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The Blue & Gray Press | May 24, 2018

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France's Ban on Veils Raises Ethical Questions

By MATT GELLER

Earlier last week, France’s ban on the public use of veils, such as the burqa and niqab, took effect because it represented a legitimate threat to their secular ideals.  The ban has already resulted in the arrests of 59 people, including 19 veiled women.

With an estimated 4 million to 6 million adherents, France has the largest Muslim population in Western Europe.  While French citizens overwhelmingly support the ban, there are some who worry that this ban will further stigmatize and alienate a Muslim population that, according to the Hoover Institute’s Peter Berkowitz, is already, “inclined to anti-Semitism, sympathetic to political Islam and alienated from French social and political life.”
The niqab is generally characterized by the concealment of the face, leaving only the eyes exposed, while the burqa is the complete concealment of the women’s face and body with only a mesh arrangement around the eyes.  These two garments are different from the hijab, which covers only the hair, forehead and shoulders.  All three are used in Islam to maintain their standards of female modesty.

Clearly, the complete concealment of one’s face represents a tremendous barrier in the Western world, where citizens, regardless of gender, are encouraged to take active roles in economic and social activities.

French politician Jean Francois-Cope states that women who wear a full body veil essentially become, “a shadow among others, lacking individuality.”  Already, there have been inquiries concerning whether or not America should also ban the burqa because of its perceived connections with the degradation of women.

While I have sympathy for this particular viewpoint, and I do agree that concealing one’s face makes it virtually impossible to become fully assimilated, it would be unthinkable for such a ban to exist in America.

Although both France and America have provisions that ensure separation from church and state, this ideal manifests itself in different ways.  The doctrine of laïcité, which is in article one of the French constitution, proclaims that France is a secular republic that seeks to confine religion to the private sphere. In America, religious and secular interests co-exist in a delicate balance. In this instance, a federal burqa ban would represent an unwarranted encroachment on religious freedoms.

There are many people who worry that having a permissive attitude toward full-body veils will encourage men to further oppress women, because for them, the burqa represents the visual repression of women. However, the way to achieving an egalitarian society and resisting subjugation is not to institute a ban. There are also those who claim that a veiled face may constitute a threat to public safety, but there are ways of dealing with potential security threats without infringing upon civil liberties.  The government should be able to reasonably expect a women to temporarily remove the veil in instances where identification is required, or when a police officer requests to see the woman’s face.

The real security issue lies in further stigmatizing Muslims and lending credence to extremist claims that the West is at war with Islam.  To be sure, by curtailing the liberties of individual rights we are allowing extremists to dictate how we behave.  The United States has a strong history of absorbing immigrants into our culture, as well as a strong foundation of freedom and justice.  Women who refuse to show their faces in Upublic may not be desirable, but they do not constitute a threat to our way of life.

The burqa has earned the right to be questioned and criticized.  It is associated with countries that are some of the worst abusers of women and human rights, such as Afghanistan, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. There, women have virtually no rights and are essentially owned by men. It would be intellectually naïve of us to simply shrug our shoulders and say, “That’s just their religion and their way of life.”

Junior Shirin Afsous states, “while the countries that incorporate the burqa into their societies argue that it is a defense mechanism for the women and it serves to keep them modest, I wonder how subjugating women to the lowest possible degree provides them with any sense of honor.”

The Quran requires women to dress and behave modestly, but says nothing of completely obscuring a woman’s body.  This is perhaps why other Muslim nations such as Syria and Turkey have also banned the veil in public buildings. However, at least for now, the burqa itself does not represent a compelling reason for the United States to curtail religious freedom.  In America, we should encourage immigrants to become a part of our culture and to do useful work.  And we should also encourage active participation in social activities that conform to our Western standards, but fighting perceived oppression with real oppression is not in our national interest.

Comments

  1. Jethro Bronson

    Well done, Mr. Geller. I too am of the believe that a federal ban of the burqa would be a counter-productive measure.
    However, there have been cases of women refusing to remove their veil for driver’s license photos. While I believe the 1st Amendment should allow anyone to practice as they please, we can’t give preferential treatment either.

  2. Matityahu

    Jethro,

    I couldn’t agree with you more. When it comes to government documents like the driver’s license it is both reasonable and within the government’s right to require people to show their faces, or else, why even bother to take the photo? A person is perfectly within their right to refuse to take the photo with their face exposed, and the government is perfectly within its right to refuse to allow them to drive on government paved roads. Like you said, there should be nor preferential treatment. No one should be above the rule of law.

  3. Simran Kaur

    Wow. As an immigrant American and naturalized citizen and first generation female college student who is a Sikh, this article makes me feel so great to be a student at UMW. It’s so nice to see that my fellow student body did not see anything to really think about other than that, pictures are an important part of a Driver’s ID and people who refuse to show their faces are not above the rule of law. Laws…Too bad, its not only Muslim women Matt, its also Sikh and Jewish women in France that are facing the challenges of this ban on religious articles of faith. Tsk..Tsk..they are so oppressed because they wear head coverings, sigh…if only we could bring freedom to their lives.

    The French forget the days when British Indian Sikh forces liberated them from the Nazi’s (wearing TURBANS…oooooooo,aaaaaaaaa).

