As from today it is illegal to wear the full face veil in France.  The French have now enacted the law that prevents women from being seen in public wearing the veil, otherwise called the Burqa or Hijab, covering the face for cultural reasons.

The state has been generous enough to allow people to wear these items in the privacy of their own homes or as a passenger in a car.  Some reports have stated that they would not be able to “drive” the car, and they won’t be arrested for getting into the car.  How tolerant.

I sometimes feel I am walking into a 3D Monty Python sketch, in short you really couldn’t make it up.

Personally, I do not care for these pieces of clothing.  They seem backward looking and repressive in nature, but really that is not the point.  To ban a piece of clothing because somehow it is not deemed French enough just seems ridiculous.

Having read a piece in the Telegraph by William Langley which I personally felt was quite shocking, what was worse however was the almost unanimous points of view expressed in the comments.

I will no doubt be roundly set upon for writing this piece, and branded one of the PC brigade, but the intolerance, arrogance and nationalistic nature shown by this law and those that support it sounds like a throwback to a bygone era.

I applaud the French for separating their state from religion and for keeping religion out of their education system, a secular society in my view can only be a good thing, but is this really to do with being a secular society?

I could understand the need to insist on people not covering their faces in airports or banks for security reasons.  Having a reasonable and proportional response to genuine practical difficulties would be a sensible action by any society.  However, to completely ban a cultural item of clothing, however distasteful we may deem it is surely simply an act of intolerance and nothing to do with any real problem at hand.

The press are alive with talk of the need for Sarkozy to appease the rising right wing for his electoral success.  Is this a good enough reason to ban the veil?

The rhetoric we continually hear over the Muslim faith in some quarters is alarming.  We are told that Islam is intolerant and seeks to usurp other religions.  To dominate societies in which it breeds.  But is this not exactly what all religions do?

Certainly, Christianity has been one of the most intolerant and reprehensible religions in the past, wanting to spread it’s word and replace other faiths at will.  It’s history is littered with genocide and torture.

Other religions have an arrogance that their religion is the right one and everyone should see the “light”, and follow their prescription of faith and life.

Should we then ban all religions?

Or perhaps we should just ban certain aspects of life we disagree with and ensure that people only practice these hideous ways of life in a private residence.  We could outlaw homosexuality again, but allow it in blacked out cars or private homes, just so long as you don’t have a gay “lifestyle” in public.  Would that make us feel more British or French?

It just seems ridiculous to me that a society should ban an article of clothing from all public places however disagreeable we may find it culturally.

We all make mistakes in life, and modify or change our beliefs.  I profoundly disagree with women being subservient to men or feeling that they have to hide their face or bodies because men will not be able to control themselves if they do.  It is insulting to men and women. But in the end, it is a matter of choice and personal beliefs.

The narrative which is being written by this type of law is more divisive and unhealthy.  It will not deal with the underlying problems of French society which is divided socially and culturally because of a multitude of reasons.  Ghettoisation of communities is a problem in many European countries, including the UK.  In France it is particularly prevalent.  Banning the Burqa will not address the problems of inequality and discrimination, and may well add to it.

Europe appears to be heading toward a confrontation with Islam, largely due to fear and maybe a realisation that the future may well be toward the east and no longer with the west in so many ways.  Culturally, economically and politically.

The banning of the veil is a retrograde step that is fascistic in nature, discriminatory and unhelpful.  Those calling on the ban here in the UK are fighting the wrong battles within our society and are going to cause more and not less intolerance.

In the end this policy is intolerant, authoritarian and right wing; it panders to the worst of human nature, that is fear of something they do not understand.  Just because we do not like something does not mean we have to ban it.  To make matters worse it is of course unenforceable.



  1. I think this is an extremely dangerous policy, and I hope to god that nobody is stupid enough to try to bring it into the UK. I, like you, don’t care for the burqa, but I would certainly defend anybody’s right to wear what they choose.

