Argument: Freedom of dress is limited, including for full veil

Issue Report: Ban on Muslim burqa and niqab


Jean Francois-Cope. “Tearing away the veil.” New York Times. May 4th, 2010: “Individual liberty is vital, but individuals, like communities, must accept compromises that are indispensable to living together, in the name of certain principles that are essential to the common good. […] Let’s take one example: The fact that people are prohibited from strolling down Fifth Avenue in the nude does not constitute an attack on the fundamental rights of nudists. Likewise, wearing headgear that fully covers the face does not constitute a fundamental liberty. To the contrary, it is an insurmountable obstacle to the affirmation of a political community that unites citizens without regard to differences in sex, origin or religious faith. How can you establish a relationship with a person who, by hiding a smile or a glance — those universal signs of our common humanity — refuses to exist in the eyes of others?

Democracies do not give absolute rights to citizens to wear what they like. People cannot, for example, walk the streets naked in most countries. In many places, like seaside resorts’ city centre, individuals cannot cannot walk the streets in their swimming suits alone. This and other regulations on dress make it clear that there is no unfettered freedom of dress. If there is a compelling reason to ban burqa/niqab’s (security, crime, gender rights, etc), then such a ban is completely within the powers of government to institute.”

“The consequences of Belgium’s burqa ban.” Washington Post Letter to the Editor by Jon C. McKenzie, Fairfax Virginia. May 6th, 2010: “It is true that we have fundamental rights to free expression and religious freedom, but just try to express yourself freely by going out in public in the nude. What if some religious group decided that all the men should wear ski masks in public? Would that be considered their fundamental right?

Most civilizations have used a person’s face as a means of identification; thus, it does not make sense to allow anyone to cover his or her entire face in public, whether with a burqa or ski mask. Exercising the right to cover the face will certainly make the job of identification by the police and other authorities, as well as the general public, much more difficult.”