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Belgium considers ban on Islamic face coverings

April 23, 2010

I read this story yesterday morning on CNN.

Lawmakers are considering a ban in all public places on niqabs, veils that cover the face, as well as burqas, which cover the face and everything else from head to toe.

This is not cool.

First, let me say that niqabs and burqas aren’t very cool either. I’m not for covering up – and consequently dehumanizing – women. Obviously.

But neither is it okay for a national government to dictate how a person practices her faith. Let’s push past the stereotypes for a minute and see this for what it is: a violation of personal freedoms. This is a government telling an individual how she may or may not express her faith, and that is not okay – even if her choice makes us uncomfortable.

Are Islamic veils dehumanizing and violating? I think so.

Is there often a threat of violence and/or inequality attached to them? Yes.

Are there Muslim women who say they want to wear a veil only because they fear repercussions? Probably.

Do people sometimes voluntarily do counter-cultural things in the name of their faith? *raises hand* Yes.

Do you step onto a very slippery slope when you start banning religious practices that you don’t understand, or that are sometimes associated with values you don’t agree with? Absolutely.

“A general ban on the wearing of full face veils would violate the rights to freedom of expression and religion of those women who choose to express their identity or beliefs in this way,” said Claudio Cordone, Amnesty International‘s interim secretary general.

“Women must not be compelled to wear a headscarf or veil, either by the state or by individuals; and it is wrong for them to be prohibited by law from wearing it,” Cordone said in a written statement.

What if the U.S. banned women from wearing long skirts because some religions require women to wear them, and the government decides it’s contrary to personal freedom?

Domestic violence and religious discrimination should be spoken out against in the private sector, and prosecuted to the fullest extend of a nation’s laws. But you step into dangerous territory when a government prohibits a simple, peaceful, and personal religious practice.

What do you think?

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