L'Ombre de l'Olivier

The Shadow of the Olive Tree

being the maunderings of an Englishman on the Côte d'Azur

30 June 2009 Blog Home : June 2009 : Permalink

Burkas and Bikinis

For reasons that are obscure to me, the French parliament and government are considering banning the wearing of the burka in France. Perhaps they have nothing better to do?

This has sparked, of course, lots of debate and commentary, the best of which I think comes from Samizdata and Iain Dale. From the former:

[W]hat about the cloth-entombed women, projecting an image of both slavery and Islamic aggression, who may or may not have chosen to wear the black bag?

My answer is [...] as a society we have chosen to deny ourselves the very tools of private social action (no, that is not a contradiction in terms) that could make things better.

For decades we have denied ourselves disapproval. For decades we have denied ourselves property rights. For decades we have denied ourselves the right to free association, which necessarily includes the right not to associate.

And Iain Dale makes the global point:

Western women who go to Saudi Arabia are required to respect the dress code of the country and clothe themselves accordingly. Our liberal values don't require the same in return. Sometimes we may be too tolerant for our own good.

The day a woman can wear a bikini on a beach in Saudi Arabia will be the day I will totally accept the burka

This is key. Right now in Europe (and other "western" developed nations) we have a horrible reverse cultural cringe imposed on us by a liberal elite. This cringe, enforced by legislative fiat that makes it illegal for us to discriminate openly, means we have a problem standing up for the values of Western civilization which include minor details like women's rights. Indeed thanks to various discrimmination and hate-speech laws we feel that we dare not criticize these people even though they have no problem criticising us.

But passing a law to fix the fact that existing laws have hampered our ability to enforce our own cultural norms in our own countries is not the answer. So yes people should be allowed to wear burkas (though they should understand that policemen may insist that they remove it partially for identification purposes) but people should also be allowed to insist that burkas not be worn in their shops, businesses, schools etc.

Furthermore, as a society, and as individuals, we should be prepared to explain that our intolerance for burkas is liable to decrease as and when the culture that insist on these ridiculous garments also permit women to wear other clothes.