French Burqa ban: Call me illiberal, but I cannot countenance illiberalism

So called "liberals" are up in arms about France's decision to ban the burqa. But since when did the oppression of women become a cause to celebrate?

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France bans the burqa today
On 11 April 2011 09:21

Amnesty International has condemned the French government’s move to "prohibit facial dissimulation in public places" as a "violation of the freedom of expression of women who wear the burqa or niqab".  Amnesty's statement came in anticipation of France's ban on the burqa and the niqab which came into force on Monday.

I make no apologies for sounding intolerant or culturally insensitive, but what exactly is expressive about repression - and why should we stand idly by as women are coerced, shamed and threatened into hiding themselves?

Supporters of the burqa and niqab will tell you that the origins lie within the Quran’s Sura 33, Ayaat 59: “O Prophet, tell your wives and daughters and the believing women to draw their outer garments around them. That is better in order that they may be known and not annoyed."

Personally, I don’t buy it. For a start, no 1,400 year old book can dictate fashion. That’s why Vogue and Cosmopolitan magazine produce a new issue each month. Yes, I’m being facetious. But if you and I found a 1,400 year old copy of either of these magazines and started to interpret style tips from them, I’m sure we’d butt heads on the interpretation. 

The fact is that there is simply no consensus within the Muslim world about female dress codes anyway. Why, then, do politically correct elites in Europe feel confident in passing judgment and expecting the state to offer legitimacy to a (supposedly) religious fashion tip? And by what criterion do they seek to argue that the wearing of the burqa is not the kind of sartorial, gender enslavement that it appears to be, but a freely entered into pact between consenting adults?

Clearly, multi-culturalist prejudices have taken precedence over simple common sense. And yet, there is still a serious issue here. Surely, some Muslim women choose to wear the burqa of their own volition, even if others are being coerced to do so. By what right does the French state come down on the issue one way or the other?  Don’t get me wrong, I can be prudish myself, but I don’t get overly obsessed or emotional about female flesh.  I suggest that those that do may have deeper seated issues rather than simply trying to enforce their interpretation of God’s word.

So how can I endorse state-enforced ‘uncoverage’ you ask?  Well for a start, the burqa ban doesn’t mandate flesh.  It simply asserts that someone must be recognisable.  This makes perfect sense from a criminal justice perspective.  We’ve heard the stories of male terror suspects slipping on the burqa when trying to evade police capture - it serves common sense that you and I should be identifiable in a bank, shopping centre or jewellery store. 

The hijab therefore, works just fine and is not proscribed under the latest French ruling.  I believe for those looking to reconcile this with the Quran, this falls within the remit of ‘drawing your garments’ around you.  (I must add that I am at pains to believe that if a woman exposes her nose, as a man I would be overcome with libidinal desire and be forced to rape her due to her tempting nostrils.  Give me a break).

One opponent of the ban, the notorious, British-based Islamist Anjem Choudary has taken a different view saying: “The actions of the French authorities today will only entrench Muslims more in their belief that sovereignty must belong to God alone and any challenge against this will be resisted and rejected.’

Unfortunately for Mr. Choudary, neither you nor I elected his god. While we have a functioning democracy, it is imperative that we do not surrender sovereignty in the manner that he would wish. 

And if it really comes down to picking and choosing Islamic texts to back courses of action which suit our own particular version of what society should look like, let us not demur from playing that game to suit ourselves. How's this Mr. Choudary? In Allah's own words, Sura 28, Ayaat 56: “Indeed, you do not guide whom you like, but Allah guides whom He wills. And He is most knowing of the [rightly] guided.”

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