Quebec follows many European nations and regions in banning the burqa and niqab in public places.

Opponents always say the same two dumb things.

They say only a few women wear it. So? It ain’t about numbers, baby.

They say it’s all about the cynical politics of the moment.

The National Council of Canadian Muslims issued a statement saying it was “deeply concerned” by the new law and that it “boils down to ugly identity politics” ahead of the 2018 provincial election.

Opposition to fully covered women, in country after country, is profound, and transcends politics.


As for ugly identity politics – hey. Better ugly identities than no identity at all.

IOW: For sure this is about identity politics. It’s about having an identity. End the blotting out of women.

Trackback URL for this post:

10 Responses to “Now it’s the turn of North America.”

  1. Alan Allport Says:

    As for ugly identity politics – hey. Better ugly identities than no identity at all.

    That’s a cute line (truly), but you’re being disingenuous, if you’re pretending that all the backers of these laws are sincerely concerned about women’s civil rights.

  2. Margaret Soltan Says:

    Alan: I think a reasonable number of people who back these laws do so for reasons that have something to do with the liberation of women; but I think many reasons converge in many people’s minds, and not all of the reasons are pretty. I think in places like France there’s a whole set of reasons that have to do with secularity and with civic life. Some people have security concerns, and I think it’s reasonable to have security concerns about people who refuse under any conditions to reveal their faces (even in a court of law). No doubt some of the people who want to ban burqas are xenophobes/islamophobes. And some cynically think it will help their political party or whatever. It’s a complex issue with many layers of motivation producing the result of overwhelming opposition in most countries where polling is done.

    But the reason I concentrate on countries like Denmark is that it’s rather hard to think of the Danes as bigoted types; yet the country has passed a popular burqa ban. Nor do I think the European Court of Human Rights a bunch of bigots. Yet they have unanimously supported Belgium’s ban.

  3. Alan Says:

    I honestly don’t know what I think about burqa bans. I don’t like burqas, but I also don’t like the state telling private citizens what they can and cannot do in their private lives, even if one accepts (as I do) that it’s not simply a matter of individual choice here, and that coercive community/familial pressures may be involved.

    But whenever there’s a great deal of enthusiasm for laws which don’t really seem to have any compelling public urgency, given the small number of incidents involved, AND when that enthusiasm seems to be bubbling up particularly in societies which have nasty histories of xenophobia (Austria, Quebec) – well, don’t try telling me that’s irrelevant, because there’s clearly more going on here.

  4. Alan Says:

    Also, let’s not romanticize Danish liberalism.

  5. Margaret Soltan Says:

    Alan: I’d take issue with “no compelling public urgency” as well as “coercive community pressures may be involved.”

    Once it’s established that life for women in places that are supposed to be advanced relative to the rest of their part of the world (see the latest news out of Egypt) is hellish (at least 90% of Egyptian female babies and children have their clitorises slashed off — completely because of community coercion coming from religious authorities), it’s pretty hard to argue that cultures who cherish and promote women, who regard them as autonomous and equal in every way, should not feel threatened by the woman-hating world that things like the burqa (and child marriage and polygamy) so powerfully represent.

    I think democratic cultures are right to feel urgency about the anti-assimilating, anti-democratic, and demoralizing effects (demoralizing in particular for young women in one’s country who will want to know why women and women alone on the streets of their city are annihilating themselves; and why some of those women, told to remove their face veil, will explain that their husbands won’t let them and their daughters out of the house unless their face is covered) of the burqa.

    The European Court of Human Rights correctly and unanimously noted that all countries have the right to protect their women from reactionary, coercive, hateful, and deeply unequal conditions. The burqa, which has no religious grounding, powerfully conveys these conditions.

    I’m sure there are burqa wearers in Europe who will protest that they love living under total body coverage, and they’re thrilled to see their eleven year old daughters living that way too. Who can’t say enough about no peripheral vision, breathing hard against cloth, never feeling the sun, and experiencing difficulty with every movement.

    Perhaps those among them who’ve undergone FGM are relieved for themselves and their daughters not to have to experience sexual pleasure also. Right here in the United States we have Hopkins trained doctors like Jumala Nagarwala who has reportedly mutilated hundreds of our fellow citizens (all of them girls around the age of seven).

    I don’t know what to say about people who regard these things as goods, Alan. About people who pay people like Nagarwala a lot of money to do this to their children. The intensity of community coercion can only be imagined, given this vicious and perverse behavior.

    But here’s what I can say. You simply can’t bring all of that to free societies without expecting a fight. And without expecting the courts of those societies to rule on behalf of freedom.

    You will say I’m wandering too far afield in this comment. I am not. The virginity-obsessed, violently woman-hating world that has produced the grotesquerie of the burqa is a world, against which we have a right, with the help of the courts, to defend democracy.

  6. Alan Allport Says:

    I don’t think you’re talking too far afield.

    I do think, however, that there’s a lot to this issue that you don’t really want to talk about, and I think you’d have more credibility if you were willing to talk about it. Motives matter. Context matters.

  7. Margaret Soltan Says:

    Alan: Tell me what I’ve not talked about (not wanted to talk about) and I’ll talk about it. UD

  8. Alan Allport Says:

    Well, there’s the curious fact that many of the Europeans who seem most enthusiastic about a burqa ban are not people who have hitherto demonstrated any great sense of urgency about women’s rights more generally. The German AfD’s youth wing recently got itself into quite a bit of hot water by extolling the virtues of good ol’ Kinder, Küche, Kirche gender relations a bit too obviously. Strange that its members should get into such a lather about the identiy problems of Muslim women. Could there be anything, oh, I don’t know, *different* about the burqa issue?

  9. Margaret Soltan Says:

    Alan: For sure. Let me think about that one for awhile and I’ll post something about it.

  10. Alan Says:

    Appreciate that, UD. I don’t doubt your own sincerity, by the way. There’s a liberal argument for a burqa ban. It’s one that in some ways I’m drawn to myself. The problem is that there’s also an illiberal argument for it, and it’s the illiberal argument that seems to be really propelling most of what’s going on right now.

Comment on this Entry

Latest UD posts at IHE