COMMENTARY | French lawmakers recently enforced a law making it illegal to wear a burka in public. A burka, or niqab as some people refer to it, is a face covering worn by some Muslim women. As a Muslim who wears a hijab, or head covering, but not a burka, here is what I think of the ban.
Let me first state that I wear the hijab due to my own accord. My husband didn't force me to wear it; I started wearing it long before I got married. I love wearing it because I am fulfilling part of my religion that says men and women should be modest, and because while wearing the hijab I feel like people see me for my personality rather than for my looks. I also feel protected. Men know I'm "off-limits" and I feel like the respect I receive from my male classmates and colleagues is due, at least in part, to the fact that I cover.
Back to France: In a country that inspired the United States Constitution and ideals, it is surprising this violation of religious freedom has occurred. What is bothersome about this law is that it infringes on the basic right to dress as you want. What's wrong with covering yourself more if you want to? It's just a different standard of modesty; just like some women wouldn't go out in public wearing a bikini or a miniskirt, some don't want to go out in public showing their face.
One of the reasons stated for this ban is that it is a step toward ending oppression toward women. This is a great goal, but most women who wear a niqab are doing so because they want to rather than because they are being forced to. Why do they have to suffer along with the few men who do force their wives or daughters to dress a certain way?
Another stated reason for the ban due to security concerns. For example, if a woman wearing burka is stopped by a police officer, how will they know she is the one behind the burka? Well, to that, I'd say there are other methods of determining the identity of a person other than looking at their face. What about fingerprinting? Police could have a fingerprint scanner and be able to match it to a fingerprint on an ID card. Or have a female security guard on hand to check the woman's face.
For now I can just pray for my French Muslim sisters and hope France doesn't go one step further and ban the hijab too, and that the rest of Europe doesn't follow suit.
- the United States Constitution