    I feel so good as a Sikh religious female minority on campus. First, the ban is not just on the veil, it is on Jewish and Sikh articles of faith as well. Some of those articles don’t even cover the face, they are simply “conspicuous”. You make it seem like only Muslim minorities and women face the social injustice of not being able to wear their articles of faith. You state that “There, women have virtually no rights and are essentially owned by men. It would be intellectually naïve of us to simply shrug our shoulders and say, “That’s just their religion and their way of life.” ” I see nothing wrong with shrugging your shoulders and saying that’s their way of life, believe me, they probably feel the same way about their non-Muslim neighbors. It’s not nieve, its called accepting others and their differences, its called loving people for who they are, and giving them the respect they deserve to be and worship however they want.

    Having long unshorn hair, and facial hair is also a problem for the French. Why don’t they just look at the veil and other religious articles of faith as a fashion statement?

    Well, here in the United States of America there are an estimated 4,600 women currently held in the United States as sex slaves. Now that’s what I call “owned by men”. Those are western standards I guess…poor Islamic women…so so oppressed. Let’s go and liberate them or even better let’s assimilate them in to the “Western Standards”. What are those standards? Being racist, wearing jeans and tank tops, eating pork? Seriously? I thought we were moving into the 20th century? Really we are just stuck in the 20th still trying to get everyone to assimilate. What does assimilate mean? Learn French? Learn English? or is it more than language?

    I think your viewpoint makes it seem like anything but oppressed Muslim women. Have you asked the jailed Muslim women how they feel, researched that? Have you talked to the Muslim women on this campus who wear headcoverings or burqas? Did you attend any of the programming organized by the ISA on our campus last semester and this semester about misconceptions. There was a fashion-show in the Great hall it was called “Muslims and Miniskirts” did you attend that? Does it make them less “of use” to their communities to not assimilate?

    I’m also so not of use as an immigrant because I’m a Sikh American…shame one me. Me and my immigrant family should back to where we came from because we wear salwar kameezes? right? I guess so…go somewhere non-western standards are okay…I’d be more than happy to go back to a country where women had the right to vote and participate in government and politics and law-making and serving in the armed forces before Americans could even dream of such things. Where women have held the highest posts of leadership and the US still hasn’t gotten to that point yet. And guess what, the worlds 2nd largest Muslim population in the World exists in the world’s largest democracy in South Asia, where they have the freedoms to do and wear an worship however they want without being told to assimilate.

    But you know what! Screw your viewpoint. I support my Muslim, Sikh, Jewish Sisters in France who can’t attend public school because of what they wear on their bodies. What kind of freedom is it, when you can’t wear what you want because you believe in it? Forget about Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan when there are so many ways that oppression exists right here in the US and France. Ask me!

    My siblings can’t join their ROTC program because of their unshorn hair and turbans. Even though I’m an American, I have heard things like “go back to where you came from” because I ate subzi and chappati instead of sandwhichs for lunch. Just because people like you don’t understand Hinduism, Sikhism, Islam or any other religion, doesn’t mean that it is less deserving of respect in the United States. Sikh immigrants in the US have contributed to the growth of the US just like all other religious immigrant communities…all they got was hate crimes and unequal treatment.
    Your viewpoint that:
    “In America, we should encourage immigrants to become a part of our culture and to do useful work. And we should also encourage active participation in social activities that conform to our Western standards, but fighting perceived oppression with real oppression is not in our national interest.”

    Is racist, segregating and so hateful, I’m glad you wrote this article. It proves me right…Inequality in America still exists, maybe its not based on Race, but now its based off of religion. You know what, immigrants are not going to assimilate, they should not have to assimilate. Now it’s time for the US to decide: Either back up the Statue of Liberty or tear it down.

    I come from a hardworking immigrant family, small business owners, they pay their taxes, they contribute to their communities, they are no less American because they are Sikh or because they are immigrant. Your article really hurt my feelings, I know this is the America I live in, I will never be American enough for people like you, no matter how educated I am, what I wear and what I eat, or how I worship, unless I somehow adopt “western standards”…I’m not sorry, I don’t like western standards. I’m going to stick with Ahimsa, The sacredness and equality of all living creatures, men or women. It was my people who were enslaved, exploited and the WEST tried to Anglo-ization…Punjabi’s fought to protect their culture then from colonizers, today as an American of Punjabi origin and cultural heritage, I will also speak up against it. No one should treat me, my values, my religion, my language, my dress, my hairstyle, my sex with any less respect than they want for there “western standards”.

    I graduate this May, I would love to meet you in person. Show you how oppressed I am in the US as a Sikh American Women under western standards. Maybe while I’m at it, I can get you to be of use as a non-immigrant American in the United States and teach you how to Bhangra =) A dance form that women and men from Pakistan and India participate in with head coverings and turbans…Oh so very oppressive non-western dance form.

    I will go back to where I came from, Queens, New York City. I didn’t go through 4 years of college to read ignorant viewpoints like this and let them go without having my say.
    But than again this is University of Mary Washington
    oops! University of Must be White. (Yea, my feelings are hurt) Thank you! I feel awesome graduating from a Student body that didn’t respond to this article saying, hey, wait a minute…did he just say “immigrants need to be useful” “immigrants need to assimilate”? and not feel hurt the way I am hurt right now. I wish more people in the UMW community would speak up against viewpoints like this…I will have to live with them for the rest of my life it seems…

  4. Simran Kaur

    Matt,
    This is what females of the Sikh community have to go through for wearing their articles of faith…Why should she have to remove her articles of faith to be treated like a lady? This is how she was treated for not conforming to western standards.

