Legislators in Belgium voted almost unanimously to ban full face coverings for Muslim women on Thursday. While women will still be allowed to wear the hijab, which only covers their hair, in public places the veil ban will forbid them from wearing any veil or scarf that covers their face and stops them from being identified.
The burqa does not fit comfortably with Western sentiments. It’s closed; Westerners are open. They want to see people’s faces. It’s also viewed as a prison for women – even if Muslim women are free to choose it. And it symbolizes fundamentalist Islam, which conjures up images of terrorism. That’s perhaps why the Dutch and Austrians are also discussing a burqa ban.
But sentiments shouldn’t be confused with bedrock freedoms, including the right to practice one’s religion. Being uncomfortable with another’s faith or even dress – and encoding that discomfort in law – puts one on the slippery slope to official discrimination. Will Sikh turbans be next?
But here's the problem with this line of reasoning: Western sentiments do not fit comfortably with Islam. In fact, of all the world's major religions Islam is probably the least compatible with Western values and lifestyles.
Some believe the key issue in the debate about Muslim body coverings and marriage practices (e.g. marrying 15 year old cousins) is whether individual Muslims should be accorded full rights to engage in their religious practices and customs: I suspect this attempt to treat Muslims only as individuals is based on a fallacy that all systems of belief are compatible with each other. They aren't. Mix together different groups holding conflicting value systems into the same society and some groups are going to come up losers. What Westerners need to decide is whether they want to gradually lose ground to a belief system that is in many ways inimical to their own.
Some Western thinkers argue that with free speech all views and positions will get a fair hearing, that people can be persuaded by rational argument, and that the many different religious and cultural beliefs can all be blended together in a free society. This is absurd. We already have factions that enforce secular mythologies (e.g. a Harvard law student can sleep with another student's ex-boyfriend and then get trashed in the press as a racist for insisting she was willing to consider genetic explanations for group racial differences. I get the impression she might have been trying to say that she didn't deny the possibility after perhaps arguing against it). Some factions win and enforce narrow bounds for discussion on many topics. They are often rabid about it.
A faction that starts out very small can be seen in the early stages as harmless because its numbers are too small. But we should ask ourselves about each faction just what it would do if it became a large minority or even a majority. If that faction would make us less free when present in larger numbers we should keep from immigrating to our society.
|Share |||By Randall Parker at 2010 May 03 10:15 PM Immigration Culture Clash|