Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Burka and Veil ban and French Liberalism‏ & Liberty

Sometimes it can be hard to understand which side of the Liberalism and Liberal argument a subject can fall under. Take the case of the vote today in the French parliament on 'Open-faced democracy' or banning the covering up of ones face such as with the Veil or Niqab and Burka which has now passed by an overwhelmingly vote (although it must now be ratified by the Senate and will have some legal battles to come).

The French are famous for their Liberty (not to be mixed up with Liberalism)

Maybe some definitions would help

Liberty - The condition of being free from restriction or control. The right and power to act, believe, or express oneself in a manner of one's own choosing.

And Liberalism - a political orientation that favours social progress by reform and by changing laws rather than by revolution. is the belief in the importance of liberty and equal rights.

As opposed to the economic meaning of both which is the same - an economic theory advocating free competition and a self-regulating market. These terms are more board than they may first appear. They mean slightly different things in different countries.

definitions taken from (http://wordnetweb.princeton.edu/perl/webwn?s=liberalism)

You may note that Liberty doesn't really have any issue with revolution unlike Liberalism, which prefers a more structured change in upholding Liberal values. The French of course are famous revolutionaries.

Now here is the problem

Banning things is not very Liberal. Having a choice on what you can and cannot wear should be a personal matter but as an MP from President Nicolas Sarkozy's party said about people who wear the Veil he saw "a sign of alienation on their faces and had to be liberated!". Accept of course he can't see their faces?

The problem is some people choose to wear one (liberal) while others are told to wear one (not Liberal). So to some this is about protecting people which is why this bill is harsher on men (30,000 euros and a year jail term for men who force their wives to wear the Burka) than on women (150 euros fine). As women under this law are seen as repressed even if they don't know it.

This of course hides the problem that others will claim that this is their right and their rights are being violated. some will point to tradition and religion (Therefore not a choice but a belief?). Jean Glavany, a Socialist MP, said that it is "nothing more than the fear of those who are different, who come from abroad, who aren't like us, who don't share our values".

And that's just it, this ban is about not so much Liberty in France but the French values of Liberty because if you are truly Liberal you would not ban the Veil.

This has become a complicated argument and it can be easy to fall one side or the other. The middle way would be to not ban the Burka/Veil but to protecting people with the law that fines people who force this upon others. Now enforcing that of course as with the law being proposed is another issue.


  1. Hmm! Tightrope time! Muslims and people of the 'east' focus more on the eyes than the face or mouth! Note the East/ West differences in Emoticons by way of example:
    West v East
    'Happy' :-) (^_^)
    'Sad' :-( (;_;) or (T_T)
    'Surprise' :-o (o.o)
    So who are we to say that someone who doesn't show their whole face is oppressed and must be protected by a ban. Banning circumcision would be a natural follow on if so.

    Reasonable perhaps to not employ someone being a school teather or as a broadcaster depending upon the audience but surely not from walking down a street or shopping?

    I think we in the west have stumbled into what is basically an islamic civil war or religious feud not unlike that concerning the question of Women Bishops. The struggle of womens' rights over orthodoxy but whilst supporting liberalisation, one should not discount cultural differences.

    Furthermore if the Burka became the new 'punk' fashion - perhaps related to musical tastes, would it be banned?

  2. Bottom line --- The 'costume' is offensive per se to all but a few Western observers. It 'says' things just by its existence, never mind the types promoting it. Now one can make the point that we can't any longer go around the World imposing our values upon the 'others', and I'm good with that. As long as not imposing is not seen to be the same as valuing or excusing. I detest cultural relativism. ALL cultures are NOT equally 'good' or 'just' or 'reasonable', and it is both inaccurate and offensive to defend practices simply because they are 'cultural' to somebody. Cannibalism was 'cultural' in some places. Did we defend that ? Would we defend it today ? I should hope not.

    But HERE at HOME ---- our bar, our boat. Want to hide yourself away in a sack while toddling down the high street the same as if you were still in deepest Saudi Arabia. Not acceptable. WE view these costumes as malevolent in both form and substance, an in OUR home we don't have to and we won't tolerate them. They are 'foreign', both culturally and philosophically. Insist on wearing this 'stuff', fine by me. Don't come here !!

    I don't blame the French for this, AND I consider them to be pursuing the true 'liberal' course of action.

    Ban away.

  3. Hi! I wrote an article talking about the ban on the veil a while back. If your interested you can read it at: http://tinyurl.com/34dv9eo

    I think it is an aggressive attack on freedom of expression by a society cautious of change or any threat to 'national identity' (whatever that is...).

  4. dougf. TBH I don't really get why people believe in this stuff but thats not any of my business. nor is its our business to tell people what to do. I dont have any problem with people of different cultures living here as long as we respect and understand each other.

  5. Good post, I am not keen on the burqa but telling Muslim women what to wear is inappropriate, Muslims are just seen as fair game at the moment by those who like to discriminate.

  6. Derek, cheers yes it has ben open season on muslims for quite a while

  7. Strange thing liberty. Some may believe that liberty is the freedom to own slaves. Slaves may feel they should have the liberty to sell themselves. When women discriminate against themselves, separating them from society they deny the liberties of all women and the historical battle they have made for equality. A male view.