  5. Simran Kaur

    America has a rich and diverse fabric, the laws of this country are not like those of France. People here are free, their freedom should be protected, not challenged to conform. If people still conformed…segregation would still exist. We need to move forward as a country, not backwards. We need to be a model for the world on how diverse communities can exist and work together without killing, insulting, bullying each other. France is going backwards, The US should condemn the French government for such laws that violate religious freedom. Americans should stand up for each others rights and demand that everyone be respected and have equal opportunity. America has always had a changing face, its time we embrace it, and not shame it. We demand greater rights for where women are most oppressed, but if we can’t make it any better in our home communities, something is wrong with us.

  6. Simran Kaur


    Sikh Americans want to serve in the Armed Forces in the USA but can’t, only 3 exceptions made till date. We say our soldiers fight for religious freedom…but yet they can’t serve with their articles of faith in tact. New York City Sikhs weren’t allowed to serve in the NYPD, when Canada, Mexico, the UK and all major western countries don’t have a problem with this.
    Don’t tell me they have to conform to protect their communities (and other BS).

  7. Rajwant

    Oh wow, this article is really upsetting. Good for you Simran, for coming forth with your educated opinion. I wish more people would think before they write such uninformed, culturally insensitive, and ethnocentric viewpoints. I hope the writer meets muslim women that wear veils and gets their real opinion on how they feel about the veil ban in France. There are more women with masters degrees and post graduate degrees than there are men with them in the USA, and yet you still don’t see them having as equal opportunities in the work place. There are not a lot of women in science and technology in the US, so we absolutely have issues to face about womens equality, even outside of religion.

  8. Matityahu

    Simran, Rajwant,

    First, thank you for your readership, I’m not saying that to sound snarky or sarcastic, but rather, because I appreciate all constructive voices (whether they be dissenting or otherwise) about an issue that certainly deserves a lot more attention than it has thus far received. To respond to some of your comments/criticisms I’d like to first point out that my intent on writing this article was not to offend or to denigrate women and immigrants in this country or outside of it. In fact, I had hoped that my article would do just the opposite. I was pointing out that while this country should thoroughly discuss and analyze what place (if any) the burqa has in American society, an outright ban would be outrageous. I thought I had made that clear, but again, I apologize if I failed to convey that message. As far as religious groups outside of Muslims are concerned, I must admit that my attention was indeed focused on them at the expense of other groups for a very good reason: the legislation was aimed (not so subtly) at the Muslim population in France. I understand that similar legislation banning head coverings in public buildings also affects people besides Muslims, but that had little to do with my main point. Unfortunately, I am given only so many words with which to express myself, and while I would like to talk about sex-slaves and the like, I am afraid that I cannot since my articles by nature are designed to be esoteric. Also, I’d like to point out that my quote was slightly misused. When I said that women are owned, I meant in places like Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia, not in France. Stating that in the article may indeed have been monolithic, and what I said may not extend to all women, or even, most women, but indeed it cannot be argued that these nations’ treatment of women can be called spectacular. I could get into particulars, but that would add length to an already lengthy response. Also, to suggest that because 4600 sex-slaves exist in the US that we value enslaving people for deviant sexual acts is hyperbolic at best, but in truth such a sentiment borders on insanity. However, I am sure that that wasn’t meant to be taken as a serious comment. This isn’t to suggest that the United States is faultless. As you yourselves pointed out, we have a long way to go, and we may never truly achieve an egalitarian society. However, I would hazard a guess and say that as a nation we are making progress, and that we do value equality. As far as acceptance of other cultures goes, I must admit, that I never put too much stock in the idea that all ethnocentrism is bad. I’m not a bigot, and I have no problem with aspects of other cultures that are innocuous; but when a woman will be beaten within an inch of her life because she isn’t properly covered? My suggestion that that’s bad isn’t because I’m ignorant, it’s because that is indeed a deficiency within that culture that deserves to be criticized. Please don’t misconstrue that to mean to that that’s my opinion of every single Muslim majority nation, but in places where women are denigrated, the will of the people isn’t adequately represented, homosexuals aren’t safe, and tolerance is not abundant, we certainly have a right to claim that in these instances we are culturally superior in that we strive to achieve these goals. Again, you are correct in asserting that we haven’t done enough to be fair and just all the time, but I don’t think you can accuse the U.S. of not trying. As far as my assertion that the U.S. should try to assimilate its immigrants as being “hateful” I fail to see how that is indeed the case. The U.S. has a relatively successful record of assimilating her people. You are association assimilation in negative terms. Perhaps you feel that this threatens your culture, or that the United States is somehow trying to do away with it, but that is not the case. New York is a great example. I live there too. In my neighborhood we have Italian pizzerias which are next to Cantonese restaurants, and across the street is the Kosher butcher which shares a building with the Halal market. All of these cultures are represented, and they are all woven into the fabric of American society. That cultures can co-exist is what I am suggesting. Not that any one culture should be done away with, but rather that it should meld and mold into our American consciousness. I am sorry that you feel that your people are being discriminated against because of Federal or State standards that do not conform with your religious beliefs, but this is not an attack on your way of life, this is merely the standard that was decided upon by the U.S. Government. Like I said in an earlier comment, you have the right to wear whatever you want however you like, and the government reserves the right not to hire you because of it. Service to the country is not a right, it’s a privilege. I’m sorry that causes distress, but no one should be exempt from these standards. You used the UK as an example, but recently there was an issue over Muslim bus drivers not allowing blind people to allow their seeing eye dogs onto the bus for fear that they would come into contact with the driver. I’m sorry that is an issue for them, but compromise is part of a democracy, and not everyone will get what they want. Jews who refuse to shave their Payot (the side curls) are also ineligible of becoming government employees. I am sure other examples exist, but being myself a Jew, that is the culture I am the most familiar with.
    I also apologize that you took issue with “useful work”. This was also not an assertion that immigrants are useless, to the contrary, I have always marveled at how immigrants have managed to compete so well upon arriving to this country. This has a lot to do with my personal belief that our government ought to engage in immigration reform. Anyway, I used that phrase to distinguish between legal and honest work, and other kinds. Perhaps I should have made that clearer, but again, word limits. Also, if you have American citizenship, then you are American enough for me. I don’t know how you managed to tease out the idea that I have some kind of American standard that a person can either fall in or out of. However, I will say it again, if you and your family have American citizenship, then you are American enough for me.