    I think it is a hugely dangerous policy on several counts, firstly for the way in which it ostracizes people of the Islamic faith even further than they presently are in a post 9/11 world. This will only cause to drive even further divisions between Islamic and non-Islamic cultures in future.

    Secondly, you can’t stop people from practising their faith. If somebody believes strongly in something and it is not hurting anybody else, then how can you possibly rule that it is not allowed. Making a policy like that, is fantastical in its very essence, and disregards the fact that people will do anything for what they believe in, to the point of becoming martyrs.

    And lastly, the complete ridiculousness of it – fancy banning an item of clothing! It is laughable, and the parody of watching French people on TV last night parading around in flamboyant facial masks covering their entire faces, alongside others wearing the burqa with the burqa clad among them being promptly arrested while those in full facial masks were free to strut around, was simply a joke.

    The whole thing reminds me very much of my parents trying to stop me from wearing what I chose to when I was a teenager. And I can assure you, they didn’t get very far with that!

    Ban the bomb, not the burqa!

    • Thanks for the comment Saffa. I, like you, thought it was ridiculous people being arrested for wearing the burqa and people right next to them wearing masks not being touched. It is just bizarre.

  2. After a long while of going over this in my head, I feel that the policy is the correct way to go. Certainly for France,

    The Burqa is a cultural item not a religious item, they we’re worn a long time before the birth of Islam, and as such when a westerner goes to an Islamic state they should dress according to Islamic culture.
    Here in the West our culture is to have nothing covering the face, it shows that you are open and honest, my Nan was always telling me off as a child for talking with my hand covering part of my face (I was shy) telling me it was the height of bad manners.

    I admit that it is intolerant, but nudists a not allowed to walk the streets of the UK either. It is wrong to say that we are 100% tolerant about dress code in the west.

    For better or worse the west has its own strong culture and this should be respected by anyone who lives or visits, in the same way that Westeners should respect Islamic culture when visiting or living in there countries.

    • Thanks for your comment. I obviously disagree but respect your point of view. The only other aspect to point out is that it is considered that only 2000 people (out of 5 million Muslims in France) throughout the whole of France actually wear the veil, which kind of begs the question, How can French culture be under threat by such a small minority?

      • I definitely agree with Tony and I also have an extreme opposition to some of the things you said in the post.
        “The rhetoric we continually hear over the Muslim faith in some quarters is alarming. We are told that Islam is intolerant and seeks to usurp other religions. To dominate societies in which it breeds. But is this not exactly what all religions do?”
        – So, because all religions do this, we are to lay down our arms and allow Islam to take over our country? (which, under sharia law, is far more fascist and alarming than banning a “burqa”). In almost every Islamic country of the world, there is some form of fascism in the government and definitely some form of oppression on one or more types of people under those governments. Homosexuality, for example, is completely outlawed in almost every single muslim country. So whilst, gays are allowed to live freely here in the west, they are being STONED and HANGED to death in countries like Iran and Saudi Arabia. In other Muslim countries, they are rotting in prison because they have been sentenced to life.
        So, I applaud France for trying to preserve their culture, as it should do. The use of head scarves is not apart of French Culture, just like a female walking around in a skirt is not apart of Arabic culture. It is against the law for a female to walk around in a skirt in Muslims countries, so it is against the law for women to walk around in black sheets in western countries. We shouldn’t have to adopt someone else culture if they move into our homes, and I think every western country in Europe should follow suit.

      • Thanks for your comment.

        Again you are somewhat proving my point – “we are to lay down our arms and allow Islam to take over our country?”. Islam is going to “take over our country” really?

        As mentioned earlier it is estimated that about 2000 people (out of 5 million Muslims in France) wear the veil, this is hardly a threat to French civilisation. Europe aims to be a liberal community where people are free to live how they wish provided they do not harm others. I do not see that in most areas of society that wearing the veil will harm society.

        It is true that many muslim countries are intolerant, but is this because they are muslim? or because of cultural and political evolution that is stuck in a cycle of corruption and power politics. The so called “arab spring” tells us more about “muslims” than the dictators of the middle east. Ordinary people when given the chance will choose to have a more tolerant society, we should not demonise one religion over another.

