A French parliamentary report has just recommended
a partial ban on face veils--should the U.S. follow suit? A handful of Politics Daily contributors have
attacked the matter with gusto. Time magazine, meanwhile, examines why burqa bans
haven't been proposed in the U.S. Most agree that banning
Islamic dress would be a poor choice for America. Here's why:
- U.S. Should Consider Burqa Ban, says Bonnie Erbé, starting off the debate on the Politics Daily pages. "What is the impact of a woman's wearing of a burqa or a headscarf on other women in that society?" Remarking that "immigration is a privilege and not a right," she says she "wish[es] the U.S. would pre-screen for women who want to take full advantage of the freedoms they gain" by coming to the U.S. She also adds a comment she received from an Iranian feminist saying "that Iranian émigrés wearing full-body garb in this country are making an anti-Western statement by so doing." Nor is she convinced veil-wearing, even among highly educated Muslim women, is free from pressure: Some may have " motives based on acceptance into a community or by a man who provides emotional or financial support. A true choice? Perhaps, but a heavily freighted one as well."
- Consider and Reject It, Perhaps Erbé's colleagues don't favor a ban. Jeffrey Weiss points to Orthodox Jews, Amish, Mennonites, and others that also have restrictive dress, even dress that is "is designed precisely to create a visual, public separation between the wearer and mainstream Western culture." Shall we forbid their garb as well? When pre-screening for pro-liberty women entering the country, should we bar "stay-at-home moms with lots of kids" too? This is precisely why the Constitution, he argues, "nail[s] down" freedom of religion and its practice "pretty clearly." His colleague Alex Wagner agrees that it's a "slippery slope," while Lizzie Skurnick suggests combating oppression by first dealing with rape in the military or "misogyny in the media."
- Dangerous and Misguided--And We're Not France "I really think," writes another Politics Daily contributor, Delia Lloyd," that this sort of thing needlessly throws fuel on an already flaming fire." She also points to what she sees as a key difference between the U.S. and some European countries:
Unlike countries such as France, which maintain--often to their peril--a national mythology that everyone's the same, America has never even tried to pretend that we're all the same. We welcome difference and we embrace it. And what makes us American isn't how we dress or what we eat or where we worship, all of which can and must diverge. What makes us American is a common shared ideal that, despite our melting pot, we're all committed to the same basic values. One of which is freedom to make choices for ourselves. Why on earth would we scrap that in favor of compulsory assimilation?
- Why the American Debate is Slow to Start Though Lloyd thinks American women fear the burqa because they don't see it, Time's Gilbert Cruz says it's precisely the scarcity of "religious head coverings" that has kept them out of politics thus far: very few American Muslims "actually cover up,"and even fewer wear the full niqab, which is "viewed as a more conservative practice" as compared to the simple hiqab, or headscarf. American Muslims don't wish to appear conservative, say his sources, and young Muslim women who don a face veil often face opposition from their families, who fear backlash if appearing extremist.
- Men Telling Women What to Wear, All Over Again Responding to British foreign secretary Jack Straw's discomfort with face veils, the Telegraph's Vicki Woods expresses a sentiment with whcih many American women might sympathize: "I've met a few men in my time who have wondered if perhaps I mightn't like to remove items of clothing so we can all feel more comfortable. Mostly, reader, I kept 'em on." She doesn't think "it's terribly sensible or grown-up to have coppers actually wrestling the clothes off women."