Yesterday French President Nicholas Sarkozy proposed that France ban the Burka for women in public:
"The issue of the burqa is not a religious issue. It is a question of freedom and of women’s dignity," Mr. Sarkozy said. "The burqa is not a religious sign. It is a sign of the subjugation, of the submission, of women."
A further concern is public security: With all the video cameras and security devices in public places, how can we allow one group to be an exception to the cameras by, in effect, wearing masks? Especially in public buildings and on public transport.
I think President Sarkozy is right. Both from concern of public security and subjugation of women, western countries should prohibit public veil wearing as a mater of public policy.
In the USA, if States and Municipalities start banning the veil, we will still allow (in fact the First Amendment to the Constitution requires us to allow) all kinds of religious garb, from black-coated Hasiddic Jews, to Indian saris, to Buddhist robes, and Muslim hijabs--just you can't cover your face. (Note: the veil is called a niqab.)
Historically in the USA, mask wearing in public was banned by many states in the early part of the 20th century to curtail the bigoted and threatening activities of the Ku Klux Klan. It is true that some public protestors (for example, at World Trade Organization meetings) have covered their faces (with ski masks or scarfs), and under this plan, to be consistent, this would no longer be allowed. So a general ban on public mask wearing (which is what I am proposing) will likely (and appropriately) raise freedom of speech issues. Still, the security dangers of allowing public mask wearing may outweigh any objections to the law when challenged in the courts. Or the courts may decide no masks in airports, buses, schools, etc., but it is OK to wear the veil around your neighborhood--the point being we won't find out what the courts will allow if we don't pass the initial legislation.
The veil degrades women. Many of these women do not want to wear the veil but can't object for fear of their husband beating them. Listen to Hirsi Ali in her book "The Caged Virgin"
The essence of a woman is reduced to her hymen. Her veil functions as a constant reminder to the outside world of this stifling morality that makes Muslim men the owners of women and obliges them to prevent their mothers, sisters, aunts, sisters-in-law, cousins, nieces, and wives from having sexual contact. And we are not just talking about cohabitation. It is an offense if a woman glances in the direction of a man, brushes past his arm, or shakes his hand. A man's reputation and honor depend entirely on the respectable, obedient behavior of the female members of his family.
I hope this initative is approved by the French and then spreads throughout Europe and the USA.x