Belgium bids adieu to civil liberties

BBC — A Belgian parliamentary committee has voted to ban face-covering Islamic veils from being worn in public.

These stupid Belgians are well on their way to throwing the baby out with the bathwater, Baruch. There should be a law against women being forced to wear burqas by their husbands, not against wearing burqas outright. If that is hard to enforce, well, tough. The right of a woman not be forced to wear a burqa by her husband must not come at the expense of the right of a woman (or a man) to wear a surfeit of fabric in public, for whatever reason, including religious belief.

Belgians forbidding the wearing of burqas is as backwards as Saudis forbidding the not wearing of burqas. Both constrain the civil liberties of women. That this blazingly obvious point does not gain more traction in Belgium infuriates me.

If Belgian lawmakers want to convince me that this is not a law borne of religious intolerance then I look forward to the ban on motorcycle helmets, ski masks, carnival masks, full-face bandages, wedding veils and Halloween costumes. Otherwise, there will be a ready-made excuse that should hold its own all the way up to the European Court of Justice: “It’s not a burqa, officer, it’s my Halloween costume.”

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7 thoughts on “Belgium bids adieu to civil liberties”

  1. Two reasons:
    1. Security – face recognition.
    2. Panic – they afraid of becoming the first Islamic European country. Many anti-Islamic measures will follow.

  2. For once I don’t agree. In most societies, it is not acceptable to engage in discourse while covering your face. It would be odd if you wanted to talk to me and I insisted on keeping my face covered with my hands the whole time. You would feel odd having a chat with a friend if he insisted on keeping his motorbike helmet on and the visor down. And in a wedding ceremony, when the bride needs to talk to make her vows, her veil is lifted, precisely because it is important to see someone’s face at times when they are saying something important.

    I have no objection to people wearing whatever ludicrous garments they please but as soon as they want to engage with me they need to show me their face, as a courtesy and as a sign of equality (unless we have both chosen to play a fun game of “let’s pretend” which is what Halloween costumes allow for).

    The simple fact of mouthing a thank you to someone who stops their car to let you cross the road is actually a vital part of a well-functioning society where people acknowledge each other. If you are hiding your face and even in some cases, your eyes, behind a veil, you are refusing to acknowledge or be acknowledged.

    If you don’t want to engage with me, then fine. Stay hidden. But I will not then be willing, or able, to accord you the same respect as someone who is prepared to be in plain sight like every other citizen of this society.

  3. You write: “If you don’t want to engage with me, then fine. Stay hidden. But I will not then be willing, or able, to accord you the same respect as someone who is prepared to be in plain sight like every other citizen of this society.”

    I completely agree with you. But that argument doesn’t imply there should be a law criminalizing the wearing of a burqa.

    One thing I haven’t even mentioned but which others have pointed out is that the alternative for some of these women is staying at home always, which would worsen their plight, in those cases where they are being forced to wear the veil by their menfolk.

  4. I think there are times where the option is for women to stay at home or wear the veil and that is not acceptable. But there is an increasing tendency here in the UK for educated, independent young women to do this voluntarily as a mark of their allegiance. It’s pretty common in the area of London I live in and those are the veils I object to most. I even have a friend who has converted to Islam who now does this. I find it unspeakable.

    It may not merit legislation – I’m not sure about that. But I certainly want to register my opposition and my anger about it and therefore I cannot feel too upset with the Belgians who are at least putting a marker down and saying “In this society, this is not acceptable”.

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