Monday, July 19, 2010

The Burqa Question

From the Hindustan Times:

Syria has issued a directive banning women who wear full-face veils from attending public and private universities, the state-run news agency Sana reported today. The directive reportedly came from the country's Minister of Higher Education, Ghaith Barakat. The full-face veil, or niqab, that is worn by some Muslim women is "inconsistent with the values and ethics of academic traditions", he said.

The ministry had received requests for the ban from a large number of university students and their families, Sana reported. The ban applies to women wearing full-face veils, not those who only wear headscarves.

From the Guardian:

A government minister has signalled that a French-style ban on women wearing burqas is unlikely to be replicated in the UK, because, he said, the idea was "unBritish" and "undesirable".

The immigration minister, Damian Green, said banning Muslim women from covering their faces in public would be at odds with the UK's "tolerant and mutually respectful society".

The move to ban the burqa was backed by France's lower house last week. With public support, it is expected to pass through the upper house in September. The law will fine women who continue wearing the face covering €150 (£117). Men who make women wear the cover will be given a one-year prison sentence or £25,000 fine.

From the Times of India:

As debate intensifies across Europe on banning the Islamic full-body veil at public places, a British minister has defended a Muslim woman's right to wear the burqa and says it is empowering.

Environment secretary Caroline Spelman said women were "empowered" by the freedom to wear the face coverings.

Her comments came after her colleague, immigration minister Damian Green, resisted demands from within the Tory party to ban the burqa, according to Daily Mail.

Green said a ban would be "rather un-British" and run contrary to the conventions of a "tolerant and mutually respectful society".

Spanish lawmakers will debate barring burqas in public, joining other European countries considering similar moves on the grounds that the body-covering garments are degrading to women, the leading opposition party said Sunday.

Top officials of the ruling Socialist Party have indicated they will support the proposal by the opposition Popular Party, making a ban likely unless the country's highest court rules it unconstitutional.

A debate in Spain's lower house has been set by the Popular Party for Tuesday or Wednesday, the party said.

No vote will be scheduled until after the debate, and Spain's Parliament usually goes on vacation for a month starting in late July or early August.

LIBERAL senator Cory Bernardi has called for Australia to follow the lead of France and ban the burqa, describing it as "the most public symbol of fundamentalist Islam".

In a regular internet blog, the South Australian senator said there were supporters of fundamentalist Islam In a regular internet blog, the South Australian senator said there were supportes of fundamentalist Islam who wanted to impose sharia, or Islamic law, in Australia.

"This is a system where women are considered as second class citizens and homosexuals can be hanged," Senator Bernardi said.

"Why then are there defenders of what I consider the most public symbol of fundamentalist Islam in Australia the face-covering veil?

"It beggars belief that these civil rights activists don't recognise that they are defending a political agenda that has the cessation of civil rights as its ultimate goal."

Many feminists say the burqa is an instrument of the oppression of women and a "manifestation of misogyny", and thus should be prohibited. But there is also a xenophobic undertone to the anti-burqa lobby: such dress is seen as the rig-out of "bloody foreigners". Why should they be coming over here and imposing their weird/backward appearance on us represents that line of thinking.

By 335 votes to one, last week France’s National Assembly gave a first reading to a bill to ban the full-face veil, or burqa, in public places -- such as the street, shops, government offices and hospitals. The Socialists, Communists and Greens boycotted the vote. The Minister of Justice, Michèle Alliot-Marie, who presented the bill, described the vote as a victory for democracy and for France’s Republican values.

Among the bill’s provisions is a fine of 150 euros for those caught wearing a burqa, and/or a course in citizenship. Anyone convicted of forcing a woman to wear a burqa could face a fine of 30,000 euros and a year in jail.

The bill, however, is a long way from passing into law. It must first be approved by the Senate in September and satisfy France’s Constitutional Court, by no means a foregone conclusion.

Two journalists from Eesti Ekspress weekly who were wearing burqa, the traditional full-face veil of Moslem women, were banned from the government press conference last week.

The two journalists were planning to ask for the position of the government with regard to wearing burqas, but were stopped by the press office security service. "We have a small problem. There are..... some people," was how the security guard reported the situation over the telephone.

When prime minister Andrus Ansip saw the two journalists, he told them angrily: "The government press conference is no place for jokes!" He and other government ministers then entered the press conference room, leaving the two journalists behind the closed doors.

The journalists then asked the security guard why they were banned from the press conference and were told that "you cannot enter wearing this." When asked why, the guard said: "Because the PM said so!"

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