Friday, April 30, 2010

Belgian lawmakers pass burka ban

Belgium's lower house of parliament has voted for a law that would ban women from wearing the full Islamic face veil in public.
Belgium's lower house of parliament has voted for a law that would ban women from wearing the full Islamic face veil in public.
The law would ban any clothing that obscures the identity of the wearer in places like parks and on the street. No-one voted against it.
The law now goes to the Senate, where it may face challenges over its wording, which may delay it.
If passed, the ban would be the first move of its kind in Europe.
Only around 30 women wear this kind of veil in Belgium, out of a Muslim population of around half a million.
My view on this complicated matter:
The hijab (in all its varieties and interpretations above)= "soft core"
The Niqab and its severe version, the Burqa = "hard core".
I find the last two to be unsettling.


  1. "They choose to live with us in Christian countries so they must obey our customs."

    Now that Belgium is officially a Christian country I suggest a law be passed requiring all citizens to attend a church service evry Sunday. Then we'll see how long this Christian hokum holds up.

  2. The French say that France is " la Mere de l'eglise" ( mother of the church) ? Maybe Belgium is a sister!

  3. This kind of law is ridiculous, especially when it's written in a way to be non racist. Any clothing that conceals your identity-in the opinion of a cop-is illegal. I guess sunglasses and wigs are now contraband-and Mardis Gras and Halloween celebrations are illegal in public. Yeeesh!!! This law reminds me of the law they just passed in Arizona that requires police to check the papers of anyone who "looks like" an illegal immigrant. I just don't get this business about making the police harrass people who aren't doing anything wrong. Well actually I do-it's called a police state...but I don't understand the appeal of it. I think it's better all around if white people-in these cases-learn to live with people from other cultures.

  4. <span>I guess sunglasses and wigs are now contraband-and Mardis Gras and Halloween celebrations are illegal in public.</span>
    Funny you talk about Halloween Joe because it's true it's illegal to drive wearing masks in France.. My brother and his girlfriend were arrested in Paris during Halloween for the same exact reason. They spent the night in a police station but were not fined. This is how I knew about this law which exists for quite some time now, well before the hijab issue.

  5. I can understand why it's illegal to drive with a mask on-it's unsafe. It's like the bank at my corner has a sign asking people to take off their sunglasses and hoods before they come in-that's to help prevent bank robberies. But if someone's dress makes people uncomfortable-I just think it's really dumb to make a law against it. First of all, it gives police too much arbitrary power. Also, at least in my city the police have their hands full already without enforcing dress codes. It's just asking too much of them. People who are not hurting anyone should not be hassled by the government.

  6. tgia:

    If I was walking down the street and I saw the police harrassing a woman for wearing a burkha, my blood would boil...and  I would also be afraid of what kind of society I live in.

  7. <span>Joe  
    Since we're talking about personal experiences so I'll go with some more. Every now and then I go out to a Lebanese restaurant located in mainly Muslim Lebanese area. For many years now I've been seeing all types of head gears and I'm kind of used to them and do not even notice them anymore. One day, for the first time, I saw what a Burka, that most "extreme" form, looked like on a woman who was dining there. It was kind of unsettling to me to see this poor thing trying to eat by passing food all the way from down somewhere under the cover all the way up to the mouth all the while she's making sure that nothing would be showing. It was an amazing scene which in my opinion defied logic, common sense, and commodity. My wife a Frenchwoman, though very tolerant, accepting, understanding and kind of used to the usual head gears was very puzzled and found the whole thing absurd and confronting. In the same way that I did. I was upset because what this women was conveying as a message was that I like other men around were threatning her with our gazes when none of that was true. I was struggling with the odd feeling of being insulted for the mere fact that I was there. I didn't feel comfortable.

  8. I can see how it can be unsettling to see a Burkha wearing woman trying to eat a-what was it, a ham sandwich? But the issue here isn't how it makes you feel or even if it is better for the woman concerned if she wasn't wearing a burkha-the issue is whether we need another stupid law that targets a minority, divides the society even more than it already is, and gives the police the power to enforce social norms. If a law like this is expected to make life easier for the woman, it is likely to have the opposite effect. Rather than dress more conventionally, the woman is probably more likely to not go out at all-so she is going to become even more isolated. And I don't think everyone in the majority has the right to be protected from feeling uncomfortable because of how a minority dressses-or wears their hair-or because they wear funny hats.

  9. tgia:

    Would it have made you feel more comfortable if the police came in and arrested the woman? I think it would have ruined my whole lunch. Playing the scenario out in my head reminds me of those pictures of Nazis harrassing Jews with beards in Warsaw:

    Now that makes me uncomfortable-if it happens in Palestine, Belgium, Arizona, America or anywhere else.

  10. Anything that covers up the face should not be allowed in public. It is a security and safety issue and is way beyond a reasonable accomodation for religious belief. That applies to the burkha, certainly.
    There have been numerous recorded criminal acts, such as bank roberries, around the world involving the perpetrators wearing burkas and face veils. Criminals have been able to escape wearing the burkha. Suicide bombers have avoided a search wearing a burkha.
    The hijab and other forms of religous dress should not be an issue at all. Banning the burkha and niqab should be a no brainer.