    And I will add that while I did speak to two Muslim women (one from Iran, the other, Afghanistan) before I wrote the article, neither wore a hijab, or any other kind of head covering. I fail to see however, how that makes mine or their opinions any less valid.

    Finally, I will conclude by saying that I welcome the opportunity to meet both of you at graduation. However, I won’t be receiving my diploma this May, instead I will have to finish up in July. The reason for this is because I worked from July of 2010 right up until the start of this last semester in Ramla, Israel. There, I taught both Jewish and Arab children English in the same classroom. I lived in an Arab town, and had Arab friends, the vast majority were even Muslim! And I had zero problem with them covering their heads, faces, etc. To put it simply, I don’t have a problem with any culture or lifestyle if it doesn’t do harm to others. (I believe that you and I have that much in common no?) I understand why you want to pigeonhole me as a white bread, mono-lingual, religiously uninterested, ethnocentrist, but when you meet me either at graduation or in New York (believe it or not, we don’t live too far away) you will see that I am not your enemy. I am baffled at how you took away the messages that you did from my article, especially considering that the majority of the things you took umbridge with were things that I never even mentioned in the article! However, I am more than willing to discuss them with either of you, and even your families… perhaps while doing the Bhangra?

  9. Matityahu

    P.S. I apologize if this rather long response is at all unclear. Please respond if that is indeed the case.

  10. Rajwant

    Apology accepted. I see where you are coming from and yes, we do have a lot in common, we are people after all.
    And It’s nice to know that you recognize that there is still a struggle for people to understand each other and give each other equal rights and that things will get better.

    “Like I said in an earlier comment, you have the right to wear whatever you want however you like, and the government reserves the right not to hire you because of it.”

    That’s very nice, but thankfully, the government doesn’t do that for civilian jobs only for non-civilian jobs and you have to go through a lot work to get an exception. I think that in the private or public sector jobs when people tell qualified employees who have the skills and the training and talent to do certain jobs that they need to remove their articles of faith to be able to sell a car or to be able to perform any job duty, it’s discrimination. Not so long ago, the law of the land said if you were black and the government didn’t want to hire you, that was the law and that was the case. Today just fill that in with another minority type. I think as Americans, the first thing to do is support each other in fighting against discrimination. The length of ones hair or weather someone wears a headscarf or turban or any other article of faith should not be reason to not hire talented people, that it happens is sad, that my fellow Americans think its okay is sad, because this is what the law says:

    Private Employers, State and Local Governments, Educational Institutions, Employment Agencies and Labor Organizations
    �Applicants to and employees of most private employers, state and local governments, educational institutions,
    employment agencies and labor organizations are protected under Federal law from discrimination on the following bases:
    Race, Religion, Sex, National Origin, Disability, Age, Genetics, Retaliation.

    *****Discrimination in Employment because of religion is against the law. I hope that that is something you will take from this discussion.*****

    As for the example with the Muslim bus drivers not allowing dogs that help the blind, I’m sure anyone with a heart was like: those Men gotta do their job and it was mean of them, that they used their religion to explain their behavior…I don’t understand, or is it just that all the employees that have a problem just happen to be Muslim. I wonder what the non-Muslim Bus drivers were saying about the dogs, did they also feel it was a security concern that they might come into contact with the dogs? Now, I know its not like Muslim Bus drivers as a whole group don’t like dogs, there’s gotta be someone that has a pet, lol. There are people who do mean things that are not Muslim. I’ve had Bus drivers not let me and my Mother on the bus even though there is a lot of room when taking the Bus in Queens. I’ve seen Bus drivers pass by bus stops even when there bus has room and its on duty when Pregnant ladies are standing for the Bus in the Summer, it had nothing to do with their religion. When your in a metropolitan area, you bet transportation officials will find something to complain about and people will find something to complain about transportation. Now I hope that their concerns are understood, but I also hope even more that people who are blind are able to have their dogs with them. I am sure that Islam itself doesn’t say “Muslims, stay away from blind people who need dogs to help them get through the city”. So maybe its just that many member so that religion just happen to be those bus drivers.

