Do you think you should follow the law of the land you live in when it comes to how you dress? Or should you protest the law by continuing to dress according to your convictions? Will giving in to the law make non-Muslims feel less threatened by or more accepting of Islam? How far should we go to make non-Muslims comfortable with us?
France’s burqa ban has just taken effect and so far two burqa-clad women have been arrested, not for wearing the prohibited garment, but for engaging in an illegal protest. The fine is about 150 Euro or $200 for wearing the burqa (the niqab is illegal as well), but for a person who forces a woman to wear the face cover, the fine is about 80,000 Euro or $100,000 plus possibly a year in jail.
There are only around 2,000 women in France who wear the burqa or niqab. (Hijabs, which do not cover the face, are not illegal.) It will be interesting to see how this law is handled. Will policemen be on the look-out for women in burqas or will they only fine them if they have detained them for other reasons? Will this law hold up in the courts? After all, wearing the burqa or niqab is basically a privacy issue. What if a person wears a mask or head-covering because of some kind of physical deformity? Is that also illegal? And if not, why not?
This is an example of what I call “law by ideology.” The burqa ban came about because so many non-Muslims are prejudiced against Muslims and feel threatened by their presence. The problem with this ban is that it isn’t logical. It can’t be for reasons of national security or criminal activity, except for the fact that it might make the perpetrator harder to identify. But is a terrorist or criminal going to worry about a fine when he or she has determined to use the face-covering as a disguise? Of course not!
If the authorities want to prevent people from hiding behind what they wear in order to commit criminal or terrorist acts, then it would seem to me that they should be targeting all clothing that could hide something. Which means that the next step would be to make the full-body covering illegal. Probably the only reason they haven’t already done this is because they would have to apply such a laws to nuns and all people who wear long, loose clothing.
The other thing that’s illogical about the French law is that it only applies to women when traditionally the vast majority of terrorists and criminals are male. As I’ve already said, face coverings aren’t really the threat. Why don’t the French also target the thobe, for instance? Why is it that women are the ones being targeted?
It’s both sad and scary to see supposedly rational people acting so irrationally. I’d like to think that this is just an aberration, but I’ve heard too many people from all over the Western world voicing the same paranoia about Islamic clothing. What they are really saying is that they’re paranoid about Muslims, period. Protesting the clothing is just a cover-up for what they really want to do, which is protest the religion.
I’d like to think that the more exposed non-Muslims are to Islam, the less threatened they would feel. But unfortunately, humans have a tremendous capacity for staying prejudiced against things that are “different.” The solution is to familiarize ourselves with that which threatens us, but instead we either try to eradicate it or we run the other way. It seems to me that Muslims wouldn’t be doing themselves a favor by trying to stay in the background. That only allows non-Muslims to pretend that we don’t exist. (“Out of sight, out of mind.”)