Argument: Full veils represent misogynist ideology designed to oppress women

Issue Report: Ban on Muslim burqa and niqab


Nicholas Sarkozy said in May of 2010 after France passed its law banning the burqa and niqab: “This is a decision one doesn’t take lightly. Nobody should feel hurt or stigmatized. […] [France is] an old nation united around a certain idea of personal dignity, particularly women’s dignity, and of life together. It’s the fruit of centuries of efforts.”[1]

President Nicolas Sarkozy stated in the summer of 2009: “The burqa is not a sign of religion, it is a sign of subservience.”[2]

Ghada Al Atrash Janbey. “On Quebec’s Decision to Ban the Muslim Niqab.” Dissident Voice. April 17th, 2010: “in simplest terms, I am a Westernized Arab woman who is an advocate of gender equality and a defender of feminist principles. The problem for me stems from the roots of the matter where expectations demanded of a Muslim woman are by no means applicable to men, and the most blatant of all is the Muslim niqab—Can you imagine how ridiculous it would be to see a man walking around with a head-cover concealing his face and only revealing his eyes? I strongly believe that the niqab is an oppressive form of discrimination depriving women of their basic right to an identity, and one justified in the name of religion!”

Aisha al Marri, an Emirati writer, in the opinion pages of the Abu Dhabi-based newspaper Al Ittihad: “Nicolas Sarkozy must be thanked for banning the niqab and describing, quite rightly, women who wear the burqa as ‘prisoners behind a fence’. Thanks must go to the French parliament as well, which is about to ratify a decision denouncing the burqa and the niqab as ‘abusive to the values of the nation and to the principle of equality’”[3]

“Is France right to ban wearing the burka in public? YES:” By Mona Eltahawy on March 21, 2010: “I defend a woman’s right to cover her hair if she chooses but the face is central to human interaction and so the ideologues who promote its covering are simply misogynists.”

Erin Furman. “Burqa ban next step in worldwide women’s rights.” The Hofstra Chronicle. November 15, 2009: “Imagine wearing a Halloween mask that covers you entire head, including your nose and mouth. There are no slits for eyes, only a section of mesh in the fabric that provides you with a limited field of vision. Your neck, upper body and arms are covered. If the mask slips or starts to fall, you must adjust it from the inside.

But this isn’t just a mask you can wear for a few hours one day a year while trick-or-treating then take off. It is a burqa, a garment originally intended as a religious symbol to “protect” the worth of a woman by covering her up and hiding her beauty. In a Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, a woman over the marriageable age of 12 cannot walk in her own backyard to hang laundry up to dry without a burqa covering her face.

Outside of the reign of the Taliban, some women choose to wear a burqa for religious reasons. However, slowly but surely, leaders in the industrialized world are beginning to see this suffocating veil for what it is: a silencer.”

Fadela Amara, a former community activist of Algerian descent who has been since 2007 the French minister for urban regeneration, said in a 2009 interview with the Financial Times: “third form of oppression — extreme religiosity, the presence of fundamentalist groups who continue to propagate their discourse. The vast majority of Muslims are against the burka. It is obvious why. Those who have struggled for women’s rights back home in their own countries — I’m thinking particularly of Algeria — we know what it represents and what the obscurantist political project is that lies behind it, to confiscate the most fundamental liberties. The burka represents not a piece of fabric but the political manipulation of a religion that enslaves women and disputes the principle of equality between men and women — one of the founding principles of our republic.”[4]

Sara Malkani. “Burka: the other view.” February 16th, 2010: “The reality is that many women have reason to dislike the garment even when they do not harbour any Islamophobic sentiments. The fact is that the burka is often imposed on women by hardliners — in parts of the Middle East, state authorities force women to wear it in all public places.

Women are also prohibited from driving or travelling without a male relative. The Taliban imposed the burka on women when they controlled Afghanistan before 2001. Today they compel women to wear it in areas that are still under their control both in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

In societies where women are punished severely for not wearing it, the burka is a part of a range of laws and policies designed to suppress women.

It is not hard to see why many women in these environments associate the gear with a highly repressive patriarchal structure that subjugates and confines women in the name of religion.

The simplistic portrayal of initiatives against the burka as Islamophobic attacks on Muslim communities in western countries also ignores the fact that the burka ban has been welcomed by many in the Muslim diaspora.”

Jenn Public. “Think the French Burqa Ban is a Women’s Rights Measure? ‘Bull,’ Says O’Reilly.” New Real Blog. May 23, 2010: “We’re debating a measure designed to do away with a dehumanizing instrument of subjugation that broadcasts a Muslim woman’s second-class status to the world.”