Nicholas Sarzoky’s attack on the burkha has garnered plenty of support, from people who are worried about the oppression of Muslim women to those who just want to use it as an excuse to attack Islam and Muslims.
There are plenty of reasons to criticise the burkha. It makes some people feel uncomfortable because it denies them face to face contact with the person underneath, while in certain situations, such as checking in at airports, it is clearly inappropriate. Some women are forced or pressured to wear it, while their husbands and male relatives go around uncovered. There is not even Qur’anic justification for it. Yet do these objections mean that it should be banned? No. There are two reasons for this: the practicality of such a ban, and the loss of liberty.
Enforcing such a ban would be hard. Would we have police ripping off women’s clothes if their faces were covered? Pregnant women and young mothers put behind bars for repeatedly defying the ban? Would anyone who covered their face up be breaking the law? Would Darth Vader impersonators be held? How much face would have to be covered up for it to be illegal?
At stake too is the liberty of individuals to decide what they wear. Some women choose to wear the burkha because they like it, and this should be their decision. The burkha itself isn’t a sign of repression. It is in some cases a product of repression, but it is unclear why women who are forced to wear the burkha would suddenly become freer. If anything, the opposite might happen, and women who were allowed to go out before could be forced to stay in. We as a society do need to do much more to help oppressed women, but regulating their clothes isn’t going to help.
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Filed in: Civil liberties,Current affairs,Religion,Sex equality