Reaction to Belgium’s proposed legislation has been polarised. Muslim groups have condemned the proposed law. So has Amnesty International, which sees the ban as an ‘attack on religious freedom’.
Look at the burqa debate in another way: is a ban to be considered discrimination against Muslims or is it a step to liberate women? The liberal view would be to protect minority rights. The feminist inclination is to say women must be free to wear the clothes they really want to.
No more than an estimated 215 women in Belgium are fully veiled. In France only 1,900 women, or less than 0.0003 per cent of French Muslims, are estimated to wear the burqa. Behind the lofty claims of liberating women lies the lurking suspicion that the ban is nothing more than thinly veiled bigotry. If nothing else, the legislation signals a clear discomfort with visible symbols of Islam in Europe.
However you see it, the law is an ass. How do you claim to liberate women by fining them or packing them off to jail for wearing garments imposed on them either through direct force or through social pressure? Moreover, a community that believes it is under siege usually reacts by turning inward, clinging to its religious and cultural identities. Ban the burqa and you can be sure that more and more women will take to wearing the headscarf. Then what? Ban the headscarf too?
Banning the burqa is a step backward, not forward. And that is the sad reality that Belgium’s legislators must face.
From What a cover-up! by Namita Bhandare in Hindustan Times
To read further click hereNamita Bhandare is a Delhi-based writer