Subscribe to Secularism is a Womens Issue

Secularism is a Women’s Issue

Home > impact on women / resistance > UK : To ban or not to ban the burka

UK : To ban or not to ban the burka

Wednesday 13 November 2013, by siawi3


by Maryam Namazie

Again the “veil controversy”. And as usual full of misinformation and deception.

Let me clear a few things up:

First off, no one is calling for an all-out ban on the veil though proponents often give this impression. Even the French ban is not an all-out ban; it merely bans all “conspicuous religious symbols” – not just the hejab but also the cross and skullcap – in public schools. The burqa ban too is a ban on face covering not an all-out veil ban.

Secondly, supporting a burka ban is not racist or discriminatory in and of itself. Proponents deceptively imply that the “authentic” Muslim woman is one who supports the veil, the niqab and burka and any opposition is an attack on “Muslim women”. But there is no homogeneous “Muslim community” anywhere. In fact, many women, including “Muslim women,” vehemently oppose the burqa and niqab and even the veil itself. Today, one of them – Amira Osman Hamed – is being tried in Sudan for refusing to wear the hejab (head covering).

Even the highest Islamic institution of Egypt, Al Azhar, obliges women to show their faces in court via a decree issued in 1880. And numerous Islamic scholars oppose the niqab or face covering and consider it un-Islamic.

Moreover, as Algerian secularist Marieme Helie Lucas says, the rights of the unveiled are just as implicated as those who are veiled. The “right to veil” rapidly becomes the right to beat up those who do not. Yes, certainly there are women who freely choose to wear the niqab or burqa but on a mass social scale, they are impositions.

Thirdly, whilst the niqab or burka are often framed within the context of “a woman’s right to choose”, it has to do with much more than mere religious identity and religious beliefs. Apart from the fact that it is a symbol of women’s subordination, it is also a tool of Islamism. The increase in the burka and niqab are a direct result of the rise of the far-Right political Islamic movement and part of that movement’s broader agenda to segregate society and impose sex apartheid.

To ban or not to ban the burka? Ban it, of course.

And not merely because of security matters or for purposes of identification and communication as is often stated but in order to protect and promote the rights of women and girls – all of them – and not just the few who wear the burka and niqab…

Frankly, I think every secularist and women’s rights defender should support a burka/niqab ban. That they don’t shows a lack of moral courage and clarity in the face of the religious Right’s barbarity and misogyny.

For me personally, nothing better portrays the outrage of the burqa and niqab than the below photo of an Afghan woman who is hardly discernible sitting amongst rubbish bags. The burqa and niqab dehumanises and relegates real live human beings – many of them children – to a life in a mobile prison, straight jacket – to a life within a rubbish bag.

How can anyone defend it or worse refuse to call for a ban?


If you are still unsure, here are a few must read articles:

Secularism vs communalism: learning from the ban on full face covering veil in France by Marieme Helie Lucas

The Law of Brothers versus the Law of the Republic by Karima Bennoune

The burka empowering? I think not! by Maryam Namazie

Read them and let sanity prevail.