Friday, 27 September 2013

Debate proposition: "This House believes the burka should be banned"

Below are some links and arguments, as background to a school debate at a UK public school -- as in the title above -- sent to "J", who is taking the positive side of the Proposition in the debate. [LATER: the debate was won by the  side supporting the proposition: that the burka should be banned...]
Hi J, a few quick thoughts about the issue.  Good luck with it. I'm expect you'll have the Hall on your side.  
BTW, I use the word "burka" (also can be spelled "burqa" -- neither is more correct than the other) to cover both "burka" and "niqab": see picture below.  Sometimes I use the word "veiling" on the understanding that I mean burka/niqab and not something like the hijab.

Reasons not to like the Burka
  • It's a mediaval abomination (Rooshanie Ejaz)  [she's a serious honey...]
  • It is hated by liberated Muslim women, and non-Muslim women. Yasmin Alibbai-Brown finds 16 reasons to object to the burka. Julie Bindel wonders why feminists don't support suppression of the burka. Ni Putes ni Soumise ("Neither whores nor Doormats"), a Muslim and non-Muslim feminist movement in France, says pressures to veil are indication of increasingly radical Islam, to which they object.  Women who've worn it say it's seriously uncomfortable.
  • Those who wear it do so either because (i) they are forced to or (ii) they are putting their piety/fundamentalism on display.
  • It's a symbol of separation, even apartheid.  See Jack Straw on this.  Jeremy Hunt, Health minister doesn't want to be looked after by a veiled doctor.
  • It's not polite.  So say Anne Applebaum and Hugo Rifkind.
That's what's not to like about the Burka.  But why ban it?  Why not let women make up their own minds, make free choices? After all, we may not like tongue stud rings, but we don't ban them.

So.... reasons to ban the burka:
  • Security: we don't allow people into banks -- or through immigration --  with helmets or masks. Why allow burkas?  (Google "Burka Bandits" to see the number of crimes committed by burka-wearers)
  • Reduce coercion: Banning is good for all those Muslim women who would otherwise be coerced into wearing the burka by their peers or menfolk. There are quite a few stories of Muslim women escaping countries where the burka is mandatory and then finding to their dismay when they come to the UK that it's worn here, and increasingly so... they haven't escaped the coercion.
  • Sends a message: we don't want the gradual imposition of laws such as sharia, towards which burkas are a small step
  • Has bad health effects:  See Google results for "Burqa Vitamin-D deficiency".  "Low levels of Vitamin D have also been linked to a whole host of devastating disorders including cardiovascular diseases, type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis. There is also a strong association between deficiency in Vitamin D and an increased risk of developing several deadly cancers, including breast cancer." [Ref].  See also June 2013 Times of India report, for statistics.
Note: the Burka is already banned in quite a few countries including Muslim majority countries -- Tunisia, Syria and Turkey -- for reasons mostly relating to their being indications of fundamentalism.  This is not in itself an argument for banning, but shows that in other countries, including Muslim ones, they have found solid reasons for so doing.
And, btw, it would be popular.  A recent Sun poll shows that 87% favour partial bans (in schools, banks, public buildings, etc), while 61% favour outright ban. That's virtual unanimity in favour of at least a partial ban. (One might object that the Sun is just polling angry old white men. But its demographics of its more than 7 million readers are "...approximately 34% of those fall into the ABC1 demographic and 64% in the C2DE demographic. The average age of a Sun reader is 45 and approximately 45% of readers are women.[3]"  

Counter arguments and counter-counter arguments:
The counter arguments mostly revolve around freedom of religion and freedom of choice
  • Freedom of religion argument is bogus: we put limits on those freedoms all the time: eg, don't allow Mormon polygamy.  We don't allow Hiindu suttee.  Freedom of religion has to be carried out in a milieu.  It's clear from the vast amount being written about burkas recently that the UK milieu is simply fed up with it; and rightly so.
  • Freedom of choice argument also bogus: this is not a fashion choice.  Any woman, Muslim or not, who wears the burka attests to its extreme discomfort -- cannot even be heard when she speaks. No more a "fashion choice" than were the bound feet of Chinese women up to the 20th century -- they were banned in 1949. (your great grandmother, Jing's grandmother, had bound feet)
Further reading:
  • 5 Reasons to ban the burka. Greenfield is solid.  Sound.
  • Burka: trapped in a mobile prison.  This has links to other stories on the burka.
  • A Burqa at the Beach.   Will Islamism reinstitute legal slavery?
  • In Your Face.  Hitchens on the Burka (10 May '10): suppression of it means lifting a ban on women's rights; lifting a ban on women's rights to disagree with men and clerical authorities; lifting a ban on the right of citizens to look one another in the face.
  • The Veil vs CitizenshipThe form of veiling that we now see spreading all over European and North American countries comes from nowhere: it is a recent syncretic outfit, picking up from various traditions, that has been invented by fundamentalists as their political uniform, as their very visible flag. [Marieme Helie Lucas]