    From the bottom of my heart, I can understand that your article was to inform people that Muslim women face domestic violence based on if they wear the niqab or the veil. The issue then is domestic violence not the outfit that the woman is wearing when suffering the abuse. For Muslim women in France, it is a choice to wear their articles of faith, it is a choice for anyone to wear their articles of faith. The law telling people to not wear their articles of faith is taking away the way that people identify themselves. Taking away the way people identify themselves is wrong. Now, for Passport & ID, you need a picture of the face, you gotta remove your article of faith. But lets also discuss that there are many other Islamic states, like the United Arab Emirates. And Muslim people are people too, they like to party, there is a private realm and a public realm. You’ve been abroad, you are already know this.

    Women around the world face domestic violence, women from many different religions, but because religious articles of faith are the reason that their abusers use to inflict pain and suffering on them, doesn’t mean you get rid of the article of faith. To those women, it is a choice to wear their articles of faith, the problem is not the article the problem is not the religious custom or culture, the problem is with the human heart, that hurts someone who loves them. Domestic violence if that is the concern that french politicians have for their female Muslim population, need to prove it to me. Show me the number of Women in France who do not want to wear the niqab or headscarf and because of it face domestic violence. How many of them have social service resources to help them? Is it an issue in France?

    As for women who face violence around the world, I do want to do something about, I do not like it, you do not like it, good people don’t like it when people are abused for being more or less powerful that the other. But again getting rid of an article of faith is not the solution.

    “I understand why you want to pigeonhole me as a white bread, mono-lingual, religiously uninterested, ethnocentrist”

    I’m glad you understand, I’m glad you are not any of the above. And I thank you for your response. And wish you good luck with completing your degree this Summer.

  11. Simran Kaur

    Apology accepted. I see where you are coming from and yes, we do have a lot in common, we are people after all.
    And It’s nice to know that you recognize that there is still a struggle for people to understand each other and give each other equal rights and that things will get better.

    “Like I said in an earlier comment, you have the right to wear whatever you want however you like, and the government reserves the right not to hire you because of it.”

    That’s very nice, but thankfully, the government doesn’t do that for civilian jobs only for non-civilian jobs and you have to go through a lot work to get an exception. I think that in the private or public sector jobs when people tell qualified employees who have the skills and the training and talent to do certain jobs that they need to remove their articles of faith to be able to sell a car or to be able to perform any job duty, it’s discrimination. Not so long ago, the law of the land said if you were black and the government didn’t want to hire you, that was the law and that was the case. Today just fill that in with another minority type. I think as Americans, the first thing to do is support each other in fighting against discrimination. The length of ones hair or weather someone wears a headscarf or turban or any other article of faith should not be reason to not hire talented people, that it happens is sad, that my fellow Americans think its okay is sad, because this is what the law says:

    Private Employers, State and Local Governments, Educational Institutions, Employment Agencies and Labor Organizations
    �Applicants to and employees of most private employers, state and local governments, educational institutions,
    employment agencies and labor organizations are protected under Federal law from discrimination on the following bases:
    Race, Religion, Sex, National Origin, Disability, Age, Genetics, Retaliation.

    *****Discrimination in Employment because of religion is against the law. I hope that that is something you will take from this discussion.*****

    As for the example with the Muslim bus drivers not allowing dogs that help the blind, I’m sure anyone with a heart was like: those Men gotta do their job and it was mean of them, that they used their religion to explain their behavior…I don’t understand, or is it just that all the employees that have a problem just happen to be Muslim. I wonder what the non-Muslim Bus drivers were saying about the dogs, did they also feel it was a security concern that they might come into contact with the dogs? Now, I know its not like Muslim Bus drivers as a whole group don’t like dogs, there’s gotta be someone that has a pet, lol. There are people who do mean things that are not Muslim. I’ve had Bus drivers not let me and my Mother on the bus even though there is a lot of room when taking the Bus in Queens. I’ve seen Bus drivers pass by bus stops even when there bus has room and its on duty when Pregnant ladies are standing for the Bus in the Summer, it had nothing to do with their religion. When your in a metropolitan area, you bet transportation officials will find something to complain about and people will find something to complain about transportation. Now I hope that their concerns are understood, but I also hope even more that people who are blind are able to have their dogs with them. I am sure that Islam itself doesn’t say “Muslims, stay away from blind people who need dogs to help them get through the city”. So maybe its just that many member so that religion just happen to be those bus drivers.

    From the bottom of my heart, I can understand that your article was to inform people that Muslim women face domestic violence based on if they wear the niqab or the veil. The issue then is domestic violence not the outfit that the woman is wearing when suffering the abuse. For Muslim women in France, it is a choice to wear their articles of faith, it is a choice for anyone to wear their articles of faith. The law telling people to not wear their articles of faith is taking away the way that people identify themselves. Taking away the way people identify themselves is wrong. Now, for Passport & ID, you need a picture of the face, you gotta remove your article of faith. But lets also discuss that there are many other Islamic states, like the United Arab Emirates. And Muslim people are people too, they like to party, there is a private realm and a public realm. You’ve been abroad, you are already know this.

