What not to wear

No not a post about the fabulous Trinny and Susanna squeezing peoples wobbly bits and forcing them into interesting outfits.  It's a political post.  The French Government has started a process to ban the burka or niqab in a public place with a vote in the lower houseThe ban was by a massive majority: 335 to 1.  Pretty large majority and I hear Spain is about to have a similar vote.  Last night the UK Government stated that they wouldn't be following this precedent as it is decidedly unBritish to tell people what they can or can't wear.

I have mixed feelings about the French vote.  I agree with the UK Government that they shouldn't tell people what they can and can't wear, although I do see some people who perhaps should be helped.  If I want to go out wearing a mini skirt and low cut top I should be able to and if I want to go out fully covered in a burka I should also be able to.  We live in a free country and that includes freedom to dress as we choose.
BUT I hate seeing a woman in a burka.  I am most definitely not anti Muslim or Islamaphobic I just think it is too much and I don't like it. This is my personal opinion, I would never stop anyone from wearing one and I would try not to treat then any differently but I don't really like not seeing someone's face.   If I had friends wearing one I wouldn't be comfortable if they wore it while we were having coffee or anything like that.

I have read the Koran and it doesn't tell women to cover their faces and hair.  I had a good friend who was the strictest Muslim I have ever met, she never covered her face or hair.  She always dressed modestly but she explained to me that while she follows the teachings of the Koran she doesn't follow the traditions of the Islamic society and that's what this is, tradition from Saudi Arabia.  

I also think that there are some risky situations related to not knowing what someone looks like. Thinking about collecting children from school, how do you know you are giving the child to the correct brown eyed woman dressed from head to toe in black?  If you have to remove your motorcycle helmet to go into a bank should Muslim woman have to remove their veil?  It is just as much a disguise as a motorcycle helmet. For reasons of security I think it is fair to ask Muslim woman to remove their veils in certain places and circumstances.  I think that most of these woman would understand this requirement and be happy to comply.

Also I know that some woman are forced to cover up by their families.  I don't know how you could help the women forced to wear a burka because they are unlikely to speak out against their families.  If they were going to do that surely they just wouldn't wear it?  If there is a way to prevent this then that would be a good thing.

I've not looked into it extensively but the French reason for banning the burka doesn't seem to be related to anything I see as a good reason.  The BBC news website says
"But the main motive behind this vote was to reinforce French identity. MPs believe that those who live in, or visit, France should embrace French values. Time and again in parliament MPs argued that hiding a woman's face violates the ideal of equality and encourages segregation. The fear behind this is of separate, parallel communities."

Maybe I'm missing the point but I don't really understand what they mean.  I can see that the burka does segregate Muslim woman but so does not speaking English which is a problem in this country for many immigrants not just Muslims.  Muslims in general are segregated to some extent because of  their religion and traditions.  I have Muslim friends who can't / won't come to my house because I have dogs.  They don't join us for nights out because they don't agree with the rest of the group drinking alcohol.  I have other Muslim friends who will visit me (and quite like Star and Sasha) and will come for nights out, some have a drink most don't.  They are all still Muslim, they either chose to integrate or they chose to stay in their own social groups.

How does hiding someone's face violate the idea of equality?  I'm not sure I get this.  I thought equality was about treating people equally rather than basing it on their age, sex, religion, sexual preference etc etc.  If I can't see a woman's face and I decide not to give her a job even though she is the best qualified then I am in the wrong not her. In a world where more and more business is done globally working with people you never meet and in some cases never speak to we should all be getting used to judging and accepting people without knowing what they look like?

The bit about French identity and embracing French values makes me laugh.  I am English, I live in Scotland, I love Scotland it is my home.  I don't wear a kilt, I don't drink Buckfast and I don't feel the need to run the English out of the borders.  I have no idea how I could give myself a Scottish identity and embrace Scottish values?

How do the MPs want Muslim woman to embrace French identity, I think some guidance is required?  
Should they dance the Can Can down the Avenue des Champs Elysees? 
Do they want to see them out selling garlic from strings around their necks? 
Perhaps they should style their outfit into an Eiffel Tower shape so they can be easily identified as French Muslims.

Yeah I know I went down the Stereotype route but really isn't that what these MPs are suggesting?  

I might hate the burka and I would like to see it disappear but I hate the idea of a Government bringing in a law that dictates how we can dress.  It would be better if through integration and understanding we could reach a point where women choose not to cover their faces.

I wonder what Governments in Europe might decide to ban next.  Can I suggest the Emo look, they are clearly different and try to segregate themselves in society.  Yes, I think they should be next, Ban the Emo!


French Bean & Coffee Bean said...

Ha. You KNOW I was going to respond to this post...I find it interesting that I got my French news from you. (I'm still waiting for French news program to come on.)

The French are pretty adamant about secularism in general because it is, ultimately, a part of their culture whereas religion is seen as a personal choice. They don't want their citizens openly parading what religion they follow; Catholics shouldn't been seen wearing oversized crosses and Muslim women are always under fire with their "voiles."

When in April, I remember listening on the radio to several heated debates about whether or not women should be seen sporting the "voile intégral," the full head-to-toe ensemble. Woman seen wearing this was fined.

As an American, whose culture pretty much equates country to religion, I feel iffy about the whole experience. I do believe that people should have the right to wear what they would like; that is a personal choice. However, I can understand (however messed up it may be) the French reason. At least with the voile intégral, the point was made that no one could identify the person if her face was covered. I remember once walking down the street and had the living daylights scared out of me when I saw woman, all dressed in black, walking past me. She looked like an ominous phantom.

Yeah. I don't know where I was going with this anymore. --.--"

-French Bean

Mrs Midnite said...

Yeah French Bean I was thinking you might comment. As I said I have mixed feelings, I don't like the burka. I was once walking down a quiet street with a covered woman following me, it was winter so very dark and I was quite scared. I know it makes people uncomfortable but seeing really big people in crop tops probably upsets me more!

Security reasons I can see the point but I don't get the French identity thing. But then I'm not French :0)

DanWins said...

Today has been a coincidence day.

You and I and two other blogs I keep up with all did a political piece today. I know I didn't talk to anyone and set it up.

Again what a coincidence.

I agree with your bit about let them wear them but have them remove them in certain circumstances. In my opinion (and apparently Your) who am I or is the government to tell someone how to dress?

KBee said...

I feel really strongly about the subject of burkas (or 'peep scarves' as russell brand calls them). I feel angry at and sorry for the women who wear them. The ones who say they're happy in them are kidding themselves. And imagine what it must be like in this heat! Oppressive.

fizzee rascal said...

When I see muslim women dressed from head to toe in black I like to pretend they're really ninjas, it makes them more exciting somehow.
Seriously, I can't agree with the French ban - people should be allowed to wear what they want, except fat chicks in leggings.

French Bean & Coffee Bean said...

Ha. Despite being a fat chick myself, fizzee, I'll have you know that I opt to wear black pantyhose and it looks nice on me. :-P

-French Bean

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