion a very bad name. That's what's at issue here.
JACQUES MYARD
By speaking this way, you are playing a very dangerous game, because it is true that we have in France, in Switzerland, extremist right, this is true. I am combating them. You know, I'm a Gaullist, you know, since Vercingetorix that means 2000 years. So it's very clear that we should combat xenophobia and combat anti-Islamists as religious. I agree with you, but there is a point, we see in the whole of Europe that of course we received about two months ago a delegation of German MPs coming to us: how do you act with this problem? So be careful. We have, it's better, I tell you, to ban today something which hurts the deep soul of a nation like France than to have tomorrow misunderstanding, complete misunderstanding. That's why I say we need very clearly rules among ourselves. Secular state is a clear rule and this you have to defend it... as it means otherwise, I agree with you we may have difficulties.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Okay. Do you want to come back on that?
NABILA RAMDANI
I would like to come back on that. Is that possible? I would like to insist on the fact that Mr. Myard is corrupting the very definition of the secular society.
JACQUES MYARD
I am not corrupting it.
NABILA RAMDANI
You are telling women how to dress,
JACQUES MYARD
No, I am the legislative and I am applying my law.
NABILA RAMDANI
...and you are criminalizing them for making a perfectly legitimate choice in accordance with and in respect of the very secular values, by choosing to wear a face veil...
JACQUES MYARD
You are exaggerating ...
NABILA RAMDANI
... that is precisely what you're doing.


Banning the veil breaches democracy
AUDIENCE (F)
I'm Sara from Iran. Let's say that the face veil is a problem, let's say you want your citizens not to cover their face. How would you tackle that issue without breaching democracy?
NABILA RAMDANI
Well, for example there is a great effort made by local authorities independently from the national opportunistic politicking, and this effort made on the local level works very well. Local imams in local mosques talk to their Muslim community and they do say to women: it is a religious prescription to wear the face veil and it is not a religious prescription to wear the face veil. So you have a choice there, and we find that after such effort is made by local council, local mosques, we find that women actually choose not to wear the face veil, so we have to focus on local politics aside from the bigger, national debates.
JACQUES MYARD
Local let's say associations can exceed and can succeed but in fact they asked us: 'Help please because we are facing people who are fanatics and we need a law,' so what you say is absolutely just on the marginal success and we need a common very clear law to say: 'This is not acceptable,' and the association we have been hearing during six months said: 'Please help.'
NABILA RAMDANI
So what are you saying?
JACQUES MYARD
I am saying that the law is a necessity in certain cases ...
NABILA RAMDANI
Instead of genuinely interacting with the Muslim community, you are ...
JACQUES MYARD
The demand came from the Muslim community in France.
FARZANA HASSAN
Exactly, exactly. Absolutely.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Mehdi Hasan.
MEHDI HASAN
Briefly in response to the question, it's a very, very good question and I don't think there's an easy answer to it, but first just because there's no easy answer, I don't reach for a ban. I mean, Farzana spoke very, very eloquently about the need for equality between the sexes, about what's in the Koran. She made a very good case, and what upsets me is, she makes such a good case but then she doesn't actually want to make the case to those women, she just wants to ban it, and I say: actually why not make the case? Have dialogue, have debate, don't ostracise people, don't demonise them, hold on, don't confine them to their houses. Have actually open discussion about this, have imams from Al-Azhar University where Tim's got all his references, come and tell them that actually you don't need to wear the face veil, and ask yourself this other question. According to the French Interior Ministry, not only are there only 1,900 women in France who wear the face veil, around a third of them, one in three, are converts to Islam, are white, French women who have converted, they are not immigrants as the previous questioner asked. Ask yourself that question, why are they choosing to wear the face veil, choosing by definition because they've converted to Islam. So these questions have to be asked. You can't just hide behind some heavy-handed state response in some sort of Saudi-style in the heart of Europe.
[Applause]
TIM SEBASTIAN
All right. Farzana Hassan.
FARZANA HASSAN
I would like to address this question about the choice of women in this matter. I for one do not believe that these choices are all that authentic because I believe that many of these women have only been exposed to one particular narrative in Islam, the narrative that says that you're going to hell if you don't cover your faces, and the women, Nabila, in response to what you said, that the women who choose to wear or choose not to wear the veil after being exposed to a different sort of argument and narrative - their husbands will coerce them, their husbands will then force them into wearing it because ...
MEHDI HASAN
That's very patronising.
FARZANA HASSAN
It's not. And as far as my making the case for women's equality, it is not equality to choose patriarchy, it is not feminism to choose to wear a symbol that is absolutely steeped in patriarchy and misogyny.