    Women around the world face domestic violence, women from many different religions, but because religious articles of faith are the reason that their abusers use to inflict pain and suffering on them, doesn’t mean you get rid of the article of faith. To those women, it is a choice to wear their articles of faith, the problem is not the article the problem is not the religious custom or culture, the problem is with the human heart, that hurts someone who loves them. Domestic violence if that is the concern that french politicians have for their female Muslim population, need to prove it to me. Show me the number of Women in France who do not want to wear the niqab or headscarf and because of it face domestic violence. How many of them have social service resources to help them? Is it an issue in France?

    As for women who face violence around the world, I do want to do something about, I do not like it, you do not like it, good people don’t like it when people are abused for being more or less powerful that the other. But again getting rid of an article of faith is not the solution.

    “I understand why you want to pigeonhole me as a white bread, mono-lingual, religiously uninterested, ethnocentrist”

    I’m glad you understand, I’m glad you are not any of the above. And I thank you for your response. And wish you good luck with completing your degree this Summer.

  12. Simran Kaur

    Rajwant, was logged in to my laptop, when I entered the first comment. Hence the duplicate.

  13. Simran Kaur

    Also I think it is important to look at every religion around the world. Is one religion less likely to have domestic violence then another? Are articles of faith to blame for violence against women? Are non-Islamic women facing less domestic violence? I know women who are Jewish, and Hindu and Christian and Sikh and Jain, that have endured domestic violence from their spouses, I volunteered when I was a teenager to work at the Queens Family Court. Women from all different religious backgrounds from all over the world, faced domestic violence, but that did not mean that they loved their articles of faith or how they dressed any less than from when they weren’t being abused. Taking away a women’s right to choose how she wishes to practice her faith is wrong. What needs to happen is that people who abuse these women, need to really see if they are any closer to God or whatever supreme being or idol or text they worship.

  14. Anum Shaikh

    I don’t understand how you can make a correlation between the way that women are treated in a country, with the religion they follow. Don’t you realize that Muslim men who are so-called ‘oppressing’ their women are basically manipulating the true meaning of a burqa to their advantage? A burqa is an article of faith, which is supposed to represent modesty and a woman’s submission to Allah. Would you have the same ideas that you do for a burqa, for the clothing that a nun wears? I think it’s very important to distinguish between religion, culture and the politics. If a liberal arts education at UMW has not been able to teach you that, perhaps you have not been here long enough.

  15. Jethro Brondo

    The law needs to be equal across the board without giving special treatment or violating the 1st amendment. Banning Burqas where it is a legal/safety concern is perfectly reasonable. I’m not allowed to wear a hat and sunglasses for my ID photo, face needs to be seen that’s the law. It shouldn’t change for anyone regardless of religion.
    As far as assimilation goes, that is the perogative of the immigrant. Society will of course naturally encourage assimilation, but I don’t think it is something the government should mandate.
    I definitely think it will be disasterous and unethical to tell businesses they must allow muslim women to where whatever they want regardless of policy lest they be deemed as discriminary. Businesses have the right – and should have the right – to inforce dress codes. Whether it means a suit and tie, a jumpsuit, or pink short-shorts – if you are unwilling to wear that, DONT TAKE THE JOB. The fact that some muslims were successfully able to sue Butterball for firing them for their refusal to hand pork is ridiculous. If you refuse to hand pork- don’t work in a meat processing facility. To compare wearing a burqa to being black is a totally unreasonable argument. Muslims can choose to take off their burqas or hijabs, black people can’t take off their skin!

  16. first off, as simran stated earlier, this really does make me feel good to be UMW student. honestly, i’m not very surprised by this article, its a typical argument based off of a lack of full knowledge about the issue. the one part of this article that upset me was–“The burqa has earned the right to be questioned and criticized. It is associated with countries that are some of the worst abusers of women and human rights, such as Afghanistan, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. There, women have virtually no rights and are essentially owned by men. It would be intellectually naïve of us to simply shrug our shoulders and say, “That’s just their religion and their way of life.”

    1) what has the burqa done in order for it to be questioned and criticized. i’m sorry, is there an astronomical number of burqa wearers that are going around bombing people. the answer is no, people just feel threatened by the way it looks and the misconceptions associated with it. i’d say thats a person problem if you have any problems with it.I don’t wear the niqaab and I don’t plan on ever wearing it, but who am I to tell someone that they can’t wear it. its their right to wear what ever they believe pleases God. As long as their not affecting anyone else, i say people should mind their own business.

    2) another issue with this article–the burqa is associated with countries that are some of the worst abusers of women and human rights?! i definitely do not agree with that. i don’t know the facts but there are countries out there that are far worse than pakistan, afghanistan, and saudia arabia. the burqa is actually a protection from abuse, therefore if any of those countries you mentioned are abusing women or controlling them, than thats not a reflecion of the burqa but rather a mistake on their part. please don’t associate islam with the mistakes of few people.

    I am a Muslim woman on this campus and I am not abused nor controlled by a man. i don’t know anyone who is either. This is a HUGE misconception and I advise anyone who has this conception about Muslim woman to go talk to one. I promise you the majority feel liberated by their hijabs. when I came to UMW i did not wear the hijab or practice Islam properly. I felt self conscious about myself and I felt like I was mistreated by boys who simply wanted to get with me without even know anything about me. After I started wearing the hijab, I found out what true liberation is as I noticed that boys no longer treated me like an object. also I feel like i would be less likely to face domestic violence as a woman that covers her self because of my faith because my willingness to wear my articles of faith would suggest that I have confidence in myself and it would prove that I stand for something. As a result, a woman with confidence and determination would in my opinion be less likely to be stepped all over.

    also for the person who responded above me:

    “To compare wearing a burqa to being black is a totally unreasonable argument. Muslims can choose to take off their burqas or hijabs, black people can’t take off their skin!”

