Laws on what to wear are out of style
On April 11, France’s law banning the burqa and other Islamic face coverings in public places will go into effect, according to the prime minister’s office. The law imposes a fine of 150 euros ($190). The law was enacted in October, but a six-month period to inform people of the penalty has been in effect until now. In addition to the penalty for wearing a burqa, forcing a woman to wear a burqa is punishable by a year in prison and a 30,000 euro fine ($42,000). Forcing a minor to do the same results in the prison term and the fine being doubled.
The topic was discussed Friday in a panel discussion at the University of Houston called “Banning the Burqa in France: Where Multiculturalism and Secular Values Collide.”
Five panelists discussed the September 10 decision by the French Senate banning the wearing of burqas and other face coverings.
Dr. Robert Zaretsky, a history and honors professor at the University of Houston, sees the situation as having more effect on the school system than the 2,000 or so women in France who wear the burqa.
“The French school system is the most important factor of assimilation. In the past it was to turn peasants into French men. The attitude towards their school is sacred in a secular sense. The issue of the burqa has been spilled onto the schools,” Zaretsky said.
The French school system doesn’t allow the display of any religious symbols or apparel. Christian and Jewish symbols aren’t to be worn either, in addition to Islamic symbols.
Dr. Dina Alsowayel, a professor in the department of women’s studies at the University of Houston, discussed that despite the government good intentions, it doesn’t make sense.
“You can’t tell someone what to wear and what not to wear. There are whole countries that operate just fine and do great with their faces covered. Look at me, I ended up fine and I lived in one of those countries,” Alsowayel said.
The law passed by a vote of 246 to 1, and the French people approve the ban by a margin of 4 to 1. But that doesn’t necessarily show the whole spectrum of those involved.
“It would protect those women who haven’t chosen to wear the burqa, but it denies the very fact that some women choose to wear the burqa,” Zaretsky said.
If someone chooses to wear something, there shouldn’t be a law forbidding it, especially for religious purposes. No government should have the authority to ban an item of clothing in public places, especially one that isn’t revealing, at all.
With that being said, no one should be forced to wear anything for any reason. The burqa should be a choice made by the woman who wears it. Punishing someone for forcing someone to wear a burqa seems reasonable, but how can the authorities know for sure that a woman is being forced into wearing the burqa?
“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,” the French government said in May when it sent the bill to parliament, according to an article published on CNN.com.
If you choose to wear a burqa, what right does the government have to tell you not to?