  11. vza:

    Very interesting...I wonder what the statistics are about women in burkhas robbing banks as oppossed to robbers wearing wigs and fake mustaches. By your logic wearing anything that altars your appearance should be against the law...I say leave the women in burkhas alone, they have enough troubles without being arrested for the way they dress. As far as women in burkhas being a danger, that's the most ridiculous thing I ever heard. I've never seen them bother anyone-and in my city at least, with all the crime, it would be pure insanity for the police to have to spend one minute enforcing a law like this...Face it, the real reason you think burkhas should be banned is because you don't approve of them. I think it's better to accept that there are different cultures living in close proximity than making ridiculous laws which have nothing to do with public safety and everything to do with harrassment.

  12. Women in burkhas driving are not a danger??? Women and men robbing banks are not a danger? Men or women concealed in burkhas HAVE robbed banks in Europe, the UK, America, Canada, etc. I could give you numerous examples for just this year, but it would be a waste of my time to post them for you.

    <span> I think it's better to accept that there are different cultures living in close proximity.</span>
    Yes, yes, here we go .... Those white people again, not acccepting different cultures. What utter baloney.
    Any total face covering whether it is a mask or a stocking cap pulled over the face, or a burkha should not be allowed in PUBLIC. Halloween revelers can mask to their hearts content at the parties but not in public. Police are not going to have to waste time looking for this sort of infraction, because most SANE people will obey the law.

  13. <span>Yeah, I guess this guy also cannot accept other cultures!  
    The Muslim Canadian Congress (MCC) is now adding its voice to Sheikh Tantawi’s, and all the others who demand an end to this insult to the female gender. The MCC, an organization that I once led, has asked Ottawa to introduce legislation that will “ban the wearing of masks, burkas and niqabs in public.”  

  14. I actually did a web search and I could only find two cases of burkha wearing women robbing banks, october 18 2007 in Canada and february 10 2010 in Paris. However, I will concede if you spend a lot of time searching you may find a few more cases. If it's bank robberies you're concerned about, you should want to ban the hooded sweatshirt and sunglasses-that's a far more common disguise during bank robberies. And if your concern is for the women, which in my opinion is the more reasonable concern, a law like this will isolate thaem further because they won't be able to go outside at all. I wish you would just be honest and admit the reason you think burkha wearing should be banned is that you don't like them...and it's so easy to make a law, especially targetong a minority, but how would it be enforced? Would a woman be arrested if she showed up on the street in a Burkha? Would the police confiscate it? What would the punishment be? Will the law apply to some diplomat's wife as well as a cab driver's wife? It's not a matter of polical correctness to learn to live with people from other cultures-it's a matter of species survival. And the same thing goes for the extteme Muslim fundementalists.

  15. <span> I wish you would just be honest and admit the reason you think burkha wearing should be banned is that you don't like them..</span>

    Of course, the usual Joe , the all-knowing judge!.
    I was educated by Catholic nuns and I have traveled in the Middle East, so I am not unfamiliar with head coverings! Some are quite elegant and do not bother me in the least, unless they are forced on someone or put on children.
    Do I like the burkha? Well, noooo. I don't like a lot of things, but see no need for a law banning them. Hoodies that are up and sunglasses are not allowed in most banks already....for security and identiity reasons. Haven't you noticed the signs? A motorcycle helmet, for example, MUST be removed when you enter the bank. Banks must be profiling motorcyclists, right? So intolerant!
    Hoodies and sunglasses in public do not cover the ENTIRE face. A burkha does. A year or so ago, a woman wanted to have her driver's license photo taken while wearing a burkha. You think that is okay, Joe? Naturally the DMV refused and she took them to court. The judge ruled that PUBLIC SAFETY trumps her religious beliefs.

  16. If you read my first or second post in the thread, I did cite banks as an example where it was reasonable to ban head coverings. I also thought it was reasonable that masks be banned when driving. But if there is going to be a law banning a type of clothing, there should be some evidence that they are a common device used in crime, not a few rare examples. If you were honest, you would admit that the main problem you have with burkhas is that they demeen women. And I would agree with you if that is the case. But forcing these women to stay inside because of fear of arrest is not the way to address the issue. In fact, it is the exact opposite way to expose them to the different choices they have in life...And you know what, if they don't want to choose another way of life, that is fine with me. I have enough trouble making the right choices in my life without imposing my opinions on other people.

  17. Two other things:

    1. If public safety is your concern, having police enforce a law that requires people to dress to your tastes will take them away from stopping and preventing real crime-that's what a sherrif in Arizona said about the draconian anti-immigrant law down there.

    3. If it is the welfare of the women you are concerned about, the typical American way of attacking social problems-with more cops and more prisons-won't help them. In fact, as I said before, it will make matters worse for them. If these women are your real concern, then you should get involved with some shelter that has special programs from Muslim women leaving abusive relationships.