    – I would actually compare wearing a burqa to being black. wearing an article of faith is a part of who that woman is and its her connection to her lord. who has the right to tell her to take it off for any reason. you’re right tho, if her employer doesn’t want her to wear it she can simply not work there. Why would anyone wanna work for someone who doesn’t respect their rights anyways. thats the way i would look at it.

    also, i know the person who wrote this article said that they talked to two muslim woman that did not wear the headscarf. I think that thats a little biased to write an article about covering up and to not talk to the women that are actually affected by this ban. i think it would be nice if you wrote a follow up and talked to the muslim woman who cover up on this campus.

  17. Lyubov

    Hi Riham! Simran! Rajwant! Are you all the same commenter?
    I’m not sure how closely you read the article on which you are commenting, but it is clear to me that the article’s author is against the US government banning the burqua. The author writes in the beginning of his article, “a federal burqa ban would represent an unwarranted encroachment on religious freedoms.” In this way, he is supporting the personal liberty of women who choose to wear articles of faith in our country.

    When the author mentions that “the burqua has earned the right to be questioned and criticized,” I gather that the reason for this is the way in which the burqua has been used by some Islamic societies as a way to violently oppress women who refuse to wear it. The Taliban have publicly executed such women, and in the other countries that the author has mentioned, it is a culturally accepted norm to PHYSICALLY punish women who do not wear the burqua. This is a fact. This fact is an example of an internationally recognized human rights violation. I hope that you recognize the difference between an ethnocentric sentiment and support of a universal human right defending women from physical punishment. I also hope that you understand, that the author does not need to personally speak with women who wear a burqua vs women who do not wear a burqua in order to write about this fact as a human rights violation. Another fact that I have learned in my research, is that regardless of how many Muslim women report feeling free and happy wearing their burquas, the burqua remains a very complex symbol of religion, culture, tolerance, identity, freedom, and suppression of freedom. Since it is such a complex symbol, it DOES deserve to be questioned. Since it has become a politicized symbol of suppression of women’s freedom in some male-dominated Islamic societies, it DOES deserve to be criticized as well. In my view, the author has not expressed any sentiment against the burqua in this article, but has merely opened up an important discussion about how to best defend Muslim women’s freedoms as they are faced with the decision of wearing the burqua, or with a French law that bans the burqua.

    Separate from this issue, is the issue of whether American private businesses have the right to enforce a dress code that bans burquas, or whether the US government has the right to enforce visibility of one’s face for identification purposes. In both instances, it’s common sense to conclude that private businesses and governments have legitimate reasons to enforce such dress codes or visibility requirements. Therefore, if a woman wearing a burqua wishes to participate in such a business, or integrate herself into the society of which she is a part (AKA assimilate and benefit herself), then she should have the choice either to remove her burqua or to remove herself from that business or society.
    Finally, I enjoyed reading about your personal experiences and opinions, and I encourage you to start your own blog or write your own articles in order to express your opinions in your own space. I also encourage you to read deeper and research further before commenting on your peers’ work. Thank you for engaging me in this meaningful discussion!

  18. Simran Kaur

    Lyubov,

    Riham, Rajwant and I are not the same person. E-mail me at skaur@mail.umw.edu, and you can find Riham as a student in the UMW directory and get her e-mail too, she’s not graduating yet and will be a student here next year. Rajwant is a friend of mine who I shared the article with and wished to comment on it.

    There is nothing wrong with how you read the article and understood it. But understand, my reaction is my reaction and that is how I read it, and if I read it over and over again, I still feel the same way about it. I do regret that I made the author feel like I put him in a “pigeon-hole”, it shows you my own biases and prejudices, and I own up to them. I’m only human too, that is how I felt and so I responded.

    I still disagree with the idea that people must rid of their articles of faith in order to contribute to society, in the case of the concealing of the face I see where you are coming from, however, head coverings, turbans, hairstyles, that constitute a personals religious articles of faith should not be reason to discriminate against talented people that can do the job so where you say: “In both instances, it’s common sense to conclude that private businesses and governments have legitimate reasons to enforce such dress codes or visibility requirements.” I disagree, and maybe for that reason, I lack common sense because it doesn’t seem like common sense for me and you are free to feel the way you want about my opinion.

    That this is the case, I agree with you, and like Riham a rising Junior at UMW, mentioned above (sounds like she is agreeing with you on this one): “you’re right tho, if her employer doesn’t want her to wear it she can simply not work there. Why would anyone wanna work for someone who doesn’t respect their rights anyways. That’s the way I would look at it.”
    You wrote:
    “Therefore, if a woman wearing a burqua wishes to participate in such a business, or integrate herself into the society of which she is a part (AKA assimilate and benefit herself), then she should have the choice either to remove her burqua or to remove herself from that business or society.”
    Sounds like you two agree on that.

