So the French government recently decided to ban the burqa and niqab. The blogosphere has been abuzz with commentary of every shade and stripe, and I’ve been commenting relentlessly on reddit. There’s a lot of junk floating around out there, so just to be clear:
1. It’s not an arrestable offense for women wearing the burqa, though they may be detained for other reasons, but not for more than 4 hours and they can only be ‘handled’ by female officers.
2. Fines for women wearing the burqa is about 150 euros, but fines can be steep for those found guilty of forcing a woman to wear one (30,000 euros and a year in prison – this doubles if an adult is forcing a burqa on a minor).
3. Moreover, the so-called burqa ban extends to other kids of inappropriate face-coverings in public, such as wearing a motorcycle helmet with a tinted visor (while not riding a bike) or wearing face masks in public, something which is already considered suspicious.
4. It seems clear to me that the French intent is very straightforward; gender equity is a common societal goal and the current French gov’t feels the burqa is a symbol of male dominance and religious fanaticism. France is a modern secular state (and so are we here in Quebec), and therefore they are taking a necessary step to ensure the sanctity of their social values.
That being said, there’s still plenty of people who feel this is not the right to go about things, and that it is an afront to basic human rights. I can imagine this will likely make it to some level of international justice, but it remains to be seen whether this law will have any lasting, positive effect on inter-cultural relations, or for that matter, whether it will encourage conservative Muslims to adopt the gender-equity position of the majority of French society.
Incidentally, I believe that wearing a burqa and being a free woman are mutually exclusive.
What do you think? I have a feeling this may be heading our way sooner than expected, as Quebec and Canada are ‘secular-ish’ states. Where do we go from here?