Comments on: Debating a burqa ban with a French MP — in English Religion, faith and ethics Sat, 23 Apr 2016 23:25:07 +0000 hourly 1 By: David Scott Sun, 12 Jul 2009 23:57:57 +0000 Although, I personally am so far to the left that even the democrats appear to me to be “right-wing,” I consider myself to be a strict constitutionalist. It is my opinion that since its inception there has been an organized and systematic assault by the conservatives in the United States on the civil liberties written into the US Constitution. The “War on Drugs”; “War on Terror”; “War on Communism” and a host of other wars waged by the right wing are really nothing more than a War on People–an excuse to erode civil rights to the point of non-existence. I invite you to my website devoted to raising awareness on this puritan attack on freedom:

By: Jalaluddin Rumi Sat, 11 Jul 2009 01:39:37 +0000 Tom Heneghan wrote (on Facebook):
“Would you at least agree the reasonable balance rules out completely covering up a person? If a woman wants to cover her hair, that’s her decision. But completely covering the face negates the beneficial social interaction you mention. And also — do you really think that only women consciously or unconsciously try to compete for attention in the sexual marketplace?”

“completely covering up a person? ”

When you phrase it this way, it implies that one person is covering up another and that it is not willingly done by the wearer. Since a ban on the veil would affect even those women who wear it quite willingly, I am going to address their situation. I think we agree that compulsory veiling is undesirable in our context.

“do you really think that only women consciously or unconsciously try to compete for attention in the sexual marketplace”

Certainly not; men do as well. But there is a huge difference in how the sexes go about this, and how they are perceived in the public sphere, hence the different standards. Women are judged much more strongly, by both sexes, on the basis of their appearances, whereas men are judged, by both sexes, more strongly on the basis of status symbols. Most bluntly, this is why men are consumers of visual pornography (naked women) but women have relatively little interest in photos of naked men, instead preferring romance novels featuring successful males. More subtly, this is why TV newsrooms and magazine covers (both men’s and lady’s) are dominated by attractive young females, and to a lesser degree powerful men of any age, but rarely feature older women. Sarkozy and Berlusconi didn’t choose their female equals as mates; they selected much younger, beautiful women, and the women who selected them surely preferred them for their wealth and power, not their washboard abs. Angela Merkel is not as likely to be caught staring at a young man’s bum or frolicking with an intern or escorts at her estate.

People rarely realize that traditional Muslim men have dress restrictions that Muslim women do not. Most strikingly, at the Hajj, all men must wear only simple white cloth, whereas women have an unlimited range of options of colours and materials. Even in everyday life, men may not wear gold, silk, or other items deemed ostentatious displays of wealth or power; women are free to wear such garments. We might also add that the beards which traditional Muslim men wear obscure the jawline, which is one of the primary signals of raw male sexuality. So generally speaking, the hijab somewhat equalizes all women in the public eye, and the requirement of modest materials somewhat equalizes all men in the public eye.

“But completely covering the face negates the beneficial social interaction you mention.”

Actually, I mentioned “beneficial social interaction” to distinguish from “social interaction” generally. Social interaction is not always beneficial, and everyone (veiled or unveiled) removes themselves from social interactions that they deem of no particular benefit. Modern women usually won’t smile back at strange men on the subway, or they may avoid the subway entirely. The rich withdraw themselves from the riff-raff, both on the street and in gated communities. We isolate ourselves by building our houses much farther apart than traditional Arabs do. Yet we would regard it as an unthinkable impingement on our rights if the government tried to prevent such self-exclusions.

Similarly, there are many Western subcultures that are based on at least a partial rejection of the mainstream public sphere. The whole purpose of convents is to cut off the inhabitants from the outside world. Dress like a punk or a skinhead and you’re also marginalizing yourself, probably intentionally. I for one am not going to approach an ominous looking hippie biker with a full body tattoo and piercings, nor will most employers. Yet no one speaks of outlawing convents or counterculture dress styles.

Third, there are many groups unwittingly marginalized by modern societies, most notably the elderly, who often have no choice but to live alone with their cats or in some dehumanizing elder care facility. Modern society is rife with such exclusions and loneliness; there’s a rich body of literature on this from Reisman’s “The Lonely Crowd” (1950) to Putman’s “Bowling Alone” (1995). In France, Houellebecq keenly observed (as indicated in this NYT review of his work) that:

Human interactions of all kinds, especially those that involve caring for others, appear less and less worth the trouble. Houellebecq is fascinated by young couples who have pets instead of children, and by the French heat wave of 2003, which killed thousands of senior citizens who were forgotten by their vacationing children and abandoned by their vacationing doctors. Daniel1 mocks the newspaper headline “Scenes Unworthy of a Modern Country.” In his view, those scenes were proof that France was a modern country. “Only an authentically modern country,” he insists, “was capable of treating old people like outright garbage.”

In traditional societies, where people are less distracted by trivial interactions of the public sphere and attention is directed towards maintaining the ties of kinship, the old and the less-than-beautiful don’t face this sort of unthinking ostracization. Anthropologists and some feminists (e.g., Greer, Irigaray) have observed that these veiled women often have richer lives, private and public, than their Western counterparts. Naomi Wolf’s 2008 article in the Sydney Morning Herald is an eloquent elaboration of this argument: d-the-veil-lives-a-thriving-muslim-sexua lity/2008/08/29/1219516734637.html

(I won’t quote from the article as it is short and I recommend it in its entirety.)

Bottom line: I don’t think we can forbid the niqab simply because some of us feel it robs them of beneficial social interaction. First, we may be mistaken in paternalistically assuming that these women don’t have rich social lives; the evidence seems to state otherwise. Secondly, for fairness and consistency we would also have to forbid many tolerated Western behaviours that reduce people’s exposure in the public sphere, which we are not about to do.

What are reasonable limits? Genuine security risks are one. Safeguards to ensure that is the willing choice of a community of females is perhaps a good idea. And I can understand some people’s desire to have a teacher that speaks to them face-to-face, but that’s something to be hashed out between the relevant parties themselves.

By: jd Fri, 10 Jul 2009 12:23:46 +0000 much of the persecution of the anabaptist movement was concerned with anabaptist refusal to take oaths, thereby casting doubt upon their veracity as witnesses and honest brokers. even in the us, amish construction workers must still abide by osha safety laws and buggies must display warning triangles and have lights – all to protect public saftey, which is part of fulfilling the golden rule of loving one’s neighbour. concealing one’s identity – especially in a post-911 world – might be a religious position, but does or should that translate into a civil right?