The argument that the garment is not a religious obligation under Islam is well-founded but irrelevant; millions of Muslims the world around believe that it is, and the state is not qualified to be in the business of Koranic exegesis. The choice to cover one’s face is for many women a genuine expression of the most private kind of religious sentiment. To prevent them from doing so is discriminatory, persecutory, and incompatible with the Enlightenment traditions of the West. It is, moreover, cruel to demand of a woman that she reveal parts of her body that her sense of modesty compels her to cover; to such a woman, the demand is as tyrannical, humiliating, and arbitrary as the passage of a law dictating that women bare their breasts.
All true. And yet the burqa must be banned.
I quote Jefferson in the title of this post because he was one of the Founding Fathers and the author of the article is American; I don’t agree with him either.
- But I have no strong objections to consistent bans on all religious symbols on the premises of state-funded institutions [↩]