Banning the face veil is polarizing, and symptomatic of Europe moving far right given poor economy 
AUDIENCE (F)
Hello, I'm from Ireland, and I would just like to ask, is this not political manoeuvring because, let's face it, the French people are the issue here and there's obviously something wrong with the French public, that they feel so uncomfortable ...
TIM SEBASTIAN
I did ask for a question for the opposition.
AUDIENCE (F)
Yes. Only one person brought it against it, so what I'm asking is that, my question is, how would you reconcile just your average French public opinion to the ideas that you propose.
MEHDI HASAN
It's a very good question on the vote. I think it was 271 to 1 in the Senate.
JACQUES MYARD
371.
MEHDI HASAN
371, sorry, an even bigger majority. You're right.
NABILA RAMDANI
100 people abstained though.
MEHDI HASAN
I mean, it is a very good question but the fact that there are an overwhelming majority, I mean, that doesn't, a) that doesn't make it a good law, b) it simply adds to my view that actually this is, the French political and media class is out of control. Instead of dealing with for example the Betancourt corruption scandal involving the president of L'Oreal, they'd rather focus on the veil. Instead of dealing with their economy or the President's tanking poll ratings, they'd rather deal with the veil, so, you know, the Vietnam War was passed in the American Senate by 98 votes to 2. Today everyone in America recognises the Vietnam War was a huge mistake.
AUDIENCE (F)
Yes, I think the real danger is that unless mainstream political parties acknowledge the general opinion of the French people, the people are going to drift more and more to the right, and I think that's a bigger danger.
TIM SEBASTIAN
So your point is, the people are getting the laws they want, is that right?
AUDIENCE (F)
No, my fear, my point is that if the French government don't act now, that the society is just going to get more polarised and the people are going to drift towards the extreme right, and that's a very worrying thing for Europe.
MEHDI HASAN
You don't beat the far right by indulging it.
JACQUES MYARD
I am absolutely astonished by your argument (addressing Mehdi Hasan) saying: 'You know, it has been voted by a huge majority doesn't mean this is a good law.' I'm sorry, we are a democratic state, young man. We are not imposing votes by terror.
MEHDI HASAN
I didn't say it was undemocratic.
JACQUES MYARD
Well, okay, respect the vote of the French parliament please. And secondly, what you said is absolutely right. You have to face reality. There is now, you have to face reality as it is.
MEHDI HASAN
Why should I respect the vote of the French parliament...?
TIM SEBASTIAN
On this note, on this note ...
NABILA RAMDANI
Is the French government right in rounding up and deporting Roma gypsies ... we are talking about a government making the wrong decisions....


The Result
The vote is 22% for the motion, 78% against.
The motion has been resoundingly rejected.


What arguments here strike you as most compelling?
What questions would you have asked?
Do you see the French ban as a model for other nations?
Do you think others will follow along?
What do you think lies at the core of the attention being paid in the West to the niqab?
Are you surprised by the result of the voting here?
Would you be surprised to learn that the vote online ie open to all has a similar result?
How would you have voted?
Any other thoughts, comments, impressions, experiences?

Related Posts
Why, even if you hate the niqab, you should hate the French "burqa ban" more
Sarkozy: la réforme de la nationalité française, et la trahison de valeurs nationales/Reforming Nationality and Betraying National Values
The Niqab and Integration--The Doha Debates Chez Chiara
Quebec's Proposed Law to Ban the Niqab: "You are as stupid as the ones who wear that rag on their face"
The Niqab: Quebec/Canada's "Two Solitudes" and "medieval kingdoms like Saudi Arabia"

5 comments:

Haitham هيثم Al-Sheeshany الشيشاني said...

what`s going there is ..just crazy! :(

It`s spreading too,, in more dimentions than one :(

H.