        As I have pointed out I neither care for the veil or religion in general. I am not religious. But I think people should have the right to live their lives without prejudice provided they do not harm others.

  3. If I am proving your point, then I’m afraid to say I have completely failed to see what it is. I think you’ve missed my point. When Muslims leave their home countries, where beliefs are so strong that they believe in stoning wives, and enter a western liberal country, do not just drop all of their beliefs (who do you think does the stoning? The dictator himself?). Basically, my point is that the veil is such a strong sign of ALL the things that liberalism is NOT. I highly disbelieve in your statistics that you have provided, where’s your source? But, in most cases, women are FORCED to wear the veil, which makes it such a sign of oppression and a big sign of what France does not want to be.
    Also, I do believe that if nothing is done than Islam can take over our country, especially when I can go down a street in London where a Muslim protest is taking place, calling for an overthrow of the government and for the chopped off head of the queen if she doesn’t convert to Islam… Like I said, cultural and ISLAMIC beliefs do not just vanish when one moves to a different county.
    “But I think people should have the right to live their lives without prejudice provided they do not harm others.” – I believe in this too, but I don’t believe in this on a type of people, whom most of which, believe in intolerance to others. I am not going to be tolerant to intolerant people. That’s just stupid. The veil is just one sign of intolerance and it is not right.

    • I agree – you fail to see my point,. . . . . but then again I don’t think you really want to.

      Nothing you have said changes the fact that banning the veil will do very little except show intolerance to a group of people within French society who are a small minority. Your argument also does nothing about the point that all religions can be intolerant, anti homosexual etc etc. Believe it or not, some people wear the veil who “CHOOSE” to do so. I may not agree with it, but it does not mean I have to ban it. Should we ban the tartan again in Scotland to stop the rise of the SNP?? It is just nonsense.

      • Okay I think I get your point: It is intolerant to ban the burqa because some people want to wear it. Although it doesn’t make sense, which is the point I am tying to make. What I am saying is that the source of the burqa is a sign of intolerance in itself. In your article, you spoke about religion. The burqa is not a religious piece of clothing, it is a cultural one. This is not the first piece of clothing that the French or the British have banned. The only reason why this has gained so much attention is because the people who use this as oppression against women are trying to stop it. The burqa is a sign of fascism alone.

      • I think we will have to agree to disagree.

        You say that I talk about religion, I actually pointed out that it was a cultural choice to wear the veil in the first paragraph. My example of the Tartan in Scotland is an example of trying to deny cultural and national identity which in the end did not work. It was a terrible thing to do. You say that those who use it as oppression are trying to stop the ban, but actually, people who wear it by choice are also trying to stop the ban, being arrested in France next to others who are covering their faces with balaclavas and motorcycle helmets shows how simply ridiculous this law is. Especially when we are talking of such small amount of people who wish to wear it anyway.

        I completely agree with the policy that France has regarding keeping religion out of schools, I wish we had that policy here. Our government over many years has encouraged divisive faith schools, which in my opinion is a form of brainwashing and encourages a separation in communities. I also agree that the veil cannot be worn in certain areas of society for practical reasons like at airports etc. This is a pragmatic approach and not a banning order against a particular culture or religion or piece of clothing.

        I do not agree that the veil itself is a sign of fascism, however much I do not like it, it does not force its ideas on me, or force me to wear it, or force me to follow their culture, or force me to become a Muslim. In effect it only affects me if I see it in the street which is a rare occurrence. Unlike the French government which is FORCING its views on the population, forcing its “culture” on those who are different.

        In my dealings in society I have seen many people prejudiced against for being “different”. By employers, friends, government and health professionals. It is always easy to pander to peoples fears in a knee jerk reactions to gain votes, it is a lot more difficult to uphold the rights of minorities and to be tolerant when people become fearful.

  4. Okay, your statistics are completely incorrect. I just read online that an estimated 100,000 to 500,000 people in France wear the burqa…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s