Today, France banned the burqa. To be precise, they made it illegal to wear clothing that covers the face, which includes the burqa, a solid covering over the body with a semi-transparent mesh over the eyes, and the niqab, which covers everything but leaves a small opening for the eyes. The hajab, which covers the hair and neck but not the face, and the chador, which covers the body but not the face, are not illegal. Forcing a woman to wear a burqa or niqab is also illegal.
I’m not sure how I feel about this. On one hand, the ban is clearly aimed at Muslims, so it is religiously intolerant. On the other hand, there are precedents for banning certain types of clothing. For example, in the US, it is illegal for women to go topless, but not men. Is that sexual discrimination? We also have laws against marijuana, even though members of the Rastafarian religion claim that this discriminates against their religion.
Interestingly, a Pew survey in several countries found that many Europeans favor banning the burqa. The ban is supported by 82% of the French. and majorities in Germany, Britain, and Spain. However, a majority of Americans (67%) oppose banning the burqa here.
The French parliament approved the ban by 246 to 1, with 100 abstentions. When the measure was introduced, the French government declared:
Given the damage it produces on those rules which allow the life in community, ensure the dignity of the person and equality between sexes, this practice, even if it is voluntary, cannot be tolerated in any public place.
How do you feel about this? Would it be ok to pass a law against wearing clothing that obscures most of the face? Is forcing women to wear the burqa itself sex discrimination? Is this a discrimination issue or a religion issue? How would the law deal with people wearing masks as part of a costume?