Wendy said...

My opinion has not changed. I wish Canada would follow suit. I have seen an increase in niqab wearers in many countries so I don't wish to hear about the 'small number' who wear it. The numbers are on the rise.
It is not required in Islam so I don't want to hear about it being required. If women or their families feel so strongly about being free to walk about with a niqab I suggest they think about living in a country where it is the norm.

oby said...

It is amazing to me that I am not the only one who finds this subject divisive. Because it engenders so much heat on either side says that innately it hits a chord deep in people and both sides know it. My opinion on the ban of the veil has not changed…however; the debate gave me new reasons as to why I am against the veil.

Anyone who says fundamental Islam is not on the rise is in denial. The face veil is the most extreme expression of that and because of that I have several issues with it. The first is that I don’t think it is OK to cover ones face with anything that doesn’t allow someone to see your identity. There are limits to everything and this is no different. I would want to ban fulltime KKK hoods too. The second is that I agree with the woman on the panel for the ban…it puts the onus on the woman entirely for decorum and modesty/decency and takes responsibility off of the man and we have seen how that works out in KSA. It creates a parallel society where in one case men are expected to manage themselves and yet in the Muslim world it takes the responsibility off of the men and this is recreating the parts of the issue that are broken in KSA,. also I don’t think it is a choice…anyone with eyes, a computer, a little life behind them and common sense can see that 30 or 40 years ago niqab was unheard of…then hijab starting making inroads and what once was “optional” became required (even though it isn’t). The pressure to wear it kicked in and then women who didn’t wear it were not considered “pious” enough. So the end result was that whether they wanted to wear it or not the woman had to. The woman is right on two accounts: the niqab is being pushed by the fundamentalists as the norm. Once that happens then the idea of “woman’s choice” no longer exists. It is a man’s best friend. It is a repetition of all the misogynistic problems that plague the Islamic countries. It prevents women from working in mainstream society; it makes them stand out like a sore thumb when Koran dictates modesty. AT THE MOMENT niqab might be a choice but like the hijab it will become required among those who wear it. History has shown this progression to be the case. I find it offensive for women as well as I think there are many that would not wear it if it wasn’t for them having heard only one version of Islam…the Saudi wahabbi salafi version and having husbands whose “honor” depended on how their women covered.

Besides, I can’t walk around with my boobs hanging out or wear a hateful t shirt to school or wear inappropriate clothing to a public place. Finally, here in the USA it is common for stores to post signs on their doors ”no shirt, no shoes, no service”. If they post No niqab will they be considered racist? Don’t they have a right to decide for themselves? Would anyone have an issue if they said “no naked people”?

Susanne said...

I'm not at all surprised the motion was defeated in a land of Muslims. :)

While I am all for choice in most matters, I don't really like niqab for the reason one person gave: it's hard to know the ones behind the veils. I make snap judgments of people all the time by looking at them. Sadly,if someone has her face covered, I'd probably decide she is totally uninterested in making friends with someone like me. She may be the nicest person in the world and may desire friends, but I would think by her mask that she wants to be alone and apart. I wonder how many niqabis are lonely...or do they find what I think to be true (people leave them alone)?

I know a few nonMuslim niqabis on blogs. They enjoy wearing niqab to hide from society when they go out in public. So maybe it's just a way people can legitimately (in most places) hide even while in public.

I liked the male debater on the opposition side best.

Majed said...

It is a wonderful post, informative,constructive, and full of strong arguments and counter argument I learned a lot from it.

I liked the Mr.Mehdi specially the based on the blind people, and in general he was very convincing, he rather insisted on freedom of choice than stressing on goodness of wearing the Niqab, beside he expressed very legitimate concerns about the rise of far right in Europe and how it capitaizes on this issue, and how that might affect muslim and other minorities too throughout Europe.

I also liked few points Miss. Farzana made, except that her tone was often leaning to the peremptory side.

I want to mention one psycological thing, I know many women who think they are not so cute and would like to and feel comforable to be behind the veil when in public, would that be considered as medical reason for wearing Niqab.?

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