    Just because there are people that share similar viewpoints doesn’t make them the same people. You are an individual, I am an individual, Rajwant is an individual and Riham is also an individual. If you are a student at UMW, find us, look up our faces in the Yearbook =)

    I will continue to speak up for peoples right to the first amendment freedom of religion. Just because articles of faith don’t seem like “common sense” to some, doesn’t mean it deserves less respect than the articles of faith that do make common sense.

    Your very welcome, I am so glad that this discussion engaged you in am meaningful way.

  19. Matityahu

    Riham,

    I’d like to comment again with regards to a few of the things that you’ve mentioned. You ask, “what has the burqa done in order for it to be questioned and criticized. i’m sorry, is there an astronomical number of burqa wearers that are going around bombing people.” And the short answer is no, you are correct to say that they are not the ones who commit those acts.

    However, the ambivilance toward the burqa does not stem from the women who wear it, but rather WHY they wear it. A person’s connection with their religion is a perfectly legitimate reason to wear whatever they like, but if they are wearing it to avoid getting shot in the head (as was the case in Afghanistan when the Taliban was in control) then that is not a good reason. The burqa (whether it’s fair or not) is associated with women being subjugated, and since in the West we strive for gender parity, the burqa will naturally cause people to discuss its role, as we are doing now.

    You also state, “I don’t wear the niqaab and I don’t plan on ever wearing it, but who am I to tell someone that they can’t wear it.” And I couldn’t agree more, that was my point in writing the article. I would absolutely fight for your right to express yourself as you wish (quite literally since I will be joinging the military soon.) I hope all people in the US feel free to wear whatever they wish however they wish as long as it isn’t harmful to others and they are wearing it because they choose to, not because they are coerced.

    Finally, you write, “the burqa is associated with countries that are some of the worst abusers of women and human rights?! i definitely do not agree with that. i don’t know the facts but there are countries out there that are far worse than pakistan, afghanistan, and saudia arabia.”

    Well, here are the facts: An international study that tabulated women’s rights compared to men’s found that Saudi Arabia was 129th out 134 best at treating women equally, while Paskistan was 132nd. So I guess you are right; there are indeed countries that treat women worse. 2 to be exact: Chad and Yemen. And while Afghanistan didn’t even make the list, anybody who would argue that the Taliban was good for women has some serious issues.

    However, please don’t take my word for it, here are some of the sources I consulted before writing this article: https://members.weforum.org/pdf/gendergap/report2010.pdf
    And: http://physiciansforhumanrights.org/library/documents/reports/talibans-war-on-women.pdf

    I’d like to say just one last time, to not please misconstrue me for a racist, or a bigot, or a misogynist. I hope as US citizens we can all come together as a nation united, perhaps the word “assimilate” poorly used in my article, I’ll acknowledge that, but I wasn’t using the word to be malevolent. And while I was born here, my grandparents were from Russia, so ladies, I do have some knowledge of the immigrant experience, and I understand that it isn’t easy. However, history has shown that each new wave of immigrants brings with it it’s own set of challenges, but don’t dispair, the US has a great record of accepting immigrants and weaving them into the fabric of our national identity.

  20. Lyubov

    1. No one here is advocating discrimination. Upon re-reading the article published above, about which we’re both supposedly speaking, I have found no instance of the author promoting discrimination. The term discrimination does not belong in the comments section of this article because the article’s content does not justify its allegation.

    2. I used the term “common sense” because there is an objective standard in American society, which is ethically informed, and codified in a body of laws (both in government and in the private sector). Thus, the standard becomes common, as citizens who are part of the society accept it. Now that I’ve explained my word choice, I agree that it’s great to challenge social standards, but since the author is not the one setting these standards (but merely discussing them), it is best to express your reasons for challenging certain norms about which you feel so passionately in a separate forum instead of on this article’s space, as it raises separate issues from this article’s content. It may be more effective to allocate your time and energy by appealling to the government and to the businesses that you feel have been discriminating against you or your beliefs, instead of to the author of this article.

  21. Simran Kaur

    I will do whatever I please. Thank you. If my comments don’t belong here, then umwbullet.com should go ahead and remove them. I don’t care if you think the word discrimination belongs here or not.I read this article a certain way and I have the complete right to respond to it and comments. This is my University paper, I read it, I will comment on it RIGHT HERE.

  22. Anonymous

    I see words being written…but it seems as though it’s moved from helping people understand the context of this article to personal attacks and angry words.

    I stopped reading when someone posted 3 items in a row.

  23. Anonymous

    And to hold true to my anonymous self, I believe that your use of sounding pretentious and self-entitled is not purposeful. You most likely do not seem like the sort of girl who would be that. Lyubov has just aired a claim, and defends it. He also cross analyzes what you had said in a previous post. Have you not done the same about comments as well as the article?

    So please, you can comment wherever you feel like it. But the instant when you write, “I will do whatever I please. Thank you. If my comments don’t belong here, then umwbullet.com should go ahead and remove them. I don’t care if you think the word discrimination belongs here or not.I read this article a certain way and I have the complete right to respond to it and comments. This is my University paper, I read it, I will comment on it RIGHT HERE.” that is when you lose respect. You may not care what anyone has to say, but when you aren’t open to what other people say about your opinions, I call you stupid. I’m not racist, religious, nor sexist in any way (before the feminists begin to argue). I just call stupidity when I hear it.

    Lyubov, nice comments though. I did read through yours and your points are valid. Congratulations.