Ban the Veil- or not!
There is certainly something medieval about the burqa and the niqab. The idea that in the 21st century women should be hidden from view for reasons of modesty or religious belief is both troubling and astonishing.
It has been suggested that the burqa poses a serious safety problem at a time when security cameras play an important role in the protection of the public. Many people worry that the burqa would allow terrorists to evade airport security or provide the perfect disguise for robbers. Others worry that wearing the burqa makes it difficult to perform certain jobs, particularly those that require face-to-face contact with clients, jobs of doctors, nurses, teachers, police officers etc.
There are clearly practical problems that come with wearing the burqa. It is, after all, a piece of clothing designed for the feudal life, not the modern world. Practical problems, however, can usually be solved on a case-by-case basis without the need for a ban. Airports already require veiled women to reveal their features when passing through security. Police have no problem demanding to see faces when checking ID cards. And if banks insist that people should not be completely hidden by their clothing, then so be it. But that is very different from the state imposing an outright ban on such clothes.
The practical arguments for a ban on the burqa are weak and shallow. But the political case is even more profound. The burqa undermines gender equality and makes social interaction impossible. It is said that the burqa is not a dress, but it’s a message, one that clearly communicates the subjugation, subservience, the crushing and the defeat of women.
The burqa is certainly demeaning to women, and often used to enchain them. Many other practices and rituals that Western societies tolerate are, however, also degrading. Staunch Jewish women must shave their heads and wear a wig when they marry. The Catholic Church forbids women to become priests. Nobody seriously suggests that the Jewish marriage rituals should be banned or that the Catholic Church should be forced to accept gender equality.
What of the suggestion that women are forced to wear the burqa, and so need protection from the law? It is true that in countries such as Afghanistan women have little choice but to cover up their face. That in itself is a good reason for liberal societies not to impose dress codes.
If women are forced to do something against their will, the law already protects them in democratic countries. But most women who wear the burqa in Europe, do not act from a sense of compulsion, they wear the burqa voluntarily, largely as an expression of identity.
The main reason stated for a ban on the burqa and the niqab is based on the suggestion that it is an article of clothing which oppresses and imprisons women. So the people who are so concerned about liberating women should just let them be, and not impose restrictions on them.