ModernityBlog

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Pandering To Prejudice In France.

with 21 comments

Anyone following the debate concerning the Burka or Niqab in France might imagine that there are tens of thousands of people sauntering around, committing nefarious acts, hidden by these pieces of cloth.

But in fact according to a BBC correspondent, there are only about 1900 wearers in the whole of France.

Even taking account of French history and anticlericalism it strikes me that this debate is taking on the form of a moral panic in France.

Personally, I think it is regrettable when people wear these particular forms of dress, I think they are demeaning and sexually regressive, but it is their choice.

However, as I argued previously at Z-blog, implementing a ban is in many ways implementing a dress code. It is telling people what they can or can’t wear, even if it’s just in a negative sense.

Why ban the Burka and Niqab? What other forms of dress are socially unacceptable? Should we legislate on those too? And if not, why not ?

My view is, that if someone consciously decides to wear the Burka or a Niqab, for their own reasons, who are you or I to say no? Would you like someone telling you what you can or can’t wear? Of course not, then why apply that to others.

State implemented dress codes are wrong, either in the form of enforcing what you can wear or what you can’t.

The problem is, I think it is the wrong type of debate and in the end it panders to prejudice.

Written by modernityblog

22/01/2010 at 00:40

21 Responses

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  1. I never understood this particular impulse. But hey, I’m pretty libertarian.

    mesquito

    22/01/2010 at 01:20

  2. I might be too🙂

    I think it is an issue which politicians can play with, and gain support but without many political drawbacks for *them*.

    France is, funny, the revolution, the Church’s role and notions of statehood, etc all play together, very different from other countries in that respect.

    I am very uneasy about dress codes, whoever implements them.

    modernityblog

    22/01/2010 at 01:28

  3. I agree with everything you say….however, I feel it’s a bit of a stereotype to describe these particular forms of dress as “demeaning and sexually regressive.” I’ve spoken with Muslim women who choose to dress this way, and a number of them have told me that they feel “empowered,” because men judge them and interact with them based upon “who they are” instead of “what they look like.”

    Judeosphere

    22/01/2010 at 03:22

  4. Fair enough, I was giving my view.

    Frankly, if someone wants to wear a turnip or pineapple on their head then that should be their choice, but I am aware of social pressure that might influence girls or women to cover up. That is my concern.

    In the end it is the women’s choice. That is my view, it is not my right to impose my views on theirs.

    modernityblog

    22/01/2010 at 03:35

  5. “What other forms of dress are socially unacceptable?”

    Semi-nudity.

    From the moment the State can enforce a ban on nudity or semi-nudity, the State is enforcing dress-codes. I don’t see anything wrong in banning the burka. And it will have beneficial consequences. But of course, I come from a country -Argentina- with a strong French secular influence on culture. Believe me, IT WORKS.

    Fabian from Israel

    22/01/2010 at 07:48

  6. Ok Fabian, but ponder the question a bit wider, cos banning the burka doesn’t effect you, but suppose, for example, if a country introduced the enforcement of beards, all men *must* have beards of a set length, would you find that acceptable?

    and why stop at burkas?

    modernity

    22/01/2010 at 12:53

  7. everyone should be able to dress in the way she/he prefers … a tolerant society must be able to accept a women wearing a burka or a nacked Digambara Jain monk

    entdinglichung

    22/01/2010 at 17:12

  8. “I’ve spoken with Muslim women who choose to dress this way, and a number of them have told me that they feel “empowered,” because men judge them and interact with them based upon “who they are” instead of “what they look like.””

    I’ve been told that too and to be frank, while they believe it, a lot of people, particularly in summer months, look at them as being pathetic, crazy religious, or plan dumb. In short, they’re still judged and intereacted with by what they look like.

    A reasonable policy would allow women to wear burkas if they wanted to with specific bans for legitimate security or safety concerns. Burkas could be banned if there was a demonstrable risk of getting caught up in machinery or where concealing clothes are banned- banks, stores, on driver’s licenses and while interacting with the police.

    History Punk

    22/01/2010 at 18:12

  9. As I said, why ban JUST Burkas?

    Why not ban blokes with big bellies in shorts, that is offensive to many too, why not ban punk haircuts? cos once you start down that road it will continue.

    I notice a lot of people aren’t looking at it deeper, it is about the State telling you what you can or can’t wear. Which I think is wrong.

    modernityblog

    22/01/2010 at 21:18

  10. “As I said, why ban JUST Burkas?

    Why not ban blokes with big bellies in shorts, that is offensive to many too, why not ban punk haircuts? cos once you start down that road it will continue.”

    Because as I told you already, your society establishes limits in dressing whether you want it or not. If your society wants to ban shorts, well, argue against it, say that they are not so sexy, but not from an irreal position of absolute liberalism that doesn’t exist anywhere.

    Ban the Burka. Your next generations in Europe will thank you.

    Argentina has no problem with religious extremists. You do.

    Fabian from Israel

    26/01/2010 at 07:19

  11. “your society establishes limits in dressing whether you want it or not. If your society wants to ban shorts, well, argue against it, say that they are not so sexy, but not from an irreal position of absolute liberalism that doesn’t exist anywhere.”

    OK, Fabian but then you can’t argue against imposed dress codes in, say the Middle East, because that argument concedes the ground.

    I would oppose dress codes in Britain, Israel or Saudi Arabia, etc

    You can’t be partly against them or you end up accepting the State role in enforcing dress codes, which I do not accept.

    I hope you see that?

    modernityblog

    26/01/2010 at 14:13

  12. “OK, Fabian but then you can’t argue against imposed dress codes in, say the Middle East, because that argument concedes the ground.”

    No, Modernity, I can argue against a particular dress code. Not from the position that states cannot impose them, but from the position that this or that dress code is oppressive, non-fashionable, ugly or has bad consequences for the freedom of this or that group.

    I completely agree with the State in enforcing the ban on public nudity, and I agree with a ban on the burka.

    You want to use a principled position that is unreal. I prefer a pragmatic compromise that promotes the liberation of women.

    Fabian from Israel

    26/01/2010 at 15:34

  13. The problem is Fabian, that pragmatic solution is subjective, it is based on moral panic.

    there are less than 2000 burka wearers in the whole of France, population about 60 million.

    modernityblog

    26/01/2010 at 15:44

  14. “The problem is Fabian, that pragmatic solution is subjective, it is based on moral panic.”

    Sometimes. Sometimes it is the right thing to do.

    “There are less than 2000 burka wearers in the whole of France, population about 60 million.”

    Excellent, so a huge benefit (an example against the Muslim countries) with a very low “cost”.

    Fabian from Israel

    26/01/2010 at 17:33

  15. And principled solution is impossible because of the twin paradoxes created by the nudity problem and the decision to surrender one’s own freedom that is the consequence of wearing the burka.

    Fabian from Israel

    26/01/2010 at 17:40

  16. Fabian, I have no problem with nudity.

    You or anyone else could wear a piece of fruit on your head, if that’s what you so desire.

    I don’t wish to impose my dress code on you or anyone else, and I think that it is a very bad precedence.

    Imagine that you start with the Burka, why stop there? what other clothes could be outlawed?

    Surely you see this as a slippery slope to State involvement in dress sense.

    Would you like to be compelled to wear something?

    I doubt it, and if that’s the case why impose **our** dress sense on others?

    modernityblog

    26/01/2010 at 20:47

  17. “Fabian, I have no problem with nudity.”

    But most of us do, and it is not legal to go nude on the streets.

    “Imagine that you start with the Burka, why stop there?”

    But we haven’t stopped there, we also ban nudity.

    “Would you like to be compelled to wear something?”

    This is not under discussion anywhere except in Muslim countries. Burkas are an oppressive garment and should be banned.

    Fabian from Israel

    27/01/2010 at 19:53

  18. again Fabian, you need to differentiate between our own subjective judgements and how others might see it.

    Suppose someone has a skin condition, and they don’t like the sun, or it causes their skin to peel, they might choose to wear the burka, etc etc

    That’s not necessarily a choice that **I** would make, but unless you are willing for others to impose their views on **you**, then you have to give them latitude to choose their own clothes.

    Remember it is a terrible precedent and cuts both ways.

    Would you like someone to enforce a dress style on you, Fabian?

    Or tell you there are particular articles of clothing but you mustn’t wear?

    Come on Fabian, remember your history.

    modernityblog

    27/01/2010 at 21:05

  19. Mod: “Suppose someone has a skin condition”
    Then I guess the wearing of protective clothes (not necessarily a burka) should be allowed, until it heals.
    Let me tell you a short anecdote. A few months ago, on the sidewalk opposed to the kindergarten where I leave my daughter, there was a man measuring the street with those tripodes that road engineers use. But his head and face were completely covered by a mask and some kind of handkerchief. Having our history of terrorism, and being the man focused on the direction of the kindergarten, I decided to approach the man and ask him why he was covering himself. He didn´t want to answer at first. He told me “why should I tell you?”. I told him that it made me uncomfortable not knowing who he was and what was he doing. He finally lift up his mask and told me that he went through an operation and that the sun wasn´t good for him temporarily. That settled the question. Now, suppose that he refused to answer me and to show his face. I would have called the police, no doubt about it. People have an obligation to show their faces in public. Full stop.

    “Would you like someone to enforce a dress style on you, Fabian?”

    But I told you already that the State already enforces me a dress style: I cannot choose nudity, it is illegal. So your whole argument on principle is moot. Societies find a freedom range with which they are comfortable. Burkas and nudity are outside the freedom range of most of the societies I would live in, and where I was raised. And there are very good reasons why is that. And that is it. Stop trying to make a point that was already refuted. States DO enforce dress-codes, the question is what is the freedom range we would like about them.

    Fabian from Israel

    28/01/2010 at 12:19

  20. Fabian,

    This goes to the nub of things.

    I believe that people should be left in peace, dress as they please, UNLESS their activities affect others, then it shouldn’t be anyone else’s concern.

    I would recommend looking up China and the cultural Revolution and how people were forced to wear a particular type of clothing.

    modernityblog

    28/01/2010 at 12:31

  21. […] Pandering To Prejudice In France. […]


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